|12.20.11 at 3:35 pm ET|
According to the early overnight ratings, Sunday’s New England Patriots 41-23 victory over the Broncos at Denver posted the highest CBS national regular season average rating (19.5) since 2007, the year the Patriots went 16-0 regular season that ended with a first, a Patriots game broadcast locally on ABC, NBC and CBS outlets.
Locally, the Patriots posted a season high with an average rating of 42.65 and a 68 share. The 68 share represented the third straight week that Patriots games have set season highs in percentage of households tuned into the game. Viewership during the local broadcast peaked at a staggering 46.5 and a stunning 71 share.
With the 42.65 average HH (household) rating and 68 percent share in the Boston (Manchester) market, the Patriots local broadcast on WBZ was the third- highest regular season rating in franchise history. The highest HH rating (50.1) occurred during Week 17 of the 2007 season as the Patriots completed the undefeated regular season against the Giants. Second on the list was the famous Miami snow game on Dec, 7, 2003, which drew a 43.8 rating locally. Fans will remember that game as the one where Tedy Bruschi intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown to seal an AFC East-clinching win against the Dolphins.
As for this season, the HH rating of 42.64 on Sunday easily beat the Week 12 record of 38.7 against the Eagles. Additionally, 68 percent of people in the Boston (Manchester) area watched the Patriots-Broncos game, topping the previous high of 67 set last Sunday against the Washington Redskins (12/11/11).
The win streaks, playoff implications and hype surrounding the game helped CBS record the highest overnight rating of any network this season, earning a 19.5 Nielsen rating during the national window. The rating is the highest CBS broadcast rating in four years since the network recorded a 22.5 for the Patriots vs. Colts matchup on Nov. 4, 2007, when both teams were undefeated heading into Week 9.
|12.20.11 at 10:12 am ET|
A wild Week 15 in the NFL concluded with many underdogs on top. The Chiefs knocked off the Packers; the Chargers clobbered the Ravens; the Redskins upset the Giants; and the Colts prevailed over the Titans, all proving how unpredictable the NFL is with each given week. The most surprising outcome was the Chiefs victory over the Packers. Aaron Rodgers and the defending champs saw their quest for a perfect season go up in smoke. The Pack had rattled off 19 straight wins before falling to Kansas City.
The race for the No. 1 seed in the AFC took a dramatic turn as the Texans, Ravens and Steelers all fell. The Patriots now boast the best record in the AFC and are classified as the best team in the conference in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Tom Brady and the Pats now have sole control of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
AFC Playoff picture: Patriots, Ravens, Steelers, Texans have all clinched.
NFC Playoff picture: Packers, Saints, 49ers have all clinched. The Lions and Falcons have a commanding lead in the wild card race.
1. (1) Packers (13-1) ‘ One loss won’t do anything to hurt the Packers’ chances of winning the Super Bowl but losses to offensive linemen might. Injuries are piling up on Aaron Rodgers‘ line. Center Scott Wells and guard Josh Sitton are the only two Week 1 starters who are healthy. Brian Bulaga, Chad Clifton and Derek Sherod are all injured. The Chiefs laid out the blueprint on how to beat the Packers: Relentlessly rush Aaron Rodgers and disrupt the Packers receivers’ routes.
2. (3) Saints (11-3) ‘ The Saints will be a very dangerous team when the playoffs begin. Stopping Drew Brees and the Saints offense looks like an impossible task. Brees is on pace to shatter Dan Marino‘s single season passing yards record. He also has a career high 37 touchdown passes.
3. (5) Patriots (11-3) ‘ The Patriots offense once again showed how versatile it is. Aaron Hernandez stepped up as the go-to receiver for Tom Brady since the Broncos decided to take Rob Gronkowski out of the game as best they could. There certainly is no shortage of weapons on the offensive side of the ball. The defense is a different story. The loss of Andre Carter, the team’s best pass rusher, is a devastating blow for the Patriots. The pass defense needs all the help it can get and a lack of rush on the quarterback is only going to make it more difficult on the secondary.
