Former Rams playing key roles in championship games

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The Los Angeles Rams only played one of the NFL's final four during the 2015 regular season, splitting a pair of contests against the NFC West division rival Arizona Cardinals.

So while the Rams aren't terribly familiar with the four teams left in the playoffs, there are former Rams who could play a big part in determining which teams go to the Super Bowl.

Here's a look at the former Rams dotting the rosters of the Cardinals, New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos:

-- We'd be remiss to start with any team other than the Patriots and running back Steven Jackson. Jackson is the Rams' all-time leading rusher and was just about all the team had during his nine years with the team. Now, Jackson plays for the Patriots and is finally enjoying a taste of the playoffs. Last week's win against Kansas City was the first playoff victory for Jackson since after the 2004 season. While he's past the point of being the bell-cow back he once was for the Rams, he's still getting some snaps and will get some touches in the AFC Championship Game against the Broncos. For longtime Rams fans looking for sentimental reasons to root for a team, Jackson would be the obvious choice, even if he plays for a Patriots team that Rams fans still dislike from their loss in Super Bowl XXXVI.

-- Joining Jackson in New England is wide receiver Danny Amendola, who played a central role in the Patriots' run to the world championship last year. Amendola wasn't productive last week against the Chiefs and didn't play against the Broncos earlier in the year but he has a knack for coming up with big plays at big times and could be important against Denver's talented secondary. Amendola was once the Rams' best receiver but departed for New England after the 2012 season.

-- As for Denver, the only former Ram on the roster is safety Darian Stewart. Stewart signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and flashed promise with the team but simply couldn't stay healthy enough to nail down a permanent job. He went to Baltimore before the 2014 season and then signed with Denver before this year. He went on to post his best season and is Denver's starter at free safety. He'll have his hands full Sunday against New England tight end Rob Gronkowski, though he's sure to be just one piece of the puzzle the Broncos use to try to slow him down.

-- In the NFC, the Cardinals actually don't have a former Ram on their roster but the Panthers have two and both will be in important spots on Sunday. Cornerback Cortland Finnegan and right tackle Mike Remmers had short stints with the Rams, though Remmers' time with the team was much shorter. Finnegan signed with the Rams as a free agent in 2012 but was released after an injury-plagued 2013 season. He went to Miami and retired after the 2014 season only to sign with Carolina after the Panthers secondary was hit hard by injury late in the season. Finnegan had an interception last week against Seattle, but it's fair to assume the Cardinals will test him with the likes of John Brown and Larry Fitzgerald in the NFC title game. Remmers will be busy as well with defensive end Calais Campbell on the other side plus Arizona's group of outside pass-rushers behind him.

-- This is only the seventh time that the top two seeds in both conferences have made it to the championship games since the current playoff format began in 1990. It's also the first time it's happened since 2004. That should mean some good football on Sunday afternoon. Enjoy the games.