The Thanksgiving holiday did nothing to change the narrative of NFL ratings declining this season. Despite so many people tying football with Thanksgiving and not much else of note on television (unless you were binging a TV marathon or Netflix), viewership numbers were down for Thursday’s three games.

** The early Vikings-Lions game drew a rating of 11.4, down from last year’s 14.4 mark (for a game that also featured Minnesota and Detroit). That was a 12.3 percent drop.

** The late-afternoon Chargers-Cowboys telecast earned a 12.4 rating, dropping 20.5 percent from last year’s 15.6 number. But the Cowboys played their arch-rival, the Washington Redskins, in that game. National audiences apparently weren’t as enamored with the Chargers playing Dallas. (Additionally, DISH Network subscribers couldn’t watch the game due to the carrier’s dispute with CBS.)

** The Redskins were involved in the Thanksgiving nightcap, but matched up against the 2-8 (now 2-9) New York Giants. A game that looked like it could be crucial back in September had nothing at stake with both teams under .500 (Washington came into the contest with a 4-6 record). That resulted in a 9.7 rating, down 10.2 percent from last year’s Steelers-Colts game, which drew a 10.8 rating.

To be fair, only one of the three games was an important matchup with the Lions attempting to close in on the Vikings in the NFC North and inch ahead of the logjam for the conference’s wild-card playoff spots. The Chargers are in the AFC playoff hunt, but paired with a Cowboys team that always draws interest yet has disappointed this season. Audiences were apparently ready to watch or do something else by the time Giants-Redskins hit the air on NBC.

As a result, the NFL continues to face questions and scrutiny as to why ratings continue to fall this season. Is there football fatigue? Maybe that was even more true this year, with an exciting Friday and Saturday of rivalry week college football awaiting? Did people want to avoid the controversy of player protests and make sure political discussions didn’t poison holiday time with family and friends? Or were the matchups just not as appealing as they may have looked when the 2017 NFL schedule was originally made?

If the NFL and its TV partners hoped that viewership might increase with the holiday and what amounts to a captive audience on Thanksgiving, this year’s ratings demonstrated that the declining ratings trend is stronger than family and friends gathering (or nothing much else on TV) could overcome.

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is an editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has covered baseball for Yahoo! Sports,, Bleacher Report and SB Nation, and provides analysis for several sports talk radio shows each week. He currently lives in Asheville, NC.

  • S Ford

    Gotta love all the articles searching for reasons why viewership is dropping, as though the primary reason wasn’t clear enough.

    Here’s an experiment for anyone who doubts it’s the flag and anthem protests: have a flag displayed at your business, and every time a customer walks in, tell them to wait a minute while you go stage a quick political protest by sitting or kneeling in front of the flag. You can pick your issue — police brutality, global warming, abortion, having to watch Kardashians on TV, you name it.

    Do that, and watch how quickly: (a) your business drops 20%, and (b) you are terminated for causing your business to drop this way.

    This ain’t rocket surgery, folks.

    • Sean Mooney

      “This ain’t rocket surgery, folks.”

      Apparently quoting well known phrases isn’t either.

      • Tbone

        Apparently humor isn’t resident in your perception.

        • Sean Mooney

          The guy clearly had a malapropism there.

          • OOS

            Don’t have a dog in this fight – “rocket surgery” is an old joke that has been around for at least 10 years or so.

          • S Ford

            Apparently Sean Mooney has not seen the old rocket surgery cartoon, with the doctors performing surgery on the missile. I thought anyone who worked in an office would have seen that one.

            Sadder still, Mr. Mooney doesn’t appear capable of distinguishing humor. Poor sap.

    • Adam Domo

      ah but your analogy doesn’t really work. In order for your analogy to make sense, the NFL players would have to “disresepct the flag” during the game…and in your exact analogy…they would have to do so possibly right in the middle of a play (which would be hilarious).

      also, most jobs dont have a daily patriotism display either

      • S Ford

        Um, the analogy works better than your critique of the analogy. The players protest at the beginning of the game, before they deliver the product. In my analogy, a customer walks in, and before the employee delivers the product, he or she takes a minute to stage a quick political protest.

