The NFL conference championship games will be played at the Georgia Dome and Gillette Stadium as the Atlanta Falcons host the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots host the Baltimore Ravens.
Much is made in the NFL about the importance of securing home-field advantage in the playoffs. While it's nice to have home games, home-field advantage can mean different things depending on the team and stadium.
While home-field advantage can be a factor, it's not unusual to see teams overcome it. Let's take a look at the two conference championship games and see what role home-field advantage will play.
The Falcons earned home-field advantage in the NFC by fishing the regular season with a 13-3 record. They went 7-1 at home, losing only to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the regular-season finale. The 49ers went 5-3 when playing on the road the year. With Colin Kaepernick as the starter, the 49ers went 2-2 on the road with losses to the St. Louis Rams and the Seattle Seahawks.
The Georgia Dome is extremely loud and provides a great atmosphere for the Falcons. Their fans were great from the start last week against the Seattle Seahawks and rattled the youthful Seahawks early in the game. The fans do have a tendency to get quiet at times throughout the game. When the Falcons went up 20-0 last week, the enthusiasm faltered before rising up at the end of the game.
The home-field advantage in this game gives the Falcons a chance to start fast and rattle the 49ers and their rookie quarterback. It does swing the game towards the Falcons, but it's not enough to make them favorites. Depending on how the game plays out, home-field advantage could be a big factor.
The Patriots earned home-field advantage with a 12-4 record. They would have had to travel to Denver, but stay at home to host the 10-6 Ravens. The Patriots were good at home with a 6-2 record on the season, losing to the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals. The Ravens struggled on the road with a 4-4 record.
The home-field advantage at Gillette Stadium is underrated. It's not the loudest stadium and weather won't be a factor today. That said, there is a certain aura surrounding the stadium and having to play the Patriots there. They've done well to defend their home field.
That said, the Ravens have played there four times since 2009 and won't be intimidated by the Patriots. While they went 1-3 in those games, their three losses were by a combined 12 points. In the win, they dominated the Patriots to a score of a 33-14.