Sunday night, Giants/Cowboys took the NFL's marquee stage for the second time this season as the only "play-in" game to the NFL Playoffs. Even though we had seen these two teams on SNF just a few weeks ago, it was the only real choice to flex in Week 17. The Giants and the Cowboys are two of the NFL's biggest draws, but how many fans would truly tune in to see a matchup between two nationally relevant, but perfectly mediocre teams? Well, it turns out after seeing the latest ratings for SNF, the Week 17 showdown between the Giants and Cowboys was a perfect ratings storm for NBC. From the Washington Post...
The New York Giants’ victory over the Dallas Cowboys earned the highest overnight rating in the six-year history of Sunday night football on NBC.
According to data released Monday by The Nielsen Company, the Giants’ 31-14 win to take the NFC East got a 17.1 overnight rating and a 27 share, 36 percent higher than last year’s Week 17 game between the Rams and Seahawks to decide the NFC West.
The previous high Sunday night overnight high was for Cowboys-Jets in Week 1, 16.9/27.
In retrospect, it's not a surprise that these two teams playing for the NFC East crown and the final spot in the playoffs would be a ratings bonanza. According to a recent Harris Poll, the Cowboys are still America's most popular team and the Gaints rank 7th. In truth, the NFC East has dominated primetime and the most important windows on Fox, NBC, and ESPN because of the big markets and ratings production. The NFC East had the most primetime appearances of any division with 15. Next highest was the NFC North with 11 and the AFC East with 10. The NFC West was in last place with only 4 primetime appearances. Although plenty of folks (myself included) want to scream "east coast bias," as long as Giants/Cowboys continues to crush games like Rams/Seahawks, the NFC East's stranglehold in primetime will be tough to break.
Thankfully, the emergence of teams like the Packers, Saints, 49ers, and Lions have dulled the NFC East bias in the last couple of years from its zenith. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, FOX's #1 announcing crew, haven't actually spent every week of the season broadcasting one division in a refreshing change. But for the most popular sport in the country, the most reliable ratings winners still reside in the NFC East. For fans of the Giants, Cowboys, Eagles, and Redskins it's great news. For everyone else, at least we're already used to it.