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Published: Saturday, 1/15/2005

Dave Hackenberg's Playoff Preview

●GAME DATA: Heinz Field,

4:30 p.m.

●TV/RADIO: CBS (Channel 11)/1470 AM.

●SERIES: Steelers lead 15-2.

●PLAYOFF RECORDS: Jets 8-9, Steelers 23-17.

●REGULAR SEASON: Steelers d. Jets 17-6 on Dec. 12 in Pittsburgh.

●JETS' STAT LEADERS: QB Chad Pennington (242-370, 2,673 yds, 16 TDs, 9 ints); RB Curtis Martin (371-1,697, 12 TDs); WR Justin McCareins (56-770, 4 TDs); DE Shaun Ellis (11 sacks); PR Santana Moss (8.3 yds); KOR Jonathan Carter (22.0 yds); P Toby Gowin (38.2 yds); PK Doug Brien (24/29 FG).

●STEELERS' STAT LEADERS: QB Ben Roethlisberger (196-295, 2,621 yds, 17 TDs, 11 ints); RB Jerome Bettis (250-941, 13 TDs); WR Hines Ward (80-1,004, 4 TDs); DE Aaron Smith (8 sacks); PR Antwaan Randle El (8.3 yds); KOR Randle El (25.1 yds); P Chris Gardocki (43.0 yds); PK Jeff Reed (28/33 FG).

●COMPARISONS: Jets offense (339.9 yds per game) vs. Steelers defense (258.4). Steelers offense (324) vs. Jets defense (304.9).

●INJURY REPORT: Jets - QB Quincy Carter (personal reasons) is out; DE John Abraham (knee) is questionable; LB Kenyatta Wright (foot) is probable. Steelers - LB Kendrell Bell (groin/flu) is questionable; RB Jerome Bettis (ankle), CB Ricardo Colclough (shoulder), LB Clark Haggans (groin), LB James Harrison (groin), RB Verron Haynes (knee), RB Duce Staley (hamstring) and CB Deshea Townsend (hand) are probable.

●INSIDE STORY: Game features two of NFL's top five all-time leading rushers: Jets' Martin (4th, 13,366) and Steelers' Bettis (5th, 13,294), and matches AP offensive (Roethlisberger) and defensive (Jets LB Jonathan Vilma) rookies of the year.

●JETS NOTES: Team faced toughest strength of schedule (.543) among all clubs in playoffs. .●.●. Since Herm Edwards became head coach in 2001, Jets have best turnover edge in NFL (+39). .●.●. Pennington threw two TD passes last week at San Diego for club-record six career playoff TD passes. Pennington's 47-yard TD pass last week to Moss was his longest TD pass of season. .●.●. League rushing champion Martin has eight rushing TDs in nine career playoff games. Martin did not fumble in 2004, the third such season of his career. He is a Pittsburgh native and played college football at Pitt. .●.●. Last week vs. Chargers (No. 3 in NFL vs. run), RB LaMont Jordan rushed seven times for 50 yds (7.1 avg.). .●.●. Jets rushed for 2nd-most yards in club history in 2004 with 2,388. .●.●. McCareins, a former MAC star at Northern Illinois, caught career-high eight passes last week. In 2002 AFC divisional playoff vs. Pittsburgh, McCareins (then with Titans) caught passes on consecutive plays in OT to set up game-winning FG. .●.●. Defense finished 4th in NFL points allowed (16.3) as Pittsburgh was first (15.7). .●.●. In regular-season meeting at Pittsburgh, CB Donnie Abraham and S Reggie Tongue had interceptions.

●STEELERS NOTES: Team has won franchise-record 14 games in row. Steelers are 6-0 vs. Jets in Pittsburgh. Club is 11-6 (.647) in divisional games since 1970. Under coach Bill Cowher, team is 7-4 in playoffs at home and has won at least one playoff game in six consecutive postseasons. .●.●. Rookie QB Roethlisberger, from Findlay, is first QB to win first 13 NFL starts. His passer rating (98.1) is seasonal best in club history and is best by a rookie in NFL history, surpassing Dan Marino (96.0, 1983, Dolphins). Big Ben led NFL in fourth-quarter passer rating (118.5) and fourth-quarter completion percentage (76.9). .●.●. Bettis led team in rushing for eighth time in nine seasons with a career-high 13 rushing TDs, one shy of club record (Franco Harris, 14, 1976). .●.●. RB Duce Staley averaged 4.3 yards per carry on 192 rushes. .●.●. Ward is first Steeler WR to be named to four Pro Bowls and is first in franchise history to have four straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He has at least one catch in club-record 104 consecutive regular-season games. WR Plaxico Burress finished with second-highest receiving average (19.9 yds) among players with 30-plus catches. .●.●. Pro Bowl LB James Farrior was Jets' 1997 first-round draft pick. He led Steelers with 118 tackles, and his four interceptions tied NFL best for LBs in 2004. .●.●. S Troy Polamalu led team with five interceptions and was third on team in tackles with 96. .●.●. CB Willie Williams is lone player remaining from Steelers' last AFC title team, in 1995.

