This Sunday at 6:30PM EST the Steelers will host the Ravens in the conference championship game. It'll be the third meeting this year between AFC North rivals, the two previous get-togethers going to Pittsburgh.
Which means Baltimore's ticket to the Super Bowl is all but punched. Because, as everyone's well aware, it's virtually impossible to beat a team three times in one season. Plus, when the media beat you about the head with such sentiments, they must be true. Even though, you know, they're not.
An eagle-eyed reader points out this Jan. 2008 AP story that debunks the conventional wisdom that teams struggle to beat opponents three times in the same season.
Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, there have been 18 times when a team went into a playoff game with a chance to complete a three-game season sweep, according to STATS, Inc. Those teams are 11-7.There's even a visual aid.
Interestingly, the Cowboys make the list twice, losing Round 3 to the Cardinals in 1998 and the Giants last year. Somehow I imagine that this is God's way of punishing Jerry Jones.
As for Sunday's matchup, there's certainly the very real possibility the Ravens prevail; they feature arguably the league's best defense, and as long as Joe Flacco, Game Manager, manages the game, it should be close. In fact, the brainiac's at AccuScore fired up the punch-card machine and after 10,000 simulations, have the Steelers winning 65 percent of the time, but only by an average score of 19.6 to 15.1.
No word on how the outcome changes once you factor in the "no way anybody wins three in a row" variable.