The Eagles’ first playoff opponent is set, The New York Giants. After defeating the Vikings in the Wild Card Round the Giants will travel to Philadelphia for the second time in as many weeks. There is a famous saying when it comes to divisional opponents meeting up in the playoffs, and I am sure if you have listened to WIP this week you have already heard it. “It is tough to beat a team 3 times in a season.” But is that true?
In most playoff scenarios the players and coaches will watch tape of other teams playing your opponent to see how they want to attack that team. While that will still be the case, when you play a divisional opponent you also have tons of tape on how they wanna attack you. This benefits the team that is 0-2 the most as they have tons of tape on how they were beaten, and can spend all week working to correct it.
A lot of times this will be noticed in checks. If you pay close attention in a lot of divisional games you will see the QB make a adjustment at the line of scrimmage and it will be countered by a adjustment by a linebacker. This is a product of familiarity with your opponent. There are also a lot of little things that come with familiarity that are not easily seen on tv.
This is also a big benefit for the players as well. A lot of times players have little tendencies that they do not even notice they do, but they do. A classic example is Lance McCullures JR. in the World Series. The Phillies faced him to end the regular season and saw something that tipped his pitches, then when they faced him again in the World Series they blasted 5 home runs off him. While it may not be this dramatic in football, any little tendency a player has will help.
The last time the Eagles played a game was against the New York Giants in Week 18. Even though the Eagles won the game, should that game count toward the narrative? In that game, the Giants sat a ton of key players like Daniel Jones and Saquan Barkley. With the limited game-day rosters, the NFL has the Giants had to play some starters in the game but not their biggest playmakers. The Eagles will have tape from their first matchup with the Giants, but it is not going to be that recent.
The Eagles also had a dialed-back game plan for week 18. While Jalen Hurts played in the game, it was obvious that they changed the game plan to try and keep him healthy. They called very few designed runs for Hurts and even punted on a play where they normally would have used Hurts’ legs to get the first down. It was clear they were trying to get the win but also make sure they leave the game healthy. The Monday after the game Brandon Graham talked on WIP about how the game plan was different because they had no idea who was going to be the Giants’ QB. With all that being said the Giants will have tons of tape to look at from the Eagles’ 48-22 win a little over a month ago.
While it will be a huge talking point this week, is there any truth to the narrative? According to si.com since 1970 there have been 24 times a team has gone for a sweep in the playoffs. In those games, the teams going for the sweep are 15-9. Of those 24 games, 19 times the team going for the sweep was also the home team. In those games, the home team going for the sweep is 13-6. The most recent example was the 49ers sweeping the Seahawks last weekend. So while it makes sense and there are tons of reasons why it is hard to beat a team three times in a season, the stats say otherwise. Let us hope the stats stay on our side this Saturday.