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NFL Ratings Week 5: Even with ratings falling, the NFL is still king
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 08: Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers throws a pass in the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on October 08, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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NFL Ratings Week 5: Even with ratings falling, the NFL is still king

Even in an environment of sinking ratings, the NFL is king when it comes to the sports landscape. The Week 5 ratings in the NFL are yet more evidence of that. Even with major events going on in other sports, the NFL dominates.

To say that 2020 has been an abnormal year would be an understatement from both a life and sports perspective. So much has happened this year, and the sports landscape has been incredibly different this season because of it. Everyone had to put their seasons on pause, given the circumstances. Leagues like the NBA, who normally end their season in the summer, have just wrapped up. 

Yet the more things change, the more they stay the same. Ratings have been the subject of much banter for years, and 2020 is no exception. Whether you’re in the camp that ratings are affected by the extreme rise in streaming over the past few years, along with more and more people cutting the cord, or you’re in the camp that people are tuning out because leagues have become “too political,” your side has plenty of ammunition.

Here’s what the NFL ratings looked like in Week 5.

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NFL Week 5 Ratings: Thursday Night Football

The ratings for Week 5 in the NFL kicked off on Thursday night, as they do every week. Thankfully, that’s one thing that hasn’t changed this season — yet. From a ratings’ perspective, this was one of the best matchups the NFL could have hoped for on a Thursday night. Most Thursday games have been bland, uninspiring tilts that fail to drum up much buzz. Not the case this week.

Any time the NFL gets to feature Tom Brady in primetime, it’s going to be good for the ratings. Brady may be another year older. He may be with a new team. But he’s still the talk of the NFL world. Having him match up against a surprising Bears team who manufactured buzz of their own with a quarterback change was the icing on the cake.

Naturally, the ratings reflect that. Week 5 in the NFL kicked off with a simulcast of Thursday Night Football on both Fox and the NFL Network. Nearly 15 million people tuned in to watch Brady and the Buccaneers lose a thriller to Nick Foles and the Bears. That’s nearly three times as many views as last week’s battle of the backups with the Denver Broncos and the New York Jets.

Sunday afternoon’s slate was inconsistent

Week 5 in the NFL continued on Sunday, and this is where ratings become a mixed bag. CBS had the double-header this week, with a variety of games shown depending on your area. Across the nation, viewers had Cincinnati vs. Baltimore, Jacksonville vs. Houston, or Las Vegas vs. Kansas City to choose from.

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Ratings were strong in this slate, with the early spot pulling in over 14 million viewers and an 8.0 rating. This is up significantly from Week 4, where the early spot in the CBS double-header only pulled in just short of 10 million viewers and scored a 5.6 rating.

The late game in CBS’ double-header had the marquee matchup in the NFL for Week 5, and the ratings certainly reflect that. Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys, America’s Team, squared off against division rivals, the New York Giants. America’s viewers tuned in to watch America’s team, to the tune of nearly 23 million viewers and a 12.2 rating. A number good enough to make Cowboys vs. Giants the third-most watched game in the league this season.

Over on FOX, most of the nation got to see the Pittsburgh Steelers square off against the Philadelphia Eagles. This Week 5 matchup wasn’t near the ratings draw for the NFL that the Week 4 matchup was. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers only pulled in 12.5 million viewers this week, compared to the 16.9 million FOX had in this slot last week.

Sunday Night Football underwhelmed

Sunday Night Football, Sunday’s premier primetime event, was somewhat of a ratings dud for the NFL in Week 5. This week’s matchup featured one of the best quarterbacks — and teams — the NFL has to offer, as Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks squared off against the Minnesota Vikings. 

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The game was great. It was a back-and-forth affair that wasn’t decided until the final minutes. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer made a controversial decision to go for the conversion on a 4th-and-1 late in the game, rather than kicking a field goal. As Wilson drove the ball downfield, Zimmer’s decision backfired. Wilson threw what proved to be a game-winning touchdown to star receiver D.K. Metcalf.

While the game was thrilling, the ratings were largely stagnant. Sunday Night Football in Week 5 got an 8.4 rating for the NFL, the same number as the week before when the Eagles faced off against the 49ers. Both games also saw 15.08 million viewers tune in to watch. Certainly not bad numbers by any stretch, but a surprise nonetheless.

The upside to those numbers? In Week 5, the NFL was in a ratings battle with the NBA. Sunday saw the Sunday Night Football matchup in direct competition with Game 6 of the NBA finals, which featured LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, in what proved to be a title-clinching affair. While Sunday Night Football pulled in over 15 million viewers, the NBA Finals only managed to grab 5.6 million. Even in a year of down ratings, the NFL is king.

Monday Night Football was down, but still strong

The NFL continued their Week 5 ratings dominance with Monday Night Football. This week’s matchup continued the string of legendary quarterbacks getting the spotlight. Week 1 featured Ben Roethlisberger in his return to the Steelers after missing most of 2019 with an injury.

Week 2 gave us Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, along with the primetime debut of the Las Vegas Raiders and their brand new stadium. Then we were given back-to-back weeks of the NFL’s best young quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, with two Chiefs games in a row.

This Monday, Drew Brees was back in the spotlight, this time against a rookie quarterback with legendary aspirations of his own. Justin Herbert made his first MNF appearance, and introduced himself to the world in historic fashion. Yet, it wasn’t enough to prevail as the Chargers fell to the Saints in overtime.

Monday Night Football easily led the Monday primetime ratings with 10.7 million viewers and led the all-important 18-49 demographic with a 3.35 rating. While down slightly from a year ago, those numbers were enough to easily outpace anything else on the Monday schedule. A schedule that featured both the American and National League Championship Series. Fox’s showing of the NLCS Game 1 between the Braves and Dodgers pulled in 4.2 million viewers, while the ALCS tilt of the Rays against Astros only saw 1.9 million.

A rare Tuesday night game dominates the ratings

Next verse, same as the first. No matter when it’s on the schedule, the NFL dominates the television ratings. That fact was driven home this week, as the NFL played only the second Tuesday Night game since the 1940s.

Much like the previous night, Tuesday Night Football was up against both the NLCS and ALCS. Once again, it wasn’t a competition as far as the ratings were concerned. Nearly 11 million viewers tuned in to watch Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills lay an egg against Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans, fresh off nearly two weeks of being unable to practice at their facility due to positive COVID-19 tests, easily handled Buffalo’s strong-armed QB and walked away with a 42-16 victory. The NFL walked away with an equally impressive ratings victory. The 11 million viewers who tuned in were more than double the NLCS and ALCS views brought in combined.

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