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Ticket Prices for Chiefs-Browns Playoff Game Soar Pandemic Economics Part of the Equation

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Above image credit: GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium will host what will likely be one of the coldest NFL games ever played in Saturday's AFC Wild Card game between the Chiefs and Dolphins. (Courtesy | Kansas City Chiefs)
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3 minute read

The hottest ticket in town caught fire following the Cleveland Browns’ Sunday night win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

That’s when the No. 1 seed Kansas City Chiefs learned their divisional round opponent, the AFC’s lowest-remaining-seed Browns, who won their first playoff game in 26 years.

Soon thereafter, verified second-sale tickets for the upcoming game soared.

On Monday morning after the Browns’ upset win in Steel City, the previous high Friday afternoon price tag of $275 for the upcoming game at Arrowhead Stadium started to look like a good deal. And that was just to get in the door and sit in Arrowhead’s “Upper Red” tier, which roughly translates to “the nosebleeds.”

Once the party was officially on in Cleveland, the lowest “Upper Red” ticket for Sunday’s game shot to $532, an astronomically-steep price for a divisional playoff game ticket — especially when bringing binoculars might be a good idea.

For reference, the most affordable second-market ticket to get into Arrowhead for last year’s AFC Championship game against the Titans was as low as $245. Buying that ticket meant you’d have the chance to see the Chiefs punch a ticket to the Super Bowl.

Economics 101

One reason for the steep ticket prices ahead of Sunday’s matchup between the Chiefs and Browns could be a middle school economics lesson in supply and demand.

The loudest outdoor stadium on earth last year was at full capacity (76,416) for Patrick Mahomes and company’s magical run at the Lombardi Trophy.

This postseason, with Arrowhead’s capacity limited by the COVID-19 pandemic to 22% to ensure social distancing between groups of up to six, there will be just north of 16,000 fans in the building.

And with a good part of those tickets going to season ticket holders, playoff prices were high from the jump, or, kick.

While this week’s leap in ticket prices suggest there could be a wave of Browns faithful headed for Kansas City, it’s worth noting that fans in the stands might play a role, even at reduced capacity.

In the opening weekend of the playoffs, four of the six higher-seeded home playoff teams lost in front of empty grandstands or limited capacity (Heinz Field in Pittsburgh was limited to just 6,500 or 10%).

Plus, there are more empty seat backs to bang on come third down.

Old Friend Alert(s)

Limited capacity and the long-awaited Browns playoff run are joined by a few familiar matchups on and off the field, making Sunday afternoon’s game even that much tastier.

On the field, Mahomes will match up against fellow former Big 12 quarterback Baker Mayfield, who once hosted Mahomes on his college visit to Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, and later competed against after the Browns third-year quarterback transferred to the University of Oklahoma.

That meeting resulted in both NCAA and school records between the passers. Mahomes hit on 52-of-88 passing attempts for 734 yards and five touchdowns. Mayfield’s team prevailed, however, with the eventual Heisman Trophy winner tossing seven touchdown passses.

The pair faced off once as pros in 2018, when Mahomes’ Chiefs topped Mayfield’s Browns 37-21.

In addition to Mahomes-Mayfield III, Sunday’s game will bring former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt to town, fresh off a solid two-touchdown performance in Pittsburgh.

Does the name John Dorsey ring a bell? While the former Chiefs general manager won’t be back in Arrowhead for this weekend’s game (the Browns fired him in 2019), a good percentage of Cleveland’s playmakers came via Dorsey.

In three seasons as a member of the Browns front office, Dorsey brought names like star wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. to “The Land,” in addition to drafting running back Nick Chubb and Mayfield at No.1 overall.

Here’s to You, Brownies

Finally, if you’re headed to Sunday’s game, consider backing off on the smack talk toward jubilant members of the “Dawg Pound” — or at least prefacing any jabs with a “congratulations.”

After all,  if anyone knows the sweet sensation of snapping playoff droughts, it’s Kansas City sports fans.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates with the Lamar Hunt AFC Championship trophy after the AFC Championship football game against the Tennessee Titans. (David Stluka | AP)

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