NFL's wild card weekend gets big, but mixed, ratings

5 stunning stats about the NFL
5 stunning stats about the NFL

The NFL's wild card playoff round saw viewership much like the regular season that preceded it: up for the best games, and down otherwise.

Unfortunately for the NFL and its broadcast partners, most of the games weren't very good.

The big winner of the weekend, at least in the ratings, was Fox. Its broadcast of the Green Bay Packers' win over the New York Giants on Sunday evening brought in an average of 39.3 million viewers, up 1% over the comparable game last year, according to Nielsen.

Sunday's early game on CBS between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Miami Dolphins nabbed 29.9 million viewers, down significantly from the 35.3 million that watched the early Sunday game on NBC last year. That game was much more intense, however, with the Minnesota Vikings losing at the last second on a missed field goal to the Seattle Seahawks.

On Saturday, ESPN's early game between the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans brought in 25.3 million viewers, a number nearly identical to last year's early Saturday game -- which, like this year's, was a bit of a snooze.

But the prime time game on Saturday, a contest between the Seattle Seahawks and the Detroit Lions broadcast by NBC, saw its viewership go in the wrong direction. That game brought in 26.9 million viewers, down from the exciting Saturday night prime time game last year between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, which an average of 31.2 million people watched.

The Lions and Seahawks had been on paper an exciting prime time match up, but the game didn't live up to its possibility, as the Seahawks easily beat the Lions 26-6.

Aaron Rodgers wild card
Aaron Rodgers led the Green Bay Packers over the New York Giants this past weekend.

Related: 'Sunday Night Football' is still king of TV, but its throne got smaller this season

In a way, the games this weekend were a replay of the highs and lows of the NFL's viewership this season, which dropped early on thanks to a mixture of the attention vacuum caused by the election and lackluster games before rebounding in the latter half of the season.

The divisional playoffs this coming weekend will likely be a different story, and could even see ratings records broken. That's thanks to a highly anticipated match up between two of the league's marquee teams, the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys have been the NFL's ratings saviors this season, and the fact that they're taking on the hottest team in the NFL in the Packers will only help draw more viewers.


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