Divisional weekend in the NFL is now complete. The Conference Championship Games are set. This is the rare year where the one and the two seeds are in the title game for both conferences.
The Carolina Panthers ended the two year NFC reign of the Seattle Seahawks today 31-24 in Charlotte. Carolina crushed Seattle in the first half, jumping out to a 31-0 halftime lead. The Seahawks chipped away during the second half, but it never felt like the game was in great peril for the Panthers. Seattle did not score its points quickly enough to make things really interesting. They only cut the lead to 10 with around 6 minutes to go and cut it to 7 with just over a minute to play. Time was only left for a desperation onside kick to try and get a chance to tie the game. Carolina recovered. The Panthers are in the NFC Championship Game for the fourth time in franchise history and will host the game for the first time. They will face the Arizona Cardinals in a rematch of a Wild Card game from last season. This will be more of a fair fight as Arizona was down to its third quarterback in that game. This time the Cards have Carson Palmer.
The Broncos advanced to the AFC Championship Game with a 23-16 win over the undermanned Pittsburgh Steelers. A number of analysts during the game guessed that the game would come down to a turnover. It did. With around 10:00 to go, the Steelers were driving with a 13-12 lead. Fitzgerald Toussaint fumbled on the Denver 31. The Broncos recovered and cobbled together a go-ahead touchdown drive that lasted 13 plays and almost 7 minutes. Denver's offense struggled to get its timing down in Peyton Manning's return to the starting lineup, but they squeezed enough production to go with a solid defensive effort. This makes the AFC Championship Game a battle between Denver and New England for the second time in three years. It is the fourth time Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will meet with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, and all signs point to it being their final head-to-head battle.
Sunday, Jan. 17
NFC Divisional Round Game 2: Carolina Panthers 31 Seattle Seahawks 24
AFC Divisional Round Game 2: Denver Broncos 23 Pittsburgh Steelers 16
Sunday, Jan. 24
AFC Championship: New England Patriots at Denver Broncos, 3 p.m., CBS
NFC Championship: Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers, 6:40 p.m., FOX
Sunday, Feb. 7
Super Bowl 50: AFC champion vs. NFC champion, 6:30 p.m., CBS