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The NFL Playoff Picture is Muddled
Add-on posted early Wed. a.m.
--Denver fired first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett on Monday after Sunday’s brutal 51-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams that left the Broncos at 4-11. Denver’s new ownership group – led by Walmart heir Rob Walton, his daughter Carrie Walton and son-in-law Greg Penner – quickly ran out of patience.
The Broncos have one of the league’s best defenses (until Sunday), but the worst offense, and this after signing Russell Wilson to what might turn out to be the worst deal in the history of the world.
The team has missed the playoffs for a seventh consecutive year.
Hackett, 42, was hired in January after three seasons as the Packers’ offensive coordinator under Matt LaFleur. Shortly after Hackett’s hire, the Broncos traded five draft picks, including two first-rounders and two second-rounders, as well as three players to the Seahawks to acquire Wilson, who then agreed to a five-year, $245 million contract extension before the start of the season.
And now Denver is averaging a league-worst 15.5 points per game.
Hackett’s in-game decision-making had been called into question from Week 1 on, and his relationship with Wilson was a mess.
Wilson threw three interceptions Sunday, giving him a TD-INT ratio of 12-9, which is pathetic.
I do have to add that the Rams had their best all-around game of the season and Baker Mayfield was superb…24/28, 230, 2-0, 124.7. He has no doubt secured a job, even as a backup, for 2023. Good for him.
--Tom Brady and the Bucs stayed in front in the NFC South at 7-8, following an immensely crappy 19-16 win in overtime over Arizona (4-11) in the late game Sunday. Having stayed up for Midnight Mass from St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Christmas Eve (watching until the end at around 1:15 a.m.), I was running on fumes and went to bed before the fourth quarter. [Michael Imperioli was sitting behind New York City Mayor Eric Adams at Mass, which I found rather funny…a classic Sopranos scene.]
Anyway, Brady was 32/48, 281, 1-2, 71.6, and hoping the Feds forget about him in the FTX case. Like he is so mediocre these days (though he was great in OT). And he’s been a real jerk on the sidelines.
For Arizona, which is unwatchable, at least Wake Forest’s Greg Dortch had 10 receptions for 98 yards, as well as 25 rushing.
Tampa Bay 7-8…two remaining…Panthers, at Falcons…
New Orleans 6-9
--No one seems to know when it happened…when the Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa took a hit that led to him being put in concussion protocol a day after Sunday’s loss to Green Bay in Miami.
Tua threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter but nothing physical stood out in terms of the action on the field. Coach Mike McDaniel just said that Tagovailoa admitted to having concussion symptoms when he spoke to team doctors Monday. McDaniel said he is unsure what play might have led to the issues.
But this is a big deal because it’s Tua’s second time in concussion protocol this season, after his high-profile situation in Week 4 against the Bengals when he was briefly hospitalized after his head hit the turf. He went on to miss the next two games and returned in Week 7.
He had taken a hard hit four days before the Cincy game during a win over Buffalo, but was evaluated and stayed in the game despite showing concussion symptoms.
No word as yet on Tua’s status for Sunday’s biggie against the Patriots.
--Meanwhile, the Jets received good news…quarterback Mike White was cleared to play Sunday against the Seahawks and coach Robert Salah said, barring further injury, White will QB the remainder of the season, with Joe Flacco this week’s backup and Zach Wilson inactive.
One interesting offseason coming up for the Jets…but the season ain’t over for New York until it’s over.
If they beat Seattle and the Dolphins in Week 17 down in Miami, they can sneak in.
AFC Wild Card
7. Miami 8-7
8. New England 7-8
9. Jets 7-8
10. Tennessee 7-8
11. Pittsburgh 7-8
--Monday night, the Chargers (9-6) clinched a wild card spot with a 20-3 win over the dreadful Colts (4-10-1), who gave Nick Foles a start and he sucked…3 interceptions, a 31.9 PR.
The only blemish for L.A. was safety Derwin James’ ejection for a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit on Colts WR Ashton Dulin.
--As I wrote last time, and feared, Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman entered the transfer portal and could be headed to Notre Dame. They have a need and Hartman wants a high-end situation to improve his draft prospects in what would now be 2024 (after six years in college).
Hartman, scouts feel, is a sixth-round pick in the 2023 draft at the very best because he hasn’t played in a pro-style system.
And Hartman knows if he went to Notre Dame, he’d earn more in NIL money then he would struggling to make an NFL roster.
If he joins the Fighting Irish, Wake plays at South Bend on Oct. 28. I’d be pissed.
On the other hand, I have very high hopes for Wake’s 2023 QB, Mitch Griffis. He may not put up Hartman’s numbers, but he’s a far better athlete and runner and will present a different weapon.
--Former Clemson starting QB DJ Uiagalelei is transferring to Oregon State. I’m guessing he puts it all together and Beaver Nation will be pleased.
--East Carolina finished a nice season at 8-5 with a 53-29 win over Coastal Carolina (9-4) last night in the Ticket Scam Birmingham Bowl.
It was the end to a disappointing season for J. Mac’s Chants, who lost their last three, lost their coach, and are about to lose their quarterback, Grayson McCall, to the transfer portal.
For the Pirates, Holton Ahlers threw for five touchdowns and ran for another.
--New AP Poll (records thru Sunday)
1. Purdue (40) 12-0
2. UConn (20) 13-0
3. Houston 12-1
4. Kansas 11-1
5. Arizona 12-1…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8K2aww8xKcE [Safe to open]
6. Texas 10-1
7. Tennessee 10-2
8. Alabama 10-2
9. Arkansas 11-1
10. Gonzaga 10-3
13. Virginia 8-2
14. Miami 12-1
17. Duke 10-3
T-22. Xavier 10-3
T-22. New Mexico 12-0…huh
24. West Virginia 10-2…almost heaven…
25. North Carolina 9-4
--Nikola Jokic did it again Sunday night…41 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists in Denver’s 128-125 victory over Phoenix. It was his 83rd career triple-double. It was a week ago he had the 40-27-10 triple…and then had a 13-13-13 game.
Last night, he was 20-9-11 in the Nuggets’ 113-106 win over Sacramento, Denver improving to 22-11.
--But speaking of triple-doubles, Tuesday night in Dallas, Luka Doncic had the ultimate, a first-ever triple-double with 60 points and 20 rebounds…60-21-10…as the Mavericks (19-16) handed the Knicks (18-17) another devastating loss, their fourth in a row,
Doncic set a Dallas record with the 60, while it was also his first 20+ rebound game.
I watched it all from the start of the second half and the Knicks were playing well, Quentin Grimes on his way to a career-high 33, Julius Randle with 29 points and 18 rebounds, and they were playing without point guard Jalen Brunson (hip) and RJ Barrett, who exited the contest two minutes in with a lacerated finger.
Nonetheless, the Knicks were up 112-103 with 33.9 seconds to play, and they blew it.
--Meanwhile, Brooklyn is 22-12, third in the Eastern Conference, after a 125-117 win at Cleveland (22-13) on Monday. Kevin Durant (32 points) has been fantastic and Kyrie Irving (also 32) is playing very well and they have become known as the “no-drama” Nets, winners of nine in a row, 13 of 14. Just focus on basketball.
I have to note Darius Garland was sweet for the Cavs, 46 points, but the Nets held Donovan Mitchell to just 15, well off his 28.5 ppg average.
--The Mets and Carlos Correa have yet to reach agreement on a reworked contract following his iffy physical and MRI. It’s still expected something will get done.
--The Texas Rangers signed right-hander Nate Eovaldi to a two-year, $34 million deal. Eovaldi, 32, has been effective the past few seasons with the Red Sox and he declined their qualifying offer, so Texas lost a third-round pick in signing him.
For his career, Eovaldi is 67-68, 4.16.
--In putting together a list of sports obituaries for my yearend BC, I realized I missed the passing of former lefty hurler Curt Simmons, who died on Dec. 13 at his home in Ambler, PA. He was 93.
Simmons was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies’ Whiz Kids that won the 1950 NL pennant on the final day of the season, only to be swept in the World Series by the Yankees.
Simmons was 21, having come up as a 19-year-old in 1948, while Robin Roberts was 23, and the lineup included Richie Ashburn, 23, and power-hitting Del Ennis, who led the league in RBIs with 126.
The Whiz Kids’ story was a good one because the season before they had finished 16 games behind the NL champion Brooklyn Dodgers.
Simmons was 17-8 in early September when his Army National Guard unit was called up for active duty following the outbreak of the Korean War. He spent 1951 in the military.
Because of that, he was prevented from winning 200 games, Simmons ending up 193-183 in 20 seasons.
In 1964, having come back from elbow surgery and reinventing himself, Simmons, then 35, went 18-9 for St. Louis, helping lead the Cardinals to the NL pennant and starting twice in their World Series victory over the Yankees.
Simmons would be one of my first baseball cards where you would just stare at all the numbers he accumulated since coming up in 1949.
He once lost part of a toe in a lawn mower accident, missing part of the 1953 season. Ah yes, back when sports stars were regular guys. Lived next door to you. Worked in the offseason for a few months to pick up a few extra bucks. RIP.
--The PL is back up and running after the World Cup and among the games on Boxing Day, Tottenham had a solid 2-2 draw on the road at Brentford, with Harry Kane getting a goal. Good for him, after the WC disaster that he’ll never live down fully.
Liverpool looked terrific in winning at Aston Villa, 3-1, and first-place Arsenal beat West Ham 3-1.
Newcastle is suddenly second after a 3-0 win over Leicester, though Man City, a point behind, has two games in hand.
Tuesday, Chelsea shutout Bournemouth 2-0, and Manchester United whipped Nottingham Forest 3-0.
Standings update after next weekend’s play.
--Mikaela Shiffrin picked up win No. 78 by taking the giant slalom on Tuesday at Semmering, Austria. Her prior three wins this season are in the slalom and super G.
So with three slaloms and a GS in the next two weeks, she could get to 80…Vonn at 82.
--We note the passing of golfing legend Kathy Whitworth, 83. Whitworth has the most wins on the LPGA Tour, 88, six more than Tiger and Sam Snead, and six more than rival “Mickey” Wright. She died suddenly while celebrating Christmas Eve with family and friends.
“Kathy left this world the way she lived her life, loving, laughing and creating memories,” said Bettye (sic) Odle, without providing any further details. I hope they weren’t playing “Twister.”
Whitworth won six majors, but never won the Women’s Open, which bummed her out.
In 1981, she became the first woman to earn $1 million on the LPGA Tour.
“I would have swapped being the first to make a million for winning the Open, but it was a consolation which took some of the sting out of not winning,” she said at the time.
How good was Kathy Whitworth? She won eight times in 1963 and 1965, and she had 11 victories in 1968. But in none of those years did she earn more than $50,000. By contrast, the 2023 LPGA Tour will have total purses topping $100 million.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday, New Year’s Day, perhaps late…and I’ll have the always highly-anticipated Bar Chat Awards. Our crack staff won’t start working on it until late Saturday, I imagine, after a few Coors Lights are consumed…but it always gets done. The “Dirtball” hardware is being produced as I write by noted sculptor Jeff Koons. Cost me a pretty penny, but it will be worth it. [Congressman-elect George Santos is the odds-on favorite, but I told Mr. Koons to make multiple copies.]
[Posted early Sunday p.m. I’ll have a very brief Add-on up top Wed. a.m.]
College Basketball Quiz: 1) The Big East Conference had its first season 1979-80. Name the original seven members. 2) Who was the first Player of the Year? [If you get this, you are very good…because I didn’t have a freakin’ clue.] 3) What member was added in 1980-81? Answers below.
--The Giants lost to the Vikings (12-3) 27-24 on a 61-yard Greg Joseph field goal in a thriller Christmas Eve in Minnesota (thankfully under the dome). [The Vikes’ Justin Jefferson had 12 catches for 133 yards and a score to take his season yardage total to 1,756…Calvin Johnson the record-holder at 1,964, though in 16 games.]
But while the Giants (8-6-1) aren’t happy with the loss, especially as Daniel Jones (30/42, 334, 1-1, 92.8) and Saquon Barkley (14 carries, 84 yards, plus 8 receptions for another 49) had big games, Barkley with a 27-yard TD run to tie things up at 24-24 (after a terrific 2-point conversion) with 2:01 to play, the Giants are still in the driver’s seat in terms of making the playoffs.
6. Giants 8-6-1
7. Washington 7-7-1
8. Seattle 7-8
9. Detroit 7-8
10. Green Bay 7-8
Yup, the Giants got major-league help.
San Francisco won its eighth straight, 37-20 over the Commanders, Brock Purdy* with another terrific effort (15/22, 234, 2-1, 114.6), George Kittle 6-120-2.
*Purdy has thrown two TD passes in four straight games and became the first since Kurt Warner to win his first three starts while throwing multiple TDs in each.
The Seahawks lost to the Chiefs (12-3) 24-10.
And the Lions fell to the Panthers (6-9) in Carolina, 37-23, as Sam Darnold had a solid game (15/22, 250, 1-0, 121.4) and the Panthers rushed for 320 yards! D’Onta Foreman was 21-165, and Chubba Hubbard went off 125 on 12 carries.
So the Giants are OK, and while the players and coaching staff don’t want to hear about moral victories…it was. They went toe-to-toe with a 12-3 team, albeit one that is now 11-0 in one-score games, an NFL record.
Just a note on the Commanders. Coach Ron Rivera benched Taylor Heinicke for Carson Wentz in the fourth quarter after a flurry of turnovers by Heinicke, with Rivera not saying who he’ll go with next week when they host Cleveland, before finishing up against Dallas.
In other games Saturday….
Buffalo moved to 12-3 with a 35-13 win over the hapless Bears (3-12, and a franchise-tying eighth straight loss), holding Chicago’s Justin Fields to just 11 yards on the ground, while Kansas City is 12-3 as well after their victory over Seattle.
