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Steelers vs. Ravens Playoff Mythbuster

January 14, 2009 By: Admin Category: Pre-Game Analyses

December 14, 2009
By Donald Starver

Okay, I keep hearing people parroting the same crap, so I had to add my two cents to the conversation.  The “crap” that I’m talking about is this myth that seems to be circulating that implies that the Baltimore Ravens somehow have an advantage coming into this Sunday’s AFC Championship game against the Steelers because “It’s hard to beat a team three times in the same season”.

Who made up that lie?  The Steelers played (and beat) the Cleveland Browns twice this season.  If we played them a third time, is there anyone who would bet money on the Browns?  I didn’t think so.  We also played the Bengals twice, and beat them twice.  If a round three had been required, who do you think would have won?  Steelers.

The Steelers swept the AFC North this season, beating the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, and Baltimore Ravens each time they played them.  That’s six wins and no losses.  None.  Don’t you think that was a pretty loud statement of who reigns supreme in the AFC North?

Well, now the Steelers have to face the Ravens again.  This time more is at stake than just bragging rights in the AFC North.  This time they’re playing for a trip to the Super Bowl.  Much higher stakes.

When reporters asked Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin whether it’s hard to beat a team three times in the same season, Tomlin said “I personally don’t subscribe to that hocus-pocus.  What happened in the other games will have no bearing on the outcome of this game.  Each individual performance stands on its own.  We’re not buying into that”.   Good for you, Coach Tomlin!

While I can’t speak meaningfully about the mental state of any of the players who will participate in this game, I do know that all of them know that the Steelers won both of their previous meetings.  That’s got to help the Steelers, and it’s got to be a negative for the Ravens.

Just picture yourself back in third grade.  You’ve been challenged to a fight after school by the same bully who has already kicked your @$$ twice this semester.  Do you feel like you have an advantage because he’s already beaten you up twice?  Hell no!  You’re ready to piss your pants.  You know that your strategy of blocking his fists with your face won’t be any more effective this time than it was the first two times.  You may pretend to be confident, but deep down, you know that three is not your lucky number.

Some of you are probably saying, “this isn’t the third grade.  These are professional football players”.  Okay, I’ll give you that.  So let’s look at the history of professional football players who have found themselves in this situation.  Does a team that has lost to another team twice during the same season usually beat them the third time around?

To be clear, there aren’t many instances where that has happened, so the sample size isn’t very large.  In the modern era, it has only happened 18 times.  Of those, the team that won the first two games has won the third game 11 times.  It doesn’t take a math genius to see that the team that won the first two times usually wins the third.  In fact, the team that has won the first two games has won the third 61% of the time.  I’ll take those odds.

To make things even worse, the Ravens have to come to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers in their own stadium.  Sure, the Steelers have lost AFC Championship games at home before.  But that doesn’t mean that home field advantage is a negative.  It just means that they faced better teams on those days.  This time, that won’t be the case.  The Steelers have already proven that.  Twice.

Lastly, the Ravens are more banged up than the Steelers,  Terrell Suggs is hurt.  So is Ed Reed.  And Fabian Washington.  And Todd Heap.  And Samari Rolle.  And Le’Ron McClain.  And Willie Anderson.  And Derrick Mason.  Get my drift?

So can we please put this “it’s hard to beat a team three times in the same season” crap to rest?  The Steelers are going to beat the Ravens.  Afterall, three is a magic number.  And that’s no myth.

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