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TV Ratings: NFL Scores Best Season Opener in 15 Years

Sunday's Cowboys vs. Jets game is up 3% from 2010 -- and a whopping 26% from 2009's, giving NBC the win.

Dallas Cowboys v New York Jets
Elsa/Getty Images

The NFL -- and NBC -- scored with the best season-opening Sunday Night Football ratings in 15 years.

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Sunday night's Cowboys vs. Jets matchup on NBC rated a 16.9 in households, the best overnight for any Sunday or Monday night week one primetime game since Sept. 1996 (Cowboys-Bears, which rated 20.2 on ABC).

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The ratings were up 3 percent over last year's season opener (Cowboys-Redskins, 16.4) and 26 percent from 2009's opener (Bears-Packers, 13.4).

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NBC's two-game overnight average of 17.1 ties 2010 for the best debut since the NFL created the Thursday/Sunday primetime weekend in 2002. It's up 26 percent over the opening two games in 2009 (13.6).

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It also dominated primetime. From 8:30 to 11 p.m., SNF averaged a 16.7, which was 142 percent higher than second-place CBS (6.9 rating). In fact, NBC beat CBS, ABC (3.4) and Fox (2.9 until 10 p.m.) by 27 percent.

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NBC's 12.8 rating from 7-11 p.m. in metered-market households is the highest Sunday average for any network since ABC televised the Academy Awards last  Feb. 27.

TOP 10 SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL OVERNIGHT RATING/SHARE EVER:
*Sunday’s only
1. 9/11/11, Cowboys-Jets 16.9/27 (Last Night’s Game)
T2. 9/20/09, Giants-Cowboys 16.5/27 (Dallas Cowboys Stadium Debut)
T2. 12/12/10, Eagles-Cowboys 16.5/25 (2010 SNF Week 14)
4. 9/12/10, Cowboys-Redskins 16.4/26 (Last Year’s SNF Opener)
5. 10/24/10, Vikings/Packers 16.0/25 (Favre’s Return to Lambeau II)
6. 11/21/10, Giants-Eagles 15.9/24 (2010 SNF Week 11)
7. 11/25/07, Eagles-Patriots 15.6/24 (2007 SNF Week 12)
8. 12/14/08, Giants-Cowboys 15.4/24 (2008 SNF Week 15)
T9. 9/19/10, Giants-Colts 15.2/24 (“Manning Bowl II”)
T9. 12/19/10, Packers-Patriots 15.2/24 (2010 SNF Week 15)
T9. 12/28/10, Vikings-Eagles 15.2/24 (2010 SNF Week 16 - Tuesday Game)

WEEK ONE SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL GAMES:
1. 9/11/11, Cowboys-Jets 16.9/27
2. 9/12/10, Cowboys-Redskins 16.4/26
3. 9/10/06, Colts-Giants 14.7/23
4. 9/9/07, Giants-Cowboys 13.6/22
5. 9/13/09, Bears-Packers 13.4/22
6. 9/7/08, Bears-Colts 13.0/20

TOP 11 METERED MARKETS FOR COWBOYS-JETS:
1. Dallas 38.8/58
2. San Antonio 28.1/40
3. Austin 26.2/41
4. New Orleans 24.7/33
5. Las Vegas 23.3/36
6. Albuquerque 22.5/35
7. Oklahoma City 22.1/32
8. Richmond 20.7/31
9. Houston 20.5/31
10. Norfolk 19.9/29
11. New York 19.7/30