An NFL season usually unravels a narrative in front of us, if we're capable enough to pick it out.
I think and I stress think, that the 2005 season represents the high water mark of parity. The Pats have dropped down to the rest of the pack, but nobody in the pack has jumped above everyone else. A new mini-dynasty might be on the horizon, but it will start in 2006. This is another 1970, 1980, 1987 or 2000, a transitional year between a dynasty or dynasties, when a strong but limited team outlasts other strong limited teams to win it all.
This explains, I believe, why road teams are 5-3 in the playoffs so far. The unfolding story, so far, has two road warriors vying to emerge from the homogenized "greatness" and play in a Super Bowl. Only twice before have both road teams won their conference title games to meet in a Super Bowl. In 1966 the Packers won in Dallas and the Chiefs won in Buffalo. In 1992, Buffalo went to Miami and spanked the Dolphins. Later that day, our beloved Cowboys beat the 49ers in Candlestick Park.
This year, the Panthers and Steelers could do those four teams one better. The '92 Cowboys played one home playoff game on their title run. So did Buffalo, beating Houston in the biggest comeback game. Green Bay and Kansas City only had one playoff matchup before their Super Bowl.
Carolina and Pittsburgh have each won two road playoff games already. They could be the first pair to reach the title game without playing a single home postseason match. That would be impressive.
Pittsburgh probably had the best game of all the winners last week, executing a superb gameplan on both sides of the ball to eliminate Indianapolis. Carolina took the honors the week before, pitching a shutout in the Meadowlands. Their opponents this week had so-so wins. Seattle struggled against the Redskins defense. The Broncos benefitted from a gaggle of Patriots turnovers. They were as unimpressive winning as the Steelers were impressive.
I'm going with the streaks. The Steelers meet a team that wants to play physical, ground-based football. That's their game, and I think they're slightly better at it than Denver. In the NFC, I've regained my appreciation for my Panthers. (Hey, I picked them to win it all, so what can I say?)
It will be Steelers - Panthers in Super Bowl 40. If home field was going to matter, these teams would have been eliminated already.