But Buffalo owns the tiebreaker for No. 1 seed based on their earlier win over the Chiefs.
Cincinnati is 11-4, winners of seven straight, after a 22-18 victory over New England (7-8), Joe Burrow with 375 yards passing, three touchdowns, though two interceptions.
The Bengals led 22-0 at the half and then held off a late Pats charge. New England had the ball on the Cincy five-yard line when running back Rhamondre Stevenson fumbled it away. Yet another dreadful ending for the Patriots whose fans, like Pete M., are focusing now on the Bruins (a stupendous 27-4-2 in the NHL).
Meanwhile, in a scary situation after the Cincinnati game, the Bengals’ plane was forced to make an emergency landing at New York’s JFK International Airport when their Delta Air Lines plane lost an engine.
Baltimore (10-5) once again was without Lamar Jackson, but Tyler Huntley and Co. did enough to defeat the Falcons (5-10) 17-9.
Dallas (11-4) prevented Philadelphia (13-2) from claiming the No. 1 seed, at least for another week, with a 40-34 victory, the Eagles going with Gardner Minshew in place of the injured Jalen Hurts and Minshew was good, 24/40, 355, two touchdowns, but he also had two interceptions and lost a fumble, wasting super efforts from DeVonta Smith (8-113-2) and A.J. Brown (6-103).
For the Cowboys, Dak Prescott finally had a terrific game, 27/35, 347, 3-1, 124.3…CeeDee Lamb with ten receptions for 120 and two scores.
The Titans suffered a huge blow to their playoff hopes, falling to the soon-to-be-relegated Texans (2-12-1), at home, 19-14. Malik Willis, subbing for the injured Ryan Tannehill, was awful, and while Derrick Henry rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown, he fumbled one away.
So in the AFC wild-card chase….
6. L.A. Chargers 8-6…play the Colts Monday night
7. Miami 8-7
8. New England 7-8
9. Jets 7-8
10. Tennessee 7-8
11. Pittsburgh 7-8
Pittsburgh stayed barely in touch with a stirring 13-10 win over the Raiders, the Steelers honoring Franco Harris at halftime and retiring his jersey.
Kenny Pickett led a late 10-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, tossing a 14-yard pass to George Pickens for the deciding score. What a terrific crowd, held down by the brutal wind chill, but there for both Franco and their beloved Steelers.
Lastly, in the coldest game New Orleans had ever played in, 6 degrees air temp, and the coldest regular-season game in Cleveland history, the Saints (6-9) beat the Browns (6-9), 17-10, in a meaningless game.
--So today, Sunday, Green Bay stayed highly relevant, out of nowhere, with a 26-20 win at Miami (8-7) that moved the Packers to 7-8.
Tua Tagovailoa threw three late interceptions to help allow Green Bay to come back from 20-10 late in the third. Aaron Rodgers was far from great, but did enough, Mason Crosby kicked four field goals, and now the Pack have home games against the Vikings and Lions, and should they finish 9-8, they can easily sneak in there.
Miami is at New England and home to the Jets. The plot has thickened.
--Thursday night was godawful for Jets fans. Zach Wilson was horrendous again (9/18, 92, 0-1, 41.9) and benched for Chris Streveler, the Jets’ No. 4 quarterback, up from the practice squad. At least Streveler competed, rushing for 54 and passing for 90, as the Jets (7-8) fell 19-3 to the surging Jaguars (7-8), New York’s fourth loss in a row, the locker room in disarray, Mike White not ready to return due to his fractured ribs, and a once promising season has turned into a shitshow.
Get this. Among 33 qualified quarterbacks this season, Wilson ranks 33rd in passer rating, 33rd in completion percentage, 33rd in on-target rate and 32nd in touchdown-to-interception radio. Goodness gracious…that is the definition of blowdom, nay, megablowdom.
As for the Jags, they control their own destiny in the dismal AFC South…at Houston and against Tennessee.
Trevor Lawrence continues to be real solid, 20/31, 229, and with 51 yards and a touchdown on the ground as coach Doug Pederson has let Trevor loose the last seven weeks or so.
Mike Vaccaro / New York Post
“The problem is the quarterback, sure. Zach Wilson seems to regress with every snap. He seems to shrink with every game. He plays with all the confidence of a poker player who’s just gone all-in on pocket 2-9. Unsuited. A quarterback playing this terrible is a problem.
“But the potential calamity is even greater.
“Because the Jets have to understand, have to realize, that there is a very real possibility that they had the No. 3 and No. 2 picks in the draft within three years of each other – earned, on merit, thanks to some of the most atrocious football in a franchise history that isn’t exactly unfamiliar with atrocious football – and twice took quarterbacks.
“And they got it wrong – abjectly wrong – both times. [Ed. Sam Darnold the other.]
