NFL'S "FANTASTIC FOUR" READY FOR CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND

Conference championships set for Sunday.

"This is playoff football," says Baltimore Ravens linebacker RAY LEWIS. "Year after year, time after time, great competition is going against each other. It really doesn't get any better. That's what playoff football is all about."

For the first time since 2006, the final four teams are all division champions.

Visitor

Home

Time

Network

AFC Championship Game

Baltimore Ravens

New England Patriots

3:00 PM ET

CBS

NFC Championship Game

New York Giants

San Francisco 49ers

6:30 PM ET

FOX

In the AFC Divisional Playoffs, the No. 2 seeded Ravens outlasted No. 3 Houston in Baltimore by a score of 20-13. Quarterback JOE FLACCO threw a pair of first-quarter touchdown passes as the Ravens built a 17-3 lead they would not relinquish.

Baltimore will travel to New England to face the top-seeded Patriots, who set a single-game franchise playoff record for points scored in their 45-10 home victory over Denver on Saturday night.

The Giants advanced to the NFC Championship Game by winning in Green Bay and eliminating the No. 1 seeded Packers. New York, which beat the Packers 23-20 in overtime en route to Super Bowl XLII, won 37-20 on Sunday afternoon and became the first NFL team to win two road playoff games in Green Bay.

San Francisco moved on with a 36-32 home victory in a back-and-forth contest with New Orleans, with quarterback ALEX SMITH and tight end VERNON DAVISeliciting memories of "The Catch" as they connected on a game-winning touchdown pass with nine seconds left in the fourth quarter.

With each of the four remaining playoff clubs looking to capitalize on the momentum built this past weekend in hopes of advancing to Super Bowl XLVI, they'll have their work cut out for them on Championship Weekend.

A closer look at the AFC and NFC Championship Games:

BALTIMORE RAVENS (13-4) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (14-3) (Sunday, CBS, 3:00 PM ET)

Baltimore and New England will meet for the eighth time. The Patriots have won all six regular-season contests yet the Ravens won the only playoff meeting, winning 33-14 at New England in a 2009 Wild Card game. In that game, Baltimore running back RAY RICE rushed for a franchise playoff record 159 yards, including two touchdowns. Rice had an 83-yard TD run in that contest, the second-longest rushing touchdown in NFL postseason history.

Last week, Baltimore defeated Houston 20-13 as JOHN HARBAUGH became the first head coach in NFL history to win a postseason game in each of his first four seasons. Ravens quarterback JOE FLACCO threw two touchdown passes and has won five playoff games in his first four NFL seasons, tied with BEN ROETHLISBERGER and KURT WARNER for the second most postseason wins by a QB in his first four years. New England's TOM BRADY won six playoff games in his first four NFL seasons.

"Joe has come in and led us to the playoffs in each of the last four years," says linebacker RAY LEWIS, the last remaining member of the Ravens' Super Bowl XXXV championship team in the 2000 season. "What matters is what we think inside of this building and what we feel about him and the confidence we have in him. Joe Flacco has done a heck of a job getting us into the position to win."

Defensively, the Ravens had three interceptions against the Texans, including two by cornerback LARDARIUS WEBB, tying the club's single-game playoff record (ED REED, twice and DUANE STARKS). Reed recorded his eighth career postseason interception, tied for the fourth-most in NFL history.

The Patriots advanced to their ninth AFC Championship with a 45-10 win over Denver in the Divisional round. New England is 6-2 in AFC Championship Games, including 3-0 at home. With the victory, head coach BILL BELICHICK and quarterback Brady recorded their 15th postseason win together, the most by a head coach and starting quarterback tandem in NFL history, passing Pro Football Hall of Famers CHUCK NOLL and TERRY BRADSHAW (14).

"It's all about winning," says Brady, who passed for 363 yards and tied an NFL postseason record with six touchdown passes. "From this point on, everyone will be focused on what we need to do to be better next week and hopefully come out and play for another championship."

In the Divisional round victory, New England scored 45 points, gained 509 yards and did not allow a sack. It marked the first time a team has had at least 40 points and 500 yards without allowing a sack in a postseason game since the 1990 Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game.

Brady became the first player in NFL history to pass for at least 350 yards and six touchdowns in a postseason game. He also is the first player in league annals to pass for at least six touchdowns in a game twice during the regular season and once in the postseason. His 15 career playoff wins as a starting quarterback rank second all-time behind Pro Football Hall of Famer JOE MONTANA (16).

"Tom was on fire," says Patriots tight end ROB GRONKOWSKI, who had three touchdown receptions, tied for the most in a postseason game in NFL history. "That's just how he is, throwing the ball in the playoffs just like any other game."

NEW YORK GIANTS (11-7) at SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (14-3) (Sunday, FOX, 6:30 PM ET)

The NFC Championship Game marks the eighth postseason meeting between the Giants and 49ers, with San Francisco currently holding a 4-3 edge in the series. New York won the lone Conference Championship meeting between these two clubs, earning a 15-13 victory in San Francisco en route to a Super Bowl XXV title.

The game will feature a pair of former No. 1 overall NFL Draft picks, ELI MANNING (2004) and ALEX SMITH (2005), the second time in NFL playoff history two former No. 1 QBs will start against each other in a Conference Championship Game. The other occurrence pitted JOHN ELWAY's Broncos against the Jets' VINNY TESTAVERDE in the 1998 AFC title game.

The 49ers advanced to their 13th NFC Championship Game with a thrilling 36-32 victory over New Orleans last week. San Francisco's 13 Championship Game appearances are the third-most in the NFL since the 1970 merger.

"I'm just really proud of our team," says 49ers head coach JIM HARBAUGH. "You're going to live or die in these games. We lived. We move on and we move on in spectacular fashion."

Last week's Divisional contest between the 49ers and Saints was the first game in NFL postseason history that had four go-ahead touchdowns within a span of four minutes of playing time. For San Francisco, quarterback ALEX SMITH had a 28-yard TD run with 2:11 remaining and threw the game-winning 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end VERNON DAVIS with nine seconds left in the contest. Smith became the first player in NFL history to score a go-ahead touchdown and throw a go-ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of the same playoff game.

"That was about as good as it gets," says Smith about the victory. "It feels great. We're still playing. We've got another week of work and I don't want this to end. Nobody in that locker room does because it's been such a great year."

Smith's TD pass to Davis with nine seconds left was the fourth go-ahead and eventual game-winning touchdown pass with less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter of a postseason game in 49ers history: JOE MONTANA's six-yard TD pass to DWIGHT CLARK with 51 seconds left (1981 NFC Championship); Montana's 10-yard TD pass to JOHN TAYLOR with 34 seconds remaining (Super Bowl XXIII); and STEVE YOUNG's 25-yard TD pass to TERRELL OWENS with three seconds left (1998 Wild Card).

"This is huge for us," says Davis, who set a postseason record for receiving yards by a tight end with 180, passing Pro Football Hall of Famer KELLEN WINSLOW (166). "It's history, legendary, anything you can describe."

The Giants, who are in the midst of their NFL-best 31st playoff appearance, avenged a 38-35 loss to Green Bay in Week 13. Manning passed for 330 yards and three touchdowns, including a 37-yarder to wide receiver HAKEEM NICKS on the last play of the first half.

"I was the jump man," said Nicks, who became the third player in NFL history with two touchdown catches of at least 65 yards in the same postseason, joining TIM BROWN and ISAAC BRUCE. "I got down there and I didn't even see who was around me. All I saw was the ball and once I saw the ball, I had to jump and get it. I don't even know where I landed in the end zone. Once I went up and got it, I looked around and it was exciting."

New York's defense forced the Packers to commit four turnovers, their highest total of the season, including three fumbles and an interception by safety DEON GRANT. Linebacker MICHAEL BOLEY and defensive end OSI UMENYIORA also registered two sacks apiece for the Giants.

"We know we're a good football team and we're a great defense," says Umenyiora, who has 12 sacks in 11 games played this season, including the playoffs. "This is the postseason and we're playing the way we're supposed to be playing right now.

