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NFL wild-card games deliver big weekend numbers

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The NFL's wild-card weekend drew huge television audiences.

The four games averaged 34.7 million viewers for the most-watched wild-card weekend on record.

The Indianapolis Colts-Kansas City Chiefs contest, won 45-44 by the Colts, averaged 27.6 million viewers. Only one early-Saturday wild-card game in history scored a a bigger audience: Seattle's 41-36 victory over New Orleans in 2011 drew 28.3 million viewers.

The Colts-Chiefs viewership was up 17 percent from the Houston-Cincinnati game last year, when 23.6 million watched.

The San Francisco 49ers' 23-20 win over the Green Bay Packers had 47.1 million viewers Sunday on Fox to make it the most-watched wild-card game on record. The previous high was 42.4 million for the 2011 Steelers-Broncos game, which Denver won in overtime on Tim Tebow's touchdown pass.

But Sunday's game had two exciting quarterbacks, history-rich franchises and the spectacle of a frigid Lambeau Field. It didn't hurt that chilly temperatures across the country gave Americans good reason to stay indoors. The audience was larger than that for every NFC divisional playoff game Fox has broadcast and 13 of its 19 NFC championship games.

The two Saturday games averaged 30.8 million viewers on NBC, a record for the Saturday wild-card games. The New Orleans Saints' 26-24 win over the Philadelphia Eagles was the most-watched Saturday wild-card game ever with 34.4 million viewers.

Three of the four games were decided by three points or fewer, only the second time in NFL history that happened in an NFL playoff weekend, after the 2006 divisional round.

The one game that wasn't as close, the San Diego Chargers' 27-10 win over the Bengals, still drew a big audience, with 30.9 million viewers on CBS. That's the most in 19 years for an early Sunday AFC wild-card game.
 

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