Derrick Henry. Amid all the talk and excitement of who will ride the QB carousel and which signal caller will signal for a change of address, Henry is also a free agent in three weeks. And with the S.S. Henry steamrolling everything in sight at this point, he likely will be the most coveted one. In fact, with the looming uncertainty at QB, here's betting the Titans address Henry first. Buckets, with his over-and-over-and-over-and-over-again style and punishment, he has robbed the Pats and the Ravens — two of the league's best defenses this season — of their will to tackle. Simply put, in a game dictated by QB play, protecting the QB, athletic wideouts and covering said athletic wideouts, the best player in football the last month has been a running back. The best football player on the planet right now is Derrick Henry.
Andy Reid. Everyone has rightly been praising Patrick Mahomes, and last year's MVP was spectacular as the Chiefs rallied from a 24-0 hole to a 51-31 win over the Texans. But with the hole looking deep and insurmountable — and with Reid knowing his playoff ghosts and where the blame would fall if the Chiefs faltered — the Kansas City coach remained calm and stayed the course. (Grant, Bill O'Brien was happy to help, but we'll have more on that later.)
Tony Romo. For the second consecutive week, the former Dallas Cowboys star QB stole the show and reminded all of us why he is so far and away superior to everyone else offering analysis on football games. It's staggering, really. To hear Romo after Deadpan Dan Fouts or Troy Always Optimistic Aikman and Former Champ Chris Collingsworth is like hanging a Monet in the elementary school art hall. He's so good it's smooth. He's so smooth he makes Jim Nantz likable. He's so likable, you are mad that CBS did not make him do both AFC games this weekend. Now comes news that ESPN is offering Romo record-setting money, and you know what? He's right there with Cosell, Madden and Gruden in the history of that job, because those were the only ones I can recall that actually drew viewers to the broadcast regardless of the match-up. Romo is there, and that is the highest compliment — and most valuable asset — any media member can ever achieve.
Georgia's effort in the transfer portal. Jamie Newman was great at Wake Forest. He's big (6-foot-4, 230 pounds). He's fast and a willing runner. He can throw it — right at 61 percent completion rate, 2,862 yards and 26 TDs — and he has experience. And imagine what he can do with those shiny toys on the perimeter in Athens after makes Wake formidable with those Deacons teammates. Here's more from TFP college football guru David Paschall. (That said, you can assuredly say that Kirby landed Justin Fields-light when he had the real-life Justin Fields standing next to him not that long ago.)
Hall of Fame announcements over the weekend. The NFL is cleaning up some backlog and voting messes, with an expanded 20-member Hall of Fame class in what it calls a celebration of its 100th anniversary. Whatever. But if they are going to show the moments that these dudes are informed — like they did with Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson, two Super Bowl-winning coaches who were informed of their induction in emotional displays on pregame shows this weekend — I'm here for all 20. Here's a look at those videos and handicapping the rest of the historic class, which will be announced Wednesday.
My NFL picks. Wow, another one-win weekend and two more tight losses leave me at 2-7-1. That's 22.2 percent, which is terrible, and it's also 22.2 percent better than what Colin Cowherd did over a 10-game stretch in the final weekend of the regular season through the wildcard weekend up to Baltimore-Tennessee. Hey, misery loves company, no?
Bill O'Brien. He got overly conservative when his team could have landed a knockout punch late in the first quarter. He kicked a field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-inches deep in K.C. territory. We all know what happened to that 24-0 lead. Well, the evaporation process was hastened by a ridiculous fake punt call about 15 minutes later.
Lamar Jackson. No one should be saying, "Hey, look, Bill Polian was right." Jackson had a great regular season and earned the league MVP award. But he now has two postseason stinkers — yes, he had almost 500 yards of offense against the Titans but he had more turnovers than the Ravens had TDs, and the only stat that matters is W. (Think Ryan Tannehill would rather have 500 yards of offense and be heading home or have thrown for fewer than 100 yards in each of the last two games and be 2-0?) And those two stinkers will be the entire storyline at the end of next season because you can't be a consistent all-timer unless you are ready to deliver in the "er" months.
Every 10-year-old with golf dreams. OK, "loser" may be a tough tag for pre-teen kids with high aspirations. Let's rephrase — Young male golfers in roughly a dozen years, hoping to be golfing's next big thing. Why, you ask? Well, it's clear you have not seen one Charlie Woods swing a golf club. And yes, Charlie Woods is the son of some dude named Eldrick Woods. He also goes by Tiger. Or daddy.
Charity shakers. From the files of no good deed going unpunished, here's the story of Jeff Bezos giving $1 million Australian dollars (a smidge under $700,000 U.S. dollars) to help fight the devastation of the fires in Australia. Now everyone is ticked that he didn't give more. Yes, Bezos has billions. Dude gives away billions, too. To a variety of organizations. And I'll say this: Let the first online egg with the call sign Lady O'Gaga who donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to any cause throw the first Twitter heckle. Want to know something else crazy, in this age of anti-shaming, if someone heckled the way Bezos looked or if he was overweight or just about anything else, the social media world would rally to his defense. But dude gives away $1 million and he gets shamed for it not being enough. OK.
