Three years ago, the few fans who admitted they rooted for the Detroit Lions sat with bags on their heads at Ford Field and suffered through a winless season. Three months ago, NFL fans everywhere had thoughts of suffering through a game-less season. Today, both the league and the Lions have turned it around.
At 4-0, Detroit is one of the surprises of the season at the quarter pole. The post-lockout NFL appears to be thriving, with television ratings that are dominating baseball’s postseason and the league projecting attendance to match or surpass last year, the third of three consecutive slight decreases in a down economy.
Still, some smaller markets have been battling those pesky local TV blackouts of home games. That used to be a problem in Detroit, where behind quarterback Matthew Stafford and a defense anchored by tackle Ndamukong Suh, they’ve gone from blackouts to sellouts. A ticket to the Monday night, October 10, match-up with the Chicago Bears is listed for $2,250 on StubHub. “This game is by far the top-selling NFL game of the week,” StubHub spokeswoman Joelle Ferrer told the Detroit News.
Outside of Detroit’s turnaround, the picture isn’t all rosy. A full house for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ victory over the Indianapolis Colts this past Monday, October 3, ended the Bucs’ 10-game home blackout streak, which included every regular season home game last year. NFL policy states a game must be sold out 72 hours in advance in order to be shown in the local market. The Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers are among others battling blackouts this season.
Even the Washington Redskins, they of the vaunted home sellout streak and legendary season-ticket waiting list, were chided by Washington Post blogger Dan Steinberg, who pointed out after the Skins’ last home game, Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals: “The Redskins announced their 362nd straight sellout, with 76,330 in attendance at their 85,000-seat stadium.”
D.C.-area ticket broker Danny Matta, founder of GreatSeats.com, said his Redskins sales “are in the pits,” despite the team being tied for first place in the NFC East at 3-1.
“Don’t know if it that’s any indication of the team as much as it is people fed up with the owner [controversial Daniel Snyder],” Matta told TicketNews. “And FedEx Field is not user-friendly. It’s a bad deal for fans.”
The Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) sit at the bottom of the NFC East after blowing a 20-point lead last Sunday, October 2, to the San Francisco 49ers and quarterback Michael Vick is bothered by injuries. Still, broker Jake Conaway, general manager of Philly’s Wannamaker Ticket Office, isn’t worried.
“Eagles sales are strong,” Conaway said. “The next [home] game isn’t until October 30. So, it’ll give them some time to go on the road [at surprising Buffalo and at Washington] and start winning and get people excited again.”
Max Waisvisz, owner of Gold Coast Tickets in Chicago, cited a mediocre start for the Bears (2-2) and the poor economy for slumping sales. “[The Bears] still aren’t providing the revenue that they used to,” Waisvisz said. “We thought the Green Bay [at Chicago Week 3] game would do better than it did.”
Along with Bears at Lions, the renewal of the New York Jets–New England Patriots rivalry this Sunday, October 9, in Foxborough, MA, is Week 5’s other marquee match-up. The Pats already have the league’s highest average ticket price, and last week search site SeatGeek.com had that average ranked nearly $100 ahead of the No. 2 team, the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers ($360 to $248). A Jets visit and the whole New York-Boston dynamic take it to another level.
“Patriots sales are pacing well ahead of last year,” said Jim Holzman, owner of Ace Ticket in Boston. “The schedule hasn’t been that great for us with only the San Diego home game so far, but we’ve got the Jets coming in this week and the Cowboys are right behind them [Week 6, Sunday, October 16].”
With Red Sox–Yankees closed for the winter, Holzman said Pats-Jets is a worthy replacement: “Every time [Jets coach] Rex Ryan opens his mouth he adds to it.”