What advantage does playing at home give NFL teams? In Week 16 action, we saw a San Francisco team, riding high after a big win over New England in Foxboro, travel to Seattle to get smoked by a Seahawks team that plays like the '86 Bears at home. The Texans, who have lost two of their three games at home, could not even manage a touchdown against a visiting Vikings team.
The Falcons, the only team besides the Seahawks with a 7-0 record at home, will enjoy a first-round bye before hosting a divisional-round game at the Georgia Dome. Atlanta also enjoyed that privilege in the 2010 playoffs, which ended in a rout at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. Meanwhile, the Giants won the Super Bowl last season after beating the Packers and 49ers on the road.
We can establish that homefield advantage means everything, except when it doesn't. The playoff picture is generally set for the top teams in each conference, but as we've seen in recent years, teams with postseason home games have been sent home early by those who have snuck into the playoffs in the season's last week. Homefield advantage can look like the variable that swings games for the home team, but often it can work against them. It's almost impossible how a team will react to being at home/on the road until the game itself begins.
With that said, let's overreact to Week 16's results.
Coming up: Which teams delayed having their playoff hopes dashed for another week? Is one highly regarded NFL coach a little aggressive with the car horn? And will Andy Reid help the Giants make the postseason?
1. Denver (12-3); Last week: 1
Week 16 result: Won vs. Cleveland, 34-12
In the Broncos' 10th straight victory, Peyton Manning threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns, tying Brett Favre for the NFL record for most games with three-plus touchdown passes (72). Von Miller had 1.5 of the team's six sacks, bringing his total for the season to 17.5 and setting the single-season franchise record. Denver is now tied with Houston for the No. 1 seed in the AFC and can clinch with a win over the Chiefs and a Texans loss.
Next up: vs. Kansas City
2. Atlanta (13-2); Last week: 3
Week 16 result: Won at Detroit, 31-18
Matt Ryan threw four touchdown passes (two to Roddy White) as the Falcons clinched the top seed in the NFC and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. It might come in handy, as they are 7-0 at the Georgia Dome heading into the season finale.
Next up: vs. Tampa Bay
3. New England (11-4); Last week: 5
Week 16 result: Won at Jacksonville, 23-16
The Patriots rebounded after their loss to the 49ers, but it wasn't easy. Tom Brady threw two touchdowns but was also picked off twice. Luckily, the New England defense forced three interceptions. A Wes Welker touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference. New England has outscored its opponents by 198 points, by far the most in the league.
Next up: vs. Miami
4. Green Bay (11-4); Last week: 6
Week 16 result: Won vs. Tennessee, 55-7
Aaron Rodgers threw for three touchdown passes and ran for another as the Packers routed the Titans. Rodgers has thrown for 35 scores on the season, second in the NFL, and has been intercepted just eight times.The Packers are 9-1 since losing to the Colts in Week 5 and can clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a win over the Vikings.
Next up: at Minnesota
5. Seattle (10-5); Last week: 7
Week 16 result: Won vs. San Francisco, 42-13
The Seahawks jumped their division rivals, opening a 21-0 lead early in the fourth quarter after blocking a field goal and returning it for a 90-yard touchdown. Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes and the defense held the 49ers to just six points before a late touchdown. Seattle is one of two teams undefeated at home this season (Atlanta). Unfortunately, they are 3-5 on the road, where they will likely begin the playoffs as the fifth seed. That might not matter much if they continue to outscore their opponents as they have in the last three games (150-30).
Next up: vs. St. Louis
6. Houston (12-3); Last week: 2
Week 16 result: Lost vs. Minnesota, 23-6
Not the kind of loss the Texans need heading into the playoffs. With a chance to clinch the AFC's No. 1 seed, Houston was thoroughly shut down by Minnesota at home - and Adrian Peterson didn't even top 100 yards. Matt Schaub managed only 178 passing yards and the Texans rushed for just 34 yards - and lost Arian Foster in the third quarter to an irregular heartbeat. They now need a win in Indianapolis to avoid the possibility of dropping to the second or third seed.
Next up: at Indianapolis
7. San Francisco (10-4-1); Last week: 4
Week 16 result: Lost at Seattle, 42-13
Not quite the way to prove a win over the Patriots is not a fluke. Nothing went right for the 49ers in Seattle as they fell behind early and could not solve the Seahawks' offense or defense. It got so bad that after the game, Jim Harbaugh had to defend honking at the Seattle team bus following the Niners' Week 7 win in San Francisco. The 49ers could have sewn up the NFC West, but now will need a win over Arizona to do so.
Next up: vs. Arizona
8. Washington (9-6); Last week: 8
Week 16 result: Won at Philadelphia, 27-20
Robert Griffin III was clearly not completely healthy after returning from a knee injury, but it doesn't take much to beat the Eagles. Griffin threw for two touchdowns and Alfred Morris ran for another in the win. The Redskins will finish atop the NFC East for the first time since 1999 if they beat the Cowboys. If they lose, Washington can still make the playoffs as a wild-card team.
Next up: vs. Dallas
9. Baltimore (10-5); Last week: 14
Week 16 result: Won vs. New York Giants, 33-14
The Ravens ended their three-game losing streak and clinched the AFC North in convincing fashion. Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes and rushed for another, while Bernard Pierce and Ray Rice combined to rush for 230 yards. Baltimore racked up 533 total yards in the win, the second game under offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.
Next up: at Cincinnati
10. Minnesota (9-6); Last week: 11
Week 16 result: Won at Houston, 23-6
The Vikings kept their playoff hopes alive even without a monumental effort from Adrian Peterson. Christian Ponder threw a touchdown pass and the defense held Houston to six points and 187 total yards. Minnesota will clinch a playoff berth with a win over Green Bay.
