HOUSTON – Who will battle for the Vince Lombardi Trophy when the Super Bowl returns to the Lone Star State on Feb. 5, 2017?
After three rounds in the NFL Playoffs we finally have our two competitors - the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.
Follow along with KHOU.com, KHOU 11 Sports and USA Today Sports as we bring the latest on the Road to Super Bowl LI.
SATURDAY, JAN. 7
No. 4 Houston Texans 27, No. 5 Oakland Raiders 14
No. 3 Seattle Seahawks 26, No. 6 Detroit Lions 6
SUNDAY, JAN. 8
No. 3 Pittsburgh Steelers 30, No. 6 Miami Dolphins 12 | Box score
No. 4 Green Bay Packers 38, No. 5 New York Giants 13 | Box score
SATURDAY, JAN. 14
No. 2 Falcons 36, No. 3 Seahawks 20
No. 1 Patriots 34, No. 4 Texans 16
SUNDAY, JAN. 15
No. 4 Packers 34, No. 1 Cowboys 31
No. 3 Steelers 18, No. 2 Chiefs 16
SUNDAY, JAN. 22
NFC: No. 2 Falcons 44, No. 4 Packers 21
AFC: No. 1 Patriots 36, No. 3 Steelers 17
SUNDAY, FEB. 5
Super Bowl LI (NRG Stadium, Houston): Falcons vs. Patriots, 5:30 p.m., Fox
COMPLETE COVERAGE: Super Bowl LI in Houston
TRAVELERS: Visitor's Guide to Houston
EVENTS: Party Guide to Super Bowl LI
GETTING AROUND: Parking and transportation guide for Super Bowl LI
SUPER BOWL LI
Three things to know: Patriots vs. Falcons Super Bowl LI preview
A preview of the
When: Sunday, Feb. 5, 5:30 p.m. (FOX)
Line: Patriots by 3
Injuries: Falcons WR
History: The Patriots are 7-6 all-time against the Falcons but, since 2001, have won all four meetings with
1. Something's gotta give: New England surrendered 15.6 points per game in the regular season, fewest in the NFL. However Atlanta scored a league-best 33.8 per week, and its 540 total points tied for eighth best all-time. The Falcons have even hit an extra gear in postseason with 80 total points in their wins over the
2. The QB question: Brady's four-game
3. Coming-out party: The Super Bowl stage can convey mega-stardom beyond football, especially for non-quarterbacks. New England TE Martellus Bennett has the ability and (more importantly) personality to have a breakout performance. Still, the Patriots have long been defined by Brady and coach
PITTSBURG STEELERS 17, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 36
Patriots outpace Steelers in AFC Championship Game romp
Fireworks cracked overhead.
This was all during a TV timeout with 2:44 still left to play in the third quarter, but by this point, they were merely waiting on formalities.
The Patriots thumped the
Brady carved apart Pittsburgh’s secondary, throwing for a postseason career-high 384 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. This marked Brady’s ninth postseason game with at least three passing touchdowns, tying
The Steelers could not generate a pass rush, and New England’s offensive line gave Brady ample time to throw.
During New England’s first touchdown of the game – a 16-yard dart to receiver
The Steelers stuck with a defensive strategy predicated on playing zone coverage. They also rushed three defenders for a good chunk of the game. This put pressure on the secondary to hold their assignments for long periods of time and forced them to make plays. They didn’t.
Hogan was left uncovered on several big plays. He caught nine passes for 180 yards, a Patriots postseason record, and two touchdowns. Fellow receiver
Martellus Bennett. pic.twitter.com/wpAiM8QTcs— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) January 23, 2017
The Patriots exploited the scheme, and skewed their attack heavily toward the pass. Through three quarters – the point at which the game was pretty much wrapped up – the Patriots had run the ball only 16 times for 31 yards. That compared to Brady’s 36 passing attempts during the same period.
The Steelers were without star running back
GREEN BAY PACKERS 21, ATLANTA FALCONS 44
Falcons dismantle Packers in NFC Championship Game rout
The most memorable sound in the final football game at the Georgia Dome was a chant, reverberating through every square inch of this old stadium.
