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How Important Is Home-Field Advantage in the Playoffs to the New Orleans Saints?

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How Important Is Home-Field Advantage in the Playoffs to the New Orleans Saints?
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A home playoff game: There’s something to be said about a familiar routine, a native facility and an intimate setting among a friendly home crowd.

There’s much more to home-field advantage for the New Orleans Saints, however.

The 9-2 Saints travel to Seattle on Monday to face the 10-1 Seahawks in a clash of the top two seeds in the NFC. With only five games remaining on the schedule, it’s very likely that whichever team comes out victorious will land the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and secure home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

If history repeats itself, the only way for the Saints to win a playoff game and eventually win the Super Bowl is to play their postseason games at home in the Superdome.

During the Sean Payton era in New Orleans, the Saints have qualified for the playoffs four out of seven years (six if you consider 2012 wasn’t a Payton-coached team). A 66 percent success rate when it comes to making it into the playoffs is fantastic, and the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl win was a momentous occasion in New Orleans history.

But that’s where the happy memories end regarding postseason play for the Saints.

New Orleans is 5-3 in the playoffs under Payton with three of those wins coming in 2009 on the team’s Super Bowl run. In the Saints' other three trips to the playoffs since 2006, New Orleans has been sent packing, always as a road team.

New Orleans in the Playoffs under Sean Payton
Season Wild Card Round Divisional Round NFC Championship Super Bowl
2006 Win over Philadelphia (home) Loss to Chicago (road)
2009 Win over Arizona (home) Win over Minnesota (home) Win over Indianapolis (neutral)
2010 Loss to Seattle (road)
2011 Win over Detroit (home) Loss to 49ers (road)

Pro Football Reference

The Saints have never won a road game in the playoffs under Payton. In 2006 the Saints lost 39-17 to the Chicago Bears on the road in the NFC Championship. In 2010 New Orleans was bumped out of the playoffs in the Wild Card Round in Seattle, 41-36.

In 2011 the San Francisco 49ers beat the Saints 36-32 in the divisional round of the playoffs.

The only game New Orleans has won in the playoffs away from the Superdome was Super Bowl XLIV. The Saints' championship win came at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. over the Indianapolis Colts 31-17, at a neutral site.

The road playoff woes didn’t hit New Orleans with the Payton era. The Saints made it to the postseason five times prior to 2006 and lost two road games in that stretch too. Since the team’s inception in 1967, it’s made nine trips to the playoffs with an overall 6-8 record. At home the Saints are 5-3 (5-0 under Payton), on the road they’re 0-5 (0-3 under Payton), and at neutral sites they are 1-0.

New Orleans in the Playoffs: Before Sean Payton
Season Wild Card Round Divisional Round NFC Championship Super Bowl
2000 Win over St. Louis (home) Loss to Minnesota (road)
1992 Loss to Philadelphia (home)
1991 Loss to Atlanta (home)
1990 Loss to Chicago (road)
1987 Loss to Minnesota (home)

Pro Football Reference

The Saints need to beat the Seahawks Monday and find a way to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. A Payton-led Saints playoff team has never won on the road and never lost at home. That’s simple math.

That win won’t come easy. Seattle is one of the more vicious places to play in the NFL. Even in the regular season, New Orleans is a much different team on the road.

The Saints this season are a perfect 6-0 at home and 3-2 on the road. Sure their two losses have come via a combined nine points at the hands of two potential playoff teams (the Patriots are currently the AFC’s No. 2 seed, and the New York Jets are a half-game out of the playoffs in the win column but have a shot).

While those two close losses bestow hope that New Orleans can turn things around on the road, some other home-road splits are quite harrowing.

The Saints have scored 33.2 points per game on average at home and only 21.2 on the road. Their defense gives up more points away from the Superdome too, 20.2 points per game on the road and only 15.8 at home.

On offense, six of the Saints' seven touchdown runs have come at home, and 68 percent (19 of 28) of their touchdown passes have been in front of the Superdome crowd. Drew Brees has a completion rate 11 points higher at home. His 73.5 percent completion rate is phenomenal while he's much more pedestrian on the road with a 62.2 percent rate.

There’s not a whole lot of margin for error with the remaining schedule. If New Orleans doesn’t beat Seattle in Week 13, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to make up the lost ground. The Saints would have to win three more games than the Seahawks with only four remaining. Since Seattle has only lost once this season, a collapse like that isn’t in the cards.

Remaining Schedule: Saints & Seahawks
New Orleans Saints Week Seattle Seahawks
Seattle (10-1) Week 13 New Orleans (9-2)
Carolina (8-3) Week 14 San Francisco (7-4)
St. Louis (5-6) Week 15 New York Giants (4-7)
Carolina (8-3) Week 16 Arizona (7-4)
Tampa Bay (3-8) Week 17 St. Louis (5-6)

ESPN

New Orleans must win in Seattle on Monday night so the Saints don’t have to travel back to the Pacific Northwest to play the Seahawks again for the honor of advancing to the Super Bowl. If New Orleans loses, the Saints will have to erase 46 years of history to advance to their second Super Bowl in five seasons.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.

Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.

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