Prior to the start of the season, not too many people expected the Eagles to make a push into the playoffs this winter, let alone be hosting a home game during the first weekend of January. However, it didn’t take the Philadelphia faithful long to react after their Eagles secured their spot and a Saturday showdown against the Saints at Lincoln Financial Field.
Tickets for the Eagles’ first playoff appearance since 2010 went on sale Tuesday afternoon and sold out within minutes. That's not surprising considering the devotion the city shows to its sports teams - especially the one in green.
What is surprising, however, is the fact that the Eagles/Saints showdown slated for Saturday evening is the only one of the NFL’s four first-round playoff games that is actually sold out at this point. Thousands of tickets remain for games in Green Bay, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis. The deadline to sell out those games is 72 hours before the teams' respective kickoffs. If the games aren't sold out, there could be blackouts in the home television markets.
Considering the national popularity and success of the NFL, it seems strange and somewhat surprising that the league would be unable to sell out multiple post-season showdowns. That's especially true in a place like Green Bay, which has seen 309 consecutive sellouts (including playoffs), and has upwards of 100,000 people on its season ticket waiting list. The possibility of a game not being sold out in Cincinnati and Indianapolis is a little less surprising, but still, you would expect the local support to at least fill up an arena.
If a sellout if not achieved, the game is blacked out so that the locals cannot catch it on television. The blackouts seem harsh, but they work to encourage attendance.
The NFL extended the deadline for this weekend’s games due to the recent holidays, so the teams were given additional time to sell tickets. It's likely that the deadline will be extended further, so that the league avoids the embarrassment of empty seats for its biggest games.
The league hasn’t had a playoff blackout since 2002, when the Ravens took on the Dolphins in a Wild Card game in Miami. Roger Goodell and company can’t be too excited about the prospect of another one, let alone multiple in the same weekend.
The NFL and fans of the respective franchises - not to mention TV executives - are hoping a lot of tickets are scooped up in the 11th hour in order to avoid a lot of black screens on Sunday.
Philadelphia fans, because of their passion and desire to see their teams succeed, won’t have to worry about this issue however. Lincoln Financial Field will be filled to capacity, and it's safe to say that many more seats could be sold if they were available. And of course, plenty of local bars will be showing the Eagles game, as well as the others, on every available screen, bereft of blackout.