    • Ted Mark

      “This ain’t rocket surgery, folks.” There it is America, today’s representative quote from a patriot.

      • Dan

        Are you libtards really so slow that you can’t detect obvious sarcasm or are you bots? I hope it’s the latter and humans this dimwitted know better than yo comment in public forums.

        • Sean Mooney

          How many points do you score in your Trump fantasy league for assuming everyone is a “libtard?”

  • Sean Mooney

    I would love to see a study done about saturation of the market. At some point the ratings were going to go down as there is almost no conceivable way they could’ve continued upward. The flag thing is an easy excuse for people to latch on to which just shows how people play into the idea of politicizing everything instead of reality.

    • Clayton Indicott

      So you think the protests have nothing to do with it at all? What’s different today as far as saturation from 2 or 3 years ago?

      • Adam Domo

        the protests have AN effect but not the sole reason. It’d be silly to completely dismiss that being a factor, but it being the only factor is nonsense as well

        • Clayton Indicott

          I agree with that, but I do think the protests are the main catalyst to the decline in ratings. There are defintely other factors as well, as we saw over the weekend. Constant replays over every little thing has made the game unwatchable.
          NFL has got plenty of things to work on if they want to fix this decline in ratings.
          The protest(s) should have beeen dealt with from the beginning. That’s a given.

      • Sean Mooney

        I would venture there is a section of fans who stopped watching the NFL because the anthem stuff (which has been badly misrepresented this year). I would also venture part of this is the natural breaking point. Ratings can only go so high.

        As to what is different- prior to 2013 the Thursday night games were only half the year and they were on NFL Network- and local affiliates in the home markets- which did not have a wide scope of coverage. In 2013 they expanded the Thursday night games to the entire season and shortly after they had an open bidding package where CBS won the rights. That started in 2014. So figure a year or two of the novelty and then a downward trend in ratings. Also- the inability to control games on Monday Night Football and Thursdays being bad games in general and you can see other reasons why ratings could be done.

        As is often the case- people want the easy answer. Reality is far more complex than that.

        • Dan

          That would hold true if Thursday games were declining anywhere near the rate of Sunday games.

          The cord cutting myth doesn’t hold water either considering most games are on broadcast television ratings and cable ratings have decreased at a lower rate than broadcast games.

          Also the fact that you were too dense to see the sarcasm in the “rocket surgery” line above , means your opinion is devalued due to massive stupidity.

          • Sean Mooney

            Cord cutting is not a myth as it directly effects the Monday Night ratings.

            Thursday games are declining at a similar rate.

            Stop taking your thought cues from Donald Trump.

        • Wyoming person

          Thanks for a thoughtful response. There are different factors, but the right (not to generalize, but usually the right) wants a single black-and-white reason for everything. Thus, blaming the protests of, what, two dozen players for bringing down the entire NFL? That sure is attributing a LOT of power to two dozen people.

          If that’s all it was, then why doesn’t the NFL tell the TV networks not to film the players during the anthem?

          Reading the NFL’s business plans over the last five years, I think overreach has a lot to do with it. You’re right — ratings can only go so high, as there’s a natural percentage of US people who will never have interest in football. Plus the salaries — not of the players, but the owners who are raking in billions off these teams.

          I rarely watched a game in the past, and I have never spent any money on merchandise. Now even the Superbowl is wearing thin — at least for me — due to the injuries. The hits are just getting too darn hard, and the helmet-to-helmet hits are utterly unnecessarily.

          And cord-cutters do make a difference, as ESPN doesn’t get their very large cut of a cable subscriber’s monthly payment, even if that household couldn’t care less about football. ESPN indirectly fuels the NFL, and the pinch has to be there.