“MVP! MVP! MVP!” chanted Falcons fans, from the first moment Matt Ryan jogged through the tunnel one last time, through the last seconds of the fourth quarter as the
Ryan threw for four touchdowns and rushed for another touchdown in a 44-21 win over the
“We’ll be ready,” said Ryan.
This sort of offensive explosion from the Falcons offense wasn’t exactly unexpected, not after Ryan and the Falcons dismantled the vaunted Seattle Seahawks defense last week in the divisional round and after averaging nearly 34 points per game in the regular season.
“We played great today in all three phases,” Ryan said. “We knew going against Green Bay and Aaron (Rodgers) that it’s never over.”
What was a surprise was the way the Falcons defense made sure the game never turned into the anticipated shootout.
The Falcons shut out the Packers in the first half Sunday, forced two turnovers and flustered
Much of that is a credit to Ryan, the favorite to win the NFL’s MVP award which will be announced on the eve of the Super Bowl. Voting was completed weeks ago, but his performance in the NFC Championship Game only bolstered his case.
Ryan’s most emphatic throw might have come after his 14-yard touchdown run, as Ryan celebrated by drilling the ball off the Falcons’ logo on the wall behind the end zone as he was swarmed by his teammates.
Yes, this game clearly meant something for Ryan, who had been plagued by questions about his play in big games throughout his career, including four years ago, when the Falcons squandered a 17-point lead after Ryan through two second-half interceptions in a NFC Championship Game loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
But what makes Ryan a real threat to lead the Falcons to their first Super Bowl title in two weeks is the cast of offensive players around him. Few offenses in recent memory have had such diversity – with a scary pair of running backs in
The Falcons’ offensive diversity should be a model for the Packers, whose eight-game winning streak is over after the team became too one-dimensional around Rodgers.
The Packers rushed just 13 times – including four scrambles by Rodgers, who was the leading rusher with 46 yards. Rodgers threw three touchdowns, even while playing behind an offensive line that lost three players by the fourth quarter and had to use a defensive tackle at guard, but those scores were too late to make the game competitive.
GREEN BAY PACKERS at ATLANTA FALCONS
A preview of the NFC Championship Game matchup between the
When: Sunday, 2:05 p.m. (FOX)
Where: Atlanta's Georgia Dome
Line: Falcons favored by 4
Injuries: Falcons WR
1. Ball control: It's a testament to two offenses that like to sling it that both also manage to be so careful with the ball. Torrid Packers QB
2. High-flying birds: The Falcons scored 540 points in the regular season, tied for eighth most in NFL history. And they're even better at home, where they've averaged 35.1. MVP frontrunner Matt Ryan, who was nearly as surgical as Rodgers down the stretch, had little problem carving up Green Bay in Week 8 (288 yards, 3 TD passes, 129.5 QB rating) despite a quiet day from Jones (3 catches, 29 yards) and absence of dynamic
3. Building blocks: Offensive line play is sure to be a major key for both clubs. A huge part of Atlanta's success is rooted in its front five, the only quintet in the league that started all 16 games together this season. But Rodgers also lines up behind a sterling wall, including
PITTSBURGH STEELERS at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
A preview of the AFC Championship Game matchup between the
When: Sunday, 5:40 p.m. ET (KHOU 11/CBS)
Line: Patriots favored by 4½
1. Strength on strength: During Pittsburgh’s nine-game winning streak, the offense has excelled. Behind the QB-RB-WR trifecta of
2. Rematch with one Big (Ben) tweak: Don’t put too much stock in New England's 27-16 Week 7 victory played in
3. Emerging X-factor: With tight end
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 18, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 16
Steelers stave off Chiefs, will face Patriots in AFC Championship Game
Hope you’re a fan of field goals.
The Steelers now travel to Foxborough, Mass., to face the conference’s No. 1 seed Sunday in the
Steelers place kicker
If there’s one thing that prevented the Steelers from blowing this game wide open in the first half, it was their lack of execution inside the red zone.
In the first two quarters, Pittsburgh failed to convert on all three of its trips inside the 20. Instead, it settled for field goal after field goal.
After Kansas City scored a touchdown on its opening series, however, the next three drives spanned only 11 plays for 29 yards. The result? Two punts and an interception. Only 4:24 of game time ticked off the clock.
Steelers running back
The Steelers outgained the Chiefs in the first half by a margin of 275-106. They led by only five points at the half.
The Chiefs scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard
GREEN BAY PACKERS 34, DALLAS COWBOYS 31
Aaron Rodgers, Packers topple Cowboys to advance to NFC Championship Game
Now, it might as well include a march to the team's fifth Lombardi Trophy.
Rodgers zipped a 35-yard pass to tight end
“We’re just going to enjoy this game, enjoy the heck out of it," said Rodgers.
Green Bay moves on to next weekend’s NFC Championship Game against the
That was more than enough time for Rodgers to lead the Packers on two more field goal drives. Crosby nailed a 56-yarder to take a 31-28 lead with 93 seconds to go, but the Cowboys answered with a 52-yarder from Dan Bailey 58 seconds later.
But Rodgers' laser to Cook, who just managed to get both feet down before tumbling out of bounds proved the game's key play.
“I tried to put it in a good spot," said Rodgers. "He made a hell of a catch.”
Crosby’s game winner at the gun just narrowly passed inside the left upright.
"That was one heck of a football game to be a part of," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "I just can't say enough about my football team's resiliency."
The wild finish was just what the NFL needed after a postseason that had been void of competitive games thus far. The playoffs’ first six games were all decided by at least 13 points.
Sunday featured Rodgers at his finest, even without star wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who missed the game with a rib injury.
Rodgers, who finished the game with 356 passing yards, threw his first interception since Nov. 13 in the fourth quarter. He was nearly picked off again by
Rodgers’ late magic stunned an
HOUSTON TEXANS 16, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 34
Patriots struggle early, but pull away for easy win over Texans
New England used three touchdowns from
The Patriots set an NFL record — since the 1970 merger — for consecutive trips to conference title games with six.
New England led from start to finish, and built an early 14-3 lead behind a pair of first-quarter touchdowns from Lewis — one via a 13-yard reception and the other on a 98-yard kickoff return.
In consecutive possessions, however, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw a tipped-pass interception intended for receiver
The Texans closed the gap to a four-point margin, thanks in large part to an unrelenting pass rush, but New England pulled away in the second half.
Brady finished 18-for-38 for 287 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
His two picks matched his regular-season total, despite throwing 432 passes in 12 games.
Lewis became the first player in NFL history to record a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown, and a kick return touchdown in a postseason game.
The Texans, meanwhile, needed their offense and quarterback
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 20, ATLANTA FALCONS 35
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons' offense too much for Seattle Seahawks
The defense that has bailed out the
Not against the speed of the
Depending on the outcome of Sunday’s other divisional playoff, the Falcons will either go on the road next week to face the
The Falcons hadn’t been to the playoffs since the 2012 season, when they beat Seattle here in another divisional-round game and lost the title game the next week. Since, the Seahawks have been a powerhouse – winning a Super Bowl, going to another and reaching the divisional round again last season – while the Falcons bottomed out, changed coaches and rebooted.
On Saturday, the Falcons had mounted touchdown drives of 75, 99 and 75 yards by early in the third quarter. They netted over 400 yards. Ryan was 26-of-37 passing for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Eight players caught passes, including
Atlanta’s defense did its part, too, using its speed and quickness off the edges to expose
Now the Falcons are one win away for their first Super Bowl trip since the 1998 season. On Saturday, they sure looked like they belong here.
