Remember last year?
The narrative was that three of the four home teams hosting wildcard games struggled selling out, nibbling against their respective deadlines to sell out before a local television blackout was blanketed over the region. On Dec. 29, which landed on a Sunday and the regular season finale in 2014, marked one week until Cincinnati's scheduled wild card home game against the Chargers. There were nearly 15,000 tickets remaining. The NFL granted Cincinnati a 24-hour extension and, with the help of local companies, announced the sellout.
It wasn't just a Cincinnati thing either.
On Jan. 1, 2014 (a Wednesday), the Colts, who were hosting Kansas City during wild card weekend, had 5,500 unpaid tickets 24 hours before the deadline. Green Bay had 8,500 remaining. There are reasons/excuses that are mustered up every year. The reality is that the home experience is becoming more preferred but that the chances for a postseason blackout are always on the radar.
This year is far less dramatic.
Per a tweet sent out by WTHR.com columnist Bob Kravitz, the Colts have 2,000 unpaid tickets now and, if they're unable to sell out by the deadline, are in a position to for a league-granted extension. Stephen Holder with the Indianapolis Star tweets that the "odds of a Colts sell out" that would lift the television blackout are looking good at this point.
"I can't imagine we'd be blacked out. Things are going very, very well. We've only got a couple thousand tickets left and they're being sold as we speak. I fully recommend folks go online or go down to the Lucas Oil (Stadium) ticket office," Colts Vice President of Ticket Operations Larry Hall said.
There is historical evidence when first-round tickets tend to struggle. A couple of years ago, the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals required extensions. In 2000, the New Orleans Saints had over 11,000 unsold tickets and whittled it down to 4,500 in just two days and eventually 1,700 before the league granted an extension. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in 2009 that games played in the first round of the playoffs are always "the most challenging" due to the late scheduling, writes the New York Times.
Traditionally, Aiello said, if they are close enough to a sellout, the teams work with their sponsors to buy the remaining tickets
The Bengals and Colts knew they'd be hosting a playoff game before week 17 in 2013, but with both teams still qualifying for a first-round bye on that Sunday, and the league not releasing the playoff schedule until half time of the Sunday Night game, many hesitated to commit. Green Bay wasn't even in the postseason last year until the regular season finale when Aaron Rodgers completed a 48-yard touchdown pass in the final minute to clinch a postseason berth and the NFC North.
At least four playoff games have been blacked out since 1990 (we found others): A wild card game between the Lions and Packers in Detroit ('92), the Bills comeback against Houston in Buffalo ('93), the Ravens and Dolphins in Miami (2000) and the Colts and Dolphins in Miami (2001). In the end, the NFL's archaic blackout policy generated a little embarrassment that the league would rather avoid.