NFC South: television blackouts

You can watch Bucs live in Hawaii

August, 22, 2012
TAMPA, Fla. -- If you live in the Tampa Bay area and can't wait to catch Friday night’s preseason game between the Buccaneers and Patriots on live television, you might want to consider a trip to Hawaii.

Seriously, Honolulu television station KFVE 5 will broadcast the game live. The station (along with a whole bunch in New England) regularly carries all of the Patriots’ preseason games live.

That’s an option you won’t have if you’re in the Tampa Bay area. Once again, the Bucs have announced they don’t have a sellout and the game can’t be shown live within a 75-mile radius of Tampa Bay.

It wasn’t a huge surprise when last week’s home game with Tennessee did not sell out. The Titans aren’t exactly a marquee team. But I thought there was a chance the Patriots could help deliver a rare sellout to Raymond James Stadium, especially when you consider the fact the Bucs have taken a new NFL option that allows them to declare a sellout if they sell 85 percent of their non-premium seats. I also thought it would help that the Patriots are a marquee team and there are lots of New England transplants in Florida.

Apparently, none of that mattered. I guess it’s not that big of a surprise.

Selling out regular-season games in Tampa is difficult. In the past two seasons, the Bucs have sold out only two home games.

Around the NFC South

July, 18, 2012
A look at Wednesday morning's top headlines from around the division.
  • There’s no doubt the Saints will miss suspended coach Sean Payton. But Bradley Handwerger writes that offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. is more than qualified to call the plays. Carmichael took over that role when Payton was injured in a sideline collision early last season. Even after Payton recovered from his injury, he let Carmichael continue to call plays and the Saints set all sorts of offensive records.
  • D. Orlando Ledbetter has an overview of the cornerback situation for the Falcons. We all know Brent Grimes, Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel will be the top three corners. The best battle could be between Dominique Franks and Christopher Owens for the No. 4 spot.
  • The Times-Picayune continues its series on the top 25 Saints with guard Ben Grubbs at No. 8. Seems a bit high. Grubbs was brought in to replace Carl Nicks, who might have been the best guard in the league. Grubbs is good, but he’s not quite as good as Nicks and Jahri Evans.
  • In an affidavit on behalf of linebacker Jonathan Vilma, New Orleans assistant head coach Joe Vitt denied the Saints ran a bounty program. That’s not a big surprise. New Orleans players and coaches steadfastly have said there was no bounty program.
  • A judge has agreed to move Vilma’s hearing from Aug. 1 to July 26 on a temporary restraining order on his season-long suspension. July 26 is also the day the Saints will have their first training-camp practice. A settlement hearing involving Vilma, the NFL and the NFL Players Association is scheduled for July 23.
  • Although the Bucs were the only NFL team to take advantage of a new NFL rule allowing the baseline to lift television blackouts to drop to 85 percent of general-admission seating, Stephen Holder writes that local blackouts remain a possibility.

NFC South afternoon update

July, 16, 2012
Time for a run through some Monday headlines from around the NFC South.
  • The New Orleans Saints now have signed their entire draft class. They announced a deal with fourth-round receiver Nick Toon on Monday afternoon.
  • Bradley Handwerger tackles the issue of if the Saints will blitz more or less with new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo next season. The answer is a pretty obvious less if you go back and look at what Spagnuolo did in his St. Louis days and what the Saints did under former coordinator Gregg Williams. That might not be a bad thing because the Saints need more stability in their secondary. But they’re going to have to find ways to generate a consistent pass rush from the front four.
  • When he hasn’t been busy signing autographs, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has been making television commercials. He’s got a new one out.
  • Atlanta defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux pulled off a surprise tribute to his mother.
  • Stephen Holder explains why the Buccaneers were the only team to take advantage of a new NFL rule designed to help prevent home teams from having games blacked out on local television.
  • Knox Bardeen has cornerback Dunta Robinson at No. 17 on his list of the top 20 Falcons. Fellow cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Brent Grimes haven’t appeared in the rankings yet, so I think it’s safe to assume they’re going to come in ahead of Robinson.

Bucs seeing spark at box office

March, 27, 2012
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- We’ll find out in the fall if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ signings of free agents Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright will help the team on the field. But that trio already has made an impact at the box office.

That’s significant for a team that’s struggled to sell tickets in recent years. Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer said Tuesday at the NFL owners meeting the team has seen an increase in ticket sales since the free-agency splash.

“Definitely,’’ Glazer said. “First of all, our season-ticket holders from last year, we’ve seen the enthusiasm through the renewals. In new sales, we’ve had a great response. You just sense it in the community. There’s an excitement and a connection going on and a re-engagement that maybe hasn’t been there the last couple of years. We’re going to build on that in a lot of different areas to get our fans more engaged.’’