          And as an aside, anyone notice how the different network handle injuries? Watch how Fox goes straight to commercials when someone is down, then comes back after they’re removed from the field. They’re worried that too many on-air injuries will turn even more people off.

          If ancient Rome had TV, they would have gone to commercial every time a dead gladiator was dragged out.

          Teams have become money-making machines for the billionaire owners, and players are used up and spit out every year.

        • Wyoming person

          I should also wonder how the “Trump factor” affects the drop.

          The more Trump sticks his nose into this with his inane and immature tweets, which politicizes the kneeling and fans more air on the fire, the more people turn away not because of the protests but because of his sickening involvement.

          One wonders if the protests would have gone away on their own if not for his polarizing remarks.

  • Super Mateo

    One of those numbers is wrong (either the rating or the percentage calculation) for the Vikings/Lions game. A drop of 3 points out of 14.4 is a bit over 20 percent.

    That means both day games dropped about 20 percent and there was little competition from any other TV channels. NFL ratings aren’t recovering anytime soon. They still have players that few other people want to root for and they still have TONS of dead time where nothing is happening. The NFL’s problems are all coming from within. When the NFL stops blaming everyone and everything else, then they’ll get somewhere.

  • djs1138

    The NFL is a like a tree that falls in the woods if no one is there to hear it… does it really make a sound at all?

    • StoJa

      It’s still the most watched thing on TV. 17 of the Top 20 rated Tv shows for 2017 are NFL games.

      • Sunny

        It is StooJe…. but not for long!

        • StoJa

          Oh, OK. If you say so, sonny.

  • Tbone

    College ball is a lot more fun to follow. The NFL is just killing itself on many levels and it looks like about 20% of the people are fine with that.

    • StoJa

      College has some flaws but I tend to agree it is more fun to follow.

  • StoJa

    Can we just call a spade a spade and point out the obvious, that the games were pretty shitty. The Vikings were the only team with a good record. Lions were barely above .500 and the other four teams were below it.

  • sportsfan365

    My viewership has dropped due to the quality of play. Penalties on nearly every snap (half of which don’t get accepted and thus aren’t counted), offensive lines that don’t have the ability to block, and kickoff return specialists that don’t understand the concept of field position. And what’s the point about getting excited about a scoring play when half the time it gets called back or the runner/receiver is called down by contact upon replay review?

  • Dan

    This is simple, the product has been declining for years and aggravating many fans. Then the protests happened and that gave us an excuse to turn it off.

    Then there are millions more who are so sick of leftist politics infecting everything we tuned out.

    Then there are millions more who are infuriated and haven’t tuned out yet, but they will as this gets worse or when the players strike in a few years from their new found power.

    Then there are the tens of millions of potential fans that will never be there to replenish the lost fans because they never played the sport over concussion concerns.

    • Sean Mooney

      A lot of the furor this year was because the president responded to it. Not a “leftist”

  • Dan

    I was a diehard fan that watched every possible game on TV that I didn’t attend live. I’ve been to the Super Bowl live and watched my team win. I have spent tens of thousands on merchandise and I’m not a wealthy man. I have been in as many as 12 fantasy leagues in one season (in 2015). I had a Seahawks decorated guest bathroom and my sons wall is painted Seahawks colors (now mariners colors to me).

    I now only watch Seahawks games on TV and I sold my seats to every game and will not renew my season tickets once they are no longer profitable to keep. I will go once a year with my son for memories and sell the rest. I have cut down to 4 fantasy leagues this year and it will be 1 next year. I cancelled my Sunday ticket.

    I was the best kind of fan for the NFL because I promoted them by bringing jerseys to work for my staff to wear on Blue Fridays (we saw thousands of customers a month). Now I am fading quickly and will be gone completely in a year or two if I even make it to next season.

    This is because of the protests! You can’t call your fans racist and hate them because they’re white and disagree with your politics and expect them stay.

