The Playoffs Are Here!
Well, almost. But Week 17 is the next best thing with a play-in game and a bunch of teams still in the mix. The NFL got it right with divisional games the last week of the regular season. Dallas at the New York Giants on Sunday Night, the drama of Kansas City and Denver with Kyle Orton versus Tim Tebow, and the Raiders being a nice host and welcoming the Chargers to the Black Hole. If Orton conquers Tebow that opens the door, and if the Raiders can finish with a win, the Raiders will win the AFC West. Even if Tebow Time prevails, the Raiders can also get in as a Wild Card if a bunch of stuff happens (OAK win + CIN loss + TEN loss OR OAK win + CIN loss + NYJ win). That’s right, a trip to the postseason for Carson Palmer might hinge on a loss by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Getting in is great, but the real regular season prize is home-field advantage. Playing a home playoff game in any round has its perks. Years ago when I played for the Buffalo Bills and we were playoff regulars, my kids were young and our Friday night routine was a night out for pizza and wings. I know that’s not a real stretch for living in Buffalo, but the key is you’re sticking to a routine. Nobody wants surprises during the playoffs. But you get them anyway. Here’s a sample of a few changes this year.
(GAME) CHECK PLEASE!
Remember those famous words from the movie Jerry Maguire? “SHOW ME THE MONEY!” With the average player salary hovering around $2 million per season — or about $100,000 take-home-pay per week — you might hear the whisper of some players saying, “Where is my money?”
Wild Card weekend works out to $21,000 for divisional winners and $19,000 for Wild Card teams.
Play in the divisional round and you get $21,000 a man.
Make it all the way to the Conference Championship game and a check of about $38,000 is yours.
Finally, a Super Bowl winner gets $83,000, while the losers are consoled by a check for $42,000.
By no means something to pass on, but with salaries the way they are, many players are taking a major pay cut to play in the postseason. Then again, the winner gets a nice ring to wear around, and no amount of money is more valuable than that.
Interview requests are up, up, up in crunch time. If players thought Facebook and Twitter would handle everything, I think they’re wrong. Actually, a higher profile only makes demands rise. Then again, a higher profile might help earn some endorsement dollars, so I’m pretty sure you won’t find too many guys complaining.
Players get two free tickets for regular season home games. No freebies for road games and the ones you can buy are normally in the upper, upper deck. And this will shock you, but somehow the size of your extended family suddenly grows once you reach the playoffs.
Mark Wagner, ticket director for the Green Bay Packers, sells (if you can find one available to buy) a 50-yard-line seat during the regular season for $87. For the divisional round, that jumps to $148 and for the Conference Championship game, how about $207? Now, if you’re lucky enough to get to the Super Bowl in Indianapolis, that top ticket is $1,200.
Between the media and the tickets, no wonder Jim Mora screamed, “PLAYOFFS!? PLAYOFFS!?!”
– James Lofton
James Lofton is an analyst for Westwood One’s coverage of Sunday Night Football. He’ll be on hand Sunday as the Giants and Cowboys play a win-or-go-home season finale at MetLife Stadium. The winner wins the NFC East and the loser is out. Coverage begins at 7:30 PM on Sunday night.