Today's playoff games

January 06, 1996

AFC divisional game

Bills (11-6) at Steelers (11-5)

Site: Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh

Time: 12:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 11, 4/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Steelers by 6 1/2

Injuries: Bills -- S Henry Jones (knee), DE Bruce Smith (flu) are doubtful; CB-S Filmel Johnson (ankle), TE Lonnie Johnson (ankle), and WR Steve Tasker (hamstring) are questionable. LB Cornelius Bennett (shoulder) is probable. Steelers -- CB Rod Woodson (knee) is out; LB Chad Brown (ankle) is questionable; WR Andre Hastings (quadricep), RB Bam Morris (hamstring), T James Parrish (back), RB Erric Pegram (ribs), WR Yancey Thigpen (toe), and RB John L. Williams (knee) are probable.

Outlook: Both teams have postseason disappointments to avenge. The Bills have lost four recent Super Bowls. The Steelers are only 1-3 in the playoffs under Bill Cowher, and they have lived for nearly a year with the distressing memory of just missing the Super Bowl on Neil O'Donnell's fourth-and-three incompletion near San Diego's goal line. It will be incumbent upon the Steelers' defense to shut down Thurman Thomas, who has averaged 138.6 yards rushing in his last three games. It can do that. The Steelers' defense is ranked No. 2 in the NFL, allowing 82.6 yards per game. Then it's up to O'Donnell to make good decisions about where to distribute the ball. The Bills probably will be without Pro Bowl DE Bruce Smith, who has a bad case of the flu. Buffalo can win at Three Rivers: In the 1992 playoffs, the Bills prevailed, 24-3.

Stellino's pick: Steelers 24, Bills 14 -- Shouldn't they take John Stallworth's number (82) away from Yancey Thigpen for dropping that touchdown pass in the end zone in Green Bay? It's hard to imagine Stallworth dropping that pass.

NFC divisional game

Packers (12-5) at 49ers (11-5)

Site: Candlestick Park, San Francisco

Time: 4 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 45, 5/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: 49ers by 10

Injuries: Packers -- G Aaron Taylor (knee) is out; LB Joe Kelly (toe) is questionable; DE Reggie White (hamstring) is probable. 49ers -- TE Brett Carolan (calf) is questionable; TE Ted Popson (shoulder) and WR John Taylor (hip) are probable.

Outlook: The 49ers coaches figured they'd be seeing Green Bay in the first playoff game, so they've had two weeks to chart every tendency and examine every nuance of the Packers. That means trouble for Brett Favre and Co. Plus, San Francisco has had time to heal some wounds, particularly on the offensive line. If it comes down to a shootout and both quarterbacks are standing, you have to take Steve Young. He's got Jerry Rice on his side. Statistically, the teams, meeting in the postseason for the first time, are very close. Green Bay averaged 359 yards per game, including 270 passing, while San Francisco averaged 380 yards, 288 through the air. The Pack's Edgar Bennett ran for 108 yards last week in beating Atlanta, but in San Francisco he'll be facing the league's toughest run defense (66.3 yards per game). Packers coach Mike Holmgren knows the 49ers from serving as an assistant coach from 1986-91. He'll need every edge he can get. The 49ers have been to the NFC Championship game in their last four trips to the postseason (1990, 92-94), and Green Bay has lost four of its last five road playoff games.

Stellino's pick: 49ers 30, Packers 27 -- I still can't get used to the idea of Candlestick Park being called 3Com Park. But it's another reminder that everything is for sale in sports today.

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