The #7 seeds in the NFL Playoffs will really be playing for more than their own post-season survival this coming weekend (1/9 and 1/10). Considered to be a temporary addition of one more playoff team from each Conference because of the pandemic (even though teams all played the usual 16 games), this will be the first time we get six Playoff Games in one weekend. It has been four games over recent years.
If the ratings are strong enough, chances are expanded playoffs will become a regular occurrence. Yet, it's not as certain as we would all think. The Week 17 ratings, with playoff seedings still to be decided and so many people staying home, were not what the networks would have hoped.
The fact that most markets had both early and late games from both Fox and CBS may have saturated things. Yet, only one of the four time slots (two on each network) showed a ratings increase on Dec. 27th. This was the Fox telecast of the Bears vs. the Packers, with both teams needing a win. This telecast went to roughly 75% of the markets. NFL ratings have not been as strong as anticipated throughout the regular season.
Theories on why include the overlap of pro sports well into the NFL season and some fans not wanting to watch during the pandemic. What happens with ratings for the post-season, and, of course, the Super Bowl will be quite interesting.
Westwood One will be broadcasting all six NFL playoff games this weekend nationally to participating stations. Kevin Harlan will call the prime time games on both Saturday and Sunday for Westwood One, making him the only broadcaster to call more than one of those games. That includes analysts. Ron Jaworski joins Harlan on Saturday for the Tampa Bay vs. Washington game, while Tony Boselli will work with him on the Cleveland at Pittsburgh game on Sunday. Both prime time games will be on NBC, with Mike Torico calling the Saturday game and Al Michaels the Sunday one.
Sports talk radio lost one of its pioneers earlier this week with the passing of Tom Bigby at the age of 76. Bigby is most known for having developed WIP-FM Philadelphia into the sports talk giant it still is during his 15 years there. He also worked with leading sports stations such as WXYT 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit and KRLD 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. Whether in one of those markets to listen one of "his" stations or not, listeners of sports talk radio across the country will always have Bigby to thank for it.
The sports media also lost another major contributor last week . Those who go back to the days of Baseball Digest, Hockey Digest, and books about sports will likely remember George Vass. George passed away in the Chicago area at the age of 93. Vass was more well known in Chicago, having reported for the Chicago Daily News and Sun-Times from 1958 to 1994. He was a baseball beat writer (White Sox and Cubs) in the 60's and 70's.
CHICAGO: On a much happier note in Chicago, Leila Rahimi becomes the first woman to co-host a weekday show on WSCR The Score 670. She was named to co-host the 9 AM to Noon spot along with Dan Bernstein full-time after being well received in her weekly stint during that time started this past September. She had been with NBC Sports Chicago, being a victim of their cost-cutting layoffs last summer.
WISCONSIN: Milwaukee's WRNW 97.3 The Game is now being simulcast from 6 AM to 6 PM on Rhinelander 101.3 The Game. The station is airing Fox Sports Radio during the evenings and overnights.
PROVIDENCE: WPRO-AM and WEAN-FM have cut back on their sports programming, reducing from three hours on weeknights to only one hour. As a result, Andy Gresh does his final show for the stations on Jan. 8th. Kevin McNamara, sports reporter for the Providence Journal, will host the one hour of sports talk from 6 to 7 PM starting on Monday.