NFL: Thursday Night’s Opening Matchup Between Tampa Bay and Dallas Takes Massive Ratings Jump from 2020

by Thad Mitchell

The 2021 NFL regular season is off and running and judging by the Thursday Night Football television ratings, fans are excited football is back.

Thursday night’s matchup between two teams expecting to have competitive seasons kicked off a brand new season. The matchup saw the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Dallas Cowboys. The NFL could not have asked for a better opening night as the game went down to the final moments. It was Tom Brady and Bucs emerging victorious over Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys. While it is an excellent start for the Bucs, the real story for the NFL came in the ratings category. The opening game did significantly better in the television ratings than its 2020 counterpart.

The NFL game, which was broadcast on NBC, saw 22 million viewers tune in to watch the Bucs victory. That number is a nearly 30 percent increase over last year’s opening matchup, featuring the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs. It also topped the 2019 season opener that saw the Green Bay Packers take on the Chicago Bears. According to TV Line, Last year’s NFL season kickoff game reported 19.3 million viewers. Nearly three million less than this year’s game.

“Welcome back, football,” the social media post from the NFL proclaims. “Buccaneers win the season opener.”

NFL personnel certainly hope that the bump in ratings continues through the season as many think it will. While still exciting, last year’s NFL season was shroud in mystery from week to week as the COVID-19 pandemic weighed mightily into decision making. The deadly pandemic kept fans from attending live games during most of the year. Fans spent the entire season unsure if their favorite players would be able to take the field due to contact tracing. Social distancing measures meant enjoying the game with friends and fellow fans was a no-go. There was also the looming threat that the league could shut down the remainder of the season at any given moment due to the uncertainty of playing in a worldwide pandemic. In short, COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the 2020 season — much the same is did everything else.

While there is still concern over the COVID-19 virus, protective measures have begun to ease up. Many NFL franchises expect to have their stadiums full for home games.

If last night’s NFL matchup is any indication, we are in for a very exciting season. On the back of the future Hall of Fame quarterback, Tom Brady, the Tampa Bay Bucs were able to squeeze out a 31-29 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Brady was sensational in the Bucs win, throwing for 379 yards and four touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns went to his former New England Patriots teammates Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown.