Some teams need home field for playoffs
Dec. 15, 2014
The Cowboys don't lose on the road, where the Bengals and Colts aren't slouches, either.
The Patriots, Broncos, Packers and Cardinals don't lose at home.
For most of the other playoff contenders, well, it's who knows?
Some teams really could use staying at home beyond the holidays — and deep into January.
Certainly Green Bay showed on Sunday in its defeat at Buffalo just how much different it performs on the road as opposed to the comfortable confines of Lambeau Field.
Dallas, on the other hand, is 7-0 away from Jerry's Place. Come the postseason, the Cowboys might prefer to be anywhere but at home.
Maybe even come this week: Dallas is just 3-4 as a host, and the Colts are 4-2 on the road.
Dallas coach Jason Garrett believes finding ways to prosper away from home is a learned trait.
"We've played these guys before," he said after Sunday's 38-27 victory at Philadelphia put the Cowboys in position to win the NFC East. "We played a really good game against them up here last year. We played a really close game at the end of the season last year and you try to learn from all those experiences, and you just move forward. I thought our guys did a good job responding."
The Cowboys have responded well on the road in two tough locales: at Philly and, most notably, at Seattle. They aren't likely to fear heading anywhere in January.
"I think sometimes you find out a lot about your team and your guys just in situations like that. You know, Seattle — they came back, they're on the road. They get in a position that it's hooting and hollering, the place is going crazy," Tony Romo said of his Dallas teammates. "You just put your head down and you go execute. You've got to make some plays. Obviously a couple guys have to set up and do some things that allow you to do that.
"You just don't let the whole environment and the whole thing and the way it's going affect you. You treat it as if it's a tie game and you go out and play."
Some teams while at home do more than play. They intimidate. That sure comes in handy in the playoffs, especially against opponents that have not been through such a wringer.
New England might be the prime example. The Patriots (7-0 at Foxborough this season) are 18-7 in the postseason since 2001, with three NFL championships and two losing trips to the Super Bowl. At home, they are 12-3, with two of the defeats to Baltimore — a team led by Ray Lewis and accustomed to doing the intimidating.
With the exception of 2010, when the Jets somehow won at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots have handled less-experienced opposition with relative ease.
That bodes well for them this winter, particularly because the other three AFC division leaders all have fallen to New England, the Bengals and Broncos getting routed at Foxborough.
But also bear in mind that after winning their first eight postseason home games with Tom Brady at quarterback, the Patriots are 4-3.
One of the teams the Patriots fell to on the road, the Packers, have looked fragile away from Lambeau, particularly lately in ugly losses at New Orleans and Buffalo, and a tight victory at Minnesota.
The flop against the Bills could be especially costly because now Green Bay isn't even in first place in the NFC North; Detroit has the tiebreaker by virtue of — what else — a home win over the Packers.
Perhaps that makes Green Bay's need to win at Tampa next week, then against the visiting Lions even more critical for its postseason chances of success.
Aaron Rodgers recognizes that.
"This is an important time for us to see what kind of chemistry we have on our team," he said. "If adversity like this tears us apart or if we can stick together.
"If we can stick together, we have a great list of guys, and the opportunity to do something special. But if we let this tear us apart it's going to be something that sticks with us for too long."
One fact that might comfort teams that can't grab home-field advantage for the postseason: only three times since 1993 have both top seeds made it to the Super Bowl.
But one foreboding fact to add: it happened last year.
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Buffalo, New York, contributed.
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