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AFC final preview

Published: January 20, 2006
Section: Sports


Last weekend, the top two American Football Conference teams predicted to go this years Super Bowl XL were defeated when the Indianapolis Colts fell to the bottom-seed Pittsburgh Steelers and Tom Bradys ten-game perfect playoff record was shattered by the Denver Broncos.

Now the Steelers will head to Mile-High Stadium in Denver, CO where the Broncos are 9-0 this season, to compete for the AFC Championship and a spot at the Super Bowl.
On Saturday the Broncos upset the New England Patriots, mostly thanks to poor play by the Patriots, who turned the ball over five times and had only one takeaway all game, as well as a missed Adam Venitieri field goal and a questionable end zone pass interference call. Despite being held to under 50 rushing yards and allowing over 400 yards in the air, the Broncos won the turnover battle, including a 100 yard interception return by Champ Bailey who fumbled out of bounds on the New England 1-yard line.

Even the mighty Indianapolis Colts fell on Sunday when the Pittsburgh Steelers, playing their traditional, hard-nosed football, used their physical defense and running game to mount a 21-3 3rd quarter lead against the Colts.
However, the Colts quickly mounted a comeback to within 3 points with a Peyton Manning touchdown pass to Dallas Clark, followed ten minutes later, with less than five minutes left in the game, by an Edgerin James rushing touchdown and a two point conversion to bring the score to 21-18. Then, the game was over as Mike Vanderjagt missed his first field goal ever at home in the RCA Dome, kicking the ball wide right from 46 yards out in the final minute, letting the Steelers advance to the conference championship.

Sunday, January 22nd, the Steelers and Broncos will face off in the thin air of Invesco Field at Mile High at 3:00 p.m. to decide which team will represent the American Football Conference in the Super Bowl, where they will face either the Carolina Panthers or the Seattle Seahawks.

The two teams match up well, with the Broncos who are second in the league in rushing yards facing the Steelers who are in the top five of the NFL in both total yards allowed and points allowed. Either way, the winner of the NFC Championship game is bound to have its hands full with these two extremely physical and talented teams, led by the quiet and collected Mike Shanahan of the Broncos and the loud and menacing Bill Cowher of the Steelers.