And now there are four.

Professional football’s answer to the Final Four takes place Sunday afternoon as the AFC and NFC champions will be crowned.

For the four teams that are in the championship game, it’s their chance to make history and either win another Lombardi Trophy or take one for themseleves.

32 teams went through watching the Senior Bowl, the draft, OTAs, training camp, sleeping in dorms for the first time since college, pre-season games, the regular season and now it comes down to this.

Win? You get to go to the Super Bowl in two weeks time.

Lose? Your next game is in September.

It doesn’t get any clearer than that.

For those teams that are in, it’s their chance to impress a national audience. For those teams that didn’t make the playoffs, it’s a chance to regroup, to circle their wagons and see what they could do to get better.

when the post-season started, there were 12 teams that were in the party. Now we’re down to four. The two winners will get to go to Minneapolis and be part of something bigger than themselves. It’s their chance to make some history.

Both Philadelphia and Jacksonville completed “worst-to-first” turnarounds. At least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons. The Eagles and Jaguars are the first “worst-to-first” teams since the 2009 New Orleans Saints to advance to the Championship Game.

Three of the remaining four clubs – Philadelphia, Minnesota and Jacksonville – missed the postseason in 2016. This is the first time since 2008 in which three of the four teams in the Championship Games missed the playoffs in the previous season.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: FROM “WORST TO FIRST”: The Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars both advanced to the Conference Championship Games after completing “worst-to-first” turnarounds this season. At least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons.

The last two teams that went from “worst-to-first” in their divisions to earn a Super Bowl berth were the 2003 Carolina Panthers (Super Bowl XXXVIII) and the 2009 New Orleans Saints, who won Super Bowl XLIV.

The teams to go from “worst-to-first” in their divisions and advance to the Super Bowl since 2003:

SEASON – TEAM (RECORD, PRIOR SEASON RECORD; ADVANCED TO)
2003 – Carolina (11-5, 7-9; Super Bowl XXXVIII)
2009 – New Orleans (13-3, 8-8; Won Super Bowl XLIV)
2017 – Jacksonville (10-6; 3-13; ???)
2017 – Philadelphia (13-3; 7-9; ???)

Three of the remaining four clubs – the Eagles and Minnesota in the NFC and the Jaguars in the AFC – missed the postseason in 2016, marking the fifth time since 1990 – and the first since 2008 – that three teams advanced to the Championship Game after missing the postseason in the previous year.​

The seasons which had three teams advance to the Conference Championship Game after missing the postseason in the previous season since 1990:

SEASON – TEAMS TO ADVANCE TO CONFERENCE CHAMPIOHSHIP GAME WHO MISSED PLAYOFFS IN PREVIOUS SEASON
1996 – 3 (Carolina, Jacksonville, New England)
1999 – 3 (St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Tennessee)
2000 – 3 (Baltimore, New York Giants, Oakland)
2008 – 3 (Arizona, Baltimore, Philadelphia)
2017 – 3 (Jacksonville, Minnesota, Philadelphia)

OVER 100: Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles completed 23 of 30 passes (76.7 percent) for 246 yards and a 100.1 passer rating in the Eagles’ 15-10 win over Atlanta in the Divisional Playoffs.

Foles, who faces Minnesota on Sunday night, can become the fifth quarterback in NFL history to record a passer rating of at least 100 in each of his first three postseason starts.

The quarterbacks with the most starts with a passer rating of at least 100 to begin postseason career:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASONS)(GAMES WITH 100+ PASSER RATING)
Troy Aikman, Dallas (1992-93)(5)^
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (2009-10)(3)
Tony Eason, New England (1985)(3)
Joe Theismann, Washington (1982)(3)
Nick Foles, Philadelphia (2013, 2017)(2)*
*Active streak
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

DANGEROUS JAGUARS: Jacksonville defeated Pittsburgh, the Number 2 seed in the AFC, 45-42 in the Divisional Playoffs to advance to their third AFC Championship game in franchise history.

