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.

The Diary: At least on a tour you may find a bathroom

THREE monumental events occurred last week: US Senator John Glenn returned to earth, President Clinton kept his pants up for seven whole days, and I returned to London's Playhouse Theatre. Let's be honest: John Glenn's feat was the most patriotic, Clinton's the most remarkable, but mine involved the most talent.

Tuesday Books: Black novels in `noir' tradition

A LESSON BEFORE DYING BY ERNEST J GAINES, SERPENT'S TAIL, pounds 9.99 I CAN'T WAIT ON GOD BY ALBERT FRENCH, SECKER & WARBURG, pounds 9.99

American Football: Steelers sunk by O'Donnell

NEIL O'DONNELL might be advised to steer clear of Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future. The Cincinnati Bengals quarterback led his side to an upset over his former team, the Steelers, scoring a touchdown with 20 seconds remaining to give the Bengals an unexpected 25-20 victory.

American Football: Broncos bowl over Steelers to face Favre

The Denver Broncos survived a late comeback at Pittsburgh before winning the AFC Championship 24-21 on Sunday to take their place in the Super Bowl.

American Football: Inspired Elway brings more misery for Chiefs' chief

Marty Schottenheimer's reputation as an outstanding coach in the regular season who is unable to guide a franchise to the Super Bowl was further enhanced on Sunday night when his Kansas City Chiefs team were surprisingly beaten at home by the Denver Broncos in the NFL play-offs.

American Football: Giants back in the big time

The New York Giants clinched their first NFC East title in seven years thanks to a 30-10 victory over the Washington Redskins on Saturday.

Dave Scudamore wins Pittsburgh Marathon

Dave Scudamore, a 27-year-old medical student running his first marathon, qualified for this year's World Championships by winning the Pittsburgh Marathon yesterday.

Swanee set to go down the river

"Way down upon de Swanee Ribber, far, far, away ... oh, darkeys, how my heart grows weary, far from de old folks at home." Some of the officially manuscripted lyrics of "Swanee River", the tale of a homesick slave which became the official anthem of the state of Florida. But is it politically correct?

American Football: WHERE THE GAME WILL BE WON AND LOST

Super Bowl XXXI New England Patriots v Green Bay Packers Preview by Matt Tench

Cowboys' surrender signals end of an era

American football

American football: Jaguars bowl over the Broncos

The Jacksonville Jaguars pulled off one of the most astonishing upsets in NFL history when they beat the Denver Broncos 30-27 to clinch a place in the AFC Championship game.

Steelers make stunning drive

American Football

Ice hockey: Sheffield Steelers to send video evidence over Jamie Leach injury

Sheffield Steelers are to send video evidence to the British Ice Hockey Association after Jamie Leach, their leading points scorer, suffered a horrific injury in Thursday's defeat by Cardiff Devils. Leach had to leave the ice late in the game with a gash just below his left eye following a high sticking incident involving the Great Britain skipper, Shannon Hope. X-rays revealed a double fracture of the cheekbone which will keep him sidelined for up to six weeks.

American football: AFC trio look to be making up the numbers

Three AFC teams clinched their places in the play-offs but none of them did it in such a way on Sunday to suggest they will be around for very long.

Cowboys defense to the rescue

For much of the season it has looked improbable, occasionally close to impossible, but in the end the Dallas Cowboys wrapped up their fifth consecutive NFC East title with a game to spare. It came following Sunday's defeat of the New England Patriots and owed much to their resilience, and not a little to the faltering challenges of their principal rivals.
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Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
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Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
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Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
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The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
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Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
3.	Provence 6 nights B&B by train from £599pp
Prices correct as of 20 February 2015
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable