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Homefield advantage a myth for Broncos, NFL playoff teams

By: Paul Klee, The Gazette
January 12, 2014 Updated: January 12, 2014 at 10:59 am
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photo - Denver Broncos NFL football fan Marc Sleight shows his tickets to this Sunday's divisional playoff game between the Broncos and San Diego Chargers, Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, outside Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver.  (AP Photo/The Denver Post, RJ Sangosti)
Denver Broncos NFL football fan Marc Sleight shows his tickets to this Sunday's divisional playoff game between the Broncos and San Diego Chargers, Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, outside Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, RJ Sangosti)  

Homecourt advantage matters in basketball. It matters in the NBA; it matters at the college level. The biggest part of that equation is how officials can be influenced by home crowds. I’ve seen it for years. They’re human. It happens.

In the NFL playoffs? Not so much. History, both recent and long ago, suggests homefield advantage is a myth. 

There have been 47 Super Bowl winners. Guess how many were No. 1 seeds from the AFC? Six. That includes John Elway’s ’98 Broncos. The last No. 1 seed from the AFC to win it all was the 2003 Patriots, who skated by with game-winning field goals by Adam Vinatieri in two of three postseason games.

Peyton Manning (above left), Eric Decker (right) and the Broncos earned the No. 1 seed and the right to host a pair of playoff games. 

“There’s no place like home,” Broncos coach John Fox said today at Dove Valley.

Is that true, though? I tend to think there’s a reason why lower-seeded teams often swing upsets, on the road, in the playoffs. The lower-seeded teams have a game under their belt and enter the divisional round with playoff momentum.

The Chargers have taken it a step further. They’ve been in a playoff mindset for the past five weeks. For San Diego, it’s been win-or-go-home since early December. 

“This is like the sixth round of the playoffs for us,” quarterback Philip Rivers said on a conference call today.

Given the choice, of course you want to play at home. But history, both in Denver and elsewhere, suggests that playoff momentum is a greater advantage than playing on your homefield. 

Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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