Strangers in our midst: Lions and Texans

By Barry Wilner

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Jan. 5 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

"From that standpoint, as far as our players, maybe that's a good thing that they don't have a lot of things to pull from. It's just, go play it like any other game," coach Gary Kubiak said. "They know that the result — the biggest factor — is you can move on. If you don't play well, you're not moving on, you're going home.

"They all understand that, but this is the Houston Texans' first taste of a playoff game."

This is Cincinnati's third playoff appearance in seven seasons, but the Bengals have flopped every time. Their last postseason victory was in January 1991.

"It would be a tremendous feeling for us to get rid of that stigma of not being able to get to the playoffs and win it," offensive tackle Andre Smith said.

On Sunday, Atlanta (10-6) is at the Giants (9-7), followed by Pittsburgh (12-4) at Denver (8-8).

Yes, the wild-card teams in those two games have better records than the division winners.

The Falcons haven't won in the postseason with Matt Ryan at quarterback, not even as the No. 1 seed in the NFC last year. Ryan's doesn't dwell on blown chances.

"It is the first opportunity that I have and we have as a team this postseason. We are excited about that." he said. "All the stuff that happened in the past doesn't really make a difference. It comes down to preparing this week and doing whatever we can to keep advancing throughout the playoffs."

The Broncos' last playoff trip was in 2005, when they lost to the Steelers for the AFC title. Pittsburgh, also a wild card then, won the Super Bowl.

"It doesn't matter how you get in," Denver linebacker Mario Haggan said. "We have an opportunity, and when you get in anything can happen. That's what we're hoping for."

AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver and Sports Writers Joe Kay in Cincinnati and Chris Duncan in Houston contributed to this story.

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