BOSTON (CBS) — Among the biggest reasons for optimism surrounding the Patriots’ chances of making it to the Super Bowl this year is the fact that they secured home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Unlike last year, which ended in an unfortunate loss in Denver, the Patriots have the benefit of not having to leave the friendly confines of home this month.
While hosting the games instead of traveling is a nice luxury, the veteran-laden Patriots squad is smart enough to realize that the benefits of home-field advantage only go so far.
“I really don’t think it means much at all. I think you have to play well,” Rob Ninkovich, in his eighth year with the Patriots, said Monday. “That’s what it all comes down to is playing good football in all three phases. Home advantage, whatever it may be, it doesn’t really make a difference unless you’re playing good football.”
Cornerback Malcolm Butler echoed the same exact sentiment.
“That really doesn’t mean anything,” Butler said. “The team that plays the best on that day, no matter where you are, the team that plays the best is going to advance to the next round, so you’ve got to perform well.”
While facing the likes of Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus will be somewhat easier at home compared to on the road for left tackle Nate Solder, he too said that the geographical location of the game is inconsequential.
“We have great fans. It’s a great place to play, but it really comes down to us,” Solder said. “It really comes down to how we perform on Saturday.”
All three players said that the Patriots’ Week 3 shutout victory over the Texans will have little to no bearing on this week’s rematch, and the same can be said for the oddsmakers’ estimation that the Patriots are at least 16 points better than the Texans.
“I don’t even think about what anyone is saying outside the building. I don’t even think about it,” Ninkovich said. “For me, I’m just getting ready to get in my playbook and prepare and have a good practice tomorrow. That’s what I’m worried about.”