That should be nothing but good news for a team that has sold out only two home games in the past two seasons. Glazer wouldn’t go into specifics about the team’s season-ticket base and he wasn’t ready to say local television blackouts of home games will permanently end just yet.

“That’s our goal,’’ Glazer said. “That’s extremely important to us, but we have work to do there. We’re rolling up our sleeves. For the fourth year in a row, we’ve lowered our ticket prices. We’ve created ticket pricing for all fans and it’s very important for us to be accessible to all fans.’’

But committing more than $140 million to the three free-agents wasn’t a move designed to be a publicity stunt to create traffic at the box office. It’s part of a much larger plan.

“People question why this didn’t happen two or three years ago,’’ Glazer said. “Well, when we settled on this plan a few years ago, the plan was draft, develop and, at the appropriate time, add veterans. To bring in veterans early on to us just puts you on the wrong path. This was the appropriate time. Not only was it the appropriate time, you had some unique players out there, the kind of players that we could add that could add something to our football team and in the locker room. I think the complement was fantastic, the timing was as we always expected. We’re excited. It’s energized our fans. It’s energized our organization.’’

We’ve talked about the Bucs’ plan here many times in recent years. There’s a misconception by some out there that ownership simply was cheap for a few years and made a huge shift in organizational philosophy this offseason. That’s not at all true. The Glazers and general manager Mark Dominik simply are following a plan that has a proven history of success in the modern NFL.

That’s to build through the draft, keep your key players and add appropriate free agents at the right time. In the NFC South alone, I’ve seen similar plans work in Atlanta and Carolina, to varying degrees and at different times (the Saints have had success with a plan that involves the draft, but also relies a good deal on free agency). I’ve seen similar plans work elsewhere in the league – think New York Giants and Green Bay Packers, who have won recent Super Bowl teams.

Then, I think about the teams that have spent tons in free agency in recent years. Dallas and Washington haven’t accomplished all that much in recent years. Philadelphia’s “Dream Team’’ turned into a bit of a nightmare last year.

I think the Bucs are on the right path. These things don’t happen overnight. But if the Bucs stay on the path they’re on, they’ll get back to a point where Raymond James Stadium isn’t filled with empty seats on Sundays.

Southern exposure for Week 10

November, 11, 2011
Time for our weekly look at where the NFC South games will be televised Sunday.

Let’s turn to the maps on for visual assistance. You might need to put on some reading glasses to find the yellow areas where the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Houston Texans will be televised.

The game is not sold out, so it will be blacked out in the Tampa Bay area. The game will air in a small portion of South Florida and a stretch of North Florida and Southern Georgia. It will get better play in East Texas and Western Louisiana. But much of Florida will be watching the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts.

The game between Carolina and Tennessee also isn’t getting great exposure. It will be shown in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and in a couple patches in Mississippi and Alabama.

But the first-place showdown between New Orleans and Atlanta will get huge exposure. It will be carried through almost the entire country, except the markets where other FOX games include teams from those markets.

Southern exposure for Week 5

October, 6, 2011
Time for our weekly look at what NFC South games will be televised in what areas.

The Atlanta Falcons host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night and that game will be carried across the nation. But the Saints, Panthers and Buccaneers also will be getting pretty good exposure. Let’s take a look at the map on

The Panthers host the Saints at 1 p.m. ET, and that game will be shown through pretty much the entire South, except for Florida. But the viewership for that game is going to extend upward. The game also will be carried through much of Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.

The Bucs play at San Francisco in a late-afternoon game. Since it’s on the road, there are no worries about a local blackout in the Tampa Bay area. The game will be shown through most of Florida. It also will air in much of California, Nevada and Utah. The game also will be picked up in a few random markets, including Kansas City (where Josh Freeman is a big deal), Houston and parts of Tennessee, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

Southern exposure for Week 5

September, 29, 2011
Time for our weekly look at which NFC South games will be televised in what markets.

For a change, it looks like the whole nation will get to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They host the Colts on Monday night on ESPN and team officials have said the Bucs are closing in on a sellout. If the game sells out by Friday night, it will be shown in the Tampa Bay market.

That would end a streak of 10 regular-season games at Raymond James Stadium that haven’t sold out. It also would save Tampa Bay from being the first team to have a Monday night blacked out locally since Atlanta at the end of the 1999 season.

Let’s turn to for a look at where the other NFC South games will air.

The Saints play at Jacksonville at 1 p.m. Sunday and the Panthers play at Chicago at the same time. Neither team will get huge exposure because the game between Detroit and Dallas will be shown through much of the country. The Saints and Jaguars will air in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Northern Florida.

The game between the Panthers and Bears will air throughout North Carolina, parts of South Carolina and in Illinois, Iowa and Indiana.

The Falcons play at Seattle in a late afternoon game that won’t get a lot of exposure. That game will be shown mainly in Georgia, Tennessee and the Pacific Northwest.

Southern exposure for Week 3

September, 22, 2011
Time for our weekly look at what NFC South games will be televised in what areas.

Let’s turn to and look at the map. Houston is at New Orleans and Jacksonville is at Carolina in games that start at 1 p.m. ET. The Texans and Saints are going to get the larger exposure. That game is basically being shown everywhere from Atlanta to the New Mexico line, plus some parts of the Midwest and even a small patch of the Pacific Northwest.

The Jaguars and Panthers will be shown in a much smaller territory. They’ll be shown throughout North Carolina, most of South Carolina, a small part of Virginia on the Georgia coast and in the upper half of Florida.

The Buccaneers and Falcons play a 4:15 p.m. game that’s not going to get huge exposure. The game will be blacked out in the Tampa Bay area because it did not sell out 72 hours prior to kickoff. Fans staying home can watch Green Bay and Chicago, which will be shown throughout much of the country.

The Bucs and Falcons will air only in a small pocket of Southwest Florida, all of Georgia and Alabama and parts of Mississippi, Louisiana and South Carolina.

NFC South Stock Watch

September, 13, 2011
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


1. The “hot’’ coordinators in the NFC South. New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Greg Olson all got outcoached badly in their openers. These are guys whose names come up in conversations when you talk about potential head coaches. If they keep coaching this way, they’ll stay as assistants.

2. Tampa Bay’s pass rush. The Bucs have known for a couple of years they needed to get better on the defensive line. That’s why they drafted tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price in the first two rounds in 2010 and ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers this year. It didn’t make a bit of difference Sunday. The Bucs didn’t record a sack and allowed Matthew Stafford to throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns.

3. New Orleans coach Sean Payton. There was a time when there was no room to question Payton’s play calling. But fans started doing it after his decision to run rookie Mark Ingram and take the ball out of Drew Brees' hands on the final play of Thursday night’s loss to Green Bay. New Orleans fans are passionate and they’ve been spoiled by success the past couple of seasons. If the Saints get off to a slow start, they’ll start questioning Payton’s decision to move his family to Dallas.


[+] EnlargeCam Newton
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireIt's safe to say that no one, except maybe the Newton family, expected Cam Newton to throw for over 400 yards in his NFL debut.
1. Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney. Who’s making a huge mistake now? Not Hurney. Although fans and some members of the media said Hurney was asking for catastrophic results if he drafted Cam Newton with the No. 1 overall pick, that suddenly is looking like a very smart move. Yeah, Hurney also drafted Jimmy Clausen and Armanti Edwards. But if Newton’s record-setting debut is any indication of the future, he’s going to make things a lot brighter for Hurney and the entire organization.

2. The possibility of a Week 4 local television blackout in Tampa Bay. That’s the "Monday Night Football" game against the Indianapolis Colts. Once upon a time, it was thought the presence of Peyton Manning would guarantee a sellout at Raymond James Stadium. Now, Manning’s hurt. Speaking of hurting, the Bucs’ performance in the opener isn’t going to help sell many tickets.

3. Atlanta owner Arthur Blank. Could he have known about or prevented Michael Vick's downfall in Atlanta? It’s possible. But that’s the past and Vick and Blank made their peace long ago. That will make things a lot smoother Sunday night when Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles come to Atlanta. Blank kept in touch with Vick while he was in prison and told commissioner Roger Goodell he believed the quarterback deserved another shot in the NFL. The game between the Eagles and Falcons might bring back memories, but it’s not a grudge match.

Southern exposure for Week 1

September, 7, 2011
The Atlanta Falcons are going to get massive exposure in their Sunday game with the Chicago Bears.

Take a look at the map of where games will be televised on the excellent website Look at the red states because those are the ones where the Falcons and Bears will be the featured game at 1 p.m. ET on FOX. Looks like they’ll be taking up more than half the country.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions (look real hard for the little splashes of green) will play in the same time slot. The game has not sold out, so it will not be televised in the Tampa Bay market. Its only Florida exposure will be in the Panhandle and the Naples area. Outside of that, it looks like Michigan will be the only other place where the game is televised. Viewers in Tampa and Orlando can watch the Bears and Falcons.

