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The NFL Playoff Picture
[Posted early Wed. a.m.]
College Bowl Game Quiz: We have 41 bowl games this year and it’s time for my annual quiz. Back in 1973, we only had 11. Name ‘em. Answer below.
--Nice night Monday for Drew Brees, a record 29 of 30, 307, 4-0, 148.9, in a 34-7 New Orleans win over the Colts (6-8). I mentioned the other day that Brees’ average throw was just 6.3 yards this season, but when you’re setting a record for completion percentage in a game (besting Philip Rivers’ 28 of 29 last season in a game against Arizona), I don’t think you care.
And Brees broke the all-time record for career touchdown passes held by Peyton Manning at 539, Brees finishing the game at 541. [Tom Brady is at 538.]
Brees also holds the career marks for completions (6,821) and yards passing (76,884).
Saints receiver Michael Thomas continued his assault on the single-season reception record, another 12 catches for 128 and a score; Thomas now with 133, ten shy of Marvin Harrison’s record 143. 150+ for Thomas has a nice ring to it with two games to go.
More importantly for the Saints, though, the win took them to 11-3, tied with Seattle, San Francisco and Green Bay for one of the top two seeds in the NFC playoffs and a critical bye week.
NFC Playoff Standings....next opponent
1. Seattle 11-3...Arizona
2. Green Bay 11-3...at Minnesota (Mon.)
3. New Orleans 11-3...Tennessee
4. Dallas 7-7...at Philadelphia
5. San Francisco 11-3...Los Angeles Rams (Sat.)
6. Minnesota 10-4...Green Bay (Mon.)
7. Los Angeles 8-6...need to win two and have the Vikings lose two...at San Francisco (Sat.)
9. Philadelphia 7-7...Dallas
AFC Playoff Standings....next opponent
1. Baltimore 12-2...at Cleveland
2. New England 11-3...Buffalo (Sat.)
3. Kansas City 10-4...at Chicago
4. Houston 9-5...at Tampa Bay (Sat.)
5. Buffalo 10-4...at New England (Sat.)
6. Pittsburgh 8-6...at New York Jets
7. Tennessee 8-6...New Orleans
The three games Saturday are all meaningful, which makes for a fun day/night.
For selfish reasons, I want Seattle and Green Bay to finish 1-2 so we can have some potentially crappy weather contests to watch from the comfort of our own homes.
And Baltimore, New England, and Kansas City offer the same. Sadly, we are not likely to get a Buffalo home game with lake effect snow. Then again, if they beat Tom Brady and Co. On Saturday....
--Wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL’s polices on performance-enhancing substances and substances of abuse, his sixth suspension since 2013 and the fifth for some form of substance abuse.
Gordon’s latest team, Seattle, was notified of the suspension on Monday.
“Our hearts goe out to Josh to have to face this again,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Monday. “The fact that he’s up against it and all, it poses a great challenge to him. Fortunately, he’ll have the benefit of all of the league’s resources to support him and to help him, and we’ll wish him the very best in taking care of business. It was very unfortunate.”
The Seahawks claimed the one-time Pro Bowler last month after he was released off injured reserve by New England. He had seven catches for 139 yards, including a 58-yard reception in Sunday’s 30-24 win over the Panthers.
Carroll said he saw no signs that Gordon, 28, had experienced a relapse.
This is an immensely talented receiver, with a 17.2 yards average on his 247 career receptions, but what a waste.
Gordon is not allowed at the Seahawks’ facility, nor can he have any communication with the team while he’s suspended.
--The only All-American team that matters, the AP’s, was released and LSU and Ohio State each placed three players on the first team.
QB – Joe Burrow, LSU
RB – Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State; Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
TE – Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic
WR – Ja'Marr Chase, LSU; CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Tackles – Penei Sewell, Oregon; Andrew Thomas, Georgia
Guards – Wyatt Davis, Oho State; Kevin Dotson, Louisiana-Lafayette
Center – Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin
All-purpose player – Lynn Bowden Jr., Kentucky
Kicker – Keith Duncan, Iowa
Ends – Chase Young, Ohio State; James Lynch, Baylor
Tackles – Derrick Brown, Auburn; Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
Linebackers – Isaiah Simmons, Clemson; Evan Weaver, California; Micah Parsons, Penn State
Cornerbacks – Derek Stingley, LSU; Jeff Okudah, Ohio State
Safeties – Antoine Winfield Jr., Minnesota; J.R. Reed, Georgia
Punter – Max Duffy, Kentucky
Wake Forest kicker Nick Sciba was third team.
--So now we start the bowl season, Friday, and one game I am kind of hankering to place a small bet on is SMU-Florida Atlantic, Saturday, taking SMU.
I posted last time prior to Minnesota’s 84-71 upset of 3 Ohio State behind Marcus Carr’s 35 points and 7 assists (Carr in his first year with the Golden Gophers after sitting out last season following a transfer from Pitt), so a further shakeup in the top 25 poll was in the cards and....
