The NFL is back with a bang as teams returned to the turf with a full pre-season under their pads. Unlike last season with the ever-changing Covid-19 protocols, the build-up to the season opener had a sense of stability as teams were able to practice without as many disruptions. We’re seeing a continuation of pass-heavy offenses light up the scoreboards, hard-hitting defenses, and new NFL stars beginning to break out. This is why we love football.
It’s no wonder we’re seeing sold-out stadiums and record-breaking media deals for exclusive rights to live games. Streaming numbers for the NFL continue to trend upwards as it regularly top streaming charts across the country. Take, for example, the Super Bowl between the Bengals and the Rams. The game saw an average of 99.2 million viewers on NBC. Peacock and other streaming platforms added another 11.2 million viewers to the figures, making this the most-streamed Super Bowl on record.
Fast-forward to week 10, as the playoff picture begins to take shape, we take a look back at which games have garnered the most viewers and ratings, according to Nielsen reports. All figures listed below include linear and streaming numbers.
Based on Nielsen reports, this game quickly drew the top ratings in Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season. The game averaged a 12.3 rating, with 23.3 million viewers during the season premiere of NBC’s Sunday Night Football (SNF)l for linear viewership. Streaming figures bring the total number of viewers to an estimated 25 million, making it the most-watched SNF season debut since 2015.
Unsurprisingly, many reports have alluded to Tom Brady’s return to football as one of the significant factors after a dramatic offseason for the future Hall of Famer. The quarterback is one of the most decorated NFL players of all time. His return to the Bucs was unexpected after he announced a quick U-turn over his decision to retire from football.
This game, together with the overtime of the Cardinals and Raiders, averaged a rating of 14.1 and 27.39 million viewers on CBS. This marks the largest Week 2 NFL viewership since 2000. The Cowboys, as we know, have a solid national following, and it’s also likely that fans wanted to see if the Bengals could rebound from a bad Week 1 loss.
Unfortunately, the Bengals lost to the Cowboys 17-20. The Cowboys’ Noah Brown was the stand-out star, catching all five of his targets for 91 yards and scoring a touchdown. However, don’t let this overshadow the drama that took place in Las Vegas, where the Raiders blew the biggest lead in franchise history. It culminated with the Raiders marching down the field in OT, near field goal territory, and fumbling the ball for a walk-off touchdown by the Cardinal's defense.
Week 3 of the NFL season didn’t just bring multi-year highs for both FOX and ESPN/ABC. It also saw two of the NFL’s most legendary quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady going head-to-head. Both quarterbacks have had decorated careers in the NFL, littered with personal and team accolades. It was a special occasion beautifully captured in the routine quarterback post-game embrace. The two met in the middle of the field to pay their respects, swarmed by cameras, knowing it might be the last time they face each other.
The game averaged a 13.4 rating with 26.4 million views on Fox. In the end, the Packers won a close fought 14-12 victory against the Buccaneers.
Week 4 saw CBS topping the charts, with nearly 25 million viewers watching the Patriots go up against the Packers. This marked the most-watched Week 4 game for CBS since it decided to resume airing NFL games in 1998.
Filling the sizeable void left by Davante Adams was never going to be an easy task, but week 4 saw one contender put their hand up.The Packers’ rookie player, Christian Watson, scored a touchdown on a 15-yard run to help push Green Bay to a narrow 27-24 win over the Patriots and Head Coach, Bill Belichick.
Another explosive game in the season involved the Cowboys and the Rams, which averaged a 12.0 rating and 24.25 million viewers on FOX. The figures represent a six percent increase in ratings and a seven percent increase in viewership. Dubbed “America’s team” by proud owner Jerry Jones, It’s clear from this list that the Cowboys remain must-watch television featuring in three of the most-watched windows this season.
Rams’ star receiver Cooper Kupp managed an impressive 75-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter of the game, as he continued his hot form from last season. The star wide receiver completed the triple crown (receiving yards, receiving touchdown, yards after catch) last year and is showing no signs of slowing down. Despite this, the Cowboys overpowered the Rams winning 22-10.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles on October 17, 2022 (Week 6)
Week six saw two of the biggest games in the current NFL season, with four of the top teams in the NFL currently. The Bills vs. Chiefs game represented an average of 13.2 in ratings and 25.41 million viewers for CBS, making it the largest week six NFL showing for the network since 2016. Josh Allen versus Patric Mahomes has consistently delivered in previous outings and this latest edition did not disappoint. Allen threw for 329 yards and scored three touchdowns with Mahomes replying in typical Mahomes fashion - the game was a nailbiter with the Bills winning 24-20.
Elsewhere, the NFC game between the Cowboys vs. Eagles saw quarterback Jalen Hurts throw for 155 yards and score two touchdowns. The Eagles remained undefeated with a 26-17 win over the Cowboys.
Week 7 wasn’t the best for the NFL season regarding viewership. Unlike previous weeks, Week 7 represented an all-time low with an 11.6 rating and 22.29 million viewers on FOX. Amazon Prime, on the other hand, also struggled with viewership. Week 7 also represented the third straight dud for Amazon Prime, which spent over $1 billion USD for streaming rights to Thursday Night Football. Unfortunately for Prime, its showing of the New Orleans Saints vs. Arizona Cardinals only drew 7.82 million viewers.
The Chiefs vs. 49ers game saw the Chiefs run out a 49-23, with Travis Kelce and JuJu Smith-Schuster being praised for their performance.
As we wait patiently for Nielsen to release viewership numbers for Week 8 and Week 9, we’re excited to watch the drama unfold in week 10.