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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Prices correct as of 17 October 2014
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
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A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
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Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
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KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker