As of Wednesday afternoon, when he stood behind a microphone for one of the Ravens’ most crowded midweek news conferences of the season, Tyler Linderbaum had avoided the hype. It was business as usual for the center. He hadn’t heard from any friends or family members about the San Francisco 49ers or “Monday Night Football” or a potential Super Bowl preview.

Not that he doubted their interest.

“It’s Christmas Night,” he said. “Everyone is going to be watching.”

It sure seems that way. Monday’s game, which will also be broadcast on ABC and ESPN’s digital platforms, could set a Ravens regular-season record for viewership. Austin Karp, an editor at the Sports Business Journal who monitors industry ratings, said in an interview this week that the showdown between the AFC-leading Ravens and NFC-leading 49ers could draw an average of as many as 28 million to 30 million viewers.

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According to the NFL, the Ravens’ single-game record for combined TV and digital viewership in the regular season is believed to be 25.1 million, set in September 2013, when the team opened its Super Bowl defense with a prime-time loss to the Denver Broncos. No other Ravens regular-season game has surpassed even 23 million average viewers. (The franchise’s most viewed game is, unsurprisingly, Super Bowl XLVII, which averaged 111.4 million viewers.)

Year, weekNetworkOpponentViewership
2013, Week 1NBC (2013 opener, prime-time slot)@ Broncos25.1 million
2019, Week 9NBC (“Sunday Night Football”)vs. Patriots22.7 million
2010, Week 13NBC (“Sunday Night Football”)vs. Steelers22.5 million
2021, Week 15Fox (late-afternoon slot)vs. Packers22.5 million
2011, Week 9NBC (“Sunday Night Football”)@ Steelers22.1 million

Christmas Day has delivered strong ratings for the NFL in recent years. Nearly 26 million viewers tuned in for an early-afternoon kickoff on Fox last year when the Green Bay Packers took on the Miami Dolphins. In 2021, the Fox and NFL Network broadcast of a late-afternoon Packers-Cleveland Browns game drew 28.6 million viewers.

Karp said the ratings for Monday’s matchup would largely depend on the score — close games get better numbers — but noted a few key advantages for ABC. First, the game’s only real competition will come from ESPN’s two prime-time NBA games. (An average of 4.3 million viewers tuned into the NBA’s five Christmas games last year.)

Second, the “Monday Night Football” broadcast will come after two Monday telecasts on other networks: an early-afternoon Las Vegas Raiders-Kansas City Chiefs game on CBS and a late-afternoon New York Giants-Philadelphia Eagles game on Fox. New York and Philadelphia have two of the nation’s biggest media markets.

With excitement for the prime-time kickoff building throughout the day, and significant postseason implications in play for both the Ravens and 49ers, Karp said, the matchup is “essentially a playoff game.”

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“I think it could do a really strong number,” he said. “I think it could potentially be among [ABC’s] best this season and probably one of their better games all time. Because, the last few years, Christmas has done incredibly well for the NFL.”

Jonas Shaffer is a Ravens beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun. Shaffer graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Silver Spring. 

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