Crappy NFL Football Still Drives Big Ratings

Matt Ryan stop in the name of ratings.
Matt Ryan stop in the name of ratings. / Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Week 8 toilet bowl of NFL primetime matchups has been graciously flushed down the toilet with the rest of the excrement, leaving us with fresh porcelain as we head into the second half of the season. But while this past week's primetime slate of Falcons-Panthers on Thursday night, Cowboys-Eagles on Sunday night, and Bucs-Giants on Monday was by far the worst slate of primetime games played this season, they still drove good ratings.

Delusional Cowboys fans and hopeful Eagles fans tuned in in droves to watch the turnover machine formerly known as Carson Wentz beat Ben "How am I a starting quarterback in the NFL?" DiNucci this past Sunday night.

According to NBC Sports PR, the game, "delivered 17.5 million viewers," which is the "most-watched NBC SNF Game Since Week 3 (Packers-Saints)" and was the No. 1 primetime show on television this week. All that for a 23-9 slop-fest where there were three times more turnovers (six) than offensive touchdowns (2) and the Cowboys' third-string quarterback looked every bit the FBS quarterback he was last year at James Madison University.

Adding some context to how little the quality of the teams or matchups matter, in Week 7 the Super Bowl contender Seahawks took on the upstart Cardinals in Sunday Night Football and they drove 14.3 million viewers. The week before that, the Rams and 49ers drove 12.6M and in Week 4 the Eagles and 49ers drove 15.08M. The Cowboys are the biggest movers of the needle here, even when they stink.

Thursday night was equally hard to watch, amplified pregame by the fact that everyone knew neither the then 1-6 Falcons nor the then 3-4 Panthers were making the playoffs. Still, over 11 million people tuned in to watch Younghoe Koo kick four field goals as the Falcons edged the Panthers 25-17. The only touchdown of the second half was scored with 11:01 remaining in the game. Scintillating.

We're still waiting on ratings for Tom Brady's narrow escape against the mighty 1-7 Giants and fellow NFC East turnover machine Daniel Jones, but I'm guessing ESPN will find a way to highlight how exceptional they were. I will update this story when we get those numbers.

Regardless of what happens with the MNF ratings, it's clear the quality of the matchups and teams doesn't matter when it comes to NFL ratings remaining respectable, or in the case of Eagles-Cowboys, being the No. 1 primetime show of the week. As long as someone is there to broadcast the game, people will come to watch NFL discharge spin round and round until it finally flushes fully down the toilet.

UPDATE: Monday Night Football ratings have been announced by ESPN. As predicted, the numbers were good. Via PR release, ESPN says 11.7 million people tuned in to watch MNF between the Bucs and Giants, good for a 17 percent year-over-year increase from Week 8 of the 2019 season.