Sports


Nfl Matchups

SATURDAY, DEC. 28, 1996

Jacksonville at Buffalo

Line: Bills by 8-1/2.

Last meeting: This is their first meeting. Key stats: Bills are 7-1 at home this season and are 9-0 in playoff games at Rich Stadium.

Worth watching: Forget the famous quarterbacks and fancy backs. The men to watch are Bills DE Bruce Smith, who had 13-1/2 sacks this season, going against Jaguars’ Tony Boselli, one of the game’s best young tackles. Smith has been on a mission (also known as a salary drive), all season and it won’t stop now.

Outlook: The Jaguars’ late drive to the playoffs was one of the stories of the season. But this is the playoffs. This Bills’ nucleus was going to Super Bowls before Jacksonville was even granted a franchise. Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, et al, may not have much left, but they’ll get through this round.

Minnesota at Dallas

Line: Cowboys by 10.

Last meeting: Cowboys won, 23-17, in OT at Minnesota in 1995.

Key stats: Excluding last Sunday’s virtual exhibition game at Washington, the Cowboys are 8-2 since Michael Irvin returned from a drug suspension.

Worth watching: Minnesota QB Brad Johnson steps into the national spotlight. Having taken over for Warren Moon, Johnson now steps into the big leagues - the playoffs. Cowboys need RB Emmitt Smith to shake off late-season slump and put up some big numbers.

Outlook: The Cowboys can be described in many ways. Call them warriors. They’re getting old, their coach doesn’t exactly help them, but there are three very good reasons for them to win this game anyway: Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin. In the first round, that can work.



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