A Capsule Look At The Nfl Playoffs

January 11, 1991|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Evening Sun Staff

Tomorrow's games

Miami Dolphins (13-4) at Buffalo Bills (13-3)

* TV: Channel 2, 12:30 p.m.

* LINE: Bills by 6 1/2 .

* WHY THE BILLS CAN WIN: For several reasons. First, because the heart of the Dolphins' defense, All-Pro linebacker John Offerdahl, hasn't practiced all week. He's got a badly sprained left arch. His replacement would be Mike Reichenbach, who's made three tackles all season. And the Bills' Thurman Thomas usually runs roughshod over the Dolphins anyway. In the last two games against Miami at Rich Stadium, Thomas ran for 154 yards (in a 24-14 Buffalo win last month) and 148 (in a 31-17 win in 1989). Then there's the weather. Miami has won one of its last eight games in severe weather. Buffalo, meanwhile, has won 23 of its last 25 in its wintry playground.

* WHY THE DOLPHINS CAN WIN: Because quarterback Jim Kelly might not be recovered sufficiently from surgery on his left knee, or sharp enough after a four-week layoff. Kelly has been cleared by the team doctor to play, but says he's not sure if he will. Former Maryland quarterback Frank Reich, who has beaten Miami for two of his four NFL wins, waits in the wings. Coach Marv Levy said he wouldn't announce his starter until tomorrow morning. The Bills may try to get by with Reich and save Kelly for the AFC championship game. That's a dangerous gamble.

Washington Redskins (11-6) at San Francisco 49ers (14-2)

* TV: Channel 11, 4 p.m.

* LINE: 49ers by 8.

* WHY THE REDSKINS CAN WIN: Because the 49ers are ripe for an upset in a season where they have not been pushed very hard or very often. Although 49ers quarterback Joe Montana riddled the Redskins for 390 yards in Week 2, he's played only one half in three weeks. Oddly enough, his numbers over his last four games are remarkably similar to Redskin Mark Rypien. Montana's last four game stats: 56-for-105, for 644 yards, two TDs and two interceptions. Rypien's last four games: 54-for-105, 627 yards, five TDs and five interceptions. So who's the hot quarterback?

* WHY THE 49ERS CAN WIN: Because they always find a way to turn up their level of play in the postseason. And because coach George Seifert (career record of 31-4) is at a Super Bowl-level of paranoia. This week he thought he spied a spy in a eucalyptus tree at the 49ers' training complex. Seifert will either have the 49ers so thoroughly prepared they can't lose, or so psyched out they can't win. They have won their last six playoff games by an aggregate score of 208-54.

Chicago Bears (12-4) at New York Giants (13-3)

* TV: Channel 11, 12:30 p.m.

* LINE: Giants by 6 1/2 .

* WHY THE BEARS CAN WIN: In the battle of backup quarterbacks, Mike Tomczak (2-0) has playoff experience and the Giants' Jeff Hostetler doesn't. Tomczak should have regained some of his confidence in last week's 16-6 snoozer over New Orleans. More importantly, the Bears re-established their running game. Led by Neal Anderson's 102 yards, they gouged a strong rush defense for 189 yards on 43 attempts. The Giants, who have looked terrible in their last three outings, appear to be going the wrong way.

* WHY THE GIANTS CAN WIN: Because Tomczak's renewed confidence still won't present enough of a threat against the Giants' defense, which should win the game by totally shutting down the Bears. The Giants allowed the fewest points in the league (211) and had the second best turnover ratio (plus 20). Despite his lack of playoff experience, Hostetler adds a new dimension to the Giants' offense -- the ability to run. In his two starts since Phil Simms went down, Hostetler has gained 113 yards on 19 carries, an average of 5.9 per carry. He may not be good enough to get the Giants to the Super Bowl, but he's good enough to beat the Bears.

Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) at Los Angeles Raiders (12-4)

* TV: Channel 2, 4 p.m.

* LINE: Raiders by 6 1/2 .

* WHY THE BENGALS CAN WIN: Because despite all their injuries, the Bengals have one of the most talent-laden rosters in football, and coach Sam Wyche may have successfully lulled the Raiders into believing the Bengals will be easy. Left tackle Anthony Munoz (left shoulder) and left guard Bruce Reimers (sprained left ankle) are doubtful. Running back James Brooks (dislocated left thumb) said he wouldn't play because "I don't want to be the one that drops the ball and hurts the team." But Wyche played a game of cat and mouse and said Brooks might just play. Who is kidding whom here? The Bengals will count on Boomer Esiason's short passing game and Ickey Woods' rushing to keep Bo Jackson & Co. off the field.

* WHY THE RAIDERS CAN WIN: Because the Bengals' defense hasn't had much success containing the ever-dangerous Jackson the last two times they tried. Bo went 92 yards to a touchdown in a 28-7 Raiders win a year ago, and bolted 88 yards -- only to be caught from behind by cornerback Rod Jones at the 1 -- in a 24-7 victory last November. If Cincinnati becomes preoccupied with Bo, quarterback Jay Schroeder is hot enough (11 TD passes, two interceptions in his last five games) to make them pay. It's doubtful that Art Shell, who should have been Coach of the Year instead of Dallas' Jimmy Johnson, will let the Raiders go for Wyche's mind games. Since Shell took over, the Raiders are 13-2 in the L.A. Coliseum.

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