Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Home-Field Hazard Road Teams Snatching Wins on Wild-Card Weekend Quite Common

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Home-Field Hazard Road Teams Snatching Wins on Wild-Card Weekend Quite Common

Article excerpt

Welcome to the wildest weekend of the NFL playoffs. This is where a team that sneaks into the playoffs can start a run to the Super Bowl. It's also where a division winner with all the momentum in the world can watch their season end in a heartbeat.

The Steelers have seen both sides of the equation. Home games matter in the playoffs until they don't.

Eleven years ago, the Steelers, after getting into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed in the AFC, went to Cincinnati and beat the AFC North Division champion Bengals in a wild-card game. It was the first of three consecutive road victories en route to their Super Bowl XL title.

Two years ago, the Steelers won 8 of their final 10 games, won the AFC North and played host to the Ravens in a wild-card game. The Ravens won, 30-17, and the Steelers saw their Super Bowl hopes dashed before their eyes at Heinz Field.

"Home field doesn't guarantee you anything any part of the year," linebacker Ryan Shazier said.

That was especially true a year ago on wild-card weekend. All four road teams, including the Steelers, were victorious one year ago. Since the NFL went to its current division format in 2002, home teams are just 30-26 on wild-card weekend.

Why so many upsets in the first round of the playoffs?

Well, there's usually not much separation between the Nos. 3 and 6 seeds. The Steelers and Dolphins, for example, were separated by just one game in their overall record. In the other AFC wild-card game, the No. 5 seed Raiders were two games better than the No. 4 seed Texans, but the Raiders have to go on the road to play them because the NFL rewards division winners with home games. It hasn't been an odd occurrence over the years for the worst division winner to lose to the best wild-card team.

Home teams fare much better as the playoffs go along. Since 2002, home teams are 38-18 in the divisional round. Home teams are 19-9 in the conference championship round.

Not that you'll hear the Steelers complaining about opening the playoffs Sunday at Heinz Field against the Dolphins. …

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