Last January, as the San Diego Chargers were preparing for their playoff game against New England, the team decided to employ a policy by which only southern California residents would be able to purchase tickets. Despite the controversy, the game sold out and Chargers fans witnessed a crushing defeat at the hands of the Patriots.
One year later, and Sunday’s wild card showdown against the Tennessee Titans may be blacked out in the Chargers hometown television market since the game hasn’t even sold out. As of this morning, 350 tickets remained for the game, the NFL issuing a 24-hour reprieve before making the blackout decision.
Of course, this can all be forgiven. Despite annually selling out playoff games in places like Pittsburgh and Foxborough complete with blizzard conditions or evening temperatures dipping into the sub-arctic range, you Northeasterners have no idea what’s on tap for San Diegans Sunday afternoon. Rain.
And that’s not all. It’s going to be chilly.
“I've been to playoff games in the rain twice,” fan Manny Rose II - who was selling three tickets online on Craigslist - told the San Diego Tribune. “I would probably prefer to sit in front of the TV. I know that's sad since I'm a die-hard fan, but I see no shame with watching the game on TV.”
Boy, it’s going to be brutal. The National Weather Service has predicted rain and temperatures in the mid-to upper 50’s for game time. Brokers have been drastically cutting their prices for tickets to the game, but that sort of force of nature is nothing to mess with. If everyone’s not careful, things could get very seriously wet.
The weather.com forecast for Foxborough predicts scattered showers and highs in the mid 30s and lows in the mid 20s for next Saturday’s Patriots playoff game. On the same day in Green Bay, there will be snow showers at times and lows in the mid-teens. For some reason though, we imagine you’d be able to catch the games in their respective TV markets.
Maybe not so in San Diego - where it’s no secret the Chargers could threaten a move to LA sans a new stadium built for them – with Ron Burgundy’s drunken and profane valediction the team’s final message to its fair-weather fan base.
Who they're picking
How folks from around the country see this weekend's wild card games:
Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks (Saturday, 4:30 p.m., NBC)
Jim McCabe, Boston Globe: Seahawks. “Just as 12 inches equal 1 foot and 3 feet equal 1 yard, 1 smoot equals 5 feet 7 inches. It's been accepted for nearly 50 years now, so where do the Redskins come off pushing their 5-11 cornerback as something he's not. He's not a smoot.”
Cold, Hard, Football Facts: Seattle 21, Washington 16. "Defenses should rule the day, and Seattle's should be better against a so-so Washington offense. The Seahawks are at home, the have an experienced and proven postseason quarterback and, even on a neutral field, they're just a slightly better team."
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Washington 23, Seattle 20. “[Todd] Collins will be bedeviled by Seattle's Patrick Kerney and the league's best pass-rush west of the Meadowlands, but he'll survive and advance.”
Mike Tanier, Football Outsiders: Seahawks. “The Seahawks are at home, they are somewhat healthy, and they are the better overall team. The Redskins are still playing smoke-and-mirrors football with Todd Collins at quarterback: film study reveals a lot of fullback dives, screens and chuck-it-and-pray bombs to Santana Moss. With three weeks of Collins tape to study, the Seahawks will be ready.”
Cris Carter, Yahoo! sports: Redskins. “Is this the kiss of death for the Redskins since I've picked against them all season?”
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Seahawks 23, Redskins 20. “I see the combination of Seattle's defense, the crowd and expected rain making a mortal of Washington's season-saving, super-sub quarterback Todd Collins. Seattle is in its fifth consecutive playoffs, and that counts for something, too.”
ESPN.com staff: Seahawks, 5-2 (Salisbury, Hoge, yet to pick)
Jeff Zillgitt, USA Today: Seahawks 24, Redskins 20. “The Redskins had to expend plenty of energy to win their final four games of the season just to reach this point. Do they have the energy for one more win? Or are they running on fumes with drained emotion?”
USA Today staff: Seahawks, 5-3
CBS Sports.com staff: Redskins, 5-1
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Redskins 20, Seahawks 17. “Seattle has had trouble running the ball this season, and that's not a good thing against a Washington defense that averaged giving up 3.7 per rush. They will force Matt Hasselbeck to have a big day. The problem is I like the Redskins corners against the Seattle receivers. Washington stays on the roll.”
Foxsports.com staff: Seahawks, 4-1
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Seahawks 27, Redskins 24. “This will turn into a surprising shootout. I give the slight edge to Seattle because of home field and having a few more playmakers at wide receiver.”
Armchair GM's Tecmo simulation: Redskins 24, Seahawks 7.
Our pick: Seahawks 21, Redskins 17. Keep your eye on Seattle. Might throw a wrench into these NFC Playoffs.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers (Saturday, 8 p.m., NBC)
Jim McCabe, Boston Globe: Steelers. “The Steelers have signed Jeremy Bloom to their practice squad. Just in case the turf at Heinz Field develops treacherous moguls.”
Cold, Hard, Football Facts: Jacksonville 24, Pittsburgh 20. "Almost every sign points to Jacksonville in this one."
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Jacksonville 19, Pittsburgh 10. “The Jags are built to play well in weather, unlike most Southern teams. Bad matchup for the Steelers.”
Mike Tanier, Football Outsiders: Jaguars. “The third best team in the AFC is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Weighted DVOA (another Football Outsiders stat, this one adjusted to emphasize recent performance over what a team did in September) sees them as the second best team in the NFL entering Week 17. We're not really ready to rank them above the Colts, but we have no compunctions whatsoever about ranking them ahead of the Chargers and Steelers.”
Cris Carter, Yahoo! sports: Jaguars. “The Jags are among the few teams that match up well physically vs. Steelers.”
