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.

Steelers beat stubborn Bills

American football

American football: Crockett bang on target for Colts

Zack Crockett, a stand-in running back, was the surprise hero as the Indianapolis Colts beat the San Diego Chargers, the defending AFC champions, 35-20 in the AFC wild card game on Sunday night.

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Is this finally the year for Dan the Man and the Don?

And the five other key questions that will decide the NFL season which starts tomorrow. By Matt Tench

Black clouds and racing shadows

Can we talk about race without becoming trapped by history? asks John Edgar Wideman. Robert Winder listens in; Fatheralong by John Edgar Wideman Picador, pounds 9.99

The reluctant hero

Albert French survived being shot in the neck in Vietnam. He survived racism in America. Now he's having to live with sudden success as a novelist. He talks to Angela Lambert

Ladbroke plans riverboat casino

BY JOHN SHEPHERD

American Football: Chargers go through

The San Diego Chargers earned their first place in the Super Bowl last night, coming from behind to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-13 and win the AFC Championship.

AMERICAN FOOTBALL:Haley hoping to rock Seifert and roll over 49ers

Should Charles Haley bring his considerable influence to bear on tomorrow's NFC Championship game, it will be of absolutely no consolation whatsoever to George Seifert to know that Haley still regards him as the coach who made him. But it may come s as abit of a surprise.

AMERICAN FOOTBALL: Foster fires Pittsburgh

Neil O'Donnell threw two touchdown passes and Barry Foster rushed for 133 yards, leading Pittsburgh to a 29-9 victory over the Cleveland Browns in yesterday's NFL play-off game. The victory, Pittsburgh's third over their biggest rivals this seaso n, makes the Steelers hosts for a Super Bowl semi-final on 15 January against the winner of today's play-off game between Miami and San Diego. Cleveland struggled with dropped passes and interceptions throughout the first half under constant pressure fro m Pittsburgh's talented defense and the Steelers led 24-3 at the break. Pittsburgh kept the ball through most of the second half, frustrating Cleveland's offense. Keith McCardell caught a 41-yard touchdown pass for the Browns, but it was too little and t oo late. Pittsburgh's Foster gained 99 yards on 16 first-half carries, sparking a march to a 39-yard Anderson field goal and two touchdown drives. The two clubs, arch-foes located only 125 km apart, had never before met in a play-off game during their 45

AMERICAN FOOTBALL: SPORTING DIGEST

NFL: Atlanta 10 Arizona 6; Indianapolis 10 Buffalo 9; New York Giants 15 Dallas 10; Green Bay 34 Tampa Bay 19; New England 13 Chicago 3; Cincinnati 33 Philadelphia 30; Cleveland 35 Seattle 9; Kansas City 19 Los Angeles Raiders 9; New Orleans 30 Denver 28; Houston 24 New York Jets 10; San Diego 37 Pittsburgh 34; Washington 24 Los Angeles Rams 21.

American Football: Resurgent Giants regain their stride

A month ago anyone suggesting that the New York Giants were going to appear in the play-offs this season was in danger of being directed to one of the city's many psychiatrists. Four victories later it is the Giants' rivals in the NFC East who req uire along lie down, while the Philadelphia Eagles clearly need their heads examining.

American Football: Eagles the latest to be conquered by the Cowboys: Smith makes certain that it is business as usual under the new management in Dallas. Matt Tench reports

AS THE Dallas Cowboys began their celebrations in Atlanta last January, the issue that immediately haunted the rest of the league was whether someone, anyone, could possibly stop them winning a third successive Super Bowl. Nine turbulent months and one head coach later the question persists.

Proms revel in glory

THE 100th season of the Proms, which ended last night, has been the most successful ever. Attendances for the 68-concert season averaged 86.4 per cent, with over half the concerts achieving more than 95 per cent ticket sales.

'Oh, God . . .'

Pittsburgh - 'Oh, God. Emergency' were the last words of the pilot of USAir Flight 427, which crashed on Thursday, killing 132 people, CNN reported. Investigators began a second day of searching yesterday for clues as to the cause of the crash in Pennsylvania. One theory was that birds had flown into the plane's engines. Reuter
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Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us