Jacksonville, who plays at Number 1 seed New England on Sunday, can become the 11th team to defeat the top two seeds from their own conference in the same postseason since 1990 when the current playoff format was adopted.

The teams to defeat the top two seeds from their own conference in the same postseason since 1990:

YEAR – TEAM (CONFERENCE)
1992 – Buffalo (AFC)
1997 – Denver (AFC)
1999 – Tennessee (AFC)
2000 – Baltimore (AFC)
2003 – Carolina (NFC)
2005 – Pittsburgh (AFC)
2007 – New York Giants (NFC)
2010 – Green Bay (NFC)
2011 – New York Giants (NFC)
2012 – Baltimore (AFC)
2017 – Jacksonville (AFC)*
*Play at Number 1 seed New England on Sunday

RUMBLING ROOKIE: Jacksonville rookie running back Leonard Fournette rushed for 109 yards and three touchdowns in the Jaguars’ 45-42 victory over Pittsburgh in the Divisional Playoffs.

With one rushing touchdown on Sunday against New England, Fournette can tie the postseason record for the most rushing touchdowns by a rookie.

The rookies with the most rushing touchdowns in a single postseason:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON)(RUSHING TDS)
Jamal Lewis, Baltimore (2000)(4)
William Floyd, San Francisco (1994)(4)
Tony Dorsett, Dallas (1997)(4)^
Norm Standlee, Chicago (1941)(4)
Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville (2017)(3)*
*Active
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

PROLIFIC PASSER: New England quarterback Tom Brady completed 35 of 53 passes (66 percent) for 337 yards and three touchdowns for a 102.5 passer rating in the Patriots’ 35-14 win against Tennessee in the Divisional Playoffs.

Brady, who faces Jacksonville on Sunday, can become the first quarterback in postseason history to record four consecutive games with at least 300 yards and multiple touchdown passes.

The quarterbacks with the most consecutive postseason games with 300+ yards and 2+ touchdown passes:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASONS)(CONSECUTIVE PLAYOFF GAMES WITH 300+ YARDS & 2+ TDs)

Tom Brady, New England (2016-17)(3)*
Matt Ryan, Atlanta (2013, 2016)(3)
Drew Brees, New Orleans (2010-11)(3)
Jim Kelly, Buffalo (1989-90)(3)^
Dan Fouts, San Diego (1980-81)(3)^
*Active streak
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

TOUCHDOWN MACHINE: New England running back James White recorded two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) in the Patriots’ win against Tennessee in the Divisional Playoffs.

White, who had three touchdowns in SB LI, needs two touchdowns to tie Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith (seven) and Larry Fitzgerald (seven) for the most combined rushing and receiving touchdowns over a three-game span in postseason history.

The players with the most combined rushing and receiving touchdowns in a three-game span in postseason history:

PLAYER – TEAM(S) (SEASONS)(MOST RUSH AND RECIEVEING TDS IN 3-GAME SPAN IN PLAYOFF HISTORY)
Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona (2008-09)(7)
Emmitt Smith – Dallas (1995-96)(7)^
Many tied with 6
James White – New England (2016-17)(5)*
*Active
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

BRING IT HOME: Minnesota defeated New Orleans 29-24 to advance to their 10th NFL/NFC Championship game in franchise history.

With a win against Philadelphia on Sunday, the Vikings will become the first team to play in a Super Bowl in the team’s home stadium and the fifth team to play in a Super Bowl that was hosted in their home state.

The teams to play in a Super Bowl hosted in their home state:

SUPER BOWL – DATE (WINNER)(LOSER)(SITE)
XXXVII – January 26, 2003 (Tampa Bay)(Oakland)(San Diego, California)
XIX – January 20, 1985 (San Francisco)(Miami)(Stanford, Calfornia)
XIV – January 20, 1980 (Pittsburgh)(Los Angeles Rams)(Pasdena, California)
XI – January 9, 1977 (Oakland)(Minnesota)(Pasadena, California)

As was the case when the playoffs started, all the games are “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 kindergarden 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?”

The winners get a lot of cash for their effort. Each player will get $51,000 for winning the AFC and NFC title, which comes out to $2,730.000 for each team. The winners advance to Super Bowl LII where the share is $112,000 for each winner ($59,360,000.00 for that team, $56,000 for each loser ($2,968,000 for the team).

In addition to the cash, they get some lovely parting gifts.

The AFC Champion receive the Lamar Hunt Trophy, named in honor of Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Lamar Hunt, the founder of the American Football League and longtime majority owner of the Kansas City Chiefs. First presented following the 1984 season, the 2010 season marked the debut of its redesign by Tiffany and Company.

For the NFC? That winner receive the George S. Halas Trophy, named in honor of the former owner, coach and player of the Chicago Bears and one of the founders of the National Football League. First presented following the 1984 season, the 2010 season marked the debut of its redesign by Tiffany and Company.

Both the AFC and NFC trophies reflect the sterling silver material of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, awarded each year to the Super Bowl champions and also designed by Tiffany and Company and the trophy designs are based on a football and features an etched conference logo and the NFL Shield. By the way, each team gets to keep the trophies.

Jacksonville (10-6) at New England (13-3), 3:05 p.m. on CBS. The AFC champion will be crowned in Foxboro as Jacksonville makes their way to Gillette Stadium for a meeting with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Jacksonville will make their first venture into the AFC Championship Game since 1999, when they lost to Tennessee 33-14 in Jacksonville at what was then the Gator Bowl before the stadium changed its name to EverBank Field. The Jaguars went into Pittsburgh last Sunday and came away 45-42 winners over the Steelers at Heinz Field in their second meeting of the 2017 season.

The Jaguars took a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, thanks to a pair of Leonard Fournette TDs to open the scoring. Fournette had runs of 1 and 18 yards in the period to take the early lead before Steeler fans could get settled in the chilly 18-degree weather in the Steel City. After T.J. Yeldon added another score with a 4-yard run, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers ended Jacksonville’s bid for a shutout with 8:20 left before the intermission when he and WR Antonio Brown connected on an 23-yard TD pass. The Jaguars would then respond when Jacksonville’s Tevin Smith fullfilled the dream of every NFL lineman ever, picked up a Roethlisberger fumble and returned it 50 yards for a TD with 2:20 left before half. Pittsburgh ended the scoring in the first half when Roethlisberger and WR Martavis Bryant made it a 2-score game with 25 seconds left before the intermission.

Pittsburgh came out of the gates to start the third quarter and made the contest a 7-point affair with 9:09 left in the quarter when LeVeon Bell and Roethlisberger connected on a 19-yard TD pass as part of a 10-play, 77-yard drive that used 5:51 of clock to make the score 28-21. Fournette then put the lead back to 14 with a 3-yard run in the fourth quarter. If the Steelers were going down, they were going down fighting, as Brown and Roethlisberger connected on a 43-yard TD strike with 9:05 left in regulation. Jacksonville then pulled away again as Tommy Bohannon caught a 14-yard pass from Blake Bortles for a 42-28 contest with 4:19 left.

Bell was not finished as he scored on an 8-yard run with 2:18 left. Jacksonville needed one more score to put the game away and got it from Josh Lambo, who kicked a 45-yard field goal with 1:45 left. Pittsburgh would have the last word as they would put the final tally on the scoreboard when WR JuJu Smith-Schuster caught a 4-yard pass from Roethlisberger with 1 second left in the contest. Fournette ran for 109 yards and three TDs (Bell led Pittsburgh with 67 yards) as the Jaguars outrushed Pittsburgh 164-83 and Bortles threw for 214 yards and a TD, while Roethilsbeger threw for 469 yards and five TDs with a pair of sacks and an interception.

