The halfway point of the season is coming just right around the corner and divisional contenders will begin trying to secure playoff spots in the final two months of play.
Home-field advantage in the playoffs takes on a different meaning, as a team might be dominant on their home soil in the regular season, but that often doesn’t transform their stadium into a hostile environment come January.
Teams understand how important obtaining home-field advantage is for them to win a Super Bowl championship. By playing on the road, your preparation time is cut into for traveling to the game’s site. Often, the visiting locker rooms aren’t quite as cozy as your own quarters. All of the inconveniences begin to add up and disrupt your normal routine for game week.
Let’s take a look at the five best stadiums that provide a distinct home-field advantage in the playoffs:
In the Bill Belichick era, the New England Patriots have been unbeatable at home in the postseason, as they were undefeated until losing back-to-back home playoff games (the Ravens 33-14 in 2010 and the Jets 28-21 last season).
Some feel the fans have become too spoiled by the team’s recent success and the lack of crowd noise has made Gillette Stadium less than hostile for opposing teams.
It seems every recent home playoff game has been played under less than ideal conditions, as no telling how the weather will be on a seasonal New England day. It could rain, snow or be windy all game long, and all of these conditions work to the Pats advantage.
If the weather doesn’t get you then you still have to contend with the arm of Tom Brady.
Let’s face facts, playing football in inclement weather is a difficult task. The playing surface feels like a parking lot and throwing a football is a lot like tossing a brick to an open receiver. Opposing teams dread heading to Green Bay in January…until now.
Unfortunately, teams aren’t that fearful of playing in Lambeau Field anymore. Team management improved the condition of the playing field and this has made a playoff game an even proposition for opponents to win. Since 2003, the Packers have lost three of their last five home playoff games.
Next to CenturyLink Field, the Superdome is the loudest stadium during the playoffs. Each week, the most passionate fans in the NFL fill the dome to capacity and cheer their beloved New Orleans Saints to victory.
The circular structure of the Bayou has become one of the top home-field advantages in pro football today, as the sound bounces all of the steel and concrete inside the building. Nothing makes your fan base louder than placing a cover over them during a primetime playoff game. The noise contributes to opposing players have trouble communicating with one another on both sides of the ball.
What a raucous scene at Heinz Field, as you have 65,000 fans waving their terrible towels and screaming prior to opening kick. This leads to visiting teams struggling with all facets of their game, whether it’s a key turnover, a missed block or confusion in the secondary, they all falter under the pressure.
Hosting playoff games at Heinz Field has become old hat for the Steel City—seven AFC Championship Games have been played in Pittsburgh over the last 17 years.
It seems every year come playoff time, Heinz Field turns into a giant sandbox, as the natural grass surface begins to come apart during playoff games. The winds coming off the river makes kicking a nightmare for any team. Especially, if you’re looking to make a field goal on the open-end side of the field.
In the 10 years that CenturyLink Field (formerly Qwest Field) has been home to the Seattle Seahawks, it has repeatedly been voted the loudest stadium in the NFL.
On the north-end of the field is where the diehard fans reside, as their home is made of steel and they continuously stomp their feet to make non-stop noise throughout the game.
The venue’s design specifically amplifies the crowd noise right on top of the field and this contributes to opposing teams being called for numerous false starts penalties. In 2005, New York Giants were called for 11 false starts penalties in one game.
They can also forget about using audible plays at the line of scrimmage, as teams often have to use a silent count to snap the football. The Seahawks have won five straight home playoff games at CenturyLink Field.