The NFL is famous for its "Any Given Sunday" stance, that on any given Sunday, any team in the league can beat any other. Considering in recent years we have seen 7-7 teams beat 14-0 teams, and 2-11 teams beat 11-2 teams, there is a certain ring of truth to that statement. But in reality, the motto should be "Any Given Year." The NFL has more year to year volatility than any other league. A 10-loss team from the previous season has made the playoffs in 14 straight seasons. Everyone may have their preconceived notions of which teams are good and bad entering a season, but it is extremely likely after two weeks that everyone will be wrong, and there will be teams that rise from nothing, and fall from high heights. 2010 is no different. There are six teams in particular that are either 2-0 or 0-2 that are that way to the surprise of many. The Buccaneers, Chiefs and Bears are all surprises at 2-0. The first two teams won a combined seven games last season, and have already more than matched half of that, while the Bears, despite some optimism, have surprised with their big win in Dallas. Speaking of the Cowboys, Dallas joins Minnesota and Carolina as 0-2 disappointments, with Carolina a slight surprise after Matt Moore went 4-1 down the stretch in 2009. All of these teams have seen their surprising play lead to surprising effects in their ticket prices. Here we will analyze which teams are most effected by an early 2-0 or 0-2 start, and why they might be effected more than other 2-0 or 0-2 teams.
We'll start with the 2-0 teams, led off by the two huge surprises, the Buccaneers and Chiefs, and the Bears.
The Buccaneers are a perfect example to start our examination of the effects of a surprising 2-0 start. The Buccaneers have seen their prices rise dramatically after each win. The black line is a 'best-fit' line for their daily average ticket price, so this is a good approximation of what the trend is in their ticket price. The black line is fairly level leading up to their first win on September 12th. The price then started to rise after the win. The average price on September 12th was $107.6. The average price for the following week leading up to their second game: $125.7, which represents an 16.8% increase. Even though the price for the two days after their second game on September 19th is a drop from the price on September 19th, it is still higher than any price previous day with an average of $136.3 for the three days after their second straight win. The Buccaneers are a perfect example of optimism flourishing in a fanbase that would have been happy with a 6-10 season.
The Bears are a little different from the Buccaneers since there was quite a bit more optimism surrounding the team at the start of the season. The Bears were the most active team in the offseason, and the duo of Mike Martz and Jay Cutler seemed to be a good match on paper. The Bears ticket prices were astoundingly consistent leading up to their first game on September 12th, hugging their best fit line, to an average of $205.8 for those first 12 days. After the Bears opening win, their prices started a rise, as their average price for the days September 13-19th (the week between their first and second game) was $225.8, which was a 9.5% increase. This number, as well as the 8.6% increase their prices have seen after their second straight win (this time a big win in Dallas), are well lower than the Buccaneers. However, that is explained with the perception of these teams. Bucs fans did not expect a 2-0 start at all, while the Bears fans did expect a good team. Bears fans were already paying for a team that has playoff aspirations, so the prices have not moved as far up after a 2-0 start.
The Chiefs are a little more murky, since their average ticket price has not followed the usual logic of the price rising after an early surprising win. The Chiefs are an exception to that rule. The Chiefs fans have, at the surface, reacted like a team that is 0-2, not 2-0. Their average price heading into that first game was $113.5. The average price for the week in between Week 1 and Week 2 was just $106.3, which was a 6.3% drop. Then, after a second straight win, this time on the road, the price dropped another 4.7%, to just a hair over $100. There are a few reasons why these surprising numbers are happening. The first is a trend I have been seeing in a lot of games, and I will be further watching for the next two weeks. Teams see their prices drop, win or lose, after big home games. The Chiefs had a Monday Night game in Week 1 against a big division rival, and it was the opener of the refurbished Arrowhead Stadium. Those factors may have inflated their price. The drop after their second win is a little more surprising, but may be due to the fact that their second win was very unimpressive against the lowly Browns. I am less sure about this than I am about the fact that the Monday Night Game inflated their early price, but the Chiefs are definitely an anomoly.
