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NFL ratings, Week 3: After declines, viewership holds steady

Jay Busbee
·2-min read

Major shocker: People enjoy watching Patrick Mahomes play.

In the biggest ratings gainer of Week 3, “Monday Night Football,” featuring Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, saw a huge year-over-year jump. Chiefs-Ravens drew 14.02 million viewers, up 32 percent from last year’s Chicago-Washington “thriller.”

On Sunday, the big winner of the afternoon — and the week — was the Cowboys-Seahawks game, which drew 22.79 million viewers, the most-watched program on TV for the week. That total was up 1 percent from last year’s game.

Other games, most notably “Thursday Night Football,” saw declines that reached into the double digits. Thursday night’s Dolphins-Jags game drew only 5.43 million viewers, the lowest-ranked Thursday night game since October 2016. That mark was off 14 percent from last year’s Week 3 Thursday night game.

The varying ratings trends lend credence to the contention, advanced by numerous media observers, that matchups determine viewership. The idea that viewers are tuning out because of politics holds no water, given the enormous gains in certain games, unless one accepts the idea that viewers’ political beliefs extend only to less exciting games.

It is worth paying attention to “Sunday Night Football,” which has seen year-over-year declines in two of the first three weeks, had only minuscule improvement in Week 2. Sunday night had what appeared, both on paper and the field, a compelling matchup between Green Bay and New Orleans, but still recorded a 4 percent decline in viewership to 17.80 million.

One key point to remember, as the NFL happily tweeted out: Since the season began, the top 15 programs on TV have all been football games.

We’re also in the middle of the busiest sports season literally ever. Hockey — which, granted, has had understandably small ratings — has wrapped its season, and the NBA Finals are underway. As the sports calendar slowly returns to normal, we’ll see whether the additional options were impacting the NFL’s ratings, or if a percentage of the nation has simply found other things to do on Sundays.

Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs drew plenty of viewers. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs drew plenty of viewers. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Sources: Network press releases, Sports Media Watch


Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at

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