In the six seasons from 2005 through 2010, earning a bye hardly guaranteed a spot in the championship round. In the five seasons since then, that has changed — dramatically.
Before the lockout, teams with the top two seeds were 12-12 in their first playoff appearances. In the five seasons since then, the top two seeds are 16-4.
From 2011 through 2014, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds were 3-1 each January. Last year, it was a 4-0 clean sweep, with the Broncos, Patriots, Cardinals, and Panthers all winning at home.
It’s unclear why the trend has changed so dramatically. But it definitely has, and it will be interesting to see whether three or four of this weekend’s home teams will advance to the final four.