Cropped version of NFL team cost per win infographic

For those football fans that are curious about how much money a win in the NFL costs, here is an attempt to determine what an owner pays for each of the team’s victories based on the total amount of salaries paid to the players.

Cost of a 2018 NFL regular season win based on team salary

As an NFL fan, whenever your football team wins a game it’s priceless, but have you ever wondered what an NFL win actually costs in real dollars?

NFL owners pay their athletes multi-millions of dollars per season to compete at a high level and win as many games as possible, but each team spends a different amount of money to get that job done and to very mixed results.

Each team in the league plays sixteen games in a season, but even the best football franchises will typically only win ten to thirteen games while the worst teams will sometimes win just a few of them.

And as a result, the different teams’ win costs do vary.

But first – is there a handy infographic available?

Yes there is, glad you asked!

We’ve created a (hopefully) helpful infographic that contains all the information referenced in the article.

Feel free to click on it and use it to follow along and get greater details than we have the space to include here.

Cost of an NFL Team Win in 2018 Infographic

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Is it complicated to calculate the cost of a win?

First off, if you’re mathematically challenged, you can relax.

The way we’re going to do this won’t involve complicated calculations, just simple addition and division, so it will be easy to follow along.

Of course, that simplicity means the results won’t be anywhere near perfect, but hopefully they will give you a clearer idea of how much money goes into putting a notch in the ol’ W column.

So what’s the win-cost equation?

The equation is actually easy: we’re just going to take the NFL total salary information we have for each team and divide that by the number of wins that team achieved in 2018.

The resulting figure will be the approximate cost of a win, which will give us a rough idea of how much of the owner’s money is invested into each victory the team achieves.

And as you can probably guess, it’s quite a lot.

And then what?

Since every team’s salary and win total varies, in the end each victory doesn’t cost the same.

In fact it’s not even close – some cost a whole lot more (or less) than others, and you’d be surprised at which team actually has the costliest (and cheapest) wins.

In the end, we’ll have some fun and do some win cost comparisons between playoff bound teams and those whose seasons have ended and attempt to determine if money buys success in the NFL.

Why exactly are we doing this?

No particular reason, except that it’s nice to know what important things are worth.

Maybe some fans take for granted the investment a team owner has to make just to get a win, so calculating the actual cost of a win puts the whole business of football into better financial perspective which might help us appreciate the owners a little more.

But bottom line, we did this mostly because it’s fun to see who’s overpaying and underpaying for their NFL wins.

You’ve got to wonder – is your team getting their money’s worth?

Let’s find out.

Annual Spend on Player’s Salaries

As you can see on the info-graphic, NFL franchises paid an average of $154 million in salaries this season, but that does vary by quite a bit.

For instance, the five teams whose payrolls are the highest are the Jacksonville Jaguars ($176.9 mil), the Minnesota Vikings ($175.7 mil), the Tampa Bay Bucs ($170.0 mil), the Pittsburgh Steelers ($169.8 mil) and the San Francisco 49ers ($168.0 mil).

At the other end of the spectrum are the low-ballers, the five NFL teams paying the least amount in salaries, which are the Baltimore Ravens ($138.2 mil), the Seattle Seahawks ($136.3 mil), the Dallas Cowboys ($136.1 mil), the Buffalo Bills ($128.6 mil) and the Indianapolis Colts ($127.8 mil).

Notice anything different about those two lists?

As in, did you catch the number of playoff bound teams included in the top five highest paid teams?

Goose egg, zero, nada.

And in the second list of low-salaried teams, four out of five of them will be experiencing postseason play.

Guess you can’t necessarily buy your way to the Super Bowl, thankfully, but it definitely will cost you to get there.

So how much does an NFL win cost?

It varies, but one thing the info-graphic (and basic division) makes clear is that the more wins you get, the cheaper they are.

On average, NFL teams paid about $22.5 million per 2018 regular season win.

