NFL passes big ratings NBC’s way

The National Football League playoffs are grinding up some major Nielsen yardage heading into Sunday’s conference championships and the Super Bowl, with NBC coverage topping corresponding CBS games for the first time since 1989.

According to national Nielsen figures released Thursday, last Sunday’s nail-biting Kansas City-Houston showdown produced a 27.3 rating, 48 share — NBC’s best numbers for a playoff game (excluding Super Bowls) in a dozen years, and up 18% over the equivalent game last year.

NBC also scored a big 14% increase with the Saturday Raiders-Buffalo game (22 .0/48) and is averaging a 23.8/45 for its three playoff games thus far, up 16% compared to ’93 levels.

CBS, by contrast, is down 6%, with a 22.1/46 average, as both of last weekend’s games — Giants-San Francisco (19.4/38) and Dallas-Green Bay (25.5/53) — proved relatively one-sided.

CBS’ National Football Conference games traditionally outperform NBC’s AFC games, since the latter conference includes smaller TV markets.

As a footnote, those results are generally one criterion used in selling ad time for the following year, so Fox Broadcasting Co. — which snagged NFC rights from

7CBS — has a vested interest in CBS’ numbers.

The Eye network’s relatively lackluster performance figures to improve Sunday , however, with the late-afternoon Cowboys-49ers rematch. Last year’s game produced a 33.3/57, providing a huge 60 share lead-in to the network’s Sunday lineup. (The midday AFC final delivered a 25.5/53.)

Both games would seem to present more enticing matchups this year. In fact, the four teams remaining in the playoffs present several intriguing combinations that could spur Super Bowl ratings, as NBC tunes up to televise the game for the second consecutive year.

Montana vs. Niners?

The juiciest options would probably be a 49ers-Chiefs showdown — pitting Chiefs quarterback Joe Montana against his old team — or a Dallas-Buffalo rematch, raising the question of whether the Cowboys, always a big TV draw, can repeat and hand the Bills a fourth consecutive Super Bowl loss.

“There’s a lot of attraction in any matchup,” an NBC spokesman noted.

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