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Bills, fans go against the grain

I'm not sure which is weirder: that after a disastrous offensive preseason the Buffalo Bills are the second-highest scoring team in the AFC after two weeks of the NFL season or the viewing patterns of football fans here.

Take the New York Giants' last-second, 33-31 victory over Dallas on Sunday Night Football.

The exceptional game had a 15.4 rating on Channel 2, which was slightly higher than the 15.1 national rating.

But the rating peaked at a 19.6 around halftime at 9:30 p.m. and saw a significant decline to 14.3 by 10:15 p.m. And when the game was being decided in the last 45 minutes the rating slipped to a low of 12.2 and only hit a 13.3 in the final 15 minutes starting at 11:30 p.m.

In other words, many viewers switched to the local news on Channel 4 and Channel 7 at 11 p.m. or went to bed rather than stay to see quarterback Eli Manning lead the Giants to a winning field goal.

NBC was thrilled that the game that opened Jerry Jones' new palace was the most-watched game ever on SNF and the best delivery of a regular season prime time game in 12 years.

But locally, it was the third-highest rated game Sunday. Naturally, the Bills win over Tampa was tops here with about a 33.5 rating (percentage of area households) on WUTV. The New York Jets' 16-9 win over New England was No. 2 with a 16.6 rating on WIVB-TV.

It isn't surprising that a 1 p.m. game involving the Bills' AFC rivals can out-draw a prime time game. By the time SNF starts, many local and national viewers have had their fill of football.

The 10 top metered markets for that game included only one NFL market (New Orleans) besides Dallas where NFL teams play. The first three markets -- Dallas, San Antonio and Austin -- were in Texas. No. 4? Las Vegas. And I don't think I have to tell you why.

The Bills' Trent Edwards got some love Tuesday when Colin Cowherd said on his radio show carried by WGR that Edwards is a better quarterback than the Cowboys' Tony Romo. You wonder if Terrell Owens agrees.

Speaking of Romo, here was the quarterback's response on NBC on how the Cowboy huddle is different without Owens: "I don't know that it's that much different. T.O. was an emotional player in the sense of he wanted to win badly. That's no different than the guys we have now. You're kidding yourself if people believe that every team doesn't have a guy who wants the ball all the time."

According to Warren Sapp of Showtime's "Inside the NFL," T.O. tweeted that "the Cowboys found out (Sunday) they have a T.R. (Romo) problem not a T.O. problem."

Here's a new On the Air feature called "They Actually Get Paid to Say This": Before the Giants-Cowboys game, Fox's Terry Bradshaw predicted: "Dallas will not lose this game. [Cowboy owner] Jerry Jones will get his victory. The Cowboys will shore up their defense." The Giants scored 33 points, with Romo's help, in their win.

"They Actually Get Paid to Say This," Take 2: Michael Strahan, the former Giant who is a Fox studio analyst: "The Giants are going to run the football. That's what they do; take pressure off of Eli Manning and those young receivers." The Giants had trouble running. Young receivers Steve Smith and Mario Manningham caught 20 passes between them.

Then there was this Strahan prediction before New Orleans played Philadelphia: "I think the Eagles' defense is what leads that team. . . . Unfortunately, it's a week against the New Orleans Saints but I really do feel like the Eagles' defense is up to the task." The Saints were "held" to 48 points.

Bills fans have to hope that NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci is as astute as Bradshaw and Strahan. After the Saints won, the former NFL coach said of quarterback Drew Brees: "Statistically, he's going to continue to be on top as he keeps playing with [Coach] Sean Payton."

Most local Syracuse University football fans desperate to see a victory were shut out locally from the ESPN360 coverage of last week's last-second win over Northwestern because it is only available in areas where the cable provider has a deal with ESPN. And Time Warner doesn't have one.

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com

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