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Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed.-Sun., Nov. 21-25)

Just three weeknights remain in the November "sweeps," with only one big battle still in the balance.

That's the fight for second place at 10 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. NBC5 is clinging to a thin two-tenths of a rating point lead over CBS11, but the latter station can count on big lead-ins Monday and Wednesday nights from CSI: Miami and CSI: NY. So the Peacock will have to score big with Tuesday night's Law & Order: SVU, a solid bet to whomp CBS' ratings-deficient Cane.

Belo8 otherwise will score decisive wins at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. in both total homes and with 25-to-54-year-olds. And Fox4 will turn back a strong challenge from Belo8 at 6 a.m..

NBC5, which ran the table at 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. last November, has been out of those races throughout these sweeps. It will be the Peacock's most dismal ratings performance in this century. More on this in our complete sweeps report this Thursday.

Gamesmanship otherwise dominated the Thanksgiving period, and that's not just football. NBC5 "threw out" all of its local newscasts from Wednesday to Friday, which is allowed by Nielsen during holiday periods. None of those ratings will be figured into the final sweeps averages.

Belo8 counted only Wednesday's 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts, where it won across the board.

CBS11 counted all of its Wednesday newscasts, and also its Thanksgiving, 10 p.m. entry, where it placed first in both total homes and with 25-to-54-year-olds.

Fox 4 threw out all of its Good Day hours for the three-day period, but otherwise counted its 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts on Wednesday, and its 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts on Friday.

Thanksgiving's big attraction, the Cowboys rout of the Jets, averaged a relatively lowly 616,207 homes on CBS11. That makes it the least-watched game of the regular season, "surpassing" the Sept. 16th Cowboys-Dolphins faceoff on Fox (625,949 homes).

Green Bay's earlier Thanksgiving Day win over Detroit drew 348,291 homes on Fox4. Now comes the battle of the titans Thursday, with MY27 the broadcast beneficiary in D-FW on a game that otherwise belongs to cable's still fledgling NFL Network.

Still warring with Time Warner and Comcast, the NFL Network remains largely invisible to the country at large. But league rules require a game to be shown on free TV in the two teams' home markets. So MY27, sister station of Fox4, will be cashing in big-time when the two 10-1 teams clash Thursday night.

One more pro football note: The down-to-the-wire New England-Philadelphia game on NBC's Sunday Night Football averaged a robust 433,537 homes to beat everything in its path, including a first run episode of ABC's Desperate Housewives.