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Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Blackout watch: Plenty of good seats still available

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Cardinals will need a 24-hour extension from the NFL for any chance at selling out their first home playoff game in 61 years. The Vikings are in even worse shape trying to sell out their first home playoff game since the 2000 season.

Both games could face television blackouts in their local markets. That hasn't happened for an NFL playoff game since the 2001 Dolphins failed to sell enough tickets to lift a blackout for a January 2002 playoff game against the Ravens.

In Minnesota, the Vikings have more than 11,000 tickets remaining despite winning five of their final six games. The Cardinals had about 6,500 tickets remaining Tuesday night.

The NFL requires teams to reach a sellout or near-sellout 72 hours before kickoff to avoid a local TV blackout. Teams routinely receive 24-hour extensions. For the Cardinals, that would mean selling enough tickets by 4:30 p.m. ET Thursday. The Vikings, with a Sunday playoff game against the Eagles, would have an extra day.

What is going on here? Large numbers of season-ticket holders did not exercise options to purchase playoff tickets. Economic factors are surely at work in some cases, but there are presumably more than 11,000 football fans in Minnesota and 6,500 football fans in Arizona with the financial means to spend $50 or $100 or $150 on game tickets.

We are also likely seeing skepticism from fans about the product on the field. That is certainly the case in Arizona, and not without justification. The Cardinals seem to stumble every time they appear on verge of a breakthrough. While the organization has become more credible, it has not yet won the benefit of the doubt. That's why I think winning this playoff game against the Falcons is so important for the Cardinals.

Beating the Falcons would validate the Cardinals' first winning record since 1998 while rendering irrelevant the way they finished the season after clinching the NFC West title. Teams gain credibility by winning when it matters -- in the playoffs. This is a rare and historic opportunity for the Cardinals to prove their skeptics wrong and give fans reason to make a fuller emotional investment in the franchise.