The New England Patriots had their past two seasons put to rest at home in the divisional round of the playoffs. Last season they beat the New York Jets in December, but lost to them at Gillette in January. The season before they beat the Baltimore Ravens in the regular season, only to lose to them again in January in Foxborough.
Believe it or not, for the past six seasons, the home teams in the divisional round have lost as many games as they’ve won (12-12). That’s great news for the Denver Broncos who will travel to New England this week.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk has this explanation for why home field advantage doesn’t necessarily mean much in the divisional round:
The most plausible explanation comes from the boost that a team winning in the wild-card round receives. With low expectations and a chip firmly attached to their shoulders, the first-week winners can take to the road with a strong sense of confidence and an even stronger sense of disrespect.
The top two seeds, on the other hand, often are caught flat-footed by a loose team that isn’t supposed to win anyway. And if the home team falls behind and the visitor acquires even more confidence, things can get ugly, quickly. – Mike Florio (Pro Football Talk)
As I’ve heard many people put it, the Broncos are playing with house money at this point. No one expected them to go this far, so they can lay it all on the line without having that fear of losing. Meanwhile the Patriots who are the 13.5 point favorites over the Broncos can’t lose another divisional game in January. The pressure is on them, not the Broncos.
No team who has gone 8-8 in the regular season has ever advanced past the divisional round. If one team is to do, it’s these Broncos. They’re the type of team that goes where there is no path, and they leave a trail.