Sport Seattle, led by Russell Wilson, are favourites to win next month's Super Bowl

For devotees of the NFL, this is as good as it gets – the divisional round of the play-offs, four games pitting the regular season’s finest against four challengers already battle-hardened by victory in last weekend’s ever-treacherous wild-card round. And in 2014 there’s an extra twist: the prospect that one of the longest, most painful droughts in US sport might be near an end.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) dives for a touchdown

American Football: Colts come back from dead to beat Kansas City

Indianapolis pulled off the second biggest comeback in NFL play-off history to stun Kansas City, while New Orleans beat Philadelphia on the last play of the game as the first wild-card games provided a thrilling start to the post-season.

A man walks along a snow covered Cass Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. The first major winter storm of 2014 bore down on the US northeast on Thursday and Friday with heavy snow, Arctic temperatures and strong winds

Arctic blast kills at least 16 across US Northeast

A second storm is set to hit the region over the next few days that could be even worse, just as the clean up begins

Bryce Brown #34 of the Philadelphia Eagles is tackled by Glover Quin #27 of the Detroit Lions

NFL: A blizzard helps blow in the liveliest weekend of the season so far

A round-up of the latest events and talking points from the world of NFL

Carlos Juan Finlay: Physician's 180th birthday marked with Google Doodle

The Cuban physician Carlos J Finlay has been honoured with a Google Doodle on the 180th anniversary of his birth.

How the convicted nephew of a Kennedy could become an unlikely poster boy for reform of the US justice system

He's rich and well-connected. But Michael Skakel's case deserves close examination

Chemring’s profits hit by shutdown in Washington

The grenade and bomb detector maker Chemring has warned that the US political shutdown is likely to hit its profitability this year.

3.5 billion of the new notes have been produced, worth $350bn

US unveils new $100 bill to foil foreign counterfeiters

The US Federal Reserve has begun circulating new $100 notes, introducing new anti-counterfeiting features – including a distinctive splash of colour – that have been more than a decade in the making.

Liberty Island - location for the Statue of Liberty - will be off-limits for the duration of the shutdown

Simon Calder: What effect will the US shutdown have on British tourists travelling to America?

The closure of so many key attractions is likely to put pressure on the museums and galleries which are open

Peyton Manning

NFL: Winless and undefeated - the Manning's are worlds apart

A weekly look at the biggest talking points in the NFL

US rapper Jay-Z performing during a concert

Review: Jay-Z - Made in America is an inspirational tale but we want to know hip-hop legend better

The collaboration between director Ron Howard and hip-hop legend Jay-Z on a music documentary may at first glance seem crazy, but it soon becomes apparent that the director of Frost/Nixon and A Beautiful Mind is perfect for the job.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, by Ayana Mathis. Windmill, £7.99

Tough love in hard times  from a mother  of courage

Franklin D'Olier Reeve

F D Reeve: Poet, novelist and Russian translator

In the early stages of his career, the poet F D Reeve found himself best-known as the translator who accompanied Robert Frost on his 1962 visit to the Soviet Union, the man in the middle of Frost's showdown with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Years later, having established himself as a poet, novelist and translator, Reeve would find himself overshadowed again – by his eldest son, Christopher, who achieved fame playing Superman in the smash 1978 movie hit.

Ms Clinton said anyone who believed that racial discrimination was no longer a problem in US elections 'must not be paying attention'

Hillary Clinton attacks US Supreme Court ruling on voters’ rights

Speech is first high-profile engagement since leaving State Department

Passengers exit the plane in Philadelphia

No bomb found on plane from Ireland that made emergency landing in Philadelphia despite threat call

Investigators says the person who placed the call could face serious criminal charges

Fishy Phily? Don’t be dilly: Philadelphia with smoked salmon and dill

It’s been a busy couple of years at Philadelphia HQ. The range of pallid spreadable cheese seems to  be attempting to catch up to Heinz when it comes to varieties of flavour.

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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game