Is it really that tough to beat a team three times in one season? History says no.

The Rams Wire

For the third year in a row, the San Francisco 49ers swept the Los Angeles Rams in the regular season. They crushed the Rams in the first meeting, 31-10, and then erased a 17-0 deficit in Week 18 en route to a 27-24 victory in overtime to punch their ticket to the playoffs.

Few people expected the Rams and 49ers to be the last two teams standing in the NFC, but after they each won their first two playoff games, they’re now one win away from a Super Bowl appearance.

There are a lot of reasons to like the Rams in this NFC West rematch, but simply picking them to win because of the belief that it’s “hard to beat a team three times in one season” is illogical. That narrative simply isn’t true, and there’s data to back it up.

Since the 1970 merger, there have been 22 instances where division rivals met in the postseason after one team won the first two regular-season meetings. The teams that won the first two games have gone 14-8 in the third game – a winning percentage of .636.

In the case of the NFC Championship Game, the 49ers are the ones going for the three-game sweep over the Rams.

On the surface, it would seem like beating the same team three times in one season would be a challenge. Division rivals know each other well, they understand the other team’s tendencies and games often come down to the wire. But history has shown that more often than not, the team going for the sweep completes it.

Does that mean it’s time for the Rams to panic? Absolutely not. As uncovered by Scott Kacsmar, this is only the fifth time the team going for the sweep has been on the road in the postseason matchup. In the previous four, the road team went 2-2.

A statistic that doesn’t bode well for the Rams is the fact that the team going for the sweep is 4-1 when the third game takes place in the conference championship. The most recent instance of that happening was in 2008 when the Steelers beat the Ravens in the AFC title game to reach the Super Bowl.

The last time a team went for the sweep was last year when the Saints beat the Buccaneers twice in the regular season but was crushed by 10 points in the divisional round during Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl run.

The previous three times before that, the team that went 2-0 in the regular season completed the sweep: Steelers over Ravens in 2008, Cowboys over Eagles in 2009 and Saints over Panthers in 2017.

Incredibly, this is only the second time ever that the Rams and 49ers will meet in the playoffs. The other instance came after the 1989 season when the 49ers beat the Rams 30-3 in the NFC Championship Game. San Francisco won the Super Bowl that year, completing a dominant season in which it went 17-2 including the playoffs.

The Rams will try to even up the postseason series with the 49ers at 1-1, and become the second team in the last two seasons to avoid a three-game sweep to a division rival. The Buccaneers did that last year and won the Super Bowl in their home stadium, so perhaps the Rams can take a similar path this year at SoFi Stadium.

Author: Lucy Green