If a onetime occurrence is an aberration, and something that happens twice is a fluke, we recognize things that take place three times as a trend. We tend to believe long held notions that home playoff games increase a team's chances of winning, and receiving a bye during the first round of the postseason allows a team to get healthy. However, reality tells us that the NFL is no different than the other major sports. If you make the playoffs at 9-7, and are forced to play three games away from home to reach the Super Bowl, you have just as good a chance of making the title game as anybody else in the tournament does.
The last three Super Bowl Champions finished tied for ninth, tied for tenth, and tied for eighth in the regular season standings. The three squads went a combined 12-12 on the road during the regular season and 7-0 in the playoffs. They played a total of two home playoff games, and none of the three received a bye.
This year Baltimore lost four of their final five regular season games and had not beaten a playoff team since week three before rolling off four straight wins to capture the Super Bowl. The 10-6 Ravens had the same regular season record as Chicago, who failed to qualify for the postseason and fired their coach after the year. Baltimore did not beat a team with a winning record on the road during the entire regular season only to knock off Denver and New England away from home in the playoffs.
Last year the Giants entered the playoffs having beaten one team with a record better than .500 all year. The team lost five of their final eight regular season match-ups including all three against playoff caliber competition and finished the year 9-7. But in the postseason they avenged loses against Green Bay and San Francisco, beating both teams on the road, before knocking off New England in the Super Bowl.
When Green Bay won the Super Bowl a couple of years back, they did so after a 10-6 regular season and needed to win three times on the road in the playoffs to get to the championship game. The Packers lost their last three regular season road games and entered the playoffs 3-3 during the final six weeks of the season. After going 3-5 on the road during the regular season, Green Bay went 3-0 in the postseason.
While the last three Super Bowl Champions have been road warriors, the three teams that have lost the title game have not. San Francisco had a bye, beat Green Bay at home, and then went to Atlanta to earn their spot in the Super Bowl. The Patriots used a bye and two home games to earn their spot opposite New York two years ago. And Pittsburgh never left the Steel City after a first round bye before Aaron Rodgers and the Packers beat them in three seasons ago.
Just like the NBA, NHL, and MLB, where the game is played, and even how many games you need to win to capture a title are irrelevant. The teams who are playing the best not at the end of the regular season, but once the playoffs begin earn championships.