By Jason Notte
The Street

NFL teams now have the power to stop television blackouts of their home games, but that doesn't mean they'll do so.

The NFL blackout policy dates back to an act of Congress in 1961 preventing home games from showing on TV stations that broadcast within a 75-mile radius of the stadium if tickets aren't sold out 72 hours before kickoff. At the end of June, six months after the Federal Communications Commission agreed to review the policy, the NFL took its first step away from those restrictions: It announced that teams would be allowed to broadcast games within their local coverage area even if only 85 percent of tickets are sold.

What's the catch? It's up to the teams' owners to decide if they want to adopt that 85 percent threshold. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers adopted the lower "sellout" mark in July and lowered ticket prices after blacking out 13 of their past 15 home games. The Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers didn't feel quite as strongly and stuck to the 100 percent mark despite blacking out games in each of the past two seasons and trying to pry hundreds of millions in stadium construction and improvement costs out of their local governments.

This takes heat off the NFL just after it inked television deals with ESPN, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox that will boost NFL revenue more than 60 percent by 2022 -- and places the heat right on the individual teams and their owners. By revising the blackout rule despite watching its blackout rate drop to 6.3 percent last year from 8 percent between 2001 and 2010, 31 percent in the 1990s, 40 percent in the 1980s and 50 percentin the 1970s, the NFL issued a subtle reminder that only some of the 31 teams who took public money to build their stadiums are denying fans access to the on-field action.

There are still going to be blackouts this year, but the NFL will get less of the blame despite not repealing the rule altogether. As the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints prepare to kick off the preseason with Sunday's Hall of Fame Game, we take a look around the league at the teams most likely to take their games off television this year. The eight teams listed here will have different reasons for pulling their game broadcasts out of local bars and living rooms, but they'll all resort to the same tactics to try to draw a packed house next time:




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