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Hurley's Picks: Ratings Are Down, But Don't Expect NFL To Worry

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Oh, oh, oh, does the NFL ever own your soul.

Certainly here in New England but also in numerous cities across the country, many people would scoff at that suggestion. The NFL? That corporate monolith run by bullying tactics, deceitful measures and magnificent greed? Not me, no way, not ever.

The sentiment may be rooted in genuine truth, but the numbers -- as they say -- don't lie.

New England fans -- by far the angriest of the bunch -- managed to nearly set a record for the highest ratings of a Patriots season-opening game, drawing a 37.6 household rating and a 58 market share. Only last year's opener -- aka the Brady's Back Bowl -- drew a higher rating.

If there was a boycott in Boston, the NFL certainly didn't notice. And with 68,000 Patriots fans set to fill Gillette Stadium on Sunday, happily consuming the NFL's expensive-as-heck product, the sentiment just won't make its way into the heads of the suits at 345 Park Avenue.

Nationally, ratings did take somewhat of a hit. The fact that the season opener turned into a bloodsport didn't really inspire folks to turn off their TVs, but ratings did drop 8 percent from last year's kickoff game. Thanks largely to two dreadful games, ratings dropped 7 percent from last year in the early Monday night game, and the Rams-49ers Festival of Punts fell 25 percent from last year's late MNF game. To that, I say, good job, America! You've proven -- albeit for just one night -- that you are not beholden to a terrible game of football that is on at 10 p.m.! That's a nice baby step.

Further, the Sunday night game and CBS' afternoon game drew very poorly (nationally), per Forbes, so the NFL -- for the first time in a very long time -- did not wholly dominate a weekend. Yet they still won.

The Packers will be on this upcoming Sunday night, and they always draw eyeballs. Their opponent, the intriguing Minnesota Vikings ought to ensure a solid rating there. The Eagles at Bears may not draw too well on Monday night, and the Falcons at Saints might be a similar story on Monday night in Week 3. In fact, if you look at a lot of the early season national TV matchups (Dolphins at Bengals, Chiefs at Steelers, Giants at Vikings, to name a few), the low-rating trend just might continue for a bit. And perhaps we'll see some stories pondering, "Why Isn't Anyone Watching The NFL This Year?"

Those stories will be quite premature.

Yes, we're all on to the NFL's tricks and hypocrisy, but once the season gets rolling, once the contenders establish themselves, once the storylines sort themselves out, and once many of us lose the option of spending any time outside of our homes, those ratings will recover. We will come back. We always do.

I'd happily be wrong on this. I fear I won't be.

Speaking of wrong, holy smokes, Week 1 was brutal. It's always difficult, when you know so little about every team, but woof. A 5-9-1 record is the type of week that makes you just want to quit and hope nobody notices. Would you notice if I quit? Don't answer that. It's time for a rebound week, and also the triumphant return of Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week's Picks. There are many. Vamos!

(Home team in caps; Wednesday line)

New York Jets (-1) over BUFFALO
Speaking of the NFL owning your souls, look no further than Tuesday morning Twitter for evidence. All it took for the NFL to dominate several hours of folks' attention was to introduce a bunch of "new" jerseys, brand them with a hip name like COLOR RUSH, and voila. Everybody's talking about jerseys on the day Josh Brown returns to work after a three-hour punishment for domestic violence.

We'd love to address the serious issue but ZOMG SOME OF THESE JERSEYS ARE SOMEWHAT UGLY!

Anyway, I could break down this Jets-Bills game, but instead I'll just talk about the zaniness of the Jets wearing WHITE uniforms! Oh my! That's outrageous! White jerseys with white pants! Has the world gone mad?!

Baltimore (-6.5) over CLEVELAND
Poor Cleveland. Just ... poor Cleveland.

Miami (+6.5) over NEW ENGLAND
Sports are funny. I understand everyone's excited about New England. But if every single thing that happened on Sunday night happened, only instead of a low snap/bad hold on the would-be game-winning field goal went perfectly smooth, would they still be as excited? Obviously, these flubs often decide games, but to go from 9.5-point underdogs to touchdown favorites in the span of a few days is just fishy.

Plus, it's not like the Dolphins face-planted in Week 1. They nearly went on the road and won in Seattle. Considering the Seahawks lost three games there last year, perhaps being competitive in front of the TWEEELLLLVVEEESSS is becoming less of an accomplishment.

