NFL Playoff Picture: Postseason-Bound Teams in Most Need of Home-Field Advantage
Success in the NFL begins with taking care of your business at home.
Just look at the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks, which are the only teams in the NFL that have yet to be beaten at home this season. A combined 13-0 inside their friendly confines, the Dirty Birds and the Hawks will be nearly impossible to beat on their home turf come playoff time.
Here we'll break down the current NFL playoff picture as well as the postseason-bound teams in most need of some home cooking this January.
The Atlanta Falcons are 7-0 inside the Georgia Dome this season, and 33-4 at home during the regular season under current quarterback Matt Ryan (0-1 during the postseason). Sure, dome teams rely on home-field advantage in January more so than others, but Atlanta has been an entirely different squad inside its own building in recent years.
Atlanta's record in the Georgia Dome since Ryan arrived in 2008 speaks for itself, but last year's playoff defeat to the New York Giants in the elements at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford only added to the argument that the Falcons are very little without their noisy dome.
Even if Atlanta clinches home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, no one is buying into the Dirty Birds just yet.
In 2010, despite coming into the postseason as the NFC's No. 1 seed with home-field advantage, Atlanta fell 48-21 to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Round. The Pack would go on to win the Super Bowl.
The Falcons are a unique case in that even though they just annihilated the defending Super Bowl champion Giants 34-0 in the Georgia Dome, they still have to prove they can win in the playoffs, regardless of where the game is played.
The Houston Texans' crushing defeat at New England on Monday Night Football in Week 14 proves that the Super Bowl favorite will rely heavily on home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs this January in order to reach New Orleans.
Houston fell 42-14 to Tom Brady's Pats in Foxboro. The loss was the Texans' first on the road this season, but it was telling nonetheless.
In that game, New England possessed the ball only a minute longer than Houston, turned the ball over the same amount of times and had the same amount of drives but managed to put up over 400 total yards and 42 points.
Despite its Week 6 loss at home to Green Bay, Houston is a team that plays its best brand of football inside a rocking Reliant Stadium. The Texans have developed a rowdy fanbase over the years, and the Cincinnati Bengals witnessed firsthand just last year how hard it is to beat them in front of their home crowd in the postseason.
Which team is most capable of winning a road playoff game this January?
Pete Carroll's Seahawks desperately need to play at home this coming postseason if they are to make any sort of deep run. Seattle is 6-0 at home this season, compared to just 3-5 on the road.
Of course, at 9-5, the Seahawks can't claim home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, but they can still potentially win the No. 2 seed in the conference and earn a first-round bye and a guaranteed home playoff game in the NFC Divisional Round.
But assuming Seattle doesn't finish with the NFC's second-best record, it can still earn a home playoff game in the NFC Wild Card Round by winning the NFC West. The last time the Seahawks made the playoffs, 2010, they won their NFC Wild Card matchup at home and then went on to lose the next week on the road.
Seattle is a serious contender in the NFC this winter, but only if it's at home.
AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
|No. 1 Seed Houston Texans (12-2) Clinched AFC South|
|No. 2 Seed Denver Broncos (11-3) Clinched AFC West|
|No. 3 Seed New England Patriots (10-4) Clinched AFC East|
|No. 4 Seed Baltimore Ravens (9-5) Lead AFC South; Clinched Playoff Berth|
|WILD CARD LEADERS|
|No. 5 Seed Indianapolis Colts (9-5)|
|No. 6 Seed Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)|
|IN THE HUNT|
|Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)|
|New York Jets (6-7)|
|Miami Dolphins (6-8)|
NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
|No. 1 Seed Atlanta Falcons (12-2) Clinched NFC South|
|No. 2 Seed San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) Lead NFC West; Clinched Playoff Berth|
|No. 3 Seed Green Bay Packers (9-4) Clinched NFC North|
|No. 4 Seed Washington Redskins (8-6) Lead NFC East|
|WILD CARD LEADERS|
|No. 5 Seed Seattle Seahawks (9-5)|
|No. 6 Seed Minnesota Vikings (8-6)|
|IN THE HUNT|
|Chicago Bears (8-6)|
|Dallas Cowboys (8-6)|
|New York Giants (8-6)|
|St. Louis Rams (6-7-1)|
| New Orleans Saints (6-8)|
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.
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