Landmark NFL playoff weekend delivers astounding ratings

·2-min read

A whole lot of people tuned in to watch one of the most remarkable weekends in NFL history.

Nearly 37 million viewers tuned in to Fox on Saturday night to watch the San Francisco 49ers upset the Green Bay Packers, a 40 percent increase over last year's Ravens-Bills game in the same time slot. That NFC divisional-round game was television's most-watched Saturday event in 28 years, dating back to the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer.

Sunday's Bills-Chiefs classic averaged 42.7 million viewers on CBS, the highest mark for the entire season and the most-watched divisional game since Packers-Cowboys in 2017 drew 43 million viewers. It marked a 21 percent increase from last year's Buccaneers-Saints game, which drew 35.5 million viewers.

Rams-Buccaneers in the early Saturday slot drew 38.1 million viewers, NBC's most-watched game — other than Super Bowls — since it returned to NFL broadcasting in 2006.

Bengals-Titans averaged 30.8 million on Saturday, the largest audience for a Saturday early game since Chiefs-Patriots in 2016, which drew 31.5 million.

Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs had some of the most impressive ratings of the NFL season. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs had some of the most impressive ratings of the NFL season. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

This year is the first since at least 2000 in which three games have averaged at least 40 million viewers before conference championship weekend, according to Sports Media Watch. (Those games: Bills-Chiefs, Cowboys-49ers last week, Raiders-Cowboys on Thanksgiving.) Nielsen's new out-of-home viewing measurement metric has added to the total viewership numbers while not necessarily increasing ratings.

As always, the disclaimer: ratings in and of themselves will have no impact on your life whatsoever if you aren't an NFL advertiser or broadcaster. However, they give context to greater societal trends, one of which is that America really, really likes football. The ratings dips of the past few years — whether due to the pandemic, the NFL's on-again off-again political leanings, competing entertainment, or any of a dozen other reasons — appear to be a thing of the past.

Next up: whether the conference championships and the Super Bowl can improve on recent ratings numbers. Last year's Bucs-Chiefs Super Bowl averaged 91.6 million viewers, the lowest since Steelers-Seahawks in 2006.


Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at

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