DENVER -- **Home-field advantage for the AFC postseason offers no guarantee of success. The Broncos learned that in the 2012 postseason, just as the Patriots did in 2010, the Titans in 2008, the Chargers in 2006, the Colts in 2005, and via other examples since time immemorial.
But it is an edge. Just as the bye is a historic advantage, since teams that get a free pass to the divisional round are 73-27 since the postseason expanded to 12 teams in 1990 -- although that record is just 24-16 in the last 10 years.
You'd rather have both the No. 1 seed and a bye week than not. And because the Patriots fell 20-10 at Miami early Sunday afternoon, the Broncos' win gave them more than just a week off; it ensured that the AFC's road to Santa Clara, Calif. and Super Bowl 50 winds through Denver.
Even though 10 of the last 20 teams to make the Super Bowl were not No. 1 seeds, the 50 percent of Super Bowl spots claimed by top seeds in that span is, quite obviously, as much as the rest of the seeds combined. (Four Super Bowl bids for No. 2 seeds, none for No. 3 seeds, three for No. 4 seeds, one for No. 5 seeds and two for No. 6 seeds.)
The Broncos' 38-35 double-overtime loss to the Ravens as the No. 1 seed three years ago and their desultory 24-13 defeat to the Colts as the No. 2 seed remain seared into the minds of Broncos players and fans.
But their chances are enhanced -- greatly -- by being at home. Recent history has tilted back toward the top seeds, with the last four making it to the Super Bowl. And four of the Broncos' previous six chances as the top AFC seed ended with a conference title and a Super Bowl trip.
"Playing in front of the best fans on the planet! Hell yeah, that makes a difference! You can quote that!" said running back C.J. Anderson after the Broncos' 27-20 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday locked up the AFC's top seed.
"We're so happy to be the No. 1 seed," he continued. "It's been a roller-coaster season, up and down. We shot ourselves in the foot today, but still found a way to pull it out, which is outrageous. You've just got to give it up. We've got the best fans on the planet."
"It means everything," QB Brock Osweiler added. "It goes back to those goals that we set at the beginning of the year and like I said, the first one's winning the AFC West, get into the playoffs. And then to secure that, the No. 1 seed.
"I really think it shows all the hard work. The blood, the sweat, the tears that went into this season. There were a lot of ups and downs, but we overcame a lot of adversity as well along the way and it just shows that I truly belive that this team, the greatest aspect about us, is that we are a team. I think that's what makes this football team and that's what will allow us a chance at a run in these playoffs."
Another game, another thrilling finish for the Broncos -- but this time, the Broncos clinched an AFC West title and the top seed in the AFC for the postseason.