Tom Brady, Dak Prescott and NFL's Week 1 Lineup Kick Ratings to the Curb

The NFL season kicked off 2021 with some of the highest TV ratings the league has seen over the past five seasons.

On Tuesday, the NFL released the viewership numbers from the Monday through Sunday broadcast week, with games starting on Thursday in Tampa, Florida. According to the NFL, Week 1 averaged a total of 17.4 million viewers which is the second-highest Week 1 viewership over the last 5 seasons from 2017-2021, just behind 2019.

Thursday's kickoff game between Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dak Prescott's Dallas Cowboys pulled in 26.4 million views, which made the blockbuster game NBC's most watch kickoff game since 2015.

NBC averaged 22.8 million for Thursday and Sunday games, which is an 11 percent increase over last year.

NFL Crest Logo
The NFL season is kicking off with some of the highest TV ratings that the league has experienced over the past five seasons. Pictured above is the NFL crest logo. Getty Images

In total, Week 1 games drew in 6.3 billion total watch minutes, which is the highest on record for a national window.

The Monday Night Football game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens averaged 15.3 million viewers on networks such as ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2, which is 59 percent higher than last year's ratings. The Raiders and Ravens game became the most-watched MNF game since 2013's game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins.

The Monday game also gained viewership traction due to commentary between Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. The Manning brothers spoke during the first quarter of the game with NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, and they brought on Ray Lewis in the second quarter, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce in the third quarter and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the fourth quarter.

The alternative simulcast was shown on ESPN2 while the live ESPN broadcast was led by sportscaster Steve Levy.

The high viewership numbers come as the NFL is still dealing with the widespread effects of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, six New Orleans Saints assistant coaches, along with wide receiver Michael Thomas and a nutritionist, contracted COVID-19. Due to the outbreak, the Saints will be under mitigation protocol, according to the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 Protocols for the 2021 Regular Season.

The protocol states that daily testing of players—along with Tier 1 and Tier 2 staff—is mandatory regardless of vaccination status. There will also be mandatory masks indoors and to-go meals provided at the team facility.

As for Thomas, the five-year wide receiver has been placed on the COVID-19 reserve list.

As of July 2021, out of 32 NFL teams, 50 percent or fewer players were vaccinated against COVID-19 in mid-June, according to the NFL.

On August 11, the NFL reported that nearly "92 percent of all players have received at least one vaccine dose, and 15 teams have 95 percent or more of their players vaccinated."

On August 16, the Atlanta Falcons became the first team to obtain a 100 percent vaccination rate.