“This isn’t just a devastating possibility; it’s the kind of thing that can be decimating to an entire organization. And a rapidly escalating and sobering truth is that this isn’t just a possibility, but a probability. Zach Wilson doesn’t just look overmatched.
“He looks over.
“It’s that bad….
“It was a strange and temporarily delightful thing to see Chris Streveler – QB4 on the depth chart, for those keeping score – coax the Jets down the field with his legs, with his moxie.
“That’s a low bar, sure. But even that seems to be out of Wilson’s reach, out of his range. And on this night, he couldn’t keep a fourth-stringer off the field – and the booing at MetLife would’ve gotten even louder if Saleh had tried to. What does that tell you?”
--As if the Jets didn’t already have enough problems, wide receiver coach Miles Austin was suspended for at least one year by the NFL for violating the league’s gambling policy. Austin is appealing.
The NFL has been investigating Austin for a while, after it found out that he had been gambling on sports – not on NFL games or college football – which violates NFL personnel gambling policy.
Austin’s attorney, William P. Deni Jr., told multiple media outlets that Austin did not wager on NFL games.
“The NFL suspended Miles Austin for wagering from a legal mobile account on table games and non-NFL professional sports,” Deni said.
According to the NFL’s gambling policy, all coaches are prohibited from any type of sports gambling, not just football.
Austin also had been making online bets while at the team’s facility, which is against NFL rules. The league had tracked his activity on a website, a source told ESPN.
--The NFL has reached a deal for Sunday Ticket with YouTube, a reported $2.5 billion annually, or $1 million more than the deal with DirecTV.
So YouTube viewers will be able to stream all of the NFL games on Sunday next season, except those that air on traditional television in their local markets.
The great Hall of Fame running back died Wednesday at the age of 72. Harris, a first-round selection of the Steelers out of Penn State in 1972, would become Rookie of the Year.
The Steelers, who had gone 1-13, 5-9 and 6-8 in the first three years under coach Chuck Noll, would then go 11-3 in Franco’s first season, as the Steelers were building a dynasty, though they didn’t know quite how much of one as yet…the likes of “Mean Joe” Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Jack Ham having been drafted ahead of Franco, with others to follow.
The ’72 Steelers won a division title for only the second time in franchise history and hosted the Oakland Raiders in a playoff game at Three Rivers Stadium (Dec. 23), but they trailed 7-6 in the final minute after the Raiders scored with 1:13 to go in the fourth quarter.
On 4th-and-10 with 22 seconds on the clock, the Steelers called “66 circle option.” The pass protection broke down, quarterback Bradshaw escaped the pocket and threw a desperation pass downfield to running back Frenchy Fuqua.
Raiders safety Jack Tatum broke up the pass, but Harris followed the play, something he learned to do playing for Joe Paterno, caught the deflected ball off his shoe-strings and rambled for a 60-yard touchdown that won the game and put the Steelers in the AFC championship game for the first time.
It became known as “The Immaculate Reception.”
As I’ve told you countless times over the years, with all my relatives on my mother’s side living in the Pittsburgh area, growing up, as much as I liked the Jets, I was a Steelers fan in those days, a convenient time to be one, I must say, and I was watching the game with my father, and it was the beginning of a terrific run, Harris and the Steelers winning four Super Bowls. [I still have my Franco’s Italian Army button.]
Harris would go on to have eight 1,000-yard seasons, make nine Pro Bowls, and was later enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But that one iconic play launched a dynasty.
Harris only missed one playoff game in his 13-year career, the 1976 AFC Championship game in Oakland after getting injured in a playoff game the previous week against the Colts. In 19 postseason contests with Harris in the backfield, the Steelers were 14-5 and had a perfect 4-0 record in Super Bowls. He rushed for 1,556 yards and scored 17 touchdowns in those games.
After a contract dispute with the Steelers in the summer of 1984, the team released Harris during training camp. He signed with the Seahawks and played in eight games for them before he retired.
The late Dan Rooney, former Steelers president and chairman, said one of his biggest regrets was allowing Harris to leave the Steelers. Harris and Rooney mended their relationship and Harris became a fixture in Pittsburgh after his retirement.
Saturday night, current Steelers president Art Rooney II said at the halftime ceremony: “It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The big man was supposed to be with us tonight. …Franco brought us joy over 50 years. So in recognition of his many contributions both on and off the field, it’s my honor to declare No. 32 is officially retired.”
Mike Freeman / USA TODAY
“Whenever I spoke to Franco Harris, usually just chatting at various media events, he was always friendly, charming and blunt. He’d talk about anything and was usually fairly chill unless one topic came up: the Immaculate Reception.
