Winning consistently in the NFL is a difficult task to accomplish. Year after year we see teams that look like a true contender fall off the map after a short losing streak, and 2013 will be no different. Although there have been teams in recent history that have won the Super Bowl taking the long road, the truth is the teams with the best chance to represent their respective conferences are the teams that stay home for the playoffs.
As we near the completion of Week 14 of the NFL schedule, we are starting to get an idea of who will clinch the crucial home playoff games and bye weeks. The Denver Broncos continued their great season with a thrashing of Tennessee which leaves them at 11-2. The Broncos have to stay on point because they still have the 10-3 Kansas City Chiefs nipping at their heels. The New England Patriots started the day as the number two seed, and although it looked like the Bengals were about to leapfrog them after their big win versus Indy, the Patriots found a way to pull out the miracle win after being down 12 with three minutes to go. While this miracle comeback was occurring, the Patriots best player not named Tom Brady was on his way to the hospital to ultimately learn his ACL is torn.
The Broncos and the Patriots do appear to be the clear top two teams in the conference, and home field for both of these teams may be more important than the other playoff participants. New England is 3-3 on the road this season, and two of those three wins were dicey to say the least. Comebacks against Houston may be possible during the regular season, but getting in holes on the road in the playoffs is a death sentence. This alone makes obtaining a top two seed vital for the Patriots to have any chance to win their fourth Lombardi Trophy.
Peyton Manning and the Broncos are 4-2 on the road this season, so they aren’t much better than New England in other team’s stadiums. If Denver was to somehow lose the top seed or even fall behind Kansas City, they will end up playing on the road in a tough environment. The Broncos are 2-2 on the road versus potential playoff teams (Dallas, New England, Indianapolis, and Kansas City) and they’re undefeated at home. It is pretty clear that the Broncos have a serious home field advantage and need to win out to maintain their current standing.
New England has had more recent success in Denver than the Broncos have had in Foxboro, so going to Mile High for the AFC Championship isn’t exactly an impossible task for the Patriots. It will be an impossible task if they aren’t able to clinch a top two bye and earn the bye week to heal up. The last thing Peyton Manning wants to do is come back to Foxboro, especially in January. These next three weeks will be very interesting and will go a long way towards deciding the AFC Champion. If today was a sign of things to come, we may see the best two months of football in a long time.