Having started the day with a feather-light slate of three regional games in the 1 p.m. ET window, CBS found itself saddled with some of the least competitive matchups of the season thus far. At Gillette Stadium, Bill Belichick’s Patriots gave the Jets the sort of methodical thrashing that will send even the most degenerate gambler scrambling to get off the couch—the over/under was sorted out three minutes into the third quarter, and the spread was never in doubt—while down in Music City, the Titans were about halfway through the second quarter when they began ripping into what amounted to a funeral dirge for the Chiefs.
The Pats put up 54 points against the hapless Jets after leading 31-7 at the half, so even a viewer with a vested interest in the outcome of the game may as well have used the inevitability of it all as an excuse to click off the set and join in on the family apple-picking adventure or whatever it is they get up to outside. Maybe just this once.
The prospect of yet another Patrick Mahomes comeback effort may have kept Chiefs fans locked into the Tennessee debacle, although anyone being honest with himself would have realized early on that the 26-year-old simply didn’t have it in him on Sunday. Before getting knocked out of the game midway through the fourth quarter, Mahomes cobbled together the worst showing of his career, turning over the ball twice while earning an anemic 62.3 quarterback rating. (His career average is 107.2.) The Chiefs suffered a 27-3 loss on the road.
CBS’ third game of the early window was another lopsided affair, although things didn’t get completely out of hand in the Bengals-Ravens game until about nine minutes into the fourth quarter, when Cincy’s Joe Mixon broke free for a 38-yard score that put the visitors up 34-17. Just minutes later, Samaje Perine took the ball into the end zone from 46 yards out, thereby securing a 41-17 victory for the Bengals.
All told, the combined margin of victory for the three afternoon games was a less-than-sporting 89 points, which works out to better than a four-touchdown advantage (29.7 points) for each game. In the previous six weeks of regional NFL action, the average margin of victory for the early CBS games was 14 points.
For all that, CBS still managed to average 15.2 million viewers in the early window, which was up 5% versus the 14.5 million it drummed up during the analogous period in 2020. Season-to-date, the early doubleheader window is averaging 14.6 million viewers on CBS and Fox.
As it happens, CBS closed out Sunday with two more blowouts, only this time the carnage occurred in its national broadcast window. Tom Brady and the Bucs all but performed an autopsy on the Bears midway through a 38-3 home romp, as the GOAT tossed four touchdown passes in the first half and the Tampa defense forced Justin Fields to turn over the ball five times. The game, aired in 95% of CBS’ TV markets, averaged 17.8 million viewers, which marked a 22% decline versus last season’s comparable window, an even split between 49ers-Patriots and Chiefs-Broncos that averaged 22.9 million viewers.
The fraction of the country (most of Arizona, as well as a good chunk of Texas and Oklahoma) that saw the alternative feed were treated to the spectacle of the Raiders handling the Eagles, 33-22. Before a rash of garbage-time scoring set in, Vegas had amassed a 30-7 lead.
Elsewhere, NBC’s special Waterworld edition of Sunday Night Football drew a season-low 16.1 million TV viewers, as the Colts and 49ers slogged it out in the midst of a bomb cyclone and whatever an “atmospheric river” is supposed to be. While the primetime results were far below NBC’s season average of 20 million viewers per broadcast, the Sunday soaker handily out-delivered last season’s game, a hastily rescheduled Seahawks-Cardinals clash that was decided in overtime and scared up 14.3 million viewers. Sunday night’s deliveries improved on the year-ago broadcast by 13%, and through the first seven weeks of play, NBC’s primetime package is up 21%.
Lastly, ESPN2 brought the ManningCast back after a three-week hiatus, and the brothers retained 85% of their Sept. 27 audience. With an average draw of 1.61 million viewers, the alternative feed accounted for 13% of the overall Monday Night Football deliveries. The flagship telecast averaged 11.2 million viewers, for a grand total of 12.8 million Saints-Seahawks observers. That’s a 22% hike compared to last season’s Bears-Rams telecast; season-to-date, Monday Night Football is averaging 13.6 million viewers, up 15% versus last year’s 11.8 million.
Since the season kicked off on Sept. 9, the various NFL TV windows are averaging 16.3 million viewers, up 11% from last year’s 14.7 million and up 1% from the comparable stretch in 2019. Bear in mind that these ratings gains are occurring in the midst of an ongoing decline in overall TV viewing, one that has seen 9% of the audience vanish over the course of the last 12 months and 21% fall off in the interval between fall 2019 and the current broadcast season.