ï»¿ï»¿4. (6) 49ers (11-3) ‘ Capitalizing on red zone opportunities is one thing the 49ers know they have to do better. They took a step in the right direction Monday night when they scored touchdowns on two of their three trips inside the Steelers’ 20. However, on one of those occasions, they were helped out by a Steelers personal foul penalty on fourth down. Entering the playoffs, they’ll have one of the worst offenses in the NFC but one of the best defenses. If they can improve in the red zone, the Niners will be a dangerous team.
5. (2) Ravens (10-4) ‘ Joe Flacco could be a reason why the Ravens fail to make it to the Super Bowl. He has been terribly inconsistent this year and very rarely do we see teams with mediocre quarterbacks win the Super Bowl. The fourth-year QB isn’t fooling any defenses with his throws. At times, he’s predetermining where he is going to throw the football and that has led to interceptions. Ray Rice also had just 10 carries in the loss. In the Ravens’ four losses, Rice has had 13, 8, 5 and 10 carries. See the trend?
6. (4) Steelers (10-4) ‘ It might be time for the Steelers to seriously consider shutting down Ben Roethlisberger for the rest of the regular season. The chances of winning the division and clinching the No. 1 seed went out the window with the loss to the Niners. The Ravens’ two remaining games are against the Browns and Bengals. The Steelers will have a much better shot in the playoffs with a healthy Roethlisberger. It’s not worth the risk of playing “Big Ben” and having him further aggravate his ankle injury.
7. (8) Falcons (9-5) ‘ The much anticipated rematch between the Falcons and Saints will finally arrive this Monday night. Running the ball and setting the tempo with Michael Turner is an obvious key to Atlanta’s success but Julio Jones is a major factor as well. The last time these two teams met, rookie WR Julio Jones missed most of the game with a hamstring injury. Jones, along with Roddy White, will make it extremely difficult for the Saints defense to stop the Falcons offense.
8. (11) Lions (9-5) ‘For the fourth time this season, the Lions have come back from a double digit deficit. Matthew Stafford and the Lions are now in a prime position to clinch a playoff spot. For a city that has watched their team average 12 losses per season since 2001, postseason football would come as quite a welcome gift under the tree.
9. (7) Texans (10-4) ‘ Turnovers are becoming a growing concern for Gary Kubiak. The Texans coach has watched his team give away the football nine times over the past four games. Arian Foster is responsible for four of those nine. The dynamic running back must shoulder the load for the offense with Matt Schaub out.
10. (10) Giants (7-7) ‘ For the second time this year, the Giants lost to the Redskins. Eli Manning had his worst game of the season on Sunday but the Giants defense should shoulder a lot of the blame as well. The pass rush is ineffective and the secondary continues to give up big plays. They couldn’t get off the field on third down against Rex Grossman. The Redskins possessed the ball for 35 of the 60 minutes.
11. (12) Cowboys (8-6) ‘ It’s amazing how fast a team’s fortunes can change in the NFL. After a demoralizing loss to the Giants last week, the Cowboys are back in the driver’s seat in the NFC East race because of the Redskins’ upset victory over New York. Felix Jones will be key to the Cowboys success. Tony Romo needs a strong run game to balance the offense and keep opposing teams on their toes. The division title is on the line the next two weeks. If the Cowboys can beat the Eagles and Giants, they’ll be division champs.
12. (15) Chargers (7-7) ‘ Undefeated in December but winless in November; the Chargers are finally playing great football but the possibility of the postseason is slim. Right now, no team wants to play San Diego. The Chargers are winning by an average of 23 points-per-game in December. Look no further than Philip Rivers for the main reason for the recent success. Rivers has not thrown an interception during the current winning streak but threw 17 leading up to it.