    Police brutality is a real problem, but it’s not a race thing. By constantly playing the race card they have alienated allies like myself that believe we have problems but disagree with how to solve them. Good luck with the SJW fan base that doesn’t stick with anything more than 3 months.

    • Sean Mooney

      So police are beating a bunch of white people for no reason?

      • Joe

        Yes but the news doesn’t cover it, heck Mark Geragos who represents the Anti american also represents a white person killed by cops but that doesn’t make left wing news

        • Sean Mooney

          Please provide some evidence

  • Joe

    I will never watch another game until all players are forced to stand! #boycottNFL I used to be a loyal fan but no more

    • StoJa

      You’d probably love living in North Korea.

      • Joe

        No I love America unlike these Anti Americans who praise people like Castro

        • StoJa

          ONE person has done that. Kaepernick. Try and stick to FACTS and not mythological hyperbole. See, in America we have the right to not stand for a war anthem. Unlike in your beloved North Korea where they ARE forced to stand. But tell me more about how you love your white privileged, Communist Trump America.

  • Sunny

    The steady decline of the NFL is not going to stop. And the racist, liberals will keep blaming everything and anything on the decline except the truth. The truth is the racist, anti American anthem protests. Its ok if the liberals deny the truth, but the death of the NFL is coming with or without their honesty.

    • Wyoming person

      So all it takes to bring down a multi-billion dollar franchise like the NFL is a dozen “racist liberals” taking a knee? What power those “racist liberals” have!

      Maybe we can bring down a lot of other groups too. At the next NRA assembly, maybe a dozen gun owners should take a knee and they’ll go down next.

      • Sunny

        NRA members love this country and despise racism so you won’t see them kneeling like your racist, snowflake buddies in the NFL. And there are HUNDREDS of the kneeling racists that are destroying their own league not a dozen. You don’t have to accept the truth Wyoming Snowflake, most Democrat/Communists like you never do.

        • StoJa

          12 players kneeled last week. But tell me more about the HUNDREDS you have seen doing it.

        • Wyoming person

          What’s a “snowflake” and how does someone be a Democrat and a Communist at the same time? Do you even know what these words mean, or do you think name-calling wins a debate? I used to think that too … back on the playground in fourth grade.

          I’ll repeat my contention: If 12 players can bring down a multi-billion franchise and “destroy their own league”, then WOW that’s a powerful protest.

          You’d think “patriots” would have enough backbone to handle some contentious free speech. It only takes 12 people to make these millions of “patriots” froth at the mouth, apparently.

          And you think the NRA despises racism? Didn’t Ted Nugent just get re-elected to the NRA board? What about Philandro Castle, shot dead while employing his second amendment right? Deafening silence from the NRA. Do some research.

        • Sean Mooney

          Some player kneeled and it was a nothing burger this year until Trump tweeted about it and made it a big deal. Then his sycophants jumped in.

  • Gregory Suhr

    Very few people like watching millionaires whining about how unfair their country is…..and they are “not watching” in droves.

  • Alfredey Newman

    I stopped watching the NFL because they politicized it. Easy. Lol remember when they thought it was great to highlight their kneeling? Well that’s why I stopped watching.

  • Martin Arredondo

    The quality of play has gotten worse (because the union mandated how the players practice). The saturation is a factor (because Goodell wants more games on TV, more money for the teams). The fans are refusing to watch (like me) because of the protests and the politicization of the NFL. Bottom line, it appears as though the NFL is it’s own worst enemy and it’s not going to get better any time soon. Next year will be worse.

  • StoJa

    These fucking articles are so stupid and incredibly slanted. NFL ratings are down 5.7% from last year. Five fucking percent. Where’s the article pointing out how the Packers/Steelers drew a 12.2 cable rating this week. The World Series averaged a 10.7 rating and the most recent NBA Finals posted an average number of 11.3.

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