Final four are Super achievers With 12 NFL titles in 17 appearances, powers maintain rule

It may be Elway's last shot

49ers-Packers winner will keep NFC favored

January 11, 1998|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

The Cinderella teams have gone home. Unlike last year, only strong, tradition-steeped franchises are still around for the NFL championship games that unfold in Pittsburgh and San Francisco today.

In the AFC, 37-year-old John Elway seeks one more -- one last? -- shot at a Super Bowl ring when the Denver Broncos (14-4) battle the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-5) at 12: 30 p.m.

In the NFC, the defending champion Green Bay Packers (14-3) meet the San Francisco 49ers (14-3) and the league's top defense in a much-anticipated 4 p.m. kickoff.

The winners meet in Super Bowl XXXII two weeks from today in San Diego.

Among them, these four conference finalists have 17 Super Bowl appearances and 12 Super Bowl titles. It's a far cry from a year ago, when two second-year expansion franchises, the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars, played and lost in the championship games.

The road back to the Super Bowl is more difficult for the Packers, who stomped Carolina, 30-13, last year. They're two-point favorites today.

Given the history of the Super Bowl -- 13 straight wins by the NFC representative -- the Packers-49ers winner will inherit the role of favorite in San Diego.

Green Bay defensive end Reggie White calls today's NFC game "the ultimate matchup," and San Francisco linebacker Ken Norton Jr. doesn't disagree.

"This game is two titans clashing," Norton said. "Obviously, people want to say we haven't played anybody. But that's just the media talking. The two best teams are playing this weekend."

The Packers have ended the 49ers' season each of the previous two seasons with playoff victories.

The Broncos are two-point favorites in a rematch of Pittsburgh's 35-24 victory in Week 15, when Kordell Stewart threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more.

Pub Date: 1/11/98

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