Drew Brees set the all-time, single-season completion percentage in leading the NFL’s highest scoring team…Peyton Manning is the master of the point and click offense, and the Colts have weapons with all of their receivers. With torn ankle ligaments, the Big Game’s best pass rusher Dwight Freeney will be limited at best to disrupt the Saints offense…New Orleans defense gave up a ton of yards to the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game before Brett Favre and his teammates shot themselves in the cleats with turnovers.
Add it all up and you definitely have the over right? The 56.5?
No, how about 100 million for CBS.
Given the strength of the offenses, Peyton’s chance to climb a few more pegs in the all-time QB argument rankings, a forecast for bad weather on the populous East Coast and the feel good story that has the Saints’ rise coinciding with New Orleans recovery post-Katrina, and many believe Super Bowl XLIV will become the first NFL title tilt to surpass the100 million average audience mark.
Actually, anything over the 98.7 million average for Pittsburgh’s last-second triumph over the Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII last year would make this year’s Big Game the biggest ever with the Nielsens. But (with more HD sets and hopefully with many Nielsen households hosting Big Game bashes to goose the totals) why not shoot for a nice round number in this year’s Roman numeral game?
Black Rock ad officials are of excited, yet of mixed minds. Sports ad sales chief John Bogusz said “our game is going to do a record number,”while CBS president of ad sales Joann Ross talked about 98 million viewers with colleague Claire Atkinson.
Could the size of the markets work against these squads? After all, Indy’s 25th and NOLA’s 51st in the Nielsen standings. But Just about everybody in those DMAs and throughout Who Dat nation will be tuning into to see if the Saints can finally get off the schneid in their 43rd campaign. The Colts, in the minds of many, have become a national team behind the precision and masterminding of the middle Manning son. (Even for those who don’t give a rat’s behind for football, what else are you going to do on this national holiday?)
Will the NFL put a cap on what has been its primo Nielsen season in more than a generation: top regular-season since 1990 with16.6 million viewers per game; the best Wild Card weekend since 1994, with 29.9 million watchers;. the most dominating Division round since 1994, with 33 million; the most ascendant AFC championship game since 1986, with 46.9 million; and the most-watched NFC title game since “The Catch” back on Jan. 10,1982, with 57.9 million viewing Brett Favre’s ill-advised cross-body throw setting the stage for Tom Benson’s boogie. Moreover, that’s the biggest non-Super Bowl audience since the Seinfeld finale drew 76.3 million on May 14, 1998. Even ESPN’s coverage of the newly scheduled, yet still meaningless Pro Bowl, popped with12.3 million, the All-Star game’s highest total since 2000.
Does the league, like the Saints, have destiny on its side? Who dat going to argue with that? Perhaps Favre.
If the old lion in winter, football’s most compelling figure, were taking to the Big Game stage for the final time — not far from his Mississippi home and the site of his greatest triumph in Super Bowl XXXI — the nine-figure mark falls easy. Maybe even Hawkeye and BJ Hunnicutt and the rest of the crew from M*A*S*H, and its 106 million viewers, get sacked from the record book
But a tight, high-scoring contest on Sunday could be enough for CBS and Sean McManus.
Let the Monday morning Nielsening begin quickly because we could be sitting on Super Bowl 100 million. Weigh in on whether you think Super Bowl XLIV surmounts that historic plateau.
Whatever the final tally, enjoy