Conference championship weekend is upon us. The two winners on Sunday will be headed to the Super Bowl, and the two losers will have the next eight months to think about what could have been this postseason.
There are no shortages of headlines in either game. The afternoon showdown between the Broncos and Patriots will pit two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history against each other for perhaps the final time in the playoffs. The two teams met earlier in the year, and New England won a thriller in overtime. That game was played in Foxborough; this time around it will be in Denver.
The primetime matchup between Seattle and San Francisco will likely take on the mold of an old-school playoff game. These NFC West rivals split their two regular-season meetings, though Seattle blew out the Niners when they met at CenturyLink Field in Week 2. How will San Francisco handle the crowd noise this time around? Will Russell Wilson break out of his mini-slump? Just how uncomfortable are Jim Harbaugh's pants? We'll find out the answers to these questions and more on Sunday night.
Here is the full playoff schedule for Sunday and beyond.
This is the matchup football fans live for. It doesn't get much better in January than Manning vs. Brady, and after their wild meeting in Week 12, it's going to be interesting to see which game plan changes John Fox and Bill Belichick make.
Against the Colts last week, Belichick and the Patriots used their ground game to wear down Indianapolis. LeGarrette Blount put up huge numbers, and even Stevan Ridley looked good in limited duty. New England could continue pounding away on the ground to keep the ball away from Manning and Denver's quick-strike offense, but if the Pats fall behind early, it's tough to imagine Brady and co. coming up with another magical comeback in the fourth quarter in what should be a rocking Mile High Stadium. It would seem this one will turn into a shootout.
NFC Championship Game
On paper, the Seahawks and 49ers seem to be about as evenly matched as possible. They both have promising young quarterbacks, a solid rushing attack and the boast arguably the two best defenses in the league. The coaching staffs know each other like the back of their hands, and it would be a surprise to see either team get away from what got them to this point. Whichever side can control the field position battle and limit turnovers will likely be headed to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XLVIII
AFC Championship winner vs. NFC Championship winner
Date: Feb. 2
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m.
This year's Super Bowl will be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Fox will provide the TV coverage with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the booth. Bruno Mars and a handful of other entertainers are scheduled to perform at halftime.