13. (9) Jets (8-6) ‘ The Jets D was torched for 420 total yards. It was obvious the absence of Jim Leonhard had an adverse effect on the defense. Tight end Brent Celek had a career game with 156 yards and a touchdown and running back LeSean McCoy averaged over five yards-per-carry. Offensively, it’s beginning to become clear that Mark Sanchez is incapable of leading the Jets to the Super Bowl. He now has thrown 13 interceptions and his 57.9 completion percentage is one of the worst in the league.
14. (13) Broncos (8-6) ‘ Tim Tebow helped win games for the Broncos because he protected the football and didn’t turn it over. That didn’t happen Sunday against the Patriots. Tebow and two of his teammates were responsible for three fumbles, all of which resulted in points for the opposition. The good news for the Broncos is that they face the Bills in Week 16 and still are in a great position to win the division.
15. (21) Eagles (6-8) ‘ The Eagles have won two straight games for the first time this season. This talented team is finally starting to show signs of why many predicted them to reach the Super Bowl. The defense has made a huge difference over the last two games. The Eagles D has a total of 13 sacks and seven turnovers in that span.
16. (18) Bengals (8-6) ‘ Thanks to some great drafting, rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are becoming a lethal quarterback-wide receiver duo with loads of potential for the future. Dalton has already surpassed 3,000 yards for the year and Green has surpassed 1,000.
17. (16) Raiders (7-7) ‘ Simply put, the Raiders are not a playoff caliber team. The potential and talent is there, but they shoot themselves in the foot week after week with penalties, turnovers and mistakes. The defense constantly let up big plays to the Lions. Matthew Stafford connected on 51- and 39-yard touchdown passes. He also drove his team down the field on a game-winning 98 yard touchdown drive with 1:35 left to play.
18. (14) Titans (7-7) ‘ The opportunity was there but the Titans squandered away a great chance to take control of the one wild card spot remaining in the AFC. Matt Hasselbeck threw two costly interceptions; one was returned for a touchdown and another was in the red zone. Chris Johnson was stifled once again as well. The Titans are 4-0 when Johnson reaches 100 yards but he turned in a subpar performance against the winless Colts. The offensive line can also be blamed for failing to open holes for the run game.
19. (19) Cardinals (7-7) ‘ Unfortunately for the Cardinals, numbers don’t lie and John Skelton is 5-1 as the starter. Meanwhile, Kevin Kolb has a $63 million contract but a 2-6 record. Quietly, Skelton has become the “Tim Tebow” of the Cardinals. The second year QB struggles to pass the ball but somehow finds a way to win consistently in the fourth quarter.
20. (20) Seahawks (7-7) ‘ The soaring Seahawks have won five of their last six games. Marshawn Lynch went over 1,000 yards rushing for the first time since 2008. He’s been the leading force in the Seahawks offense but now will have to do even more. Wide receiver Mike Williams joined fellow receiver Sidney Rice on IR.
21. (17) Bears (7-7) ‘ The Bears have lost four straight games since Jay Cutler went down. Caleb Hanie has thrown three interceptions in three out of his four games he’s started. It’s extremely difficult to win in the NFL when a team loses its turnover battle and the Bears continue to do just that. They’ve turned the ball over 12 times since the Cutler injury.
22. (22) Dolphins (5-9) ‘ The Reggie Bush pickup has added a great weapon on the Dolphins offense. The team is using Bush as the featured running back and it is paying off. His touches have increased as the season has progressed and it’s one of the reasons the Dolphins have won five of their last seven.
23. (25) Chiefs (6-8) ‘ Romeo Crennel is doing his best to convince Scott Pioli that he is the right man for the head coaching vacancy in Kansas City. The Chiefs had a tremendous defensive game plan against the Packers. Kyle Orton‘s performance should also be noted. Orton threw for 299 yards and no interceptions.
24. (26) Panthers (5-9) ‘ Cam Newton and the Panthers enjoyed their first win against a team over .500 on Sunday. Against one of the best defensive teams in the league, the Panthers put up 28 points on the Texans. The Texans haven’t allowed that many points since Week 6.
25. (27) Redskins (5-9) ‘ The Redskins can go into the offseason knowing they beat the Giants twice and played some very competitive games against quality opponents in 2011. Rookies Roy Helu and Ryan Kerrigan have made significant contributions to the team and both will be major pieces for the Redskins going forward.
26. (24) Bills (5-9) ‘Ryan Fitzpatrick has been one of the main reasons the Bills are amid a seven-game losing streak. He has a league-high 19 interceptions. Twelve of those picks have come during the current losing streak. The defense has been horrendous as well. The Bills D has allowed an average of 32 points-per-game during the losing streak.
27. (23) Buccaneers (4-10) ‘ The longest losing streak in the NFL now belongs to the Bucs. The eight straight losses have made it clear that Raheem Morris‘ team is not responding to his coaching. Penalties, mental breakdowns and turnovers continue to hurt the Bucs week after week. Josh Freeman has regressed in 2011 and LeGarrette Blount has failed to establish any type of run game in the offense. In the latest lost, the Bucs defense allowed 28 first downs while converting only seven on offense.
28. (28) Browns (4-10) ‘ The Browns will end another dismal season against the Ravens and Steelers. Finishing the year anything but 4-12 will be a major shock. Cleveland currently has a total of 44 loses since 2008.
29. (29) Jaguars (4-10) ‘ Blaine Gabbert looked like a boy playing against men in the Jaguars’ latest lost. Gabbert has been a disappointment compared to his fellow starting rookie quarterbacks in the league. The uncertainty at head coach could be a factor. Even when Jack Del Rio was there it seemed like only a matter of time until he would get his walking papers and Mel Tucker is a defensive-minded coach.
30. (30) Vikings (2-12) ‘ The Vikings are allowing an average of 29 points-per-game. For the third straight week, the defense allowed 30 or more points. Christan Ponder has also struggled lately. The rookie has thrown at least one interception in three consecutive games.
31. (31) Rams (2-12) ‘ The beleaguered Rams offense is one of the worst in the league, averaging just 11.9 points-per-game. They rank 31st in third-down conversions and went just 2-13 in their latest loss.
32. (32) Colts (1-13) ‘ The players and coaches are relieved they finally put a W in the win column, but now the Colts’ chances of getting the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft are in jeopardy. Indy has games against the Texans and Jaguars remaining. The Jaguars game is a very winnable matchup. Meanwhile, the Rams play the Steelers and 49ers.
Which NFL teams are in your top 10? Leave your opinions/comments below or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can send comments via Twitter to @JoeytheFishWEEI.
|12.20.11 at 12:59 am ET|
With losses by Baltimore and Houston over the weekend and Pittsburgh on Monday night, the Patriots are now in the drivers’ seat in the AFC.
New England can clinch the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the AFC if they can win their last two regular-season games of the year, home contests against Miami (on Saturday) and Buffalo (the following Sunday).
New England, Pittsburgh, Houston and Baltimore all entered the weekend with identical 10-3 records. But while the Patriots beat the Broncos in Denver, Pittsburgh suffered a Monday night loss to the 49ers, the Texans lost to the Panthers and Ravens lost to the Chargers on Sunday. That left New England as the top seed in the AFC with an 11-3 mark.
|12.19.11 at 2:23 pm ET|
“I think that’s a key for us, is to make sure we’re spreading it around and make it where they can’t really focus on one guy, and everybody getting touches,” Welker said. “It becomes a team game then. That’s what it’s all about, and that’s how you win football games. I think that’s the way we’ve got to play it.”
Welker’s contract expires after this season. He acknowledged it’s sometimes on his mind, although he won’t let it get in the way of the team’s goals.