The NFC South first place 13-3 New Orleans Saints’ owner Gayle Benson paid $11.5 million per win, while the NFC West last place 3-13 Arizona Cardinals’ owner Bill Bidwill paid a whopping $47.9 million for each of their three wins.

Table showing annual spend on player's salaries and team effectiveness

Team Annual spend on player's salaries ($) Effectiveness (%)
Jacksonville Jaguars $176,886,917.00 64.00%
Minnesota Vikings $175,723,832.00 103.08%
Tampa Bay Bucs $170,018,594.00 66.59%
Pittsburgh Steelers $169,779,087.00 120.03%
San Francisco 49ers $167,971,946.00 53.92%
Tennessee Titans $167,847,502.00 121.41%
Denver Broncos $166,076,507.00 81.80%
Green Bay Packers $163,021,693.00 83.34%
Carolina Panthers $162,854,584.00 97.33%
Chicago Bears $161,552,003.00 168.19%
Atlanta Falcons $161,424,538.00 98.19%
Los Angeles Rams $159,649,303.00 184.38%
Detroit Lions $159,627,414.00 85.11%
New England Patriots $157,341,418.00 158.30%
Cleveland Browns $155,265,726.00 102.08%
Philadelphia Eagles $154,853,863.00 131.60%
Cincinnati Bengals $153,997,913.00 88.22%
Oakland Raiders $153,934,260.00 58.84%
Los Angeles Chargers $152,232,006.00 178.49%
Washington Redskins $152,127,278.00 104.19%
New Orleans Saints $149,753,673.00 196.56%
New York Giants $148,997,575.00 75.98%
Miami Dolphins $147,696,584.00 107.32%
Kansas City Chiefs $147,468,101.00 184.25%
New York Jets $147,095,776.00 61.57%
Houston Texans $146,069,325.00 170.52%
Arizona Cardinals $143,692,699.00 47.27%
Baltimore Ravens $138,238,787.00 163.80%
Seattle Seahawks $136,295,383.00 166.13%
Dallas Cowboys $136,136,648.00 166.33%
Buffalo Bills $128,632,855.00 105.62%
Indianapolis Colts $127,751,412.00 177.24%

Which team paid the most/least per game to get to the playoffs?

The New Orleans Saints paid $11.5 million for each of their 13 wins, which were the least expensive of all playoff bound teams, and next were the Los Angeles Rams, who also had thirteen wins but paid $12.3 million for each.

The defending Super Bowl Champion 9-7 Philadelphia Eagles paid the most per win to get to the playoffs this season, costing owners Jeffrey and Christina Lurie $17.2 million per win to chase after the Big Game again.

After the Eagles, the next most expensive wins to get to the playoffs were paid by New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, who plopped down $14.3 million for each of his team’s eleven wins, and the Baltimore Ravens, whose owner Steve Bisciotti paid $13.8 million for each of his team’s ten wins.

Are the cost/win numbers of the Wild Card Weekend matchups comparable?

In the first AFC Wild Card game, the Indianapolis Colts, who paid $12.8 million per win, take on the Houston Texans, who paid $13.3 million per win.

In the second AFC Wild Card game, the Los Angeles Chargers, who paid $12.7 million per win, challenge the Baltimore Ravens, who paid $13.8 million per win.

In the first NFC Wild Card game, the Seattle Seahawks, who paid $13.6 million per win, play the Dallas Cowboys, who also paid $13.6 million per win.

In the second NFC Wild Card came, the Philadelphia Eagles, who paid $17.2 million per win, play the Chicago Bears, who paid $13.5 million per win.   

So can an NFL owner buy his or her way to the Super Bowl?

From the looks of it, no.

If more money spent guaranteed postseason play, then the Jaguars, Vikings and Steelers would be in the playoffs, not the Colts, Cowboys and Seahawks.

Regardless, it costs millions of dollars to win an NFL game, but in the long run it costs even more money to lose them.

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