Unless their fortunes on the field change drastically in the next couple of months, the Buffalo Bills could have up to four home games blacked out locally this season.
The team previously announced that its first three home games - this Sunday against Kansas City, Sept. 30 against New England and Oct. 21 against Tennessee - were sold out.
But the other four games in Orchard Park will be difficult to sell out, team officials acknowledged.
"We have a long way to go with the four remaining games, and right now Miami [Nov. 15] is in peril of not being sold out for a prime-time game," Bills Chief Executive Officer Russ Brandon said.
Each of the three December home games - against Jacksonville, St. Louis and the New York Jets - has roughly 20,000 tickets still available, Brandon said. And the Bills' lone prime-time home game, the Thursday night date with the Miami Dolphins, still has about 9,000 tickets left.
"That's a lot of inventory to move in the next two months," Brandon said.
Three weeks ago, things looked a bit rosier for the Bills, when the team announced it had sold 43,267 season tickets for 2012, an increase of 15.8 percent over last season's total of 37,355.
Despite the offseason high-profile, free-agent signings of defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, the team has had a tough time selling its final four home games.
That's been made more difficult by the fact that the team has three December home games, always a tough sell in Buffalo. And then the prime-time weeknight game, while attractive to many, doesn't draw well in some outlying areas, such as Ontario and the Rochester and Syracuse areas.
To make matters worse, the Bills stumbled badly out of the gate Sunday, in a humiliating 48-28 loss to the Jets.
If the blackouts occur, that could be a sore point for Bills fans because of a new NFL policy that allowed teams to have local TV blackouts lifted if at least 85 percent of nonpremium seats were sold. The Bills, along with several other teams, opted out of that new policy, so games here have to be sold out completely 72 hours before kickoff to lift the blackout.
The reality, though, is that if the Bills had opted in at the 85 percent level, that might have saved only the Miami game from being blacked out, and even that wouldn't be a certainty. To reach the 85 percent figure, the Bills would have had to sell at least 51,000 of the stadium's 60,000 nonpremium seats.