Today's playoff games


AFC wild card

Buffalo (10-6) at Miami (10-6)

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

Line: Dolphins by 2 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Bills 10-4; Dolphins 9-5.

Vs. common opponents: Bills 7-4; Dolphins 7-4.

Last week: Bills beat Saints, 45-33. Dolphins lost to Falcons, 38-16.

Series: Dolphins lead 42-26-1.

Last meeting: Bills won, 30-24, on Nov. 1 in Buffalo.

Postseason records: Bills 14-13. Dolphins 17-15.

Outlook: These teams are so familiar with each other that it will be difficult to pull punches or surprises. Both, however, will try. Watch for Miami to try something funky in the kicking game. Look for Buffalo to razzle and dazzle with a reverse or two or a halfback pass. But when you get right down to it, two factors could swing this game Buffalo's way: the running game and turnovers. The Bills boast the second-best rushing game in the AFC (135.9 yards a game) and are 6-0 when RB Antowain Smith scores a touchdown. In turnovers, Buffalo is plus-3 over Miami, and the Bills have lost only six fumbles, fewest in team history. And watch Buffalo kicker Steve Christie -- he has 20 playoff field goals and needs three more to pass George Blanda for most in postseason history. The home-field edge is huge for the Dolphins, however, as their defense has allowed 10.3 points per game at home compared to 22.9 points per game on the road. The problem is their offense, which can no longer rely on QB Dan Marino alone and whose supposedly revamped rushing attack ranked just 24th in the NFL.

Notable: Bills have beaten Dolphins in all three playoff meetings. Bills are fifth team to make playoffs after starting 0-3. Marino needs two TD passes to pass Terry Bradshaw for second in postseason history with 31.


BILLS: Out: DE Phil Hansen (knee); CB Thomas Smith (knee). Doubtful: G Ruben Brown (pectoral). Questionable: LB Dan Brandenburg (hip); WR Quinn Early (head); DB Donovan Greer (systemic); LB Marlo Perry (foot); DE Shawn Price (hamstring). Probable: QB Doug Flutie (leg); LB Gabe Northern (neck).

DOLPHINS: Out: LB Larry Izzo (knee); DE Jason Taylor (clavicle-injured reserve). Probable: RB Karim Abdul-Jabbar (concussion); G Kevin Donnalley (knee); LB Dwight Hollier (hamstring); CB Sam Madison (wrist); WR O.J. McDuffie (knee); T Richmond Webb (triceps); CB Jerry Wilson (neck).

NFC wild card

Arizona (9-7) at Dallas (10-6)

Time: 4: 05 p.m., chs. 2, 7.

Line: Cowboys by 7.

Vs. spread: Cardinals 5-10; Cowboys 8-7.

Vs. common opponents: Cardinals 6-5; Cowboys 7-4.

Last week: Cardinals beat Chargers, 16-13. Cowboys beat Redskins, 23-7.

Series: Cowboys lead 49-23-1.

Last meeting: Cowboys won, 35-28, on Nov. 15 in Arizona.

Postseason records: Cardinals 1-4; Cowboys 32-19.

Outlook: Arizona dropped both games against the Cowboys during the regular season and has beaten the reigning NFC East champions only once in the last 17 meetings. The Cardinals have lost nine straight in Dallas since recording a 24-20 victory at Texas Stadium in 1989, just their second season in Arizona. So history doesn't bode well for Arizona, but don't pity the Cardinals. They are flying now, winning last week over San Diego in dramatic fashion to reach their first playoffs in 16 years. This is a special team. It won a league-record seven games by three points or fewer. It has a quarterback in Jake Plummer who passed for 3,737 yards, third best in the NFC. WR Frank Sanders made 31 third-down catches, second best in the NFC. S Kwamie Lassiter has an NFC-best eight interceptions, four of them last week against San Diego. Arizona will need a solid game from DE Simeon Rice to help spur its defense and slow down the Dallas offense. Once that is accomplished, watch Plummer, who passed for 465 yards against the Cowboys in November, take control.

Notable: Cardinals haven't won a playoff game since 1947 NFL championship. Cowboys hold NFL playoff records for most seasons (25), games (51), wins (32) and points (1,254).


CARDINALS: Questionable: TE Johnny McWilliams (hamstring); WR Frank Sanders (knee). Probable: S Tommy Bennett (ankle); T James Dexter (ankle); DT Mark Smith (ankle); LB Ronald McKinnon (knee); WR Rob Moore (hamstring).

COWBOYS: Out: DE Kavika Pittman (hamstring); RB Chris Warren (groin). Doubtful: CB Deion Sanders (toe). Questionable: TE David LaFleur (knee); DE Hurvin McCormack (back). Probable: QB Jason Garrett (knee); G Nate Newton (foot); S Izell Reese (shoulder); RB Emmitt Smith (ankle); T Erik Williams (knee); S Darren Woodson (ankle).

Pub Date: 1/02/99

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