The NFL playoffs begin this weekend, and like the AFC, the National Football Conference (NFC) teams that will host postseason games should not have much trouble filling the seats. Yet, as of today, January 5, tickets were still available for some games, so here’s a look at how the playoff teams that could host a game have fared at the gate, traditionally as well as recently.
1.) Atlanta Falcons: What a difference three years makes. In 2007 the Falcons were reeling from the arrest and eventual imprisonment of franchise quarterback Michael Vick and mired in a 4-12 season when their streak of 56 straight sellouts at the Georgia Dome came to a halt. But buoyed by a new management team as well as quarterback Matt Ryan, whom the Falcons selected with the third pick of the 2008 draft, the Falcons have put together the greatest run in franchise history. The Falcons have enjoyed three straight winning seasons for the first time ever, have won at least 11 games in two of the last three years after producing double-digit wins just four times in their first 42 seasons and are the top seed in the NFC playoffs for just the second time ever. The Falcons have also sold out all 24 home games since the start of the 2008 season and sold out their allotment of playoff tickets in just eight minutes last month. The Falcons will open postseason play against the lowest-remaining seed in the NFC on Saturday, January 15 and as of today, January 5, the cheapest ticket listed on StubHub.com is for Upper Corner 341, which is selling for $105. The least expensive face value ticket offered by the Falcons was priced at $65.
2.) Chicago Bears: With head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo under fire after the Bears went just 23-25 and failed to make the playoffs in any of the three seasons since their Super Bowl run in 2006, most people figured the Bears would be cleaning house this week instead of enjoying a bye as the NFC North champs and the NFC’s second seed. But good health and good fortune (seven of the Bears’ 11 wins were by seven points or less) have the Bears preparing for a game against the highest-remaining seed from the wild card round on Sunday, January 16 at legendary Soldier Field, where the Bears have sold out their last 214 regular season games, the eighth-longest streak in the NFL. The Bears will put tickets on sale through Ticketmaster.com today. At StubHub.com, the cheapest available ticket is a seat in Grandstand 430 listed for $179. The least expensive face value ticket offered by the Bears is $107.
3.) Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles seemed primed to grab one of the top two seeds after their historic 28-point fourth quarter comeback against the New York Giants Sunday, December 19, but an upset loss to the Minnesota Vikings nine days later locked the Eagles into the three seed before they lost the meaningless regular season finale to the Dallas Cowboys. The late-season fade took some of the shine off the Eagles, which scored 30 or more points six times this year and climbed into the Super Bowl discussion on the left arm and legs of the resurgent Vick, who played the best football of his life less than two years after he was released from prison. But history suggests the Eagles will win at least one playoff game: They have reached five NFC Championship Games in the last 11 years under coach Andy Reid and last year’s loss to the Cowboys in the wild card round marked the first time the Eagles were eliminated in their first playoff game in eight trips to the playoffs with Reid at the helm. The Eagles have sold out their last 96 regular season games at Veterans Stadium and Lincoln Financial Field, which opened in 2003. The least expensive ticket to the Eagles’ game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, January 9 is a $105 Upper Level End Zone seat. The cheapest ticket offered at Ticketmaster.com was $95, but a search for two seats this morning generated no results.
4.) Seattle Seahawks: By any measure, the Seahawks are the worst NFL playoff team of all-time: Not only did they “win” the NFC West with a 7-9 mark — the first time in NFL history a sub-.500 team has reached the playoffs in a full season — but all nine of their losses came by at least 15 points and they ended the season with seven losses in their last 10 games. But hey, the Seahawks won the only one that mattered, the finale against the St. Louis Rams Sunday, January 2. The victory meant they get to host the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints — which won 11 games — in a wild card game Saturday, January 8, as bizarre as that sounds. The Seahawks have sold out 64 straight games at Qwest Field and appear likely to draw a capacity crowd this weekend, though NBCs Al Michaels seemed to hint at the challenge of selling tickets to a playoff game featuring a 7-9 team when he repeatedly mentioned that tickets were on sale for the Saints game as time wound down in the Seahawks win over the Rams. The cheapest available seat at Ticketmaster.com as of this morning is a club seat in the 235 section at midfield, which costs a cool $405.65. Fans can find a bargain on StubHub.com, though, where the least expensive seat is a seat in the Upper Level End Zone listed for $60.
5.) New Orleans Saints: The Saints ended the season with seven wins in their last nine games but will likely have to win three road games in order to return to the Super Bowl. The only way they will host a game is if they reach the NFC Championship against the sixth-seeded Packers. The Saints have never won a road playoff game in their 43-year history, but that shouldn’t faze a team that won more playoff games last year than in the previous 42 years combined. Despite the small market size and Katrina-caused economic troubles in New Orleans, the Saints have sold out all but one game at the Superdome since 2000 (the Saints had to play home games elsewhere after Katrina damaged the Superdome in 2005) and have sold out their season tickets in each of the last five years.