Major League Baseball clubs have 81 home games during regular seasons. The best National Basketball Association and National Hockey League teams play at home no fewer than 41 times in campaigns. Major League Soccer clubs have at least 17 home contests every year.
Eight. That is the amount of (meaningful) home games guaranteed to National Football League teams in any given year.
Supply and demand, and also the fact that the NFL’s popularity grows every year, results in average ticket prices being equal to four- and five-star meals. Not too surprisingly, teams that have been NFL laughingstocks for years are at the bottom of this list.
Three of the clubs featured are commonly mentioned in relocation rumors.
These are the 10 NFL teams with the cheapest average ticket prices for 2014.
Figures courtesy of Team Marketing
10. Carolina Panthers — Average Ticket Price: $72.44
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton had a comeback season last year after a poor 2012 campaign. He completed nearly 62 percent (61.7) of his passes. Newton tossed a career-high 24 touchdown passes. His 88.8 rating was also a pro best.
The Panthers want to see a bit more from Newton before they go all-in on the 25-year-old.
Newton netted over $22 million guaranteed on his rookie deal that was signed in 2011. That contract has him signed with Carolina through the end of next season. Those running the Panthers organization are exercising smart judgement by waiting to see what Newton delivers in what is essentially a contract year for the four-year NFL QB.
9. Cincinnati Bengals — Average Ticekt Price: $71.26
These aren’t the “Bungles” of old. Cincinnati is, at the start of September, the best team in the AFC North.
No team in the division has a better defense than do the Bengals. A.J. Green is the best young wide receiver in the NFL, and the 26-year-old is just now entering his physical prime. Green, playing for a new contract, may even produce Offensive Player of the Year numbers in 2014.
The Cincy front office put its faith in quarterback Andy Dalton during the offseason. While he has yet to win a playoff game (0-3 in postseason play), the Bengals still gave Dalton $17 million guaranteed earlier this year. His new contract could keep Dalton in Cincinnati through 2020.
8. Kansas City Chiefs — Average Ticket Price: $68.38
The Chiefs experienced a revival in 2013. A year after the club went through a disastrous 2-14 campaign, new head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith led Kansas City to an 11-5 record in 2013. Last season ended in heartbreak for the Chiefs when they blew a 28-point lead against the Indianapolis Colts in a Wild Card Round playoff game.
Some now believe KC could be in for a letdown season.
The Chiefs rewarded Smith with a new contract this summer, signing him to a four-year deal. Smith earned himself $45 million guaranteed, and his contract could be worth up to $68 million.
Not too shabby for a so-called “game manager.”
7. Tennessee Titans — Average Ticket Price: $67.15
Tennessee is a franchise that is in limbo. Quarterback Jake Locker is far from a proven commodity. He has yet to play a full 16-game season, and the Titans may feel that they have no choice but to move on from Locker next winter if he doesn’t consistently win in 2014.
Rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger, Locker’s possible replacement, remains a work in progress.
That Tennessee plays in the AFC South does the club no favors. The Indianapolis Colts have Andrew Luck at quarterback, and there are NFL experts predicting that Indy will win it all this season. Defense wins championships, and the Houston Texans could be responsible for the best defense in the division.
6. Miami Dolphins — Average Ticket Price: $65.16
Enjoy the low prices while you can, Miami football fans. The average cost of admission to watch the Dolphins live and in person could be set to go up sooner than later.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is entering his third season in the NFL, and many around the league believe the 26-year-old could have a breakout year in 2014. He has completed over 59 percent of his career passes. Tannehill rose his rating by nearly five points (76.1 to 81.7) in his second season. Watch out for Tannehill and the Miami offense if the team’s offensive line begins to gel during the fall.
New England Patriots. San Francisco 49ers. New York Giants. Dallas Cowboys. Chicago Bears. These clubs are atop the list of the most expensive average ticket prices in the NFL. All of those teams have franchise quarterbacks.
Tannehill has the goods to move Miami into the playoffs as quickly as this season.
5. Oakland Raiders — Average Ticket Price: $64.80
The traditions of the fall season are upon us. Leaves are changing colors and falling from trees. Kids are back inside classrooms. Temperatures are, in some parts of the country, lowering.
Reports that the Raiders are set to leave Oakland are all over the Internet and sports talk radio.
Those on the Oakland roster can do nothing about such rumors. All they can do is attempt to produce wins. Rookie Derek Carr, who played well in the preseason when he wasn’t banged up (concussion and bruised ribs), has been handed over the keys to the offense.
Will that move backfire?
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Average Ticket Price: $63.59
More than a few NFL insiders believe that Tampa Bay is on the verge of a turnaround. Lovie Smith, a proven winner, is in as head coach. The Bucs have a solid defense, and the team is set to lock down 26-year-old star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy on a long-term deal. Mike Evans has the potential to be the top wide receiver of the 2014 draft class.
Tampa Bay will be hoping a journeyman quarterback has the goods to lead the offense to victories.
Career backup Josh McCown put up great numbers while filling in for Chicago Bears starter Jay Cutler last fall. McCown completed 66.5 percent of his pass attempts. He threw for 13 touchdowns, and McCown had only a single interception in eight regular season contests.
3. Buffalo Bills — Average Ticket Price: $62.01
2014 has been a tumultuous year for fans of the Bills, and the regular season is just getting underway. It is no secret that the NFL wants to go international, and the league has been eying Toronto as a potential home for a team. The Bills are on the cusp of being sold, and there are real concerns for those who live in western New York that they could lose their beloved club.
That’s only the beginning. Rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins, a player the Bills gave away a 2015 first-round pick in order to select on May 8 of this year, has been banged up throughout the summer months. Quarterback E.J. Manuel has seemingly regressed over the past nine months.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars — Average Ticket Price: $57.65
Jacksonville should practically have a sign at the gates begging fans to come to regular season games.
Those in Florida and football fans from all over the country can ignore the whispers all they want. Rumors that the NFL wants to have a franchise overseas, particularly in London, continue to swirl about. Jaguars owner Shahid Khan already has his foot in the door of England sports in that he owns Fulham Football Club.
While they won’t compete for a title in 2014, local fans have reasons to watch the Jags in person. Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles continues to be likened to Pittsburgh Steelers starting QB Ben Roethlisberger. Jacksonville has several young to-be play makers on offense.
The future is bright for the Jaguars.
1. Cleveland Browns — Average Ticket Price: $54.20
Having the cheapest average ticket price in the NFL is the least that this franchise can do for its emotionally battered fan base. The Browns haven’t had a winning season since 2007. They have once qualified for the postseason following the team’s return to the NFL in 1999.
That journey included Cleveland choking away a lead to hated rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers in January 2003.
The city of Cleveland is going through a renaissance that will (hopefully) include its three professional sports franchises. Basketball royalty and international superstar LeBron James is back with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Rookie phenom quarterback Johnny Manziel was drafted by the Browns this past May.
Can Johnny Football help lead a once proud pro football franchise back to glory?