The quarterbacks are bad. Or the offensive lines are the problem.
Player protests are driving away viewers. Or Colin Kaepernick’s absence is sending them away.
Perhaps it’s the hurricanes.
The product is worse. But the Super Bowl was better than ever.
If you have a strong NFL viewership opinion, wait a day. It will shift, or someone will tell you how wrong you are. This is the NFL’s most consistent theme in 2017: everything is an eye-gouging argument over why the audience is changing. And the ratings, well, that’s the seesaw the league will be forced to ride all season long.
Through two weeks, nothing is certain and nobody is sure what is causing numbers to land where they are. And through two weeks there has been a perpetual argument over why the TV results are up and down. The most dominant questions: Why is the league’s growth and saturation slowing, who or what is to blame, and how will it be fixed?
It’s why people can’t talk about Kaepernick or player activism without weaving in a ratings conversation. It’s why domestic violence and league discipline can’t be dissected without considering how it impacts image and viewership. And it’s most definitely why the NFL and NFLPA will continue to brutalize each other for the next four years, running up a scoreboard of who is to blame for what problem, and how that is negatively impacting the overall product the two sides produce in unison.
As for the numbers, here’s where we’re at: Week 1 was uneven but mostly bad for the league, essentially down across the board, including the three critical prime-time slots: the Thursday night opener (Kansas City vs. New England) and both Monday prime-time games (New Orleans vs. Minnesota and Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver). Only the first Sunday night game (New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys) of the season floated optimism, with a rise of around 5 percent over the same slot in 2016.