The NFL’s divisional playoff round wasn’t all that exciting for nonpartisan fans. The favored home team won all four games, and only one was decided by fewer than seven points.
The ho-hum action on the field, however, did not have much detrimental effect on TV ratings. In fact, early numbers for the divisional round show them up by 8 percent over a year ago — outpacing the league’s regular-season ratings gain of 5 percent.
The four wild-card games were up almost 12 percent year to year, putting the playoffs as a whole 10 percent ahead of last season’s contests.
The most-watched game of the weekend was also the most closely contested: The New Orleans Saints’ 20-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the late-afternoon Sunday slot averaged 38.19 million viewers. That’s up 7 percent from the same slot last year (35.64 million) and the highest of the playoffs’ first two rounds.
Both Saturday games — the Kansas City Chiefs’ 31-13 win over the Indianapolis Colts on NBC (29.14 million viewers) and the Los Angeles Rams’ 30-22 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Fox (33.35 million) — were up year over year as well. NBC’s broadcast improved by 8 percent on the same window in 2018, while Fox’s game rose by a huge 25 percent.
Only the New England Patriots’ blowout of the Los Angeles Chargers — in which the Pats led 35-7 at halftime en route to a 41-28 win — came up short of last year. It drew 29.22 million viewers, down 7 percent year to year and the only game of the playoffs thus far to show declines.
Fox and CBS will air conference championship games next Sunday. In 2018, CBS’ afternoon telecast of the AFC title game drew 44.1 million viewers, and Fox’s primetime NFC title game averaged 42.3 million. CBS will have the primetime slot this year.
Jan. 15, 8:05 a.m. Updated with final numbers for Sunday’s games.