Four will become two this Sunday as the AFC and NFC Championship games decide the opponents for Super Bowl LII.
The NFC will be represented by a quarterback playing in their first Super Bowl – either Case Keenum or Nick Foles - but there is, as ever, a familiar face in the AFC as Tom Brady aims for his eighth Super Bowl appearance with the New England Patriots when he welcomes a swaggering Jacksonville Jaguars side to Foxborough.
Build-up to the encounter has been dominated by talk over Brady's injured right hand and, while the smart money says he will play, the Jaguars are not the team to be carrying an injury against.
Jacksonville come into the game fresh off a shoot-out victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, and are led by their star-studded defence and ever confident cornerback, Jalen Ramsey.
These key areas will play a part in the final outcome of the AFC clash...
HIT BRADY EARLY AND OFTEN
To rattle the seemingly unflappable Brady is simple in theory: hit him early and often. In 2015, the Denver Broncos rode their destructive defence to an AFC Championship victory over the Patriots.
Fundamental to their success was hitting Brady as soon as possible in the game and making him uncomfortable. Brady was hit 17 times and sacked four more against Denver.
Jacksonville has a similar DNA to the 2015 Broncos: a fearsome pass rush backed up by a stingy secondary. If they can get Brady on the ground and take away the deep ball to Brandin Cooks and Brady's favourite target, tight end Rob Gronkowski, then they stand every chance of knocking off the defending champions.
A failure to do so would see the 40-year-old Brady settle quickly and start to pick apart the Jacksonville defence with an arsenal of quick strikes to pass catchers Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and running backs Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis before hitting big plays downfield.
THE BATTLE ON THE GROUND
The running backs on both offenses will be used very differently, but both teams will be hoping they can be equally as effective.
Leonard Fournette has carried the Jacksonville offense at times this season, being used to mask Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles' deficiencies. Fournette injured his ankle during the win in Pittsburgh and was then involved in a minor car crash on Tuesday, but escaped without injury.
The Patriots gave up an average of 114.8 yards on the ground during the regular season, ranked a disappointing 20th in the league. If Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia load the box in an attempt to slow down Fournette, it will likely give Bortles easier matchups on passing downs. Fournette is central to the Jaguars' success.
On the other side is the trio of Lewis, Burkhead and James White for New England. Lewis has emerged as the best of the three, getting 50 carries across the Patriots' final two regular season games and 15 more rush attempts in their blowout win against the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional round.
The Patriots use their quick passing game as an extension of their ground game. If offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels can establish that early, it will stand New England in good stead in their bid to reach a 10th Super Bowl.
WHICH BLAKE BORTLES WILL TURN UP?
Bortles has been an enigma throughout his entire career. Now his team are on the cusp of the first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, and questions are being asked if he can make enough plays and limit his mistakes in order to give the Jags a fighting chance.
The number three overall pick in the 2014 Draft rushed for more yards than he passed for against the Buffalo Bills in Jacksonville's 10-3 Wild Card triumph, completing just 12 of 23 pass attempts for 87 yards.
However, Bortles was much more accurate against the Steelers, passing for 214 yards on 14 completions. Crucially, Bortles has yet the turn the ball over in the postseason.
If he can replicate that performance, Bortles gives the Jacksonville offense a decent chance. However, as the two playoff outings show, he is often a week-to-week proposition. Should New England slow down Fournette and keep receivers Marqise Lee and Keelan Cole under wraps, it could be a rough ending to an otherwise outstanding season.
