The Baltimore Ravens' thrilling 38-35 double overtime win over the Denver Broncos on Saturday in the AFC's Divisional playoff round was a ratings bonanza for CBS. The game averaged 35.3 million viewers, far and away the highest rated game this season.
But more importantly, the game's 35.3 million viewers was the highest for a Saturday AFC Divisional playoff game in 26 seasons, or as long as CBS has been keeping ratings records. Considering that last year's showdown between Tim Tebow's Broncos and Tom Brady's New England Patriots drew 34.2 million viewers, this game somehow being up 3% from last year is a resounding success for CBS.
The 20.1 overnight rating for the game is also the highest for a Saturday AFC Divisional game in 19 years, since the Raiders and Bills picked up a 22.0 rating on NBC in January 1994. Peyton Manning was drafted by the Colts in 1998. That should put the history of this monstrous rating in perspective.
To top off the ratings glory, CBS saw their viewership peak between 8:00 and 8:30 during the overtime period, when 40.8 million viewers tuned in, drawing a 24.0 overnight. That is just beyond comprehension for a Divisional Round game. I'd be interested in seeing a full breakdown of half and quarter hours for this game, because it was a thrilling back and forth affair that wasn't expected to be overly competitive (at least in the minds of Las Vegas oddsmakers).
But with Baltimore's win, CBS won't be getting their dream matchup of Brady vs Manning in the AFC Championship game. Instead, Brady will take on Joe Flacco, the retiring Ray Lewis, and a hungry Ravens team looking for revenge in a rematch from last year's AFC Championship Game. I'd expect to see an increase in the viewership this year due to the storylines involved, but how much of an increase will be anyone's best guess.