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No secrets in first round as rematches abound

Can you say rematch?

All four games in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs will feature teams that met during the regular season, including a repeat of a game played Sunday and two sets of division rivals going at it for a third time this season.

If familiarity breeds contempt, this could get nasty.

In the NFC, both games are between teams that dueled for division titles. Saturday, St. Louis plays at Seattle; the Rams swept the Seahawks in the regular season but lost the West by a game. Sunday, Minnesota goes to Green Bay looking to avenge two 34-31 losses to the Packers.

In the AFC, the Jets travel to San Diego on Saturday for a rematch of New York's 34-28 victory in Week 2. Sunday, Denver plays at Indianapolis, where it will try to beat the Colts two weeks in a row, but this time with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning playing more than one series.

Top seeds Pittsburgh, New England, Philadelphia and Atlanta have byes.

Seattle clinched the only division title at stake Sunday, with a 28-26 victory against Atlanta.

The Seahawks likely have not forgotten a 33-27 overtime loss to the Rams on Oct. 10 in which St. Louis scored 17 in the final 5:34 of regulation and snapped Seattle's 10-game home win streak.

"You have a better chance at home," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said Sunday. "You should. It's a "Thank you' to your fans, as much as anything else."

While the Rams earned a wild-card berth with an overtime victory against the Jets, the Vikings backed in despite a loss to the Redskins. In a swoon similar to last season, Minnesota lost four of its last five.

"Most people say we backed into the playoffs. Yeah, that's true," Vikings coach Mike Tice said. "Fortunately, we start off the same with 0-0. Unfortunately, we certainly don't come into this thing with any tremendous rhythm."

A rematch with the Packers, however, should provide incentive. On Christmas Eve, Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre rallied his team from a seven-point deficit with 8:18 left to win on a game-ending field goal and claim the North for the third straight season.

"Playing a team three times, we're very familiar with them and vice versa," Favre said. "But it really doesn't matter."

In the AFC, the Jets backed in despite an overtime loss to the Rams, though the Jets knew they were in thanks to Buffalo's loss before the overtime period began.

Denver earned the final AFC berth with a 33-14 victory over Indianapolis, though Manning spent most of the game on the sideline wearing a headset. Still, the Broncos are encouraged for the rematch after a physical showing against the high-octane Colts.

"I don't know about the rest of the guys, but I still think we sent a message today," said Broncos safety John Lynch, who made a vicious, helmet-to-helmet hit on tight end Dallas Clark early in the game. "We got some stuff done."

Last season, the Broncos made the postseason with a 31-17 win over Indy in Week 16 _ Manning played that game _ but got humiliated by the Colts two weeks later, 41-10. Manning threw five touchdowns that day and Denver remained without a postseason victory since winning Super Bowl XXXIII in January 1999.

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

Up next:RARE SUCCESS

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