“I try to put it out of my mind,” Welker said. “We’re having such a good year this year. We’re in such a great spot. To cause any sort of distraction to pull away from what we’re trying to achieve and what we’re trying to do as a team, it wouldn’t be in the best interest of what we’re trying to do. Do I think about it? I’m human. It’s hard not to. But at the same time, you’re professional, and you understand that. And you want to go out there and do your job to the best of your ability.”
Welker also said he has no issue with people saying he’s not the prototypical receiver.
“I totally understand, trust me,” he said. “If I was picking out a receiver, I would pick out a guy that’s 6-4 and 220 and runs a 4.3, 4.4. I’d do the same thing. But at the end of the day, whether you line up in the backfield, line up in the slot, line up out wide, line up at tight end, line up anywhere, at the end of the day, it’s about catching balls and getting yards and touchdowns and production. That’s what it comes down to.”
|12.19.11 at 1:16 pm ET|
The Patriots fell behind 16-7 and looked shaky early before altering their defensive game plan and turning things around in the second quarter.
“You go into each week preparing for what that team has done in the previous few weeks, Ninkovich said. “Every team’s going to come in and do something different to you. Denver, you’ve got to give them credit for coming in and having a good, solid game plan that we had to adjust to.”
Added Ninkovich: “The first couple of drives, we didn’t have everything all together as far as our communication and all that stuff. We had to settle down a little bit and all come together and just say, hey, we can’t let this go on or else it’s not going to be a good game for us. We just had to stop the run, and those turnovers were huge for us.”
Even when the Patriots looked overmatched, Ninkovich said the team kept its cool.
“It’s the bend-but-don’t-break mentality,” he said. “There’s always frustration when there’s big runs being broken out. You’ve just got to be calm and collected and talk to each other and make sure that we’re all on the same page. You can’t panic. As the year has gone on, yeah, we’ve let up some yardage. But when the game’s over, we’re still winning, so that’s all that matters.”
Ninkovich learned first-hand how tough Tim Tebow is to tackle, as the quarterback escaped his grasp in the backfield and broke free for a touchdown in the opening period.
“He’s a big boy,” Ninkovich said. “You’ve got to give the kid credit. He’s a great football player. ‘¦ That’s all on me. I need to just bring my feet in a little more under me, especially when they’re running that option. That’s a free hundred-mile-an-hour hit on him. I just have to be a little more physical on that one. I wrapped him up and I just didn’t bring him down. That’s all on me, that one right there.”
Added Ninkovich: “He’s an athlete. He’s a good football player. After that game, I have a lot more respect. He can get out of the pocket and do things with his feet.”
There was some bad news for the Patriots Sunday, as defensive lineman Andre Carter left with a leg injury that is reported to be season-ending.
“Andre, he’s been a great veteran for us. ‘¦ He’s been through a lot of different things,” Ninkovich said. “He brought a lot of experience to our team and leadership. Whatever his injury is, I hope he can be back as soon as possible. With football, there’s always going to be injuries. You’ve just got to have another guy step in.”
|12.19.11 at 12:42 pm ET|
Aaron Hernandez had a huge game — a career-high nine receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown. Brady said it wasn’t a case of the Broncos focusing on the Patriots’ other standout tight end, Rob Gronkowski.
“It’s not so much about taking one guy away in our offense,” Brady said. “We’ve seen that from week to week. One week it’s Wes [Welker], and one week it’s Rob, and one week it’s Deion [Branch], and one week it’s Aaron. It’s just a matter of the guys that they cover. Sometimes, Rob might be open on a read but someone else has got the read before that, so that’s where you go with the ball. I wouldn’t say there was a lot of extra coverage on Rob yesterday, that they were double covering him. They were playing things straight up, pretty much they way they’ve played all year. It just happened that Aaron was in a great position to catch a lot of passes, and he did. He had a phenomenal game and some really clutch plays, some run-after-catch plays that were phenomenal.
