- The New England Patriots advance to Super Bowl XLIX (49) following a thorough 45-7 dismantling of the Indianapolis Colts
- Seattle Seahawks advance to the Super Bowl with a 28-22 overtime win against the Green Bay Packers
(CNN)[Breaking news update, posted at 10:07 p.m. ET]
The New England Patriots are going to the Super Bowl for the eighth time after defeating the visiting Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday. The Patriots will play the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on February 1.
[Breaking news update, posted at 6:32 p.m. ET]
The defending NFL champion Seattle Seahawks downed the Green Bay Packers 28-22 in overtime, in Sunday's NFC Championship Game. The Seahawks, who beat the Broncos in last year's NFL title game, will face either the Indianapolis Colts or the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX on February 1.
[Previous story, posted at 11:31 a.m. ET]
The end is near.
In two weeks, the Super Bowl will be upon us. After this grandest of American sports spectacles, the salad days of basketball and baseball will follow, along with a smattering of other sports, but in the good ol' US of A, we know who is king.
No, not LeBron James, silly. Football is king.
These last two weeks of pro football are what every fan has been waiting for, even as a sinking feeling grows in the pit of each of their stomachs with the realization that after 12 more quarters of football, it's over till September.
Conversely, wives and girlfriends, and even husbands and boyfriends, will rejoice as the football gods return their beloved -- not to mention her or his attention span -- and weekend productivity will reach peaks unseen since the summer.
Soon, your loved one can finally join you on your IKEA trip for a second opinion on that bookcase.
But before you get too excited, you must get through these last 14 days, and what better way to build some goodwill ahead of next month's IKEA trip than to show you care what happens?
Pretending you care about the Super Bowl is easy. NFL fans are sure everyone cares about the Super Bowl, even if you're secretly hoping the men in tight pants quit throwing the brown "ball" around so you can see more $10 million Doritos commercials.
Conference championships are another story. In fact, you may be asking, "What's a conference championship?"
Fear not, you indifferent soul you. CNN has you covered with five things that will make you look as though you have more than the slightest idea what is happening Sunday.
In the National Football Conference, the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers will face off in Seattle at 3:05 p.m. ET, while the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts will kick off the American Football Conference championship in Foxborough, Massachusetts, at 6:40 p.m. ET.
What's a Seahawk? Don't ask that aloud. No one knows.
But they're the defending champions after stomping the Denver Broncos in last year's Super Bowl.
Want to start a fun conversation over the dip bowl? Ask how it is that Denver quarterback Peyton Manning is always mentioned among the greatest, yet with one exception, always loses at some point in the playoffs.
After the heated debate dies down, you can say matter-of-factly, "Well, at least he has a career in shilling pizza and insurance to fall back on." Then, toss some chips in your mouth and walk off.
Who is favored?
It appears Las Vegas is not expecting much of a contest in either game. Both games are predicted to be decided by a touchdown, which is a rather large spread for a conference championship.
In the regular season, the Seahawks beat the Packers by 20 points in Week 1, while the Patriots beat the Colts by 22 in Week 11, but don't pay that too much attention. Weeks can be like dog years in the NFL.
Seattle is a 7- or 8-point favorite over Green Bay, which isn't that surprising given Seattle has been on a tear of late, Green Bay's quarterback is gimpy (more on that shortly) and CenturyLink Field is one of the more terrible venues to play in.
They have this thing called the 12th Man, which is actually tens of thousands of astonishingly loud fans. They have their own flag, and they don't care that navy blue and neon green clash.
New England is also expected to win by 7, to hear Vegas tell it. The Patriots have lost only two games since September, and one of those losses -- to the Buffalo Bills on December 28 -- may have been a product of the Pats not taking the game too seriously since they had already locked up their division.
They also have Tom Terrific (aka Brady), who tends to shine in big games, though it should be noted that the Patriots have lost the last two AFC Championships and their last two Super Bowls.
So, besides Tom Terrific, who are the big names?
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been getting it done since Week 4, after telling uneasy Packers fans to "relax" after the team got off to a 1-2 start. The Packers have lost only two games since then.
