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With the intrigue of quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning facing off for the first—and potentially only—time in the playoffs as the Indianapolis Colts play at Denver this Sunday in the divisional round, near-record television ratings are expected in the Indianapolis market.
Luck and Manning are arguably two of the three best quarterbacks ever to wear a Colts uniform. The other of course, is Johnny Unitas. No offense meant to Bert Jones and Jim Harbaugh—also notable former Colts signal callers.
Manning was the Colts QB for 13 years before Luck was drafted three years ago. Now, both are among the best in the NFL.
With more than a few local football fans still remaining in Manning’s corner and hoping he can win one more Super Bowl, the game should have interest way beyond the norm in this market.
The all-time high for TV ratings in the Indianapolis market for a Colts game, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research., is 56.1 set during the 2007 AFC Championship game, in which the Colts beat the New England Patriots in a tight one. That means about 601,400 people watched the game in this market.
That game scored higher than the Colts 2007 Super Bowl victory over the Chicago Bears two weeks later. That game, according to Nielsen, earned just under a 56 rating.
Sunday’s home playoff victory over Cincinnati tallied a 42.3 rating, according to Nielsen. That number was just a bit below last year’s first round home playoff victory, a nail-biter over Kansas City, which earned a 44.5, according to Nielsen.
Since Manning has departed Indianapolis for Denver, the Colts and Broncos have faced twice. Last year’s home game—the first against Denver since Manning joined the team—scored a 49 rating, while this year’s season opener in Denver earned a 38.9 rating, according to Nielsen.
This Sunday’s game, which begins at 4:40 p.m., has several factors going for it. First, it’s an away game, and those games usually earn higher ratings because few—if any—Indianapolis area residents are at the game and not watching on TV. Second, the late afternoon games usually earn higher ratings in general than earlier games. People tend to start nesting at home after 4 p.m. on Sundays in the winter.
Will it be a record TV rating this Sunday? Colts officials aren’t ruling it out. A lot depends on how close the game is.
“Tight games get the best ratings, especially with a late afternoon or nighttime kickoff,” said Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward. “It's possible, but it just depends on the flow of the game.”