GREEN BAY - The National Football League was a big winner with Sunday's divisional round playoff games.
Fox Sports said the afternoon Green Bay Packers-Dallas Cowboys game was the most-watched NFL divisional playoff game ever on any network, and NBC reported the accidental prime-time Pittsburgh Steelers-Kansas City Chiefs game was most-watched prime-time game ever in the NFL’s divisional and wild-card playoff rounds. The AFC game was rescheduled from noon to 7:20 p.m. because of concerns about ice storms in Kansas City.
Both games were competitive to the end. The Packers defeated the Cowboys 34-31 on the game's last play, and the Chiefs mounted a late rally that fell just short in an 18-16 loss to the Steelers. The Saturday games were blowouts, with New England defeating Houston 34-16 and Atlanta beating Seattle 36-20.
Nielsen Fast Nationals reported 48.52 million viewers watched the Green Bay-Dallas NFC playoff game, Fox said. The game had a 28.2 overnight rating, compared to 25.2 for Game 7 of the Chicago Cubs-Cleveland Indians World Series and 18.9 for Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
A "rating" is an estimate of the percentage of the audience watching a particular program. A "share" is an estimate of the percentage of households using a television that are watching a program.
The Packers game was the most-watched television program since last year's Super Bowl, which drew an average 111.9 million viewers with a 46.6 rating and 72 share.
Sunday's viewership probably shouldn't have been a surprise. Dallas was among the frequent viewer favorites in what was until later weeks a mediocre NFL season, and when Dallas defeated the Packers 30-16 in October at Lambeau Field, it was the most-watched game on any network at the time. It drew a 15.8 rating and 30 share, and 28 million viewers.
NBC reported an average of 37.1 million viewers for the AFC playoff game. The game garnered a 19.8 overnight rating and 32 share, bettering the New Orleans Saints-Philadelphia Eagles wild card game in 2014, which drew 34.3 million viewers.
The Packers will play the Atlanta Falcons at 2:05 p.m. Sunday in the Georgia Dome for the NFC championship. The Pittsburgh Steelers will travel to New England for a 5:40 p.m. game at Gillette Stadium to determine the AFC champion. Super Bowl LI is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Feb. 5, at NRG Stadium in Houston. The game will be broadcast by Fox.