It remains to be seen how much home-field advantage matters in the first year of the 14-team NFL playoff format.
For the Packers, however, it typically means a little more. For Aaron Rodgers, it could be the difference in making a Super Bowl appearance for the first time in 10 seasons.
Rodgers clinched just about everything else in the Packers’ 35-16 victory against the Bears at Soldier Field in Week 17. Green Bay is the top seed and will be the lone NFC team with a bye week. Rodgers, who completed 70.7 percent of his passes with 4,299 yards, 48 TDs and five interceptions this season, made a strong final case for his third NFL MVP award.
But it’s that chance for a second Super Bowl appearance that has eluded Rodgers for the last 10 seasons. Will that Lambeau Field advantage, where he is 75-18-1 as a starter in the regular season and 5-2 in the postseason.
Put the two together, and Rodgers win there a little more than 80 percent of the time.
One of those losses came the last time the Packers had the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Green Bay was the defending Super Bowl champion and went 15-1 in the regular season before the Giants pulled off a 37-20 shocker in the 2012 NFC divisional round. That is the worst-case scenario for the Packers now.
Rodgers had three shots in the NFC championship since, but those losses at Seattle (2015), Atlanta (2017) and San Francisco (2020) were on the road. Rodgers’ only NFC championship victory against Chicago (2011) also was on the road.
Would it be different if the Packers could get to that spot at home? After all, the Packers lost to the Giants in 2008 in the NFC championship in Brett Favre’s last game as the franchise’s quarterback.
The history on the positive are part of the Packers’ ancient history. Green Bay used the Frozen Tundra to win NFL championships in 1939, 1961 and 1965. The famed Ice Bowl NFL championship victory in 1967 preceded Green Bay’s Super Bowl II victory against the Raiders. That home-field advantage was the hallmark of the Vince Lombardi era.
Favre’s lone Super Bowl championship came after the Packers clinched the No. 1 seed in 1996. Green Bay beat Carolina 30-13 in the NFC championship. The Packers have waited to clinch a Super Bowl berth at home ever since, and the new playoff format offers that unique opportunity in 2020-21.
Fast forward to the present day, and the road to the Super Bowl runs through Lambeau Field again.
That’s a huge advantage for Rodgers, who has thrived there with second-year coach Matt LaFleur. The Packers are 14-2 at home in the regular season and 1-0 in the playoffs with that combination.
Put those numbers together and Rodgers wins 88.2 percent of the time.
Rodgers is completing 66.7 percent of his passes with 39 TDs and four interceptions. That includes last year’s NFC 28-23 divisional round victory against Seattle, in which Rodgers had 243 yards and two TDs.
It made a difference that Seattle had to come to Green Bay and could be the same case again. It could make the difference against Tampa Bay, New Orleans or whoever else comes out of the super wild-card weekend.
The Packers can afford to “relax” and watch what could be the wildest wild-card weekend to date.
Then we will find out exactly how much that home-field advantage matters.