Fri Nov 9 3:14am ET
By JOE REEDY
AP Sports Writer
In this Jan. 12, 2016, file photo, Chairman CBS Sports Sean McManus participates in the "CBS Sports" panel at the CBS 2016 Winter TCA, in Pasadena, Calif. After years of declines, NFL television ratings are showing modest gains. Three of the leagues television partners have shown increases after the first nine week of the season while one remains flat. That is welcome news after ratings decreased 9.7 percent last season and 8 percent in 2016. CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, whose network has Super Bowl 53, has been pleased with advertising sales for the rest of the season and the Feb. 3 game in Atlanta. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
In this Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018 file photo, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) in action during an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland. After years of declines, NFL television ratings are showing modest gains. Three of the leagues television partners have shown increases after the first nine week of the season while one remains flat. That is welcome news after ratings decreased 9.7 percent last season and 8 percent in 2016. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)
After years of declines, NFL television ratings are showing modest gains.
Three of the league's television partners have shown increases after the first nine week of the season while one remains flat. That is welcome news after ratings decreased 9.7 percent last season and 8 percent in 2016.
''I'm glad the league has turned the corner. The top teams are very exciting and there are plenty of high-scoring games,'' said Neil Pilson, the former president of CBS Sports who now runs his own sports television consulting company.
Pilson said a major ratings driver has been the emergence of young quarterbacks like the Rams' Jared Goff, Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes and Bears' Mitchell Trubisky. That has created a buzz not only with their teams but throughout the league.
Another factor is that player protests against social and racial injustice during the national anthem have not been a major storyline this season. Pilson noted that ''a few of those folks who said they were going to stop watching I don't know how many did.''
NBC's ''Sunday Night Football'' package has shown the biggest improvement with an eight percent increase from last season. It is averaging 19.7 million viewers, compared to 18.3 million last season.
This past Sunday's game between the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots averaged a league-high 23.7 million, and was the largest prime-time audience on any network since ABC aired the Academy Awards in March. NBC has seen increases all but one week compared to last season.
''We're looking forward to the second half of our schedule, which features many crucial divisional matchups, the Thanksgiving night game, plus the Week 17 flex game. We expect `Sunday Night Football' to finish atop the prime-time rankings yet again,'' NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus said in a statement.
ESPN's ''Monday Night Football'' is averaging 11.418 million, which is up three percent (11.135 million). Pilson has been critical of scheduling for Thursday and Monday nights in past seasons, but he said the league has made improvements in those areas. ESPN will have one of the marquee games of the season on Nov. 19 when Kansas City faces the Los Angeles Rams in Mexico City.
''For years I thought that they were burying those two nights but they have improved dramatically,'' he said.
CBS' Sunday afternoon games are averaging 15.713 million viewers, which is up one percent from last season (15.528 million). This past Sunday's slate of five games, which was headlined by Pittsburgh at Baltimore, had a 10.0 household rating, which was up 23 percent from the same week last season.
CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, whose network has Super Bowl 53, has been pleased with advertising sales for the rest of the season and the Feb. 3 game in Atlanta.
''There are a number of very good stories. Kansas City is a team of national interest, Mahomes has become a legit star and a lot of the big teams - including New Orleans, Pittsburgh and New England - are playing very well,'' he said.
Fox's Sunday afternoon coverage is averaging more viewers than CBS at 17.299 million, but this is a decrease of less than one percent from last season (17.414 million).
The only package that has sharply declined is Thursday Night Football. It is averaging 12.522 million viewers in its first season on Fox, which is down from the 14.134 million on CBS last season. Fox though is hopeful that the numbers can rebound over the next month, which includes Green Bay at Seattle (Nov. 15), New Orleans at Dallas (Nov. 29) and the Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City (Dec. 13).
Pilson and McManus both think the league's overall improvements could carry through the second half. That's even better news for McManus, as he sees a number of potential Super Bowl matchups that would bode well for CBS.
''I'm encouraged. There are a lot of good storylines that will carry throughout the next couple months,'' he said. ''With so much going on that is negative people are looking for an escape and football provides that for a lot of people.''
Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins will have to prove himself in training camp in order to earn the Week 1 start over Case Keenum, but his coaches like what they've seen so far. Per Kyle Melnick of Redskins.com, offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell has been impressed with Haskins's work ethic. O'Connell is used to the slow learning curve inherent in rookies, but Haskins has somewhat broken that mold. This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise after Haskins led all of college football in passing yards and passing touchdowns in his only season as a starter. It's also worth noting that Melnick mentions Urban Meyer praising Haskins as "the most accurate passer he's coached." While it will take a considerable leap forward for Haskins to earn the starting job in Washington, he's off to a good start this spring and summer.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is in line to, once again, be quarterback Tom Brady's favorite target as the beginning of training camp looms. The 33-year-old caught 74 passes for 850 yards and six touchdowns through 12 games last season, including 26 receptions for 388 yards in three playoff games. Edelman racks up targets thanks to his kismet chemistry with Brady and sneaky route running. Age may one day catch up to Edelman but the only thing that could stifle the veteran's production in 2019 would be injury. He will be a solid, mid-round WR2 come fantasy draft day.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Riley Ridley was a surprise selection when the Bears drafted him in the fourth round. The rookie, and brother of the Falcons Calvin Ridley, is a big receiver who has impressed the coaching staff throughout the offseason workout programs. But fantasy owners need to be patient with a prospect like Ridley and rookie wide receivers can easily struggle to crack the lineup in the first half of a season. Ridley caught 13 touchdowns in 28 career college games at Georgia so he could steal some red zone targets from teammates Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller. But owners should not expect production right out of the gate and will only have dynasty value when fantasy draft rooms open in about one month.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton may be using more play fakes this upcoming season. With the arrival of new head coach Zac Taylor, Dalton may utilize play-action more often than he has in previous seasons. Under Taylor, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff averaged 10 yards per play-action attempt last season, good for fourth in the league. However, with the retirement of guard Clint Boling and the season-ending injury to tackle Jonah Williams (shoulder), along with the Bengals having only a step of separation on just 53.8 percent of their targets last season, it will be an uphill battle for the 32-year-old. If whats left of the offensive line can hold it together, however, Dalton will have plenty of time to utilize who is available to him on the offensive side of the ball under a new system.
The Atlanta Falcons No. 1 offseason priority is now to lock up wide receiver Julio Jones to a long-term deal, but that could take a while, according to sources. Jones believes that owner Arthur Blank will get something done and hasn't been threatening a holdout with another year still left on his deal. The 30-year-old is getting to be a bit more of an injury risk, but he's still an elite fantasy wideout and will be one of the first guys off the board in the early rounds.
The Atlanta Falcons and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett agreed to a four-year contract extension on Monday. The contract is expected to be worth $68 million with $38 million guaranteed, according to a source. He was initially set to receive the $15.209 million franchise tag if a deal wasn't worked out by Monday. The team can now move on to extensions for receiver Julio Jones and linebacker Deion Jones. The Falcons and Deion Jones' representation will meet face-to-face on Wednesday. Jarrett, a fifth-round pick in 2015, has been a top defender for Atlanta and had 53 total pressures in 2018, according to Pro Football Focus. He also had six sacks, three forced fumbles and a team-high 16 QB hits.
Arizona Cardinals rookie wide receiver Andy Isabella, a second-round pick this year, looks like he'll get an initial chance in the offense behind veteran Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, who looked good in his rookie season in 2018. Rookies Keesean Johnson and Hakeem Butler could also be in the mix, but they might have a steeper climb for relevant work early on. Isabella is a great long-term pick in dynasty leagues and has late-round sleeper appeal in what could be a high-flying offensive attack under rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and new head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (leg) is no longer wearing an external fixator on his surgically repaired right leg. He credited the fixator with allowing him "to heal and walk again." Although Smith is unlikely to play in 2019 or perhaps ever again in the NFL, this is a step in the right direction and some needed good news for the veteran signal-caller. The 'Skins drafted quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the first round, so Smith's future isn't in D.C. You can ignore him in upcoming fantasy drafts completely.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (wrist) said the training staff will determine the repetitions he gets at training camp, but "in my mind I'm ready. I'm 100 percent," Lindsay said. He should be ready for Week 1, barring a setback this summer. Lindsay was one of the most pleasant surprises in his rookie season after going undrafted. The 24-year-old became Denver's go-to back and finished with 192 attempts for 1.037 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. He also caught 35 passes for 241 yard and another score. His stock is obviously way up going into his second season, but he'll still have to remain effective to hold off a push from Royce Freeman.
