And home-field advantage is absolutely essential to a dome team.
|Joseph Addai helped the Colts storm through the playoffs -- in their home dome. (Getty Images)|
In the Peyton Manning era, they are 3-4 outdoors in the playoffs, including Super Bowl XLI. Indoors it's another story. They're 4-2 under Manning, winning four of their past five -- including last season's AFC Championship Game defeat of New England.
I don't think I need to connect the dots.
The Colts are a different club now than they were when they crumbled twice to the Pats in the playoffs, and, yes, they seem to have New England's number now. They have beaten the Pats the past three times they met, including twice at Foxborough.
But neither of those two victories was a playoff game. That's important to remember.
Also keep in mind that New England hasn't lost a home playoff game under Bill Belichick. The Patriots are 12-2 in the playoffs under Belichick but 6-0 at home -- including those two defeats of the Colts.
Then why, you ask, isn't home-field advantage as important to the Patriots as it is Indianapolis? Because under Belichick, New England has done what Indianapolis and other dome franchises have not -- namely, win a conference championship game on the road.
In fact, they won two.
When they were inside last January, they hemorrhaged 32 second-half points in a 38-34 loss to Indianapolis, with Belichick so steamed he blew off a postgame handshake from the winning quarterback and delivered one of the chilliest postgame interviews in conference championship history.
All I know is that the Patriots were a lot closer to victory there than Indianapolis ever was in its two playoff forays into Foxborough, where they succumbed by a combined score of 44-17.
That is why I see this game as bigger for Indianapolis than it is New England.