As you’ve probably heard by now, NFL ratings are way down this season. Just this past week, Monday Night Football was down 24% from last year. Afternoon games on both Fox and CBS are down by double figures, too.
Earlier this week The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson pointed to four reasons to explain the decline: the election (obviously); an increase in cord-cutting; what he calls the “technological explanation” (basically that platforms like Twitter, fantasy football, and the RedZone channel make the traditional viewing experience less entertaining); and that football is simply getting worse.
The first two explanations are virtually inarguable, and I’m inclined to agree with Thompson re: the technological explanation, even if – as he notes – it’s hard to really quantify how much something like Twitter chips into TV ratings. It’s that fourth explanation that is the really concerning one.
Take a look at the schedule of games this week: there are two, maybe three games that are really worth tuning into if you aren’t a diehard fan of a particular team. The Falcons at the Seahawks is one, and the Cowboys at the Packers is another. Maybe you can toss the Bengals at the Patriots in there, though the Bengals are 2-3. The three night games (Broncos at Chargers; Colts at Texans; Jets at Cardinals) are all duds.
If you haven’t heard, we’re in Peak TV (we’re also in peak “Peak TV”), and there’s too much other stuff to watch that’s flat-out better than these games.
And the problem is even greater than scheduling. According to FiveThirtyEight, there are only four teams with a 10% or greater chance to make the Super Bowl: the Vikings (15%), the Broncos (14%), the Steelers (12%), and the Seahawks (10%). The Patriots make the AFC Championship basically every year and yet they have just an 8% chance to make the Super Bowl.
It feels as though we know earlier than ever that most teams are going to be fine, but not especially exciting. That’s worrisome. Too much parity inevitably means too many boring games. And that’s something that’s not going away when the election is over.
Anyway, I had my best week of the year last week!
All lines, as always, courtesy of Vegas Insider.
Last week: 9-5
Denver Broncos (-3) at San Diego Chargers (Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET)
- Jack Dempsey/AP
My defining betting strategy: not going to overthink it!
The pick: Broncos -3
Cincinnati Bengals (+9) at New England Patriots (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
- Streeter Lecka/Getty
Do we take Tom Brady for granted? He’s 39, missed the first month of the season, and in a “rusty” performance looked like the best quarterback in football. At this point I’m mentally preparing myself for 10 more years of his dominance.
The pick: Bengals +9
Baltimore Ravens (+3) at New York Giants (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
- Matt Ludtke/AP
The Giants are riding me into the ground, but I’m picking them again this week.
The pick: Giants -3
Carolina Panthers (-3) at New Orleans Saints (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
- USA TODAY Sports/Cary Edmondson
Cam is back!
The pick: Panthers -3
Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5) at Miami Dolphins (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
- Gregory Shamus/Getty
Miami is awful. Unrelated: the Steelers need to retire their jailbreak uniforms. They are worse than COLOR RUSH.
The pick: Steelers -7.5
Jacksonville Jaguars (+2.5) at Chicago Bears (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
- Andy Lyons/Getty
Blake Bortles has only won one road game in his career. Let’s make it two!
The pick: Jags +2.5
San Francisco 49ers (+8) at Buffalo Bills (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
- Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
Colin Kaepernick is back!
The pick: Bills -8
Los Angeles Rams (+3) at Detroit Lions (Sunday,1:00 p.m. ET)
- Jeff Gross/Getty
Sometimes you just have to pick based on quarterbacks, and Matthew Stafford is a whole lot better than Case Keenum.
The pick: Lions -3
Cleveland Browns (+7) at Tennessee Titans (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
- Patrick Smith/Getty
Game of the week!
The pick: Browns +7
Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5) at Washington Redskins (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
- Leon Halip/Getty
I don’t think I’ve successfully picked an Eagles game this season, and have no real feel for this game. But I’m still on the Wentz wagon, even after the loss. Besides, the Eagles have the second-highest DVOA in football.
The pick: Eagles -2.5
Kansas City Chiefs (+1) at Oakland Raiders (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
- Ben Margot/AP
The Raiders are really fun! Forget everything I said about too many bad teams and too many boring games. Just watch Derek Carr throw bombs to Michael Crabtree every Sunday!
The pick: Raiders -1
Atlanta Falcons (+6.5) at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
- Ronald Martinez/Getty
This is the definition of a stay-away game. I like the Seahawks to win but the Falcons to keep it close.
The pick: Falcons +6.5
Dallas Cowboys (+4.5) at Green Bay Packers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
- Tom Pennington/Getty
Dak looks like a rookie in Lambeau and the Packers win this one easily.
The pick: Packers -4.5
Indianapolis Colts (+3) at Houston Texans (Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET)
- Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Another game I’d stay away from. This game has major AFC South implications, so I’m expecting an ugly one, but ultimately the Texans have the way better team.
The pick: Texans -3
New York Jets (+7.5) at Arizona Cardinals (Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET)
- Jim Rogash/Getty
Poor Jets. Another loss – even though this will be a closer than usual.
The pick: Jets +7.5
Now check out this week’s power rankings…
- Mike Roemer/AP