●HACK'S PICK: Steelers, 23-17.

●GAME DATA: Georgia Dome, 8:15 p.m.

●TV/RADIO: Fox (channels 36, 2)/1470 AM.

●SERIES: Rams lead 46-24-3.

●PLAYOFF RECORDS: Rams 19-23, Falcons 5-7.

●REGULAR SEASON: Falcons d. Rams 34-17 on Sept. 19 in Atlanta.

●RAMS' STAT LEADERS: QB Marc Bulger (321-485, 3,964 yds, 21 TDs, 14 ints); RB Marshall Faulk (195-774, 3 TDs); WR Torry Holt (94-1,327, 10 TDs); DE Bryce Fisher (8 1/2 sacks); PR Shaun McDonald (4.8 yds); KOR Aveion Cason (22.1 yds); P Kevin Stemke (39.8 yds), PK Jeff Wilkins (19/24 FG).

●FALCONS' STAT LEADERS: QB Michael Vick (181-321, 2,313 yds, 14 TDs, 12 ints); RB Warrick Dunn (265-1,106, 9 TDs); TE Alge Crumpler (48-774, 6 TDs); DE Patrick Kerney (13 sacks); PR Allen Rossum (12.4 yds); KOR Rossum (21.6 yds); P Chris Mohr (40.6 yds); PK Jay Feely (18/23 FG).

●COMPARISONS: Rams offense (367.3 yds per game) vs. Falcons defense (325.4). Falcons offense (317.8) vs. Rams defense (334.6).

●INJURY REPORT: Rams - WR Isaac Bruce (groin/hand), RB Arlen Harris (hamstring) and DE Tyoka Jackson (ankle) are questionable; RB Steven Jackson (ribs), DT Jimmy Kennedy (foot), G Tom Nutten (knee) and G Adam Timmerman (foot/knee) are probable. Falcons - All players listed as probable.

●INSIDE STORY: This is Vick vs. the Anti-Vick. Vick is unpredictable as a passer or scrambler and finished as the NFC's 11th-leading rusher with 902 yards, the third-most by a quarterback in league history. The Rams counter with the stay-at-home Bulger, who rushed for 813 fewer yards than Vick. New York Giants safety Brent Alexander, when asked about Vick, said: "The longer he can scramble, the longer the receiver can run wherever he wants to. All [defensive] discipline is lost."

●RAMS NOTES: QB Bulger has led Rams to three consecutive wins, posting 108.7 passer rating (988 yards, 6 TDs, 3 interceptions) and completing 68.4 pct. (67-98). He has passed for 300-plus yards in two playoff games in a row and needs 300 vs. Atlanta to join Dan Fouts (ex-Chargers) as only players in NFL history with three consecutive 300-yard playoff games to start career. .●.●. RB Faulk has averaged 113.3 yards per game and 6.3 yards per carry in nine career games against Falcons. He has 48 career playoff receptions (488 yards) and needs six more to pass Keith Byars and Marcus Allen for fourth most among RBs all-time. .●.●. WR Isaac Bruce has four career 100-yard receiving games in playoffs and needs one to tie Andre Reed and John Stallworth for third all-time behind leader Jerry Rice (eight). .●.●. WR Holt became first player in NFL history with five 1,300-yard seasons in row and had his second career 100-yard game in playoffs last week. He had career-long 85-yard catch that went for a TD vs. Atlanta in 2000 season. .●.●. DE Leonard Little has three sacks in last five playoff games. .●.●. Second-year LB Pisa Tinoisamoa led club in tackles for second year in row. .●.●. CB Jerametrius Butler posted career-best five interceptions and is first Ram to lead club in consecutive seasons since Nolan Cromwell (1979-81).

●FALCONS NOTES: Club hosts first playoff game since 20-18 win vs. San Francisco in 1998 divisional playoffs. .●.●. Head coach Jim Mora led club to 11 wins, most in team history by a first-year head coach, and seeks to join Don McCafferty (Colts, Super Bowl V) and George Seifert (49ers, Super Bowl XXIV) as only rookie head coaches to lead teams to Super Bowl title. .●.●. QB Vick is 23-12-1 as starter, including wins in 13 of last 17, and his .653 winning percentage is best in team annals. .●.●. RB Dunn posted third career 1,000-yard season, but is still seeking first postseason TD. .●.●. RB T.J. Duckett rushed for 509 yards with 4.9 yards-per-carry average and eight rushing TDs. .●.●. Behind Vick, Dunn and Duckett, Falcons led NFL in rushing (167 ypg) and ranked third with 20 rushing TDs. .●.●. TE Crumpler will make second Pro Bowl appearance after setting franchise records for catches and yards by a TE; Peerless Price led club WRs with 45 catches for 575 yards. .●.●. Defense posted 48 sacks, most in NFL. .●.●. DT Rod Coleman ranked second among league DTs with career-best 11.5 sacks. He joined Kerney as one of four sets of teammates with 10 or more sacks. .●.●. LB Keith Brooking led club with 141 tackles. .●.●. PR Allen Rossum finished second in NFL with 12.4-yard average.

●HACK'S PICK: Falcons, 34-31.



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