GREEN BAY PACKERS at DALLAS COWBOYS
When: Sunday, 3:40 p.m. (FOX)
Line: Cowboys favored by 4
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
1. A different kind of wild-card weekend: The Cowboys cruised — relatively easily — to the best record in the NFC. However they enter the playoffs with some unknowns. Rookies
2. X-factor: Obstructing NFL rushing champion Elliott will almost surely be the focus of Green Bay's defense, which must try and keep Dallas from dominating time of possession on Rodgers' behalf. That should mean more opportunities for WR
3. No dodging Rodgers: Immersed in a zone similar to the one he parlayed into a championship run six years ago — one that successfully concluded in Dallas' building in
However he was merely mortal (294 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) in Green Bay's Week 6 loss to the Cowboys at Lambeau. Though Rodgers has been torching all comers lately, it will certainly help if he can keep the offense from falling into a 14-point second-half deficit and being rendered one-dimensional, which is what happened in the October matchup. That could be a challenging task if WR
PITTSBURGH STEELERS at KANSAS CHIEFS
When: Sunday, 11:05 a.m. (NBC)
Line: Chiefs favored by 1.5
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
1. Home cooking? As intimidating as Arrowhead can be, the Chiefs have lost their past four home playoff games and haven't won in front of their faithful fans in postseason since the 1993 season. But it's hard to believe they won't have a significant advantage. A Pittsburgh offense that tends to be far less effective on the road anyway will also have to overcome the ear-splitting din, and a change of venue can only help after the Steelers dismantled the Chiefs 43-14 at
2. Hill's thrills: A middling Kansas City attack has been augmented lately by rookie WR
3. Pitt's triplets: Steelers QB
Bell, making his postseason debut and playing for a new contract, took over from there, adding two scores on the ground along with 174 yards from scrimmage. The trio was even more dominant in the October blowout of the Chiefs, with Roethlisberger passing for 300 yards and five touchdowns (2 to Brown) while Bell racked up 178 yards from scrimmage. However it must be noted that Big Ben has been ordinary, at best, on the road in 2016 (9 TDs, 8 INTs, 59.4% completion rate, 78.4 rating) and must now also overcome an ankle injury suffered against Miami.
HOUSTON TEXANS at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
When: Saturday, 7:15 p.m. (CBS)
Line: Patriots favored by 15.5
1. History lesson: The Texans have never won in the divisional round and were blown out at New England in their most recent appearance four years ago. The Patriots haven't failed to reach the AFC Championship Game in the last five postseasons and are 10-2 in the divisional round under
10-2 in Divisional Round.— NFL (@NFL) January 11, 2017
Tom Brady + Bill Belichick = Dynamic duo. 👇 https://t.co/egaM5QC1B6
2. Clown question: Former Patriots stalwart
3. Brock and roll: The season-long struggles Osweiler experienced became readily apparent in Week 3, his first loss as Houston's starter. He's coming off one of his most efficient performances in the wild-card win and appeared to trust his eyes more while also making a more concerted effort to feed WR
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS at ATLANTA FALCONS
When: Saturday, 3:35 p.m. (FOX)
Where: Atlanta's Georgia Dome
Line: Falcons by 3
1. Seattle's big test: The Seahawks survived their first playoff game without free safety Earl Thomas. But their upcoming matchup will be a massive test for a secondary that is still trying to figure out how to play without its star center fielder. With a powerful running game and deep-threat wide receivers, the Falcons have the type of offense that could really expose the Thomas-less
2. Jones vs. Sherman, Part II: Get ready to relive the Week 6 matchup between Falcons receiver
3. Focus on Ryan: Falcons QB Matt Ryan was named first-team all-pro last week ahead of
Best of NFL Playoffs: Cheerleaders
WILD CARD WEEKEND
Best of NFL Wild Card Weekend: Giants at Packers
GREEN BAY PACKERS 38, NEW YORK GIANTS 13
Aaron Rodgers heats up, slings Packers past Giants in wild-card win
Rodgers shook off early struggles to throw four touchdown passes, three of which went to Randall Cobb, and rally the Packers to a 38-13 win over the
Green Bay advances to face the top-seeded
Rodgers was largely stonewalled in the first half before the Packers' final two drives. But he found
Packers coach Mike McCarthy came under fire after Green Bay was stuffed on a fourth-and-inches run on its own 43-yard line.
Cobb then tied the franchise and NFL record for touchdown catches in a playoff game when he hauled in his third on a 16-yard catch. Rodgers also tied his career playoff high with his four touchdowns.
New York struggled to keep pace with Rodgers after he broke out. Wide recevier
Best of NFL Wild Card Weekend: Dolphins at Steelers
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 30, MIAMI DOLPHINS 12
Steelers torch Dolphins in wild-card win, will face Chiefs next
One playoff game, one franchise record.
That sums up the essence of
With 167 yards on 29 carries, including two touchdowns, Bell broke the single-game franchise postseason rushing mark by Franco Harris that stood for nearly 42 years. Harris rushed for 158 yards against the
Bell, sidelined by injuries during the playoffs following his first two seasons, waited a long time in his own right for the chance to make a mark on the postseason. He hardly wasted the opportunity after
Pittsburgh avenged a 30-15 Week 6 loss at Miami to set up another rematch in the AFC divisional playoffs at Kansas City next Sunday. The Steelers hammered the Chiefs 43-14 in Week 4.
In blasting Miami, the Steelers put the clamps on running back
Bell, meanwhile was the steadying force for an offense that effectively chewed the clock while its running back moved the chains ... and set a new standard for the record book.
Best of NFL Wild Card Weekend: Lions at Seahawks
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 26, DETROIT LIONS 6
Seahawks regain bruising offensive identity in wild-card win over Lions
But just in time for the playoffs, the Seahawks seem to have finally found that identity, and it turns out, it’s almost exactly the same as the old one.
The Seahawks team that beat the Detroit Lions 26-6 in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs had a vintage Seahawks feel. If they’re going to make another deep playoff run, they’ll need to do it with a run-first offense, just like they were for all those years with Marshawn Lynch, and let all those rushing attempts set up big passing plays.
Seattle rushed for 177 yards Saturday night against Detroit, including 161 and a touchdown from second-year tailback
Lynch has made sporadic appearances in Seattle this season, showing up at CenturyLink Stadium for an occasional game, or dropping in on his former teammates at their training facility in Renton. He stopped by to talk to Rawls late last month. Rawls said Lynch just wanted to make sure Rawls’ "mind was right" as he headed into his first playoff game. Rawls suffered a broken ankle late last season and missed Seattle’s two postseason games.
His 161 yards was a season high, and a vast improvement over the past three games, when he had just 56 total yards on 37 attempts.
"We wanted to run the ball. We wanted to do it on the ground," Rawls said. "We wanted to stay true, and that’s exactly what we did and showed."
The Seahawks have had big offensive games before this season, but rarely has Seattle had the balance or consistency it found against the Lions.
"I’m telling you, that’s the game we’ve been looking for," head coach Pete Carroll said.
Having the constant threat of a running game will only aid Wilson, who threw for 224 yards and two touchdowns against the Lions. His first touchdown came on a 2-yard fade route to receiver Paul Richardson, who made one of the most spectacular one-handed catches of the season. Wilson’s second touchdown, caught by Doug Baldwin, was actually a mistake. Baldwin ran the wrong route and stole a touchdown that should have gone to teammate Jermaine Kearse.
"I feel terrible about it," Baldwin said.
But none of the chunk passing plays would have been possible without Rawls’ running. On the second-quarter drive that ended with Richardson’s touchdown, the Seahawks rushed the ball on eight consecutive snaps, including a fourth-and-one conversion by Rawls. The decision to run, and run and run again was made by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell — and supported enthusiastically by the rest of the team.
"Everything runs through our run game," Baldwin said. "When Thomas Rawls is doing that, they can’t help but put another safety in the box and then that gives us one-on-one matchups on the outside. You saw Paul Richardson take advantage of it. Jermaine, myself. We had a lot of opportunities in the passing game because of what Thomas was doing on the ground."
Best of NFL Wild Card Weekend: Raiders at Texans
HOUSTON TEXANS 27, OAKLAND RAIDERS 14
Texans' defense shuts down Raiders for wild-card playoff win
They harassed him, they puzzled him, they intercepted him, and the
Oakland snapped a 13-year streak without a postseason appearance, but the Raiders stumbled Saturday evening in their wild card round game against the Texans, 27-14, because of
And as either the New England Patriots or the Kansas City Chiefs loom in the divisional round next week, Houston showed that its defense is the unit on which its playoff future rests.
