It’s an NFL tradition unlike any other.
For the sixth time in seven years, the Patriots will be hosting a divisional-round playoff game on a Saturday. The only time they haven’t since 2011 happened in 2012, when the Texans visited New England in the late-afternoon Sunday game.
Most of the games (2011 vs. Broncos, 2013 vs. Colts, 2016 vs. Texans, 2017 vs. Titans) have landed in the Saturday night slot. Two of them (2014 vs. Ravens and 2015 vs. Chiefs) started late Saturday afternoon.
With the conference championship games always landing on a Sunday, the AFC team that wins on Saturday has a one-day advantage over the AFC team that wins on Sunday. Last year, the advantage became even more pronounced when weather nudged Pittsburgh’s game at Kansas City from 1:00 p.m. ET to Sunday night.
“We spotted those a–holes a day and a half,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of the Patriots in the infamous Facebook Live video shot in the locker room after the win over the Chiefs. “They played yesterday, our game got moved to tonight. We’re going to touch down at 4 o’clock in the f–king morning. So be it. We’ll be ready for their ass.”
The Steelers may have been ready, but the Patriots won when the game was played the following Sunday.
The league schedules playoff games based on a variety of factors, and everyone with a stake in the situation lobbies for the day and time they want. Sometimes they get it, sometimes they don’t.
Regardless, playing on Saturday always provides a potential advantage in advance of the conference title game, since it provides more time for preparation, recovery, and travel.