The field for the NFL’s Wild Card weekend features a few teams ending playoff droughts and one making its postseason debut.
Still, some ticket brokers say the return of playoff football to Houston, Denver and New York has driven demand and prices up only slightly, while another big game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans has become almost routine.
The highest-priced playoff tickets? Interestingly, they’re all next weekend, January 14 and 15, in the divisional round. Tickets to the Baltimore Ravens‘ January 15 playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium were averaging $473 on the secondary market earlier this week, according to ticket search site FanSnap.com.
Similarly, FanSnap’s stats showed that tickets for games next weekend hosted by the New England Patriots ($374 average), San Francisco 49ers ($431) and Green Bay Packers ($337) were out-pricing all the Wild Card round tickets.
Here’s a look at the match-ups this weekend (all times are EST):
Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) at Houston Texans (10-6), January 7, 4:30 p.m.
The Texans aren’t exactly coming into the game at Reliant Stadium on a roll. Since clinching a playoff spot with a 20-19 win in Cincinnati on December 11, they’ve lost three in a row. And the Bengals, returning to the playoffs after a one-year absence, clinched a Wild Card berth despite a Week 17 loss (24-16) to the Ravens.
Kayla Ramsey, owner of the Houston Ticket Store and Midtown Premium Tickets, told TicketNews that while there’s plenty of excitement in Houston, the losing streak and rematch with a less-than-high-profile opponent dropped prices this past weekend.
“There’s not a big fan following for the Bengals, but we’ll take it,” Ramsey said. “Losing put a little damper on it. Prices dropped from $175 down to $125 just over the weekend.”
The Bengals-Texans game was the most purchased Wild Card-round ticket on StubHub.com earlier this week, and FanSnap listed an average resale price of $303 by mid-week.
“It doesn’t compare to when the Super Bowl was here [in 2004] or when the Astros made it all the way to the World Series [in 2005],” Ramsey said. “If they make it to the second round, it might match that. Still, our phone has been ringing off the wall.”
The Bengals, returning to the playoffs after a one-year absence, clinched a wild-card berth despite a Week 17 loss (24-16 to the Ravens).
The game features the first postseason match-up of rookie quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era — Houston’s T.J. Yates and Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton. Yates was pressed into service after Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart were injured. Yates is nursing his own injury, a separated shoulder, but he is still expected to start.
Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) at Denver Broncos (8-8), January 8, 4:30 p.m.
The Broncos rode the mid-season switch to quarterback Tim Tebow to six consecutive wins that vaulted them into the playoff picture. Tebowmania has since been tempered by three consecutive losses in which Denver was outscored, 88-40. Despite that, the Broncos still won the AFC West title when the Oakland Raiders also lost in Week 17.
Tebow, who completed just 6 of 22 passes for 60 yards last week, will face the NFL’s stingiest defense in the Steelers, who are a nine-point favorite despite the game being at Sports Authority Field in Denver.
There are still plenty of Tebow believers. Tickets sold out by 4 p.m., January 3. Steelers-Broncos was the cheapest ticket of the Wild Card round ($250 average), according to FanSnap, and “get-in” prices started at $69 on StubHub.
The Steelers could be vulnerable due to injuries. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been limited by a high ankle sprain, and a knee injury last week finished the season for leading rusher Rashard Mendenhall.
Detroit Lions (10-6) at New Orleans Saints (13-3), January 7, 8 p.m.
The revitalized Lions are ending a 12-year playoff drought, but they’re also coming off a loss last week.They fell to the Packers 45-41, which dropped Detroit to the No. 6 seed in the NFC and sent them to New Orleans to face record-setting quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints, who are making their third consecutive playoff appearance.
Lions-Saints tickets have had the second-highest demand among the Wild Card games on StubHub.com (behind only the Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants), and had FanSnap’s highest Wild Card resale average at $325.
It’s part of a big week for the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, with the Sugar Bowl (January 3), an NFL playoff game and the BCS National Championship Game (January 9) all in a seven-day span.
Brees, who set NFL records for passing yards (5,476), completions (468) and completion percentage (71.2), already torched the Lions at the dome on December 4. During that game he threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-17 victory.
The Saints defense will have to contend with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who also passed for more than 5,000 yards, and Calvin Johnson, the NFL’s leading receiver.
Atlanta Falcons (10-6) at New York Giants (9-7), January 8, 1 p.m.
The Giants are back in the postseason after a two-year absence. They won what amounted to a playoff game last week at home when they beat the Dallas Cowboys 31-14 in a showdown for the NFC East title.
That contest was one of the highest-priced regular season games of the season on the secondary market. The Giants’ actual return to the playoffs — and first-ever playoff game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ — was having trouble matching it by mid-week. FanSnap’s average resale price for Falcons-Giants was $314. StubHub.com’s “get-in” prices started at $135.
New York ticket broker Jason Berger, president of AllShows.com, told TicketNews that the game “hasn’t translated into huge demand.”
While it is the playoffs, the Falcons don’t have the marquee value of the Giants’ final two regular season opponents, the Cowboys and city rival New York Jets.
“The Falcons don’t really drive a lot of sales,” Berger said. “It’s not the greatest match-up in the world. High expectations from season ticket holders have created a higher percentage of sellers than buyers.”
Giants quarterback Eli Manning has found an emerging star in wide receiver Victor Cruz, who has piled up more than 1,500 yards and caught nine touchdown passes. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who has led his team to the playoffs in three of his four seasons, is still looking for his first playoff victory.