Jacksonville on third down conversions was 8 of 14 and held the ball for 28:50 (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down), while the Steelers ruled the clock and held the ball for 31:10, going 7 of 16 on third down, 4 of 6 on fourth down.

New England took care of Tennessee 35-14 last Saturday night in Foxboro at Gillette Stadium. After trailing 7-0 at the end of the first quarter, the Pats scored 21 second quarter points unchallenged, taking a 21-7 lead with them to the break. New England outrushed the Titans 101-65 with Dion Lewis leading the way with 62 yards, while Brady threw for 337 yards and three TDs, connecting with TE Rob Gronkowski on one of those tosses, while Marcus Mariota threw for 254 with a pair of TDs, with eight sacks (neither QB threw an interception). New England on third down tries went 11 of 17 and kept the ball for 32:56, while the Titans held the pigskin for 27:04, going 5 of 15 on third down, 2 of 3 on fourth down.

The Jaguars had four players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, defensive end Campbell and defensive tackle Malik Jackson.

The Patriots had four players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: quarterback Brady, fullback James Develin, tight end Gronkowski and special teamer Matthew Slater.

The Pats lead the series with Jacksonville 7-0 and have outscored the Jaguars 214-119. New England’s last win in the series came in 2015 in Foxboro by a final of 51-17.

New England in post-season leads Jacksonville 3-1 in the series and has outscored the Jaguars 89-54. New England’s last playoff win over Jacksonville came in Foxboro in 2007 in the AFC Divsional Playoffs by a final of 31-20, while Jacksonville’s lone victory in the sereis came in the Sunshine State in 1998 in the AFC Wild Card Game by a final of 25-10.

New England’s favored by 9 and the over/under’s 46. For the Pats, it’s a chance to go back and get another Lombardi trophy. For Jacksonville, it’s their chance to knock off Goliath. It’ll be closer than 9 but New England prevails and moves on to the Twin Cities.

Minnesota (13-3) at Philadelphia (13-3), 6:40 p.m. on FOX. A pair of teams that have yet to win a Super Bowl meet in the NFC Championship Game in the City of Brotherly Love as the Eagles host the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field.

Minnesota earned their way into the NFC Championship in a manner that not even Hollywood could have expected, coming away from US Bank Stadium 29-24 winners over Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints last Sunday afternoon. The Vikings led 17-0 at the intermission against New Orleans before the Saints’ Michael Thomas ended Minnesota’s bid for a shutout when he and Drew Brees connected on a 14-yard TD pass with 1:18 left in the third quarter. Brees and Thomas would connect again with 13:09 left in the contest when they connected on a 3-yard toss. After Kyle Horbath gave the Vikings a 20-14 lead with 10:12 left to play, New Orleans took the lead for the first time in the game when rookie RB Alvin Kamara caught a 14 yard TD pass from Brees with 3:01 left to. That lead would not last long, as once again it was Horbath putting the Vikings back on top with a 52-yard field goal with 89 seconds left.

New Orleans was not about to be outdone as they would use an 11-play, 50-yard drive that used 64 seconds of clock and took the lead back when K Wil Lutz connected on a 43-yard field goal with 25 seconds left. Minnesota, without time outs, engineered a drive that almost didn’t see the light of day as Case Keenum and Stefon Diggs opened with a 19-yard pass to their 39-yard line. After two Keenum passes were incomplete, the Vikings needed and got a miracle when Diggs caught Keenum’s desparation pass and took it into the end zone for a 61-yard TD pass as time expired for a walk-off TD to send Minnesota fans home happy and the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game.

Minnesota outrushed New Orleans 95-80 and Keenum threw for 318 yards, while Brees threw for 294 (both men were sacked twice, Keenum threw an interception, while Brees threw two) and Diggs led all recievers with 137 yards on six catches, including the game-winner. Minnesota on third down was 10 of 17 and held the ball for 33:17, including the game-winning drive, while the Saints held the pigskin for 26:43, going 2 of 9 on third down and 1 of 1 on fourth down.