We all know the Saints play Thursday night at Lambeau Field and that game will be televised all across the nation.

I’m a little surprised to see the 4 p.m. ET game between Carolina and Arizona is getting so little exposure. The Panthers and Cardinals might not be a marquee matchup, but it is Cam Newton’s NFL debut. The game will air only in North Carolina and Arizona and parts of South Carolina and Nevada.

Bucs don't expect sellout Thursday

August, 15, 2011
Despite a 10-win season last year, Tampa Bay’s fortunes don’t appear to be improving at the ticket office.

The team said Monday that it does not expect to sell out Thursday night's preseason game with New England. The team also said the second preseason home game, against Miami, isn’t likely to be a sellout.

Games that aren’t sold out -- even in the preseason -- are not allowed to be aired in the local television market. That was an issue for the Bucs and their fans last season. Tampa Bay did not sell out any of its preseason or regular-season home games last year.

Around the NFC South

June, 24, 2011
Time for a run through the headlines from around the NFC South.

D. Orlando Ledbetter reports that the proposed rookie wage scale could cost Atlanta receiver Julio Jones millions of dollars. The player picked in the same draft spot as Jones (No. 6 overall) last year got a deal with $30 million in guaranteed money. It’s likely the new labor agreement will funnel some guaranteed money away from rookies.

The father of Carolina receiver Armanti Edwards was convicted of killing another man and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Carolina rookie quarterback Cam Newton is featured in the latest issue of GQ magazine.

The brother of New Orleans defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove reportedly was stabbed to death in Florida.

Although there has been some talk about the NFL easing its rules on local television blackouts, the topic didn’t come up at Tuesday’s league meeting as owners focused on the labor situation. If a change hasn’t come by now, it’s rather unlikely anything will be done this season. The Buccaneers failed to sell out a single home game last season and those games were blacked out on local television.

Buccaneers drop 2011 ticket prices

January, 18, 2011
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who didn’t sell out a single home game in 2010, announced they are making some significant changes to their pricing structure for 2011.

“Our organization has spent a lot of time listening to our fans at this time when our team is thriving and our economy is not," co-chairman Joel Glazer said. “As a result, we are now offering several pricing changes in response to our community’s needs.’’

The Bucs sent out a list of highlights of the changes in pricing.
  • Tens of thousands of season-ticket prices have been reduced by up to 20 percent, with adult tickets starting at $35 per game. In addition, youth tickets (16 and under) are now available for purchase in any upper level section at 50 percent off adult prices, starting as low as $17.50.
  • Select season parking has been discounted by up to 40 percent, now starting at $13.50 per game.
  • Season-pass holders will also receive 10 percent off of all stadium food, beverage and merchandise purchases.
  • The Buccaneers also have introduced a 10-month payment plan for season tickets.

Prior to this season, the Bucs had sold out every game since the opening of Raymond James Stadium in 1998. At various points in the early part of the previous decade, the team said it had an extensive waiting list for season tickets. But that waiting list disappeared, season-ticket sales dropped dramatically, and the Buccaneers had home games blacked out on local television for the first time in more than a decade. Many of the 2010 home games drew crowds of around only 40,000, even though the Bucs were one of the league’s most surprising teams. With the league’s youngest roster, they went 10-6 and narrowly missed the playoffs.

Final Word: NFC South

December, 24, 2010
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 16.

The no-show bowl. I think it’s safe to say that next week’s Outback Bowl between Penn State and Florida will draw this season’s biggest crowd to Raymond James Stadium. Penn State fans are known for traveling and Tampa isn’t far for most Florida fans to travel to say farewell to coach Urban Meyer. It’s a good matchup. But, even though I’m wearing a Penn State hat as I type this, I don’t see how the Gators and Nittany Lions are that much better of a matchup than Sunday’s game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Seahawks are very much in the hunt for the NFC West title and the Bucs still can get to the playoffs if they win this one and next week at New Orleans. This game won’t be aired on local television in the Tampa Bay market, and it’s probably going to draw about 35,000 fans. Blame it on the economy, the day after Christmas or whatever. But it seems pretty strange that every other game in the league with playoff implications sold out with ease.

[+] EnlargeMatt Ryan
Mike Nelson/US PresswireQuarterback Matt Ryan has led Atlanta to the NFC's best record this season at 12-2.
Brees or Ryan? We talked about this the other day. Is Drew Brees still the NFC South’s best quarterback or has Matt Ryan surpassed him this season? I believe it’s a real close call and I think we’ll know the verdict immediately after Monday night’s game. In other words, the winner takes all -- at least for this season.

Running on empty. The Bucs have been one of the great success stories of the league this season after going 3-13 last season. They’ve turned the corner and the future looks bright. But last week’s embarrassing home loss to Detroit tells me the Bucs might have finally hit the wall this season. Coach Raheem Morris has squeezed every drop of talent out of his young team, but a ton of injuries appear to have finally caught up to the Bucs. Only a few weeks ago, I would have said the Bucs were headed for 10 or 11 wins. Now, the eight wins they already have is looking like a pretty realistic measure. This season has been a success in many ways. But winning against the Seahawks or next week in New Orleans would be nice, because it would allow the Bucs to close the season with momentum that can be carried over to next season.

Special rivalry. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way, and it’s really nothing more than a hunch. But I think Monday's game between New Orleans and Atlanta will come down to special teams. My reason is simple. In their previous meeting in the Superdome in September, the Falcons won largely because Garrett Hartley missed a field goal. Atlanta fans like to remind New Orleans fans of that miss. And New Orleans fans like to remind Atlanta fans that the NFC South standings and the overall playoff picture might look a lot different if the Falcons hadn’t been “lucky.’’ Lucky or good, I think a special-teams play will make the difference in this one. Maybe it’s a made or missed field goal attempt, a long return of a kickoff or punt or something else on special teams. It just seems like special teams are becoming a natural part of the NFC South’s best rivalry.

High-stakes game. This game has huge meaning for both teams. But let’s boil it down to simple terms. If the Falcons win, they are the NFC South champion and will hold the No. 1 seed in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. If the Saints win, they still have a shot at grabbing those two things from the Falcons. New Orleans also would have to win its finale against Tampa Bay and the Falcons would have to lose their finale against Carolina. If that happens, New Orleans would claim the No. 1 seed. Oh, by the way, I haven’t been able to confirm it yet, but there are rumblings that Atlanta receiver Roddy White has invited Trent Dilfer to hang out on the Falcons’ sideline -- or maybe not. (Here's what Dilfer said about the Falcons earlier this week.)

Seeing red about NFC South exposure

December, 15, 2010
I'm looking at a website that quickly has become one of my favorites ever since it was recommended to me by Tampa Bay media-relations guru Jonathan Grella a month or so ago. It's called and it provides a weekly map of what games will be shown where throughout the entire country.

I make it a point to check each week where the NFC South teams will get exposure and, as I often am, I was a little flabbergasted and disappointed when I looked at this week's map.

New Orleans at Baltimore, the game I'll be covering in person, sure looks like a marquee matchup to me. When you look at the map, it's the green game. Problem is you have to squint pretty hard to find the green that shows you where the game will be shown. Kind of ironic because the dominance of red and blue on the map made me back up from the computer.

In a nutshell, the Saints and Ravens are going to be shown in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Maryland and extreme western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Oh, and there's one little green splotch down in Florida -- basically the Tampa Bay market, where I leave and the Bucs and Lions will be blacked out on local television.

We'll leave Tampa Bay's attendance issues alone for the moment because we've talked about that all year and you wouldn't expect a visit from the Lions to change in anything. But, let's go back to the red and blue games because that's where I see some real issues.

We'll give the red game a little slack because it involves the Eagles and the Giants and that's not a bad matchup. But, is it that much better than the Saints and Ravens? I don't think so, but the Eagles and Giants are basically being shown from coast to coast.

But what really makes me see red is the blue game. That is the Cowboys and the Redskins. I get it that Dallas and Washington are big markets and, once upon a time, the Cowboys and Redskins were actually relevant in the world.

Not sure about you, but if I lived in someplace like San Antonio, I think I'd head to Louisiana for the weekend and check into a hotel just to watch the Saints and Ravens.

And let's not forget about the Falcons, the team with the NFC's best record. They're playing at Seattle in a late-afternoon game, but that's not exactly going to get big play. It's the orange game on the map and it looks like it will air in the Pacific Northwest, Georgia and parts of its adjoining states and a few little pockets in the Midwest.

After all, the rest of the country will be watching those classic tilts between the Broncos and Raiders and the Jets and Steelers in that time slot. No offense intended to the Steelers, but I'd rather watch the Falcons than the Broncos, Raiders and Jets.

One last thing, on a positive note, it looks like the game between the Cardinals and Panthers will be shown only in North Carolina, Arizona and portions of South Carolina. Sounds about right and I feel a little bad for the friends I have in those states. But the guy I feel worst for might be FOX television's John Lynch, who has to announce this classic showdown between Jimmy Clausen and John Skelton.

I covered Lynch for a big chunk of his career and there aren't many nicer guys out there. What did Lynch do to deserve this one?