No Cowboys, Patriots or Jets Nielsen "ratings mojo" for NFL playoffs

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December 28th, 2008

It has been a very entertaining NFL season, and the day isn’t over yet which means we may get to see Norv Turner grimacing another 50 times in high definition (though I hope the Chargers end up winning).

Other than the Broncos and Chargers, the playoffs are set. The bad news from a ratings perspective is that neither the Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets nor New England Patriots will be involved. Although a potential Tennessee Titans vs. Carolina Panthers Super Bowl is a possibility, the playoff picture is not a complete disaster for the networks.

That Titans/Panthers matchup would make Jeff Zucker and Ben Silverman at NBC quiver, as NBC is the network of the Super Bowl this year, the New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and Peyton Manning led Indianapolis Colts all have more than a little bit of national appeal.

Love them or hate them (mark me down for "hate them"), the Dallas Cowboys are truly America's team as evidenced by the ratings. But the Cowboys haven't actually won a playoff game since the 1990s (December 1996), so the networks should be used to it.

I suppose if I am NBC, I’m rooting for a Giants vs. Colts Super Bowl for the Manning vs. Manning drama. Eli and Peyton each have one Super Bowl, and the quest for Manning supremacy would be a good storyline. NBC would probably be very happy to have a Giants vs. Steelers matchup as well. Pittsburgh isn’t a large market, but there are a lot of Steelers fans nationwide.

But if I’m Kevin Reilly over at Fox who has no love for his former employer NBC (or for Ben Silverman for that matter) I’m rooting for an NFC championship game where the Panthers of Carolina squeak by the New York Giants in double overtime to make it to the NBC aired Super Bowl.

In a day of much entertainment including the Detroit Lions completing a perfect(ly awful) season, and for a while Bill Belichick's and the New England Patriots' playoff hopes rode on the shoulders of Belichick protégé and nemesis Eric Mangini’s New York Jets. As soon as the Patriots’ fate was in the Jets’ hands you had to wonder if the Jets would lose just for spite. But the Jets have looked so convincingly bad lately, just not being very good seems the more likely reason. It also seems likely we have finally seen Brett Favre play his last game. Of course regardless of what he says, we won’t know for sure until next summer.

Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins rebound from a 1-15 season last year to win the division and head to the playoffs. A nice little story for Chad Pennington who was snubbed by the Jets as soon as they acquired Favre. But the story there for me is that Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones really should’ve left Bill Parcels alone to run the team while he was at Dallas. He’s heading up football operations for the Dolphins now, and the Dolphins’ head coach Tony Sparano was previously one of the offensive masterminds at Dallas.

For me, the more entertaining question than how this year’s ratings will be is how long will it take Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to fire Wade Phillips (and staff) even though he said repeatedly over the last few days that he wouldn’t fire him even if Dallas didn’t make the playoffs.

Let the Bill Cowher in Dallas rumors begin!

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