Four teams left standing. Two of them will be heading to Houston in two weeks, while the other two teams will be clearing out their lockers and preparing for the 2017 draft.

As was the case last week, this week’s contest are rematches. It’s made-for-television football. Hollywood could not write a better script. For the teams that won the first meeting, it’s a chance to prove that the first time was no fluke. For the teams that lost that first meeting, the revenge factor will come up on numerous occasions during the broadcasts.

We can’t stress this enough. This time of year is NOT like the regular season. In the regular season, you lose, your play next week. This time of year, you lose, your next game is in September.

The playoffs are sort of like the kids’ party game “Musical Chairs.” As long as there are chairs available and the music is playing, you have a chance. It’s when the music stops is when the chaos starts.


Trip to Houston.


Kickoff is next September.

It’s not fair but it is what it is. That’s the beauty of playoff football.

SUPER CHAMPIONSHIP: In 2016, New England won their eighth AFC East title in a row, the most consecutive division titles in NFL history, and have advanced to the AFC Championship Game for the sixth season in a row – also the longest streak all-time. The Patriots are 8-5 (.615) in AFC Championship Games all-time.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have advanced to the AFC Championship Game for the 16th time in franchise history and are 8-7 (.533).

The winner of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game will set an NFL record for the most Super Bowl berths in NFL history.

The teams with the most Super Bowl appearances:

Dallas – 8
Denver – 8
New England – 8*
Pittsburgh – 8*
San Francisco – 6
*Play in AFC Championship Game Sunday

Pittsburgh, New England and Green Bay have three of the four highest postseason win totals in NFL history and are all in action on Championship Sunday.

The Steelers, who defeated Miami in the Wild Card round and Kansas City in the Divisional Playoffs, have 36 postseason wins, the most in NFL history. The Packers (34) and Patriots (30) rank tied for second and tied for fourth, respectively, in all-time postseason victories.

The teams with the most postseason wins in NFL history:

Pittsburgh 36-23, .610 (6)*
Green Bay 34-21, .618 (4)*
Dallas 34-27, .557 (5)
New England 30-19, .612 (4)*
San Francisco 30-20, .600 (5)
*Play this weekend

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: This weekend’s Championship Games will feature three quarterbacks who have combined for seven Super Bowl titles: New England’s TOM BRADY (four), Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger (two) and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (one).

The starting quarterbacks for this weekend’s Championship Games with Super Bowl titles:

Tom Brady, New England Patriots (4 – XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLIX)
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (2 – XL, XLIII)
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (1 – XLV)

The seven combined Super Bowl victories by Brady, Roethlisberger and Rodgers are the most by the four starting quarterbacks playing in a season’s Conference Championship Games.

The most combined Super Bowl wins by the four starting quarterbacks in a season’s Championship Games:

2016 – Tom Brady* (4), Ben Roethlisberger* (2), Aaron Rodgers* (1) = 7
2015 – Tom Brady (4), Peyton Manning (1) = 5
2014 – Tom Brady (3), Aaron Rodgers (1), Russell Wilson (1) = 5
1993 – Joe Montana (4), Troy Aikman (1) = 5

*Play this weekend

PROLIFIC PASSERS: Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan led the NFL with a 117.1 passer rating in 2016, the fifth-highest single-season rating in NFL history. New England’s Tom Brady (112.2) and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (104.2) ranked second and fourth respectively.

The four quarterbacks projected to start the AFC and NFC Championship Games on Sunday combined for a 107.0 passer rating this season, the highest combined regular-season passer rating by the four starting quarterbacks in a season’s Championship Games.

The four starting quarterbacks with the highest combined regular-season passer rating in a season’s Championship Games:

2016 – Matt Ryan (117.1), Tom Brady (112.2), Aaron Rodgers (104.2), Ben Roethlisberger (95.4); 107.0
1998 – Randall Cunningham (106.0), Vinny Testaverde (101.6), Chris Chandler (100.9), John Elway (93.0); 100.7

STREAKING STARS: Several of the NFL’s best and brightest have the opportunity to make their mark in the postseason record book on Championship Sunday.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers passed for 355 yards and two touchdowns in the Packers’ 34-31 victory at Dallas in the Divisional Playoffs. Rodgers, who has passed for at least 350 yards and two touchdowns in both postseason games this season, can tie Drew Brees (three) for the most consecutive playoff games with at least 350 passing yards and two touchdown passes in NFL postseason history.

