Denver vs. Baltimore
This may have been the most exciting of the four games (it's difficult to decide). John Fox will be criticized for taking a knee with 30 seconds still left in the game, Manning will be criticized for throwing an ill-advisied pass that was picked off, Holliday will be remembered for memorable kick returns. To some the most memorable storyline of the double overtime game will be the continuance of Ray Lewis' career. Although Baltimore and Denver aren't known as monster TV markets, this great game sure got the viewers tuned in. The games TV rating was 20.1% of US households. This is up 9% from last year's Saturday AFC divisional game and is the highest rating for the Saturday AFC divisional game in 19 years. The game averaged 35.3 million viewers.
Green Bay vs. San Francisco
This game was not nearly as dramatic as the earlier Saturday game. A lot of scoring was featured and the country got to witness 49er's quarterback Colin Kaepernick play a truly unbelievable game. The TV ratings were mixed for this game. Fox's overnight rating was 18.7% of US households, which was the highest Fox rating for a Saturday prime time game since 1994, but the ratings were down 9% from last years comparable coverage of New England vs. Denver.
This was my personal favorite game of the weekend. The Sunday earlier game provided the viewer with a true range of emotions. We watched Atlanta blow a 20 point lead with 30 seconds to go. Atlanta then marched down the field to hit a game winning 49 yard field goal. It was the first playoff victory for Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez. Seattle's Russell Wilson put on a great performance that nearly lead the Seahawks to a remarkable comeback win. The TV ratings for this game were very good. The 21.3% of US households rating was up 3% from the comparable coverage of Baltimore vs. Houston last year.
Although Houston tried to make a comeback late, New England looked really good in this game. The Patriots offense looked great as usual even after losing 'Gronk' early on. This game did produce a solid TV rating of 23.8% of US households, but this rating was down considerably from last year. The Giants vs. Packers played in the Sunday primetime slot last year and that game had a 13% higher rating.
When looking at the TV ratings, it is important to remember that the US population is growing every year so it is natural for more viewers to be tuning in. I personally watched all of the games and enjoyed them greatly. I think it is important to remember that as great as the NFL is, it is far from flawless. It is the sport that ends athletes career's too soon, it destroys players lives post-football, and often takes the lives of people earlier than expected. It is a vicious sport that will never truly change unless the viewers stop tuning in (not going to happen) or a player actually dies while playing (probably still wouldn't change the sport). I am the first to admit that I am part of the problem, I watch the games knowing how much harm it is going to cause players. How many lives it will destroy. How many families will be devastated. I don't know if I will ever be able to stop watching the NFL even though I know the harm it causes. I certainly do not expect the American public to stop watching the NFL anytime soon.
Statistics via usatoday.com