By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — So, it would appear as though NFL ratings are doing just fine.

Despite some rather vocal opponents to player protests, and despite some celebrations of “declining” ratings for football games, the NFL is still king.

According to Austin Karp of SportsBusiness Daily, despite 10-year lows in overall viewers for “Sunday Night Football,” the program was still No. 1 among all prime-time shows — 30 percent higher than “The Big Bang Theory” and 40 percent higher than “NCIS.” It was the widest margin of victory for “Sunday Night Football” over other programs in its history.

Karp really delivered the good with this paragraph:

“‘[Sunday Night Football]’ also remains on pace to be the most-viewed prime-time show for the seventh straight year, which would be a record for all of TV dating back to ’50. Eight of the top 10 most-viewed prime-time TV programs in the fall were ‘SNF’ games (World Series Games 6 and 7 were the other two). As recently as two to three years ago, there was much talk about AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ challenging ‘SNF’ among adults 18-49. But for the fall, ‘SNF’ finished 61% higher in the demo compared to the Sunday night zombie show. This will be the 10th straight season that ‘SNF’ has won the 18-49 demo. When factoring in streaming on NBC Sports Digital properties, ‘SNF’ viewership jumps to 18.4 million viewers, a figure that might increase next season with NBC acquiring rights to stream games to mobile devices.”

It’s the same with Monday Night Football, too. Karp said overall numbers were down in terms of viewers, but Monday Night Football won the ratings battle in 10 of its 16 Mondays this season, while streaming numbers increased by 29 percent.

Even Thursday Night Football, which everyone agrees smells foul, “has established itself as a top five prime-time TV property.”

So, clearly, what we’re seeing is a drop across the board for all television viewership, as many consumers “cut the cord” and instead rely on streaming services to provide their entertainment. But among those folks still watching television the old-fashioned way, football remains No. 1 in America.

Of course, as with anything in America these days, the data can be manipulated any number of ways to suit anyone’s liking. But the main takeaway should be this: despite some truly dreadful games involving truly dreadful teams, despite the most off-field political drama in the league’s history, and despite a constant state of controversy in the league office, the NFL has not yet relinquished the throne as the NFL’s leader in entertainment.

And, as we enter the final full weekend of football before a nine-month hiatus, we can at least take comfort in knowing that come next September, the NFL will be returning as it always does.

We are what we are, America. And “addicted to football” is part of that equation.

Speaking of which, it’s time for one final full week of picks.

(Home team in CAPS; Friday lines)

PHILADELPHIA (+3) over Dallas
I have to be honest with you. What I saw out of Nick Foles on Monday night was horrific. Ghastly. Grim. Gruesome. Ghoulish. So bad.

BUT! All of those adjectives describe the 2017 Dallas Cowboys, who have too often looked like a godawful team this season, one on which that you simply cannot rely.

The Eagles have the No. 1 seed locked up, making this really an impossible pick from a reliable place. I’ll just trust that Doug Pederson was so disgusted by what he saw Monday that he’ll require his team to put forth a worthwhile effort to enter the postseason on a high note rather than farting their way in with a pair of dreadful showings at home.

INDIANAPOLIS (-5.5) over Houston
The final AFC South matchup between these two teams before both are relegated to the CFL. I’m going to miss this rivalry, but I think the 20-yard end zones and bizarre motion rules should help Houston quarterbacks in the long run.

For this game though, I can already see DeAndre Hopkins making a spectacular touchdown catch with 9 seconds left to cover just to tick me right off. I apologize for the coarse language but it’s a very unpleasant visual.

Cleveland (+11) over PITTSBURGH
I’m basing this off Marcus Gilbert potentially playing me and the rest of the world for a fool by saying Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell wont’ play. It does make sense, because the Steelers have to believe the Patriots will have no trouble with the Jets, and Pittsburgh’s already entering the postseason with an injured Antonio Brown. Risking injury to The Walking Talking Human Injury (aka Roethlisbeger) or Bell seems unncessary.

That being said, they’re playing Cleveland. Tomlin could start himself at quarterback and still win by two touchdowns. This is a terrifying game to pick. But maybe Cleveland gets that first win of the year against a semi-pro Steelers lineup. Or at least manages to lose by a respectable number. At this point, Cleveland would probably settle for that.

MINNESOTA (-11.5) over Chicago
NEW ENGLAND (-15) over New York Jets
These big favorites are a crapshoot in Week 17. You never really know how teams will approach these things, how much they’ll weigh rest and health vs. seeding, etc. At the same time, it helps a whole lot when the underdogs involved are as bad as the Bears and the Browns and the Jets.

The Vikings just need a win to secure that No. 2 seed and the first-round bye, and the Bears won’t provide any resistance in John Fox’s final day on the job. Same goes for the Patriots and Jets, though it’s the No. 1 seed at stake. Given that Bill Belichick would rather sleep on a bed of nails than keep Tom Brady on the sideline for even one series, I like the Patriots’ chances.

