Football is BACK. Yes, we’re going to keep saying it. It’s too good to be true. Maybe when the bye weeks start to roll around, we’ll dial it back a bit. But for now, let us bask in the glory of sold-out stadiums, scowling coaches like Jon Gruden, and nail-biting goal-line finishes. In an appropriate finale to Week 1 of the NFL season, the Ravens and Raiders delivered a thrilling Monday Night Football game that went down to the wire. Surprise, surprise. America was tuned in to the action.
How tuned in? Well, ABC’s coverage of the NFL game alone hauled in an average of 7.1 million viewers. That doesn’t even begin to address the viewership ESPN earned for its coverage and the Manning brothers’ simulcast on ESPN2. Even still, that 7.1 million figured blew television competition out of the water.
For all of its apparent faults, the NFL has a product that people want to see. Other television events couldn’t hope to compete on Monday night. According to TV Line, the season finale of “Hell’s Kitchen” averaged 2.2 million viewers. The finale of “American Ninja Warrior” on NBC wrangled an average of 3.4 million. Elsewhere, a rerun of “The Neighborhood” hauled in 3.5 million. And “Roswell NM” earned 720,000.
The nature of the game likely played its part in the TV dominance. Not only did the Raiders and Ravens go back and forth all night, but the game also saw the second overtime finish of the young NFL season. At one point, the crowd at Las Vegas’ brand new Allegiant Stadium was sure the Raiders had won. The play, initially ruled a touchdown by the officials, was overturned. It set the stage for an even more dramatic finish. When all was said and done, the Raiders stood victorious, 33-27.
A Quick Rundown of the NFL’s 2021 Rule Changes
NFL fans need no reminder of the league’s crackdown on taunting during the 2021 season. We’ve already seen a few instances where flags have been thrown for taunting, some more deserving than others. But there have been several other changes worth mentioning.
According to ESPN, the NFL has decided to lean more on its replay officials. This will supposedly help with the pace of the game. This year, results that are clear on replay won’t need to be formally challenged as frequently. Refs will have the authority to change a ruling from a catch to an incompletion instantly if the dropped ball is evident from the replay room in New York, for example.
Another rule change comes in the form of onside kick recovery. The NFL saw historically low recovery rates for onside kicks last year. This time around, the league is limiting the number of players from the receiving team in the setup zone to nine. It is not intended to give the kicking team an advantage but rather a fighting chance.
There were a few others relating to jersey number selection, blocking, and holding enforcement. But for the most part, NFL football is still going to look like NFL football.