The Return: Sports in 2021

January 4, 2021

Welcome Back,

After two weeks away, we return on the heels of a memorable Sunday Night Football game. The NFC East (the worst division in NFL history) was decided by Eagles third-string QB Nate Sudfeld and one of the worst tank jobs in recent sports history.

Welcome to 2021.

Letter Rip!

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NFL

The Playoff Picture

Image via @NFL Twitter

Who’s In & Who’s Out After Week 17

Welcome to Black Monday. The day after the NFL’s regular season brings news of firings and offseason changes for 18 teams — the Jets have already parted ways with head coach Adam Gase. For the other 14 teams in the postseason, the real work is just beginning. Seven of the 14 playoff spots were still up in the air before yesterday’s Week 17 matchups. Play-in drama was found in Cleveland, Indy, Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore and Miami before the ever-ridiculous NFC East finally found a champion. Against all odds, the Washington Football team and QB Alex Smith are playoff bound.

Here’s a look at the NFL playoff picture and a few record-breaking performances from the 2020 season.

NFC Playoffs
1. Packers (13-3)
2. Saints (12-4)
3. Seahawks (12-4)
4. Washington (7-9)
5. Buccaneers (11-5)
6. Rams (10-6)
7. Bears (8-8)

AFC Playoffs
1. Chiefs (14-2)
2. Bills (13-3)
3. Steelers (12-4)
4. Titans (11-5)
5. Colts (11-5)
6. Ravens (11-5)
7. Browns (11-5)

Super Wild Card Weekend Schedule
Colts at Bills (Sat. 1:05 pm ET)
Rams at Seahawks (Sat. 4:40 pm ET)
Bucs at Washington (Sat. 8:15 pm ET)
Ravens at Titans (Sun. 1:05 pm ET)
Bears at Saints (Sun. 4:40 pm ET)
Browns at Steelers (Sun. 8:15 pm ET)

2020 NFL Season-Long Storylines

Additional Storylines
NFL: 2021 Draft Order: Top 18 Picks Set; Eagles Pick 6th After Loss
SI: Black Monday: Jets Fire HC Adam Gase; Jaguars Pursuing Urban Meyer as Next Head Coach

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CFB PLAYOFFS

1 More Game to Decide a Champion

Photo: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

#1 Alabama & #3 Ohio State to Meet in CFB Playoff Championship Game

After a season of speculation where the Big Ten Conference almost didn’t play, the Ohio State Buckeyes are going to the National Championship. The CFB semifinals featured two blowouts on New Year’s Eve, and college football’s final game will be a clash of undefeated giants. We’ll line it up for the title game one week from tonight, but first, here’s how the CFB Playoff semifinals were won…

#1 Alabama def. #4 Notre Dame (31-14)
The No. 1 team in the country confirmed it with a Rose Bowl win that was never in doubt. Alabama’s duo of QB Mac Jones (25/30, 297 yards, 4 TDs) and WR DeVonta Smith (7 receptions, 130 yards, 3 TDs) led the Crimson Tide to a 21-7 lead at the half before letting their defense shut the door on Notre Dame’s title hopes. The Irish went 10-0 to start the season before going 0-2 in the ACC Championship Game and CFB Semifinal.

#3 Ohio State def. #2 Clemson (49-28)
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney gave the Buckeyes some bulletin board material when he ranked Ohio State 11th in his final season rankings. OSU responded with a blowout in the Sugar Bowl last week. Justin Fields tossed six touchdowns as he outplayed Trevor Lawrence (400 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) in the highly-anticipated duel between the top two quarterbacks in next year’s draft. The Buckeyes return to the CFB Championship Game for the first time since winning the National Championship in 2015.

Other Notable Bowl Results (Highlights)
#5 Texas A&M def. #13 N. Carolina (41-27)
#9 Georgia def. #8 Cincinnati (24-21)
#6 Oklahoma def. #7 Florida (55-20)
#10 Iowa State def. #25 Oregon (34-17)

CFB National Championship
Monday, January 11 (8:00 pm ET, ESPN)
#1 Alabama vs. #3 Ohio State

Additional Storylines
CBS Sports: Ohio State’s Perseverance or Alabama’s Dominance?
Sporting News: Ohio State Plays Disrespect Card to Perfection in Blowout of Clemson

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NBA

The NBA Early-Season Forecast

Photo: Christian Peterson / Getty Images

Who’s Hot & Who’s Not After The First 2 Weeks

The NBA’s 2020-21 season officially tipped off on Dec. 22, and we’re now seven games into the season with a number of surprising storylines. The Orlando Magic started the year 4-0 and were the only undefeated team by December 31st. A few surprises are out ahead early, including the new-look Suns. Here’s a quick check-in on who’s hot (and who’s not) after the first two weeks.

