Eli Manning threw two touchdown passes to lead the Giants, as 12-point underdogs, to a 17-14 win against quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots in the National Football League title game four years ago.
A rematch of those teams and quarterbacks would have enough subplots to draw even more viewers than last year’s record- setting Super Bowl between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, said Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research at New York-based Horizon Media Inc.
“These two teams accounted for one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history,” Adgate said. “The Patriots and Giants are the most likely to draw in the casual fans.”
The matchup for the Feb. 5 Super Bowl will be determined Jan. 22 when New York travels to San Francisco for the National Football Conference championship game and New England hosts the Baltimore Ravens for the American Football Conference title.
The Packers won last year’s Super Bowl 31-25 in a game that drew 111 million viewers, the most in U.S. television history.
A Giants-Patriots championship game would be the most enticing, even more than a San Francisco-Baltimore showdown of head coach brothers Jim and John Harbaugh, said Rick Gentile, a sports management instructor at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, and a former executive producer and senior vice president at CBS Sports.
“The better matchup is the Giants-Pats,” Gentile said in an interview. “You’d have two big markets, and the Giants are an incredible story, coming from nowhere to challenge for the title. You can’t dismiss the interest in the Manning family either, or in Tom Brady.”
The 2007 Patriots, led by two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Brady, amassed an 18-0 mark heading into the Feb. 3, 2008, Super Bowl, one victory short of a perfect season. The Giants won when Manning, who was selected as the game’s MVP, threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds remaining.
The teams didn’t face one another again until Nov. 6 of this year. The game was in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and again the Giants were underdogs. Manning threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jake Ballard with 15 seconds left to give New York a 24-20 victory, ending the Patriots’ 20-game regular-season home winning streak.
Adgate said a 49ers-Ravens matchup would still be exciting, though it lacks the storylines a New England-New York game would have.
When the Ravens beat the 49ers 16-6 in Baltimore on Nov. 25 this year, it became the most-watched game in the eight-year history of the NFL Network, with 10.7 million viewers tuning into the game.
Chris McCloskey, a spokesman for Comcast Corp.’s NBC, which is showing this year’s Super Bowl, said the network doesn’t comment on ratings projections.
“The NBA would dread having Oklahoma City in the Finals from a ratings perspective,” Adgate said. “That wouldn’t be the case in the NFL because people will watch anyway. It’s more about the storylines. And either of these matchups have the ingredients to push the numbers ever higher.”
Another factor driving viewership is how close the game is, Adgate said.
“There are two ways to increase viewership: More people can watch, and more people can watch longer,” he said. “If it’s a close game like the last two have been, it could draw big ratings.”
And one other element plays into the mix, which has nothing to do with the quarterbacks or even football.
“Snowmageddon,” Adgate said. “If we had a blizzard that kept people indoors rather than going to a bar or restaurant to watch the game, that would be really big.”
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