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Published: 1/12/2006

Divisional playoff slate wild, wacky

All roads, bumpy or not, lead to Detroit, site of Super Bowl XL.

Eight teams are fighting for two precious spots in next month's grand finale at Ford Field.

Any way you look at it, this weekend's divisional playoff games should be wild and wacky.

You have Big Ben and Da Bears.

There's Tom Brady, who should not be confused with the more famous Tom and Katie.

There's Peyton Manning, who has several NFL records, but no championship ring.

There's 65-year-old Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, who returned this year after a 13-year absence and has Washington back in the playoffs.

Gibbs, who still owns a very successful NASCAR team, is the only coach in NFL history to win three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks.

There's powerful New England, which has won three of the last four Super Bowls, thanks in large part to Brady, who is an unprecedented 10-0 in the postseason.

And there's the upstart Seattle Seahawks, who haven't won a playoff game since 1984.

All four matchups - Washington at Seattle and New England at Denver Saturday, and Pittsburgh at Indianapolis and Carolina at Chicago Sunday - involve teams that have already faced each other this season.

The red-hot Steelers, who are 7-2 on the road, are returning to the scene of their most lopsided loss - a 26-7 setback on Nov. 28 at the boisterous RCA Dome.

Ben Roethlisberger was shaky in the earlier meeting. Returning to the lineup for the first time since missing the previous three games with a knee injury, the "Findlay Flash" passed for just 133 yards, was intercepted twice and sacked three times.

The top-seeded Colts, meanwhile, started 13-0 but finished 14-2, and have had to deal with the tragic death of coach Tony Dungy's son.

And keep this in mind - since the current playoff format was adopted in 1990, only six of the 15 No. 1 seeds in the AFC have advanced to the Super Bowl.

In the other AFC game, New England is back in the Mile High City, where it lost 28-20 earlier this year.

The Broncos, 8-0 at home, are eyeing their seventh Super Bowl appearance in 29 seasons. But New England, beset by major injuries earlier this year, is suddenly looking like its old self again.

The Patriots are the standard by which every other NFL team measures itself.

The overachieving Redskins enter their NFC showdown against the Seahawks on a roll. They have won six in a row, and needed five wins to finish the regular season just to make the playoffs.

Washington beat Seattle 20-17 at home in overtime in early October, but the Seahawks won 11 straight after that and finished with a franchise-best 13-3 record en route to clinching the NFC's No. 1 seed.

The Redskins, unbeaten at home, are 4-0 all-time against the Seahawks and coach Mike Holmgren.

The Bears, who have a great defense and little offense, welcome Carolina to the Windy City in the other NFC game. The Bears beat Carolina 13-3 and snapped the Panthers' six-game winning streak at Soldier Field in late November.

It's hard to tell which two teams will end up in Motown, but New England vs. Seattle sounds good for now.



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