The most consecutive postseason games with at least 350 passing yards and two touchdown passes:

Drew Brees – New Orleans, 2010-11; 3
Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay, 2016; 2*
Kurt Warner – Arizona, 2008-09; 2
Kurt Warner – St. Louis Rams, 1999-2000; 2
*Active streak

Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell rushed for 170 yards in the Steelers 18-16 win at Kansas City in the Divisional Playoffs and is the first player in NFL history to rush for at least 150 yards in each of his first two career postseason games. Bell, who had 167 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the Wild Card win against Miami, has the two highest single-game rushing performances in franchise postseason history.

With 113 rushing yards at New England on Sunday, Bell would become the fifth player in NFL history with at least 450 rushing yards in a single postseason.

The players with the most rushing yards in a single postseason:

John Riggins, Washington; 1982 – 610
Terrell Davis, Denver; 1997 – 581
Terrell Davis, Denver; 1998 – 468
Marcus Allen, Los Angeles Raiders; 1983 – 466
Eddie George, Tennessee; 1999 – 449
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh; 2016 – 337*
*Through two games

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan passed for 338 yards with three touchdowns for a 125.7 rating in the Falcons’ 36-20 win over Seattle in the Divisional Playoffs.

With three touchdown passes against Green Bay on Sunday, Ryan, who has thrown for three touchdowns in each of his past three playoff games, would become the first quarterback in NFL history with at least three touchdown passes in four consecutive postseason games.

The most consecutive postseason games with at least three touchdown passes:

Matt Ryan – 2012, 2016; Atlanta – 3*
Tom Brady – 2014; New England – 3
Joe Flacco – 2012; Baltimore Ravens – 3
Aaron Rodgers – 2009-10; Green Bay – 3
Kurt Warner – 2008-09; Arizona – 3
Bernie Kosar – 1987, 1989; Cleveland – 3
*Active streak

SUPER COMBINATION: New England head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have made six Super Bowl appearances together, the most appearances by any head coach-quarterback combination in NFL history.

With a win Sunday against the Steelers, the Patriots can extend their NFL record for the most such Super Bowl appearances.

The head coach-quarterback combinations with the most Super Bowl appearances in NFL history:

Tom Brady/Bill Belichick, New England – 6*
Roger Staubach/Tom Landry, Dallas – 4
Jim Kelly/Marv Levy, Buffalo – 4
Terry Bradshaw/Chuck Noll, Pittsburgh – 4

With a win, Belichick (six) would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer DON SHULA (six) and become the only coach to lead his team(s) to seven Super Bowls.

The head coaches to reach the most Super Bowls:

Bill Belichick – 6*
Don Shula – 6
Tom Landry – 5
Five tied with 4

*Active Sunday

AFC TROPHY PRESENTATION: The Lamar Hunt Trophy will be presented to the winner of the AFC Championship Game.

The late Hunt, founder of the Kansas City Chiefs and American Football League, helped professional football attain its stature as America’s No. 1 sport. In the 10-year history of the AFL, his team posted the most wins (87) and earned berths in two of the first four Super Bowls, including a victory in Super Bowl IV.

In 1972, Hunt became the first person from the AFL to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

NFC TROPHY PRESENTATION: The winner of the NFC Championship Game will be presented with the George Halas Trophy.

