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Why CBS Wants The Jets To Lose

Quarterback Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets walks off the field after the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on in San Diego, California.
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Quarterback Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets walks off the field after the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on in San Diego, California.

It’s the barbershop and water cooler talk across the country.

What Super Bowl matchup will yield the biggest ratings?

Many fans immediately look to market size and figure that the New York Jets have to be one of the teams.

And they’d be wrong.

“The matchup that will do the best is Indianapolis against Minnesota,” said former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson, who now runs his own consultancy firm. “It’s a matchup that features two marquee players in Peyton and Favre and the rating you’ll get for that exceeds any other combination.”

Pilson reasons that the New York market will already pull a big rating anyway and that the Jets being in the game won’t influence the ratings nationally more than Manning’s presence in the game could.

“Sure, you’d get the New York market, but you have to remember that the Jets are largely unknown as you get further away from the Hudson River,” Pilson said. “Networks don’t want Cinderella stories at the end. In baseball, college basketball and football, they want the strong, established teams.”

That’s why Pilson says the Jets against the Saints are the worst matchup.

There’s one caveat to all this analysis and that is that a less desirable matchup can yield a higher rating if the game is better. The quality of the game, Pilson says, overshadows the quality of the teams.

The highest rated Super Bowl in the last decade was Super Bowl XXXIV between the St. Louis Rams and the Tennessee Titans in 2000. That game came down to the last play with the Titans’ Kevin Dyson trying unsuccessfully to reach the ball into the end zone.

If CBS , which is broadcasting the game, gets the ideal matchup in the Colts and Vikings, Pilson said it could be worth up to about four million more viewers than the worst matchup in the Jets and Saints. The Super Bowl, with any combination of teams playing in it, is good for at least 90 million US viewers.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com