Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL playoffs, division round previews: Packers-Cowboys, Steelers-Chiefs

Today: Division round

NFC: Packers (11-6) at Cowboys (13-3), 4:40

TV/radio: Fox; 102.5-FM

Line/OU: Cowboys by 5½; 52

Eighth meeting in playoffs, with Cowboys leading 4-3. Packers won last playoff matchup two years ago 26-21 in game famous for Dallas WR Dez Bryant's catch that wasn't. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was backup QB when Dallas won three straight playoff games vs. Green Bay in 1990s. Cowboys won two Super Bowls in that stretch. Packers, Cowboys tied with Giants for most playoff appearances (32). Green Bay averaging 30.4 points per game on road in playoffs since 2006, most in NFL in that span. Coach Mike McCarthy has nine playoff wins, tied with Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren for most in club history. Aaron Rodgers has four TD passes in each of past three games, 19 with no interceptions during seven-game winning streak. He's one of four QBs with career postseason passer rating of at least 100. WR Jordy Nelson led NFL with 14 TD catches but is out with rib injury. Packers RB Ty Montgomery, former wideout, has 206 rushing yards, two TDs in past two on road. LB Clay Matthews has 11 career postseason sacks, tied for fifth most since 1982. Cowboys, with four straight losses in division round, seeking first NFC title game appearance since 1995 season. Dallas 11-3 in home division games but lost last one to Giants in 2007. Dak Prescott is first rookie QB to start playoff game for Cowboys. Won 13 games, tied with Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger (2004) for most by rookie in NFL history. Ezekiel Elliott led league with 1,631 yards rushing, third best ever for a rookie. Prescott and Elliott are third rookie QB-RB starting tandem in playoffs in Super Bowl era. Both previous were in 2012 season, with Colts (Andrew Luck/Vick Ballard) and Redskins (Robert Griffin III/Alfred Morris). Both lost. Bryant has 67 career TD catches, second in franchise history. Since 2012, he leads NFL with 52 TDs receiving. DLs DeMarcus Lawrence, Terrell McClain, Tyrone Crawford, Cedric Thornton should be available after sitting out regular-season finale, mostly as precaution.

AFC: Steelers (12-5) at Chiefs (12-4), 8:20

TV/radio: NBC; 102.5-FM

Line/OU: Chiefs by 1½; 44½

The game was scheduled to kickoff at 1:05 but changed to a night game because of an expected ice storm. Second postseason meeting after Chiefs (Joe Montana at QB) beat Steelers 27-24 in wild-card round in 1993 season. Chiefs have not won home playoff game since. Steelers and Chiefs have combined to lose once since Nov. 20. Steelers scored franchise record 22 first-quarter points in win over Chiefs in October. Le'Veon Bell set Pittsburgh playoff record with 167 yards rushing in win over Miami last week. Bell ran for 144 yards vs. KC in October in first game after three-game suspension. Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley was Chiefs head coach last time Kansas City hosted playoff game in 2010 season. QB Ben Roethlisberger will tie Mel Blount and Terry Bradshaw (19) for most playoff games in Steelers history. Roethlisberger threw five TD passes to four different targets against Chiefs in October. Chiefs have lost four straight home playoff games, three in division round. Coach Andy Reid has 11 playoff wins, second to Patriots' Bill Belichick (23) among active coaches. Chiefs All-Pro CB Marcus Peters had six interceptions, one behind Chargers' Casey Hayward for NFL lead. Chiefs' Travis Kelce led all TEs with 1,125 yards receiving this season. Alex Smith averaged 262 yards passing in five playoff games, three with Kansas City. He has thrown 11 TD passes against one INT. Rookie WR Tyreek Hill has 10 TDs since Week 10, most in league over that span, and made All-Pro team as punt returner.

Times wires

 
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