AFC wild card
New England (9-7) at Jacksonville (11-5)
Time: 12: 40 p.m., chs. 13, 9.
Line: Jaguars by 8 1/2.
Vs. spread: Patriots 7-7; Jaguars 8-7.
Vs. common opponents: Patriots 5-3. Jaguars 4-4.
Last week: Patriots lost to Jets, 31-10. Jaguars beat Steelers, 21-3.
Series: Patriots lead 3-0.
Last meeting: Patriots won, 26-20, on Dec. 7, 1997, in Jacksonville.
Postseason records: Patriots 7-9. Jaguars 2-2.
Outlook: Rookie running backs Robert Edwards of the Patriots and Fred Taylor of the Jaguars square off as the teams that played in the 1996 AFC championship game meet again. The rookies will gain attention but not nearly as much as the quarterbacks. Mark Brunell believes he can bounce back from injury for Jacksonville. Drew Bledsoe is out for New England. This is Jacksonville's first home playoff game in its history. Jacksonville has won 21 of its past 24 at home and is 7-1 there this season. The battle is uphill all the way for New England and ex-Maryland Terp Scott Zolak, its starting quarterback. What gives New England a chance is a savvy group of veterans on defense who know how to perform well in big games. LB Chris Slade, CB Ty Law and others on the defense have immense pride and talent to match, and they will make the game rugged for the Jacksonville offense, especially early. But without enough help from the depleted offense, the Patriots will suffer. New England's chances are better if Brunell couldn't go and rookie backup Jonathan Quinn played. That would be an equalizer.
Notable: Taylor (1,223 yards) and Edwards (1,115) were the league's top two rookie rushers. Patriots' victory last season ended Jaguars' 13-game home winning streak.
PATRIOTS: Out: QB Drew Bledsoe (finger). Questionable: LB Todd Collins (pectoral); DE Chris Sullivan (knee). Probable: CB Chris Canty (ribs).
JAGUARS: Doubtful: S Donovin Darius (hip). Questionable: RB Tavian Banks (foot); QB Mark Brunell (ankle); S Mike Logan (knee); LB Reggie Lowe (knee); C Quentin Neujahr (neck); T Leon Searcy (knee). Probable: DE Tony Brackens (hip); S Travis Davis (knee); S Chris Hudson (ankle); LB Bryan Schwartz (concussion); DT Jose White (groin).
NFC wild card
Green Bay (11-5) at San Francisco (12-4)
Time: 4: 15 p.m., chs. 45, 5.
Line: 49ers by 3.
Vs. spread: Packers 6-8; 49ers 6-10.
Vs. common opponents: Packers 3-1; 49ers 4-0.
Last week: Packers beat Bears, 16-13. 49ers beat Rams, 38-19.
Series: Tied 25-25-1.
Last meeting: Packers won, 36-22, on Nov. 1 in Green Bay.
Postseason records: Packers 22-9. 49ers 23-14.
Outlook: Five straight losses. Three straight playoff losses. Mind games. That's what the Packers have done to the 49ers: tossed them aside for five straight and put doubt and confusion and frustration into the 49ers' minds. San Francisco is tired of it. The 49ers want the streak to end now. Watch QB Steve Young enter with precision and watch the 49ers play with a type of emotion we have seldom seen. This matchup will bring out their greatest passion. And, yet, it might not be enough. There are reasons why the Packers have hammered the 49ers. First, they've physically hammered them. Then, too, QB Brett Favre has outplayed Young, and the Green Bay defense has thoroughly outplayed the 49ers' defense. The game will boil down to WR Antonio Freeman against the 49ers' secondary. In the last two games between these teams, Freeman has 11 catches for 300 yards and three touchdowns. There is no one back there to shut down Freeman. He is the thorn that will pierce San Francisco most. Once again.
Notable: Packers are 4-0 in wild-card games and are 5-0 in opening playoff games under coach Mike Holmgren. 49ers WR Jerry Rice is first on playoff career lists with 120 catches, 1,742 yards receiving, 18 TDs receiving and seven 100-yard games.
PACKERS: Questionable: TE Mark Chmura (calf); TE Tyrone Davis (hamstring); DE Vonnie Holliday (ankle); TE Jeff Thomason (calf). Probable: WR Corey Bradford (hamstring); WR Robert Brooks (hamstring); CB Craig Newsome (knee). 49ERS: Questionable: WR Mark Harris (shoulder); RB Garrison Hearst (hamstring); TE Irv Smith (calf); LB Winfred Tubbs (pectoral). Probable: DE Chris Doleman (pectoral); LB James Williams (hamstring).
Pub Date: 1/03/99