The Miami Dolphins will try to avenge a loss from three weeks ago, and the San Francisco 49ers want vengeance for a seven-year old defeat in the NFL playoffs today.
The Dolphins travel to Buffalo for the rubber match in their 1990 series in the AFC playoffs, and the 49ers are home against the Washington Redskins in the NFC. Some San Francisco players remember a bitter 1984 playoff loss to Washington that kept them from another Super Bowl in the 1980s.The winner of today's matchups advance to the Jan. 20 conference title games against Sunday's winners. On Sunday, the Chicago Bears visit the New York Giants in the NFC and the Cincinnati Bengals visit the Los Angeles Raiders in the AFC.
Buffalo, 13-3, clinched the AFC East title and the home field throughout the AFC playoffs with their 24-14 home victory over Miami Dec. 23. The Dolphins, 13-4, settled for a wild-card spot, and edged Kansas City 17-16 last week to set up their rematch with Buffalo.
The Dolphins defeated the Bills 30-7 at Miami Sept. 16. The two teams have never met in postseason.
"There are going to be no surprises," Bills All-Pro defensive end Bruce Smith said.
The Dolphins faced the possibility of a full-blown Buffalo winter day for the game, with three to six inches of snow predicted, along with sleet, freezing rain and gusty winds.
"They're certainly more used to playing in adverse weather conditions than we are," Shula said. "But we're alive and we've got that opportunity."
"You try to be the best you can and to win in all kinds of situations."
The key question entering the game surrounds Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly, who has not played since suffering a sprained knee Dec. 15 against the Giants. Kelly worked out all week but the Bills are expected to wait until just before kickoff to name their starter. Backup Frank Reich started Buffalo's last victory against the Dolphins.
The 49ers, 14-2, won the past two Super Bowls and had the NFL's best record this season, so it is no surprise they must go back a way to find something to get riled about. San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana remembers a 24-21 loss in the NFC title game after the 1983 season, when a controversial pass interference call against the 49ers led to the Redskins' winning points.
"The players didn't cheat us in the last game, the referees did," Montana said.
Montana has had few bad postseason memories the past few years, winning the Super Bowl MVP award and setting a trail of Super Bowl and postseason records the past two years. He passed for 3,944 yards with 26 touchdowns and 16 interceptions this season. Jerry Rice caught 100 passes for 1,502 yards and 13 TDs to lead NFL receivers in all three categories.
Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien heads a balanced offense. He has three top-notch recievers in Gary Clark, Art Monk and Ricky Sanders and 1,000-yard rusher Earnest Byner gives Washington the ground game the 49ers lack.
The Redskins, 11-6, won a wild-card spot and bounced Philadelphia 20-6 last week.
"We were sky-high for that game," Washington Coach Joe Gibbs said. "One of the keys is can we get back to that level because that's what it'll take. Can we do that? I don't know."