The Patriots have gone to the playoffs 10 times in the 19 years since the NFL went to its current playoff format.
Five times, they were good enough to get a bye, as the first or second seed in the AFC. Each time, they advanced to the Super Bowl.
Five times, they had to start on the road in the wild-card round. And in each of those spots, that road ended before Super Sunday.
So here’s some bad news … It’s hard to see, after the Chargers beat the Cowboys yesterday, how the Patriots will be able to get the second seed, with the Colts already having locked up home field. In fact, if the Chargers beat the Bengals Sunday, San Diego will close in on that second seed, and throw the Patriots and Bengals, and perhaps the lurkers in the AFC East, into a race for the third seed.
If Cincinnati wins, then the door cracks open a bit. Then, the Bengals control the No. 2 spot, with a home game with the Chiefs and a game at the Jets to go, and the Chargers will give chase, with a trip to Tennessee and a home date with the Redskins left.