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NFL Notebook: Today’s games

Associated Press
The NFL notebook …
In the AFC today, the Steelers (12-4) and Chargers (9-8) play at Pittsburgh.
In the NFC, Philadelphia (10-6-1) is at the New York Giants.
NFC
New York and Philadelphia aren’t only playing for a trip to the NFC title game. This one is personal.
Play a team in your own division three times in a season, and things get that way. Add in the 95-mile trek up or down the New Jersey Turnpike and the fact that Sunday’s game will be the eighth between the teams in the last three seasons, and this rivalry can get downright nasty.
The NFC semifinal at Giants Stadium matches the defending Super Bowl champions against the team that many think will be the 2009 version of the Giants.
Of the seven previous games during the last three seasons, only two have been decided by more than 10 points, with the largest margin being 14.
The two games this season were decided by a combined 11 points. New York won 36-31 in Philadelphia and the Eagles returned the favor at Giants Stadium 20-14 on Dec. 7.
AFC
The Chargers’ travels to Pittsburgh are filled with curiosities, a remarkable run of odd games, unexpected results and strange scores, comebacks that succeeded and game plans that failed.
There was the AFC championship game where the Chargers drew motivation from a dance video. The first and only NFL tournament. And the latest oddity, the only 11-10 score in NFL history earlier this season.
In a city where they’ve never won during the regular season or lost during the postseason, the Chargers are hoping the surprise element kicks in again during their AFC divisional playoff game.
Going back to the chilly East Coast and going against the NFL’s top-ranked defense probably don’t seem as daunting now that the Chargers, against long odds, are averaging 34.4 points during a five-game winning streak. The latest surprise was their 23-17 overtime decision last weekend over Indianapolis.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh hopes quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is healed from his concussion.
He was injured in a game that meant nothing, a 31-0 rout of Cleveland on Dec. 28, and experienced headaches for nearly a week. Roethlisberger played possibly the worst game of his career, throwing four interceptions in Oakland in 2006, the last time he returned from a concussion.
LET’S DRINK
American troops in Iraq will be allowed to drink beer without fear of court-martial for this year’s Super Bowl ó an exception to a strict military ban on drinking alcohol in combat zones.
In what is sure to be a major morale boost, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, issued a waiver Wednesday paving the way for troops to participate in the popular American football tradition.
Super Bowl XLIII will be played Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla., but it will be 2 a.m. in Baghdad when the live broadcast starts in Iraq. Troops will gather in dining halls on military bases nationwide to watch the game.

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