The NFL was not expected to be immune from the ratings declines that have hit all sports this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and presidential election. But the declines are not as bad as feared at the beginning of the season.

Games are averaging 15.1 million television and digital viewers, according to the league and Nielsen, a 6% decline from last year. Despite the decreases, all but four of the top 30 shows since the season began have been NFL games.

“Considering all the issues the NFL has had to deal with, the ratings are OK,” said Neal Pilson, the former president of CBS Sports who now runs his own sports television consulting company. “It hasn’t been a great year for ratings considering everything that has happened, but they aren’t in the toilet either.”

Sports consultant Marc Ganis cited the lack of preseason games to build up fan interest, and all four major professional sports playing in September as other reasons for this year’s slow start.

The ratings also didn’t suffer precipitous declines compared to the last presidential election cycle in 2016, when they were down 14% compared to 2015.

RAVENS: A Baltimore player has tested positive for COVID-19, the team announced Thursday.

The team did not identify the player, who immediately began to self-quarantine. Under NFL protocols, he must isolate for no fewer than five days, which means he would miss Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots. The Ravens, who have re-entered the NFL’s intensive protocol, said there were no high-risk close contacts with teammates or staff members. They learned of the positive test Thursday morning.

“We will continue to work closely with the NFL, our team doctors and trainers and will follow their guidance,” the team said in a statement.

The positive test comes more than a week after All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey tested positive for COVID-19. Seven Ravens teammates were sidelined for several days of practice last week because of high-risk exposure.

49ERS: Receiver Kendrick Bourne missed Thursday night game in Week 9 after having a positive COVID-19 test. After the positive test, the NFL and the NFLPA launched an investigation into Bourne and the 49ers and have cleared the 49ers of any wrongdoing.

Bourne and three other 49ers were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, with the other three being deemed as close contacts of Bourne. All four were activated on Friday after Bourne had back-to-back negative tests.

STEELERS: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger expects to play Sunday against Cincinnati despite going on reserve/COVID-19 list because he was designated as a close contact of a player who tested positive.

He won’t be allowed in the facility this week to practice ahead of Sunday’s game, but the 8-0 Steelers are preparing as if Roethlisberger will play.

“I know from a mental standpoint, he’ll be ready to go,” Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner told reporters. “I do have some background in the idea that at various times in his career, he has not practiced all week and has played in games and has been successful in games. I don’t question that one bit.”


Use the form below to reset your password. When you’ve submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.