BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Super Bowl 51 was, in Western New York, the highest-rated television program in at least 17 years. That's according to the Nielsen ratings, measured in Buffalo since 2000.

Buffalo landed in the No. 2 spot for viewership in the nation, ahead of both Atlanta and Boston, the home bases for the Falcons and Patriots.

It's not hard to figure out why.

"We really hate Tom Brady and the Patriots," said Drew Goss, Buffalo resident.

"I was rooting for the Falcons, but definitely when the Patriots came back, it made it a much more interesting game and it was very fun to watch," said Chris Plantone, Rochester resident.

"You have teams like Jacksonville and other places who would love to have a quarter of the viewing the Bills have, so this here is just as perfect as you can get. This town is just die-hard for the Bills and die-hard for the NFL. I think, especially this year with (Commissioner Roger) Goodell and the Deflategate mess, and I think a lot of people tuned in just to see what that was going to look like," said Patrick Tutka, Ph.D., a Niagara University Sports Management Assistant Professor.

No matter how long it takes Buffalo to return to the Super Bowl, Tutka says these viewership numbers for the biggest game of the year bode well for the franchise's future.

"If you're the Pegulas right now, you're really smiling because as you look at the life of New Era Field, you're at the end of it, and you're looking at a new stadium in the not-too-distant future because you love to see these types of numbers where your fan base is really plugged into the NFL and really supportive of your team," said Tutka.

Experts say Buffalo is also consistently in the top five for NFL games during the weekly ratings.