Despite not lacking much drama until the closing moments, Sunday’s NFL playoff game on CBS between the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers was easily the most popular of the weekend’s action.
According to Nielsen estimates, the Peyton Manning-led Broncos’ 24-17 victory in the Divisional Playoff Game on late Sunday afternoon averaged 41.1 million — up 9% from last year’s 37.7 million for Houston-New England in the same window on CBS.
Viewership peaked Sunday with about 46 million viewers in the concluding 7:30 p.m. half-hour, in which the Broncos held on after yielding 10 points late in the fourth quarter.
The 41.1 million is the third-largest viewer average for a Sunday AFC Divisional Playoff game in 27 years (as far as CBS records go, back to 1987). It’s also the No. 2 game of the NFL season, behind only the previous week’s NFC Wild-Card game on Fox between Green Bay and San Francisco, whose 47.1 million viewers was the largest on record for the opening round of the postseason.
Earlier Sunday, Fox’s Divisional Playoff game in the NFC between San Francisco and Carolina averaged about 33.3 million viewers — up from 32.1 million for Seattle-Atlanta in the comparable window a year ago.
Total-viewer estimates weren’t available for the primetime Saturday AFC game between Indianapolis and New England, but it did a 19.4 overnight household rating, according to Nielsen. Earlier that day, the New Orleans-Seattle game averaged a 19.5 overnight rating and roughly 31.1 million total viewers.
The NFL postseason continues this Sunday with the AFC Championship between New England and Denver on CBS, followed in primetime by the NFC title game between San Francisco and Seattle on Fox.