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

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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

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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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UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
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‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
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Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
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Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
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Tom Drury: The quiet American

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You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
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Beige to the future

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Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

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Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

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