There's no place like home, especially in the NFL playoffs. As No. 6 seeds, the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals will not be playing any more football games within the confines of their own trusted stadiums.
Their road to the Super Bowl will go through the houses of others—these 10 venues, in fact.
And make no mistake, some places are harder to play at than others as a visiting team. Home-field advantage does strongly exist in the NFL. It can be caused by gusting wind, elevation or cascades of human sound that OSHA have deemed dangerous to health.
Here we rank every 2012 NFL playoff team's home-field advantage.
Washington Redskins, FedEx Field
Not much to see here. Robert Griffin III has been a much better quarterback away than he has been at home this season. He's only lost two at FedEx, but the majority of his most dominant performances as an elite developing quarterback came away from home.
FedEx Field represents no true advantage in any way. The crowd isn't loud, and the team doesn't necessarily play better there.
San Francisco 49ers, Candlestick Park
This is a climate that opposing teams generally love to come visit, as the thermostat hasn't dropped below 24 degrees in San Francisco since 1996.
The Candlestick crowd is rowdy, and there has been no shortage of news regarding fan behavior in the parking lots and areas adjacent to stadiums following games in this region. It is an intense bunch in the Bay Area.
Jim Harbaugh has only lost three times at this stadium, one of which was an NFC championship game.
Indianapolis Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium
Most players coming into Lucas Oil are familiar with their surroundings, down to every field entrance and tunnel through the facility. Since most players must test in Indy for the NFL Scouting Combine, the friendly confines of Lucas Oil are not generally thought of as too foreboding.
Obviously, Indianapolis is cold as ice in the winter, and the walk from the hotels in downtown Indy to Lucas Oil may feel like a trek through the North Pole, but the games under 40 degrees are played with the roof closed in a comfortable, heated atmosphere.
The RCA dome, the Colts' former home, was known as being more raucous, but this video shows that Lucas Oil can get very loud as well.
Andrew Luck is 7-1 at Lucas Oil this season.
The only team the Colts could possibly host during the 2012 playoffs is the Bengals.
Baltimore Ravens, M&T Bank Stadium
Brian Billick summed it up to Jamison Hensley perfectly.
Stadiums are stadiums, surfaces are surfaces and weather is weather. But when you talk about home-field advantage, you're talking about the fans.
Hensley continued, in the same column linked above:
When the Colts played in Baltimore, Memorial Stadium was described as "the world's largest outdoor insane asylum." That tradition has continued at M&T Bank Stadium, where the decibel readings regularly exceed 105.
When you go into M&T bank, it is not a friendly 105 decibels blasting at you. It's a noise that seems as loud as your home security alarm when it goes off.
Houston Texans, Reliant Stadium
It gets loud at Reliant Stadium: 118.3 decibels loud, according to one of Eric Berger's Houston Chronicle readers.
Berger went on in his column:
Just how loud is this? It’s above the level of sandblasting and a loud rock concert, and just beneath the level at which pain begins.
The level also exceeds safety levels specified by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. The federal organization says a workplace is unsafe if employees are exposed to levels of 115 decibels for more than 15 minutes a day.
The Texans are 6-2 at home this season.
Atlanta Falcons, Georgia Dome
Crowd noise measured at up to 117 decibels. That is approximately the sound level experienced standing with your nose two feet away from the stage-right or stage-left mains in the audience of a club-venue rock concert.
That’s as loud as I’ve heard. Right up there with any third down in the Metrodome. We know it’s going to be tough. We have to have good communication with our three interior guys and hope the tackles get off on the snap count as well.
The Falcons are 7-1 at home in 2012, losing only in a meaningless Week 17 game to Tampa Bay where they had clearly taken the gas off the pedal.
The Falcons were 7-2 at home in 2011, losing only to a hot Packers team and a similarly dominant division rival in New Orleans in overtime.
Matt Ryan has not won a playoff game in three tries, but has only had one shot at home. That was also the only time a Matt Ryan-led Falcons had a first-round bye as they do in 2012.
Green Bay Packers, Lambeau Field
Highs in Green Bay during the month of January average 24 degrees, while lows average seven. I can't even imagine. That is just too cold.
This type of environment takes getting used to, especially for stop-start-type players who need to plant and drive through icy slop to execute their assignments.
Propaganda from the Green Bay Packers website proclaims "100-plus" decibel readings being taken, and to me that means 101 or 102 dB in the hype machine that is the NFL. That's about as loud as a chainsaw at fairly close range or a lawnmower.
There is something to be said for the swoosh of swirling wind through your helmet's ear holes and the pitter-patter of ice on your face mask, too. Those "little" sounds seem big as a brain processes things.
Aaron Rodgers has never won a playoff game at Lambeau Field.
New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium
Tom Brady has been at this since the year 2000, and regardless of any decibel levels, masked freaks or general loudmouth-fan gimmicks, he is 11-2 at home in the playoffs. Just ice cold. You do not want to face Bill Belichick and Tom Brady at Gillette.
It's not loud at Gillette, and some fans wonder why.
Here, Aaron Hernandez speaks about his experience thus far in home games at Gillette via Internet "tour":
Denver Broncos, Sports Authority Field at Mile High
While Denver does not possess the best home-field advantage in the league, the Broncos do boast the single biggest quantifiable, natural advantage due to the literal "mile-high" altitude the teams are forced to play in.
There isn't less oxygen in Denver, but the altitude exerts extra barometric pressure on the body that makes the oxygen harder for the body to use.
Mike Klis of the Denver Post recalled Dan Fouts talking about visiting Denver:
Lack of air is tough on visitors. I heard Dan Fouts say during the telecast Sunday that when he would lead his San Diego Chargers to Denver, the altitude would zap his offensive linemen about five plays into a series. Those front five heavies aren't exactly cardio-buffs.
The old Mile High Stadium may have been even tougher to play at than Sports Authority, given it was louder there. For a while, the 128.7 dB levels measured there held the world record.
Peyton Manning is 7-1 at home as a Bronco in 2012.
Seattle Seahawks, CenturyLink Field
The Seahawks just play better at home, and it was like that before Russell Wilson ever set foot in Seattle. It also helps that Wilson has never lost at home.
This is a graph of seismic activity.
Seismic profile courtesy of John Vidale of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.
This is what caused it:
Crowd noise has been measured at up to 137 decibels. That is louder than a four-engine jet at a distance of 30 meters. You don't want to play in Seattle.
Thankfully for four teams in the NFC playoff race, they stand no chance to travel there. The only way the Seahawks play at home during these playoffs is if they face the Vikings in the NFC championship.