This story was updated at 10:00 a.m. (EST) on Wednesday, December 28, 2011, to reflect that the Texans cannot receive a playoff bye.
A 17-year wait for NFL fans in Houston is over. They’ll have playoff football. They just don’t know exactly when.
The Houston Texans made that a certainty by clinching their first AFC South title and a home playoff game two weeks ago with their franchise-record 10th victory. It will likely take until the final Sunday of the season to determine when the Texans’ first ever playoff game at Reliant Stadium will be.
The Texans (10-5), depending on how they and other contenders finish, will host a Wild Card game on January 7 or 8.
The excitement is building in Houston for its first NFL playoff game since 1994, when Joe Montana and the Kansas City Chiefs broke the Houston Oilers’ hearts in the Astrodome with a 28-20 victory.
The Oilers moved to Tennessee three years later, saddening more fans in Houston. The expansion Texans arrived in 2002 and had only one winning season (9-7 in 2009), until surprising a lot of observers this year and adding plenty of ticket buyers to the bandwagon.
“Everybody’s excited,” Kayla Ramsey, owner of the Houston Ticket Store and Midtown Premium Tickets, told TicketNews. “As they kept winning this season, sales have picked up. Now, I’m getting all kinds of calls on playoffs.”
The Texans ran off seven wins in a row before stumbling with back-to-back losses to the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts. The team tallied its wins despite being down to its third-string quarterback. Rookie T.J. Yates took over after both No. 1 QB Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinart went down with injuries.
“The stadium’s been rocking,” Ramsey said. “It’s only going to get better here.”
Season ticket holders had a deadline of December 15 to pay their invoices for playoff tickets. Those not bought by season ticket holders will be put on sale by the team through Ticketmaster, the NFL’s official ticket exchange partner.
“They anticipate 10,000 tickets are going to be released,” Ramsey said. “I would rather sell those here in the store before I put them online. I’ve got a lot of regulars here I’d like to take care of.”
Prior to the holiday weekend, Ramsey already had playoff tickets available online — the cheapest at that point being $243 for an upper level seat above the end zone. Ticket search site SeatGeek.com listed an average resale price on December 23 of $315.07 per ticket for the playoff opener.
A return to the playoffs already has Texans fans pumped up, and a match-up with a marquee opponent would be a ticket broker’s dream come true.
“We’re looking for a good team to come in here,” Ramsey said. “We want the Steelers or the Jets. We’re starved for a championship down here. We haven’t had one since the Rockets [won back-to-back NBA titles] in ’94 and ’95.”