“It was really a great day all around. We spread the ball around to everybody. Everybody was involved. Because of that, we make it pretty tough for teams to defend us.”
Even Chad Ochocinco was more involved, catching his first touchdown pass as a Patriot and stepping up with Branch sideline by an injury.
” Obviously, without Deion playing, other guys have to step in and fill that role that Deion’s had for us,” Brady said. “Chad was in there, he really got us started. That was a huge touchdown catch. Every week he gets more and more comfortable. I wish I found ways to get him the ball more, and I’ve got to find ways to get him the ball more. He’s really embraced his role. He’s a great teammate. He’s fun to be around. And every week he gains more confidence. Hopefully we continue to build on it. This week is better than it was last week.”
Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Did you just drag yourself out of the cold tub after that Elvis Dumervil hit yesterday?
I know, I know. He got me pretty good. I’m feeling that one this morning a little bit, more so than usual.
How come you didn’t see him?
I was staring at the other side of the field. I was pretty locked in to the guy I was throwing to. My peripheral vision didn’t kick in there. Believe me, I wish I would have seen him. I would have braced myself a little bit.
|12.19.11 at 11:09 am ET|
CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to discuss the Patriots’ dominant 41-23 victory over Tim Tebow and the Broncos. The win brought up questions about how long Tebow will be Denver’s starting quarterback, and Esiason wasn’t sure if Tebow would survive past this season.
After a strong first quarter, Tebow and Broncos offense completely shut down and let a 16-7 lead quickly evaporate and become a 34-16 lead for the Patriots. Tebow was completely overshadowed in the game by one of the best performances of the season for Tom Brady, who ended the game with 320 passing yards and three total touchdowns. Brady even ran a score in, perhaps a gesture at Tebow who is known for his prolific ability to get in the end zone with his feet.
‘It kind of imploded a little bit and I don’t know what to take out of Tebow’s performance, it was a little bit better than I thought it was going to be and maybe not as good as everyone else thought it was going to be,’ Esiason said. ‘I don’t know if you saw the pregame interview with Jim Nantz, he tried to get John Fox to try to get some future assessment of Tebow and he wouldn’t do it. I understand why, when you watch Tebow he has great flair for the dramatics, but it’s not pretty. So I just wonder if the Broncos draft a quarterback in the first round next year and I think they will if they can get one. I know they love this kid Robert Griffin III out of Baylor, what does that mean to the future of Tebow and only time will tell.”
Added Esiason: ‘When you watch the way Tom play yesterday you saw a quarterback react to the momentum shift in the fourth quarter. And where other quarterbacks imploded, he marched his team right down the field and that’s the type of thing Tebow really hasn’t had to go against at all towards the end of the season. He’s gone up against a bunch of rookie quarterbacks, quarterbacks that haven’t been able to make the plays in the fourth quarter to put more pressure on him to win football games.’
What also stuck out to Esiason was the solid play by the Patriots offensive line, which had arguably its best game playing against one of the best defensive lines in the league while on the road.
‘Another thing that doesn’t get a lot of play and it should get a lot of play was the play of the offensive line of the New England Patriots, especially on passing situations. You know Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil are a pain in the ass to play,’ Esiason said. ‘I think Tom only got hit four or five times yesterday. And he had pretty much a clean game the whole game. ‘
Following are highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
On Aaron Hernandez being Brady’s main target: ‘What it comes down to when you’re a top-notch quarterback in this league you actually read your defenses and you keep your players happy and you spread the ball around and you never know who’s going to get the ball from week to week. And when you’re playing against any team, you’re trying to look for those matchups and you’re looking for the advantages yesterday. Obviously there was an advantage yesterday for Hernandez. … If you have a quarterback is on like Tom was on yesterday and he was competitive and he was reading the defenses, he’ll find where those mismatches are and he’ll throw accurate footballs in there.”