18 Jan 2016

Panthers vs Cardinals, Broncos vs Patriots

5:50 pm on 18 January 2016

The final four teams to play off for a place in the NFL's Super Bowl have been found.

The Carolina Panthers ended the Seattle Seahawks season with a 31-24 home win, and the Panthers go on to host the National Football Conference final next week, against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Denver Broncos knocked out the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-16, and the Broncos host the New England Patriots in next week's AFC title game.

The Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning.

The Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Broncos overcame an unspectacular outing by Peyton Manning in their gritty 23-16 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers to set up a marquee quarterback matchup in next week's AFC title game.

The 39-year-old Manning, back in the starting lineup for the first time since a disastrous outing in mid-November, was shaky at times but leaned on his team's defence and running game to put Denver one win away from a Super Bowl berth.

"Our defence is guiding us, let's make that clear," Manning told reporters after completing 21-of-37 passes for 222 yards with no scores or interceptions.

"Down in the fourth quarter, (we got a) great play by our defence. They answered the challenge."

The Broncos trailed the Steelers 13-12 in the fourth when defensive back Bradley Roby forced a fumble from Pittsburgh running back Fitzgerald Toussaint.

Denver recovered the ball and drove 65 yards, going ahead on C.J. Anderson's one-yard touchdown with three minutes remaining. The Broncos added a two-point conversion and another field goal to go ahead 23-13.

Pittsburgh responded with a field goal in the final minute to pull within seven points but they were unable to gain possession of the ensuing onside kick.

The top-seeded Broncos, who earned a bye through last week's wildcard round, will face the Patriots next week in what will be the fifth playoff encounter, and 17th all-time, between Manning and fellow quarterback Tom Brady.