But, we do have NFL Playoffs to predict, first. Here we go:
Washington at Seattle.
I think everyone is getting sucked in by the nice story of the Redskins. They are also getting fooled by the last two wins that were impressive, but beating Tavaris Jackson and the Cowboys in Week 17 are not close to going into Seattle and beating the Seahawks in Playoffs. I don’t think the Seahawks are world-beaters, but beating Todd Collins is not too much to ask. Seattle 28, Redskins 20
Jacksonville at Pittsburgh
Best game of the weekend. The temptation is to take Pittsburgh because they are home, and ride the history of the Steelers. But, with Jacksonville healthy, confident from their win in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago, I actually like Jack Del Rio initially. But, then, I have to take David Garrard over Big Ben in a playoff game. Really? I am truly torn here, but I am going to listen to my instincts. No Aaron Smith, No Willie Parker, Maybe No Polamalu? Jaguars 23, Steelers 21
New York at Tampa Bay
I also don’t have a good feel for this game. I don’t think Tampa is very good, but, I do think they can put pressure on the passer, and no QB deals worse with pressure than Eli Manning. Plus, he is without Shockey, which can really free some things up outside the hashmarks. Jeff Garcia will also be under siege here, and then you have to decide between the Giants running game or the Bucs. Once again, very close call. I think I like the Giants here, but not by much. New York 24, Tampa Bay 20.
Tennessee at San Diego
Nobody has a more “must win” situation this weekend than the Chargers and Norv Turner. But, lucky for them, the Titans are a mess health wise, and although they should slow down the Chargers offense, I don’t see how Tennessee gets to 17 points. The Chargers will have to work for their points, but they should get enough to advance to Indianapolis easily. Chargers 24, Titans 14
Cowboys look to write a new resume ..
Playoff proven is a phrase that's foreign to the Dallas Cowboys.
Their last postseason victory came in 1996. Their head coach is 0-3 in the playoffs. Their quarterback is 0-1.
Of the 53 players on their active roster, only six have won a playoff game. And all of them notched their victories with other teams. Still, the Cowboys (13-3) say they are confident their lack of postseason winners won't be a factor in the outcome of their divisional-round game Jan. 13 against Washington (9-7), Tampa Bay (9-7) or the New York Giants (10-6).
"I'm definitely looking forward to winning my first one," linebacker Akin Ayodele told reporters in Irving. "A lot of us in here are like that."
That includes Wade Phillips, who lost two playoff games while coaching Buffalo and one with Denver.
"It's not about me, but the only time I've been in the playoffs as a head coach has been on the road as an underdog, and we almost won a couple of those," Phillips said. "This is a little different. We've got a stronger team than I've been around, and we are playing at home."
Dallas, the NFC's No. 1 seed, has a first-round bye before playing its first playoff game at Texas Stadium in nine years.
That puts the Cowboys in the same spot as AFC juggernaut New England, the first team to finish the regular season 16-0.
Strong safety Roy Williams has been added to the NFC Pro Bowl roster, raising the number of Cowboys chosen for the game to a team-record 12 — one more than the 1993 and 1994 teams. Williams took the place of murdered Washington safety Sean Taylor. The league also announced Hamlin would start at free safety. ... Williams says he's going to wear No. 38 next season, his number while at Oklahoma. "Eight in the Bible is regarded as a new beginning, and I feel that after this season it's time to switch over," Williams said.
Stars Free Falling …
The spiral down continued Thursday for the Dallas Stars and Marty Turco, who allowed three Minnesota goals on the first four shots he faced and was pulled 13:14 into the game.
Dallas went on to lose 6-3 – its third loss in a row – and fell to 23-16-4 (50 points). Minnesota, meanwhile, moved to 23-15-2 (48 points) and closed the gap in a tightening Western Conference.
"For us to be a good team, we have to have all the pieces in place, and we're missing a lot of pieces right now," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "It's just as simple as that."
While the Stars are missing injured players such as Sergei Zubov, Jere Lehtinen, Jussi Jokinen and Philippe Boucher, Tippett was referring to the product on the ice.