...the new AP Poll...
1. Kansas (47) 9-1
2. Gonzaga (15) 11-1
3. Louisville (1) 10-1
5. Duke (2) 9-1
6. Kentucky 8-1
7. Maryland 10-1
8. Oregon 8-2
9. Virginia 8-1
10. Baylor 8-1
11. Memphis 9-1
12. Auburn 9-0
13. Dayton 8-1
14. Michigan 8-3...down nine spots
15. Michigan State 7-3
20. San Diego State 10-0
23. Penn State 9-2...experienced team, could be a sleeper
North Carolina is out of the top 25 for the first time in nearly six years. Plus they received word that Cole Anthony is going to be out until at least mid-January after he had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
Kanas became the fifth team to top the poll when the record for an entire season is seven, set in 1982-83. The Jayhawks have been on a roll since losing the season opener to Duke.
Well Gonzaga will at some point be team number six with the top ranking, that seems preordained. And then Maryland down the road.
If you are wondering about Dayton’s high ranking, their only loss is in overtime to Kansas for the Maui Invitational.
Penn State hadn’t been ranked since March 1996! Before that season, the Nittany Lions had last been ranked in Dec. 1954.
--Monday, the Bucks’ 18-game winning streak ended, 120-116 to Dallas (18-8), the Bucks now 24-4.
As are the Lakers, 24-4 after a 105-102 loss at Indiana last night (Tues.), the fourth stop on a five-game road trip, L.A. playing without Anthony Davis (sprained ankle).
So it’s only appropriate that the Lakers now play Milwaukee, which they are, Thursday.
--The Knicks have won three of four, 143-120 winners over Atlanta on Tuesday in the Garden. What’s kind of neat is that interim coach Mike Miller is now 3-3, vs. David Fizdale’s 4-18.
And it was encouraging the Knicks’ three best young players, who are supposed to be part of whatever foundation the team hopes to build – RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, and Mitchell Robinson – all had terrific games.
--Meanwhile, remember Zion Williamson? You know, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft? The Pelicans’ forward is beginning to work out after surgery on the meniscus in his right knee, but there is still no timetable for his return.
And boy do the Pelicans need him...having lost their 13th in a row to Brooklyn, Tuesday, 108-101, New Orleans now 6-22.
--Wade Miley agreed to a two-year, $15 million contract with the Reds. Miley is 85-82, 4.23 ERA lifetime, but in 2019, it was a tale of two seasons while Miley was with the Astros. He was 7-4, 3.28, over his first 18 starts to earn All-Star consideration, but after the break his ERA was 5.07 over 15 outings and he was left off both the ALCS and World Series rosters.
--Free agent Joe Smith, a very capable veteran reliever, 50-29, 2.98, in 782 career appearances, signed a two-year, $8 million contract to stay with Houston.
--We now have a two-week respite before the PGA Tour season resumes with the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua.
Because of the Olympics, July 30-Aug. 2, in Japan, the schedule is going to be more compressed than ever. In terms of the FedEx Cup points chase, there will be a lot of pressure on the top players to be comfortably inside the top 30 come the playoffs in August because you’ll want the option of being able to take the first event off, if mathematically possible.
--Meanwhile, the Tour is going be announcing new television deals with CBS and NBC sometime next year. According to Sports Business Journal, the Tour could take in $700 million per year with the signing, up from an estimated $400 million per in its current deals.
NBC and CBS are expected to retain each network’s regular-season schedule. A new twist is that the networks will alternate producing the FedEx Cup Playoff series, with NBC getting five postseasons to CBS’ four, under what is expected to be a nine-year deal. In the current deal, NBC has sole rights to the season-ending Tour Championship.
For its part, CBS has reshuffled its broadcast team with the firings of Gary McCord and Peter Kostis and additions of Davis Love III and Frank Nobilo. I’ll miss McCord.
The ‘last 16’ draw was held Monday and the Premier League teams match up as follows:
Manchester City v Real Madrid
Liverpool v Atletico Madrid
Tottenham v RB Leipzig
Chelsea v Bayern Munich
First legs aren’t until February...2/18,2/19, 2/25, 2/26.
--Biggie in the Premier League this Sunday...Chelsea at Tottenham. Man City hosts Leicester City on Saturday in another important one.
--The Georgetown-Virginia men’s soccer championship final was concluding as I posted last time and it went into overtime, and then penalty kicks, and the PK session was as exciting as anything you’ll see in the world of sports this year, in my humble opinion.
Unbelievable pressure and Georgetown and Virginia each made their first six, in a pure clinic as to how to take penalty kicks. Georgetown then made its seventh, but the Virginia kicker on their seventh attempt blew it. The color commentator was terrific in breaking down each attempt, and the UVA guy just gave it away with his approach. Seriously, it’s worth YouTubing the whole PK session.
Anyway, the top two defenses in the country played to a 3-3 tie through regulation, the highest-scoring championship final since 1980.
