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What NFL Ticket Prices Say About the Playoff Picture Ahead of Week 5

Sports Illustrated 10/5/2022 Kevin Sweeney
© Provided by Sports Illustrated

For some teams, like the Bengals, reservation prices for the Super Bowl have soared after Week 4’s wins, but for other teams facing injuries and back-to-back defeats, playoff hopes are sinking further.

We’re a month into the new NFL season. Which games have shaped the playoff picture most? Week 4 featured a few surprises (Geno Smith and the Seahawks scoring 48 points), big comebacks (the Bills’ rally from 17 down against Baltimore) and much more. Here’s a look at the biggest storylines from the week that impacted the playoff race, using insights from SI Tickets’ postseason reservations.

The ‘Boys Are Back

Things looked grim for the Cowboys after Week 1’s blowout loss to the Bucs that saw Dak Prescott go down with a thumb injury. But thanks to some heroics from backup QB Cooper Rush, Dallas’ playoff hopes are very much alive.

Rush is now 3–0 this season in relief of Prescott and 4–0 in his career as a starter after Sunday’s big win over the Commanders. And while he may not be flashy, Rush has been getting it done: He completed 60% of his passes for more than 200 yards Sunday, didn’t turn the ball over and found strong chemistry with CeeDee Lamb. Rush is doing enough to keep the Cowboys in games, and the Dallas defense, led by second-year sensation Micah Parsons, has also played well. As a result, Cowboys Divisional Round reservation prices are up 65% from last week on SI Tickets heading into a tricky road matchup with the Rams on Sunday. Remarkably, the much-maligned NFC East is now the only division in football with three teams 3–1 or better.

Steelers Hopes Sink Further

Pittsburgh has now lost three straight after a season-opening victory over the Bengals. The most recent loss is the worst one, a 24–20 defeat at home at the hands of the Jets that led to the in-game benching of Mitchell Trubisky in favor of Kenny Pickett. Pickett’s debut was an uneven one: He was intercepted on three of his 13 pass attempts, though two of those were desperation heaves at the end of each half. The third was a disastrous mistake with the Steelers driving late with the lead, giving the Jets the ball back for what turned into a game-winning TD drive.

Pickett flashed promise in the preseason, and Trubisky had done little to impress through 3.5 games. But Pickett doesn’t appear to be the quick fix to this offense some Steelers fans hoped for, and the Steelers now sit alone in last in the crowded AFC North race. Reservation prices on SI Tickets for the Steelers’ playoff Divisional Round games by 35% after the loss.

Falcons Playoff Hopes Surge

After Sunday’s victory over the Browns, the rebuilding Falcons are now 2–2 heading into a huge NFC South clash with the Bucs this weekend. Atlanta has been right there in every game it has played this season, riding a creative offense that ran for over 200 yards Sunday despite an injury to leading rusher Cordarrelle Patterson. And while Marcus Mariota hasn’t lit the world on fire in his return to regular action after years as a backup, the former No. 2 overall pick has been solid enough to put Atlanta in positions to win, and has found a favorite target in rookie Drake London.

Atlanta may not be a playoff favorite just yet, but the Falcons play in a winnable division and have shown some feistiness through four weeks. Divisional Round reservation prices have gone up 54% in a week per SI Tickets and might rise even more if Patterson is able to return to action sooner rather than later.

Tua’s Health Looms Large

Tua Tagovailoa’s health is obviously more important than wins and losses, after he suffered a concussion Thursday against the Bengals and was later taken to the hospital. But the third-year QB–who was in the midst of a breakout season for a Dolphins team with tons of weapons around him—being sidelined for a long period of time would have huge impacts on the team’s Super Bowl hopes.

Tagovailoa won’t play this week against the Jets and a timetable for his return to the field is unknown. While Teddy Bridgewater looked solid in relief of Tagovailoa Thursday, this team just doesn’t have the same ceiling without Tua as its signal-caller. The long-term uncertainty regarding Tua’s availability led to a 34% drop in Super Bowl ticket reservation prices on SI Tickets.

Bengals Bounce Back

Cincinnati clearly still has work to do to get back to Super Bowl form from a season ago, but beating the Dolphins in Week 4 was a nice step forward. Cincinnati’s offensive line has struggled to get push for Joe Mixon in the running game, but the Bengals’ defense has stepped up to pick up the slack. The Bengals have allowed just one touchdown in the last 11 quarters, including some key red zone stops that forced short field goal tries by the Dolphins.

Pairing a stout D with Joe Burrow and this talented receiving corp is enough to scare the rest of the NFL and make this team a threat to get back to the Super Bowl. Reservation prices for the Bengals in the Super Bowl soared up 45% after the win, and another big rise could be in the works if they can beat the Ravens on Sunday night. 

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