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New England-Denver Nail Biter Is Highest-Rated AFC Championship in 29 Years

And one of those teams played in the 1987 overtime game that edged it

The Denver Broncos’ AFC Championship Game victory over the New England Patriots was an instant classic — and now it has the ratings to prove it.

Sunday’s afternoon CBS game was the highest-rated AFC Championship contest in 29 years, scoring a 31.8 rating per Nielsen’s overnight household metric, and a 53 share. The last AFC Championship game to top it was 1987’s Denver-Cleveland overtime contest on NBC, which edged yesterday’s matchup by just one tenth of a ratings point.

This may not come as a surprise, but the Patriots-Broncos game was the highest-rated TV program in the metered markets since 2015’s Super Bowl XLIX.

Sunday’s early battle was up 31 percent from last year’s version, when New England crushed Indianapolis — a game that eventually spawned the Deflategate scandal that we still can’t quite avoid.

This two-point victory, which peaked from 6-6:30 p.m. ET, also convincingly bested last night’s primetime NFC Championship blowout in ratings on Fox — by a whopping 19 percent. It’s nice to have a close game — and Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning, of course.

Super Bowl 50 will also air on CBS. The Broncos are set to take on Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Feb. 7, from the neutral site of Santa Clara, Calif. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m ET. Get your popcorn — and ratings records — ready.