They say it’s hard to beat a team three times in the same season. That’s what the Saints are trying to pull off today, playing at home against Tampa Bay.

But it’s a theory that doesn’t hold up particularly well under close scrutiny. There have been 22 such matchups in the Super Bowl era, and in 14 of those, the team that won both of the regular-season meetings also won in the playoffs.

That’s including one pre-merger series, with Kansas City winning at Oakland in the 1969 AFL Championship game.

In the last 25 years, there have been 12 of these games, and the sweeping team has gone 9-3 in them. So most commonly, when a team is better than another in the regular season, it continues to be better in the playoffs.

YearTeamOpponent1st G2nd GPlayoff
1969RaidersChiefs27-2410-6L, 17-7
1982DolphinsNY Jets45-2820-19W, 14-0
1983SeahawksRaiders38-3634-21L, 30-14
1986GiantsWashington27-2024-14W, 17-0
1989OilersSteelers27-023-16L, 26-23
1991Kansas CityRaiders24-2127-21W, 10-6
1992Kansas CityChargers24-1016-14L, 17-0
1993RaidersBroncos23-2033-30W, 42-24
1994VikingsBears42-1433-27L, 35-18
1994SteelersBrowns17-1017-7W, 29-9
1997PackersBuccaneers21-1617-6W, 21-7
1997PatriotsDolphins27-2414-12W, 17-3
1998CowboysCardinals38-1035-28L, 20-7
1999TitansJaguars20-1941-14W, 33-14
2000GiantsEagles33-1824-7W, 20-10
2002SteelersBrowns16-1323-20W, 36-33
2004PackersVikings34-3134-31L, 31-17
2004RamsSeahawks33-2723-12W, 27-20
2007CowboysGiants45-3531-20L, 21-17
2008SteelersRavens23-2013-9W, 23-14
2009CowboysEagles20-1624-0W, 34-14
2017SaintsPanthers34-1331-21W, 31-26

Two teams, I notice, won all three games despite playing the playoff game on the road: the 1999 Titans (against Jacksonville) and the 2004 St. Louis Rams, who won a playoff game at Seattle.

None of this, I figure, has much of an impact on today’s game between the Saints and the Bucs. New Orleans won both of the regular season meetings, but both teams are different now. The Saints are playing a lot better defensively. And Tampa Bay’s offense is playing at a much higher level than it was in either of the two earlier meetings.

—Ian Allan