AP -- NFL and network executives expected ratings to increase this season. But the rate through the first four weeks has still taken many by surprise. Games are averaging 17.3 million viewers on television and digital, a whopping 17% increase over last season and 3% compared to two years ago.

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Whether or not the league can maintain that level of growth remains to be seen. Last season was played during the pandemic, mostly in empty stadiums. Also, many people's viewing habits changed in a presidential election year. Four of the five league broadcasters have growth above 20%.

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