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Today's matchups

January 13, 2007|PETER YOON

INDIANAPOLIS (13-4) AT BALTIMORE (13-3)

Kickoff: 1:30 p.m. PST

TV: Channel 2

Line: Baltimore by 4

* Indianapolis update: The Colts answered questions about their run defense by holding Kansas City's Larry Johnson to 32 yards last week. Now they must answer questions about their ability to win on the road. They lost their last four road games this season and are 1-6 in their last seven playoff road games. They averaged 26.7 points a game this season -- second in the league -- but only 18 in their last four road games.

* Baltimore update: The Ravens defense was No. 1 in the league in fewest yards given up (264.1 a game) and points given up (12.6). The offense, led by quarterback Steve McNair, was effective and efficient, after Coach Brian Billick assumed the role of offensive coordinator. Since then, they are 9-1 and have averaged 24.3 points. Before that, they averaged 18.3. Running back Jamal Lewis had 1,132 yards rushing.

* Story line: It's a classic offense vs. defense battle, with Peyton Manning and the Colts looking to shed their reputations as playoff underachievers against one of the top defenses in the league. Also, the Colts angered Baltimore fans when they left for Indianapolis in 1984.

* The pick: Indianapolis. The Colts have regained the swagger that led them to a 9-0 start this season.

*

PHILADELPHIA (11-6) AT NEW ORLEANS (10-6)

Kickoff: 5 p.m. PST

TV: Channel 11

Line: New Orleans by 5

* Philadelphia update: The Eagles enter with a six-game win streak, the longest in the NFC, and have the NFL's No. 2 offense at 381.4 yards a game. Brian Westbrook, who set career highs with 1,217 yards rushing and 699 receiving this season, had a career-high 141 yards rushing last week against the New York Giants. Defensive back Lito Sheppard will sit out the game because of a dislocated elbow.

* New Orleans update: The Saints had a first-round bye for the first time in team history thanks to an offense that led the league with 391.5 yards a game. Their weakness is experience: The Saints have only one playoff victory in their 39-year history and receiver Joe Horn, who may not play because of a groin injury, is the only skill position player who has played on a team that won a playoff game.

* Story line: The Eagles are trying for their fifth NFC championship game appearance in the last six years. The Saints are trying for their first. The Saints defeated the Eagles, 27-24, Oct. 15 on a last-second field goal.

* The pick: Philadelphia. The Eagles' experience edge will pay off in what figures to be a tight, high-scoring game.

-- PETER YOON

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