Five things to watch: NFL Week 7

Five things I’ll be looking at in the seventh week of the 2017 NFL season:

1. Can the Patriots shake off their stupor?

It’s not surprising that the New England Patriots-Atlanta Falcons Super Bowl rematch will be in prime time. It is one of the best attractions of the season. Adding an interesting sidelight is the fact the Falcons, who blew a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl, blew a 17-0 halftime lead to Miami last week.

But the surprising thing is that the Patriots come into this game with more issues than the Falcons, and an Atlanta win would be no surprise.

Matt Ryan put up 28 points against the Patriots defense in the Super Bowl and the Patriots defense was better last year. Every quarterback the Patriots have faced this year has thrown for over 300 yards, and Bill Belichick’s offseason moves are being questioned.

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Declining TV ratings could be the new normal for the NFL

The continued drop in NFL TV ratings has been one of the biggest stories of the first half of the season.

But the drop may not be as big a problem as it first appears, based on an interesting statistic pointed out by NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart on a conference call Friday.

The Oakland Raiders-Kansas City Chiefs game drew an 8.8 rating on CBS Thursday night. The combined rating for the shows on NBC, ABC and Fox was 8.8.

That’s a combined rating of 17.6, meaning that 17.6 percent of all TV sets in the country tuned into network programming.

And 82.4 percent of all TV sets were either turned off or watching cable.

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Taking a look back at the NFL’s Week 6

Five observations on the sixth weekend of the 2017 NFL season:

1. The broken collarbone that sidelined Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers last Sunday in the loss to the Minnesota Vikings was not only a shattering blow for the Packers, but for the NFL.

After losing J.J. Watt and Odell Beckham Jr., the NFL can’t afford to lose more stars, especially since TV ratings are declining. The NFL has to do more to protect quarterbacks.

Anthony Barr took a step before hitting Rodgers after he released the ball. The NFL should make it illegal for defenders to hit quarterbacks after they release the ball.

In a quarterback league, the NFL can’t let defenders have free shots at them.

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Trump’s racist anthem ploy and lies aren’t hurting the NFL

Donald Trump’s attacks on the NFL don’t seem to be affecting the league’s bottom line, but that isn’t stopping him from making an issue of players kneeling to protest racial injustice.

NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said Monday that he hadn’t looked at Sunday’s attendance figures, but last week showed that there has been no impact.

Lockhart said the figures are “right within range.’’

Then Trump had a press conference Monday afternoon and said his comments are having an impact.

“The people of our country are very angry at the NFL,’’ he said. “All you have to do is look at the ratings, look at the stadiums. You see empty seats where you never saw them before.’’

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Inept NFL office needs to stop blaming others for its anthem mistakes

To quote the famous line from the movie “Cool Hand Luke”: What we have here is a failure to communicate.

At least the NFL apparently didn’t communicate what it meant in the infamous memo from Roger Goodell last Tuesday that gave everyone the impression he had a plan to ask the owners to vote Tuesday, Oct. 17, to mandate the players stand for the national anthem.

The Huffington Post summarized the impression the memo gave with a headline, “NFL kneels to Trump.’’

The impression was that the NFL was caving to Donald Trump, who has called the players to be fired for kneeling during the anthem.

The NFL started to backtrack last Wednesday, when Goodell reached out to NFLPA head De Smith and they issued a joint statement saying Smith and some of the player leaders would also attend the meeting.

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