Here we are again. In the same exact position as last year. The Patriots go into Week 17 of their season in need of a win at Miami or a loss by the 2 seed (Oakland Raiders) in order to clinch the number one seed in the AFC. This leads us to question whether homefield advantage is important enough to risk playing our starters and having them get injured à la Derek Carr.
Now that we’ve seen how last year played out, I think that it is fairly obvious why I want the Patriots to play their starters and go for the win in Week 17. Last year, the Patriots decided not to try against Miami, and instead hand the ball off to Steven Jackson or throw screens to James White on nearly every play in the first half. Once the second half rolled around, they went “Oh shit! We’re not going to win this game!”, and they proceeded to start throwing the ball until Ndamukong Suh delivered a crushing blow to Brady that nearly snapped him in half. After everyone on the sidelines and the region of New England recovered from their mini-heart attacks, the Patriots waved the white flag and took the loss. This led to an AFC championship game matchup in Denver that every Patriots fan can say with 1000% certainty New England would have won if the game was in Foxboro. This could have been the case if they had just gave it their all from the beginning of Week 17, but they did not.
Derek Carr broke his leg in Week 16, so I don’t believe that it is entirely necessary to win in Miami. With Matt McGloin at the helm, it's hard to imagine Oakland beating Denver on New Year's Day. And even if they pull that off, it's even harder to imagine them getting through anyone in the divisional round of the playoffs. Therefore, the Patriots needing to go to Oakland for the AFC championship game is unlikely at best. So what’s the point of Bill Belichick playing Brady, Hogan, Edelman, Bennett, and Blount?
Tom Brady has started 31 career playoff games. Out of those 31 games, 7 have been on the road. And out of those 7, he has lost 4 of them. Therefore, why in the world would you even think about running the risk of playing a playoff game anywhere except for Gillette Stadium? Brady’s 15-3 in 18 playoff games in Foxboro. Not to mention, he’s won 7 of his last 8. If Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are smart, this is how they’ll see it. Maybe if TB12 can light up the Dolphins the same way Jimmy Garoppolo did in the first half of Week 2, we’ll see Tom spend the second half on the bench for the second straight week and the Patriots can get the best of both worlds. And is there anything better than the Patriots clinching home field and we getting to listen to the commentators announce that “the road to the Super Bowl will go through Foxboro”? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Photo Credit: (USA Today)