Thanks to the Houston Oilers, the Buffalo Bills may get the chance to avenge their AFC Championship Game loss to Cincinnati Bengals two years ago.
By beating the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-14, on Sunday night, the Oilers (9-7) claimed the AFC's final wild-card playoff berth.
Houston's victory also allowed Cincinnati (9-7) to win the AFC Central Division title and knocked both the Steelers (9-7) and Seattle Seahawks (9-7) out of wild-card playoff contention.
If the Eastern Division champion Bills (13-3) and Bengals are to engage in a rematch of Cincinnati's 21-10 victory on Jan. 8, 1989, it can't come until the AFC Championship Game, which is scheduled for Jan. 20. Only this time the game would be played at Rich Stadium, not Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium, the site of the Bengals' triumph over the Bills two years ago.
The National Football League wasn't expected to announce dates and times for this weekend's first-round playoff games until at least later today.
The AFC playoff pairings for next Saturday and Sunday, however, are set after the Oilers' victory. The Miami Dolphins (12-4) will play the Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at Joe Robbie Stadium in a battle of wild-card teams. The Oilers will play the Bengals in Riverfront Stadium.
The Bills, who have the home-field edge throughout the AFC playoffs, will face the wild-card survivor with the worst record in a conference semifinal the weekend of Jan. 12-13. For instance, if the Dolphins and Bengals both win this weekend, Buffalo would host Miami. If the Chiefs and Bengals both win this weekend, Buffalo would host Kansas City. If the Oilers win this weekend, Buffalo would host Houston, regardless of who wins the Chiefs-Dolphins game.
The Western Division champion Los Angeles Raiders (12-4), like the Bills, will have a first-round bye. The Raiders will host a conference semifinal the weekend of Jan. 12-13.
There is still one spot open for the NFC playoffs. Tonight's game between the Los Angeles Rams (5-10) and New Orleans Saints (7-8) in the Louisiana Superdome will determine the NFC's final wild card entrant.
If the Saints win or tie tonight, they'll face the NFC Central Division champion Chicago Bears (11-5) this weekend at Soldier Field. If the Rams beat the Saints, the Dallas Cowboys (7-9) will be the final wild-card team and play at Chicago this weekend.
This weekend's other NFC wild-card matchup pits the Washington Redskins (10-6) against the Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) at Veterans Stadium.
Western Division champion San Francisco (14-2) will host a conference semifinal the weekend of Jan. 12-13 and has the home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Eastern Division champion New York Giants (13-3) also will host a conference semifinal the weekend of Jan. 12-13.