FINAL 2011 NFL STANDINGS

American Football Conference

East Division

Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Home

Away

Conf

Div

Streak

z-New England Patriots

13

3

0

.813

513

342

7-1-0

6-2-0

10-2-0

5-1-0

Won 8

New York Jets

8

8

0

.500

377

363

6-2-0

2-6-0

6-6-0

3-3-0

Lost 3

Miami Dolphins

6

10

0

.375

329

313

4-4-0

2-6-0

5-7-0

3-3-0

Won 1

Buffalo Bills

6

10

0

.375

372

434

5-3-0

1-7-0

4-8-0

1-5-0

Lost 1

North Division

Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Home

Away

Conf

Div

Streak

y-Baltimore Ravens

12

4

0

.750

378

266

8-0-0

4-4-0

9-3-0

6-0-0

Won 2

x-Pittsburgh Steelers

12

4

0

.750

325

227

7-1-0

5-3-0

9-3-0

4-2-0

Won 2

x-Cincinnati Bengals

9

7

0

.563

344

323

4-4-0

5-3-0

6-6-0

2-4-0

Lost 1

Cleveland Browns

4

12

0

.250

218

307

3-5-0

1-7-0

3-9-0

0-6-0

Lost 6

South Division

Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Home

Away

Conf

Div

Streak

y-Houston Texans

10

6

0

.625

381

278

5-3-0

5-3-0

8-4-0

4-2-0

Lost 3

Tennessee Titans

9

7

0

.563

325

317

5-3-0

4-4-0

7-5-0

3-3-0

Won 2

Jacksonville Jaguars

5

11

0

.313

243

329

4-4-0

1-7-0

4-8-0

3-3-0

Won 1

Indianapolis Colts

2

14

0

.125

243

430

2-6-0

0-8-0

2-10-0

2-4-0

Lost 1

West Division

Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Home

Away

Conf

Div

Streak

y-Denver Broncos

8

8

0

.500

309

390

3-5-0

5-3-0

6-6-0

3-3-0

Lost 3

San Diego Chargers

8

8

0

.500

406

377

5-3-0

3-5-0

7-5-0

3-3-0

Won 1

Oakland Raiders

8

8

0

.500

359

433

3-5-0

5-3-0

6-6-0

3-3-0

Lost 1

Kansas City Chiefs

7

9

0

.438

212

338

3-5-0

4-4-0

4-8-0

3-3-0

Won 1

National Football Conference

East Division

Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Home

Away

Conf

Div

Streak

y-New York Giants

9

7

0

.563

394

400

4-4-0

5-3-0

5-7-0

3-3-0

Won 2

Philadelphia Eagles

8

8

0

.500

396

328

3-5-0

5-3-0

6-6-0

5-1-0

Won 4

Dallas Cowboys

8

8

0

.500

369

347

5-3-0

3-5-0

6-6-0

2-4-0

Lost 2

Washington Redskins

5

11

0

.313

288

367

2-6-0

3-5-0

5-7-0

2-4-0

Lost 2

North Division

Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Home

Away

Conf

Div

Streak

z-Green Bay Packers

15

1

0

.938

560

359

8-0-0

7-1-0

12-0-0

6-0-0

Won 2

x-Detroit Lions

10

6

0

.625

474

387

5-3-0

5-3-0

6-6-0

3-3-0

Lost 1

Chicago Bears

8

8

0

.500

353

341

5-3-0

3-5-0

7-5-0

3-3-0

Won 1

Minnesota Vikings

3

13

0

.188

340

449

1-7-0

2-6-0

3-9-0

0-6-0

Lost 1

South Division

Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Home

Away

Conf

Div

Streak

y-New Orleans Saints

13

3

0

.813

547

339

8-0-0

5-3-0

9-3-0

5-1-0

Won 8

x-Atlanta Falcons

10

6

0

.625

402

350

6-2-0

4-4-0

7-5-0

3-3-0

Won 1

Carolina Panthers

6

10

0

.375

406

429

3-5-0

3-5-0

3-9-0

2-4-0

Lost 1

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

4

12

0

.250

287

494

3-5-0

1-7-0

3-9-0

2-4-0

Lost 10

West Division

Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Home

Away

Conf

Div

Streak

y-San Francisco 49ers

13

3

0

.813

380

229

7-1-0

6-2-0

10-2-0

5-1-0

Won 3

Arizona Cardinals

8

8

0

.500

312

348

6-2-0

2-6-0

7-5-0

4-2-0

Won 1

Seattle Seahawks

7

9

0

.438

321

315

4-4-0

3-5-0

6-6-0

3-3-0

Lost 2

St. Louis Rams

2

14

0

.125

193

407

1-7-0

1-7-0

1-11-0

0-6-0

Lost 7

x - Clinched Playoff Spot; y - Clinched Division; z - Clinched Home Field

LAST WEEK'S RESULTS (JANUARY 14-15)

Saturday, January 14

Sunday, January 15

SAN FRANCISCO 36, New Orleans 32

BALTIMORE 20, Houston 13

NEW ENGLAND 45, Denver 10

NY Giants 37, GREEN BAY 20

2011 CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (JANUARY 22)

(All times local)

Sunday, January 22

Baltimore at New England, 3:00 PM (CBS)

NY Giants at San Francisco, 3:30 PM (FOX)

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