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🏈NFL Conference Champions Preview

January 21, 2021
Source: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Source: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

NFC Championship: Sunday at 3:05 p.m. ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Green Bay Packers: The Bucs have two big things going for them this weekend: history — the last time they made it to the conference championship in 2003, they won the Super Bowl — and six-time Super Bowl champ QB Tom Brady (who’s competing in his record 14th conference championship, BTW) at the helm.

  • But they also have one major thing working against them: this year’s Super Bowl is being held in Tampa, and a home team has never competed in the Super Bowl. The Packers are banking on this — and their own Super Bowl-winning QB, Aaron Rodgers — to get them through.

AFC Championship: Sunday at 6:40 p.m. ET

Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs: Considering their last AFC Championship appearance was in 1994, the Bills think the Bucs’ 18-year drought is cute. But they’re focusing on bigger things right now: namely, which QB will their top-notch defense face on Sunday?

  • KC QB and reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes left last Sunday’s game with a concussion, leaving back-up Chad Henne to take over. Mahomes practiced yesterday, but given the nature of the injury, we’re not betting on him playing just yet.

The GIST’s Conference Championship

GISTer vs. GISTer: Want in on the football action, too? We thought you’d say yes. That’s why we’ve partnered with FanDuel for a super-easy, GISTer-exclusive NFL fantasy contest. Here’s the deal: 

  • Step 1: Sign up for our fantasy league here before 3 p.m ET on Sunday.
  • Step 2: You have $60,000 to set your eight-player, one-defense roster. Each player has a price (the higher the price, the better the player) so budget wisely! 
  • Step 3: That’s it. Sit back and enjoy the games. 

What’s in it for you? Bragging rights and cash prizes. You pay $2 to play and $500 is up for grabs. The weekly winner takes home $100, and the top 20% of GISTers earn cash. Join our fantasy contest here.* 

🏒

The GIST's Bits & Bites - CA

January 21, 2021
Source: Alyssa Turner/Toronto Six Media
Source: Alyssa Turner/Toronto Six Media

🏒Hockey: Women’s pro hockey is making its 2021 debut on Saturday. The NWHL’s sixth season will be a unique one, taking place in a bubble in Lake Placid, New York, over a condensed two-week period. The six teams will play in a 15 game regular season, then head into a round robin before the sudden death postseason. 

  • Also making its debut: the league’s first Canadian team, the Toronto Six. Check out their schedule here (don’t miss Game #1 on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET), and keep an eye out for The GIST’s Sunday Scroll this weekend for a deep dive on all things women’s hockey.

⛳️Golf: The new LPGA season (much longer than the NWHL’s) is starting, too! The LPGA is kicking off their 34-tournament season with this weekend’s Diamond Resort Tournament of Champions. The four-day Florida event tees off this morning and features World No. 6 Brooke Henderson, who has big plans for 2021. Check out the leaderboard here.

Toronto Blue Jays Sign George Springer

January 21, 2021
Source: ESPN Stats and Info/Twitter
Source: ESPN Stats and Info/Twitter

The signing: In the largest contract in franchise history, the Jays have signed outfielder George Springer to a six-year, nine-figure (!!!) salary. According to the MLB, Springer was the third-best available free agent after his Houston Astros tenure ended in 2020.

The fit: Springer is good. Like, World Series MVP good. He was awarded the title in 2017, the same year the Astros won the heavily asterisked World Series. He’s also a three-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger recipient. Mix Springer’s skill and experience with the youth and talent of the Jays’ existing squad, and it sounds like a match made in heaven.

The rumors: To double down on the day, there was also word that the Jays were on the verge of signing Springer’s bestie and fellow outfielder, Michael Brantley, after the pair put up huge numbers in Houston over the past two seasons. 

  • But unfortunately (for us...good for him, we guess) Brantley re-signed a two-year deal with the Astros instead. We knew it sounded too good to be true.

🏈NFL Conference Championships Preview

January 18, 2021
Source: NFL/Twitter
Source: NFL/Twitter

AFC Championship

Buffalo Bills: Here’s something we haven’t heard since Kim Campbell was prime minister: the Buffalo Bills are Super Bowl contenders. It took them a while to warm up against the Baltimore Ravens in Saturday night’s game, going into halftime with a 3–3 tie, but once they got going, they never looked back.

  • The Bills took the game 17–3 to move on to their first conference final since the 1993–94 season. And to celebrate the win, Bills fans donated money to Ravens quarterback (QB) Lamar Jackson’s charities as a sign of respect for the elite QB. Be still, our hearts!

Kansas City Chiefs: Win the game, lose the QB. KC won their matchup 22–17 against the Cleveland Browns yesterday, but lost reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes to a concussion in the process. Vet QB Chad Henne subbed in to solidify the win, but it’s still too soon to know who will start next weekend.

NFC Championship

Green Bay Packers: The LA Rams never really stood a chance. Over 8,000 cheeseheads showed up to watch QB Aaron Rodgers lead the Packers to a 32–18 win on Saturday afternoon. That home-field advantage helped send the Pack to their fourth conference final in seven years and a chance at another Super Bowl a decade after their last.

Bucs: At 43, QB Tom Brady proved that age is but a number in last night’s primetime game against the New Orleans Saints, who were led by young gun QB Drew Brees (who turned 42 on Friday). The Bucs won 30–20 (with a big helping hand from the defense) and Brady is now on his way to his first-ever NFC Championship, but record 14th career conference championship. 

🏒Toronto Maple Leafs Lead All-Canadian North Division

January 18, 2021
Source: Sharks on NBCS/Twitter
Source: Sharks on NBCS/Twitter

Winnipeg Jets vs. Toronto, 7 p.m. ET: Okay, you ready? After losing to the pesky Sens on Friday, the Leafs rebounded well, beating Ottawa on Hockey Night in Canada. The Blue and White are feeling good after resident old-timer Joe Thornton scored his first goal as a Leaf in the process.

  • The other Leafs’ veteran (and former Senator), Jason Spezza, doesn’t share the same fortune. He was placed on waivers yesterday, meaning another team can pick him up. And if that happens, he’s threatening retirement. Weird ending to a pretty storied career, TBH.
  • For their part, the Jets are the only undefeated team in the North right now, with a grand total of one win. They had to miss practice Saturday after COVID-19 protocol kept them off the ice until yesterday, so they could be a bit rusty tonight.

Montreal Canadiens vs. Edmonton Oilers, 9 p.m. ET: Connor McDavid and his Oiler buddies have a chance to save face from Saturday’s brutal 5–1 loss to the Canadiens. But based on Habs goalie Carey Price’s stand-on-his-head performance, there’s a solid chance he won’t let that happen.

Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames, 9 p.m. ET: The Canucks — who we had pretty high hopes for about a week ago — are last in the North Division. Jinx, we owe them a coke. There’s hope though: star winger J.T. Miller could make his season debut after missing the first three games due to COVID-19 protocol.