As some have suggested, do the Patriots need home field advantage to make it to the Super Bowl?
Rick: Yes, they do. The Patriots did lose with home field last year in the AFC Championship game, but even if/when all these guys are healthy, I still think the Patriots are low on the AFC pecking order. If I did a top 5 today, I would have the Patriots 5th behind Denver, Kansas City, Indy, and the Bengals. If you put Manning or Luck in the elements, it makes them more likely to not be on their A game. With all the injuries, the Patriots need home field otherwise a matchup potentially with the loser of the AFC West in the Wild Card matchup could make New England a 1-and-done team.
Raj: They don't necessarily need it but it would certainly help. Their only two losses have come on the road in Cincinnati and in NJ. But they are undefeated at home so that does say something about the impact of playing at home. The Patriots can win on the road but, (I think in the case of any team), they would definitely prefer home field.
Derek: While a bye week would obviously be nice, as it provides some rest and one less opportunity to be eliminated, the Patriots definitely don't need the AFC's #1 seed to advance to the Super Bowl. Playing at home didn't stop them from getting knocked out at home in the first game in 2009 or 2010. It didn't give them a victory in last year's AFC Championship either. Unless it's in Indianapolis, in a dome, the AFC Championship is going to be a cold weather, elements-type game in Denver, Kansas City, Cincinnati, or New England. Getting to the Super Bowl is going to be more about which team executes than where the game is played.