1. After a 7% drop for regular-season ratings and lower viewership during the first two weeks of the playoffs (wild-card ratings were down 25% thanks to the added games and the Divisional Round was down 7%), the NFL finally saw a ratings increase with the NFC and AFC championship games Sunday.
Fox’s Bucs-Packers game, which went down to the wire with Tampa Bay pulling out a 31–26 win, drew 44.77 million viewers—two million more than last year’s NFC title game and the most-watched NFC Championship in four years.
CBS’s airing of the Chiefs 38–24 win against the Bills, which was basically over after three quarters, drew 41.8 million viewers—a hair more than last year’s AFC title game, which landed CBS 41.1 million viewers.
Fox and CBS can thank a relatively quiet news cycle and the NFL’s best quarterbacks in action for the higher numbers. What does this mean for this year’s Super Bowl viewership? Last year’s Niners-Chiefs game, which aired on Fox, got 99 million viewers.
I predict this year’s game, on CBS, with Tom Brady facing Patrick Mahomes, easily tops 100 million viewers and gets near the 103 million mark.
Don’t underestimate how many fringe fans will tune in to the game at some point to watch Brady. The future Hall of Famer is not just a sports figure anymore. He’s become a legitimate legend. Many people who have no interest in football will check in to see him try to get that seventh ring.
2. Homecoming vibes indeed for The King on Monday night.
At 36 years old, LeBron James put up 46 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals in the Lakers' 115–108 win against the Cavaliers. He also drained this absurd three-pointer.
3. The NBA season is only a month old, but it's going to be hard for anyone top top Blazers guard Gary Trent Jr. for the Flop of the Year award.
4. Really great stuff here by Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes trying to pump up wide receiver Mecole Hardman after he muffed a punt that led to the a Bills touchdown early in Sunday's AFC title game.
5. Andrew Siciliano is the guest on the latest SI Media Podcast. The host of DirecTV's popular RedZone channel talks about the biggest changes he's seen with the channel over the 16 years it's been on the air, what it was like for him to miss Week 6 of the 2020 season because of a false positive COVID-19 test, why he couldn't watch RedZone that day, why he likes the unbalanced schedule between 1 p.m. ET games and 4:25 p.m. ET games, what the end of the regular season is like for him, which NFL player he'd like to see as the subject of a Last Dance–esque documentary, why he thinks sports programs should not cover pro wrestling, his desire to cover politics in a RedZone way and much more.
You can also watch the podcast on YouTube.
6. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: I've said this before and I'll say it again: If you're an old-school wrestling fan, @ovppodcast is a great follow on Twitter. These early '80s clips, with Vince McMahon calling the action, are so great.
7. SPORTS VIDEO OF THE DAY: MLB's Hall of Fame announcements come at 6 p.m. ET tonight. The museum is meaningless as long as this guy isn't in it.
Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on Apple, Spotify or Stitcher. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.