On Sunday afternoon the San Diego Chargers visit the Denver Broncos with the right to battle for the AFC title on the line as well. Conventional wisdom suggests the Patriots would obviously prefer to take on the Chargers (a wild card team who finished the regular season 9-7) at home, rather than fly to Denver and play a 13-3 Broncos squad that earned the conference's #1 seed.
However, conventional wisdom has been thrown out the window of late when it comes to the NFL postseason. Let's take a quick look at the roads taken through the playoffs by the past three Super Bowl Champions:
2010 Green Bay Packers: The Packers entered the postseason at 10-6, via a wild card berth as the #6 overall seed in the NFC. They won in Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Chicago before knocking off the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the title.
2011 New York Giants: The Giants managed to capture the NFC East with a 9-7 record, earning the #4 seed. They beat the Atlanta Falcons at home, then had to defeat the Packers and San Francisco 49ers on the road before upsetting New England in the Super Bowl.
2012 Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens won their division after going 10-6, good for the 4th seed in the AFC. They opened the playoffs with a home victory over the Colts, then traveled to Denver and New England for their next two wins before capturing the championship against the 49ers.
These teams have three things in common -- none won more than 10 regular season games, they all began the postseason as a #4 seed or worse, and each had to win multiple road playoff games along the way to the Super Bowl. The only team remaining in this year's tournament that fits all three of those criteria is the Chargers.
But the fact that the past three title winners were long shots certainly isn't enough of a reason to make the Patriots and their fans wary of San Diego, right? However, there's another bizarre trend that comes into play, and it starts with the NFL's champion from four years ago:
2009 New Orleans Saints: The Saints visited the Philadelphia Eagles in the second week of the season that year. This is worth mentioning because it was the home opener for the Eagles. Philadelphia played their first home game in 2010 against the Packers, in 2011 vs. the Giants, and in 2012 Baltimore came to town. The Eagles' opponent in their home opener has won the last four consecutive Super Bowls. After beginning this season in Washington, care to venture a guess as to which club Philadelphia hosted in Week 2? None other than the San Diego Chargers.
I realize this is a complete coincidence, and there is no logical reason to believe it might happen for a fifth straight year. I am also aware that New England's chances will clearly be better in Foxboro against San Diego than vs. Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver. But as a Patriots fan, I can't say I wouldn't have a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach when facing the Chargers and their apparent Super Bowl destiny.
Mark Vandeusen is the owner and creator of LucidSportsFan.com, for which he writes daily about the Boston sports scene and other topics of interest. He also contributes to Next Impulse Sports, CLNS Radio, and Celtics Life.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- San Diego Chargers
- New England Patriots
- Denver Broncos
- Indianapolis Colts