PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- We've been wrong about the National Football League's blackouts already this season -- thanks largely to NFL teams such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers increasingly using loopholes to avoid them -- but all bets are off when it comes to televised football in late December.
Of last season's 15 NFL games taken off the air for failing to sell out a venue 72 hours in advance of kickoff, six (40%) came in December. It isn't exactly a mystery why, either: The temperatures get colder, the weather gets more punishing and teams that had tough seasons get closer to elimination. Last season, the four teams that blacked out games in December -- the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills -- had a combined record of 24-40 at the end of the season.
All missed the playoffs.
This year, the Buccaneers are out of that mix despite a sub-.500 record and nonexistent playoff prospect. The Glazer family of owners teamed with sponsors to exploit a loophole in the NFL blackout rule that allows sponsors to buy back tickets at a third of the price and hand them out to local charities. That leaves the other four, and a strong chance that at least one of them will go off the air before the season's end.