DETROIT (-7) over Green Bay
This game has all the allure of The Pizza Hut/GoPro/Staples Tri-City Bowl which will be taking place in Alaska next year involving two sub-.500 schools from opposite ends of the country with no history against one another. Just with cooler helmets and uniforms.

Washington (-3) over NEW YORK GIANTS
Ditto! Only Kirk Cousins has a few dollars to make here.

Buffalo (-2.5) over MIAMI
Jay Cutler has lived in a hotel room all season. He’s literally had one foot in, one foot out in his return to the NFL. He claims he wants to play next year but that’s just funny talk. I expect him to play this game while wearing swim trunks and a tank top. Maybe even some zinc on the nose.

TENNESSEE (-3) over Jacksonville
You never want to go all in on the whole “Team X needs it more” scenario, because occasionally when these huge men get on the field together, a real life competition breaks out. “Who needs it more” can quickly get thrown aside once someone gets punched in the month.

Still, the Titans (who stink) can secure a postseason berth with a win (even though they stink). The Jaguars are locked into the No. 3 seed in the AFC. That means they have to play in Wild Card Weekend, which means they might play the preservation game on Sunday, which means absolutely nothing to them. I know that Bologna Marrone says he’s all in to win, but, well, I hope he’s bluffing.

And again, the Titans stink, so this is a DICEY SITUATION.

BALTIMORE (-10) over Cincinnati
The Bengals will certainly show composure and commitment in rallying around Marvin Lewis to win one for the OK I can’t even jokingly finish that sentence.

Carolina (+4) over ATLANTA
Cam Newton with a lot on the line late in the year? Pass!

Ah! Matt Ryan with a lot on the line late in the year?!

Points. I pick the points.

Oakland (+8) over LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Two teams without a home. How sad.

Anyway, I hope the Chargers’ first season in their little soccer stadium ends well. That’d be nice. But I’m kind of rooting for a chaotic end to a weird year. If the Chargers win, and the Jaguars win, and the Bills win, and the Bengals win, then the Chargers are out of the playoffs. That would be a real blast to follow so I’m just hoping we get to see it. (Please don’t verify these wishes with my other picks, thank you.)

San Francisco (-3.5) over LOS ANGELES RAMS
Jimmy Garoppo-hunk against the Rams’ backups? That’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

SEATTLE (-9.5) over Arizona
People don’t often respect the plight of the pick maker. But in doing so they overlook the madness that has been the 2017 Seattle Seahawks. How in the world are you supposed to predict what this team is going to do? They are more erratic than a Blaine Gabbert deep ball.

Just in the past few weeks, they beat the Eagles by two touchdowns, then lost in Jacksonville and got blown out in L.A. Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas were fighting on social media like passive-aggressive teenagers. The Seahawks were doomed! Then they went out and beat up on the Cowboys … so they were back! But then … Thomas approached Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett after the game and basically asked to become a Cowboy.


So, naturally, the Seahawks will probably win this game, sneak into the playoffs somehow, and go on to win the Super Bowl. Sports are dumb and I hate them.

New Orleans (-7) over TAMPA BAY
I’m not going to lie to you. I’m 4-11 picking Saints games this year. And it has me shook, as one might expect.

I’m 1-3 when I pick them to cover, which means I spent all the wrong parts of the year doubting them, waiting for that dreadful loss to come. When I finally believed in them, Drew Brees threw a brutal pick in the end zone to lose to the Falcons.

I’m just a mess when it comes to the Saints, and I feel that after all this time, I owe you that information. You should probably really like Tampa in this game.

Kansas City (+3) over DENVER
You know, it’s been a long, tough year in the world of making picks. It started out so poorly. It got so bad I had to write an entire picks column about how life is meaningless and nobody needs to care about my picks because we’re all going to die some day. It was dark!

But at the season’s midway point, something clicked. Suddenly I could taste colors and see sounds. I understand all there was to know about the Sean McDermotts and Sean McVays and all the other Seans of the world. I was a dang magician, only picking a few errant games per week to keep the mere mortals off my scent. I was hot. Real hot. Smoking hot.

As a result, I got a little bit ahead of myself. Last week, in my first column of the year where I sat with a record better than .500, some would say I even got … braggy. You never want to be braggy.

Yet I was, and as a result, I was issued a heaping serving of humble pie in the form of a 4-11-1 week. I’m now four games under .500 on the year (the Eagles really couldn’t have kicked a PAT after that meaningless pick-six at the end of regulation?), and I need a strong Week 17 to end this regular season on the right side of .500.

Now, some snowflake millenials would sit here and complain that Week 17 is impossible to predict, with too many variables in play for meaningless and meaningful games alike. But me? I won’t even mention it. I’m a bigger man than that. I’ll just go about my business and hopefully get the job done. (If I don’t it’s because of the Week 17 stuff, though.)

Last week: 4-11-1
Season: 112-116-12

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s