This Sunday we will play in the AFC Championship.— z-#Sacksonville (@Jaguars) January 18, 2018
How did we get here? Here are the 5 defining moments from the season. pic.twitter.com/v5Ijpcw0R2
19 de agosto 2018
|DFB president Grindel sorry Ozil felt ´deserted´|
|Busch picks up first win of season in Night Race|
|NASCAR results at Bristol: Kurt Busch picks up first win of season in Night Race|
|Woakes welcomes back ´big-game player´ Stokes|
|´Genius´ Messi still amazes Valverde|
|All Blacks, Springboks await Namibia at Rugby World Cup|
|Federer to face Djokovic after Goffin withdraws|
|Rain halts plays at Wyndham Championship|
|De Gea will extend contract soon, says Mourinho|
|Halep to meet Bertens in Cincinnati final|
|Frampton set for Warrington fight after dominant Windsor Park win|
|Messi makes LaLiga history with Barcelona´s 6000th goal|
|MC Alger defeat throws quarter-final chase wide open|
|Barcelona 3 Deportivo Alaves 0: Messi´s milestone goal sets up victory|
18 de agosto 2018
|Djokovic on course for Masters 1000 history after Cilic victory|
|It´s on! - Wilder fight confirmed after Fury defeats Pianeta|
|Like Cruyff before him, Guardiola favouring Foden´s style over substance|
|Ronaldo tweets debut delight after Juve win|
|Chelsea are not title contenders yet, claims Sarri|
|Bayern Munich boss Kovac planning for Boateng stay|
|Championship Review: West Brom crush QPR as Leeds stay perfect|
|Allegri pleased with Ronaldo despite goalless Juventus debut|
|Chelsea can produce magic with Sarri in charge - Hazard|
|Emery ´happy without the result´ as Arsenal comeback falls short|
|Gordon confirms Cleveland Browns return|
|Eight shots and only 30 passes - Ronaldo´s Juventus debut in Opta numbers|
|Cristiano Ronaldo´s debuts: Best impressed, scoring a penalty & a blank for Juventus|
|Old boy Escare haunts Catalans in big Wigan win|
|Preston North End 2 Stoke City 2: Super sub Crouch salvages a point|
|Pochettino vows not to discuss Alderweireld future before five-minute answer|
|Waring, Aiken lead the way as Olesen stays in the hunt|
|Linking play, forcing saves and clashing with goalkeeper - Cristiano Ronaldo´s Juventus debut|
|Chelsea 3 Arsenal 2: Alonso snatches win after Gunners comeback|
|West Ham still haunted by last season - Pellegrini|
|Puel defends Vardy after Wolves red card|
|Chievo 2 Juventus 3: Ronaldo´s debut ends in dramatic win|
|Mbappe: Neymar is Paris Saint-Germain´s superstar|
|Pickford should have seen red - Hughes fumes over challenge on Ings|
|Kohli and Rahane star as India edge day one|
|AC Milan´s Strinic sidelined by heart problem|
|Kane happy to banish August goal hoodoo|
|Guingamp 1 Paris Saint-Germain 3: Mbappe returns to inspire comeback|
|Springboks´ second-half revival punishes Pumas|
|Finally! Kane scores a Premier League goal in August|
|Warnock enjoyed ´poetic justice´ of Kenedy´s penalty woe|
|Holders Eintracht Frankfurt stunned by Ulm in DFB-Pokal|
|West Ham 1 Bournemouth 2: Wilson, Cook condemn Hammers to successive losses|
|Tottenham 3 Fulham 1: Trippier and Kane help Spurs avoid Wembley wobble|
|Leicester City 2 Wolves 0: Lucky Foxes win despite Vardy red card|
|Everton 2 Southampton 1: Richarlison continues fine start|
|Drochtersen/Assel 0 Bayern Munich 1: Lewandowski spares Bayern´s blushes|
|Violent hack, no passes, missed penalty - Kenedy´s Cardiff nightmare|
|Ronaldo handed Juventus debut against Chievo|
|Cheika and Hooper frustrated by second-half slump|
|Hansen issues warning after All Blacks win Wallabies ´prizefight´|
|Stuttgart stay good for Pavard, says Reschke|
|You can´t buy class - United boss Mourinho blasts City documentary|
|Cardiff City 0 Newcastle United 0: Penalty miss rounds off abject day for Kenedy|
|Lopetegui open to rotating Real Madrid goalkeepers|
|´World´s best´ Alisson will be difficult to replace, says Roma boss Di Francesco|
|Dragons and Sharks pounce on Panthers after four get sin-binned|
|AC Milan situation has proved FFP works - UEFA president Ceferin|
|Marseille´s Garcia uninterested in striker despite Balotelli link|
|Goodhue sparkles on debut as All Blacks thump Wallabies|
|I feel like chicken tonight - Saunders game for a laugh after Wilder fowl play|
|Aubameyang-Lacazette partnership possible for Arsenal|
|Pant handed debut as India ring changes at Trent Bridge|
|Pochettino pledges to protect Kane|
|Federer relieved to ´hang tough´ in Cincinnati|
|De Bruyne injury: Can Foden or Diaz replace Man City playmaker?|