Archives for posts with tag: NFC Championship

Sunday Broadcast Information (All Times Listed are Eastern)

Jacksonville at New England, 3:05 p.m. on CBS: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson (Field reporter), Jay Feely (Field reporter); WESTWOOD ONE: Kevin Kugler, Dan Fouts, Ed Werder; SIRIUS: 88 (WestWwood1), 83 (Jacksonville), 82 (New England); XM: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Jacksonville), 82 (New England)

Minnesota at Philadelphia, 6:40 p.m. on FOX: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews (Field reporter), Chris Myers (Field reporter); WESTWOOD ONE: Kevin Harlan, Trent Green, Ross Tucker; SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Minnesota), 82 (Philadelphia);| XM: 88 (WestWwood1), 83 (Minnesota), 82 (Philadelphia)

Sunday’s Officials
Jacksonville at New England, 3:05 p.m.: Clete Blakeman
Minnesota at Philadelphia, 6:40 p.m.: Ed Hochuli

Sunday Odds (Home teams listed in CAPS)
Favorite           Spread      Underdog         O/U
NEW ENGLAND        –  9        Jacksonville     46
Minnesota          –  3        PHILADELPHIA     39

Sunday Injury Report

Jacksonville at New England, 3:05 p.m.

Jacksonville

QUESTIONABLE: S Tashaun Gipson (Foot)

New England

QUESTIONABLE: QB Tom Brady (Right Hand), T LaAdrian Waddle (Knee), DT Alan Branch (Knee), RB Michael Burkhead (Knee), RB Mike Gillslee (Knee)

Minnesota at Philadelphia, 6:40 p.m.

Minnesota

OUT: DT Shamar Stephen (Knee)

QUESTIONABLE: CB Mackensie Alexander (Rib), S Andrew Sendejo (Concussion), WR Adam Thielen (Back)

Philadelphia

QUESTIONABLE: LB Dannell Ellerbe (Hamstring)

Sunday Weather

Jacksonville at New England, 3:05 p.m.: Partly cloudy and 46 degrees
Minnesota at Philadelphia, 6:40 p.m.: Overcast and 46 degrees

Broadcast Information, Officials and Injury report courtesy the National Football League, odds courtesy Don Best, weather information courtesy The Weather Channel

 

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.

Championship Sunday Broadcast Information (All Times Eastern)

NFC Championship – Green Bay at ATLANTA, 3:05 p.m. on FOX: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews, Chris Myers (Field reporters). Westwood One: Kevin Kugler, James Lofton, Tony Boselli (Field reporter). SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 81 (Green Bay), 82 (Atlanta). XM: 88 (WestWood1), 225 (Green Bay), 82 (Atlanta).

AFC Championship – Pittsburgh at New England, 6:40 p.m. on CBS: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson, Jay Feely (Field reporters). Westwood One: Kevin Harlan, Dan Fouts, Ross Tucker (Field reporter). SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 81 (Pittsburgh), 82 (New England). XM: 88 (WestWood1), 225 (Pittsburgh), 82 (New England).

Sunday Officials
NFC Championship: Green Bay at ATLANTA, 3:05 p.m. – Bill Vinovich
AFC Championship: Pittsburgh at New England, 6:40 p.m. – Terry McAulay

Sunday Odds
Favorite                Spread    Underdog              O/U
ATLANTA                 –  4      Green Bay             61
NEW ENGLAND             –  6      Pittsburgh            51

Sunday Injury Report

Green Bay at ATLANTA, 3:05 p.m.

Green Bay
OUT: RB James Starks (Concussion), C Joseph Tretter (Knee)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Davante Adams (Ankle), WR Geronimo Allison (Hamstring), WR Jordy Nelson (Ribs), S Morgan Burnett (Quad), CB Quinten Rollins (Neck)

ATLANTA – Atlanta reported no injuries

Pittsburgh at New England, 6:40 p.m.

Pittsburgh
QUESTIONABLE: LB James Harrison (Shoulder), RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (Concussion), TE Ladarius Green (Concussion)

New England
QUESTIONABLE: WR Danny Amendola (Ankle), TE Martellus Bennett (Knee), RB Brandon Bolden (Knee), LB Qualin Hightower (Knee), WR Chris Hogan (Thigh), WR Malcom Mitchell (Knee), DE Jabaal Sheard (Knee)

Sunday Weather
NFC: Green Bay at ATLANTA, 3:05 p.m. on FOX (Game indoors)
AFC: Pittsburgh at New England, 6:40 p.m. on CBS (Cloudy and 42 degrees)

Broadcast information, officials and injury report courtesy the National Football League, odds courtesy Don Best, weather information courtesy The Weather Channel.

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.

Win.

Trip to Houston.

Lose.

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:

TEAM – 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:

TEAM, WINS-LOSSES, PCT (SUPER BOWL WINS)
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:

PLAYER, TEAM (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:

YEAR – PLAYERS (NUMBER OF SUPER BOWL WINS), COMBINED SUPER BOWL TITLES
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:

YEAR – PLAYERS (PASSER RATING); COMBINED PASSER RATING
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:

PLAYER – TEAM, SEASON(S); STREAK
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:

PLAYER, TEAM; SEASON – RUSH YARDS
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:

PLAYER – SEASON(S); TEAM, CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH 3+ 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:

QUARTERBACK/HEAD COACH, TEAM – SUPER BOWL APPEARANCES
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
*Active

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:

HEAD COACH – SUPER BOWL BERTHS
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).
RECORDS VS. COMMON OPPONENTS (INCLUDING PLAYOFFS)
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.