NFL Teams Can't Sell Enough Tickets, Could End in TV Blackout
PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- Sure, the National Football League looks very pretty on high-definition television and feels all warm and cozy from the comfort of a well-heated living room, but it's playoff time. Surely die-hard football fans will brave the cold to see their wild-card teams fight for a Super Bowl berth, right?
You'd think so. In a season the NFL kept only two home games off local television for lack of attendance -- compared with 15 games 2012, 16 in 2011 and 26 in 2010 -- the league's owners are perilously close to flushing all of that good will by keeping three of four playoff games off the air in their hometowns this weekend.
Fans in the Philadelphia metro area are the only homers ensured a spot on TV this weekend. The Eagles sold out their Wild Card matchup with the New Orleans Saints without much issue, but they're the only NFL team not scrambling to sell tickets today. The Indianapolis Colts have sold out 103 straight games, but still have roughly 5,000 tickets left for their matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Cincinnati Bengals, meanwhile, blacked out two games in 2012 and 10 games in the two years before, but didn't keep a single game off television en route to an AFC North title. While most teams would be ecstatic to not only win their division, but keep the hated Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers out of the playoffs altogether, the Bengals celebrated their feat by flirting with a blackout of their opening-round matchup with the San Diego Chargers -- a team the Bengals beat in early December. Even the suggestion that the game would be blacked out earned a sharp rebuke from Ohio's Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown , who's opposed blacking out games at stadiums paid for with public money.
Most surprising of all is the announcement that the Green Bay Packers -- the community-owned, in-the-blood, Frozen Tundra Packers -- might black out their playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. That's not only a rematch of a hard-fought playoff game from last year, but a playoff game in Green Bay. The last time one of those was blacked out, in 1983, it came after a strike-shortened season during the 16-team Super Bowl tournament that replaced the normal playoff.
There are myriad reasons behind all of it. The weather isn't supposed to be great in any of those locations this weekend, as a particularly unpleasant winter continues to freeze fans in northern climates. There's also the small matter of money, which is a big deal when Cincinnati is offering the cheapest starting ticket price of $86. These are three of the league's smallest markets and -- as football-mad as Indianapolis and Green Bay tend to be -- a combination of tough driving conditions, freezing game-day temperatures (less of a concern in the Colts' indoor facility) and triple-figure ticket prices is tough to take. That's especially true immediately after a spate of holiday travel and spending.