The New England Patriots have been one of the best teams at home since the start of the 2016 season, going 12-4 (including the postseason). Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has a passer rating of 108.9 at home over that time, trailing only Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (112.3), who receives a favorable statistical boost in a dome.
But while New England has been great at home, they’ve been incredible on the road, posting a 13-0 record, the second-longest road winning streak in NFL history (the San Francisco 49ers have a 19-game win streak from 1988 to 1990).
Brady has an NFL-best passer rating of 113.0 on the road, with 30 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. The Patriots run game averages 4.03 yards per carry on the road (19th), versus 3.78 YPC at home (25th). New England wins by an average of 9.6 points at home and a whopping 13.8 points on the road.
There’s not a simple explanation for the Patriots success on the road, and no one on the Patriots seem to buy into the theory.
“We try to execute well every week,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gruffly said about playing better on the road than at home.
“I'm not sure [if we’re better on the road], but we've got three coming up on the road so I hope that trend continues,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady added.
“I don't know [if we’re better on the road],” Patriots free safety Devin McCourty said. “If we had those answers we'd play great every week. It's just a balance of putting in the work during the week and then trying to come out here and play well whether it's home or away.
The Patriots are about to embark on a three-game road trip against the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh Steelers and that should be a pretty difficult path to follow if New England is going to extend their undefeated streak.
The Bills are 4-1 at home, versus 2-4 on the road; the Dolphins are 2-3 at home, versus 2-4 on the road; and the Steelers are 4-1 at home, versus 5-1 on the road. All three teams have winning records at home since the start of 2016 and at least Buffalo and Pittsburgh have their respective strengths.
Buffalo leads the NFL in yards per carry at home (5.32) and holds opposing quarterbacks to the eighth-best defensive passer rating (79.1), while the Steelers have the fifth-best offensive passer rating (101.8) and fifth-best point differential (111). The Dolphins are miraculously 8-5 at home, despite coming in well below-average in most categories.
“We knew coming in these division games are never easy,” McCourty said. “Next week is going to be another hard test then we'll go to Miami and play these guys again. I think that's the National Football League. It's trying to find consistency. It's trying to play well every time you step on the field and I think overall I think the most important thing is to get a win and try to learn from it.”
The Patriots would clinch the AFC East titles with wins over both the Bills and the Dolphins in the next two weeks, and they could clinch a first-round bye with a subsequent win against the Steelers and a Jaguars loss over the next three weeks (Colts, Seahawks, and Texans all in Jacksonville). They could even clinch homefield advantage if the Steelers also fall on the road against the Bengals in week 13 or at home against the Ravens in week 14.
“Honestly, we don’t really think of [playing away] any different than being home,” McCourty said. “It’s kind of just our preparation throughout the week. Honestly, I don’t know why we’ve had that stretch where we’ve played really well on the road, but I think it’s us just trying to stick to our process, stick to what we do. On the road, I think you have a mentality of it’s just us. When you go into a different stadium, you know there’s no home crowd, there’s no energy coming from the crowd for your side. So, I think we understand that mentality, but I don’t know the secret kind of to why we’ve been able to win and play well on the road.”
New England has a lot on the line over the next three weeks, even if the road hasn’t appeared that difficult over the past two seasons.