NEW YORK — Closely contested Super Bowls are a rarity. Only twice during the past 12 years has the big game been decided by less than a touchdown (both games were New England Patriot wins by three points). The oddsmakers in Las Vegas are expecting more of the same this year, with the Patriots a touchdown favorite over the Philadelphia Eagles.
But off the field, these teams match up very closely when it comes to measuring their finances. Both teams play in brand-new stadiums, and they contributed more than $300 million to their cost. The Pats are one of only three NFL teams that play in privately financed stadiums — the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins are the others. Patriots owner Robert Kraft financed the entire construction of what is now Gillette Stadium by borrowing $312 million. The Eagles contributed $330 million to the building of their home, Lincoln Financial Field.
Both stadiums generate a ton of revenue for their teams. The Patriots' home boasts 6,000 club seats costing $5,000 per season on average. The stadium's 80 luxury suites sell for $165,000 on average. The Eagles' 172 luxury suites and 8,200 club seats cost $135,000 and $2,300 per season, respectively.
Both teams earned $38 million per year from their premium seating last year. The Patriots made $26 million last year in sponsorship revenue from pricey deals with companies like Bank of America, Ford Motor and McDonald's. The Eagles made $23 million in marketing revenue, which came from the likes of PepsiCo and Sovereign Bancorp.
While lucrative stadiums put the Pats and Eagles near the top of the league's financial hierarchy, every NFL team (except the Arizona Cardinals last year) is profitable, thanks to a strict player-salary cap and a lucrative TV deal. Owners paid out 64 percent of revenue to players last season. Each team received a total of $81 million last season from The Walt Disney Co., Viacom and News Corp. as part of an eight-year TV contract worth $17.6 billion. The salary cap and rich TV deal gave NFL owners a cumulative operating profit of $850 million last season, compared with collective losses for both Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.
If you are looking to pick a winner for Sunday's game, consider this: Since we started valuing NFL franchises in 1998, the Super Bowl winner has been the more valuable franchise each year. This includes 2002 and 2003, when the winning team was the underdog going into the game. While the Patriots might not cover the point spread, their fans will be celebrating a third title in four years if history repeats itself.
© 2012 Forbes.com