NFL playoff drama. The NFL's the best. Period. There may be some of us who prefer college football. Or the major golf championships. Or even March Madness. And that's fine in those moments. But the NFL is the best because of moments like Sunday. The drama drips and lingers. It's like the last part of icing you apply on homemade cinnamon rolls. It's the last bite of buttered bread after a delicious meal. You think you know how great it will be, and then it's just that great if not better. And this is the crazy thing: Sunday was just the pressure to get into the playoffs.
NFL effort from teams without hope. There will be a lot of winners from this NFL weekend. Because they are deserving. But teams like Jacksonville and Houston and Detroit and others who played their guts out — and even the teams that sat their stars and had reserves play their helmets off — deserve a hearty visor tip.
The Raiders, and every blurry-eyed fan who stayed up for arguably the craziest final 15-plus minutes of game time in regular-season history. Cue Larry Munson and let's paint the picture. In the most-common mistaken city bowl in pro sports history, Los Angeles (the Chargers) were at Las Vegas (the Raiders). Winner gets into the playoffs. Loser goes home. Tie means they both get in, and apparently, it was the single most heavily wagered tie since odds were posted on Prince Charles' wedding neckwear and cummerbund. (Side question: Cummerbund has one of the sneakiest 'D's' in spelling history, no?) So Raiders lead 29-14 midway through the fourth. Justin Herbert — more on his immense skill set in a second — throws two TDs in the final 4:30 and gets the two-point conversion to send the game into overtime. The teams trade field goals, the offensive totals send every betting prop to the promised land, the Raiders looked content to run the clock out until Chargers coach Brandon Staley called a timeout and forced the Raiders' hand. Daniel Carlson's 47-yard field goal as time expired eliminated Staley's Chargers and put the Raiders and the Steelers — who would have been eliminated if the teams tied — in the playoffs. And that description undersells how amazing that game was.
Klay Thompson. A torn ACL and an Achilles injury have kept the taller Splash Brother on the sideline for almost two years. He returned Sunday night in a playoff atmosphere and scored 17 points in 20 minutes, and he makes the Warriors arguably the league's best team when he's on the floor. (Side question: Did you know that Draymond Green has been in the NBA a decade? Egad, where does the time go?)
UTC basketball. The Mocs continue to cruise and appear to be the shining star of the SoCon for sure and one of the better mid-majors in America. While we are here, you know the rules, when TFP ace sports columnist Mark Wiedmer writes on college hoops, we read and link Weeds' wisdom on college hoops. When he combines it with human interest and local folks, well, Weeds is out of this world. Such was the case Sunday as he provided more details and intel to former Mocs hoopster Wayne Golden's situation.
Bonus pick: North Dakota State. Uh, Alabama wishes it was winning at the clip the Bison do, considering that Saturday was NDSU's ninth FCS title in 11 seasons.
Brandon Staley. The timeout fiasco was indefensible. Yes, it will call added attention to his failed fourth-down gamble inside his 20 in the first half. But that's analytical strategery and lifestyle. That's who he is. The timeout was inexperience, and clock management that bad — when it costs your talented team a playoff spot and your franchise another season with a Hall of Fame QB on a rookie deal — is a fireable offense.
The Colts. Could it have been more simple? Beat the worst team in the league — Jacksonville still finished with the worst record in the NFL and will draft No. 1 overall despite winning Sunday — and you are in the playoffs. And the Colts blew it. Man, that team is entirely too good to be done at this point.
Award shows. I know I am in the vast minority of folks who for years would watch the awards shows. Zip it Spy. But here's the exclamation point on the simple truth: The Golden Globes happened Sunday, and I missed it without missing it. There was no Golden Globe broadcast, so we all missed, and here's betting none of us truly missed it.
UT hoops. That's a tough week, friends. Yes, losing at LSU is not a huge indictment. But the continued offensive shortcomings and hovering near the basement of the league — with surprising cellar-dwelling mates Arkansas (0-3 in the league) and Florida (0-2) — is bad enough. Doing it while the head coach is calling out 17-year veteran and fan-favorite John Fulkerson clearly shows there is chaos in K-town.
Vic Fangio and several NFL head coaches. Today is Black Monday across the NFL and here will be a lot of NFL jobs open. Fangio, the former Broncos coach, was ousted Sunday because Denver ended its season Saturday with a loss to K.C.
For all the marbles
Alabama-Georgia. As it should be in this season in which the SEC and the country had two elite teams, and everyone else in various tiers from very good to "What was that?" (Here's Paschall on the title tilt.)
