NFL Championship Games
What To Look For — AFC & NFC Championship Games
WHAT TO LOOK FOR – AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
RETURN ENGAGEMENT: For the 13th time since 1990 when the NFL went to the 12-team playoff format, teams that played at least once during the regular season will meet in the AFC Championship Game when the Baltimore Ravens face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. If Pittsburgh defeats Baltimore, it will mark the ninth time in 13 opportunities that the team that won the regular-season meeting(s) won the AFC Championship.
AFC Championship Games that were rematches of regular-season meetings since 1990:
* Met twice during season. Teams split; ** Met twice during season. Tennessee and Pittsburgh won both games.
— AFC —
STEELERS TIE FOR MOST: This Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers will make their 14th AFC/AFL championship game appearance, tying the Oakland Raiders for the most in AFC/AFL history.
Teams with the most AFC/AFL championship game appearances:
San Diego Chargers
New England Patriots
* Includes Sunday’s game
Sunday’s game also marks the 11th time division rivals have squared off in the AFC Championship game, including the third involving the Steelers. Pittsburgh defeated the Houston Oliers in 1978 and 1979.
STIFF DEFENSES: When the Steelers’ No. 1 NFL defense (237.2 yards per game) and Ravens’ No. 2 defense (261.1) take the field Sunday, it will mark the second conference championship between top-two defenses since 1970, joining the 1978 NFC Championship Game (L.A. Rams, 243.3 and Dallas, 250.6).
Combined, the Pittsburgh-Baltimore defenses average 249.1 yards allowed per game, the fifth fewest average yards allowed per game by teams in conference/league championship games in the Super Bowl era (since 1966).
A look at the fewest average yards allowed per game by opposing teams in conference championship games (Super Bowl era):
— AFC —
YOUNG HEAD COACHES: Ravens rookie head coach JOHN HARBAUGH and Steelers second-year coach MIKE TOMLIN have led their teams for a combined 48 regular-season games — the second fewest such games by opposing coaches in a conference championship game in the Super Bowl era (since 1966).
The fewest combined regular-season games by opposing coaches in a conference championship in the Super Bowl era:
— AFC —
YOUTH IS SERVED: Last week, the Ravens’ JOE FLACCO became the first rookie quarterback in history to win two playoff games. With a win this Sunday, Flacco would become the third youngest quarterback to lead his team to the Super Bowl at 24 years and 16 days on Super Bowl Sunday.
Ages of the youngest quarterbacks to start a Super Bowl:
* On Super Bowl Sunday, February 1
BEN KNOWS HOW TO WIN: In his first five seasons as the Steelers’ starting quarterback, BEN ROETHLISBERGER is in select company.
With a win Sunday, he would surpass Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback TROY AIKMAN for the second most playoff wins (7) by a quarterback in the first five seasons of their career.
The most playoff wins by a quarterback in the first five seasons of a career:
BRINGING THE WOOD: Pittsburgh outside linebacker LA MARR WOODLEY has compiled four sacks in his first two career playoff games, with two each against Jacksonville in 2007 and San Diego this year.
This Sunday, Woodley aims to become the first player in history to record three consecutive multi-sack playoff games. He also seeks to challenge the record for most sacks in a player’s first three postseason games (RICHARD DENT, 6.5).
The players with the most sacks in their first three playoff games:
Richard Dent, Chicago
Dan Hampton, Chicago
Greg Townsend, L.A. Raiders
LaMarr Woodley, Pittsburgh
* In two games
— AFC —
THE ROAD TESTED: This Sunday marks the 11th playoff game in Ravens history and the club’s sixth on the road. Baltimore holds a 5-1 playoff record away from home, which stands as the top road winning percentage (.833) in NFL playoff history (minimum five games).
The best road winning percentage in playoff history (minimum five games):
— AFC —
AFC TROPHY PRESENTATION: The LAMAR HUNT TROPHY will be presented to the AFC Championship Game winner after the game.
The late Hunt, the 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.
# # #
January 15, 2009
WHAT TO LOOK FOR – NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
A HIGH-PROFILE BUILDING: This Sunday when the Arizona Cardinals play host to the Philadelphia Eagles at University of Phoenix Stadium, it will mark only the second time in history that a stadium will host a conference championship game the year after hosting a Super Bowl. Last season, the New York Giants played the New England Patriots at University of Phoenix Stadium in Super Bowl XLII.
The other time a stadium has held two such games in successive seasons was in 1970-1971, when the Miami Dolphins hosted the Baltimore Colts in the AFC Championship Game at Miami’s Orange Bowl the season after the Colts played the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V at the same venue.
— NFC —
A CHAMPIONSHIP COMBO: A team’s success often lies in the dynamic between the head coach and the starting quarterback. The Philadelphia Eagles are a team that has mastered that relationship and on Sunday, head coach ANDY REID and quarterback DONOVAN MC NABB will appear in their fifth NFC Championship Game together.
Reid and McNabb join elite head coach-quarterback company. Only five other sets of coaches and quarterbacks have appeared in five or more conference championship games.
The six head coach-quarterback combinations to appear in at least five conference championship games:
* On Sunday
— NFC —
BACK TO THE BIG ONE: With a win on Sunday, Arizona Cardinals quarterback KURT WARNER will return to the Super Bowl for the third time in his 11-year career. His last appearance in the Super Bowl (XXXVI) was a 20-17 loss to New England after the 2001 season.
If the Cardinals win this Sunday, Warner would become only the third quarterback to start a Super Bowl seven or more years apart:
* With win on Sunday
ELITE COMPANY: If DONOVAN MC NABB leads the Eagles to victory on Sunday, he will become one of only eight quarterbacks in playoff history to record 10 or more wins.
Following are the quarterbacks with at least 10 postseason victories:
— NFC —
QB DOUBLES: Leading one team to a conference championship game is a tough task. Taking two teams to the game is even more of a challenge.
On Sunday, Arizona quarterback KURT WARNER will start a conference championship game for the second team in his career. Warner’s last such game was in 2001 with the St. Louis Rams.
The quarterbacks to start conference championship game for two different teams:
— NFC —
A DISTANT MEMORY: Although the Eagles and Cardinals have met 103 times over the past 60 years, this will be their first playoff meeting since December 19, 1948 in the NFL Championship Game. In that matchup, the Eagles defeated the Chicago Cardinals 7-0 on a five-yard run by Pro Football Hall of Fame halfback STEVE VAN BUREN early in the fourth quarter.
The 60-year gap between playoff meetings is the longest in history between two teams.
The teams with the most seasons between playoff meetings:
The Cardinals and Eagles have a long history together, having squared off 111 times. The series is a competitive one, tied at 53-53-5. That marks the most games played between teams tied in a series.
DOMINATING DEBUT: Wide receiver LARRY FITZGERALD’s strong play during the Cardinals’ first two playoff games has helped the club reach the first conference championship game in team history.
Fitzgerald has recorded 14 receptions for 267 yards and two touchdowns in his first two career playoff games, which puts him on pace to break the record for most receiving yards through a player’s first three playoff games.
Following are the receivers with the most yards through the first three playoff games of their careers:
Anthony Carter, Minnesota
Tom Fears, L.A. Rams
Wesley Walker, NY Jets
Darrell Jackson, Seattle
Steve Smith, Carolina
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona
* Through two games
— NFC —
NFC TROPHY PRESENTATION: The winner of the NFC Championship Game will be presented with the GEORGE HALAS TROPHY after the game.
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).
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