In the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, the best teams took over. The better seed and home team won all four games.
That sets up a couple of amazing matchups for conference championship weekend.
On one side of the bracket, the No. 2 seed New England Patriots are back in the AFC championship game for the eighth straight season. They’ll face the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs, who haven’t been to the Super Bowl since Len Dawson led them to Super Bowl IV. Kansas City has never hosted a conference championship game before.
In the other conference championship game, the top-seeded Saints advanced and will face the No. 2 seed Rams. The Saints haven’t been to the Super Bowl in nine years. It has been 17 years since the Rams’ last Super Bowl appearance, when they lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Here is the schedule for both championship games, to be played on Sunday, Jan. 20:
Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints, 3:05 p.m. ET, Fox
The Saints had a tough test against the Eagles in their divisional round playoff game. New Orleans fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter, but then shut out the Eagles after that, winning 20-14. The Saints’ offense gets most of the attention due to NFL all-time leading passer Drew Brees, but the defense has played very well in the second half of the season.
The Rams beat the Cowboys by running the ball. Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson each had 100 yards rushing as the Rams pounded Dallas 30-22. Los Angeles ran for 273 yards, by far the most rushing yards Dallas allowed all season.
The two teams faced each other in the regular season. On Nov. 4, the Saints charged out to a 35-14 lead in the first half. The Rams came back, tying the game 35-35 in the fourth quarter. New Orleans hit a go-ahead field goal and then put the game away on a 72-yard touchdown from Brees to Michael Thomas on third down with less than four minutes to go. That Saints win is why the NFC championship game will be at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs, 6:40 p.m., CBS
The Patriots and Chiefs met in one of the best games of this NFL regular season.
On Oct. 14, the Patriots beat the Chiefs 43-40 with a field goal as time expired. Patrick Mahomes had 352 yards and four touchdowns, three of which went to Tyreek Hill. Tom Brady threw for 340 yards. The teams combined for 946 yards.
Both teams looked great in the divisional round. The Chiefs blew out the Indianapolis Colts 31-13, with their defense having a surprisingly dominant day. Then on Sunday the Patriots never left a doubt in handling the Los Angeles Chargers, 41-28.
The starkest contrast between the two franchises is this: The Chiefs haven’t played in a Super Bowl since Jan. 11, 1970, while the Patriots have played in three of the last four Super Bowls.
– – – – – – –