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The Matchups

Packers at 49ers (1 p.m., Fox)

Line: Packers by 1.

Last meeting: Packers won 35-14 in divisional playoff game at Green Bay on Jan. 4, 1997.

Key stats: Green Bay has defeated San Francisco three straight, two in the playoffs.

Worth watching: Will Garrison Hearst, recovering from a broken collarbone, be healthy enough to revive the running attack the 49ers will need to control the ball, thus keeping it away from Brett Favre? Will Favre continue to play like a three-time MVP?

Outlook: Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren leads the Packers against one of his proteges, San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci. But there are more important factors at work here. The Packers have beaten the 49ers three straight. San Francisco’s home-field advantage isn’t much of one - the 49ers lost NFC title games at home after the 1990 and 1992 seasons. And Green Bay’s offensive line is better than last year, meaning the Packers have a decent chance to keep Dana Stubblefield, Bryant Young, et al. at bay.

Broncos at Steelers (9:30 a.m., NBC)

Line: Broncos by 1-1/2.

Last meeting: Steelers won 35-24 at Pittsburgh on Dec. 7, 1997.

Key stats: Denver’s offense was first in the NFL with 367 yards a game; Pittsburgh’s defense was sixth, averaging 294 yards a game.

Worth watching: The runners could decide this one. Denver’s Terrell Davis led the AFC with 1,750 yards rushing, averaging 4.7 yards. Pittsburgh’s Jerome Bettis was second with 1,665, averaging 4.4.

Outlook: Only three teams reached the Super Bowl by winning three games (the ‘80 Raiders, ‘85 Patriots and ‘92 Bills). But with a Hall of Fame quarterback in John Elway and a runner like Davis, the Broncos should do it. Pittsburgh’s best hope is to shut down Davis, something the Steelers’ league-leading rushing defense is very capable of doing.

Tags: football

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