“It don’t take much,” defensive end
Clowney intercepted a pass inside Oakland’s 10-yard line to set up the first Texans' touchdown and finished the game with one tackle and two passes defended.
“It was huge,” Raiders running back
Despite not recording a sack, Clowney consistently rushed the passer and helped open up lanes for other Texans defenders. Linebacker
Cook, a rookie fourth-round pick, made his first career start in place of
Cook could never settle into a rhythm and completed only 18 of 45 passes for 161 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions.
Houston stacked eight and nine defenders in the box for the majority of the game, daring Cook to make plays. The Texans stifled Oakland’s running game to only 64 yards, something they learned from their Week 11 loss to the Raiders in Mexico City.
“We were going to play our defense,” defensive end Antonio Smith said. “We knew their best chance to beat us was the run, because that’s what they tried to come out and establish in the first game, and we pretty much shut them down until the fourth quarter.”
Added Clowney: “We slapped them in the first game, and it got away in the fourth quarter.”
Houston restricted the Raiders to only two of 16 third-down conversions and forced Oakland to punt 10 times.
“We’re just trying to show the world that we’re good on defense,” cornerback
NEW YORK GIANTS at GREEN BAY PACKERS
When: Sunday, 3:40 p.m. (FOX)
Where: Green Bay's
Line: Packers (-4.5)
Injuries: Giants -- DE
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
1. Familiar foe: Giants coach
2. Championship QBs: Between Rodgers and Giants quarterback
3. Expensive D: All that money Giants general manager
MIAMI DOLPHINS at PITTSBURGH STEELERS
When: Sunday, 12:05 p.m. (CBS)
Line: Steelers (-10)
Injuries: Dolphins QB
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
1. Playoff rookies: The Dolphins are making their first postseason trip since 2008 under first-year head coach
2. Jay train: After starting 1-4, the Dolphins' season took off in conjunction with the emergence of RB
3. Opportunity knocks: The Steelers have won just one playoff game since the start of the 2011 season. But in an AFC playoff bracket significantly depleted by starting quarterback issues,
DETROIT LIONS at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
When: Saturday, 7:15 p.m. (NBC)
Line: Seahawks (-8)
Injuries: Detroit -- C
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
1. Sleepless in Seattle: The Seahawks enjoy what is currently the best home-field advantage in the NFL. CenturyLink Field requires a long flight and welcomes visitors with ear-splitting decibels that are known to cause false starts among near-deaf offensive linemen. The Seahawks have won their last nine home playoff games and have never tasted postseason defeat in Seattle under
2. Seahawks 2.0: Though hosting the wild-card round may give Seattle fans comfort, there are plenty of unknowns to consider with their team. This will be the first playoff game FS Earl Thomas has missed since he was drafted in 2010, and the Seahawks' usually formidable secondary will be vulnerable against a quarterback like
3. Lions tamed? For all of the Seahawks' issues, history is on their side. Detroit hasn't won a playoff game since 1991. The Lions' last postseason road win occurred in — wait for it — 1957. Offensively, Detroit's running game is almost non-existent. Defensively, the Lions are quite vulnerable through the air, partially because they struggle to generate adequate pressure — though pass rushers like
OAKLAND RAIDERS at HOUSTON TEXANS
When: Saturday, 3:35 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Texans (-3.5)
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
1. New quarterbacks: Both teams are making late-season adjustments at quarterback. Houston is turning back to Osweiler, who was previously benched for Savage in Week 15. But Savage suffered a concussion in the regular-season finale and now will only serve as a backup if he clears the league's protocol. For the Raiders, the quarterback switch is the second in as many weeks. Rookie quarterback
2. Mack vs. Clowney: In 2014, the Texans made Jadaveon Clowney the No. 1 overall pick. But maybe they should have taken
3. O’Brien hot seat: The Texans are seeking some playoff redemption after a 30-0 blowout loss to the