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Steelers 20, Jaguars 17. “I like Pittsburgh, somehow, some way. Against logic, perhaps, call it a gut pick. Can't see Jax beating Pitt a fourth consecutive time, and a second in a row so soon at Heinz Field.”
ESPN.com staff: Jaguars across the board (Salisbury, Hoge, yet to pick)
Jeff Zillgitt, USA Today: Jaguars 23, Steelers 20. “As long as the Jaguars don't let the widespread admiration get to their head, they will be fine.”
USA Today staff: Jaguars across the board
CBS Sports.com staff: Jaguars across the board
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Jaguars 27, Steelers 24. “I just don't see the Steelers stopping the Jacksonville offense. Look for points -- if it's not windy -- from both teams, but the Jaguars move on.”
Foxsports.com staff: Jaguars, 3-2
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Jaguars 24, Steelers 17. “Were this game in September, the Steelers would be the no-brainer pick at home. The Jaguars, however, are just the stronger team in January.”
Armchair GM's Tecmo simulation: Jaguars 44, Steelers 21.
Our pick: Steelers 28, Jaguars 14. Anthony Smith’s mouth is taped shut by his teammates following the win.
New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, 1 p.m., Fox)
Jim McCabe, Boston Globe: Giants. “It's rare for an NFL playoff game to struggle for a sellout, but here's one. There is, however, a logical explanation. At 1 p.m., it comes just as the breakfast crowd from the Waffle House is spilling into Hooters for lunch. Football's the last thing on their mind.”
Cold, Hard, Football Facts: Tampa Bay 27, New York 17. "New York looked great in Week 17, but going on the road against an excellent defense just doesn't add up to an upset victory. Plus, as has been widely reported this year, teams are just 4-11 a week after playing New England. And the teams that blew their load and nearly beat New England (Indy, Philly, Baltimore)? They combined to lose seven straight after their near-misses against the Patriots."
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Tampa Bay 27, New York Giants 17. “This is the question you have to ask yourself as a Giants fan: Was that the real Eli who torched the Patriots for four touchdowns last week? Or is it the real Eli the one who threw four TDs in the previous five weeks?”
Mike Tanier, Football Outsiders: Giants. “The Giants will pressure and batter the banged-up Garcia, which will keep the score low and allow Brandon Jacobs and the Giants running game to slug out a win.”
Cris Carter, Yahoo! sports: Buccaneers. “Tampa Bay's zone defense should confuse Eli Manning, forcing him into turnovers.”
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Buccaneers 19, Giants 17. “Eli Manning threw 20 interceptions this season to Jeff Garcia's four. In what figures to be a low-scoring game that could swing on mistakes, give Tampa the best shot at playing error-free. Garcia is 4-1 vs. the Giants, including 2-0 in the playoffs, and should find success against a beatable secondary.”
ESPN.com staff: Buccaneers, 4-3 (Salisbury, Hoge, yet to pick)
Jeff Zillgitt, USA Today: Giants 24, Buccaneers 17. “Despite a 38-35 loss to New England in Week 17, the Giants should be playing with confidence. They took the Patriots the distance and even had them on the ropes. Plus, New York won games when it had to and didn't fall apart in the second half of the season like it had in previous seasons.”
USA Today staff: Giants, 5-3
CBS Sports.com staff: Buccaneers, 4-3
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Giants 23, Buccaneers 17. “The Giants are the better team, and it will show.”
Foxsports.com staff: Buccaneers, 4-1
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Giants 23, Buccaneers 20. “The Giants are the NFC's version of the Jaguars in the sense that they both finished second in brutally tough divisions. Being battle-tested in that way will also help New York squeak by on Sunday.”
Armchair GM's Tecmo simulation: Giants 21, Buccaneers 17.
Our pick: Giants 20, Buccaneers 17. Changed the winner of this game three times. Whatever.
Tennessee Titans at San Diego Chargers (Sunday 4:30 p.m., CBS)
Jim McCabe, Boston Globe: Chargers. “Just a few weeks ago these teams met in Nashville and what chaos.”
Cold, Hard, Football Facts: San Diego 31, Tennessee 14. "Tennessee has no advantages here, and they're on the road with their starting QB less than 100 percent, and the're playing a team that has stormed up the rankings in almost everyone of our Quality Stats over the second half of the season. This should be ugly."
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: San Diego 36, Tennessee 10. “Titans have a grand total of nine touchdown passes this year. They can't score enough to keep up with the resurgent Chargers.”
Mike Tanier, Football Outsiders: Chargers. “We just picked Norv Turner to win the second playoff game of his head coaching career. Hey, we picked Marty Schottenheimer last year. We love life on the edge.”
Cris Carter, Yahoo! sports: Chargers. “Albert Haynesworth is not 100 percent, and the Titans lack outside speed.”
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Chargers 30, Titans 23. “Jeff Fisher over Norv Turner is the biggest head coaching disparity in this round, but I like San Diego (No. 3 AFC seed) getting by despite Norv in the Sunday late game.”
ESPN.com staff: Chargers across the board (Salisbury, Hoge, yet to pick)
Jeff Zillgitt, USA Today: Chargers 28, Titans 21. “Of all the road teams, the Titans have the least chance of winning.”
USA Today staff: Chargers across the board
CBS Sports.com staff: Titans, 4-2
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Chargers 21, Titans 14. “The Titans will keep it close for a while, but the Chargers will make a defensive play late and find a way in the end to advance.”
Foxsports.com staff: Chargers across the board
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Chargers 30, Titans 20. “Fisher will pull out all the stops with whoever is healthy to go for him to make this interesting, but eventually the talent of LT and his other highly skilled teammates will win out.”
Armchair GM's Tecmo simulation: Chargers 28, Titans 21.
Our pick: Chargers 38, Titans 15. If the Chargers win and nobody is there to see it…