When it comes to describing the demand for tickets to the NFC Championship Game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears Sunday, January 23, Max Waisvisz of Gold Coast Tickets in Chicago is exaggerating — but not by much.
“Oh my God,” Waisvisz told TicketNews. “Biggest game ever.”
A perfect storm of geographical proximity and historical significance has turned the NFC title tilt into the hottest ticket in sports. The Bears-Packers rivalry is the oldest in the NFL, but the 182nd game between the two teams — separated by less than 200 miles — is only the second postseason meeting between the teams and the first since 1941, when the Bears beat the Packers in a Western Division playoff to advance to the NFL Championship.
“Last week, we couldn’t even sell a Bears-Seattle ticket,” Waisvisz said, referring to the divisional round game in which the Bears beat the Seahawks, 35-24, at Soldier Field. “The Bulls–Miami Heat was bigger than the Bears’ playoff game. This week, nobody’s thinking about anything except the Bears.”
According to figures released by ticket search engine FanSnap.com, the average price for a Bears-Packers ticket as of today, Thursday, January 20, is $869 — exactly double the average price of the New York Jets–Pittsburgh Steelers AFC Championship Game. There were 2,223 tickets available to the Bears-Packers game as of this afternoon on StubHub.com, the cheapest of which was a seat in Grandstand 429 listed for $379.99.
“It’s the hottest Bears ticket ever and the hottest NFC Championship ever,” FanSnap.com spokesperson Christian Anderson said in a statement.
Waisvisz said the demand for Bears-Packers is unlike anything he’s ever seen for a pre-championship round game or series. “The White Sox, we were getting $900 a ticket when they were in the World Series [in 2005] for the first time in a long time,” Waisvisz said. “And in the Michael Jordan days, we were getting [big] money. But that’s the NBA Finals. This is definitely a great thing and it should be bigger than anything because it’s Green Bay and the Bears and those Cheeseheads can just come right across the border.”
Remarkably, this is only the third time since 1941 the Bears and Packers have qualified for the playoffs in the same season. In 1994, both teams won their wild card games before falling in the divisional round. In 2001, the Packers won a wild card game and the Bears had a bye but both teams lost in the divisional round.
Other than that, when one team has been up, the other has been down. Between 1942 and 1969 — the last season before the NFL merged with the American Football League — the Bears and Packers finished as the top two teams in the Western Division and were separated by a game or less just twice.
The Bears won five straight NFC Central titles and one Super Bowl under Mike Ditka from 1984-88, during which the Packers never finished above .500. The Packers went 10-6 in 1989, when the Bears went 6-10. Then the Bears reached the playoffs in each of the next two years while the Packers finished below .500 both seasons.
From 1992 through 2004, the Packers finished .500 or better every season and missed the playoffs just three times. The Bears endured 10 sub-.500 seasons in the same span and reached the playoffs just twice. The Bears won the NFC North in 2005, when the Packers finished 4-12, and won the North and reached the Super Bowl in 2006, when the Packers were 8-8. The Packers reached the playoffs in 2007 and 2009, two seasons in which the Bears finished 7-9, and went 6-10 in 2008, when the Bears went 9-7 but missed the postseason.