The Eagles’ 38-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game was must-watch television in Philadelphia and Minneapolis-St. Paul, but that wasn’t enough to buck the trend of declining national ratings for the NFL.
In Philadelphia, 1.443 million people tuned into the game on Fox 29, which is up more than 14 percent from 2008, when the Eagles lost to the Arizona 32-25 in the team’s last NFC championship game (albeit in the early Sunday spot).
In fact, despite the game turning into a blowout, the Eagles’ win outperformed last year’s Super Bowl on Fox 29 by about 10,000 viewers. It also helped drive massive ratings to Fox 29’s 10 p.m. newscast, which drew higher ratings than the late newscasts for 6ABC, NBC 10, CBS 3, WPHL and CW 57 combined.
Nationally, it was a different picture. The NFC championship game drew 42.3 million viewers nationally, down more than 8 percent from last year’s NFC title game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers, which drew 46.3 million viewers. It was also down 15 percent from the 2015 NFC championship match-up between the Seattle Seahawks and the Packers.
Here are the ratings for the last seven NFC championship games:
- 2018 – Vikings-Eagles (FOX): 42.3 million
- 2017 – Packers-Falcons (FOX): 46.3 million
- 2016 – Panthers-Cardinals (FOX): 45.7 million
- 2015 – Seahawks-Packers (FOX): 49.8 million
- 2014 – Seahawks-49ers (FOX): 55.9 million
- 2013 – 49ers-Falcons (FOX): 42 million
- 2012 – Giants-49ers (FOX): 57.6 million
Despite the year-over-year decline, the game still pulled in huge ratings compared to everything else on television. In fact, the game was the most-watched event on Fox since last year’s Super Bowl.
Bob Costas not hosting the Super Bowl
NBC has announced its on-air team covering Super Bowl LII between the Patriots and the Eagles. All the names you’d expect to see are there: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya, Dan Patrick, Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison.
But there was one notable omission: Bob Costas.
Last February, Costas revealed to USA Today that Super Bowl LII would be the last Super Bowl he would host before taking on an “emeritus” role with NBC Sports. But according to the network, he’ll be replaced at the Super Bowl by Liam McHugh, who will host alongside Football Night in America host Dan Patrick. Mike Tirico, who also worked on NBC’s coverage of the NFL last season, is unavailable as he prepares to host his first Olympics for the network (also replacing Costas).
“Dan and Liam have served as hosts for our NFL pregame/studio shows on Sunday nights and Thursday nights, respectively, throughout the season and will continue on Super Bowl Sunday,” an NBC spokesman said.
NBC also issued a statement from Costas indicating he was OK with NBC’s decision to go with McHugh for the Super Bowl.
“Dan and Liam have done the job hosting NBC’s NFL coverage all season,” Costas said in the statement. “It wouldn’t be right for me to parachute in and do the Super Bowl.”
That’s one explanation for Costas’ absence from what would have been his last Super Bowl. Miami Herald columnist Barry Jackson had another: It’s because Costas has been outspoken about the NFL’s response to concussions and CTE.
“Hard for me to believe this is not related to Costas saying football ‘destroys peoples’ brains,’ ” Jackson wrote on Twitter.
In November, Costas made headlines when he criticized the sport during a roundtable discussion at the University of Maryland. Among other things, Costas suggested the league could collapse if new technology isn’t developed to make the sport safer and that the NFL’s apparent delaying tactic of continuing to study the dangers of football will only end up hurting the league more.
“The whole thing could collapse like a house of cards if people actually begin connecting the dots,” Costas said.
Jake Tapper calls out the Patriots’ history of cheating
CNN’s Jake Tapper is a lifelong Eagles fan who grew up just a few miles from Veterans Stadium. In fact, he attended Sunday’s NFC championship game with his father, Dr. Theodore Tapper, a South Philly pediatrician.
So when it comes to the Patriots, the CNN host and former White House correspondent didn’t make any qualms about the team’s tendency to skirt around the rules.
“The Patriots are cheaters, Brooke,” Tapper said, speaking to his colleague, CNN Newsroom host Brooke Baldwin. “The Patriots cheat. This is just a fact as established by investigations. They’re a cheating team… the facts speak for themselves.”
Forget about TRUMP, @JakeTapper is FINALLY speaking truth to power on THE most important issue of the day: "The @Patriots are cheaters, @BrookebCNN. The Patriots cheat. This is just a fact as established by investigations. They're a cheating team” 🦅 https://t.co/nGVqxfJZUv
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) January 22, 2018
On Twitter, Tapper cited a 2015 ESPN article, “Spygate to Deflategate: Inside what split the NFL and Patriots apart,” which outlines the two cheating scandals that continue to dog the Patriots.
Among other things, ESPN’s lengthy investigation outlined how the Patriots would not only videotape play-calling signals from opponents’ practices, they would also sneak into visiting locker rooms and steal play sheets during pregame warm-ups. (According to the ESPN piece, the practice was so notorious that some coaches put out fake play sheets).
At least one former Eagles staffer is quoted in the story, telling ESPN he believed that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s rampant cheating cost the Eagles a fair shot at winning Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005:
When Spygate broke, some of the Eagles now believed they had an answer for a question that had vexed them since they lost to the Patriots 24-21 in Super Bowl XXXIX: How did New England seem completely prepared for the rarely used dime defense the Eagles deployed in the second quarter, scoring touchdowns on three of four drives? The Eagles suspected that either practices were filmed or a playbook was stolen. “To this day, some believe that we were robbed by the Patriots not playing by the rules … and knowing our game plan,” a former Eagles football operations staffer says.
Back then, the late former Sen. Arlen Specter (R, Pa.) said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told him as part of the congressional Spygate investigation that Belichick had been illegally taping opponents’ defensive signals since 2000, when he first became the Patriots’ head coach. Unfortunately, we’ll never know how far Belichick and the Patriots went because Goodell reportedly ordered the tapes destroyed nearly as soon as they were found during the 2007 season.
“I think it was the right thing to do,” Goodell said at the time.