The good old days are now for playoff QBs


Judging from the quarterbacks, this year's NFL playoffs are for the geriatric set.

Phil Simms is a relic at 38. Joe Montana and Warren Moon, both nursing rib injuries, are a battered 37. Jim Kelly, with a bad knee, will be a creaking 34 next month.

You like your quarterbacks a little less seasoned?

Steve Young and Jeff Hostetler are 32, Troy Aikman is 27. Then there's Brett Favre, the babe in these playoff woods at 24. No wonder the Green Bay Packers aren't given a ghost of a chance when they meet the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday in Texas.

Seniority has its privileges, except in the face of a stiff pass rush, as Minnesota Vikings quarterback Jim McMahon, 34, found out Sunday at The Meadowlands. He left the game twice in a 17-10 wild-card loss to the New York Giants because of crushing hits, yet kept coming back. Valor over discretion?

Age and fragility could play important roles this weekend when the playoffs resume with divisional games. Montana, in the AFC playoffs for the first time as a Kansas City Chief, faces the toughest test Sunday in Houston against the Oilers. He'll have to dodge an avalanche of Buddy Ryan blitzes. Since he's on the other team, though, he won't have to worry about any Ryan punches.

The last time Montana stared down a Ryan defense was in September 1989. Montana quarterbacked the San Francisco 49ers then, Ryan coached the Philadelphia Eagles. Montana bounced up from nine sacks to land four haymaking touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. 49ers 38, Eagles 28, and later that season Montana collected his fourth Super Bowl ring.

Here's a look at how this week's games shape up:

Saturday's games

* Los Angeles Raiders (11-6) at Buffalo Bills (12-4), 12:30 p.m. -- The last time the Raiders traveled this playoff path, they were humiliated, 51-3, by the Bills, in the 1990 AFC title game. The Raiders, with a relay team of sprinters dressed as receivers, are not a good cold-weather club.

"If you ask me about the last game we played in Buffalo, I felt great," coach Art Shell said about the Raiders' 25-24 win in Buffalo on Dec. 5. "Different year, different team."

Maybe, maybe not. The Raiders lost in Cincinnati to the then-winless Bengals, 16-10, in November. And they were shut out by the Packers in Green Bay, 28-0, in December. Judge for yourself. On the plus side, first-year Raider Hostetler is 4-0 in the postseason, and one of those was a Super Bowl victory over the Bills as a Giant.

The Bills, favored by 6 1/2 points, are 6-0 in the playoffs at the icebox known as Rich Stadium. Kelly & Co. want to go back to the Super Bowl a record fourth year in a row.

* New York Giants (12-5) at San Francisco 49ers (10-6), 4 p.m. -- Even though the 49ers are eight-point favorites and the Giants are playing on a short week, New York might be a bad matchup for struggling San Francisco, which dropped three of its last four games.

Giants coach Dan Reeves ran predominantly two- and three-tight end formations against the Vikings, and he can play the power game well with Rodney Hampton. The 49ers are giving up 4.5 yards per carry to enemy backs this season.

Give Simms, the Giants' venerable quarterback, 5 yards on first down and he will work over the 49ers' secondary. Young, the 49ers quarterback, has yet to win a truly big game for San Francisco.

The question is, can the Giants' secondary contain the 49ers' potent one-two punch of Jerry Rice and John Taylor? Cornerback Mark Collins would have his hands full normally, but he's playing with a sprained left knee that figures to make the job more hazardous.

Sunday's games

* Green Bay Packers (10-7) at Dallas Cowboys (12-4), 12:30 p.m. -- This is a rematch of an Oct. 3 game in Dallas, when the Cowboys romped, 36-14. This time it may not be that close. The Cowboys, favored by 13 1/2 , have won five in a row and Aikman has a decisive edge over the erratic Favre at quarterback. Favre threw 24 interceptions this season and lost six fumbles. He's a gambler, and it paid off in the wild-card win over the Detroit Lions. But these aren't the Lions, and nobody drops pass coverage in Dallas.

Even though running back Emmitt Smith, the league's MVP, suffered a grade 2 shoulder separation in the regular-season finale against the Giants, he insists he'll play. But look for the Cowboys to pull him early. They are 0-3 in games this season where he didn't play because of holdout or injury.

* Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at Houston Oilers (12-4), 4 p.m. -- In another rematch, the Chiefs get a chance to avenge a 30-0 loss to the Oilers in Week 2. They didn't have Montana that day, either. But losing big wasn't rare for the Chiefs this season. They lost to Miami and Minnesota by identical 30-10 blowouts, and surrendered 27 points to the Denver Broncos in another loss.

The Oilers have the most momentum of any playoff team with 11 straight wins, but Ryan continues to be a distraction with his boorish behavior.

Moon, the Houston quarterback, has plenty of motivation, too, because he's running out of time. He won five Grey Cup championships in the CFL, but hasn't reached the Super Bowl yet. Kansas City's secondary will look appetizing to Moon no matter what his age.

6* The Oilers are favored by a touchdown.

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