Halas, the late owner of the Chicago Bears and a founder of the NFL, is the second-winningest coach in history (324-151-31) behind Don Shula (347-173-6). He won six NFL championships with the Bears and is a charter enshrinee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1963).
Green Bay: 2-0 (Philadelphia 1-0; Seattle 1-0)
Atlanta: 1-2 (Philadelphia. 0-1; Seattle 1-1)
Pittsburgh.: 8-2 (Miami 1-1; Buffalo 1-0; Cleveland 2-0; Cincinnati 2-0; New York Jets 1-0; Baltimore 1-1)
New England: 8-1 (Miami 2-0; Buffalo 1-1; Cleveland 1-0; Cincinnati 1-0; New York Jets 2-0; Baltimore 1-0)

Playoff Records
Pittsburgh: 36-23
New England: 30-19
Green Bay: 34-21
Atlanta: 8-12

As far as the NFC goes… The Packers have won 13 NFL championships, most all-time and the team’s.618 postseason winning pct. (34-21) is best in NFL history among teams with 50+ games played. This is Green Bay’s 32nd playoff appearance, tied for most in NFL history. Mike McCarthy has led team to playoffs in 9 of his 11 seasons as head coach and is 10-7 in the postseason.

Atlanta won the NFC South and advanced to postseason for 1st time since 2012 and are 5-3 at home in playoffs in franchise history. Ranked 1st in NFL in total points (540) & 2nd in total offense (415.8 yards per game). Falcons head coach Dan Quinn won 1st career playoff game last week.

On the AFC side of the docket… The Steelers have 36-23 all-time postseason record, most playoff wins all-time and rank 4th all-time in postseason win pct. (.610), while winning 7 division titles since 2002.

New England has appeared in 6 consecutive Conference Championship Games, most all-time and the Pats have won 8 consecutive division titles, longest streak in NFL history. Since 2001, New England has won 4 Super Bowl titles, most in NFL and the Pats are 30-19 (.612) all-time postseason record, 3rd highest winning pct. in playoff history. Head coach Bill Belichick has 24 career postseason wins, most all-time. Belichick won 4 Super Bowl titles (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLIX), tied with Chuck Noll for most in NFL history.

The two championship games have late kickoffs in the afternoon and early evening, which means after church on Sunday, you can go grocery shopping. Also, we’re making both games “DRILL WORTHY!” (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?) After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarten teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 57 last June and dates a 42-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

For the week, 3-1. For the season, 181-81. When things come to an end on Sunday night in Foxboro, one team will have the Halas Trophy for winning the NFC Title, while the other will possess the Hunt Trophy for being the winner in the AFC. They’ll have two weeks to prepare for the Super Bowl in Houston. The two losers? Their fan base will be second-guessing themselves all the way to the draft, OTA’s and training camp. Two will survive and have a chance to take the Lombardi Trophy home from NRG Stadium in Houston.

“The most important fight you have is the one you’re in,” Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Georgia State University Signal, WSB-TV, WXIA-TV, WAGA-TV and WGCL-TV. This time of year, it is a fight. A fight to the finish, if you will.

The final four teams are set and this Sunday will determine the two teams heading to Houston for Super Bowl LI.

Championship Sunday begins with the NFC title game between the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons in the final NFL game at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated Seattle 36-20 in the Divisional round and the Packers knocked off the top-seeded Cowboys 34-31. The teams met in Week 8 (October 30, 2016) with the Falcons notching a 33-32 victory.

The AFC Championship Game will feature the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots, the fifth postseason meeting between the clubs and the third in a row that will occur in the AFC Championship Game. In the Divisional Playoffs, the Steelers knocked off the Chiefs 18-16 and the Patriots defeated the Texans 34-16.

Green Bay (10-6, NFC North champion, 4th seed) at ATLANTA (11-5, NFC South champion, 2nd seed), 3:05 p.m. on FOX. Aaron Rodgers. Matt Ryan. They meet again in the Big Peach. This time, it for the NFC Championship and the right to go on to Houston for Super Bowl LI. While the Falcons advanced with some ease last Saturday, the Packers needed luck and the strong leg of Mason Crosby to advance to the final round.

The Packers used two Mason Crosby field goals in the final minute of play to come away 34-31 winners over number one seed Dallas last Sunday in Arlington at JerryWorld. Green Bay led 21-13 at the half at AT&T Stadium and took its largest lead of the contest when Rodgers and TE Jared Cook connected on a 3-yard TD pass with 11:25 left in the third quarter. Dallas would eventually chip away at the Packer lead and then tie things up with 4:08 left in regulation when Dak Prescott (302 yards, 2 TDs, interception) and WR Dez Bryant connected on their second TD pass of the afternoon, a 7-yard pass to make it a 2-point contest. Prescott then tied the contest up when he scored on the two-point conversion. Then the kickers took over, as Crosby connected on his first field goal of the fourth quarter, making a 56-yarder with 1:33 left. Dallas would not be outdone as Dan Bailey would tie things back up for the Cowboys, connecting on a 52-yarder with 35 seconds left. Green Bay would not be outdone as the Packers marched their way down the field as Crosby had first kicked a 51-yard try with five seconds left but Dallas called a time out in an attempt to ice Crosby. Crosby was having none of it, as he connected on his second field goal in the fourth quarter, a 51-yarder as the clock struck :00. Dallas outrushed Green Bay 138-87, with Cowboys rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott doing most of the damage with 125 yards, while Rodgers threw for 356 yards and a pair of TDs. Both teams went 6 of 11 on third down conversions, while Dallas held the pigskin for 30:14 to Green Bay’s 29:46.

Atlanta led the NFL with 540 points scored during the regular season, the first time in franchise history the Falcons have ranked No. 1 in that category. Including last week’s Divisional Playoff game, Atlanta has scored a touchdown on its first possession in each of the past seven games. Atlanta advanced to the championship game last Saturday, taking Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks to task in the Georgia Dome, coming away 36-20. Atlanta erased a 10-9 second quarter deficit, taking the lead for keeps as Matt Bryant nailed a 35-yard field goal with 6:06 left before the intermission. Atlanta then floored the gas and took a 19-10 lead with them to the locker room when RB Tevin Coleman and Ryan connected on a 14-yard TD pass with 53 seconds left. After RB DeVonta Freeman scored from a yard out halfway through the third quarter, Seattle managed to pull to within two scores when Steven Hauschka kicked a 26-yard field goal to make it a 26-13 game. Bryant’s second field goal, a 31-yarder with 14:57 left to play and a Mohamed Sanu 3-yard TD pass Ryan ended the scoring for Atlanta and allowed them to put the contest away. While Seattle outrushed Atlanta 101-99, Ryan outpaced Russell Wilson (two TDs, two interceptions, three sacks) 338-225 in passing yardage. Atlanta was 50 percent on third down conversions, going 6 of 12 and kept the ball for 33:19, while the Seahawks were 5 of 11 on third down, keeping the pigskin for 26:41.

In post-season play, the Packers lead the series 2-1 and have outscored Atlanta 92-68. Atlanta’s only post-season win over Green Bay came in 2002 when they came into Lambeau and came away 27-7 winners in the NFC Wild Card round, while Green Bay’s last win over Atlanta in post-season action came in the Big Peach in 2010 by a final of 48-21 in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.

They met in the Big Peach in week eight and the Falcons managed to come away 33-32 winners over Rodgers and the Packers. Green Bay led 24-19 at the half and the Packers were leading by 4 with 31 seconds left when Ryan and WR Mohamed Sanu connected on an 11-yard TD pass to take the lead for keeps. Atlanta then held off the Packers and Ryan as they had one last chance to take the lead back. Green Bay outrushed Atlanta 108-90, while Ryan threw for 288 yards and three TDs, including the game-winner. Rodgers threw for 246 yards and four TDs in the late-afternoon contest at the Georgia Dome. Green Bay went 6 of 10 on third down tries, 0 of 1 on fourth down and held on to the ball for 31:17, while the Falcons, who went 4 of 9 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs, kept the pigskin for 28:43.

In the week eight contest in the Big Peach, Atlanta was favored by 3 and won by a single point, missing the spread. Both teams achieved the 52 1/2 over/under by scoring 65 points. The Falcons are favored again, this time by 4 and the over/under’s 61. Both offenses are capable of making that number happen and both teams have QBs that will all but be in Canton when they hang up their cleats. Green Bay’s looking for revenge, while Atlanta looks to close out the final game in the Georgia Dome with a win under their wings. The Halas trophy’s going to love their Southern home as Atlanta will take this one but expect Green Bay to make it a lot closer than the 4.

