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Week 17 Patriots: Sweeping Dolphins and Broncos on road is good indicator of AFC success

If the Patriots can defeat the Dolphins in week 17, it bodes well for their postseason success.

The Denver Broncos and the Miami Dolphins rank in the top five of homefield winning percentage dating back to the 1970 merger between the AFL and the NFL. The New England Patriots have a rare opportunity to go on the road and sweep both teams. The Patriots defeated the Broncos 16-3 in week 15 and face the Dolphins in week 17.

Before the merger, teams often beat the Dolphin and Broncos, with nine teams performing the act between 1966-68, capped off by the Cleveland Browns sweeping both teams in 1970. After the sweep happened ten times in five years from 1966-70, it became a less frequent occurrence.

The Oakland Raiders swept both teams in 1975, as did the 1980 San Diego Chargers and the 1990 Raiders. All three teams reached the AFC Championship Game. The 1978 New York Jets swept both teams, but finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs. The Jets can’t even sweep teams correctly.

Those 1980 Raiders represented the only sweep from 1980 to 1999, when the Jets and defensive coordinator Bill Belichick were able to go on the road to beat the Broncos and Dolphins. Even Belichick couldn’t save the Jets who finished 4th in the AFC East with an 8-8 record.

Belichick didn’t stop there and is responsible for three of the past five sweeps, including in the 2003 Super Bowl season and the 2011 Super Bowl runner-up season with the Patriots. The 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 2010 AFC Championship runner-up Jets were the other two teams.

The act of sweeping the Broncos and Dolphins in their home stadiums doesn’t unlock any type of magic, or bestow greatness like Arthur pulling the sword from the stone. It just means that whatever team is capable of sweeping two historically good home teams is generally very capable of going on a run in the postseason.

Dating back to 1975, two-thirds of the teams that have performed the sweep have reached the AFC Championship Game. If the Patriots take care of business on Sunday, they have a good chance of extending their AFC Championship Game streak to six-straight seasons.