The 0-2 teams are usually more volatile, since losses are always more painful than gains, so let's see if this trend holds with the three surprising 0-2 teams, the two playoff disappointments, the Vikings and Cowboys, and the sleeper-that-wasn't, the Panthers.
The Panthers may not be a huge disappointment at 0-2 to some, but to a lot of people, the Panthers were a chic sleeper team heading into 2010. They had a new quarterback that finished the 2009 season 4-1 and did not have a penchant for throwing many game-killing interceptions like his predecessor. However, they have exhibited the effects that one would expect for a team that had some expectations shattered. The Panthers have seen their average drop drastically after the first game. The Panthers prices were averaging $99.9 heading into their Week 1 game against the Giants. After that loss, a game in which they were competitive, their average price dropped drastically for the week in between their loss to the Giants and their demoralizing loss to the Buccaneers at home to just $82.4, a loss of 17.5%. The Panthers seemed to have bottomed out, as the price barely dropped after the Giants loss, as the Buccaneers loss barely dropped the average price any further. The Panthers' fans seemed much more hurt and putt-off by their loss to the Giants than their lifeless performance at home to the Buccaneers.
Now we get to the two biggest disappointments, the two teams that played each other in the Divisional Playoffs last January, the two teams that make the Panthers' ticket prices fall seem small in comparison, the Vikings and the Cowboys.
It would be an understatement to say the Cowboys had high expectations heading into the 2010 season. With the Super Bowl this year in Dallas, the Cowboys set up their whole offseason to be the first team to host a Super Bowl. Needless to say, those dreams are dented, if not dead. The Cowboys ticket prices too are hanging on for dear life. Leading into their first game against the Redskins, the average ticket price was $206.2. In the week between the Redskins loss and the home opener against the Bears, the price decreased slightly, down to $200. This small decrease isn't that strange, since the Cowboys lost a close game on the road and were heading into their home opener (which tends to inflate prices compared to other home games). However, just like the team, the prices saw the wheels come off after the loss to the Bears. The price for the days after the loss to the Bears, the prices has cratered to $147.9, which is really low for them. This was a 26.1% drop, larger than anything we have covered so far. The past two days have seen a slight increase, but if they end up losing to the Texans, it could get really ugly. And I'm not talking about Wade Phillips' head.
Does that graph look familiar? Maybe to something in Dallas? The Vikings are basically the Cowboys with less money. They started with amazingly high optimism around the team. With Brett Favre back again off his best season to date, and the team oozing with talent all over the place. Going into the opener against the Saints, the average price was $124.3, and that was a stable price. After that close loss against the defending champs, the Vikings, heading into their home opener, saw their price drop 10.5%, to $111.8. That was not a large drop, as their fans probably felt that their loss in Week 1 was not that surprising (especially given the history of home teams playing on Thursday nights), but like the Cowboys, losing at home crushed the fans expectations, and evidently their willingness to flash their wallet. The average price after their loss to the Dolphins on September 19th is a staggeringly low $64.4, good for a 42.1% drop. This is particluarly scary since the Vikings need prices to be stable, and need attendance to be stable, since they are pushing a new stadium financing bill, which loses its strength if prices are falling.
After two weeks, being 2-0 or 0-2 is still not a huge indication of where teams will end up. In 2007, the Giants were 0-2, and outscored 48-80 through two games. They ended up winning the Super Bowl. The 2009 49ers were 2-0, having just won two division games. They ended up missing the playoffs. All that may well be true, but try telling that to the fans of the Vikings, Panthers or Bears. Like most people, fans seem to be overly pessimistic, as prices fall for 0-2 teams a lot more than prices rise for 2-0 teams, which shows that fans are overly cautious. Fans know that good teams can fall, and they might not pay top dollar when they think the team has nowhere to go but down. But for the teams that have already gone down, those fans are too far gone apparently.