Are you ready for some football? This week's edition of ABC's Monday Night Football, featuring Buffalo and Houston, averaged a 16.8 national Nielsen rating and a 28 share between 9 and 11:52 p.m. That was up from the 16.1/28 season-to-date average for the series...

Monday Night Football ratings are off 11 percent so far from a year ago, and of course the network had hoped for a killing next week when it appeared that two undefeated juggernauts, the Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers and the N.Y. Giants, were scheduled to meet at Candlestick Park ...

But both teams were beaten Sunday. Still, ABC researchers are hoping that the game can attract a 23 or 24 rating, which would help mightily in making up the 1990 deficit ...

The highest-rated Monday Night Football game, a 29.6/46, was Dec. 2, 1985, between the Bears and Dolphins, while the second-highest was the Dallas-Washington game of Oct. 2, 1978, which averaged a 26.8/43. National television audiences have dwindled since those days, but ABC had hoped the 49ers-Giants would nibble at that Cowboys-Skins rating ...

"They're still the two best teams in football," an ABC researcher said yesterday. "There's still a chance they could get near that 1978 average" ...

ABC announced yesterday it has renewed the late-night "Into the Night With Rick Dees" through April. Channel 7, which has been airing Rick at 12:30 a.m. lately, didn't respond when we tried to find out what it plans to do about all this ...

Because it carried the late NFL game on Thanksgiving, CBS (and Nielsen) counted just four editions last week of "Evening News With Dan Rather" ...

Only some 40 percent of CBS affiliates, mostly on the West Coast, cleared the "Evening News" that night, which made it exempt from the Nielsen count ...

But while CBS, ABC and Nielsen agreed that for the week ending Nov. 23, "ABC World News Tonight" averaged a 10.2 national Nielsen rating and a 20 percent audience share for five nights, compared with a four-night count of 9.6/18 for CBS and a five-night 8.8/18 for "NBC Nightly News," NBC researchers decided that Thanksgiving should be ratingzzz-free for all three news shows ...

As a result, the NBC four-night count was an 11.1/21 for ABC, the same 9.6/18 for CBS and -- you won't be too surprised will you? -- a much-more-competitive 9.5/18 for NBC. Honestly, NBC! ...

Two of Captain Airwaves' very few favorites this year (and last year, for that matter), "China Beach" and "Bagdad Cafe," are going off the air ...

ABC Entertainment will pull "China Beach" sometime in December but promises to bring it back before the year is out. The 9 p.m. Saturday entry has completed 10 of the 16 episodes originally ordered, seven of which have aired so far ...

The well-written "China Beach," featuring complex, believable characters who operate an Army hospital near a Vietnam seaside rest camp, had virtually no chance of surviving in the Saturday timeslot following the cardboard characterizations and phony Changing West situations of the kiddie-oriented "The Young Riders" at 8 p.m... .

Predictably, "China Beach," which ranked 82nd among 104 series on the four networks after seven episodes so far this season, was losing more than 4 million viewers each week from "The Young Riders'" lead-in audience ...

A spokesman for ABC said yesterday that the announcement of a replacement for "China Beach" will be made soon. (So long, Dana. Sniffle) ...

(We don't want to be too harsh on "The Young Riders." The Family Channel {formerly the Christian Broadcasting Network}, which does a good job of providing watchable fare to audiences that care about program content, has made a deal with MGM/UA Television to telecast "Young Riders" reruns starting either in the fall of next year (when 46 episodes will be available) or in the fall of 1993, when 90 episodes will be ready) ...

CBS's "Bagdad Cafe," the 8:30 Friday entry, blew up in the network's face last week when co-star Whoopi Goldberg called CBS Entertainment president Jeff Sagansky and quit in the wake of problems with a new producing team on the show ...

According to the trades, CBS Entertainment Productions then halted production on the show after nine of 13 episodes had been finished. "Bagdad Cafe" ranks 71st so far after seven outings ...

It is uncertain just when the final two episodes might show up. Starting this Friday "Cafe" is scheduled to be preempted for at least three weeks (by an "Evening Shade" rerun Friday, followed by a Garfield special and then "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" on Dec. 14). The earliest open date is thus Dec. 21 ...

Goldberg, who starred with Jean Stapleton, reportedly had a run-in with the previous production team too ...

