M!KEDROP DAILY brings you hot takes on the biggest stories in sports and recaps the previous days’ news and memorable moments.
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The Best Thing that Happened This Weekend
MIKEDROPSPORTS focuses coverage on basketball and football but if a major story comes up in baseball, hockey, or other, we will certainly cover it too. I didn’t want this amazing story to get lost from the weekend. Snoop Dogg joined the announcer’s booth during the LA Kings/Penguins game Saturday night and well…it went about as you’d expect. Have a listen!
NFL Championship Weekend is Set
The NFL season is down to four teams, and it’s the four best teams. 1 vs 2 in the AFC, 1 vs 2 in the NFC. All four lower seed road teams came into this weekend riding waves of momentum while the top four teams were all on bye last week, yet the top seeds all came away victorious.
Chiefs – KC won their first home playoff game since 1993! And Andy Reid improved to 2-4 in the playoffs as Chiefs head coach. They jumped ahead of the Colts early and despite a few hiccups, it never felt like they were in trouble. The defense was great with 3 sacks and limited Colts offense to 0-9 on third downs. Patrick Mahomes played well in his first playoff game in the snow and freezing cold and Damien Williams ran really well. Remember Kareem Hunt? Remember Spencer Ware? Williams had 129 yards rushing on 25 carries and a touchdown and also caught 5 passes. Mahomes, statistically wasn’t great, but he made the plays he needed to.
Rams – For the first time since 2004, the Rams won a playoff game! The Offensive Line was the major difference in this game. Todd Gurley and CJ Anderson combined to run for 238 yards and 3 touchdowns. Anderson ran really well and made a major difference. The Cowboys defense got zero pressure on Jared Goff all day.
Patriots – Here’s a shocker – the Patriots will appear in their 8th straight AFC Championship game. Tom Brady was Tom Brady but it was the running game that sparked the Patriots. Sony Michel ran 24 times for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns. Rex Burkhead also scored on the ground. Their other running back, James White, had zero carries but caught 15 passes on 17 targets, for 97 yards.
Saints – Despite coach Sean Payton spending more time collecting 250,000 $1 bills to show to his players, the Saints got the job done and have still never lost a home playoff game in the Payton/Drew Brees era. It wasn’t perfect, they got the job done to advance to their first NFC title game since 2009 (the year they won the Super Bowl). Michael Thomas set a new Saints record with 170 yards receiving on 12 catches and also caught one of Brees’ 2 touchdown passes.
Looking ahead to next week – as noted above, these are the four best teams in football. Patriots beat the Chiefs this year 43-40 and the Saints beat the Rams 45-35.
Quite honestly, these teams should all have their heads up after this weekend. Other than the Chargers (who tied for the best record in the AFC), the other three teams overcame horrible starts (or seasons, in the case of the Eagles) and despite the barriers in front of them, made the playoffs and made it this far.
Colts – What a year for the Colts. Rather than dwell on Indy’s poor performance let’s look back at a great year and an exciting future.
- 2018 draft was a huge success with Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard.
- Andrew Luck played 18 games and played like the old Luck. Colts made playoffs after a 1-5 start.
- Frank Reich (my pick for Coach of the Year) proved to be the best hire from last year’s coaching carousel
- 9 total draft picks and $100+ million in cap space
Indy will have a few needs (defensive depth, WR) but this team will remain in the AFC South hunt for years to come.
Cowboys – This one hurts if you are a Cowboys fan because this game always felt like it was within reach, but always felt so far. A defensive unit that was a major reason why the team got this far, fell completely flat and got torched. This game came down to two plays for the Cowboys – CB Byron Jones committed a hands to the face penalty on a crucial 3rd and 14 in the first half. Rams would go on to score a TD later that drive. And at the end of the first half, Dak Prescott was sacked by Cowboys guard La’el Collins. He was….wait….what?
Like the Colts above, Dallas overcame a poor start (3-5) and rallied to win 7 of their final 8, won the division, and won a playoff game for the second time in three years in the Dak/Zeke era. But Divisional Round games seem to be their ceiling as Jason Garrett is 0-3 in this round and the Cowboys haven’t advanced since 1995.
Chargers – This Chargers team was supposed to be different. From coaching to talent, this team was supposed to be different. They were the same as every Chargers team before them and the same as every opponent to ever face the Patriots. A disappointing end to a great season, Chargers just ran into a far superior opponent. The defense made no adjustments.
Eagles – Like the Colts and Cowboys, Eagles were left for dead at one point. At 6-7, coming off a loss to the Cowboys, things seemed bleak. One week later, they beat the Rams with Nick Foles at QB, because of an injury to Carson Wentz. They would go on to beat the Texans and Redskins to clinch the wild card and beat the Bears last week in Chicago. But the luck finally ran out. Nick Foles threw 2 interceptions, including the one that ended the Eagles season, on a ball that bounced off of Alshon Jeffery’s hands. Eagles have a major decision on their hands – Carson Wentz is the more talented QB but something about Foles and the offense just clicks when he is in the game. Foles could walk away for no compensation as a free agent, whereas Wentz could net 2-3 first round picks and/or a star player (Antonio Brown?).
Assessing Super Bowl 53
The Super Bowl will not be disappointing as it will feature one of these four matchups:
- Patriots vs Rams – Rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002. The best coach of all-time vs one of the rising stars in coaching.
