One of the most anticipated regular season games in league history is likely to generate an audience competing with some of the biggest numbers generated by a non-playoff NFL game in decades.
The high-water mark, after all the appearances and signs, came on December 2, 1985, when 41 million people lined up to watch the previously undefeated bears be beaten by the dolphins on a Monday night. Five years later, the Giants and 49ers drew $ 39 million for a late-season Monday night that ended up being an example of that season’s NFC championship.
Recently, the Week 17 Patriots-Giants game in 2007, which was supposed to be exclusive to the NFL Network, but which also landed on NBC and CBS because the Patriots were trying to get a perfect season, had an average viewership of 34.5 million.
Will Tom Brady’s return to New England create similar historical figures? NFL ratings are up this year (not bad considering the many who swore they would never watch again), but TV ratings and ownership are down. The fact that the opening season between regular seasons between Dallas and Tampa Bay (26.0 million) came within 5.2 percent of the 2015 Thursday opening between the Steelers and Patriots (27.4 million) becomes more impressive when you consider that The HUT rating (homes that use television) for the game in 2021 came 30 percent lower than the HUT rating for the game that was played six years earlier.
Sunday night, the match will definitely draw more than the Week One Cowboys-Bucs competition. Will it compete with the 2007 Pats-Giants, 1990 Giants-49ers or even 1985 Bears-Dolphins? It will be one of the most interesting questions that pops up on Monday as we digest everything that happens during the three or four hours on Sunday night where a large number of serious and relaxed football fans stop everything they do for to see what Brady does when he returns for the first time to the place where he spent 20 years and won six championships.