With the Broncos defeat of the Colts 31-17 last night at the RCA Dome the Patriots have checked off another goal on their "To Do" list for 2003, as the team is now assured of a first-round playoff bye. The AFC East champions will play at Gillette Stadium on the weekend of January 10 and 11 against one of the winners of the Wild Card weekend games played on January 3 and 4.
New England can still clinch home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with either a win over the Buffalo Bills this Saturday at Gillette Stadium or a Kansas City Chiefs loss on Sunday at home against the Chicago Bears. In their game, the Patriots will also be looking to avenge a 31-0 opening day loss in Buffalo, one of only two games the team has lost this season.
The bye marks the third time New England has accomplished the feat since the NFL went to the 12-team playoff format in 1990. The other two times the Patriots had a playoff bye, 1996 and 2001, the team advanced to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots have a 10-10 all-time postseason record, but hold a 4-1 mark in postseason games played at home in Foxborough. In fact New England is 4-0 in its last four home playoff games and hasn't lost one since a 31-14 defeat to the Houston Oilers in the franchise's first-ever home playoff game on December 31, 1978.
New England's last home playoff game was the team's historic 16-13 overtime win against the Oakland Raiders in a heavy snowstorm in the final game at Foxboro Stadium on January 19, 2002 during the team's dramatic march toward its first Super Bowl title.
The Patriots are a perfect 7-0 at Gillette Stadium this season heading into the final game with the Bills. The team is 16-3 in its last 19 home games dating back to the 2001 season.