Rules changes should make West wilder

Seattle's 12th Man has come in handy for the team recently, by way of noise-related penalties. AP Photo/John Froschauer

"Stadiums will now be free to rile up crowds with video displays, and public-address announcers will no longer be restrained from inciting racket when the opposing offense faces a crucial third down." -- the Wall Street Journal

It's unclear how much louder CenturyLink Field can become, but a few well-timed highlights featuring knockout hits from Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor should help us find out.

Likewise, shots of Tony Romo's infamous botched hold against Seattle in the playoffs years ago should come in handy when Romo is breaking the huddle at CenturyLink for the Seahawks' home opener this year.

Think San Francisco 49ers fans might want to revisit 2011 video from the team's five sacks on Matthew Stafford right before Stafford breaks the huddle at Candlestick Park for the Sept. 16 home opener this year? Bank on it.

Arizona's University of Phoenix Stadium was tough on visitors during the Cardinals' playoff runs a few years back. Watching Sam Acho's fumble-forcing sack on Tarvaris Jackson from Week 17 last season should help enliven the atmosphere when Seattle visits Arizona for the opener.

Under the new rules, we should expect visiting offenses to suffer from additional noise-related penalties. San Francisco and Seattle already fielded formidable defenses last season. Arizona's defense reached that point late in the season. St. Louis expects marked improvement on that side of the ball under a new coaching staff, and with a healthier defense featuring personnel additions.

The Seahawks have boasted about ranking among the NFL leaders in false starts by visiting opponents. They should have additional opportunities to pad those numbers.

A few additional thoughts on the NFL's efforts to close the gap between surging TV ratings and sagging attendance through an improved stadium experience:

  • Blackout rule adjustment: For years, the NFL's blackout policy has prevented games from airing locally when failing to sell out 72 hours before kickoff. The rules did not apply to the more expensive club seats, but still, the bar was too high for some. The NFL plans to loosen rules in the future, with some restrictions.

    2011 NFL Attendance

    From the Journal: "Under the new rule, each team has more flexibility to establish its own seat-sales benchmark as long as it is 85 percent or higher. To discourage teams from setting easy benchmarks, teams will be forced to share more of the revenue when they exceed it."

    NFC West teams avoided blackouts last season. The Rams did purchase tickets to avoid blackouts. The new rules should make it easier for the Rams to get their home games on TV. And if coach Jeff Fisher delivers a product worth watching, it'll be easier for the locals to reinvest emotionally.

    The chart, based from information from the Journal, shows stadium capacity percentages from last season. Their information shows the 49ers filling every seat for every game, with 587 seats available on average for Seattle games, 3,819 for Arizona games and 9,606 for St. Louis games.

  • Setting the tone: Overall, it's good to see the NFL acknowledging an obvious need to improve the experience at stadiums. As a parent, I'd like to see more done to encourage a raucous atmosphere without the profanity, extreme drunkenness, marijuana smoke and other hazards that can give families even more reason to watch from the safety of their living rooms. The 49ers have announced plans to become more proactive on this front.