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Sundays not as super

The NFL, after spreading its Week 16 schedule over four days of Christmas weekend to maximize ratings, wraps up its regular season this Sunday with a rarity: all 32 teams playing on the same day.

It might be the last time we see that happen, given the spread-out opening weekend, "Monday Night Football," bye weeks, and late-season Saturday afternoon games.

All signs for 2006 point to new TV deals calling for expanded Thursday and Saturday packages, especially late in the season. And next year, the final one under the present TV contracts, the final two Sundays of the season fall on Christmas and New Year's Day, meaning many games could be pushed back to Saturdays.

Meanwhile, Sunday's 49ers-Patriots game is a Fox telecast (Channel 25, 1 p.m.) because San Francisco, the visitor, is an NFC team. Channel 4 can't have a competing game in the 1 p.m. window even though it is a CBS doubleheader day. Thus we'll get only Colts-Broncos on Channel 4 at 4:15. ESPN's regular-season finale will be Giants-Cowboys at 8:30.

Put on bowling shoes
Thursday's Continental Tire Bowl matchup of soon-to-be ACC rivals Boston College and North Carolina (ESPN2, 1 p.m.) will be called by Dave Pasch, Rod Gilmore, Trevor Matich, and Rob Stone. WEEI will have the game on radio, one of 13 bowls it will air starting with today's Independence Bowl at 6:30 p.m. and running through next Tuesday night's Orange Bowl.

John Rooke, who will call BC-North Carolina for WEEI, said, "Everyone connected with the program would rather have been in Arizona, but, as that other coach in town says, `It is what it is.'

"But BC right now is going to a bowl for the sixth straight year and has the top streak in the country with four straight bowl victories. This bowl looks like the only non-BCS game that will be a sellout. Of course, that means there will be a lot of North Carolina fans there."

Brent Musburger will call Saturday's Fiesta Bowl (Pittsburgh vs. Utah, Channel 5, 8:30 p.m.), the game the Eagles likely would have been in if they hadn't fallen to Syracuse, 43-17, in their regular-season finale.

"They would have gone into the ACC on a high note if they'd gone to the Fiesta," said Musburger. "And the conference -- the ACC -- would have pounded its chest. The Big East obviously is the weakest of the conferences that get automatic bids, but Pittsburgh deserves to be there. They played well down the stretch.

"Now the story for us is that we've got two schools with lame duck coaches [Utah's Urban Meyer is headed for Florida, Pittsburgh's Walt Harris to Stanford] for what they're saying is the first time in a Jan. 1 bowl. But, for BC, they have to take care of business when they get to the ACC."

A fine line
It was a tough call.

Option 1: Watch Sunday's Patriots-Jets game in high definition without the yellow "1st & 10" line.

Option 2: Tune in to the standard telecast, with both the "1st & 10" and blue "line of scrimmage" graphics.

Actually, there wasn't any choice for the first 20 minutes, when the game was available only in standard format, pending the finish of the 1 p.m. games.

While watching then, I found that WBCN had synchronized the radio call of Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti to the CBS broadcast, and that finalized the decision. And when both the Jets and Patriots went for first downs on fourth and short in the fourth quarter, it was nice to have the yellow line.

The telecast did a 30.3 rating (54 share) in Boston, which is solid, but you could have expected higher given the snowy weather, bad driving conditions, and late-afternoon start.

"The rating would have been higher if it had been a normal Sunday," said Ross Kramer, research director at Channel 38. "But with so many people traveling and so much out-of-home viewing, the number came in lower. Plus, it wasn't much of a game after halftime. You would have expected the Jets to be more competitive."

Poll position
Were you as surprised as I was when the voting in's "Sweet 16 Poll" favored the Patriots' victory against the Rams in the Super Bowl over the Red Sox' World Series victory as "Boston's Greatest Sports Moment"? The Patriots received 54.8 percent of 34,169 votes cast. In the semifinal voting, that Super Bowl win squeezed by the Sox' ALCS win over the Yankees, 50.8-49.2, with 15,042 votes cast. Tomorrow's Boston Globe "Sports Plus" on NESN (6:30 and 10:30 p.m.) will have Ron Borges and Nick Cafardo joining host Tom Caron to discuss the poll . . . ABC's traditional NBA "season opener" on Christmas Day did a strong 8.0 rating nationally but only a 4.2 in the Boston market. Game 1 of the day's "doubleheader," Pistons-Pacers on ESPN, did a 1.8 locally . . . HBO's "Real Sports" has won 13 Emmys over the years. Tonight's edition (10 p.m.) puts a twist on the show, revisiting and updating four of the year's best stories. The update of the Jayson Williams trial may make you wonder about the human condition, but the other three stories more than make up for it. One likely will win the show a 14th Emmy . . . ESPN will debut "Kick Track," a graphic aimed at enhancing placekicking coverage, in tonight's Insight Bowl (Notre Dame vs. Oregon State) at 9:45 p.m. and Thursday's Holiday Bowl between Texas Tech and California at 8. "Kick Track" was developed by Sportvision, the folks who brought us "1st & 10" and "K Zone." "Kick Track" will be used in replays to show the exact point the football crosses between (or misses) the uprights . . . NESN is airing "Classic Bruins" games nightly at 7 this week. Tonight and tomorrow are Whalers matchups from 1990, followed by two days of Bruins-Canadiens, then Bruins-Devils Saturday . . . Rooke, a freelance announcer all over New England in addition to hosting the midday show on Providence's WSKO (790 AM) and calling BC football and Providence basketball, has quite a holiday week: Today, he's hosting a show on ESPN radio; tomorrow, he's off to Charlotte for the Continental Tire Bowl; two hours after the game, he's on a flight to San Diego to call the Providence-San Diego State basketball game on New Year's Eve; on New Year's Day, he flies back across the country; and Sunday he's on duty as the Gillette Stadium PA announcer . . . CSTV has the Florida College Classic hockey tournament today with Maine-St. Cloud at 4, and BC-Cornell at 7:30, plus tomorrow's championship game at 7:30.

Bill Griffith's e-mail address is 

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