The Fine Fifteen: The Reality Behind the Numbers
One big jumper in the Fine Fifteen this week, and I’ll keep you in suspense for a few paragraphs. Clue 1: The team plays by the sea. Clue 2: Flipper. But a bit of a news clarification first.
The NFL swelled with pride Sunday with the technological success it had in distributing one of its 256 regular-season games on the internet through a partnership with Yahoo. That game, Buffalo versus Jacksonville in London on Sunday morning, drew a total of 33.6 million “streams,” according to Yahoo and the NFL, and 15.2 million unique visitors.
But what we learned later on Monday diminished the impressiveness of those statistics, and resulted in a bait-and-switch feeling to the original numbers trumpeted by the NFL and Yahoo. A stream actually counted if viewers stayed on the game for more than three seconds. And in order to buttress the overall numbers, Sports Business Journal reported, anyone who clicked on Yahoo’s web page once the game kicked off had the game start on autoplay, resulting in a “stream,” whether the visitor had any intention of watching the game or not. In other words, anyone who landed on Yahoo.com between 9:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. Sunday, unless he or she was remarkably nimble and could leave the site in less than three seconds after logging on, was counted as someone who “streamed” the football game. That lands somewhere between disingenuous and outright misleading by Yahoo and the NFL. [Editor’s note: The MMQB enables autoplay video on some of our posts, including this one. We gauge traffic by how many people start the video—meaning watch through the ad pre-roll to the editorial content—as well as how many watch through 50% and how many finish it.]
The way American television networks judge an audience for a game is by something called “minute ratings,” which measure the ratings of a telecast minute by minute over the course of the entire game. The ratings bodies take the total number of minutes of the game—say, 180 minutes for a three-hour game—and divide that by the number of viewers minute-by-minute. That’s a good measure of who watched the game, and for how long.
In the U.S., Sports Business Journal reported, the “minute rating” for Bills-Jaguars was 1.64 million viewers, though that does not include the over-the-air TV rating of viewers from Buffalo and Jacksonville markets, which got the game on local network affiliates, the only markets to be able to see the game on home television.
The previous Sunday morning London game this season—Dolphins vs. Jets in Week 4—dwarfed the rating of Sunday’s game. According to Nielsen, that game had 9.86 million viewers.
And not to confuse you … but comparing a game broadcast on television in the No. 1 and No. 16 markets in the country—New York and South Florida (total TV households: 9.03 million)—to a game on the internet between two struggling teams in the No. 47 and No. 53 markets—Jacksonville and Buffalo (1.25 million households)—is fraught with inequities, to put it mildly. Suffice it to say, a game on TV in 9 million TV households should crush a game streamed on computers between two of the NFL’s bottom four markets.
Not that ratings were the driver of why the NFL experimented with Buffalo-Jacksonville on the internet. This was primarily the NFL announcing: “Hey, we’ve got a real game on at 9:30 Sunday morning, and log on to Yahoo.com to see it instead of watching your TV,” and judging whether, technologically, the web could handle it. And it could. In markets where the internet was shaky, the picture was shaky. In markets like mine (Manhattan) the picture was mostly vivid. And it was also about seeing whether those around the world would log on and appreciate it. My take, from e-mailers to The MMQB, is that the global village appreciated the free look at the NFL, though many already had the ability to see games in some way or another.
So I still believe it was a success, but I do think the NFL and Yahoo should have leveled with consumers regarding the real numbers of how many people watched the game.
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Now on to the Fine Fifteen, exiting Week 7 and entering a week with an unprecedented five teams with 6-0 records.
1. New England (6-0). Tom Brady just played one of the best games of his life. His reward: prepping for a mystery Miami team for a national TV game Thursday night.
2. Green Bay (6-0). So apparently Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery, Aaron Rodgers’ first and fourth targets, will be healthier coming out of the bye. It is darn strange for an Aaron Rodgers team to be averaging 22.7 points over a three-game period. He needs help Sunday at Denver.
3. Cincinnati (6-0). Bengals have to hope the bye didn’t cool off an offense that has scored 33, 24, 28, 36, 27 and 34 points, respectively, in the first six games.
4. Carolina (6-0). America, meet Kawann Short.
5. Denver (6-0). On his bye week, Peyton Manning went to Lourdes. Had some Holy Water rubbed on his right shoulder and on his neck. Will it work? Tune in Sunday night. (Hey, no fair! You work for NBC! NBC’s got Packers-Broncos Sunday night! Uhhhhh, okay. Well, maybe he didn’t fly to France in the last week. But I will bet you he did something similarly radical for his health.)
6. New York Jets (4-2). Prediction: Jets will be 10-4 when they play the Pats in New Jersey two days after Christmas.
7. Pittsburgh (4-3). Ben Roethlisberger returns, and now we see the game we have been counting on all along Sunday at Heinz Field: Andy Dalton and the 6-0 Bengals--playing the best of any Cincinnati team in the Marvin Lewis era--at the 4-3 and very much alive Steelers.
8. Arizona (5-2). Tough early run for the Cards continues this week. They’ve been at Chicago, Detroit and Pittsburgh already, and they’ll be at Cleveland and Seattle for the next two games. Good times for the frequent-flier accounts of the Cards beat guys (Kent Somers must have earned a trip to Paris by now), but this team has to be tired of the flights. Cool milestone, though, Monday night: Carson Palmer advanced to 75-75 after his 150th start, against Baltimore.
9. Miami (3-3). So here’s my surprise, Miami at number nine. Why? Well, the Dolphins have scored 82 points in the two Dan Campbell-coached games, and they’ve sacked the quarterback 10 times in those games (versus one sack in the first four). That’s just the start. The team is alive. The team is reborn. It’s cool to see. The Thursday-nighter in Foxboro will tell the tale of whether all the new goodness means anything.
10. Atlanta (6-1). Foes 38, Atlanta 31 in the last two games. Matt Ryan has had five straight sub-300-yard games. A good team, and a growing team. But hardly a dominant one.
11. Minnesota (4-2). Can the Vikings win with Teddy Bridgewater in the shotgun and Adrian Peterson out of his beloved I-formation? Stay tuned.
12. Oakland (3-3).
13. Seattle (3-4). Seahawks’ most impressive game of the year, in all ways other than protecting Russell Wilson, came in the 20-3 win over San Francisco Thursday night.
14. New York Giants (4-3). I’d feel better about the G-Men if they’d dominated a team that didn’t have a quarterback, rather than squeaked by on a late kickoff return for TD.
15. St. Louis (3-3). Three straight 125-yard-plus rushing games by Todd Gurley. That’s a sign of things to come, Los Angeles. Oooops. Did I slip there?
Also receiving votes:
16. Philadelphia (3-4). No idea what this team is, and that’s the mark of an inconsistent team.
17. New Orleans (3-4). Have beaten Atlanta and Indy, two decent squads, by 16 in the last two weeks. That’s progress.
18. Washington (3-4). Speaking of progress: Kirk Cousins.
19. Indianapolis (3-4). Next three games come against the 6-0 Panthers, 6-0 Broncos, 6-1 Falcons. Trouble.
20. Dallas (2-4). Can you come back yesterday, Tony Romo?