Nevertheless, the Dolphins can at least enter this game feeling good about their chances. It's not going to be quite as loud in Foxboro as it was in Seattle, anyway.

At the same time, the last time the Dolphins visited the Patriots, Ryan Tannehill went ahead and did this:

Ryan Tannehill
Ryan Tannehill recovers a missed snap for a safety. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

So maybe that line is just right. I'll take the points though.

Dallas (+2.5) over WASHINGTON
Hey, Washington, nice defense.

How does a decent team get free points vs. that defense? I will halt all questions at this point.

CAROLINA (-13.5) over San Francisco
If there's one thing to which I am susceptible, it is the tendency to occasionally fall victim to making picks out of a dark place, out of a brewing rage based on feeling personally insulted. And, with that dreck of a "football game" against the supposed NFL team known as the Rams, the San Francisco 49ers have personally offended me.

Also can't help but feel like Cam Newton is going to have about 400 total yards.

DETROIT (-5.5) over Tennessee
Ladies and gentlemen. I have seen that which cannot be believed.

I have seen a Jim Caldwell-coached team execute a perfectly executed game-winning drive in the final 37 seconds of a football game. I still cannot believe it. Jim Caldwell still cannot believe it (he was thinking about how cotton candy is made during the actual comeback, but he'll get caught up eventually).

New Orleans (+4.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS
Too much praise of Ben McAdoo studying the sun this week. Too. Much. Praise. The sun comes in through the window because Jerrah likes to be different. Get out of here with treating the dude who's definitely done 2 for $20 meals at Chili's by himself as if he's some sort of genius. The sun shined. Get over it, people.

Also, Drew Brees. Yeah it's an outdoor game, which is always a risk. But Drew Brees is feeling good, man. He just made a whole lot of money last week, and he followed it up with a casual 423-yard, four-touchdown afternoon. It's probably worth noting that he's only 10,000 yards shy of Peyton Manning for the all-time passing record, which means he'll almost certainly own that record within two or three years. He's also 107 shy of Manning's touchdown record, which will require a bit more work but is still doable for that man in that offense.

That has nothing to do with this coming Sunday, but I'm just here to share, man. I'm here to share.

PITTSBURGH (-3) over Cincinnati
It's early, but I really like the way Pittsburgh's offense looked. How much of that was Washington's porous defense, we'll find out this week. But 300 passing yards and three touchdowns to go with 143 yards on the ground and two more touchdowns with DeAngelo Williams, all while making it look easy? That's enough for me to buy in, at least for one week.

DENVER (-6) over Indianapolis
If the Colts are smart, they'll hold Andrew Luck out of this game. If they don't, it could be his final game.

The flip side of that is that the officials assigned to the game might be looking to overcompensate for the lack of penalties called on Denver's defense last week. But I wouldn't hold my breath on that.

Kansas City (+2.5) over HOUSTON
Seattle (-3.5) over LOS ANGELES
OAKLAND (-4.5) over Atlanta
Jacksonville (+3) over SAN DIEGO
ARIZONA (-6.5) over Tampa Bay

Green Bay (-2) over Minnesota

Look, I had to go rapid fire. I need to limit my RQFLWPs, to be honest.

Ridiculous Quote From Last Week's Picks: "But if we don't know that the Packers are going to roll the Jaguars, then we really don't know anything."

Note: Well, I was wrong about the gist, but the last part remains truer than ever.

RQFLWP: "I just don't see [Jack Del Rio as head coach] being a setup that can get a team ready to go on the road and win in a hostile environment to start a season."

Note: Hey, how was I to know that Jack Del Rio had become Badass Jack Del Rio overnight? 

RQFLWP: "Pete Carroll would simply not allow his team's level of pumpedness and jackedness to drop so low for a season opener."

Note: Pete. ;-(

Philadelphia (+3) over CHICAGO
The NFL makes boatloads of money without my advice, but here goes anyway: Don't make this your Week 2 Monday Night Football matchup. Unless, of course, you're experimenting how badly you can mess with people while still getting them to tune in. We may be reaching the breaking point.

I just hope I'm in a better mood, picks-wise, by the time football rolls around on Monday night. Last week ... it was grisly. I'm not one to make excuses, but at the same time four of my misses fell within two points, so if you think about it, in a way I basically got them right and had a great week. Right? Right.

(When you do this type of thing so often, you need to do whatever you can to convince yourself of such things. Please go along with it.)

Last week: 5-10-1 (OK though now don't focus on it too long, move along, nothing to see here.)

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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