TV Ratings: Patriots Bring Welcome Lift to Sunday Night Football

The New England victory over the Atlanta Falcons is the NFL's best primetime showing since week one.
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The good news for Sunday Night Football was twofold in week seven.

Not only did the NBC franchise score another year-over-year gain from 2016, the showdown between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons actually grew week-over-week — something that's proven particularly difficult for primetime NFL games this season. Early numbers have the game averaging a 12.6 rating among metered market households.

The score, an improvement of nearly 16 percent from the week before, represents the league's best primetime showing (across any network) since the first week of the season. That's a feat it managed in spite of the fact that The Walking Dead returned to AMC on Monday night. It's also a 9 percent lift from 2017. Thank Tom Brady and his Patriots for that. The team has proven itself capable, time and time again, of pulling in a big crowd. (The Patriots also won the game, with a not particularly competitive score of 23-7.)

League viewership is down roughly 7 percent heading into week eight. Unfortunate, to be sure, it's still a much better position than the NFL was in this time in 2016. Halfway through that season, ratings were down double digits from the year before.

Ratings for The Walking Dead, which kicked off its eighth season on Sunday, will arrive later. But the rest of the evening's race gives a strong second place among broadcast to CBS. The network was lifted by its own NFL lead-in. CBS early scored are likely a little skewed, but the it's looking like a strong showing for 60 Minutes (nearly 14 million viewers and a 2.5 rating among adults 18-49) before steady episodes of Wisdom of the Crowd (1.1 adults), NCIS: Los Angeles (1.0 adults) and Madam Secretary (0.8 adults). 

Fox posted small live lifts for Bob's Burgers (1.3 adults), The Simpsons (1.6 adults) and Ghosted (1.1 adults) before even outings of Family Guy (1.2 adults) and The Last Man on Earth (0.8 adults). The only change on ABC was a week-to-week dip for Shark Tank, down to a 0.9 rating among adults 18-49, while struggling drama Ten Days in the Valley again limped in with a 0.4 rating.