Rodgers is surrounded by talent, as his offensive line (the five men resembling redwood trunks who squat in front of the quarterback before each play), running back Eddie Lacy and wide receiver Jordy Nelson have been getting it done all season. The Green Bay defense is led by Clay Matthews, who will be looking to disrupt Seattle's rushing and passing games.
Look for Seattle running back and Skittles aficionado Marshawn Lynch and quarterback Russell Wilson, another insurance salesman, to make some big plays -- but in Seattle, defense reigns.
You might remember cornerback Richard Sherman from his abominable sportsmanship after last year's NFC Championship, but also look for safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor to be prowling the gridiron.
Especially keep an eye on Chancellor. It's possible that he could've beaten the Carolina Panthers all by himself last week. That's only a slight exaggeration.
In the AFC Championship, you'll want to watch Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck. He was the first round draft pick in 2012 -- effectively resulting in a Colts legend, Manning, leaving for Denver -- and he's been showing he is worth the hype, passing for almost 13,000 yards in his first three seasons.
With little in the way of a running game, you'll see him using his tight ends a lot, while looking for wide receiver T.Y. Hilton to make big plays, something the Patriots have promised to prevent.
The Patriots have a solid defense -- cornerback Darrelle Revis and linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower will look to make life hellish for Luck -- but they're better known for a rounded team effort on offense. Yes, Brady will be looking for the 6-foot-6 Rob Gronkowski to break free in mismatches, but expect him to spread the ball around plenty, especially to running back Jonas Gray, who showed his upside in a four-touchdown effort earlier this season ... against the Colts.
Will weather be a factor?
In Seattle and the Boston area? Oh, most certainly.
The National Weather Service on Sunday morning issued a high wind warning for northwest Washington. Winds are expected to reach speeds of up to 40 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph, but forecasters predict they will die down before kickoff.
There's also about an 80% chance of rain. With the wet and the wind, the kicking and passing games could be tricky for both teams, but the Seahawks and Packers have outstanding running backs in Lynch and Lacy, so that may make life easier for them.
On the plus side, it will be in the high 40s or low 50s throughout the game, so they won't be battling bitter cold.
It will be a little colder in Foxborough for the AFC Championship, but not much -- somewhere in the mid-40s. The Boston area also has a good chance of rain, and winds will be moving at around 15 mph.
Though Brady and Luck are both skilled ball handlers -- and both ply their trade in chilly locales -- there's always the possibility that the wind and rain will make for a sloppy game, especially when you consider neither team has the safety net of an awesome running back.
Are there other story lines?
Maybe you've heard the phase, "Aaron Rodgers' leg," in recent days? Or perhaps ad nauseam?
Yes, it would be hard for even the most disinterested of fans to have missed the news that Rodgers' calf is torn. How badly is unclear, but the Seahawks' Thomas has said he isn't buying the line coming out of the Packers camp.
What's clear is that Rodgers was far from mobile in last week's game against the Dallas Cowboys. Despite Rodgers hobbling around in the pocket, the Cowboys failed to put pressure on him -- especially in the fourth quarter -- as the one-legged wonder completed 24 of 35 passes for 316 yards and tossed three touchdowns.
Don't expect Seattle's defensive players to be so merciful. Expect them to bring the house -- and often -- against Rodgers and try to knock him down on every play. And don't expect the Legion of Boom to go any easier on his receivers or on Lacy, who has been complaining of knee soreness ahead of Sunday's matchup.
In Foxborough, you'll have a more traditional story line in the old guard versus the new.
Brady, of course, is the poster boy for winners -- and not because of the UGG boots contract and being married to Gisele Bundchen.
Since coming to the NFL in 2001, he's played in five Super Bowls and won three of them. This will be his ninth AFC Championship game.
But remember, he's lost his last two conference championships and his last two Super Bowls, so don't be surprised when commentators wonder aloud if Luck, 25, who has taken the Colts to the playoffs in each of his three seasons, is ready to take the crown from the 37-year-old Brady's head.
Want a fun drinking game? Take a slug from your beer every time someone says "heir apparent" during the pregame show.