Homey... Does play that? Why homefield advantage matters in the playoffs

Otto Greule Jr

If there's a trend to playoff success, we can probably boil it down to one stat and it's not homefield advantage. But sometimes playing at home can really boost your likelihood of following that trend.

Extree! Extree! Ponder this observance!

"Hey did you hear the news, Mistah?!"

"Buzz off kid, I'm trying to go to work here."

"But Mistah! The Saints are marching in!"

"Whattya say, Kid? The Saints?"

"Yeah, the New Orleans Saints. They comin's to try and takes our trophy!"

The man takes the cigar out of his mouth and his jaw drops. He gives the kid a nickle for the paper. Give me a close-up of the kid's face, covered in soot. More soot. No even more. Wait, too much soot. Perfect amount of soot, thanks. He's wearing a tattered brown coat and one of those newsie hats from Newsies. Now pan back to the man. Yes, pan. Zoom in. Closer. Closer. The Closer with Kyra Sedgwick. Great. Now back to the kid. To the man. To the kid. To the man. Kid. Man. Kid. Man. A car slams into a fruit stand. Okay, back to the man, close-up, he looks right into the camera.

"Don't worry. It'll be a Brees."

And hit me with the theme song. Roll credits. Perfect.

That's a wrap people. You can go home. Thanks for your work today on the set of Nickle, Kid, Man.

Kenneth runs in from the far right of the stage as the lights on the set begin to dim and everyone leaves. "Wait, wait, there's more!" he shouts into the camera. He's looking right at you and he begins to talk....

The other day I was at the doctor and I said "Doctor, doctor, gimme the news. I got a bad case of green and blues." and he said that the Saints were playing a game in Seattle on Monday night. He also said that I'm probably going to get a case of liver diabetes if I keep eating and drinking the way I do.

No regular season game this season could have more of an impact on the NFC playoffs than this one. Both teams carry significant homefield advantages and the winner will have the inside track to homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. If the Seahawks win, they'll be two games better than the Saints with a tiebreaker advantage and only four games left.

If New Orleans wins, they'll be tied with Seattle with the tiebreaker advantage. It won't be as serious of a stranglehold as if the Seahawks win, but it's still serious. As serious as liverbetes. Seattle's remaining schedule doesn't look as easy as it once did, with the Cardinals on fire, the 49ers being a good team and having to play that game in San Francisco and the Rams blowing out a couple of decent teams recently.

Not even playing in New York against the Giants looks like a gimme anymore. (Did I really just propose that the Seahawks playing on the east coast wasn't a "gimme" but could have been considered that? Man, we have changed.)

We are all well aware by now that the very recent track record of Super Bowl winners favors the poor more than it does the rich. The last three champions had a combined regular season record of 29-19, for a winning percentage of just .604. That's a good record but it's a far cry from a 14-2 team that has a winning percentage of .875.

Take the last 13 Super Bowl winners and you'll find that only one of them (the 2009 Saints) led the league in scoring. Seven of those teams weren't even in the top nine in scoring. Take a look at those last 13 champs and you'll find that four of those teams were first in scoring defense, two more were second and a third was third. However, take a look at the last seven champs and you'll find that only two of them were top 10 in scoring defense and in fact three of them were in the bottom third of the league.

So what gives? Why are we seeing "poor playoff teams" beating the richie riches of the world?

Well, it's not how you play in the regular season that counts in the playoffs, it's how you play in the playoffs that truly pays off. If you get hurt and miss work it won't hurt to miss work.

Over the course of the entire 2012 regular season, the Baltimore Ravens were +9 in turnovers. That was good for eighth in the NFL but it was hardly the best mark. Over the course of only their first three playoff games last season, they were +5.

The 2011 New York Giants were +7 in turnovers in the regular season and then +5 in three playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl.

The 2010 Green Bay Packers were +10 in turnovers in the regular season (buoyed strongly by a +5 game against the Giants late in the year) and then +3 in three playoff games.

Of the last 17 Super Bowl champions, all of them forced an average of at least two turnovers per game leading up to the Super Bowl. Of the last 28 champions, only three turned it over at least twice per game leading up to the big one and only the '99 Rams turned it over more than they had takeaways.

Basically, the most important rule in the playoffs (and in any single game for that matter) is that you've gotta win the turnover battle. You've at least gotta tie it. It doesn't matter if you gain more yards, convert more third downs, or score more points- scratch that last one, maybe. But turning it over fewer times than the other guys is paramount to winning in the playoffs. Typically, teams that have won the Super Bowl have done that the best.

It also then wouldn't matter if you're the one seed or the six seed. Unless...

Robert Stack walks into frame in his trench coat and we dim the lights and hit him with a spotlight. Cue camera one. Camera two. Camera one.

"On the evening of January 8, 2011, in a little town called Seattle, Washington, thousands of people reported unusual paranormal activity in the vicinity of SoDo. Some even said that there was "So much determination, Do" that it rocked the very foundations of this small, village atmosphere. Was it an earthquake? An alien crash landing? Or was it... a beast."

Okay, bring up the grainy footage from 1994 of a southern man in a sleeveless Bug Light t-shirt and a trucker cap talking about "what he done seen" and play the music.

Well done, folks. Wrap it up!

Not a lot of people know this, but the 2010 Seahawks were one of the worst teams in the NFL yet made the playoffs at 7-9 and found themselves facing the Saints at home. They actually won that game (trust me, you can look it up if you want. No, don't look there. No, not there. Colder. Cooolddder. So cold, do.) 41-36 because they have a pretty neat homefield advantage. Seattle tied the turnover battle that day 1:1 and that was good enough.

Did you know though that despite their 7-9 record, the 2010 Seattle Seahawks were 4-0 when they won the turnover battle? And three of those instances came at home. They were 2-2 when they had the same number of turnovers as their opponents.

Seattle was 1-7 when they turned it over two or more times that season and were -9 on the year, which was only good for 27th in the NFL. But at home in the playoffs, they went evensies with New Orleans and won. Some people also said that it had something to do with some sort of run, but those reports are still unconfirmed according to Stack.

That year they were +1 in eight home games and -10 in eight road games.

In 2011, they were +6 in home games and +2 in road games.

Last season, they were +15 in home games and -2 in road games. And you may remember that they haven't lost at home since Christmas Eve, 2011.

This season, they are +6 at home and +5 on the road, but they still have three more home games left. Last year, they were helped tremendously by Arizona's eight turnovers against them in Seattle. And hey, the Cardinals haven't yet come to town this year! (Though they got rid of John Skelton, aww nuts!)

At CenturyLink this year the Seahawks have turned it over eight times and forced 14 turnovers. They are averaging a final score of 32.4-15.4 at home. On the road it's "only" 24-17.

I've spent countless hours trying to figure out "what makes a champion" and I won't stop now, but the truth is we don't exactly know yet and we probably never will. If we did, well then, we'd all be champions and every day would be Christmas, but no matter what the case is, winning the turnover battle is huge.

The Seahawks are one of the best teams in the NFL in turnover margin. They're better at home. If they beat the Saints on Monday, they'll almost certainly have at least one home game and probably two. That's the key.

They need to be at home because that's where they have the highest probability of winning the turnover battle...

The curtain drops and the spotlight hits it as Dom Deluise enters from stage left.

"That's it. That's the whole show! Whattya still doin' here? Go home! Go home! go home! go home. gohome. home..."

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