During the Monday night game between the Giants and Vikings, NBC announced it was flexing the Packers-Vikings game next week to prime time. It’s not a bad choice. A division title is on the line and the Packers always draw ratings. But that doesn’t mean it was the right choice.
Jets-Bills was the game NBC should have taken. From a ratings standpoint, that game has everything going for it. In terms of storylines, there’s Bills coach Rex Ryan, the loudmouth former Jets coach now trying to stop them from making the playoffs. There’s the Jets, a team that has gone through upheaval and turmoil, now fighting to make the playoffs. And there’s the potential of Jets-Patriots rematch in the playoffs, which the NFL should set up for by putting the Jets on a national stage now.
When it comes to the numbers, this game has more potential than Packers-Vikings. While the Packers are generally a good draw, Minnesota is not. With the Giants out of the playoff mix and New York uninterested, the Minneapolis market carried Sunday Night Football to its lowest rating of the season last night. However, New York will be interested in the Jets, who are fighting for their playoff lives. The country’s largest market can be counted on as a big draw for NBC while Green Bay-Minnesota depends on Packers fans tuning in to watch a team that has already made the playoffs and has been playing poorly of late to secure ratings.
The only risk that Jets-Bills carries for NBC is that if the Browns beat the Steelers early in the day, Jets-Bills won’t mean anything. However, that is a risk worth taking for NBC. Nobody in recent memory has been hurt by betting against the Browns, and the appeal of New York is simply too great to ignore. This would have been a risk worth taking for NBC, but they instead chose to play it safe. It’s not a bad choice, it’s simply the wrong one.