With NFL ticket prices averaging $78.38 this season, it's more expensive than ever to follow your team on and off the field. Given the popularity of the NFL, most tickets are snapped up by season ticket holders before the casual fan even has a fighting chance to purchase single-game tickets at face value. Fortunately, there are a number of options to see games in person and at home without going over the household salary cap.
The secondary market: Getting into the stadium can often be the hardest part of being a fan. Some teams are so popular that the wait for box office tickets can last for years; the Green Bay Packers are famous for having more than 96,000 names on their season ticket waiting list. Newborn babies are put on it in hopes that they'll someday be able to join in on the Cheesehead communion. Even if no one passed their tickets on to family members (an inheritance practice allowed by the Packers organization that creates a roughly 956-year wait), it still requires almost 30 years of patience to get season tickets to Lambeau Field.
The secondary market lets NFL fans buy and sell tickets after they've already been purchased through the box office or Ticketmaster. Services like StubHub and Razorgator are secure sites allowing fans to purchase and resell tickets without the fear of being ripped off by a scalper minutes before the big game. However, a few new services have stepped in to make the process of buying tickets more informative and easier for fans:
SeatGeek: Similar to what Kayak does for travelers, SeatGeek does for NFL fans: collects the best-priced tickets from around the Internet to ensure value for fans. Features include a value-ranking scale, from "best" to "awful," local event calendars and interactive seating charts for venues that allow users to see 3D projections of the view from their seats. SeatGeek also shows total ticket costs, alerting buyers to any fees. The site recommends waiting until "as close as possible to kickoff for the best ticket deals," noting that the secondary market often rewards patience. Because no two games are alike, kickoff time, team performance and the quality of opponent all contribute to game-to-game fluctuations in pricing.
NfL Ticket Exchange: In an effort to cut down on ticket fraud, the NFL and Ticketmaster partnered to create the NFL Ticket Exchange. The service allows fans to browse for tickets from both the box office, if available, and the secondary market in a league-approved marketplace. It's a convenient option for comparing the face value of a ticket straight from the source and the secondary market price.
The best seat in the house
If you can't make it to the game and don't live mere hours from the stadium, there are options to cheer on your team from the comfort of your own home.
NFL Sunday Ticket: Available to DirecTV subscribers for $199.95, NFL Sunday Ticket offers every Sunday afternoon out-of-market game in HD, the ability to watch eight games at once and Player Tracker, which updates individual stats in real time for the true fantasy fanatic. For $299.95, NFL Sunday Ticket Max adds multiplatform streaming across televisions, computers, phones and tablets, the RedZone channel (see below) and condensed 30-minute games for the fan with a busy schedule.
NFL Sunday Ticket on PlayStation Network: NFL fans with Playstation 3, but without DirecTV, can have access to the provider's popular NFL Sunday Ticket for $299.95 (down from $339 last year). So if you're a Raiders fan living in Atlanta, you can still watch the "silver and black" every week from the other side of the country. Best of all, in HD.
NFL RedZone: Fantasy football has changed the way we watch games: With so many of our starters playing simultaneously across the country, team owners need to see all the action as it happens. But with only a couple of games being broadcast on television at a time and local blackout restrictions, it can be difficult to catch all the big plays and keep up with your fantasy team in real time. Even casual fans are forced to deal with frequent commercial breaks and stops in play. Fortunately, NFL RedZone is dedicated to airing live footage of all plays taking place within the "red zone" (inside the 20-yard line), so that fans can watch every touchdown, field goal and big play as they occur. The channel is available through cable providers across the country and is a must-have for fans that want to stay on top of every game.