Peyton Manning and Jevon Kearse, two of the NFL's bright young stars, have a date for a college reunion Sunday.
''I got to know Jevon pretty well in college when we played against him twice,'' says Manning, who will start his first playoff game for the Colts Sunday against Kearse and the Titans. ''I got very familiar with Jevon in our backfield.''
One of the key elements will be the meeting of Manning, who was tied for runner-up in the MVP voting, and Kearse, the defensive rookie of the year.
But there are other angles.
One involves Jim Mora, the Colts coach who was the only coach in New Orleans Saints history to make the playoffs. But he is winless in four postseason games. Yes, he engineered a similar turnaround with the Colts this year, an NFL record 10 game-improvement from 3-13 last year but he still carries the stigma of playoff failure.
Another is the absence of linebacker Cornelius Bennett, the leader of a very average Indianapolis defense. That could leave a lot of room for Eddie George to romp and Steve McNair to scramble for Tennessee.
The third involves Manning, a hero in Tennessee for his play in college -- fans wearing orange jerseys with his No. 16 still show up in Indianapolis for games. That leaves Titans fans with divided loyalties -- after four years of wandering, the former Oilers finally seem to have a following in their home state.
Miami (10-7) at Jacksonville (14-2)
Like St. Louis, the Jaguars are a suspect top seed because they've beaten no team better than 8-8 and lost twice to Tennessee, the best team they've played.
Washington (11-6) at Tampa Bay (11-5)
The Redskins got one break this week when the NFL deferred to next season Tre' Johnson's one-game suspension for striking an official against the Lions last week. That's critical, because left tackle Andy Heck is out with a hamstring injury, center Cory Raymer is expected to play hurt and Stephen Davis, the NFC's leading rusher, will play despite knee and ankle problems.
The Bucs have been expecting Davis to play all along.
''We'll still have our work cut out for us regardless of whether he's playing or not,'' says defensive tackle Warren Sapp, the heart of a defense that's probably the most feared in the NFL.
''But we expect to see him.''
Adds the other defensive tackle, Brad Culpepper: ''He was supposed to be banged up last week, then ran for more than 100 yards. We're assuming he'll be at the top of his game.''
The Redskins will see Shaun King at quarterback, a rookie who was supposed to spend this season watching and learning. Instead, he replaced an injured Trent Dilfer and was 4-1 as a starter with seven touchdown passes.
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