And then the teams actually began to play.
It was an unsightly affair, full of missed field goals, turnovers , forced passes into coverage and late-game drives that had all the urgency of a sullen teenager (and with the score tied, no less). The game ended on a buzzer-beating field goal and yet there was no excitement. It was more like the teams were having mercy on us.
So yeah, all this windup is to say that the NFL’s downward ratings trend continued.
ESPN's 6.5 overnight for Buccaneers-Panthers last night is network's lowest Week 5 "MNF" rating since acquiring rights prior to 2006 season— Austin Karp (@AustinKarp) October 11, 2016
Last year’s Week 5 game between the Steelers — who are certainly more of a national TV draw than either the Panthers or the Bucs — and the Chargers drew an 8.5 overnight rating, the lowest for a Week 5 Monday night game since 2008. That game last year also went up against the MLB playoffs.
Let’s scan the upcoming national prime-time schedule for signs of hope.
Week 6: Broncos-Chargers (nope), Colts-Texans (nope), Jets-Cardinals (nope).
Week 7: Bears-Packers (nope), Seahawks-Cardinals (nope), Texans-Broncos (ehhhh, maybe, but I’m not sure the Texans are any good and in fact could be bad).
Week 8: Jags-Titans (DEAR GOD), Eagles-Cowboys (hooray!), Vikings-Bears (nope).
Week 9: Falcons-Bucs (nope), Broncos-Raiders (okay, fine), Bills-Seahawks (nope).
So that’s two probably good prime-time games, 16 likely bad ones (or at least games that will struggle to add to the NFL’s pre-baked audience of gamblers and fantasy players). The NFL’s ratings problems are going nowhere.