“Harris was a fierce defender of the most stunning, wonderful and controversial play in the history of the NFL and maybe in the history of American sports. Harris was keenly aware there was doubt about the legitimacy of the play – particularly from the then Oakland Raiders, the victims of that dramatic turn of events – and he decided that moment, that incredible moment that would later launch a dynasty, like a bouncer at the front door of a club.
“The Raiders always say that play was illegal, I once told Harris.
“ ‘The Raiders are full of it,’ Harris said back.
“ ‘No way that play should have counted,’ Raiders linebacker Phil Villapiano, who played in the game, once told me. Then again, Villapiano has said that to many people. To the Raiders, that play wasn’t immaculate, it was illegitimate. The only thing that was received was home cooking from the game officials, they say.
“The Raiders hated the outcome but that didn’t stop it from counting, or stop Harris from evolving into instant, living history. The Steelers would lose the following week in the AFC title game to the undefeated Dolphins – who created a history of their own going 17-0 – but the play, either from heaven or hell, depending on your geolocation, started the Steelers’ dynasty. The franchise would go on to win four Super Bowls in six seasons and was the team of the decade in the 1970s….
“As long as there’s an NFL, that play will be remembered. Hell, as long as there’s a Pittsburgh International Airport that play will be remembered since Harris’ moment is captured in a statue there right next to a picture of George Washington. Washington only crossed the Delaware; Harris helped the Steelers become a dynasty.”
On Tuesday, hours before his death, Harris was on SiriusXM Radio with Chris Russo to talk about his catch.
--In the only bowl game I cared about the last few days, Wake Forest finished 8-5 with a 27-17 win over Missouri (6-7) in the Sam Bankman-Fried Bail Bond Bowl. Sam Hartman threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns, setting the ACC record for career touchdown passes at 110.
But as I noted before, oh, what could have been this season.
And there’s the Sam Hartman transfer rumors. As I go to post, he hasn’t officially entered the transfer portal, and it’s absurd to even think about this because he just completed five years at Wake! But he’s got that Covid year of eligibility left and despite the fact he would be drafted next spring, lots of folks have him going to Notre Dame, which he would only do if he was assured he’d earn $millions in our new NIL era.
This sucks. And Wake coach Dave Clawson is not happy should Hartman transfer…just the whole way it would go down, the money and all.
Regarding a different player, Wake receiver A.T. Perry, I give him a ton of credit for not opting out of the game as he’s definitely headed to the NFL draft. Perry had 11 receptions for 116 yards in the win, showing off his skills. Cliché alert…Perry will be playing on Sundays! …somewhere…
--According to 247Sports, the top ten in the early signing period were….
5. Ohio State
7. Oregon…quack quack
9. Notre Dame
--Five-star safety Peyton Bowen flipped from Notre Dame to Oregon on signing day.
But then on Thursday, he flipped again, this time signing with Oklahoma, where he’ll join Denton (Texas) Guyer teammate and five-star quarterback Jackson Arnold, who signed with the Sooners Wednesday.
--And here’s another asshole…quarterback Kedon Slovis is transferring from Pitt to BYU, he announced Saturday.
Slovis, who had transferred from USC to Pitt, has one year of eligibility left.
Slovis sucked with the Panthers, but the timing is atrocious given Pitt’s Sun Bowl contest against UCLA this Friday, which is one of the better minor bowl game matchups on paper.
--The Knicks had run their win streak to eight, and then, Wednesday, they ran into Toronto’s Pascal Siakam, who scored a career-high 52 at the Garden in the Raptors’ 113-106 win.
And then Friday I watched as the Knicks suffered a devastating 118-117 loss to the Bulls, also at the Garden, to fall to 18-15.
Frankly, it was a choke job for the ages as Jalen Brunson, who entered the game shooting .890 from the foul line, missed two free throws with six seconds left, the Knicks up 117-116, and then the game’s best clutch shooter in the fourth quarter, DeMar DeRozan, hit a jumper for the win.
The Knicks were 15 of 26 from the line, including missing four in the last 1:06, totally wasting a 44-point breakout for RJ Barrett, who was 6 for 6 from three…yes, the same guy who was hideous from downtown earlier in the season.
All the more reason why Sunday’s noon tilt at MSG was critical.
And make it three losses in a row, all at home, Philadelphia (20-12) beating New York 119-112, the Knicks outscored in the fourth, 24-16, and allowing the Sixers to shoot 18 of 39 from three.
All the positive vibes out the window in five days.
--Meanwhile, across town, the Brooklyn Nets continue to win, 143-113 over the Warriors on Wednesday, after a 91-point first half (third-biggest in league history), and then a signature win over the Bucks, Friday, 118-100.
The 21-12 Nets have won 12 of 13. Milwaukee is 22-10.
