Why Pats fans should be (mostly) encouraged by these 2021 TV ratings


The New England Patriots aren't on the level of the Kansas City Chiefs or Buffalo Bills in the AFC. But they're heading in the right direction.

While the Patriots collapsed down the stretch and got routed by the Bills in the AFC Wild Card Round, they still went 10-7 and made the postseason with a rookie quarterback. At the very least, 2021 was an improvement over New England's dismal 7-9 campaign in 2020 following Tom Brady's exit.

The Patriots' rebound was reflected in the local viewing interest in the team. New England games drew an average household TV rating of 31.5 in the Boston market this season, per John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal. That's an increase of 17% from the Patriots' average rating of 26.9 in 2020, with only four other markets enjoying bigger ratings jumps year-over-year:

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  1. Los Angeles Chargers: 25% (6.8 rating in 2020 to 8.5 rating in 2021)
  2. Dallas Cowboys: 23% (24.0 to 29.5)
  3. Carolina Panthers: 19% (16.0 to 19.1)
  4. Arizona Cardinals: 19% (17.5 to 20.9)
  5. New England Patriots: 17% (26.9 to 31.5)

You'll notice the Patriots drew a higher rating locally than all four of the teams above them on this list. Their 31.5 average rating this season was the seventh-highest in the NFL this season, behind only the Bills, Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns.

Boston's increased interest in the Patriots makes sense: Fans wanted to see how Mac Jones would fare in his rookie season, and a host of new additions in free agency -- Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, Matt Judon, etc. -- added further intrigue after a disappointing 2020 season.

That rating also got a bump from Brady's Week 4 return to Foxboro -- one of the most-watched broadcasts in 2021, period -- and a seven-game win streak that vaulted New England into the AFC playoff picture.

Lest you think the Patriots are fully "back," however, the team still drew a higher average rating (35.5) in 2019, Brady's final year with the team.

Bringing the Patriots back to Brady-era levels of popularity will be a tall task for Jones, but at least the arrow is pointing upward.

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