In what has now become America's rivalry - Dallas Cowboys versus New England Patriots - NFL rocketed its profile up a few notches, scoring the best regular season ratings in ten years for last Sunday's game between the two undefeated teams.
Some 29.1 million viewers watched on CBS - 9 million more than CBS' "CSI" - creating the big-time buzz the NFL needed. It was easily the highest rated show of the week.
You need personalities for sports, and with these two teams you have them in spades: the rock-solid Patriots' Tom Brady, two-time Super Bowl MVP; and new sensation, the always-smiling, never-say-die Cowboys QB Tony Romo.
That might be enough for any high profile contest - but you also have two bad-boy receivers, the Cowboys' Terrell Owens and Patriots' Randy Moss. Interestingly enough, the last high-rated regular season game, in 1996, featured one of the two featured teams this past Sunday -- the Dallas Cowboys, who played the San Francisco 49ers.
More interesting was that, for the most part, the game wasn't really close. But the Cowboys' resurrection, contending again for the title of America's Team, brought not only loyal NFL viewers, but, more important, fringe football viewers. Voila! You have a big number.
In a couple of weeks, the NFL will look to grab more attention again with the high-flying Patriots versus the Indianapolis Colts.
Had enough positive NFL spin? Now, let's dig deep.
ESPN posted its worst-ever "Monday Night Football" ratings with the boring New York Giants beating up on the Michael Vick-less Atlanta Falcons. Only 8.48 million viewers - less than a third of the Cowboys-Patriots contest.
To be fair, ESPN had some strong sports competition against Fox's two League Championship series games. All were competing for those valuable - and sometimes hard to get -- male viewers.
Even with all of this, ESPN game still lead the way with most males for nightly viewing in all three big demographics -- 18 to 34 (1.6 million); 18 to 49 (3.3 million); and 25 to 54 (3.2 million).
High ratings or low - it doesn't seem to matter. Whether you are ESPN, CBS, Fox or the NFL Network, one thing is for sure: You are still getting TV advertisers buying your commercials at steadily higher rates ever year, no matter what happens off the field.