Dallas made mistakes in all phases of the game. The struggling power play has not scored in four games and is 0-for-16 in that span. It had two chances in the first period, resulting only in a short-handed goal for the Wild.
Marian Gaborik broke in and scored on Turco when the Stars' goalie made a failed attempt at a poke check. Turco, who struggled in Detroit the night before, then allowed goals to Pavol Demitra and Pierre-Marc Bouchard in the next 3:24. He was pulled in favor of backup goalie Mike Smith.
When asked if Turco might need an extended break, Tippett said: "I don't know. We'll see."
Smith made some key saves to keep the Stars in the game, but he was beat on a Gaborik shot in the first period, yielded a power-play goal to Eric Belanger in the second and also was beat late in the game by Mark Parrish.
As Tippett said, it was a little bit of everything. The goaltending wasn't great and the special teams play was below par. The top lines were better than they were in Detroit the night before, but they did not carry the game.
"It's everything," Tippett said. "Every part of our game."
We better see some good hockey on Saturday afternoon. The Stars need to get back on
the win train.
Kansas wins a tough, sloppy Orange Bowl …Big win for the Big 12…
Instead of their usual blue, the Kansas Jayhawks wore red shirts for the Orange Bowl. And that was not their only surprise during a 24-21 victory over Virginia Tech in what was, finally, a tense and interesting game in this season’s Bowl Championship Series.
The Jayhawks scored an early touchdown on a 60-yard interception return by Aquib Talib. They added 10 more points that were set up by two more interceptions. They blocked a field goal attempt by Virginia Tech that would have tied the game.
And they got extra style points for a fake punt on fourth down that produced a first down. The Jayhawks did not dominate the favored Hokies, but they were good enough keep them from coming quite all the way back from a 17-point deficit.
“The game just didn’t fit right,” said Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer.
Mark Mangino, the coach of the Jayhawks, liked the fit, especially that of the red shirts that Kansas has worn just six times in its history, all for victories. His players were surprised by the shirts, he said.
“They weren’t expecting it,” he said. “They acted like kids on Christmas morning.”
Kansas, ranked eighth in the B.C.S., finished 12-1. Virginia Tech, ranked third, finished 11-3. The result was not secure until the Jayhawks ran out the clock with a final drive that began when they captured an unsuccessful on-side kick by the Hokies.
This sort of show was sorely needed by college football and the B.C.S., which endured one-sided mismatches in the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl. Perhaps the television audience lingered longer than some fans in Dolphin Stadium.
Although a sellout of 74,111 was announced, there were many empty seats in the upper deck at the start of the game. Scalpers at curbside before the game tried to unload fists full of tickets and many fans went home early despite the tight score.
Sooners try to sort through what went wrong …
Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops' reputation as "Big Game Bob" is quickly fading.
Stoops' Sooners lost their fourth consecutive BCS bowl Wednesday night, 48-28 to West Virginia, to finish the season 11-3. It was OU's second consecutive defeat in the Fiesta Bowl.
"It is not very positive," Stoops said of OU's recent BCS bowl woes. "You get to this position, obviously you are doing a lot of things positive and good. But you need to finish out and play well in these games."
Stoops said he doesn't want his players' memory of OU's loss to West Virginia to go away in the near future.
"They don't need to get it out of their minds too soon," Stoops said.
Stoops is always quick to remind everyone that the Sooners have won five Big 12 championships this decade – including two in a row – with five different quarterbacks. No other Big 12 school has won more than one title in the last eight seasons. And don't forget about OU's national title in 2000.
But Stoops' teams have lost their magic touch between the end of the regular season and the bowl game the last five seasons and repeatedly showed up seemingly not ready to play in the finale.
In OU's last five bowls, the Sooners have trailed at halftime and been outscored 100-36 in the first half. The Sooners' vaunted defense has allowed an average of 48.7 points in OU's last three BCS bowls. Against West Virginia, OU had minus-1 yard in the first quarter.
"We need to really look at what we need to do differently," Stoops said. "Obviously, I need to do things differently as a head coach, and players, we need to have some discipline to us."