- Patriots vs Saints – Of all of the QBs Brady has faced in his Super Bowl career, Drew Brees would be by far the best one.
- Chiefs vs Saints – The top two teams in each conference, most exciting offenses, and the top two candidates to win MVP.
- Chiefs vs Rams – Rematch of the regular season’s best game, which featured a combined 105 points and 1,001 yards.
“The Next Sean McVay”
Much of this year’s NFL head coaching searches have revolved around finding the next Sean McVay, meaning a young, offensive playcaller to run the team. This was evidence in a handful of hires as the Packers hired Matt LaFleur, who served as McVay’s OC in LA in 2017, Bengals are going to hire current Rams QB coach Zac Taylor, and in Arizona the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury. Kingsbury technically has no ties to McVay, but is young, handsome and innovative, which is what teams are looking for in their coaches.
I think what McVay has done with LA is awesome. He has proven to be intelligent, aggressive and makes good decisions in-games and in preparation. But can we slow down just a little. On Saturday night, McVay improved his playoff record to 1-1, in two years. For all the good McVay has done, he is still wildly unproven and his success is such a small sample size. So why are we focused on growing his coaching tree? Why not Andy Reid or Sean Payton?
Andy Reid’s current coaching tree consists of John Harbaugh, Pat Shurmur, Ron Rivera, Todd Bowles, Sean McDermott, and most recently Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy for Kansas City. Sean Payton employs three guys capable of being head coaches – Pete Carmichael, his longtime OC, Dennis Allen, the DC who helped turn around the league’s worst defense, and AHC/TE coach Dan Campbell. Why are teams that focusing on more proven commodities rather than dart throws based on a hunch?
NFL is often referred to as a copycat league and with so many bad teams, it makes sense that bad teams do what other bad teams do. So what if McVay is in the NFC Championship game. Can he win it? Doug Marrone coached the Jaguars to the AFC Championship game a year ago? Vikings played in NFC Championship game last year and they missed playoffs this year. I want to hire a coach with a proven, decade of sustainable success on their resume and worry less about how much hair gel a coach uses.
Blake’s Bitterness and Revenge In LA
No hard feelings from Blake Griffin regarding his trade from the Clippers to the Pistons last year? WRONG!
Michael Lee captions his tweet perfectly. Griffin signed a max extension in the summer of 2017 with the Clippers and they quickly traded him for Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley.
College Basketball Recap
- Texas Tech beat Texas, winning in Austin for the first time in 22 years
- Ole Miss won their 10th straight beating in-state rival Mississippi State
- North Carolina freshman Nassir Little remains one of the biggest disappointments in college basketball. He played just 19 minutes off the bench and scored 6 points in a 21 point loss to Louisville.
- Virginia (vs Clemson) and Michigan (vs Northwestern) both remained the nation’s lone unbeatens
- Duke survived Florida State on a buzzer beating game-winner from Cameron Reddish
UTEP executed the play of the weekend
Northern Kentucky executed the “football” play of the weekend
Stat of the Weekend
Patrick Mahomes is the first QB drafted out of a Big 12 school to ever win an NFL playoff game
NBA MVP Watch
James Harden stinks. He only scored 38 points (not 40) and was unable to grab a 10th rebound and missed a triple double (38/9/12). More importantly, Rockets lost to Magic.
Kawhi Leonard scored 40 points with 11 rebounds in a double overtime win over the Wizards.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists.
Lakers lost at home to the Cavs, falling to 3-7 without Lebron James. That record is his candidacy.
And lastly, the real MVP, Nikola Jokic, scored 40 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists as the Nuggets beat Blazers.
Top 5 NBA Stat Lines of the Weekend
- On Saturday Karl-Anthony Towns had 27 points and 27 rebounds, a feat that hasn’t been done in 45 years
- Ben Simmons scored 20 points (0-0 from three), 22 rebounds, and 9 assists in a win over the Knicks on Sunday
- Wizards lost to Raptors in double overtime, but Bradley Beal scored 43 points, 10 rebounds, 15 assists
- Steph Curry scored 48 points, hitting 11 threes in a Warriors win over the Mavs
- Knicks rookie Kevin Knox scored 31 points, becoming the sixth youngest player in NBA history to score 30 or more points in a game
What to Watch For – Monday 1/14
Kyler Murray has reportedly demanded $15 million from the Oakland Athletics in order to move forward with playing baseball. Monday is the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL Draft, so the clock is ticking and the decision will come today.
Tony Parker won 4 NBA titles throughout his 17 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs. Now with the Charlotte Hornets, Parker makes his return to San Antonio tonight for the first time as an opponent.
Elsewhere in the NBA, the Nets are the current 7 seed in the east. They have a chance to prove they belong when they host the Celtics in Brooklyn. Pelicans vs Clippers, Pistons vs Jazz, Blazers vs Kings, and Grizzlies vs Rockets round out a light NBA schedule.
“Big Monday” double header in college. Duke’s exciting freshman trio hosts Syracuse in the first game, while Texas visits Kansas in the second game. And over on Fox, Nebraska has NCAA tournament aspirations. They visit Indiana and a win over the Hoosiers would go a long way to helping sure up their resume.
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