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First round of NFL Playoffs to offer an intriguing series of reruns

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2002

We've seen this before -- a week ago.

Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia; the New York Jets at Oakland. The difference is the stakes are higher this time -- at least for the Eagles and Bucs.

The NFL playoffs, delayed a week by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, begin Saturday with those two rerun games.

The Bucs are at the Eagles in a game that starts at 4:30 p.m. EST. It's a reprise not only of a first-round game last season but of a meaningless game in Tampa last Sunday. Then, in a prime-time game, the Jets are at Oakland, where they beat the Raiders 24-22 last Sunday to secure a playoff spot and keep Oakland from getting the first week off.

On Sunday, it's San Francisco at Green Bay and Baltimore at Miami.

The winners go on to play at the top two seeds in each conference -- St. Louis and Chicago in the NFC, Pittsburgh and New England in the AFC.

In order of appearance:

Tampa Bay (9-7) at Philadelphia (11-5)

Subplots:

-- Tampa Bay has never won in temperatures under 40, and that's likely to be the thermometer reading on Saturday.

-- Tony Dungy. The Bucs' coach has had his team in the playoffs in four of the last six seasons. He is the only Tampa Bay coach with a winning record (56-45) and the only one over .500. But he may have to win this game to keep his job as Bill Parcells/Steve Spurrier sightings abound in Tampa.

Last week, the Eagles went to Tampa and rallied to win 17-13 behind A.J. Feeley and Dameane Douglas in a game that had no effect on pairings. A.J. and Dameane won't be prominent this week.

''It's a strange situation, but we're past that,'' said Philadelphia coach Andy Reid, acknowledging that last week's game meant nothing.

The weather is another story. The Eagles beat the Bucs 21-3 last season in Philadelphia in a cold-weather game and Tampa Bay has yet to break that cold-weather jinx.

New York Jets (10-6) at Oakland (10-6)

Sebastian Janikowski, who sat out last week's game with a sore foot, is back, after Brad Daluiso missed an extra point and a short field goal. Those four points were the difference in a game won by New York 24-22 on John Hall's 53-yard field goal with 59 seconds left.

But Oakland's problem is more than kicking.

The Raiders, who seemed on course for the top seed in the AFC, have lost three straight and four of six to lose their first-round bye. One reason could be old legs -- the offense has fallen off markedly in those half-dozen games and so has Rich Gannon, who turned 36 last month.

The win by the Jets was their first in Oakland since 1962, when they were the New York Titans. And they survived despite three turnovers.

San Francisco (12-4) at Green Bay (12-4)

More weather issues. The Packers have never lost a playoff game at Lambeau and Brett Favre has never lost at home in temperatures under 34.

But the 49ers have Jeff Garcia, who played in Canada before coming south.

''Did you ever play in Canada? The weather gets a little iffy sometimes,'' says San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci, who grew up on Michigan's upper peninsula. ''Cold weather doesn't seem to bother Brett, and I hope our quarterback is the same way.''

Baltimore (10-6) at Miami (11-5)

The defending NFL champion Ravens were the last team to make it into the postseason with their somewhat ugly 19-3 win over Minnesota Monday night. Now that they're in, will they remember that they won last season and play accordingly?

Probably not.

Elvis Grbac has been disappointing and even the revived Terry Allen isn't a replacement for Jamal Lewis. The defense gave up exactly 100 points more than the record-breaking 165 it allowed last season.

Miami has a strange playoff pattern. The Dolphins have won their first postseason game each of the last three years, but have gotten blown out in the second round by a combined score of 127-10. That includes a 62-7 blowout in Jacksonville two seasons ago when Jay Fiedler, now their starter, threw two TD passes for the Jaguars.

That may be the reason that there were 25,000 tickets remaining for this game early in the week.

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