🏈Wildcard Weekend in NFL
The set-up: This year’s postseason is supersized, with 14 teams having clinched playoff spots. The top two teams in each conference — the AFC’s Kansas City Chiefs and the NFC’s Green Bay Packers — have earned a bye, so the remaining 12 will play in six wild card games this weekend: three on Saturday and three on Sunday.
- The games will be played in the higher seed's stadium, and each team has their own attendance policy based on COVID-19 restrictions (which the Cleveland Browns know a thing or two about).
- Like every round of the NFL postseason, it’s one and done, so teams that win in this first round will move right on to round two (aka the Divisional Round).
Saturday’s must-see match: If you’re going to watch only one game on Saturday, make sure it’s the 8:15 p.m. ET matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) and the Washington Football Team (WFT) (7-9).
- The Bucs are the stronger team and the heavy favorites to win, but quarterback (QB) Tom Brady might want to watch his back: WFT’s rookie defensive end Chase Young has already marked him as a target. Bring on the drama.
Sunday’s can’t miss game: Saving the best for last, the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) will play the Browns (11-5) on Sunday night at 8:15 p.m. ET.
- The Steelers just lost to the Browns on Sunday, but we wouldn’t look into that too much: the Steelers were resting their best, while the Browns went all out, fighting for a playoff spot. Expect these division rivals to give us a wild Wild Card finale.
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Alabama’s DeVonta Smith Named 2020 Heisman Trophy Winner
🏈Football: Alabama’s DeVonta Smith was named the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner Tuesday night, making him the first wide receiver to take home the MVP award since 1991. How fitting for a topsy-turvy college football season. Smith gave an inspiring acceptance speech to close out the ceremony. Pass the tissues, please.
- Meanwhile, Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, the Heisman trophy runner-up, officially declared for the 2021 NFL Draft yesterday. Smith might have won the Heisman, but the NY Jets, er, Jacksonville Jaguars will also land a solid prize.
🏀WBB: COVID-19 sadly continues to impact college hoops. A positive test for No. 6 Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey canceled the highly anticipated matchup between her Bears and No. 3 UConn, originally scheduled for tonight. Wishing Coach Mulkey a speedy recovery!
- Thankfully there is a top-ranked matchup still on the docket for this week: a Pac-12 showdown between No. 1 Stanford and No. 11 Oregon tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. ET. Nothing like some midday hoops to start your weekend off right.
- With all of these hiccups, it’s no surprise the NCAA has opted to host the entire 2021 men’s March Madness tournament in a bubble-ish environment in Indiana. We love to see it, but we’re still (not so) patiently waiting on that women’s bubble announcement...
🏈NFL Postseason Stage is Set
The Browns and Bills: Not to be blunt, but these two teams have been the laughing stock of the NFL for a long time. However, now that they’ve been replaced by the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars, things are looking up as we head into Wild Card weekend (aka the first of four playoff rounds).
- With yesterday’s 24–22 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns secured their first playoff spot in 18 years. Yes, their playoff drought was old enough to legally order draught in England. They’ll now face a rematch against the Steelers in Sunday’s wild card game.
- Meanwhile, the Bills walloped the Miami Dolphins 56–26 to solidify the AFC’s second seed. The Bills haven’t won a playoff game since 1995 though, so we won’t hold our breath during Saturday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Wild thing: Other teams moving on to the postseason include the Baltimore Ravens, who clinched with a laughable win over the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Tennessee Titans, who won the AFC South by a single, almost missed, field goal.
- But it all came down to the regular season’s final game and the worst division in the NFL, the NFC East. All four division teams finished with a losing record, but the Washington Football Team was the best loser and took the title — and the final playoff spot — with a 20–14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Bye-bye Miss American Pie: Finishing first in the conference doesn’t just get you bragging rights — it means a first round bye, too. The Kansas City Chiefs locked up the AFC’s top spot ages ago, and with a win over the Chicago Bears yesterday, the Green Bay Packers claimed the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Let the games begin.
🏒Four Teams, Four Games Remaining in 2021 World Juniors
Canada vs. Russia: A year ago today, Canada and Russia both won their semifinal games, only to meet in the next day’s final. Canada won that gold medal game, and Russia has probably been plotting their revenge ever since. Well, their day has finally come: the two hockey powerhouses will face off at 6 p.m. ET tonight in the first of two semis.
- Canada is the tournament’s only undefeated team, and they have the best goalie we’ve seen in a long time in Devon Levi. If Canada can capitalize on some quality scoring chances while Levi keeps the puck out of the net, their ticket to Tuesday’s final should be well within reach. Touch wood.
USA vs. Finland: The Americans and the Finns have matching 4-1 records: Team USA lost their first match of the tournament to Russia while Finland’s only loss came against Canada. Now they’ll face each other in today’s second semi at 9:30 p.m. ET.
- Finland knocked Team USA out last year, so, like Russia, the Americans will be playing with a chip on their shoulder, but if they can stay disciplined and keep scoring goals like these, they’ll likely send the Finns packing.
The final: If our
predictions hockey dreams come true, then we could see a Canada-U.S. final on Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. ET. Could there be a better way to start off 2021 than with a World Juniors victory over the Americans? We think not.
Quick Hits: This week in sports, Canada
🎿Skiing: The first women's World Cup slalom event of 2021 took place in Croatia over the weekend, and legend Mikaela Shiffrin came within 0.27 seconds of her 100th podium. Close but no cigar. Her fourth place finish was still admirable though, in a rain-soaked slalom that her greatest rival, Petra Vlhová, won instead.
- Meanwhile, Canadian Erin Mielzynski had her best showing in five years: a fifth place finish. Amazing.
🏀NBA: We’re five games into the new season, but our beloved Toronto Raptors, who a mere year-and-a-half ago were on top of the basketball world, have managed to eek out only one win so far. We’re not panicking yet, but if they can’t pull out a W against the Boston Celtics at 7:30 p.m. ET tonight, we might just start.
- In other news, Canadian superstar Jamal Murray and his Denver Nuggets, who made the Conference Finals just four months ago, are hanging around the bottom of the Western Conference. Yeesh.
🏒NHL: As the World Juniors wind down, the NHL is winding up for their January 13th start. But — and it’s a big but — the Canadian division still doesn’t have the all-clear, despite the federal government waiving the mandatory 14-day quarantine for players returning to Canada.