Busting the Myth that "It's Tough to Beat a Team Three Times in a Season" -- Saints Will Win and Cover

NFL Jan 17, 2021

Tampa Bay is getting +3 in their divisional playoff game at New Orleans on Sunday.  The Bucs are a popular pick with the betting public not just to cover, but to also upset the Saints.

Wait.  Not so fast.  Think again before following the temptation to bet on a team that will need several breaks to go its way in order to win.

Tampa Bay didn't look particularly good in last week's game at Washington.  Sure, the Bucs won.  But they struggled in multiple facets of the game.  Tampa Bay's defense was shredded by a fifth-string quarterback who wasn't even wearing an NFL uniform 6 weeks earlier.  How is this unit going to match up against Drew Brees and the Saints, who put up 34 and 38 points in two games against this defense?

I don't like their chances.

When two division rivals meet in the playoffs, that means they're in an unusual situation – playing the same team a third time in a season.

What happened during the regular season in those previous two games isn't always relevant, but in this game it's hard to ignore the past.

New Orleans destroyed Tampa Bay, winning twice this year.  The Saints whipped the Bucs 34-23 at the Superdome eary in the season.  Then, they made it look worse the second time around in Tampa, obliterating the Bucs by the score of 38-3.

For many years, there's been a myth that it's supposed to be "tough to beat a team three times in one season."  Who said that?  Show me the data.  

In fact, that's total nonsense.

Since 1970, this situation has come up 21 times.  That means 21 teams went 2-0 against a divisional opponent in the regular season.  Then, they faced that same team again in the playoffs.  What happened?

In those 21 games, the dominant teams went 14 wins and 7 losses in the third game, which means 66 percent of the time these favoured teams completed the three-game sweep.  Think that's old information?  Okay then, over the past 25 years, that number is 75 percent (9 wins and 3 losses).

Conclusion:  New Orleans should win and cover in this game.