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PLAYOFF MATCHUPS | AFC : FIRST LOOK: NEXT WEEKEND'S
PLAYOFF GAMES

JACKSONVILLE (10-7) at DENVER (13-3)

December 30, 1996|STEVE SPRINGER

Saturday, Jan. 4, Ch. 4, 1 p.m.

* STORYLINE: The Jaguars, who have proven to be a lot better than most people outside Jacksonville figured, will find out exactly how good they are when they take on Denver, the AFC's best club, on the Broncos' home field. Hard as it is to believe, the Jaguars will run out at Mile High Stadium as the conference's hottest team, their 30-27 upset victory over the Buffalo Bills on Saturday was their sixth consecutive victory. Impressive? The Jaguars have never won that many in a row before. Of course, being in only their second year of existence, there are a lot of things they've never done before. Denver, largely playing its reserves after clinching AFC home-field advantage, has lost two of its last three.

* JACKSONVILLE UPDATE: The Jaguars signed running back Natrone Means in the off-season hoping he could do for them what he did for the San Diego Chargers before he fell out of favor there. Sidelined because of a preseason thumb injury and then forced to play behind James Stewart, Means has finally come on, and at the right time. He followed his first triple-figure rushing performance as a Jaguar--110 yards against the Atlanta Falcons in the regular-season finale--with 175 yards against Buffalo. Means' rediscovered form should take a lot of pressure off quarterback Mark Brunell.

* DENVER UPDATE: So which Bronco team shows up, the club that dominated the AFC at 12-1, or the team that went 1-2 over the last three weeks? Probably the former. Having used the decreased playing time to heal their bodies and gear their minds toward the postseason, quarterback John Elway and company should be ready. Elway has a chance to go back to the Super Bowl with something he has always wanted, a star running back like Terrell Davis. Think he's going to let some second-year team stop him? By no Means.

* THE LINE: Denver by 12 1/2

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