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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

NFL not so dependent on NY, NY . . . or is it?

Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress laugh together at

Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress laugh together at the end of a preseason game. (Aug. 29, 2011) Photo Credit: David Pokress

Among the many reasons NFL ratings are immune to the unpredictability of sports is that unlike other major pro leagues, New York needs it more than it needs New York.

Baseball and its television partners live in fear of a day when the Yankees don't matter. But even a week as devastating for New York football as this past one mostly causes the NFL and its TV partners to shrug.

Remember, this is a league that last played in Los Angeles shortly after Mark Sanchez's eighth birthday, and has suffered not at all from blowing off the nation's second-largest market.

Having said all that, it certainly is not a good thing for the league if the Giants and Jets execute a tandem dive in the standings. (As of Tuesday, neither would qualify for the playoffs, something that has not occurred since 2003 and only twice since 1996.)

The studio blab-ocracy loves Rex Ryan and his colorful cast. The Giants are a gold-plated brand with an expressive coach and a pedigreed quarterback.

Big Blue is in the middle of a six-game stretch of national TV windows, three in prime time, and it will attract attention and ratings for the next three weeks regardless, capped by a Dec. 11 Sunday nighter against the Cowboys. But after that?

If they lose two or three of those games and the Jets follow suit, the teams could turn their Christmas Eve showdown into a regional sideshow as the NFL parade marches into 2012 without them, and barely notices.


Football footnotes

Sunday's Eagles-Giants game averaged 14 percent of homes in major markets, down from 15.9 when the same teams met in Week 11 last season. Philadelphia was the highest-rated market at 29.7. New York finished fourth at 19.2, behind Norfolk and New Orleans . . . Commish Roger Goodell told CNBC the NFL might look into expanding flex scheduling by beginning it earlier than Week 10. Like the current system, that would be mostly good for home viewers and mostly ridiculous for ticket-buyers . . . The NFL yanked Patriots-Colts from prime time Dec. 4 in favor of Lions-Saints, but the Giants-Cowboys game Dec. 11 is no more likely to be flexed out of prime time than Brandon Jacobs is likely to be voted mayor of East Rutherford . . . Fox's Gus Johnson will call both the inaugural Pac-12 championship game Dec. 2 and the inaugural Big Ten title game Dec. 3. The former will be played at the home of the team with the better record, the latter in Indianapolis, two-thirds of the way across the country. Where will Gus find the energy?!


Sound bites

The HBO "Real Sports'' premiering Tuesday night features a segment on Bob Hewitt, a tennis Hall of Famer whom several women have accused of sexually abusing them as early as the 1970s, when they were as young as 10. Mary Carillo travels to South Africa in search of Hewitt, now 71 . . . As the lockout turns: NBA TV Tuesday night premieres a six-part series called "Open Court'' in which Turner's star-studded roster of analysts sits around a nicely appointed lounge kibitzing about various NBA topics. Even Shaq will be there! . . . HBO will show a 12-minute preview premiering Friday of the upcoming "24/7'' series on the Rangers and Flyers. The series itself premieres Dec. 14.

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