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Bills' sellouts important, but home revenue is key

>Q: Last year the NFL seemed to make a big deal about the streak of consecutive sellouts to start the season. If I remember correctly the Bills unfortunately broke the streak. What are the stats for sellouts this season and where have the Bills ranked in attendance figures the past five, 10 or 15 years? With the recent Toronto discussion and the fears of the team someday leaving I would think this would be a critical component in keeping the team in Buffalo. Your thoughts?

-- Ray Dworzanski, North Tonawanda

A: The Bills have ranked in the top 10 in home attendance in the NFL 13 of the last 17 years. They ranked in the top 10 in 10 out of 11 years from 1990 to 2000. Starting with the 2001 season, their attendance ranking has been: 19th, 12th, eighth, ninth, ninth and 19th (in 2006).

The Bills' first six games this season already are sold out. So that will give them sellouts in 33 of their last 39 games through the New England game Nov. 18. Only 12 of 62 games through that New England contest will have been blacked out. That's fantastic for a franchise that hasn't been to the playoffs this decade.

Last season only seven NFL games didn't sell out, and four of them were in Buffalo. So far this season, only five of 116 games have not sold out. Two of them were in Jacksonville.

Of course, what matters more to bottom-line NFL owners than sellouts is revenue generated from home games. The Bills rank in the bottom quarter of the league in that department.

Nevertheless, Bills officials and business leaders who back the team hope that when the team comes up for sale, a prospective bidder will look at the track record of sellouts, sold-out luxury boxes and club seats, a strong season-ticket base and strong support from regional markets in Rochester and Toronto and decide that this is a great place to own a team. Will all that evidence be compelling enough to make that person put forth a bid that's competitive with a bidder from a rich, large North American market? That's the $700 million question hovering over the franchise.


>Q: What is the percentage of onside kicks recovered by the kicking team?

-- Willard Macfarland, Orchard Park

A: This season, the kicking team has recovered 10 of 36 onside kick attempts. That's a success rate of 27.8 percent. Last season the success rate was about 23 percent in situations where the onside kick was expected by the receiving team. I've seen some statistics cited that suggest the success rate is lower than that -- about 15 percent -- on expected onside kicks over the past decade or so.


>Q: How did Buffalo come up with the nickname Bills? Is it after Wild Bill Hickcock, as my wife insists?

-- Peter Kosley, Dallas

A: Close. Buffalo Bill Cody. It dates to a fan contest run in 1946 for Buffalo's All-American Football Conference team.


>Q: Which do you think is the most surprising team in the league so far?

-- Alex Sanders, New York

A: I have to go with Green Bay in the NFC and then give Kansas City the nod over Cleveland in the AFC. This week both the Chiefs (versus Green Bay) and Browns (versus Seattle) have big games. The Browns have an easier schedule the rest of the way than the Chiefs. If Cleveland wins today, the Browns could get to 10 wins.

Bills beat reporter Mark Gaughan answers your football questions every Friday. Send your e-mails to or mail to Question Mark, The Buffalo News Sports Department, One News Plaza, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240.

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