EL SEGUNDO, CALIF., JAN. 14 -- The theme for this year's conference championships is familiarity. Each of the four teams fighting for a spot in Tampa Bay and Super Bowl XXV knows its respective conference opponent well, and each team feels familiarity breeds respect, not contempt.

The Los Angeles Raiders, 20-10 semifinal victors over the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, travel to Buffalo for the second time this season. On Oct. 27, the Bills gave Los Angeles its first loss of the season, coming from behind to win, 38-24.

In their divisional playoff Saturday, the Bills beat Miami, 44-34, in their third meeting of the season.

The New York Giants will again try their luck in San Francisco at Candlestick Park, where they lost, 7-3, on Dec. 3, a memorable Monday night and one of the best defensive games of the year. The Giants advanced to the NFC championship game by beating up on the Chicago Bears Sunday, 31-3. San Francisco defeated the Washingon Redskins in its divisional playoff, 28-10.

"We're going to find a way to win in Buffalo," said Los Angeles running back Marcus Allen. "We've got that kind of character. We've got the players. They beat us last time up there, but really it was just a couple of big plays on special teams that hurt us."

Said Giants safety Greg Jackson about the pending game with the 49ers: "We've been looking forward to this. We've been wanting to get back to this game. It's like we were saying {to San Francisco players} after the Monday night game, 'We'll be back.' Can we beat them? Heck, yeah."

The earlier meetings between the respective semifinalists were extremely close, and there is every reason to believe that will be the case this weekend, as well.

In the first Raiders-Bills game, Los Angeles led, 24-14, in the fourth quarter. But the Bills scored 24 points in six minutes in a series of defensive and special teams spasms: James Williams returned a blocked punt 38 yards for a touchdown and Nate Odomes took a fumble into the Raiders' end zone.

Even that early in the season, the Raiders assumed they would see Buffalo again. Call it black and silver intuition.

"I think we all knew we would somehow see them again," said Raiders defensive end Howie Long.

And it may be a rough road, and maybe even a cold and snowy one, too. The Bills are 24-2 at Rich Stadium since 1988, including 9-0 this season. In the final minutes of the Miami game, fans began thinking ahead with a verbal attack on Los Angeles running back Bo Jackson by yelling, "Bo don't know snow."

But not everyone believes the home crowd will be much of a negative factor for the Raiders, considering the importance of the game.

"They won't let the fans bother them," said Buffalo defensive end Bruce Smith.

While little has changed in terms of personnel for either the Raiders or the Bills since their first meeting, that is not the case for the 49ers-Giants game.

New York managed to score only three points against San Francisco and that was with its best quarterback, Phil Simms. The Giants' last four possessions were in 49ers territory; each time New York came away with nothing. Now, Simms is out with a fractured foot and the Giants look to beat the two-time defending Super Bowl champions with backup Jeff Hostetler, who is 5-0 as a Giants starter over his career.

New York may also be without kicker Matt Bahr, who injured his neck trying to make a tackle on a kickoff in Sunday's win over Chicago. If he cannot play, the Giants likely will activate Raul Allegre. Bahr joined the Giants early in the season when Allegre suffered a groin injury.

While the focus throughout this week is sure to be on whether Hostetler can take the Giants to the Super Bowl, it seems more likely the game will be decided by defense.

New York held Chicago to just 27 yards rushing, the Bears' lowest total since Mike Ditka became coach in 1982. Running back Neal Anderson was held to 19 yards.

But New York linebacker Pepper Johnson said the Bears are not the 49ers. "Next week is a whole different story," he said.