NFL Betting Stats 2015: Definitive home statistics for the Divisional Round

Safer by the dozen: Brady's mistakes drop with the Gillette temperature
Safer by the dozen: Brady's mistakes drop with the Gillette temperature

Romilly Evans takes a look at why the term "home bankers" could take on another level of reliability this weekend en route to the Championship games

"CenturyLink regularly posts the highest decibel rating (around 112) in the NFL, a roar to match a Boeing 747."

The debate among stats geeks rages on as to whether first-round byes and homefield advantage are really the intimidating scarecrows of Play-off Country.

However, the truth looks very simple. In the NFL, the hosts win 57% of the time. Which doesn't recommend much of a bias. However, narrow those numbers within the framework of this weekend's Divisional Round and the probabilistic partiality is starker still: 73%. At least since the current 12-team postseason format was introduced in 1990.

In quick conclusion, then, this week's "entertainers" are more likely to enjoy home comforts than any homefield hoodoo. And even if you take that additional 16% winning likelihood with a pinch of salt, you have to admit that there's something special about the four unique play-houses which set the homefield drama in Week 19.

I was born with a flair for the glaringly obvious and it's not escaped my notice that the famous Fields of Lambeau (Green Bay), Sports Authority (Denver) and CenturyLink (Seattle), alongside Gillette Stadium (New England) make these four top play-off seeds near impossible to beat. Their respective regular-season records, unsurprisingly the best in the league, suggest as much:-

Green Bay Packers (8-0)

Denver Broncos (8-0)

New England Patriots (7-1)

Seattle Seahawks (7-1) 

Only the Pats and the Hawks rolled out the welcome mat for any visiting team this year. But both have mitigating excuses for failing to attain perfection. The Pats took their foot off the gas - and their playmakers off the pitch - for a season-ending loss to Buffalo with the number-one ranking already assured. While the Hawks were turned over by Dallas in Week Six with a freak third-and-20 play to a tip-toeing Terrance Williams from a pirouetting Tony Romo. Long story short: the Bolshoi Ballet would've been proud to have choreographed it. 

So let's have a look at just why this classic quartet can strike up the band at home like few others.

No.1 Seattle Seahawks: CenturyLink regularly posts the highest decibel rating (around 112) in the NFL, a roar to match a Boeing 747. Last year, this din famously flagged the New York Giants for an unprecedented 11 false starts. The next thing they knew, Big Blue were off-side for the postseason and Seattle were in the Super Bowl. The Hawks haven't lost at home in the play-offs for 10 years and have only two defeats at CenturyLink in the Russell Wilson era.

No.1 New England Patriots: it's always tough to travel to fortress Foxborough, but all the more so for this Divisional Round. The biting mystique of Gillette Stadium cuts rival offenses off at the neck, while team talisman Tom Brady and his bunch thrive. Indeed, Brady (seldom given to hyperbole or self-congratulatory back-slapping) reckons himself "a bleeping machine" late in the year in this Boston suburb. He is a staggering 41 of 48 when the mercury shrinks below 40 degrees. It should be in the 20s on Saturday. So don't expect a malfunction from this mean machine.

No.2 Green Bay Packers: the Arctic frozen tundra of storied Lambeau Field makes most opponents look like Bambi on ice when the season nears its sharp end and winter bites. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has won 76% (19 of 25) of his career starts when contesting games in sub-40 temperatures and a calf strain will likely do little to slow him this Sabbath. That's because it's not just Rodgers' excellence in freezing conditions which sets his Pack apart. Lambeau's unique turf and how it reacts underfoot in the cold means that his running backs (most notably Eddie Lacy) and wideouts (Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb) are pass masters of adding ground gains while rivals stumble and fall. In the NFL, this is known as territorial familiarity and it's arguably never more heightened than in Green Bay where recent stadium renovations (more seating) have also ramped up the racket.

No.2 Denver Broncos: the lung-busting altitude of Mile High Stadium (elevated 5,280 feet above sea level) leaves most visitors coming up for air and wishing they'd brought an oxygen tank. Under the guidance of the experienced Peyton Manning, the Broncos are 24-3 at home, or 17-1 over the last two seasons. As with Lambeau, high winds and decreasing degrees mean that things can get rocky in the Rockies and Denver's familiarity with the changeable elements gives them an edge or their rivals (often visiting from warmer climes or domed arenas) a discomforting disadvantage. Throw in Manning's no-huddle offense and this high altitude invariably gets to opponents in the latter stages, as their blood struggles to process its unsaturated haemoglobin. Or so they tell me.

When all's said and done, though, these four home sides (every one preferred in the Vegas books by at least a touchdown) combine for the best collective domestic records in the past decade. And while it's worth remembering that in six of those years, five No.1 seeds have lost their play-off openers in the Divisional Round, this year's formidable foursome appear different. Each should reap the rewards of their foreboding fields.

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