The Eagles erased a 10-9 deficit against Atlanta in the NFC Divisional Game at Lincoln Financial Field, taking a 15-10 win ove the Falcons Saturday afternoon in the City of Brotherly Love to advance to the NFC Championship Game for the first time since the 2008 NFC Championship Game in Glendale, where they lost to Arizona 32-25. The Eagles used a pair of Josh Elliott field goals in the second half to take the lead, then held off a late Atlanta rally in the final seconds of the contest. The Falcons opened the scoring in the contest with a 33-yard field goal by Matt Bryant in the first quarter before the Eagles took the lead for the first time when RB LeGarrette Blount scored with 10:28 left before halftime from a yard out but Elliott missed the extra point. Atlanta then went to work and took the lead back with a 6-yard TD pass from Matt Ryan for a 10-6 lead. Elliott would make it a one-point game at the intermission with a 53-yard try and the Eagles would go on to score their final six points of the contest uncontested.

Philadelphia outrushed Atlanta 96-86 and Nick Foles threw for 246 yards, while Ryan threw for 210 yards (Ryan was sacked three times, Foles sacked once and neither man threw an interception). Philadelphia was 6 of 13 on third down (1 of 1 on fourth downO) conversions and held the ball for 32:06, while Atlanta kept the pigskin for 27:54, going 4 of 13 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth down tries.

Minnesota in regular 23 regular season meetings with Philadelphia leads the series 13-10 and have outscored the Eagles 543-528. The Eagles won the last meeting with the Purple Gang, taking a 21-10 win in the City of Brotherly Love in the 2016 season, while Minnesota’s last win in the series came in 2013 in the Twin Cities by a final of 48-30.

The week seven contest saw the Eagles take an 11-3 lead with them to the break at Lincoln Financial Field, thanks to a 98-yard kickoff return by Josh Huff, a Carson Wentz two-point conversion and a 35-yard field goal by Chris Strugis. Philly would hold Minnesota in check in the second half and take the win as Dorial Green-Beckham would catch a 5-yard toss from Wentz and Sturgis would add a 21-yard field goal to seal the win. Philly outrushed Minnesota 101-93 and Wentz threw for 138 yards and a pair of TDs, while Bradford threw for 224 yards and a TD but was sacked six times and picked off once. Third down tries in the week seven contest was nothing to cheer about (Philadelphia was 4 of 11, Minnesota was 9 of 19) but the Eagles found success in their only fourth down try, while the Viking were 1 of 3 on fourth down. In the week seven contest in the City of Brotherly Love, while the Eagles were 2 1/2 point underdogs in the contest, their 11 point allowed them to cover the spread; however, the 40 over/under was untouched as both clubs could only muster 31 points.

The Vikings had four players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: linebacker Anthony Barr, defensive end Everson Griffen, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and wide receiver Adam Thielen, while Philadelphia had six players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: guard Brandon Brooks, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, tight end Zach Ertz, safety Malcom Jenkins, tackle Lane Johnson and quarterback Carson Wentz.

In the post-season, the Eagles and Vikings have played three times and Philadelphia has taken wins in all three contests, with the last win coming in 2008 in the Twin Cities by a final of 26-14 in the NFC Wild Card Game. The odds makers like the Vikings on the road as 3 point favorites with the over/under at 39. Both numbers make sense. Both teams want to go back to the Super Bowl; for the Vikings, it will be their first trip to the big game since 1977, when they lost to Oakland 31-19 in Super Bowl XI in Pasadena, while the Eagles’ last trip to the Super Bowl was Super Bowl XXXIX, when they lost to New England 24-21 in Jacksonville. It’s also added incentive for the Vikings, who would be the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. The football gods have been kind to the Vikings of late and they’ll be kind again. Minnesota covers the 3 and wins in the City of Brotherly Love.

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