--Friday night’s brutal defeat to the Bulls wasn’t the only thing the Knicks lost this week. The NBA announced Wednesday that the Knicks would lose their 2025 second-round pick as a result of the league’s investigation into the signing of Jalen Brunson as a free agent; the NBA saying in a statement that “the Knicks engaged in free agency discussions involving (Brunson) prior to the date when such discussions were permitted.”
Over the next seven years, New York still has 11 first-round picks and nine second-rounders.
--It’s been a light period for the sport, with things heating up again this coming Wednesday, but in case you missed it, last Wednesday, Eastern Illinois defeated Iowa (8-4) 92-83 in one of the bigger upsets in college basketball history.
The Panthers (4-9) were 32-point underdogs and according to CBS Sports HQ, it’s being dubbed by bookmakers as “the biggest college basketball point-spread upset in the last 30 years.”
It was also Eastern Illinois’ fourth Power Five win and first over a Big Ten team in 35 years.
--Last Wednesday, Boston College (7-6) had a nice 70-65 overtime upset of 21 Virginia Tech (11-2).
--An arbitrator reduced Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer’s two-season suspension Thursday, resulting in the immediate reinstatement of the 2020 National League Cy Young Award winner.
Arbitrator Martin Scheinman reduced Bauer’s unpaid suspension from 324 games to 194, Major League Baseball announced. Bauer is cleared to return for the start of the 2023 season but won’t be paid for the first 50 games; he had been suspended for the final 144 games of 2022. The arbitration was a test of the longest suspension in the history of MLB’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy.
MLB suspended Bauer in April after three women publicly accused him of sexual assault. After Bauer appealed, Scheinman examined MLB’s case against him in confidential, months-long proceedings.
MLB felt a longer suspension was warranted but will abide by the arbitrator’s decision.
The Dodgers have 14 days to decide whether they will reinstate him onto their 40-man roster. Bauer is under contract for only one more season, on a deal that initially called for him to be paid $32 million.
He’s been facing sexual assault allegations since June 2021, most notably by a San Diego woman who obtained a temporary restraining order against him. Bauer refuted her allegations and remains in litigation with the woman. Two other women made similar assault allegations to the Washington Post, which Bauer and his legal team have also refuted.
The L.A. District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute Bauer in February, but MLB handed him a 324-game suspension on April 30, twice longer than the previous longest suspension under its policy.
After winning the Cy Young Award with the Reds in the Covid-shortened 2020 season, Bauer signed a 3-year, $102 million deal with the Dodgers, who outbid the Mets.
Bauer started off 2021 pitching like the ace the Dodgers acquired, 8-5, 2.59, in 17 starts before MLB placed him on administrative leave, which it then kept extending until it suspended him three months later. The suspension kept the Dodgers from paying him in 2022.
Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Dodgers
“The Dodgers have 14 days to decide whether the suddenly eligible Trevor Bauer can rejoin their sagging rotation and improve their thinning team.
“It should take them only 14 seconds.
“No. No. No.
“The Dodgers have the stunning chance to add a former Cy Young winner to a depleted roster that in recent weeks has lost one MVP, four All-Stars and a clubhouse cornerstone.
“What are they waiting for?
“A thousand times, no.
“It shouldn’t be an option, a question, or even a passing thought. The decision should be made by the time you begin reading this column. The announcement should be made by the time you finish it.”
--Scott Boras, superagent, who represents the world it seems (you might want to check whose signature is on your power of attorney, for example), was at a press conference at Yankee Stadium on Thursday for the introduction of pitcher Carlos Rodon, and Boras commented on fellow client Carlos Correa and the medical issue that had the Giants so concerned they bagged out on their agreement.
“There is no current issue with [Correa’s] health whatsoever. There’s been a lot of discussion about backs and ankles. There’s nothing about him that is currently any form of a medical issue. All the conjecture and evaluation of him has been about physicians using their crystal ball for years to come.”
Correa was examined by Twins officials and an orthopedic surgeon from the Mayo Clinic after the season, according to Boras, and received a “recommendation for over a 10-year contract.”
The issue with the Giants reportedly stemmed from a concern over Correa’s lower right leg and an injury that occurred in the minors in 2014, when he broke his fibula sliding into a base and required surgery.
San Francisco doubted the leg would remain stable over the course of a lengthy contract, according to ESPN, and had concerns that would alter his mobility.
But Correa’s only issues over the past three years were for Covid-19 and a contused middle finger after being hit by a pitch.
So the Mets examined Correa for two days and we’ve yet to hear what their medical team came up with, but the story is that while it seems the Mets will still sign the All-Star, the length of the contract could be reduced.
Recall, the Twins had offered Correa 10 years, $285 million, but he turned that down for the Giants, and then the Mets’ came up with their 12-year, $315 million deak.