Alabama-Georgia. The Heisman QB with what amounts to almost assuredly 10 other future NFL players on that offense against a defense that has likely 10 NFL starters and 15 draft picks in Georgia's two deep.
Alabama-Georgia. Nick Saban against his most accomplished former Alabama protegé in Kirby Smart.
Alabama-Georgia. The two, we could go on and write the entire script for the voice over for the pregame intro that will likely be read by Wright Thompson, who has a great Southern drawl, but why. Let's get to the big three.
Tide turning points: Is there a second wide out who can be productive? If so, expect points aplenty. Is Will Anderson the most productive defensive player on a field filled with future defensive Pro Bowl picks? If so, expect a long night for Stetson Bennett, the fourth. Is Bryce Young making plays on the ground? If so, Alabama will roll.
Bulldogs bullet points: Is Georgia's trio of running backs gashing Alabama between the tackles? If so, Georgia's balance will be huge. Is Brock Bowers mentioned glowingly on the first drive? If so Georgia is dictating its plan against Saban's defense, something that is seldom easy and rarely sustained. Is Georgia able to withstand the haymaker Alabama will assuredly throw? If so, Georgia fans can forget the 1980 jokes come sometime in the earliest of hours Tuesday.
But above all, here's the biggest question for college football's two most talented teams and two of the top three or four programs in the game today:
Is Kirby Smart ready for this moment? Period. He has assembled a juggernaut, a program that is Alabama's equal in everything but ultimate trophies.
And a big part of it is now on him and that monkey on his back will only grow until he slays it. And that's not hyperbole; that's fact.
Heck, Georgia got tired of 10-win seasons and sent Mark Richt packing. Kirby's averaging a smudge short of 11-wins per season, but without the ultimate prize, those feel merely like numbers.
A bottom line on a spreadsheet of a millionaire who has not really done anything.
This is Kirby's moment, good or bad. His defenders will deflect if Alabama wins; Kirby himself will eschew the credit if the Bulldogs prevail.
But this is Smart's time, win or lose.
This and that
— OK, we know who has what at stake in the Bowling for Bowls of Bowl Game Success, Bowler Optional. Alabama wins and HGLIII and Fat Vader win prizes; Georgia wins and Brent R and RTR19 claim the goods.
— As for picks, well, I like several. Under in the first quarter as I think both teams wade slowly into this one. Several Alabama tickets abound, but I liked it way more at 3 than 2.5 for mathematical reasons. Check for odds boosts at the various online sites. Like FanDuel is offering plus-250 on Alabama to be leading at half and to win in regulation. And there are a slew of new user bonuses out there, like Caesars offering a $200 bonus in free bets if whichever team you bet on scores a point.
— So, when a lot of five-star high school players become their school's all-time leading passer, it's not really that big of a deal. Well, MaxPreps player of the year Cade Klubnik accomplished that feat at Westlake High in Austin, Texas. Yeah, big deal right? Some of the QB alums at Westlake include Sam Ehlinger, Nick Foles and some dude named Drew Brees.
— The Yankees hired a female manager for their low-A minor league team in Tampa.
— Very newsy and readable front page of the TFP today. Interesting read from Wyatt Massey on reasons why Black people are moving out of Chattanooga. Very interesting detail in Andy Sher's story about the state legislature agenda that there is a huge, Huge, HUGE budget surplus in Tennessee this year. Hmmmmmmmm. And of course, to those of us who have paid attention, it's not a surprise whatsoever that the numbers showed Joe Biden has been more guarded and less available than any of his five predecessors, in terms of news conferences and taking questions. That's not a complimentary statement for our leadership, friends.
— So ESPN is trying to recreate the Manning Megacast with something called Kay-Rod — Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez — on Sunday night baseball this season. Uh, gang, I have my doubts because neither of those two dudes is as likable as Peyton. Period. And that's the linchpin on which the Manning Megacast hangs.
Weekend winners and losers. Go.
As for multiple choice Monday, of the young QBs still on a rookie deal, if the NFL redrafted those cats right now, who goes 1?
— Justin Herbert
— Joe Burrow
— Josh Allen
— Other and specify
As for today, Jan. 10, well, let's review.
Julius Caesar uttered his famous, "The die is cast" line in defiance of the Roman Senate that started a civil war on this day in 49 B.C.
"The Sopranos" debuted on this day in 1999. Golf clap. On this day 40 years ago, Dwight Clark had "The Catch" as the 49ers beat the Cowboys in the NFL title game. Yes, 40 years. Wow.
Nice, Thomas Payne's historic pamphlet "Common Sense" was published on this day in 1776.
Rushmore of Common. Go.