Saturday's wild-card games hit 16-year high

NBC Sports couldn’t have asked for better action — or ratings results — for its lone day of NFL playoff coverage this season.

Saturday’s wild-card doubleheader, featuring down-to-the-wire contests in which last year’s Super Bowl participants were eliminated in upsets, delivered the best two-game average in 16 years, according to preliminary Nielsen data.

In metered-market overnights, the primetime game between the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts netted a 20.8 household rating/33 share — the best score ever for a primetime wild-card playoff game (the NFL began them in 2002) and the highest for any Saturday wild-card contest since a matchup between Dallas and Arizona earned a 20.9/38 in the afternoon for ABC in 1999.

Saturday’s game (8:15-11 p.m. ET), in which the Jets kicked a last-second field goal to defeat the Colts 17-16, did a 48.0 rating/68 share in Indianapolis and a 21.9/34 in New York. It figures to average more than 30 million viewers when national estimates come in on Tuesday.

Earlier Saturday, the Seattle Seahawks’ 41-36 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints (4:30-8 p.m. ET) averaged an impressive 18.3 household rating/33 share in Nielsen’s metered-market overnights

That game did a 54.4/73 in New Orleans and a 39.9/73 in Seattle.

The two-game wild-card average of 19.4/33 was up 6% over last year’s two-game average and a 19% improvement over 2009. It’s also the best for the opening day of the NFL postseason since the 1994 season (20.1/41 for Detroit-Green Bay and Kansas City-Miami on ABC).

Following football and local newscasts, NBC remained potent in latenight as “Saturday Night Live” (11:45 p.m.-1:15 a.m. in most of the country), hosted by Jim Carrey, logged its highest metered-market overnight score (7.8/18) since last May’s telecast hosted by Betty White (8.8/21).

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