An Exciting Sports Weekend It Was
There was a real air of finality surrounding the last weekend of the NFL’s regular season.
The Washington Redskins, who only needed to win at home against the New York Giants to reach the playoffs for a second straight season, collapsed in a heap and lost 19-10. The Oakland Raiders, needing only a win to clinch the AFC West, the second seed in the playoffs and a bye week, got crushed 24-6 by the Denver Broncos, dropping to the fifth seed in the AFC and a wild-card berth. And the Detroit Lions, seeking their first NFC North title since 1993, saw that slip away as they lost to the Green Bay Packers 31-24, though the Lions made the playoffs as a wild card.
Broncos coach Gary Kubiak told his team he was retiring; the San Diego Chargers fired coach Mike McCoy after four seasons; the San Francisco 49ers fired general manager Trent Balke and coach Chip Kelly. Kelly lasted only one year and presided over a 2-14 disaster. That makes six teams that will be looking for new leadership, though Black Monday often brings surprises.
The upcoming weekend playoff picture: The Raiders, with an unsettled quarterback situation after Matt McGloin hurt his shoulder, visit the Houston Texans, also with an unsettled QB situation after Tom Savage’s concussion, on Saturday at 4:35 p.m. on ESPN/ABC; the Lions go out to Seattle for Saturday night’s 8:15 p.m. game on NBC.
Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:05 p.m., CBS; New York Giants-Green Bay Packers, 4:40 p.m, Fox.
First-round byes in the AFC: New England (plus overall home-field advantage) and the Kansas City Chiefs; in the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons.
Clemson always wanted to avenge its 45-40 loss in the national championship game last year to Alabama and will get the chance. The Tigers destroyed Ohio State 31-0, marking the Buckeyes’ first shutout defeat since 1993. Alabama ground down Washington 24-7 and is favored by seven points over Clemson in the national championship on Jan. 9 in Tampa.
Georgia Tech shocked No. 9 North Carolina 75-63, Virginia Tech dumped No. 5 Duke 89-75 and No. 20 Florida State beat No. 12 Virginia 60-58. The ACC looks pretty good (and No. 6 Louisville disposed of No. 16 Indiana 77-62)…In the NBA, the Atlanta Hawks snapped an 11-game losing streak against the San Antonio Spurs, beating them 114-112. Paul Millsap scored 32 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. added 29 for Atlanta.
Post By: Larry Weisman, a longtime sportswriter for USA TODAY, blogs for Twistity.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrLarryWeisman