The 2014 NFL playoffs are slowly turning back to normalcy after three of four top seeds advanced to the NFC and AFC Championship rounds.
In the AFC side of the divisional round, both the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos maintained their status atop the conference to advance to the AFC Championship. The win for both team pits two of the best quarterbacks in NFL history against one another for the second time this year.
In the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks made it look easy against the New Orleans Saints despite a late charge from the No. 6 seed. As for the second matchup, the Carolina Panthers fell to the San Francisco 49ers, setting up a clash of the two NFC West rivals in their third game this season.
FanSided provided a bracket of the playoffs heading into the NFC and AFC Championships:
Here is a look at the 2014 NFL playoff schedule on the path to Super Bowl XLVIII:
|Complete 2014 NFL Playoff Schedule|
|Round||Date (Time)||Visitor (Seed)||Home (Seed)||Broadcast/Stream Info|
|Wild Card||Jan. 4 (4:35 p.m. EST)||Kansas City Chiefs (5)||Indianapolis Colts (4)||NBC|
|Wild Card||Jan. 4 (8:10 p.m. EST)||New Orleans Saints (6)||Philadelphia Eagles (3)||NBC|
|Wild Card||Jan. 5 (1:05 p.m. EST)||San Diego Chargers (6)||Cincinnati Bengals (3)||CBS|
|Wild Card||Jan. 5 (4:40 p.m. EST)||San Francisco 49ers (5)||Green Bay Packers (4)||Fox|
|Divisional||Jan. 11 (4:35 p.m. EST)||New Orleans Saints (6)||Seattle Seahawks (1)||Fox|
|Divisional||Jan. 11 (8:15 p.m. EST)||Indianapolis Colts (4)||New England Patriots (2)||CBS|
|Divisional||Jan. 12 (1:05 p.m. EST)||San Francisco 49ers (5)||Carolina Panthers (2)||Fox|
|Divisional||Jan. 12 (4:40 p.m. EST)||San Diego Chargers (6)||Denver Broncos (1)||CBS|
|AFC Championship||Jan. 19 (3:00 p.m. EST)||New England Patriots (2)||Denver Broncos (1)||CBS|
|NFC Championship||Jan. 19 (6:30 p.m. EST)||San Francisco 49ers (5)||Seattle Seahawks (1)||Fox|
|Super Bowl XLVIII||Feb. 2 (6:30 p.m. EST)||TBA||TBA||Fox|
In the AFC, Philip Rivers put together another good performance for the San Diego Chargers, but his 217 passing yards and two touchdowns were not enough to take down Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
Manning did throw an interception in the game, but will now face off with a pass defense in the Patriots that intercepted Andrew Luck four times in the divisional round.
The Indianapolis Colts were down 38-10 early in the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs in what looked like a surefire upset. But Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton led the Colts back and sent shock waves through the rest of the AFC in a 45-44 win.
That dynamic duo couldn't do enough to keep the Colts in it in Foxboro, though.
Luck chucked four interceptions, Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount ran for 166 yards and four touchdowns and the Patriots rolled to a 43-22 victory despite zero TD passes from Tom Brady.
Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos were able to get through the San Diego Chargers without too much difficulty in the divisional round. In the AFC Championship, they did much of the same, only this time it came against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
A big win from Manning over Brady helped even the series at 2-2 in the postseason, although Brady still holds the overall edge at 10-5. The Broncos will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, as this will be the fifth time in eight years that a member of the Manning family played in the game.
As for the NFC, the New Orleans Saints proved that they could get the job done in cold weather in the Wild Card Round on the road, upsetting the Philadelphia Eagles. However, the Saints were unable to avenge a loss back in Week 13 of the regular season against Seattle Seahawks on Saturday, Jan. 11.
With Drew Brees still not playing as sharp on the road against the Eagles—he finished 20-of-30 with 250 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions—his play elevated slightly against Seattle's stout secondary.
Brees threw for 309 yards and a touchdown and New Orleans put up a valiant fight but lost to the Seahawks 23-15 at CenturyLink Field. Running back Marshawn Lynch gashed the Saints for 140 yards and two scores, and a 31-yard scamper to pay dirt with 2:40 left essentially iced it.
Even a miraculous onside kick didn't give New Orleans enough time to pull off an improbable comeback, and now Seattle will host the NFC Championship.
The 49ers took care of the Packers thanks to Colin Kaepernick for a third straight time. The San Francisco quarterback ran for 98 yards and passed for another 227 yards and a touchdowns in the third playoff win of his young career.
Following the win, the 49ers traveled to take on the Carolina Panthers and once again pulled off a huge win on the road thanks to a sensational performance from Kaepernick. The second-year quarterback finished with 211 total yards, one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown.
The win sets up a rematch against the Seahawks on the road. The two teams went 1-1 against each other during the regular season with both teams winning at home. But with a berth to the Super Bowl on the line, anything can happen between two of the best defenses and two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL.