The NFL is not out of the woods.

The league is hoping against hope that fans will crawl back to the game after the backlash to the national anthem protests.

But a cold dose of reality just proved the fan boycott is about to take one unexpected turn.

The NFL’s ratings problems are about to get even worse.

Last year, numbers slightly rebounded after the halfway point once the Presidential election was over.

This year, political debates played no role in the ratings decline – and ratings have plummeted nearly six percent from last season and nearly 19 percent from 2015.

Now experts believe the NFL’s ratings will continue to sink in the second half of the season.

Pro Football Talk reports:

“Last year, the ratings decline subsided after the presidential election. This year, there was no presidential election, which means there likely will be no post-election bounce in the ratings.

With the final eight weeks of the regular season beginning tonight, there’s no reason to think this year’s troubling trend will change, because there’s no reason for people to return to following football after the various debates and town halls and other political shows and specials that sucked people away from watching football before November 8, 2016. And with, as Darren Rovell of ESPN noted on Wednesday, total ratings are down 5.5 percent through the first nine weeks of 2017 in comparison to the first nine weeks of 2016, the absence of a post-election bounce means the gap is about to get bigger.

It’s unclear what the NFL can do on the fly to avoid that. It’s unclear whether the NFL is trying to. One solution would be the aggressive use of flexing to ensure that the best games will be played in the biggest Sunday spots, rules that limited flexibility be damned.

Creativity will be needed to fix this one, and it needs to be applied not after the season ends but in real time. For a league that has grown accustomed to smooth sailing and ever-rising numbers, there may be no mechanism in place for dealing with this kind of crisis. There should be; otherwise, the other kinds of crises the league is confronting will continue to take precedence.”

But tinkering with the schedule to allow better matchups to be moved to marquee TV slots will only go so far.

Polls show the league’s favorability rating stands at 46 percent approve and 41 percent disapprove.

That disapproval number skyrocketed from four years ago when 64 percent of Americans approved of the league and just 19 percent held an unfavorable view of the NFL.

It’s all because of the protests.

Sponsors have even begged the networks not to show the players’ anti-American displays during the national anthem because they fear being associated with such disrespect for the military will lead to a consumer boycott.

The NFL fell into a mess of their own making.

Rather than show strong leadership and require the players to stand for the anthem, owners and league executives coddled them and allowed their anti-Americanism to dominate the league.

Now fans are furious.

They aren’t tuning in.

They aren’t even going to games.

And it’s only going to get worse.