The League

Zach Leibowitz
Sideline Reporter

Zach Leibowitz

A former sideline reporter for ESPN

Home Sick

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Good news if you run an alarm system business today because there are some football teams in need of your services for better home field protection. Paging home field advantage, please come in. Three out of four home teams lost over the weekend. Overall, five out of eight home teams have lost this post-season. So what does that tell you? That it's not about where you play, but how you play.

Home field is important first and foremost because of the fans. They bring an undeniable intangible factor to the game. It does not go unnoticed when the Terrible Towels are waving loudly and proudly in Pittsburgh or the Sea of Big Blue lights up a rocking Giants Stadium. Also important is that it lessens the amount of travel leading up to the win-or-go-home playoff game for the host team. For Tennessee, Carolina, New York and Pittsburgh this past weekend, only the Steelers managed to defend their home turf. Wait, wasn't it so critical to get home field throughout the playoffs and secure that first round bye? Isn't that what teams were striving for throughout the arduous regular season?

Truth is, home field is important. Except, how you play on the home field is more important. There is nothing the home fans can do other than make noise, whether it sounds like cheers or boos. Fans cannot make plays for their team, and ultimately, they have no control over what the players do on or off the field. In Tennessee, the Titans had many offensive chances but either threw them or fumbled them away. In Carolina, Jake Delhomme was dreadful. You could argue the combination of home field, time off and lofty expectations played a distinctly adverse role on the Panthers QB. He tried to do too much and it backfired badly. And in New York, let's face it: Eli Manning was not better than Donovan McNabb; John Carney was not better than David Akers; The Giants were not a better team than the Eagles this season once Plaxico Burress shot himself.

So what I took out of the once all-important home field advantage is that it's really not important, not if you can't play better football than the visitor. Home field apparently creates as much pressure as it does confidence and it showed on three of the four home fields this past weekend.

Looking ahead to the NFC and AFC Championships, Arizona and Pittsburgh will be the host teams. One could definitely argue the Cardinals prolific pass-happy offense will be better off in the Arizona weather than in frosty Philly. I think we learned that on Thanksgiving. But, who's to say the warmer weather won't be very welcomed by the visiting Eagles. In Pittsburgh, it will be a cold and brutally physical game between two division rivals who hate each other. This Baltimore team is tough, but admittedly a little bit beat up. Come game time, we'll see which teams are ready.

In the end, both games will come down to which teams make more plays, commit fewer penalties, cough up fewer turnovers, convert third downs and play solid fundamental football. Sure, home field will also be a factor next Sunday. The question though is who will it really benefit?

By Zach Leibowitz  |  January 12, 2009; 6:29 AM ET  | Category:  Arizona Cardinals , Carolina Panthers , New York Giants , Philadelphia Eagles , Pittsburgh Steelers , San Diego Chargers , Tennessee Titans , Zach Leibowitz Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Was It Plaxico's Fault? | Next: Momentum Beats Location

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