Georgetown captured its first-ever College Cup.
--Great to see Mikaela Shiffrin pick up a major sponsor with her Land Rover commercial. She deserves far more than shilling for Barilla Pasta, not that Barilla isn’t a good product.
--WFAN sports radio is resetting its lineup with the departure (sort of) of Mike Francesa, who still has a ½-hour show from 6:00-6:30 p.m., plus an hour on Radio.com.
Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts are filling Francesa’s slot, 2:00-6:00 p.m., moving from midday, while Maggie Gray takes their slot, with the favorite to be her partner being Marc Malusis, which means Bart Scott is moving to ESPN, getting both a TV show and radio gig.
So it’s Joe & Evan going up against Michael Kay and his ESPN New York juggernaut.
--Don’t forget Eddie Murphy on SNL Saturday! It’s the first time he’s hosting in 35 years and he has promised to reprise all his old hits.
--And another bit on The Battle of the Bulge, which started Dec. 16, 1944.
From a Wall Street Journal piece by Frank Lavin:
“The biggest battle fought by American forces in World War II didn’t involve conquering enemy territory or liberating an occupied country. Instead, 75 years ago this month in the Battle of the Bulge, U.S. troops won a major victory simply by hanging on. If D-Day was the key offensive battle of the war in Europe, the Battle of the Bulge – known to the Germans as Operation Wacht am Rhein (‘Watch on the Rhine’) - was the key defensive battle. The Normandy landings tend to occupy a bigger place in our national memory, even though a defeat in either operation would have dealt a decisive blow to the Allied war effort.
“The offensive that Adolf Hitler launched on Dec. 16, 1944, was brazen. The Wehrmacht hoped to smash through the Allied lines near the Ardennes Forest in Belgium and advance several hundred miles to the Atlantic coast. The blitz was a gamble, based on Hitler’s belief that even though the Allies had superior manpower, he would have the initiative. He thought that it would take two weeks for Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of Allied forces, to figure out what was happening and coordinate a response with London and Washington.
“By then, Hitler believed, German troops would have split the Allies’ front and shut down their largest continental port, Antwerp. A similar tactic had succeeded brilliantly early in the war, in 1940, when the Wehrmacht broke through the French lines and drove British forces north to Dunkirk, where they were forced to evacuate.
“In the greatest U.S. intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor, Hitler was able to launch his attack with complete surprise, hurling 200,000 Wehrmacht troops against 100,000 Americans. By the time the battle ended at the beginning of February, however, U.S. forces had swelled through reinforcements to 600,000 combat soldiers, with another 400,000 troops in support roles. In all, roughly one in eight Americans in uniform at the time, anywhere in the world, took part in the Battle of the Bulge. It remains the largest battle the U.S. Army has ever fought.
“In terms of casualties, too, the Battle of the Bulge was unparalleled. More than 100,000 Americans were killed and injured, accounting for roughly one-tenth of all U.S. combat casualties in World War II. The 106th division, the first in the path of the German attack, was almost wiped out, suffering more than 8,000 casualties. One of its soldiers was Kurt Vonnegut, who was taken prisoner; he drew on his experiences in his 1969 novel ‘Slaughterhouse-Five.’
“But numbers don’t tell the whole story of the battle’s brutality. One the second day, for example, some 100 American artillery spotters were gathered for a briefing in Malmedy, Belgium, when they were captured by rapidly advancing Wehrmacht troops. Soon after, a Gestapo unit appeared and machine-gunned the prisoners. This coldblooded murder of POWs electrified the GIs – as did Operation Greif, in which some 2,000 English-speaking German troops were outfitted in U.S. Army uniforms and infiltrated across American lines. The operation caused little actual damage, but it spread fear in the American ranks.”
More next chat....
--Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” is No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the first time in the song’s 25-year history.
Top 3 songs for the week 12/22/73: #1 “The Most Beautiful Girl” (Charlie Rich) #2 “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” (Elton John) #3 “Time In A Bottle” (Jim Croce)...and...#4 “Leave Me Alone” (Helen Reddy) #5 “Hello It’s Me” (Todd Rundgren...one of my top three all-time faves) #6 “The Joker” (Steve Miller Band) #7 “Top Of The World” (Carpenters) #8 “Just You ‘N’ Me” (Chicago) #9 “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” (The Staple Singers) #10 “Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up” (Barry White... B+ week …)
College Football Bowl Quiz Answer:
The eleven bowl games for the 1973 season:
Cotton, Orange, Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Bluebonnet (Houston), Gator, Sun, Peach, Tangerine, Liberty.
Ten years later, 1983, we were up to 16, having added the likes of the Independence, Hall of Fame, Holiday and Aloha bowls.
The Fiesta Bowl, which quickly joined the Big Four (Cotton, Orange, Rose and Sugar) in terms of importance, had its inception in 1971.
Next Bar Chat, Monday. It’s possible I won’t be posting until Monday morning. I’ll be including my annual Christmas Special.