C-SPAN, which has created something of a cult audience with its entertaining Sunday broadcasts of the prime minister's question time from Great Britain's House of Commons, goes considerably farther afield tomorrow morning when it broadcasts live from Tokyo as the Japanese Diet marks its 100th anniversary ...

Between 7 and 9:30 a.m., members of the U.S. Congress and the Japanese parliament will participate in a live call-in from C-SPAN's Washington studios and the Japanese Satellite Broadcast studios in Tokyo. Reps. Dan Glickman (D-Kan.), Jim Leach (R-Iowa) and James Traficant Jr. (D-Ohio) and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) will be joined by three members of the Japanese House of Representatives. Phone lines will be open nationwide here and in Japan so viewers can participate in a dialogue on U.S.-Japan relations, Japanese society, current Japanese political issues, Pacific Rim trade issues and the Persian Gulf ...

The broadcast will also include coverage of some of the ceremonies at the Diet ...

In other Ratingzzz action Monday night, CBS was second behind ABC, led by a 17.8/27 for "Murphy Brown." "The Trials of Rosie O'Neill" lost 6 million TV homes from the "Designing Women" audience (17.1/26) at 10 p.m., to average only a 10.8/19 ...

The NBC movie, "To My Daughter" averaged a 13.5/22 while the Fox movie at 8 p.m., "Working Trash" -- the network's first made-for-TV movie effort -- did a 5.8/9 ...

Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Abdul Amir Anbar, will be interviewed on "Larry King Live" on CNN tonight at 9 p.m. ...

TV RATINGZZZZ

Following are the top 20 network prime-time shows last week, ranked according to the percentage of the nation's 92.1 milllion TV households that watched, as measured by the A.C. Nielsen Co. A share represents the percentage of actual sets-in-use tuned to a particular program when it aired.

..RATINGS.....................................SHARE...NETWORK

1....22.5...60 Minutes...........................36.......CBS

2....20.6...Stephen King's "It" Part II..........33.......ABC

3....18.2...NFL Raiders-Miami....................30.......ABC

4....18.1...America's Funniest People............27.......ABC

5....17.9...America's Funniest Home Videos.......26.......ABC

6....17.8...Murder, She Wrote....................26.......CBS

7....17.7...Murphy Brown.........................26.......CBS

8....17.6...Designing Women......................26.......CBS

9....17.5...The Golden Girls.....................31.......NBC

10...17.4...Empty Nest...........................31.......NBC

11...16.1...Crocodile Dundee.....................27.......ABC

12...16.0...Cheers...............................31.......NBC

.....16.0...Matlock..............................25.......NBC

14...15.3...Full House...........................27.......ABC

15...15.2...Who's the Boss?......................24.......ABC

16...15.1...Major Dad............................23.......CBS

17...15.0...Unsolved Mysteries...................25.......NBC

.....15.0...In the Heat of the Night.............23.......NBC

.....15.0...Head of the Class....................23.......ABC

20...14.9...Family Matters.......................26.......ABC

ABC, with a lot of help from "It," Monday Night Football and low holiday audiences for NBC's powerful Thursday and Saturday nights, won the ratingzzz race for the first time this season ...

For the week ending Nov. 25, ABC averaged a 13.4/23, compared with an 11.8/20 for NBC, an 11.3/19 for CBS and a 7.0 for FOX ...

ABC won Monday, Tuesday and Friday nights. NBC took Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, while CBS took Sunday ...

But the small holiday audiences hit NBC hard, even though it won its usual nights. A rerun of "The Cosby Show," as a big for instance, earned its lowest ratings in the seven-year history of the show. As a result NBC's Bill found himself in 39th place for the week ...

That opened the way for an original episode of FOX's "The Simpsons" to win the 8 p.m. Thursday timeslot for the first time since the two began competing this fall. Bart finished 37th for the week ...

In other highlights and lowlights last week, the NBC Sunday night movie "In the Line of Duty: A Cop for the Killing," was 22nd, while its ABC competition that night, Linda Evans's "I'll Take Romance," was 26th ...

Fox's "Married ... With Children" tied for 29th ...

The Motown special on CBS was 40th, NBC's "Thanksgiving Day" Monday night movie was 42nd and CBS News's "Face to Face With Connie Chung" was 51st ...

The two-hour premiere of CBS's "Broken Badges" tied for 52nd, the CBS Muppets special tied for 57th and NBC's Penn & Teller special tied for 59th. The premiere of FOX's "Comic Strip Live" tied for 69th in a week in which 82 programs were aired on all four networks ...