Next up: vs. Green Bay
11. Indianapolis (10-5); Last week: 10
Week 16 result: Won at Kansas City, 20-13
The Colts did barely enough to beat the Chiefs, but earned their 10th win of the season despite allowing an astounding 352 rushing yards. Darius Butler picked off a Brady Quinn pass early in the game and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown, and Andrew Luck threw a late touchdown to Reggie Wayne to provide the winning margin.
Next up: vs. Houston
12. Cincinnati (9-6); Last week: 13
Week 16 result: Won at Pittsburgh, 13-10
A field goal by Josh Brown with four seconds left helped the Bengals clinch their second consecutive playoff berth. Cincinnati's defense picked off Ben Roethlisberger twice, including Reggie Nelson's interception with 14 seconds left that helped set up Brown's game-winning field goal.
Next up: vs. Baltimore
13. Chicago (9-6); Last week: 15
Week 16 result: Won at Arizona, 28-13
The Bears were just 1-5 after a 7-1 start, so a matchup with the Cardinals was sorely needed. Chicago's defense recorded two scores, one a Zack Bowman fumble return and the other a Charles Tillman score off an interception, to keep the franchise's playoff hopes alive. Brandon Marshall added a touchdown and 68 receiving yards to break the Bears' single-season reception yards record.
Next up: at Detroit
14. Dallas (8-7); Last week: 12
Week 16 result: Lost vs. New Orleans, 34-31 (OT)
In classic Cowboys fashion, Dallas lost a game at home that severely hampered their playoff chances. Tony Romo threw for 416 yards and four touchdowns and Dez Bryant had another monster game with nine catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns, including a 58-yarder. The Dallas defense couldn't stop New Orleans in the slightest, however, yielding 562 total yards. The Cowboys could have put themselves in position to make the playoffs even with a Week 17 loss, but now must beat the Redskins to win the NFC East.
Next up: at Washington
15. New York Giants (8-7); Last week: 9
Week 16 result: Lost at Baltimore, 33-14
This wasn't how the Giants pictured their playoff positioning when they were 6-2 after Week 8. After a bad loss to the Ravens that was just the latest in a 2-5 stretch, the Giants now need major help just to qualify for the postseason. New York can make the playoffs as a wild card if the Cowboys, Bears and Vikings all lose and they beat the Eagles - perhaps the toughest task of all.
Next up: vs. Eagles
16. New Orleans (7-8); Last week: 17
Week 16 result: Won at Dallas, 34-31 (OT)
Drew Brees threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns and Marques Colston caught 10 passes for 153 yards, but New Orleans only survived blowing a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter thanks to Garrett Hartley's field goal in overtime. The Saints will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. I'm sure they won't blame this guy ahead of their bottom-ranked defense.
Next up: vs. Carolina
17. Carolina (6-9); Last week: 18
Week 16 result: Won vs. Oakland, 17-6
Cam Newton threw for one touchdown and ran for another against Oakland. The Panthers are 4-1 in their last five, a stretch that has seen Newton combine for 14 touchdowns to just two turnovers. Carolina's defense forced Carson Palmer from the game and had the pleasure of facing Matt Leinart for more than three quarters.
Next up: at New Orleans
18. Pittsburgh (7-8); Last week: 16
Week 16 result: Lost vs. Cincinnati, 13-10
So much for Ben Roethlisberger returning from injury to lead the Steelers to the playoffs. Pittsburgh has lost their last three games since Roethlisberger returned, two of them at home. Roethlisberger threw an interception late in the game that set the Bengals up for the game-winning field goal, just one week after throwing an interception in overtime in the Steelers' loss to the Cowboys.
Next up: vs. Cleveland
19. St. Louis (7-7-1); Last week: 21
Week 16 result: Won at Tampa Bay, 28-13
Sam Bradford threw two touchdown passes and Janoris Jenkins returned one of the Rams' four interceptions for a 41-yard touchdown. Jenkins has turned three of his four interceptions for touchdowns this season. St. Louis held Tampa Bay to 13 points despite the Buccaneers gaining 429 yards to the Rams' 285. The Rams have a chance to win eight games after winning just two in 2011.
Next up: at Seattle
20. Miami (7-8); Last week: 19
Week 16 result: Won vs. Buffalo, 24-10
The Dolphins, who will miss the playoffs for the 10th time in 11 seasons, hosted the Bills, who will miss the playoffs for the 13th straight season, in Week 16. Ryan Tannehill threw two touchdown passes, both to Reggie Bush, who added a third on the ground. Miami won.
Next up: at New England
21. San Diego (6-9); Last week: 22
Week 16 result: Won at New York Jets, 27-17
The Chargers' defense sacked the Jets' best quarterback, Greg McElroy 11 times and McElroy still threw for more yards than Philip Rivers. This pretty much sums up Rivers' season, though he did throw two touchdown passes. In addition to the 11 sacks, San Diego also got a touchdown off a 63-yard punt return by Micheal Spurlock and forced two turnovers.
Next up: vs. Oakland
22. Cleveland (5-10); Last week: 23
Week 16 result: Lost at Denver, 34-12
Nothing much went right for the Browns, as things tend to go for the franchise. Cleveland lost Trent Richardson to an ankle injury late in the game and Brandon Weeden was knocked out of the game in the third quarter with an injury to his throwing shoulder. Colt McCoy replaced him and threw a meaningless touchdown in the loss. The Browns will finish fourth in the AFC North for the eighth time in the last 10 seasons.
Next up: at Pittsburgh