Before wild-card weekend, let's put a bow on the NFL's boffo regular-season ratings, which have made the sport the most popular show on television.

CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN and the NFL Network all were up over 2008, and the league's viewership was its best in 20 years.

Fox's national window averaged 26.2 million viewers, topped by the 29.8 million that watched Nov. 1, when the featured game was Vikings-Packers.

On to the playoffs, where the numbers only will get more ridonkulous.

I will root for the Jets because I picked them in our preview section, and for the Eagles because I enjoy being one of the dwindling number of living humans who witnessed the Cowboys' last playoff victory in '96.

Elsewhere in Football Nation, Thursday night's BCS Championship Game also was a ratings hit, averaging 17.2 percent of homes, topped by a comically high 67.2 percent in Birmingham.

The 30.8 million viewers were the most for any TV show since the Academy Awards last February.

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I mostly enjoyed ABC's coverage of the game, including Brent Musburger, 70, blurting out bluntly honest observations of a sort not commonly heard from college play-by-play men.

You can tell he's an old newspaper man at heart.

That's it for this week, WatchDog Nation. Thanks for reading.

Enjoy Rick DiPietro at 8:30 p.m. Friday on MSG Plus.

No, really. He's playing!


Photo: AP