When it comes to on-field results, the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders have very little in common. The Chargers have won four straight AFC West championships, the longest streak in the National Football League and the longest streak of AFC West crowns since the Raiders won five in a row from 1972-76, back when the league played a 14-game schedule. The Raiders have not only suffered seven straight losing seasons but have lost at least 11 games every time, the longest such skid in NFL history.
But the two teams share an ignoble honor this week: A blacked out home opener.
The Chargers and Raiders announced Thursday, September 16 they had not sold out their Sunday, September 19 games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and St. Louis Rams, respectively. NFL games not sold out within 72 hours of kickoff are blacked out on television within a 75-mile radius of the home stadium.
For the Chargers, the blackout—the franchise’s first since 2004, breaking a streak of 48 straight sellouts that included five playoff games—may be a sign that fans are losing patience with the team despite its recent success and steeling themselves for a down season.
The Chargers have won just three playoff games despite reaching the postseason five times in the last six years. They have won at least 12 games in a season three times in that span but have lost their first playoff game by a field goal every time.
During the off-season, the Chargers parted ways with the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, LaDainian Tomlinson, and became embroiled in protracted contract disputes with leading receiver Vincent Jackson and offensive lineman Marcus McNeill. The Chargers were upset in their opening game by the Kansas City Chiefs, whom the Chargers beat by a combined 59 points in two meetings last year.
Blackouts are commonplace more than 450 miles to the north, where the Raiders’ “Black Hole”—the end zone section where their most rabid fans sit—has been blacked out for 77 of the 121 home games the team has played since moving back to Oakland from Los Angeles for the 1995 season. This weekend’s blackout will be the eighth straight for the Raiders, whose last sellout was the 2009 home opener against the Chargers. It will be the first home opener blacked out since 2004.
With new quarterback Jason Campbell taking the reins from all-time bust JaMarcus Russell and the Raiders enjoying a productive draft, hopes were reasonably high in Oakland that the Raiders might be ready to break a skid that began the year after they reached the Super Bowl and has spanned five head coaches (including current Chargers head coach Norv Turner). But a 38-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the season opener didn’t do much to engender the belief this year will be any different than the previous seven.
The blackouts in San Diego and Oakland raise the NFL’s total to three this season. It could have been four if not for the league giving the Detroit Lions an extension to sell the remaining 2,000 tickets to their home opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Teams which may have a challenge selling out next week include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who had the only blackout of week one, as well as the Jaguars and Rams, who combined for 10 blackouts last season. Working in the Buccaneers’ favor is their opponent—the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose fans tend to travel well.