ATLANTA (AP) -Let's see what's on television this weekend in Atlanta. There's plenty of football, of course. A NASCAR race, too. And, rest assured, MTV will be running ``A Shot At Love With Tila Tequila'' for the umpteenth time.
Don't bother flipping around for the Falcons game, though.
For the first time since 2001, the struggling team is going dark in its own city, the latest fallout from the Michael Vick fiasco. The TV blackout was imposed when the Falcons failed to sell out Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers by the 72-hour deadline, threatening their streak of 56 full houses in a row.
This could be a blessing for all those folks who don't have tickets. Instead of being tempted to watch two bad teams, they can go for a picnic. Or drive into the mountains to watch the changing leaves.
``The fans have a right to make whatever decision they want to make on that,'' Atlanta linebacker Keith Brooking said. ``It's all about supply and demand. Simple economics. Obviously, there's not a lot of demand for our football team right now.''
The Falcons (1-6) have played it close most games, but they're well on their way to the type of season everyone expected when Vick pleaded guilty to dogfighting charges, leading to an indefinite suspension from the NFL and likely prison sentence.
During No. 7's tenure as the starting quarterback, the Falcons sold out every home game at the 70,000-seat Georgia Dome and boasted of having a waiting list in the tens of thousands. Now, this franchise appears to be trending back to the way it was during the pre-Vick era, when Atlanta rarely sold out at home unless a popular opponent was in town.
``The fans are a big part of what we do,'' running back Jerious Norwood said. ``But if they don't show, then we've got to continue to move on and play ball.''
San Francisco (2-5) started the season with two straight wins but hasn't won since. The offense has been especially dismal, managing just 51 points during the five-game skid.
Alex Smith will likely start again at quarterback, despite a separated right shoulder that's still so shaky he has to tape it to his body for the game. He struggled last week, completing 22-for-43 for 190 yards in a 31-10 loss to New Orleans, but the 49ers have apparently decided that a less-than-100-percent Smith is better than backup Trent Dilfer.
``It's one thing if it's to another part of your body, then it's an injury like any other. But all of a sudden it's your throwing shoulder, it starts affecting you a little bit,'' Smith said.
``There's so many different throws you have to be able to make. No two throws are alike. You're moving out of the pocket and you have to sidearm one. You're throwing from all these different angles. I'm just kind of learning to deal with that.''
He's not the only one hurting. Running back Frank Gore is slowed by a sprained ankle.
``It's especially bad because in my position, I've got to cut, and it just keeps messing with you,'' Gore said. ``I wish it would have happened when we had the bye week. This thing is tough.''
The Falcons are coming off a bye week, which gave them a chance to approach the rest of the season as a do-over.
``I'm not going to say we completely forgot, because we've got to learn from the first half of the season,'' fullback Ovie Mughelli said. ``But we're trying to forget as far as the mistakes and all the pain, all the disappointment, all the frustration. We want to put that all aside and try to be 1-0 in this new season.''
1-0. That has a nice ring to it.
No one is as eager for a fresh start as Joey Harrington. The quarterback who already lost starting jobs in Detroit and Miami made it a hat trick in Atlanta, getting demoted in favor of Byron Leftwich before the bye week.
But Leftwich went down with an ankle injury in his first start for the Falcons, requiring surgery. While he's on the mend a few weeks, Harrington gets yet another chance at the No. 1 job.
``He wants to show everybody that he deserves the position, that he can be a starting quarterback for this team or any team,'' Mughelli said. ``I think he's going to come out swinging.''
But Harrington may be missing a big weapon in the Falcons offense. Tight end Alge Crumpler missed the last game with knee and ankle problems, and he doesn't want to come back until he's fully recovered.
``That's a huge loss,'' Harrington said. ``He's someone you look for on every play. He's someone who can make a play for you, who can make that spectacular play. Not having him in the lineup means everyone else is going to have to pick up the slack a little bit.''
While the 49ers seem committed to turning things around under coach Mike Nolan, the Falcons have endured plenty of turmoil in Bobby Petrino's first season.
Crumpler criticized the direction of the team a few weeks ago, and Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall blasted the decision to cut Grady Jackson, one of the team's most effective defensive linemen.
Hall has vowed to keep quiet the rest of the season.
If this keeps up, he won't have to worry about being seen, either.

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