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NBC 'Flexes' Muscles; Wins Sunday Night

In an upset, NBC took Sunday night in the 18-49 demo, according to Nielsen overnight numbers. The caveat is that the numbers are preliminary and could change when the West Coast returns come in.

Although Desperate Housewives was the night's top show by a full two rating points at a 9/20 at 9-10, NBC got strong numbers across the night for its first "flex" game--a markee matchup between the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants with playoff implications for two top TV markets. The draw of games that mattered rather than the luck of two teams that might be down on their luck by the second half of the season was the reason behind the NFL offering NBC the "flex" element, in which the league picks some key matchups to switch into the Sunday night slot, though this was one of the games the NFL picked early, rather than a late substitution.

It was close, though, with NBC averaging a 5.8/14 to ABC's 5.7/14 in 18-49's for the night. ABC actually got strong performances out of Brothers & Sisters at 10-11 (5.2/13) and the always reliable EM: Home Edition at 8-9 (5.4/13), but each was beaten by NBC's football coverage.

Fox was third with a 4.6/11, helped mightily by the overrun (6.7/19) of the Pittsburgh-New Orleans game, which was a lot closer than the final 18-point victory for the Steelers. Fox also scored a 5.2 with a new episode of The Simpsons.

CBS was a distant fourth at a 3.6. Its top show was Without a Trace, with a 4.1/10 at 10-11.

The CW averaged a 1/2 for repeats of Smallville and Next Top Model and a new Seventh Heaven, not surprisingly its top show at a 1.4/3.