5 most-watched NFL regular-season games of all-time feat. Cowboys' Thanksgiving beatdown of Commanders

5 most-watched NFL regular-season games of all-time
5 most-watched NFL regular-season games of all-time

Regular-season football is alive and well. The Dallas Cowboys versus Las Vegas Raiders game on Thanksgiving in 2021 has now gone down as one of the most-watched games in NFL history.

The NFL has gone through phases of deep popularity and deep scrutiny that have left ratings and viewership on a rollercoaster for decades, but as of late, there seem to be more and more fans tuning in week by week during the regular season to see their favorite teams battle it out with one another.

There is also a growing international fanbase that has helped the game of football reach even greater heights. Here are the five most-watched NFL games in regular-season history.

Which NFL regular-season game has attracted the most viewers?

#5 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints - 2020

The season opener between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints drew 25.9 million viewers. That is likely due to the fact that the 2020 season was the first time in 20 years that Tom Brady was playing for another team. Fans wanted to see Brady succeed, while his critics likely wanted to rub the potential failure in his face.

Either way, at a time when most NFL doubters have the game of football being pegged as falling down in viewership, nearly 26 million viewers would paint a much different picture. Football is certainly alive and well.

#4 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New England Patriots - 2021

Tom Brady's triumphant return to New England was one for the record books. The game pulled in a whopping 28.5 million viewers and quite frankly was one of the best games during the regular season. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones nearly took his team to a victory, but the cunning Tom Brady and company won a last-second field goal as the Bucs won 19-17.

Mac Jones and the Patriots are now looking to be every bit as competitive as they were when Brady was still in town. The regular-season game could have been a preview for a potential Super Bowl showdown.

Top 3 most-watched NFL regular-season games

#3- New England Patriots vs Kansas City Chiefs - 2019

The battle between Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes has been one that NFL fans worldwide have always wanted to see. That was the case when this third matchup between Mahomes and Brady brought in 28.11 million viewers.

Brady and Mahomes met in the 2018 season when the game turned into a high-scoring affair with a final score of 43-40. Brady helped the Patriots set up a game-winning field goal. The next time would be in the AFC Championship game where Brady would again best Mahomes and the Chiefs 37-31.

It wasn't until the matchup during the regular-season in 2019 that Mahomes finally scored a win against Brady with a final score of 23-16.

#2 - Dallas Cowboys vs. Las Vegas Raiders

The Thanksgiving game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Las Vegas Raiders brought in a massive 38.531 million viewers, making it the second all-time regular-season viewership. Thanksgiving games in the NFL are a tradition and have been so for decades, but to have such a large number of viewers tune in to a single game bodes well for the game of football.

The game would end in a thrilling overtime win for the Raiders. Due to a massive amount of penalties shared by both teams, the Raiders kicked a last-second field goal and won the game 33-30.

UPDATE: The Cowboys' 45-10 beatdown of the Washington Commanders on Thanksgiving Day in 2023 is now officially the third-most-watched regular season game in NFL history.

The game peaked at 44.265 million viewers.

#1 - New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers - 1990

The 90s was an era in which one of the best quarterbacks to ever grace the game of football played. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice were deep in their connections and fans couldn't get enough of it. The game brought in 41.474 million viewers and remains the highest-viewed regular-season game of all time.

The Cowboys vs. Raiders game nearly broke it, but watching Montana and Rice was a thing of beauty. No quarterback/wide receiver duo has ever been as successful as they were, and the fans were clearly watching to see some of their magic unfold.

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Edited by Piyush Bisht