- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Washington Football Team may have the worst attendance in the NFL, but it appears people are still tuning into the games over the airwaves. 

The Burgundy and Gold’s local television ratings are up 7% this season, Sports Business Journal reported. That’s the 14th biggest jump in the NFL — which has seen 21 of its 32 teams gain ratings.

The Los Angeles Chargers have seen the largest ratings increase at 24%. The Arizona Cardinals (19%), Dallas Cowboys (19%), Buffalo Bills (17%) and Carolina Panthers (16%) round out the top five.

Eleven teams have seen their ratings fall — with the Houston Texans (17%) and the Chicago Bears (13%) experiencing the sharpest decline.

There’s no single reason explaining Washington’s viewership gains. The team is coming off a promising 2020 season in which it made the playoffs and won the NFC East. And this season’s schedule has featured numerous high-profile teams and quarterbacks — including Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady.

Washington is registering a 16 rating around the District — up from 14.9 in 2020. In 2018, the team reportedly drew a 17.7, down from 19.7 the year prior. According to The Washington Post, the team registered a 25.9 during Robert Griffin III’s rookie season in 2012. 

Television viewer habits have changed over the past few years as ratings have generally fallen across the industry. The NFL was down a notable 9.7% in 2017, but the ratings have since gone up in three of the last four seasons. According to Nielsen, the NFL accounted for 28 of the 100 most-watched programs in 2020.

Washington’s television numbers stand in stark contrast to its attendance figures. Not only does the team rank last in the NFL, but the Burgundy and Gold are averaging its lowest total in the history of FedEx Field, the team’s home stadium in Landover, Maryland, that opened in 1997.

Through five home games, Washington’s average attendance of 51,291 is down 21.68% from 2019 — the last full season with fans. The 2020 season was affected by the pandemic — with teams either hosting fans in a severely reduced capacity or playing without them. Washington hosted 3,000 fans last season for only one game, a Week 9 matchup against the New York Giants. 

Washington drew 52,128 for Sunday’s 29-19 victory over the Buccaneers. The figure was the team’s second-largest home crowd of the year, behind only the 52,753 it drew in Week 1.

On television, Washington’s win over Tampa Bay averaged a 16.9 rating locally. The number peaked at 21.3 near the end of the game. 

The Burgundy and Gold are 3-6 this season. 

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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