OU certainly played undisciplined, finishing with 13 penalties for 113 yards.
Stoops certainly didn't help the Sooners when he turned Riverboat Gambler in the third quarter after his defense had finally slowed West Virginia's run game and OU had cut the lead to one score, 20-15.
With the momentum in OU's favor, Stoops called for an onside kick that was recovered
by West Virginia. The Mountaineers took advantage of the short field, and six players later, scored a touchdown. OU never recovered.
Sooner Nation spent Thursday blasting Stoops and OU on message boards and radio sports talk shows, but the optimists among Oklahoma's faithful can look positively toward next season.
Provided no juniors declare early for the 2008 NFL draft, OU will return seven starters on defense – including All-American linebacker Curtis Lofton and the Big 12 sacks leader, defensive end Auston English – and nine starters on offense. Among the offensive starters back is freshman quarterback Sam Bradford, who led the nation in passing efficiency, and the entire offensive line, which allowed only 14 sacks.
Of the two starters OU has to replace, the Sooners' second-team players at those positions this season – running back DeMarco Murray and tight end Jermaine Gresham – outperformed the starters most of the year.
Clemens makes us laugh on 60 minutes …
Roger Clemens says he was injected with "Lidocaine and B-12" and not steroids or human growth hormone by former trainer Brian McNamee, according to a portion of an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" released Thursday.
"Lidocaine and [vitamin] B-12. It's for my joints, and B-12 I still take today," Clemens told Mike Wallace in the interview, which is scheduled to be shown Sunday night. It is Clemens' first interview since the release of the Mitchell report in December.
In the Mitchell report, McNamee claims to have injected Clemens with steroids in 1998, 2000 and 2001. He said he injected the seven-time Cy Young Award winner with HGH in 2000, according to the report.
According to CBS, Clemens calls the accusation that he used steroids and HGH "ridiculous" and says he "never" used any banned substances. The interview was conducted last Friday at Clemens' home in Katy, Texas, a suburb west of Houston.
Wallace asked Clemens if he swears he didn't use banned substances. "Swear," Clemens responds.
Lidocaine is a local anesthetic that can be used by dentists and in minor surgery. It also is available as part of ointments used to treat skin inflammation.
Clemens is scheduled to hold a news conference on Monday, the day after the interview is broadcast.
Earl Ward, an attorney for McNamee, said his client stands by "everything he said to Senator Mitchell and federal investigators."
"Brian has a master's degree in sports medicine," Ward told ESPN The Magazine's Shaun Assael. "He knows the difference between Lidocaine, B-12 and testosterone. What he injected into Roger Clemens wasn't Lidocaine or B-12. It was testosterone."
Another lawyer for McNamee, Richard Emery, has threatened to sue Clemens for defamation.
"I think that this is a lawyers' game, which allows him to try and attempt to say that McNamee didn't know what he was injecting or that at least Clemens didn't know what he was injecting,'' Emery said.
"It really depends now on how the whole interview goes, and whether he goes after Brian. Look, I don't care whether Clemens used Sodium Pentothal. I don't care if he used strontium 90. My only concern is for Brian's well-being and his future.''
Email from Ladd Biro of the DMN:
Hey Bob. Happy New Year to you.
I’ve only had a chance to catch you and Dan intermittently over the last couple of days. Thought I heard you say you were going to wrap up your FF league coverage today. Also heard Brandon Marshall come up in your mix with Norm earlier.
Thought I’d shoot you a link to my Perfect Draft: Final Cut column that ran Monday, in case you’re interested in referencing what you could have done better in the draft (and where you may have gone horribly wrong). For example, not only does everyone regret not drafting Tom Brady and Randy Moss, people may forget that you could have drafted them in the 3rd and 4th rounds, respectively – if not later. Marshall was there in Rd 14.
Anyway, in case you have any interest:
Thanks, and all the best.
We made it through another year, bro!
Today at 1pm, USA vs Canada in the World Jr Championships. Here are the best of US-Canada clips, although strongly slanted to favor Canada: