Anyone Surprised? NFL Playoff Ratings in Freefall

The NFL is in trouble. It has not been a good year for the league. While it had been enjoying prosperity as the quintessential game for many Americans, this season it has taken a turn for the worse. In fact, the league has been in freefall for the 2017 season. There may have been some hope that the playoffs would change everything.

Well, so much for that one.

Here’s a slightly more understandable breakdown of exactly what this means:

Titans-Chiefs (14.7) was down 11 percent versus last year’s Raiders-Texans game.

Falcons-Rams (14.9) was down 10 percent versus last year’s Lions-Seahawks game.

Bills-Jaguars (17.2) was down 10 percent versus last year’s Dolphins-Steelers game.

Panthers-Saints (20.4) was down 21 percent versus last year’s Giants-Packers game

Not good.

Of course, some are blaming the absence of several high-profile teams like Dallas, Green Bay, and the New York Giants. To be sure, that probably hurts somewhat, but I think the impact of that is overstated. After all, most NFL fans would normally watch the playoffs even if their team wasn’t in them. After all, it’s playoff football. These are the best teams in the league, which typically means the most exciting games.

Further, the ratings were down throughout the entire season, and every market was playing almost every week, so that argument just doesn’t seem to hold water.

What does sound plausible, however, is that the league screwed up by allowing politics to infect the game.

Colin Kaepernick’s decision last season to kneel during the national anthem upset a great many people. To be sure, it was slightly better than just sitting like he had been doing, but it was still a slap in the face for many people. Kaepernick and those who followed his lead were allowed to continue, despite the outrage.

When it started up again this season, many fans decided to just not watch football. Friends of mine who normally were all about football stuck to college ball this season, completely shunning the NFL. It was bad enough that millionaires who play a game for a living were prattling on about oppression; it was another to see the league simply not give a damn about many of its fans.

They turned their back on the league because the league turned its back on them.

Now that we’re in the playoffs, those same people — even people whose teams are still playing — have continued to watch other things. Now that there’s no college football, they might turn the pro games back on, but I won’t hold my breath. Fans are upset, and nothing the players and league have done have calmed things down.

In fact, unless the league does something during the offseason, you may see even bigger drops in viewership next year.