Having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs could be the deciding factor between earning a Super Bowl berth or going home.
Playing a home game provides teams with familiarity, a loud crowd and allowing them to avoid travel. All of those factors could potentially factor into a big playoff win.
Most NFL stadiums offer some sort of home-field advantage, but some can truly have an impact on the outcome of the game.
As winter approaches, Pittsburgh becomes a very cold and snowy city. The residents of Pittsburgh embody the weather conditions, with an equally tough and unforgiving presence. Traveling to Heinz Field in January forces teams to overcome a loud and rowdy crowd and cold weather conditions.
The Pittsburgh Steelers themselves also make Heinz Field a tough place to play. This team feeds off the crowd noise, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The crowd forces the offense to use unfamiliar snap counts, which allows the Steelers to ramp up their pass rush.
One of the greatest pregame scenes in all of football is Ray Lewis' entrance into M&T Bank Stadium. He unleashes all his fury and excitement in wild body movements. The Ravens fans love Ray Lewis and this entrance incites a loud roar from the crowd.
Traveling to Baltimore is also tough because of the chilly weather and aggressive Ravens defense. Terrell Suggs knows how to use the crowd noise to his advantage, as he gets a great jump off the line. A sack by Suggs, big hit by Lewis or interception by Ed Reed often makes conditions in the stadium deafening.
The Superdome is a wild and crazy place in any month, but it goes to a new level in playoff situation. A dome traps the crowd noise inside, making it nearly impossible for opposing teams to communicate effectively.
This forces the opponent to spend time during the week preparing for the noise, which takes away from offensive and defensive game plans.
There is nothing like watching the camera scan through the crowd and seeing Saints-themed Storm Troopers. I can't imagine playing for a road team and witnessing the craziness in the stands.
New Orleans itself is also a distraction. The city is known for its party environment and fun, which makes visiting the city and staying in the hotel a tough task.
Lambeau Field features a ton of history, which isn't lost on visiting teams. They know this is where some of the game's greatest players roamed. All of that history only adds a little more pressure to an already pressure-filled situation. A playoff game at Lambeau Field is a special situation.
History aside, Green Bay is a frigid place in January. This cold doesn't make for a very pleasant environment for football. Teams and players not used to this type of cold struggle to get warmed up and ready for the start of the game.
Imagine still trying to warm up your muscles and having to defend the wide-open Packers offensive attack. Things could spiral out of control in a hurry.