Rough justice for Saints
The Los Angeles Rams are through to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta after a sensational 26-23 overtime win over the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game on Sunday in an encounter which wasn't without controversy.
The Rams overturned a 13-0 first-quarter deficit to tie the game up at 20-20, and then again at 23-23 in the fourth quarter as Greg Zuerlein kicked a 48-yard field goal with 19 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
Los Angeles eventually won a gripping encounter with a 57-yard kick after John Johnson came up with the crucial turnover for the Rams after Brees was picked-off following a hit from linebacker Dante Fowler in the first extra period.
But the Saints felt aggrieved at a no-call from officials in the fourth quarter ultimately cost them the chance to clinch victory when, in the final two minutes, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman was not flagged for what looked like a blatant pass interference penalty on receiver Tommylee Lewis.
Had the flag been thrown, the Saints would have been awarded a first down at the Rams five-yard line and the opportunity to score a touchdown kick or a field goal to win the game but instead it is the Rams who advance to Super Bowl LIII on February 3rd to face the New England Patriots and are currently 2.1411/10 to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Brady inspires Patriots again
In Sunday's later game the New England Patriots edged out the Kansas City Chiefs 37-31 in overtime after a thrilling AFC Championship game to confirm their 11th Super Bowl appearance and the ninth of the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era.
Much was expected of young quarterback Patrick Mahomes but it was veteran Brady who took the early initiative, throwing a 29-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett after Sonny Michel had put the Pats on the board with a one yard TD run to make it 14-0 at the half.
Mahomes threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce after a 52-yard passing play to Sammy Watkins to eventually get the Chiefs on the scoreboard with their opening possession after half time, but it was the fourth quarter which would see the game really come to life.
A Championship game record breaking 38 points were scored in the final quarter, with the lead changing hands no fewer than four times before a 39-yard field goal from Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker in the dying seconds eventually sent the game into overtime.
New England won the toss and elected to receive the ball first in overtime with Tom Brady completing a couple of huge third-down conversions to Julian Edelman, allowing Rex Burkhead to run-in for game-winning score from two yards and send the Patriots to Atlanta with Bill Belichick's men now 1.824/5 to make it six Super Bowl wins in franchise history.
Wizards win in London
The Washington Wizards secured a dramatic 101-100 comeback win over the New York Knicks at The O2 in London on Thursday night to begin an exciting weekend of NFL action on both sides of the Atlantic.
But the win wasn't without controversy with the Wizards benefiting from a last-second goal-tending call that sealed the victory as Thomas Bryant's effort in the dying seconds was ruled to have been over the cylinder despite being swatted away.
There was still time for the Knicks to respond though, but following a time out a last-second Emmanuel Mudiay's turnaround jump shot was just off target, completing a dramatic win in a thrilling game for the London crowd.
Meanwhile, on Saturday night, James Harden led the Houston Rockets to a 138-134 overtime win against the LA Lakers and his 48-point heroics mean he and the legendary Wilt Chamberlain are the only players in history to score 30-plus points in 19 consecutive games.
With LeBron James once again missing through injury, the Lakers wasted an 18-point lead as the Rockets' Eric Gordon scored a three-pointer with two seconds remaining to secure an overtime victory as Harden finished with 14-for-30 shooting from the field, 8-for-19 from 3-point range and 12-for-15 from the three throw line with the Lakers now 109/1 to win the Western Conference on the exchange.
Oklahoma own the 76ers again
Also on Saturday Paul George scored the winning points in the dying seconds to give Oklahoma City Thunder a 117-115 win over the Philadelphia to stretch their winning streak over the 76ers to 19 games, the longest active win streak between NBA teams.
George also contributed with 31 points, six rebounds, five assists, and two steals for the Thunder who can now be backed at 6.25/1 for the Western Conference as they chase down the current 1.330/100 favourites, the Golden State Warriors, who beat the LA Clippers thanks to Demarcus Cousins, who scored 14 points in 15 minutes, 3-of-4 from 3-point range, six rebounds, three assists on his Friday night debut.
In the Eastern Conference Kyrie Irving scored 32 points and the Boston Celtics rallied to beat the Atlanta Hawks 113-105 on Saturday night for their third straight win which now sees them available at 3.55 on the exchange market.
And in Tennessee, Danny Green scored eight three-pointers and a total of 24, both his season-highs, to lead the Toronto to a 119-90 win over the Memphis Grizzlies and make it nine wins straight for the raptors who can be backed at 2.68/5.