Ranking the greatest AFC, NFC championship games: A pair of Tom Brady-Peyton Manning duels crack all-time list

Given what we witnessed during the divisional round of the 2021 NFL playoffs, fans could be in for an extremely memorable championship weekend. 

The four survivors from last weekend’s divisional round — the 49ers, Rams, Bengals and Chiefs — will play this weekend for the right to represent their respective conferences in Super Bowl LVI. Among the big storylines entering championship weekend include the Chiefs’ quest at a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance, the emergence of Bengals’ second-year quarterback Joe Burrow, Matthew Stafford’s pursuit of his first Super Bowl appearance, and the continued postseason success of 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. 

There’s a very good chance that one or both of this weekend’s games will one day crack the following list of the greatest conference championship games in NFL history. Several all-time classics made the list, including a few games that included two of the best quarterbacks in league annals in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. 

15. 1981 AFC Championship: Bengals 27, Chargers 7 

This wasn’t necessarily a great game, but how well the Bengals played — specifically quarterback Ken Anderson — in sub-freezing temperatures is what made this AFC title game memorable. In a game that was tabbed as “The Freezer Bowl,” Anderson threw two touchdowns while leading the Bengals to their first Super Bowl. Anderson’s passer rating was more than twice the amount of his counterpart, Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts, who a week earlier helped lead the Chargers to an epic double-overtime win over the Dolphins in balmy Miami. 

“Kenny’s advantage was that he threw tight spirals,” said Fouts, who said that throwing that day was like “throwing a shoebox in the wind.” 

“I didn’t always throw spirals,” Fouts said. “In my mind, that was the biggest part of us losing the game.”

14. 2015 AFC Championship: Broncos 20, Patriots 18

Peyton Manning came…

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