Pittsburgh (11-5, AFC North Champion, 3rd seed) at New England (14-2, AFC East Champion, 1st seed), 6:40 p.m. on CBS. Roethlisberger. Brady. They meet again and the setting’s not in western Pennsylvania. It’s in Foxboro and it’s for the AFC Championship. Ben Roethilsberger and Tom Brady meet for the right to be the AFC representative in Houston in two weeks.

The Steelers survived a late Kansas City rally at Arrowhead last Sunday night (the game was scheduled to be an afternoon contest but the NFL moved the kick time to evening because of weather), coming away 18-16 winners over the Chiefs. Pittsburgh erased a 7-6 first quarter deficit at Arrowhead last Sunday, took a 12-7 lead into the break and then held off what the Chiefs hoped would be the tying TD when Kansas City’s Spencer Ware scored from a yard out with 2:43 left in the contest.
Kansas City then went for two, in hopes of tying the contest up and perhaps sending it into overtime when Alex Smith (172 yards, TD, interception) and TE Demetrius Harris connected on what they thought was a successful try. There was one small problem… there was a yellow piece of fabric on the ground, as OT Eric Fisher was called for holding. The ball got moved back 10 yards, the Chiefs tried again, only to fail and the Steelers, who got all of their scoring from six Chris Boswell field goals, ran out the clock and took the win. Pittsburgh outrushed Kansas City 171-61, with RB LeVeon Bell leading all rushers with 170 of those yards, while Roethlisberger threw for 224 yards. Neither club did anything for their fan bases to celebrate about on third down, as the Steelers were 7 of 15, while the Chiefs were 2 of 9 (Kansas City did strike pay dirt on fourth down, going 2 of 2) and Pittsburgh ruled the clock and held on to the ball for 34:13 to Kansas City’s 25:47.

New England led Houston from start to finish, beating the Texans 34-16 in the AFC Divisional contest in Foxboro. Although the Texans made the contest close at halftime, Brady and the Pats led 17-13 at the intermission, then pulled away from Houston to advance to the championship round, outscoring Houston 17-3 in the final 30 minutes of action. Houston did manage to outrush New England 104-98 but Brady threw for 287 yards and a pair of TDs along with two interceptions, while Houston’s Brock Osweiler threw for 198 yards, a TD and three interceptions (Osweiler was sacked three times, while Brady was sacked twice). New England was 5 of 14 on third down conversions and held on to the ball for 27:30, while Houston, who was 3 of 16 on third down tries, ruled the clock, holding the pigskin for 32:30.

They met this year at Heinz Field and New England were 27-16 winners in week seven. New England led 14-17 at the half over a Roethlisberger-less Steelers club and outscored Pittsburgh 13-6 in the final 30 minutes of play. LeGarrett Blount ran for 127 yards and a pair of TDs (New England outrushed Pittsburgh 140-94), while Brady (222  yards) threw a pair of TDs, including a 36-yard strike to Gronkowski. Pittsburgh’s Landry Jones, taking over for Roethilsberger, threw for 281 yards and one TD to WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, while throwing an interception. New England, who turned the ball over twice, kept the ball for 27:31, going 7 of 12 on third down, while Pittsburgh ruled the clock and held the ball for 32:29 and went 5 of 16 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth downs.

In post-season play, the Patriots hold a 3-1 lead in the series and have outscored the Steelers 99-54. New England’s last post-season win came in 2004 in the Steel City by a final of 41-27 in the AFC Championship, while Pittsburgh’s lone win over the Pats in post-season action came in 1997 at old Three Rivers Stadium by a final of 7-6.

New England covered the 7-point spread in week seven, winning by 11 at Heinz Field. The 45 1/2 over/under was safe, as both teams could only muster 43 points. The Pats are the favored ones again, this time by 6 and the over/under’s 51. The winner gets to hold the Lamar Hunt trophy and be the AFC’s representative in Houston, while the loser gets lovely parting gifts, including clearing out their lockers. New England can pack their bags and head to Houston. Pats win but this could get closer than the 6.