Who’s Hot & Who’s Not

Eastern Conference Leaders
76ers (5-1)
Pacers (4-2)
Magic (4-2)
Cavaliers (4-2)
Hawks (4-2)

Slow Starts: Wizards (2-5), Raptors (1-4), Heat (2-3), Bucks (3-3)

Western Conference Leaders
Suns (5-2)
Lakers (5-2)
Clippers (5-2)
Pelicans (4-2)
Jazz (4-2)

Slow Starts: Nuggets (1-4), Grizzlies (2-3), Mavericks (2-3)

Additional Storylines
House of Highlights: Steph Curry Erupts for 62 Points on 31 Shots
NBA.com: Carmelo Anthony Passes Tim Duncan for 14th in Career Scoring

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NCAAB

College Hoops: Rankings Updates

Photo: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

Gonzaga & Stanford Still Undefeated Atop College Basketball Rankings

The holiday break brought even more cancelled and postponed games in college hoops, but the season rolls on into 2021. The top teams in both men’s and women’s basketball remain the same as when we left off. Here’s a quick look at where they stand before conference seasons kick into high gear.

Men’s AP Poll
1. Gonzaga (7-0)
2. Baylor (6-0)
3. Kansas (8-1)
4. Villanova (8-1)
5. Houston (7-0)
6. Wisconsin (8-1)
7. Tennessee (6-0)
8. Texas (7-1)
9. West Virginia (7-2)
10. Iowa (7-2)

Full Men’s AP Top-25

Women’s AP Poll
1. Stanford (7-0)
2. Louisville (5-0)
3. NC State (8-0)
4. UConn (5-0)
5. South Carolina (5-1)
6. Arizona (7-0)
7. Baylor (7-1)
8. Oregon (7-0)
9. Texas A&M (8-0)
10. Arkansas (9-1)

Full Women’s AP Top-25

Additional Storylines
ESPN: The Varying States of Bracketology in 2021
24/7 Sports: Kentucky Got Off to Worst Start (1-6) Since 1926-27

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THE STORYLINES

⚾️ The Padres Are Coming
San Diego was the breakout team of the 2020 season. After trading for two aces in the last two weeks — Yu Darvish and Blake Snell — it’s poised to be even better in the years to come. (The Ringer)

🏈 Alvin Kamara’s 6-TD Christmas
Alvin Kamara scored six rushing touchdowns to match an NFL record for the New Orleans Saints in their 52-33 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Christmas Day. Here’s how the NFL world reacted… (SportsNaut)

🏒 9 Days to Hockey Season
Thanks in part to a global pandemic, 2020 was a disruptive year to the NHL, and the sport of hockey in general… Here’s a look back at the 2020 offseason before the puck drops on 2021. (NBC Sports)

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📰 THE HEADLINES 

Jets Fire Head Coach Adam Gase After 2 Seasons, 9-23 Record
(NY Times)

Texas Fires Head Coach Tom Herman, Hires Alabama OC Steve Sarkisian
(ESPN)

Boston Celtics Legendary Player/Coach K.C. Jones Dies at 88 Years Old
(NBC Sports)

Auburn Football Hires Boise State’s Bryan Harsin as Next Head Coach
(Yahoo! Sports)

Rudy Gobert Agrees to 5-Year, $205 Million Deal With Utah Jazz
(CBS Sports)

Disgruntled Eagles QB Carson Wentz Expected to Request Trade
(Bleacher Report)

Michigan Football Nearing Contract Extension With Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
(Sports Illustrated)

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READER POLL

Question of the Day

What sporting event(s) are you most looking forward to in 2021?

🏈  CFB Championship (Jan. 11)

🏈  Super Bowl LV (Feb. 7)

🏀  March Madness (Late March)

⛳️  The Masters (April 8-11)

⚽️  UEFA Champions League (Spring)

🏀  NBA Finals (July)

🏒  Stanley Cup Finals (July)

🏅  2021 Olympics (July)

🎾  U.S. Open (Early September)

⚾️  World Series (October)

Other

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