For decades the common belief throughout the NFL has been that it’s extremely hard to beat a team three times in a single season. The 2010 NFL postseason brings with it a couple of potential rematches that will test this myth. One of these matchups is set in stone with the Philadelphia Eagles heading back to Dallas one week after the Cowboys blanked the Birds, 24-0, to win the NFC East (completing the regular season sweep).
Before we get into some of the specifics of Cowboys/Eagles game on Saturday, lets first take a look back in time to see if there are any clues to what really happens in this situation. Since the NFL-AFL Merger there have been a total of 19 times when a team went into a playoff game with a chance to make the three-game sweep. Of those situations the sweep was completed 12 times compared to 7 losses, equating to just over a 63% winning percentage.
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The most recent of these sweeps occurred just last year when the Steelers beat the Ravens in AFC Championship Game. If we then focus in on the games that occurred in the 1997 season and beyond (7-3, straight up record) we see that six of the seven wins were by seven points or more and five of seven were by 10 or more points. The most recent of these games was just last year when the Ravens headed up to Pittsburgh where they were getting six points. As the final horn sounded the Steelers where the ones packing their bags for Tampa after an 11-point win. The take away message from this is that while you listen to all of the national pundits this week talking about how hard it’s going to be for the Cowboys to win this week, think about what history has shown.
Lets now turn our attention to the game at hand and look at some of the important trends leading up to this Wild Card game. For those of you living in a cave last week the Eagles traveled to Dallas and came up with a broken wing and were dominated all game. This marked the first time in the Cowboy’s franchise history that they have shutout teams in back-to-back weeks. Dallas dominated the time of possession by more than a 2-1 margin (40:23 – 19:37) and as one might expect just about every other meaningful statistic.
The question that bears mentioning after you look at last week’s results is why would next week be any different? The Eagles had everything to play for last week (the NFC East title and the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, in addition to a first-round bye), but were never in the game. On the other side of the field you have the Cowboys, who keep hearing year after year (since 1996) that they can’t win the postseason. This is on top of the questions Tony Romo gets on why he begins to crumble as the magnitude of the game increases.
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Now I don’t expect the Cowboys to go out and give the birds the same kind of beat down that occurred last week. However, at the end of 60 minutes they should come away with a win and a trip to Minnesota. Look for Romo to lead the charge as he brings Dallas their first postseason win in more than a decade and, more importantly for you, a point spread cover and a little green in your back pocket.