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.

Glasvegas' James Allan: 'There's no end to the Boss's abilities'

The first piece of music I ever bought was "Streets of Philadelphia". I was 11. It's a love song. A message of love, highlighting pure community and freedom of faith. I like those things. I really do. When I was a little boy, I never wanted to admit I liked music or girls. I was really crippled by shyness and for reasons I don't understand now, I hid the tape from my mum. I was attracted to his obvious soul, good heart and pure genius. The movie Philadelphia and the Care Bears cartoons broke my heart and made me want to show compassion to others.

The Roots, Royal Festival Hall, London

Collaboration’s all you need

Hollyweird: Mario Lanza

Everything about Mario Lanza was enormous: his talent, his prowess on stage, his ego, his lifestyle, and, often, his weight.

Neighbours who beat 'rape' man escape charges

Philadelphia's police commissioner says there will be no charges against neighbors who beat a man sought for questioning in the rape of an 11-year-old girl.

Neil Young: After the gold rush, the harvest

Sixties hippie, country-rock superstar, grunge godfather, modern protest singer... Neil Young's career is remarkable. Andy Gill gives thanks that the first segment of his huge retrospective is here at last

London legacy job goes overseas

A deputy mayor from Philadelphia will head the company set up to ensure the long-term use of London's 2012 Olympic facilities.

Bruce Anderson: The system isn't that broke - it only needs a slight fixing

An eruption of Poujadist anger will not improve our system of government

Hip-hop offers a new message

The aggressive image hides an intelligent aspect, says Ian Burrell

Researchers find first common autism gene

Researchers have found the first common genetic link to autism and said yesterday it could potentially account for 15 per cent of the disease's cases.

Death Row calling: The man broadcasting to save his life

Mumia Abu-Jamal, a US journalist, faces renewed calls for him to be put to death. Ian Burrell reports

The Ten Best NBA Playoffs

On Wednesday night the marathon 2008-2009 NBA regular season came to a close.

Hearst threatens to close historic 'San Francisco Chronicle'

San Francisco could become the biggest city in the US without a daily newspaper if the San Francisco Chronicle's owner, Hearst, follows through on a threat to shut its doors.

Album: Charles Evans, The King of All Instruments, (Hot Cup)

The instrument in question is the mighty baritone sax, which Philadelphia-born Charles Evans turns into a quartet, chamber group or bari-choir through judicious overdubbing on this intermittently amazing solo recording.

Obama heads along a historic trail to the White House

Crowds line 135-mile rail route to Washington
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Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee