Home field an advantage for the Patriots

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Home field an advantage for the Patriots

FOXBORO -- In the week leading up to the AFC Championship game, teams will accept any legal advantage they can get. Even if it's something as simple as being comfortable in your surroundings leading up to the game, they'll take it.

"Anytime you are playing at home this time of year is a key thing," Wes Welker said on Thursday. "Getting the fans into it and being able to play at home and practice at your own field and your own stadium and prepare for the game at your own place and all those things are good. We just have to make sure to take advantage of it."

In a way, the Patriots have their AFC title game opponents, the Ravens, to thank for their home field advantage. Of course, the Patriots earned their 12-4 record and their No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs. But if the Ravens hadn't beaten the Broncos in last week's AFC Divisional Round, New England would be leaving on a plane soon for Denver.

The benefits of playing on home field? There are the old standbys: Crowd noise, energy and, as Welker noted, home cooking. 
"We have great fans always coming out, high energy," Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich said. "Its going to be another huge game here at Gillette, so I think that everyones going to be jacked up."

But that energy hasn't always translated to wins in the playoffs. The Patriots have made the postseason each of the last four seasons, but in that time they've never had to play a playoff game on the road. They lost to the Ravens in January of 2010. They lost to the Jets in January of 2011. And last season they beat the Broncos and Ravens at home before going to the Super Bowl.

As their record shows, home field doesn't always guarantee success. And the Patriots know it.

"Its good that we get to stay home, but once you get out there on the field, you have two teams going at it, all playing for one common goal," said Patriots safety Devin McCourty. "I dont care where you play; its not going to change how one team comes out.

"Just because you're at home doesnt mean you're going to be more prepared than the team thats on the road. I think the team were playing now shows that. Theyve won a lot of road playoff games over the last couple years, so I dont think the home field advantage will really be that much of a difference as far as assuming since were at home were going to win."

It doesn't mean that there's no such thing as home field advantage. Only that it has its limitations. Welker said that as nice as it is to prepare for a home game at home, once the ball is kicked, the advantage stops there.

"Not really, not once the game starts," Welker said when asked if he puts stock in home field advantage. "Its a game and you prepare and you just have to go out there and execute the way you did in practice the whole week."

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is Rob Gronkowski good to go?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is Rob Gronkowski good to go?

00:43 - Rob Gronkowski says he's ready to go against the Texans. Michael Holley, Tom Giles and Kayce Smith talk about this risks of him playing while injured.

05:47 - Phil A.Perry follows up the Gronk discussion with a deeper breakdown of Gronk’s decision to play this Sunday.

10:02 - David Price appears to be easing back into baseball after pitching Friday night. Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Price’s outing in Cincinnati. 

16:12 - The BST crew recaps the Red Sox win over Reds. Drellich returns to analyze how the pitchers performed and how that will impact the Red Sox postseason stretch.  

Danny Amendola embraces delayed follow-up to strong Week 1 performance

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Danny Amendola embraces delayed follow-up to strong Week 1 performance

This actually won’t be the first time that Danny Amendola had to wait to follow up a strong season-opener with the Pats. 

As the veteran receiver aims to return Sunday from a concussion and knee injury after leaving the Pats’ Week 1 loss early and missing Week 2 altogether, he’ll try to build a Week 1 performance that saw him lead the Pats with 100 yards on six receptions. 

The stop and start is somewhat reminiscent of Amendola’s first year with New England in 2013, when he had 10 receptions for 104 yards in the season-opener. He suffered a groin injury in that game, however, and didn’t play again until Week 5. At least the wait is shorter this time around. 

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“I mean, there’s going to be bumps and bruises along the way, but that’s football, right?” Amendola said Friday. “But I feel really good today, feel strong, so get ready tomorrow and just continue to prepare.”

In that first game back in 2013, Amendola again led the Pats in receiving yards, but it was in a terrible offensive showing for New England. All it took was four receptions for 55 yards to be the Patriots’ best receiver in a 13-6 loss to Cincinnati in which Tom Brady had a rare scoreless game. 

If Amendola can pick up where he left off in Week 1, the Pats will be in good shape. They’re also expected to have Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan ready to go, but Amendola was Tom Brady’s most reliable weapon in the Chiefs game, even though Brandin Cooks made a bigger impact with two pass interference penalties drawn in the red zone. 

Not known for his durability towards the end of his time in St. Louis, this will be the fourth of Amendola’s five regular seasons in New England in which he didn’t play in all 16 games. He played the full season in 2014, 14 games in 2015 and 12 games in 2013 and 2016. 

With Julian Edelman out, Brady could certainly use Amendola’s services as often as possible. That’s especially if he plays the way he did in Week 1. 

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