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Bigger underdogs than the Giants -- which means there's always hope

Star running back Brian "Smash" Williams (Gaius Charles) hasn't always pleased demanding coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler).

Critical acclaim remains high for NBC's Friday Night Lights, which won a prestigious Peabody Award last year.

Ratings are still a big downer, though, which puts the Austin-made series in deep limbo after its Friday, Feb. 8th episode, fittingly subtitled "May the Best Man Win." That exhausts the second-season supply of 15 episodes made before the writers' strike halted production late last year.

There's a fair chance the walkout will come to an end next week, which would give Lights a chance to gear up for a handful of new episodes before the TV season officially ends in May. But there's just as good a chance that NBC will pull the plug and punt the show into its cancellation bin.

The Peacock has given Lights a fair shot in the face of a season-long slump in the prime-time Nielsens. Last Friday's episode drew just 5.6 million viewers nationally to rank 50th among all prime-time programs. And its ratings performance generally has been even worse in football-crazy Dallas-Fort Worth.

There's always a "Hail Mary" hope, though. Lights easily is NBC's highest-quality drama series, and that's not entirely lost on the network. So we'll see if the stars somehow align. If not, it's been a pleasure to be among the relatively few who never miss an episode of Friday Night Lights and its fractious Dillon Panthers. They always came to play.