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Sunday NFL wild-card preview capsules: Dolphins-Steelers, Giants-Packers

AFC: Dolphins (10-6) at Steelers (11-5), 1


Line/OU: Steelers by 11; 46

On Oct. 16, the Dolphins were 1-4, worst in the AFC East. The Steelers were 4-1, kings of the AFC North. They met in Pittsburgh, and Miami won, in a game no one at the time considered a postseason preview. Yet here they are. The Dolphins won Round 1 because Jay Ajayi gained 204 yards rushing on 25 carries and scored two touchdowns. It helped that Miami's Ryan Tannehill completed 24 of 32 passes for 252 yards, but he has been out with a sprained knee since Week 11. It is up to replacement Matt Moore, who is making the first postseason start of his nine-year career, to provide air cover for the running game. The Steelers' Le'Veon Bell, who missed the past two postseasons with knee injuries, rushed 110 times for 569 yards in the last four games of the regular season, and he averaged 187 yards from scrimmage. QB Ben Roethlisberger, who played with an injured knee in the first meeting with the Dolphins, has led the Steelers to seven straight victories. Pittsburgh has the league's fourth-ranked red-zone defense.

NFC: Giants (11-5) at Packers (10-6), 4:40

TV: Fox

Line/OU: Packers by 5; 44½

Giants fans keep waiting for the return of the good Eli Manning, the QB who won two Super Bowl rings with wild-card teams — both after passing through Green Bay. Only one team has allowed fewer points than the Giants this season. They allowed 10, 6 and 7 points in their past three victories. That was necessary because Manning's offense scored 19, 17 and 10. The Giants need Manning to flip the playoff switch, especially if Packers QB Aaron Rodgers turns this game into a Lambeau Leap-a-thon. That is what happens when Rodgers has at least five seconds to find open receivers. Giants CBs Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie cannot cover their men forever, not against one of the best ad-lib throwers in the league. Rodgers has not thrown an interception in 245 straight passes, which helps explain how Green Bay won its final six (three against playoff teams). The Packers have scored at least 30 in each of the past four weeks to outpace their defensive shortcomings.

Times wires

Sunday NFL wild-card preview capsules: Dolphins-Steelers, Giants-Packers 01/07/17 [Last modified: Saturday, January 7, 2017 7:52pm]
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