Today's divisional playoff games

January 09, 1999

NFC

San Francisco (13-4) at Atlanta (14-2)

Time: 12: 35 p.m.

TV: Chs. 45, 5.

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM).

Line: Falcons by 3 1/2.

Vs. spread: 49ers 6-10; Falcons 11-4.

Vs. common opponents: 49ers 10-1; Falcons 10-1.

Last week: 49ers beat Packers, 30-27, in wild-card game. Falcons had first-round bye.

Series: 49ers lead, 40-23-1.

Last meeting: Falcons won, 31-19, on Nov. 15 in Atlanta.

Postseason records: 49ers 24-14; Falcons 2-5.

Outlook: Both teams are explosive, with four of the two teams' wide receivers ranked among the top seven in conference receiving yards, but this game will be won on the ground. During the regular-season game in Atlanta, the Falcons' NFC-best rush defense held the 49ers to 76 yards on the ground -- and that was with a healthy Garrison Hearst. He is listed as questionable with a severe hamstring injury and also has a sore calf.

The game will be close because the 49ers are battle-tested -- the last time they got nervous in a playoff game was, well, never. The 49ers have the league's second-best playoff record of all time with 24 wins. But the Falcons should win because they are faster than the 49ers on offense and defense, and RB Jamal Anderson is likely to get 25 carries and at least 120 yards.

Notable: 49ers WR Jerry Rice has receptions in 22 straight playoff games to tie Drew Pearson's NFL record. Falcons have allowed just one 100-yard rusher in their last 24 games.

Injuries: 49ERS: Questionable: RB Garrison Hearst (hamstring); TE Irv Smith (calf). Probable: G Tim Hanshaw (neck); WR Mark Harris (shoulder); CB R.W. McQuarters (knee); WR Jerry Rice (knee); LB Winfred Tubbs (pectoral); LB James Williams (calf); LB Lee Woodall (leg).

FALCONS: Questionable: CB Ronnie Bradford (shoulder); TE Brian Kozlowski (ankle); LB Craig Sauer (hamstring). Probable: DE Lester Archambeau (thumb).

AFC

Miami (11-6) at Denver (14-2)

Time: 4: 15 p.m.

TV: Chs. 13, 9.

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM).

Line: Broncos by 13 1/2.

Vs. spread: Dolphins 10-5; Broncos 9-7.

Vs. common opponents: Dolphins 2-2; Broncos 4-0.

Last week: Dolphins beat Bills, 24-17, in wild-card game. Broncos had first-round bye.

Series: Dolphins lead 6-2-1.

Last meeting: Dolphins won, 31-21, on Dec. 21 in Miami.

Postseason records: Dolphins 18-15; Broncos 13-11.

Outlook: Privately, coaches who have played the Broncos within the last month -- when they have struggled after a 13-0 start -- maintain that Denver has stripped its offense down to the basics. Coach Mike Shanahan hasn't wanted to reveal anything before the playoffs, and when Denver locked up home-field advantage, he figured why risk giving away strategy unnecessarily.

Shanahan is one of the smartest strategists in football, and he's had time to pick apart Miami's defense. He will be at home, where he is 31-3. And the Broncos' wide receivers are already excited because Dolphins defensive backs are saying that Denver's wide-outs weren't the best they have faced all year. Not a smart move.

Notable: Dolphins are 14-2 in the postseason when they out-rush their opponent. Denver has won 17 straight at Mile High Stadium.

Injuries:

DOLPHINS: Out: DE Tim Bowens (biceps-injured reserve); LB Larry Izzo (knee). Doubtful: TE Troy Drayton (ankle); TE Frank Wainwright (shoulder). Questionable: WR O.J. McDuffie (foot); T Richmond Webb (triceps). Probable: RB Karim Abdul-Jabbar (toe-quadriceps); RB John Avery (quad); S Brock Marion (groin).

BRONCOS: Questionable: RB Vaughn Hebron (hamstring). Probable: WR Justin Armour (hamstring); S Steve Atwater (shoulder); S Tyrone Braxton (shoulder-hamstring); S Eric Brown (groin); LB Keith Burns (thigh-toe); CB Ray Crockett (ankle); RB Terrell Davis (side); G David Diaz-Infante (knee); QB John Elway (ribs); CB Darrien Gordon (shoulder); RB Howard Griffith (knee); DT Harald Hasselbach (ankle); T Tony Jones (knee); WR Ed McCaffrey (back); G Dan Neil (knee); P Tom Rouen (shoulder); G Mark Schlereth (knee); TE Shannon Sharpe (knee); DE Neil Smith (abdomen).

Pub Date: 1/09/99

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