Bengals short of sellout vs. Texans

The Cincinnati Bengals, in first place in the AFC North and one of the NFL's biggest surprises with a 4-1 record, are facing a blackout for Sunday's home game against the Houston Texans.

According to the Bengals, they will need "a significant increase" in the pace of ticket sales this week to avoid being blacked out.

By league rule, if Sunday's 1 p.m. ET game is not sold out by Thursday afternoon, home television markets in the Cincinnati area will not be able to show the broadcast of the Bengals, who are on a four-game winning streak. The Texans are 2-3.

There is a chance the team could get a 24-hour extension to avoid the blackout.

The Bengals have sold out 46 straight home games in the regular season and playoffs, but Ohio has been one of the hardest-hit areas during the economic recession.

Coincidentally, the previous Bengals home game that did not sell out also was against Houston, on Nov. 9, 2003, when both teams were 3-5.

James Walker covers the AFC North for ESPN.com.