Today's playoff games

December 27, 1997

NFC wild card

Time: 12: 30 p.m., chs. 2, 7.

Line: Giants by 4.

Vs. spread: Vikings 9-7; Giants 9-6.

Last week: Vikings beat Colts, 39-28. Giants beat Cowboys, 20-7.

Series: Vikings lead 7-6.

Last meeting: Giants won, 15-10, last season at Giants Stadium.

Streak: Giants have won five of the past six meetings in the series.

Outlook: The Vikings are well-coached, with Dennis Green making his fifth playoff appearance in six years. They have a receiver in Cris Carter who seems to make one amazing catch after another. And they have a nice story in quarterback Randall Cunningham's comeback. The Vikings have a lot going for them, but there are some major problems.

First, the Giants are having one of those storybook seasons, and Minnesota doesn't have the firepower to provide an ending. The Giants are 4-0 in wild-card games, including 2-0 at home. Green is good, but so is Jim Fassel, the NFL's Coach of the Year. His Giants defense is playing at a level few teams in the league match now.

The only way the Giants lose this game is if they are thinking ahead to the Green Bay Packers next week. Look for DE Michael Strahan to get a couple of sacks and the Giants to have one of their best offensive days of the season.

Notable: Carter finished with an NFL-high 13 TD receptions and had his fifth straight 1,000-yard season. Giants led the NFL with 44 take-aways and were the first NFC East team to go

undefeated in the division (7-0-1).

Injuries: VIKINGS: Questionable: DE Fernando Smith (knee/groin). Probable: C Everett Lindsay (ankle).

GIANTS: Out: C Derek Engler (ankle). Questionable: RB Erric Pegram (ribs); RB Tyrone Wheatley (ankle). Probable: G Greg Bishop (ankle); LB Ryan Phillips (knee); S Brandon Sanders (groin); CB Phillippi Sparks (knee).

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Statistical comparison:

Off. Def.

NFL RANKINGS Total Rush Pass Total Rush Pass

Minnesota 8 6 14 29 23 29

New York 27 7 28 18 3 26

Yds. Yds.

AFC wild card

Time: 4 p.m., chs. 2, 7.

Line: Broncos by 7 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Jaguars 9-6; Broncos 9-7.

Last week: Jaguars beat Raiders, 20-9. Broncos beat Chargers, 38-3.

Series: Tied 1-1.

Last meeting: Jaguars won, 30-27, in divisional playoff game last season in Denver.

Streak: Jaguars have won seven of their past eight December games.

Outlook: In this game, home-field advantage means nothing -- just remember what happened last season. Denver was undefeated at home, talking Super Bowl. The Broncos took a 12-0 lead, and then the Jaguars erupted, scoring on six consecutive possessions en route to a monumental upset.

you think the Jaguars thought what happened last year was luck, listen to what Jacksonville guard Ben Coleman said when he was asked to compare last year with this year: "We didn't know if we could win in Denver last season but we thought we could. This year, we know we can win."

XTC But this year will be different, because the Broncos spent their entire season preparing to advance beyond the first round. While most of football has focused on Brett Favre's incredible season, people have forgotten about Denver's John Elway, who quietly set a club record with 27 touchdown passes. Running back Terrell Davis has been the star lately, but Elway is still the foundation of this team. He'll pull them past the pesky Jaguars.

Notable: Jaguars QB Mark Brunell won his first AFC passing title with a 91.2 rating. Broncos were 8-0 at Mile High Stadium this season, their second consecutive perfect home mark.

Injuries: JAGUARS: Questionable: CB Curtis Anderson (knee); G Brian DeMarco (ankle); RB Daimon Shelton (neck). Probable: T Tony Boselli (ankle); DE Tony Brackens (ankle); RB Ty Hallock (neck); RB Randy Jordan (shoulder); DT Seth Payne (shoulder).

BRONCOS: Questionable: LB Steve Russ (ankle). Probable: RB Terrell Davis (shoulder); RB Vaughn Hebron (hamstring); G Mark Schlereth (back).

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Statistical comparison:

Off. Def.

NFL RANKINGS Total Rush Pass Total Rush Pass

Jacksonville 7 18 4 23 13 24

Denver 1 4 9 5 16 5

Yds. Yds.

Pub Date: 12/27/97

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