How do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get back into the playoffs? Protect this house. More specifically, Raymond James Stadium.
Since Tampa Bay's last playoff appearance in 2007, the Bucs have been one of the league's worst home teams - winning just 17 of their last 40 home games.
In 2012, the Bucs were actually a better road team, finishing 4-4 on the road while managing just 3 wins at home.
This has got to change.
The National Football Post recently posted an article talking about home field advantage and what it means. To no one's surprise, the teams you routinely see competing for the Super Bowl have outstanding records in their friendly confines.
Since 2008, the Patriots have the most home victories with a 34-6 record. Baltimore and Atlanta were right behind going 33-7, Green Bay was 32-8.
Each of these teams are perennial playoff contenders. It should come as no surprise that fellow playoff regulars Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and the NY Giants all are significantly better at home than they are away.
Teams that struggle at home have also struggled to make the playoffs. St. Louis hasn't made the playoffs since 2004 and since '08 have won the least amount of home games of any team in the league (11). Detroit and Kansas City have only won 13 of their last 40 home games and both team have only made the playoffs once in the last five years. Oakland (15), Tampa Bay, Jacksonville (17), Cleveland(18) and Miami (19) have seen at least 4 year playoff droughts. Washington after winning just 34% of their home games from '08-'11 finally broke through with a 5-3 record at Fed Ex Field and made the playoffs in 2012.
Of the field of 12 playoff teams in 2012, only Cincinnati (4-4) did not have a winning record on home turf. Since 2008, 53 of the 60 teams that made the playoffs were 5-3 or better at home. Only one team in the last five years - the 2011 Denver Tebows - made the playoffs despite having a losing record at home (3-5).
The Bucs last three playoff teams 2007, 2005, 2002 went 6-2 in their regular season home schedules. Since Jon Gruden was fired, Tampa Bay managed just one season with a .500 record at home (2010's 10-6 anomaly) and in all but 2011 have won more road games than games at Ray Jay.
Is it any wonder why fans haven't been flocking back to the Pirate Ship?
The prospects this year may look a little better. In addition to their division rivals, The Bucs host three teams with new head coaches (Arizona, Philadelphia and Buffalo) and will host the Miami Dolphins (7-9) in a Nationally televised game on Monday Night Football.
Of course, that leaves San Francisco, New Orleans, Atlanta and Carolina (Thursday Night Football) to fill out the remainder of the home slate.
If they can win at least five of those games, their chances at the playoffs dramatically improve but it's not a slam dunk. Since '08, 31 teams (including the '08 Bucs) have had winning records at home only to watch the playoffs on television like the rest of us.
While it's not automatic, posting winning records at home definitely increases the chances of making the playoffs consistently.