Marv Levy insists he has no "wish list" of playoff opponents for the Buffalo Bills, whose first post-season game is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, at Rich Stadium.
The candidates for the divisional-round match are the Houston Oilers, Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs.
If the Oilers defeat Cincinnati in their wild-card game Sunday at Riverfront Stadium, they would face the Bills, regardless of the outcome of Saturday's Dolphins-Chiefs wild-card game at Miami.
But if the Oilers lose, then the winner of the Dolphins-Chiefs game would visit Rich Stadium the following week.
"It would be a huge mistake to have a wish list," Levy said Monday. "That's because we have no control over whom we're going to be playing. All we know is we're going to play a doggone good team, whoever it is. They're all in the playoffs because they're good.
"So let the chips fall, and we'll get ready for whoever we have to get ready for."
To make his point, the Bills head coach told a story relayed to him by his receivers coach, Nick Nicolau.
"Nick told me when he was an assistant in Denver one year, the Broncos were pulling for a certain team to be their opponent in a divisional game," Levy said. "Sure enough, that was the team they played. And that team kicked Denver's butt.
"So you'd better not have a wish list."
In their only game against Houston this year, Nov. 26 at the Astrodome, the Bills suffered a 27-24 loss.
The Bills have a 1-1 record against the Dolphins this season, losing, 30-7, at Miami Sept. 16 and winning, 24-14, at Rich Stadium Dec. 23.
Buffalo hasn't faced the Chiefs in the regular season since Nov. 30, 1986, when the Bills scored a 17-14 victory at Arrowhead Stadium. The Bills' last game against Kansas City was in the 1987 preseason, also at Arrowhead, with the Chiefs recording a 34-14 win.
Levy's absence of a "wish list" notwithstanding, the Oilers would figure to pose a particularly difficult problem with their run-and-shoot offense because it is something the Bills' defense rarely sees. As Cody Carlson demonstrated in Sunday's 34-14 rout of Pittsburgh, the Oilers don't need Warren Moon, their injured Pro Bowl quarterback, for the pass-happy attack to be successful.
When Buffalo and Houston last met, the Bills' defensive strategists blundered in devising a scheme to keep the run-and-shoot in check. They became so concerned about defending against the pass, they left themselves vulnerable against the run, and Lorenzo White wound up rushing for 125 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Meanwhile, Moon completed 16 of 22 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns.
Afterward, several Bills defenders complained about the approach, which, in featuring so many extra-defensive-back coverages, caused several of the team's better run-stuffers to watch from the sidelines. They felt the coaches should have stuck to the basics, and trusted the players' talent to prevail.
Without offering specifics, Levy said the Bills "won't use the same plan as the last time" if they face the Oilers.
"I think there's value to gaining familiarity with an opponent," the coach said. "And I hope we profited from the loss in a way that we can apply beneficially for this game, should Houston be the opponent."
Of course, some Bills players, cornerback Nate Odomes among them, have said they would look forward to facing the run-and-shoot on a cold, wintry day at Rich Stadium -- which could very well be the case Jan. 12 -- as opposed to the climate-controlled Astrodome.