The ratings for NFL games have been on an upward trend overall this year through five weeks of the season and the prime time games on Sunday night have been a boost for the league. That trend could continue this weekend with a star-studded matchup when sophomore sensation Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs make the trip up to Gillette Stadium to take on Tom Brady’s New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football.
Call it the GOAT versus the GUAC. (You know, short for, Greatest Up-And-Comer.)
Brady has been the gold standard of quarterbacking for the past 15 years in the NFL. Yet through five games, Mahomes looks like the prototype of the next generation of quarterback: athletic, howitzer for an arm, and able to get the ball out of his hands quickly.
Mahomes leads one of the league’s most prolific offenses with the Chiefs racking up 35 points and 413 yards per game on opponents this season. Brady, on the other hand, got out of the gates slowly before ripping the Dolphins (38-7) and Colts (38-24) to shreds in the last two weeks.
The game has all the makings of a classic duel.
Throw in the fact that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has had 10 days to prepare for the Chiefs after playing on Thursday night last week, and we’ve got ourselves plenty of intriguing storylines.
Will those storylines translate into ratings? Well, the audience for Sunday Night Football this season has averaged 19.6 million viewers according to the Wall Street Journal. That’s up from 19.5 million last season despite including the opening night kickoff game between the Eagles and Falcons that was down 13% when compared to last year’s game.
After the Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers matchup posted a season-low number (10.4/17.92 million viewers) in the Sunday night window two weeks ago, last week’s Houston Texans-Dallas Cowboys matchup saw an increase in both categories (10.7/18.5). That Texans-Cowboys game was the first increase in the rating number for Sunday Night that the league had seen this season as things had slowly declined from a 12.5 in Week 1 to a low of 10.4 in Week 4.
Mahomes has already proven to be a ratings boon to the league in primetime this season. The Chiefs’ Monday Night Football game against the Broncos, in which Mahomes engineered a comeback drive late, posted a 7.9 rating and 13.21 million viewers in Week 4. Those numbers were an eight and 11 percent increase respectively over the previous year’s viewership for the same week. While Mahomes has already delivered a strong Monday Night rating, Brady and the Patriots’ Sunday night game against the Detroit Lions in Week 3 saw a double-digit increase in both rating and viewership compared year-over-year.
Entering this Sunday’s matchup, the two teams are among the best in the AFC and, in theory, should draw a large audience. We’ll have to wait until Monday to find out, but the on-field play and the previous primetime games for the two teams this season indicate this could be another ratings win for the NFL.