The NFL playoffs begin this weekend and the teams that will host postseason games shouldn’t have much trouble filling the seats, though tickets are still available for some games. Here’s a look at how the playoff teams that could host a game have fared at the gate, traditionally as well as recently.
First up is the American Football Conference (AFC), which will hold Wild Card games Saturday night, January 8, at 8 p.m. EST and Sunday, January 9, at 1 p.m. EST. A National Football Conference (NFC) preview will run tomorrow, January 5.
The sixth-seeded New York Jets in the AFC and the sixth-seeded Green Bay Packers in the NFC cannot host games no matter how far they advance in the playoffs.
1.) New England Patriots: The Patriots’ success, at the gate and on the field, is almost incomprehensible considering how bad they were in all facets of the game before Robert Kraft bought the team following the 1993 season. The Patriots went 14-50 in the four years prior to Kraft buying the team, had the worst attendance, revenues and facilities in the league at ancient Foxboro Stadium — where most of the seating was of the bleacher variety — and were seconds away from moving to St. Louis before Kraft stepped in.
In the 18 seasons since, the Patriots have won three Super Bowls, five AFC championships, recorded a remarkable record of 185-103 and sold out all 169 home games at Foxboro Stadium and Gillette Stadium, which opened in 2002 and is considered one of the best and most modern stadiums in the league. In addition, this season marks the fourth time in eight years the Patriots have won at least 14 regular season games. The two possible playoff games at Gillette Stadium are obviously sold out and the cheapest ticket listed on StubHub.com as of today, January 4, for the AFC semifinal Sunday, January 16 is a $150 seat in Upper Corner 339, more than two times the face value of $65.
2.) Pittsburgh Steelers: Before the Patriots there were the Steelers, which were founded in 1933 and had seven winning seasons in their first 39 seasons, during which they played in a grand total of one playoff game. Since 1972, though, the Steelers have won an NFL-record six Super Bowls, reached the playoffs 25 times and become a model of stability with just three head coaches in that span. The Steelers have sold out their last 317 games, including the playoffs, at Three Rivers Stadium and Heinz Field, the latter of which opened in 2001, and “Steeler Nation” is considered the best traveling fanbase in the NFL. The most inexpensive ticket listed on StubHub for the Steelers’ semifinal game Saturday, January 15 is a $146.99 seat in Upper Level 523. The cheapest ticket at Ticketmaster.com, which will begin selling Steelers playoff tickets Wednesday, January 5, carries a face value of $95.
3.) Indianapolis Colts: More than a quarter-century removed from their midnight move from Baltimore, the Colts have become one of the NFL’s preeminent franchises on the right arm of Peyton Manning, whose surefire Hall of Fame tenure in Indianapolis coincides with the Colts’ sellout streak of 89 games at the RCA Dome and Lucas Oil Stadium (which the Colts moved into in 2008) dating back to the final game of Manning’s rookie season in 1998. The Colts’ NFL-record streak of seven straight 12-win seasons ended this year, but despite an injury-wracked roster, they won their final four games to win the AFC South and reach the playoffs for an NFL-record-tying ninth straight year and the 11th time in 13 years under Manning. The Colts made the playoffs just 13 times in 45 years prior to Manning’s arrival. The cheapest ticket listed on StubHub for the Colts’ Wild Card game against the New York Jets Saturday, January 8 is a $72 Terrace End Zone seat that carries a face value of $55.
4.) Kansas City Chiefs: Arrowhead Stadium, long considered one of the toughest places to play in the NFL, regained its buzz this season as the Chiefs won as many games (10) as the previous three seasons combined and won the AFC West for the first time since 2003. The Chiefs were 7-1 at Arrowhead, dropping only their meaningless regular season finale against the Oakland Raiders, and sold out all eight home games. That’s not normally a noteworthy feat, except the Chiefs failed to sell out their home finale last year, which brought an end to their streak of 159 straight capacity crowds dating back to the first game of the 1991 season. The Chiefs, which haven’t won a playoff game since 1993, will host the Baltimore Ravens in a Wild Card game Sunday, January 9. The cheapest ticket listed on StubHub to that game is a $44 Upper Red View seat. A search on Ticketmaster.com for two tickets brings back two Club Level seats in Section 231 priced at $295 per seat.
5.) Baltimore Ravens: Despite winning 12 regular season games — a total exceeded by only the Patriots and Atlanta Falcons — the Ravens, which lost the AFC North crown to the Steelers by virtue of the Steelers’ better divisional record, will likely have to win three road games in order to reach the Super Bowl. The Ravens can only host a playoff game if they reach the AFC Championship and face the sixth-seeded Jets. Winning on the road in January is nothing new to the Ravens, though: They are 7-3 on the road or at neutral sites in the playoffs all-time. The Ravens have sold out all 120 home games at Memorial Stadium (1996-1997) and MT&T Bank Stadium since Art Modell’s controversial relocation of the Cleveland Browns in 1996.