The New England Patriots entered week 17 in the driver’s seat for the AFC’s number one playoff seed and homefield advantage throughout the conference’s playoff branch. Thanks to their 35-14 blowout victory over the also playoff-bound Miami Dolphins, the Patriots have secured the top seed.
It is the sixth time in franchise history that the Patriots have earned homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. All six have come with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at the helm. Let’s take a quick look at them and what the team was able to accomplish afterwards.
After finishing the season with a league-best 14-2 record, New England first welcomed the Tennessee Titans to Gillette Stadium (a 17-14 victory) before hosting and beating the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC title game (24-14). The Patriots then went on to win their second world championship by beating the Carolina Panthers 32-29 in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
The most dominant team in NFL history went 16-0 and had a successful first playoff game, beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 31-20. The team struggled the next week but still won the AFC title 21-12 over the San Diego Chargers. However, two weeks later, the New York Giants spoiled the perfect season in Super Bowl XLII.
New England lost just two games during the regular season but was unable to take advantage. The team went one-and-done in the playoffs, courtesy of a 28-21 divisional round loss against the New York Jets.
The following year, the 13-3 Patriots earned the top AFC seed again – but again their postseason ended in disappointing fashion. After beating the Denver Broncos (45-10) and Baltimore Ravens (23-20), New England lost another Super Bowl to the New York Giants.
After going 12-4, the Patriots hosted the Ravens in the divisional playoff round. After beating them 35-31 in one of the most thrilling games in recent memory, the team dismantled the Indianapolis Colts to win its eighth AFC championship. Two weeks later, in an all-time classic, New England defeated the NFC’s top-seeded Seattle Seahawks 28-24.
Time will tell whether 2016’s top seed will help the Patriots win another championship. But one thing is certain: the team has set itself up nicely for another run at the Vince Lombardi trophy.