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🏈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. 

🏈NFL Division Playoffs

January 14, 2021
SOURCE: FORBES
SOURCE: FORBES

Saturday

LA Rams vs. Green Bay Packers, 4:35 p.m. ET: What happens to the old adage “defense wins championships” when both teams have stacked Ds? That’s where the offense comes in, and considering LA’s injury woes, Packers quarterback (QB) Aaron Rodgers should be the difference maker in this game.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Buffalo Bills, 8:15 p.m. ET: Here’s the deal: it’s supposed to snow in Buffalo on Saturday. The issue? Ravens QB Lamar Jackson has never played football in the snow. So while the cold never bothered the Bills anyway, the Ravens will likely have to rely on running back (RB) J.K. Dobbins.

Sunday

Cleveland Browns vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 3:05 p.m. ET: The Browns are still flying high after embarrassing the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, but they better get focused. Kansas City is coming off a bye, and a well-rested duo of tight end (TE) Travis Kelce and wide receiver (WR) Tyreek Hill is terrifying for any team.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints, 6:40 p.m. ET: It’s the battle of the boomers (okay, not quite!), with 43-year-old QB Tom Brady’s Bucs visiting 41-year-old QB Drew Brees’ Saints. The Bucs are 0-2 against the Saints this season...but something tells us the Saints won’t earn the sweep.

All weekend

You vs. other GISTers: As the Wild Card winners prep for the Divisional Round of the playoffs, you can prep for the second week of FanDuel’s GISTer-exclusive weekly fantasy contest.

  • Fortunately, it’s pretty easy (and so fun!). All you have to do is select nine players to be part of your ideal NFL playoff team, and info about each player is accessible through FanDuel’s platform.
     
  • It’s $2 to play, and with a $500 grand prize on the line (and 20% of participants walking away with cash), it’s well worth the investment. Sign up here and click here for a reminder email to make your picks.*

🏀Houston Rockets Trade Harden to Brooklyn Nets

January 14, 2021
SOURCE: MARK MULLIGAN/HOUSTON CHRONICLE VIA AP
SOURCE: MARK MULLIGAN/HOUSTON CHRONICLE VIA AP

The Harden saga: James Harden’s antics finally paid off. After he was asked to not attend yesterday morning’s practice, news broke around 4 p.m. ET that the Houston Rockets wild child got his wish and was traded to the Brooklyn Nets.

  • No one’s going to miss him much in Houston. Ex-teammate John Wall admitted earlier in the day that things in the locker room had “been a little rocky,” while DeMarcus Cousins called out Harden’s “disrespect” and said he “doesn’t care” if Harden leaves.

The Nets saga: It’s fine if Harden forgets to bring the drama to Brooklyn, because the Nets already have plenty. Exhibit A: Kyrie Irving. While away for personal reasons last week, the flat-earther allegedly attended a birthday party (people are still having birthday parties?!) and was recorded dancing without a mask.

  • While the NBA investigates, All-Star Kevin Durant will be there to welcome Harden to the team, though we’re not sure how coach Steve Nash plans to deal with all three giant egos. Good luck!
     
  • Keep an eye out for some spicy action on Saturday night in what could be Harden’s first game, when the Nets play the Orlando Magic at 6 p.m. ET.

The COVID-19 saga: In other news, the NBA, like the rest of the world, has a serious COVID-19 problem. The NBA was forced to postpone three games last night, bringing their total to nine rescheduled games this season.

🏀⛷️

Bits & Bites: This Week in Sports (US)

January 14, 2021
SOURCE: GIOVANNI AULETTA/AP PHOTO
SOURCE: GIOVANNI AULETTA/AP PHOTO

🏒NHL: Regardless of how desperately we missed hockey, it still feels like the new NHL season snuck up on us last night...especially with that 5:30 p.m. ET puck drop between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers. Sidney Crosby was back to his classic goal-scoring ways, but so were the Flyers, who won 6–3.

  • The prime matchup of the night was, of course, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. Renewing their age-old rivalry, the Leafs took the W in overtime. Check out all the scores from night one here.

🎾Tennis: Thanks to three straight qualifying wins, 30-year-old Vancouverite Rebecca Marino qualified for the upcoming Australian Open yesterday, securing her first major appearance since 2013. Age is but a number.

  • On the flipside, former World No. 4 Eugenie Bouchard was dealt a second qualifying round loss (and a classic sister snapback from her twin), so she’ll miss the major, due to start February 8th. Ouch.

⚽️Soccer: Everyone, including Megan Rapinoe, knows that Canadian soccer is the best soccer. And the North Carolina Courage showed they agree, drafting Deanne Rose, Canada’s youngest goal scorer in Olympic soccer history, as their 10th overall pick in last night’s NWSL Draft. Represent!

🏀🏒

Dallas: But tonight I bounce back

January 14, 2021
SOURCE: STEPHEN GOSLING/NBAE VIA GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: STEPHEN GOSLING/NBAE VIA GETTY IMAGES

🏀Mavericks: In his first game back since a season-ending knee injury, Porziņģis showed no signs of rust, dropping 16 points in limited minutes during his season debut. Don’t call it a comeback. Luka Doncic was happily reunited with his best buddy, dropping 34 points of his own as the Mavs sailed to an 104–93 win over the Charlotte Hornets.

  • Porziņģis’ return could not come at a better time, as the Mavs got off to a slow 5-4 start without The Unicorn. And they’ll need his help for tomorrow night’s 7:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. CT matchup with reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (pronounced YONNIS ANDEDO-KOONPO) and the Milwaukee Bucks.

🏒Stars: Feeling that FOMO? Same. While the rest of the NHL enjoys their season openers, we’ll have to wait until at least next Tuesday for the puck to drop due to the Stars’ ongoing COVID-19 issues. The NHL reported their training camp testing numbers on Tuesday and 17 of the 27 players who tested positive were from Dallas. Not good.

  • Luckily, most players are asymptomatic and on their way to recovery. But handling a COVID-19 outbreak is just the first test for Dallas. In a rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup final, the Stars will face the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning in next Tuesday’s season opener. No pressure, no diamonds, right?