The Twins now say they had not “thoroughly examined” Correa since his original physical last March, which is contrary to Boras’ statement they examined him after this past season.
--Alex Ovechkin is now No. 2 all-time in goals, notching Nos. 801 and 802 Friday night in Washington’s 4-1 win over Winnipeg at home.
Even just like three years ago, I thought Wayne Gretzky’s 894 goals was one of sports’ untouchable records. I’m guessing you all felt the same way. I mean Gordie Howe was at 801 forever, and then Jagr 766, Brett Hull 741…
But since 2017-18, Ovechkin has had 49, 51, 48, 24 (Covid season), 50, and 22 thus far in 2022-23. Pretty, pretty consistent. He also doesn’t turn 38 until next September. I mean, heck, he’s going to do it. [When it comes to Ovechkin’s relationship with Vladimir Putin, I’m giving him a pass. He’s been nothing but a model citizen here.]
World Cup Ski Season
Both the men and women have competed in 12 of 38/39 scheduled events thus far.
I haven’t said anything about the men because no American has a podium finish as yet.
But Marco Odermatt is first in the early overall standings with 3 wins and 3 seconds. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (reportedly Mikaela Shiffrin’s boyfriend) is second with 4 wins, including 3 downhills.
On the women’s side, the aforementioned Shiffrin is the overall leader over Soffia Goggia, Shiffrin with 3 wins, giving her 77 for her career, five shy of Lindsey Vonn’s record 82.
Shiffrin has a bunch of slalom races coming up in Europe, beginning this coming week, so she could quickly close the gap.
No other American woman has a podium finish.
Note to Team USA…you don’t get eternal fame in Bar Chat unless you finish on the podium!
[As in a simple search on my site for Lindsey Vonn shows 168 references.]
--The Premier League starts back up Monday, Boxing Day, and managers, and many players, aren’t happy.
Tottenham, which plays Brentford tomorrow, had 12 players at the World Cup and manager Antonio Conte suggested he will only select layers who were not down in Qatar for this match.
“I am not really happy,” Conte said, whose goalkeeper is France’s Hugo Lloris, while the Spurs’ Cristian Romero was on Argentina’s winning squad.
“On one hand, you are happy because for my club, Tottenham, to have 12 players at the World Cup means that we are in the right way to try to be competitive and try to win something.
“But it is normal that when you have so many players (including England’s Harry Kane) play a tournament like this, especially during the season, that now it is not easy because the physical condition is not at the top.
“It is impossible to give them a lot of rest and for sure with the players that didn’t play the World Cup, and we work for four weeks, now they are in a great physical condition.”
--I’m guessing we’re going to hear nightmare travel and survival stories from this week’s storm and record cold for a while to come. Some of you know I’ve been into the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota more than once and think about this. The area had 30 inches of snow a week before the big storm…then there was Wednesday and Thursday’s snow, wind, and -50 windchills.
It is a real emergency, with many living in ramshackle houses that were always heated by wood, no road access, “12-foot drifts.” One representative told the Rapid City Journal, “We have drifts as high as some houses that stretch 60, 70 yards at a time.”
“I’ve seen across the reservation some members were burning clothes in their wood stove because they couldn’t get access to wood,” Anna Halverson added.
She had one family that had run out of baby formula and other supplies and spent four days trapped inside their home (again, as a result of the first storm), “before walking eight miles to get help because their baby was starving.”
Ugh. One 12-year-old who needed medical care died because emergency help wasn’t available.
The National Guard finally arrived Saturday to deliver firewood…but of course only to a central location. The tribe now has to get it to the needy and it’s a huge area.
Top 3 songs for the week 12/26/70: #1 “My Sweet Lord” (George Harrison) #2 “One Less Bell To Answer” (The 5th Dimension…great tune, but very sad…) #3 “The Tears Of A Clown” (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)…and…#4 “Knock Three Times” (Dawn) #5 “Black Magic Woman” (Santana) #6 “I Think I Love You” (The Partridge Family) #7 “Stoned Love” (The Supremes) #8 “Does Anybody Really Know What Time Is It?” (Chicago) #9 “Gypsy Woman” (Brian Hyland) #10 “No Matter What” (Badfinger…B+ week…)
College Basketball Quiz Answers: 1) The original seven members of the Big East, 1979-80: Syracuse, St. John’s, Georgetown, UConn, Boston College, Seton Hall, Providence (whose AD, Dave Gavitt, spearheaded the effort). 2) The first Player of the Year was Georgetown’s John Duren. 3) Villanova was added in 1980-81 and that’s when the excitement really built. The first season the seven members only played one game against each other. The second season it was twice each. [Boston College won the title at 10-4, B.C.’s John Bagley was POY.]
Very brief Add-on up top by Wed. a.m.