In 2018, Phillip Lindsay had 192 carries to fellow rookie Royce Freeman's 130, but Justin Adams of CBS 4 believes that that may change in 2019. Lindsay is recovering from a wrist injury and has yet to participate in offseason activities with the team, which Adams believes has put Freeman in a position to potentially wind up as Denver's lead back. That's the role Freeman was initially drafted to play before Lindsay broke out in the preseason, so it wouldn't be a shock to see Freeman assert himself more in 2019. Keep an eye on the situation, as it could lead to Lindsay losing fantasy value while Freeman gains some.
Miami Dolphins WR Albert Wilson (hip) may start training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Fantasy Spin: Wilson did not do much this offseason, so fantasy owners should monitor the situation during training camp. He played well at times last season and could be the No. 1 receiver for Miami this season if he is healthy. He has a chance to be a late-round option in fantasy drafts.
Free-agent RB Alex Collins (leg) recently suffered a broken leg and had surgery to repair the injury, according to a source.
Free-agent WR Martavis Bryant (Raiders) has applied to the NFL for reinstatement. He has been working with the NFL and the NFL Players Association to address his mental health issues.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is reportedly considering holding out from Cowboys training camp. The team and Elliott (with his agents) have been in conversation for over a month, and the general thought is that Elliott won't hold out if he thinks the team is "making a serious push to get an extension worked." Elliott knows his value is at a high point right now and with the beating he takes each year, he does not want to risk going into the season without an extension at least in the process of getting done. This seems like a lot of smoke and not much fire for now, but it's something to keep an eye on as the Cowboys are scheduled to report to training camp in less than two weeks.
Chicago Bears running back Mike Davis will head into training camp looking to become more than the 'forgotten' man in the team's backfield. Most of the fantasy buzz this summer has gone towards teammates Tarik Cohen and rookie David Montgomery but don't count out Davis. The free agent acquisition fell short of having a 'breakout campaign' last season but set career- best marks in carries (114), yards (514), receptions (34), receiving yards (214) and total touchdowns (5). Davis was one of many running backs that the Seahawks rotated last year and he posted two games with 100 yards from scrimmage or more. Davis was in line for a heavier workload this season but drafting Montgomery is certain to cut into the timeshare. It is hard to envision a scenario where Davis averages more than 15 carries a game this season but could lead the team in touches in the red zone for an ascending offense.
Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and the team were unable to reach a long-term deal before Monday's deadline, which means Clowney will play on the franchise tag this season. The former number-one overall pick is expected to hold out for most of training camp, but there's been no indication yet that he'll miss time during the season. Clowney's been injured a lot, but when healthy he's a disruptive defender and has tremendous upside in IDP leagues. His uncertain future does introduce some uncertainty for dynasty owners, though, as Monday's news likely means Clowney won't be a Texan when the 2020 season rolls around.
Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones' contract extension is now the team's 'most pressing priority,' but NFL Network's Ian Rapoport states that it 'might take a while.' However, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports Jones' agent and the team are scheduled for face-to-face negotiations on Wednesday, July 17.
Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott has privately said he intends to hold out of training camp unless he gets a new contract, according to Pro football Talk's Mike Florio via a league source.
Arizona Cardinals RB David Johnson's receiving skills 'should come back to the forefront' after being 'all but ignored last season,' in the opinion of Darren Urban of AZcardinals.com.
Fantasy Spin: This has been the assumption among fantasy owners since Arizona hired Kliff Kingsbury, but it always helps to get it confirmed from a scribe that covers the team like Urban does. Johnson's goal of a 1,000/1,000 season may be a bit too much to ask, but this figures to be the 27-year-old's best shot of hitting those marks since his incredible 2016 campaign. He's well worth a pick in the top half of the first round of most fantasy drafts.
Washington Redskins QB Alex Smith (knee) will no longer be required to wear the external fixator that he had worn for eight months since suffering his devastating knee injury in November of 2018.