The Baltimore Sun

After losing twice to the Pittsburgh Steelers by a combined seven points, the Ravens get a third shot at their AFC North rival.

"Hopefully for us, the third time is the charm," Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason said.

NFL history suggests otherwise.

The old saying "it's hard to beat a team three times in a season" is a myth, not a fact.

Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, there have been 18 instances in which a team has won both regular-season matchups with a team and then had to face that team again in the playoffs.

In 11 of those 18 games, the team that won the first two games also won the third. That's a 61 percent success rate for teams completing the threepeat.

Teams trying to win the third straight game at home, as the Steelers are trying to do Sunday, have a 9-4 record (69 percent).

Asked whether it's difficult to beat a team three times in a season, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said: "I personally don't subscribe to that hocus-pocus. What happened in the other games will have no bearing on the outcome of this game. Each individual performance stands on its own. We're not buying into that."

The Ravens can draw some hope out of recent history. The past two teams trying to complete a three-game sweep have failed.

In 2004, the Green Bay Packers beat the Minnesota Vikings twice in the regular season but lost at home, 31-17. Last season, the Dallas Cowboys defeated the New York Giants twice before falling to them at home in the playoffs, 21-17.

The Ravens have never lost to the same team three times in a season.

"You never want to lose games like that, but sometimes you have to have those losses in order to grow," Ravens safety Jim Leonhard said. "I think we've learned from those games. It's helped to get us where we are right now."

ON PAGE 4: Three reasons to feel good - and bad - about Sunday's matchup.

Ravens (13-5) @ Steelers (13-4)

Sunday, 6:30 p.m.

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Radio: 1090 AM, 97.9 FM

Line: Steelers by 6

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