Our homicide rate. Yes, it felt like there was more violent crime in Chattanooga, and the numbers prove it out. Here are the details from Rosana Hughes, but she tells us the homicide rate increased 65 percent in 2019 from the 2018 numbers.
Clash of the title game titans
The best two teams in the country are in New Orleans. (For more of the season, I thought The Ohio State was one of the two best, but Clemson took THE Buckeyes' knockout punch, stumbled a bit and then dropped the hammer.
Joe Burrow and LSU have been running roughshod over everyone.
It has been impressive.
Since escaping a scare against UNC, Clemson and Trevor Lawrence have been running roughshod over everyone as well.
Here's hoping — especially after an NFL divisional round that was way more snoozer and oh well than shootout and oh my — that tonight's game is the slugfest and back-and-forth fight we think it can be.
Here are a few random thoughts heading into tonight:
> A quick start could be critical for LSU. Burrow has been historically good and showed nothing close to nerves through his Sherman-like March to the Heisman. That said, being in New Orleans, a sluggish start to what Burrow has described every step of the way as his dream game could be quite interesting. Because this truth is undeniable. Burrow has been been great all year, but has never been here. Lawrence has been great here before.
> Biggest match-up of the game — and each is filled with future NFL dudes — is which wide receiving corps has the most success.
> Isaiah Simmons, the Clemson linebacker/safety hybrid who will be showered with love by Kirk Herbstreit tonight, is an absolute dude.
> LSU's corner tandem of Stingley and Fulton, each of whom will be showered with love by Kirk Herbstreit tonight, are absolute dudes.
I'm picking Clemson plus-6 and under 69. I think experience matters, especially here — both on the field and for the head coaches.
That said, if LSU rolls Clemson, here's thinking that K'Lavon Chaisson pressuring Lawrence will remind us how Chaisson is likely a first-round edge rusher next spring.
(And that will be OK, too, because then we'll get to hear Ed Orgeron say K'Lavon Chaisson, which is the most cajun name ever in the most cajun voice ever. Good times either way.)
This and that
— Marshawn Lynch, philosopher and financial planner? Absolutely, if you listen to this postgame interview after the Seahawks' loss to Green Bay on Sunday. "I done been on the other side of retirement, and it's good when you get over there and you can do what the [bleep] you want to. Start taking care of y'all mentals, y'all bodies and y'all chicken. So when you're ready to walk away, you walk away and you be able to do what you want to do." Amen.
— While my NFL picks have stunk in the postseason, here are two NBA picks tonight: New Orleans pick 'em over Detroit and OKC minus-1 over Minnesota. We are 6-2 against the number on NBA games so far, so there is that.
— Just so you know, the orange powder on your fingers after eating Cheetos has been officially named Cheetle.
— OK, I know we have a title game pick or two above, but we have a couple of NBA picks, too. We'll ride New Orleans pick 'em over Detroit and OKC minus-1 over Minnesota. Our NBA picks are 6-2 on the season, and doing way better than our college hoops picks (15-11).
— Man, just when you thought Johnny Vols Fans could not possibly hate Butch Jones any more comes the details in this story about how most of the offensive stars on the Clemson team playing for a second-straight national title tonight were headed to UT until Butch acted like Butch.
— Could have easily been on the loser's list, but Jerry Jones looks more like a selfish jerk than ever when you remember that Jimmy Johnson got into the NFL Hall of Fame before he got into the Dallas Cowboys ring of honor.
— The finalists for the Academy Awards are in. Here you go.
Of course we want your weekend winners and losers. It's Monday.
Also, let's offer an experiment group. Of the 10 Best Picture nominees — "Ford v Ferrari," "The Irishman," "Jojo Rabbit," "Joker," "Little Women," "Marriage Story," "1917," "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," "Parasite" — how many have you seen?
As for today, Jan. 13, let's explore.
Likely chance, if you are an actor born on this day, you are a) dreamy and b) destined to be considered for People Magazine's "Sexiest Man of the Year." (We're in a sad state of affairs when People's SMotY is more respected than Time's Man of the Year or SI's Sportsperson of the Year. Sigh.)
Born on this day are Liam Hemsworth, Orlando Bloom and Patrick Dempsey. So there's that.
On this day 52 years ago, Johnny Cash performed at Folsom State Prison.
Wow. On this day 90 years ago, the Mickey Mouse comic strip appeared for the first time.
As for the decision, well, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is 59 today, and considering she was nominated for and won Emmys in three different roles on three sitcoms and played on SNL since 1980, if we had a Rushmore of TV comedy since 1980, is she far left?
Who else contends? Discuss.