AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Steelers (13-5) at Broncos (14-3)
1 p.m., Ch. 2
OK, let's not be shy about what will happen at Invesco Field, where the air will not be the only thing that is rare. The Steelers are 1-4 in AFC Championship games under Bill Cowher; Denver's Mike Shanahan is 2-0 in AFC title games with the Broncos, one of which came in Three Rivers Stadium in 1997. But Cowher has already debunked several historical myths, including his failure to win a road playoff game (he was 0-3) and his inability to win back-to-back playoff games (he was 1-6). The Broncos had some help beating New England in the divisional playoffs, getting an uncharacteristic five turnovers from the Patriots and a debatable officials' call in the end zone that gave them a touchdown. The Steelers didn't need any help beating the Colts, 21-18, a game that was close only because referee Pete Morelli took an interception away from Troy Polamalu. It might not be close this time, either.
Prediction: Steelers, 27-13
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Panthers (13-5) at Seahawks (14-3)
4:30 p.m., Ch. 13
Like the Steelers, Carolina is trying to become the first wild-card team since New England in 1985 to win three road playoff games and get to the Super Bowl. But winning on the road becomes old hat for the Panthers — they have won five consecutive road playoff games, dating to 2003. This is Carolina's second appearance in three years in the NFC Championship game, making the Panthers wily veterans compared to Seattle, which is making its first conference title appearance since 1983. Sure, the Panthers will be without RB DeShaun Foster, and, yeah, RB Shaun Alexander (concussion) will be back for the Seahawks. But the Panthers can play shutdown defense, and their quarterback, Jake Delhomme, looks like Joe Montana in the playoffs.
Prediction: Panthers, 24-20