The Holiday Sports Guide

December 18, 2020

By: Jeff Yoder

🎄 The Must-Watch List 🎄


The Sportsletter Team is off for the holidays until Jan. 4, 2021.

With that in mind, we wanted to leave you with a little something to keep you on your game over the holiday break — The Sportsletter’s Holiday Sports Guide! Here’s what we’re watching the next two weeks.

But first, today’s headlines.



Justin Herbert Leads Chargers’ Game-Winning Drive to Beat Raiders in OT (30-27)
(Bleacher Report)

No. 5 Kansas Survives No. 14 Texas Tech With Game-Winner (58-57)
(CBS Sports)

Scott Van Pelt to Miss ‘Sportscenter’ After Positive COVID-19 Test
(Yahoo! Sports)

Reporter Tom Rinaldi Leaves ESPN to Join FOX Sports
(USA Today)

Sun Belt Cancels Conference Championship; Crowns Co-Champions
(CBS Sports)

NBA Investigates Jerry West & Clippers in Recruitment of Kawhi Leonard

Henrik Lundqvist Won’t Play for Washington Capitals This Season Due to Heart Condition
(NBC Sports)

All 15 Players on Houston’s Men’s Basketball Team Test Positive for COVID-19
(Yahoo! Sports)



The Playoff Before the Playoffs

Photo: Chris Graythen / Getty Images

This Weekend’s Conference Championships Will Determine the CFB Playoffs

The final CFB Playoff Rankings will be revealed on Sunday (Noon ET, ESPN). But first, the Power-5 conference championships will determine who’s in and who’s out in the next 48 hours. Will it be the same four teams we’ve watched all season? Or will we see a shocking upset that snaps the cycle.

Championship Week

Pac-12 Championship (Fri. Dec. 18)
#13 USC vs. Oregon (8:00 pm ET, FOX)

Big Ten Championship (Sat. Dec. 19)
#4 Ohio State vs. #14 Northwestern (Noon ET, FOX)

Big 12 Championship (Sat. Dec. 19)
#6 Iowa State vs. #10 Oklahoma (Noon ET, ABC)

ACC Championship (Sat. Dec. 19)
#2 Notre Dame vs. #3 Clemson (4:00 pm ET, ABC)

SEC Championship (Sat. Dec. 19)
#1 Alabama vs. #7 Florida (8:00 pm ET, CBS)

College Football Bowl Game Schedule
*A number of bowl games are still TBD

Additional Storylines
SI: In A Tumultuous Season, the ACC Has Risen Above the Rest
FTW: Breaking Down the CFB Playoff Scenarios for Conference Title Weekend



The Final Stretch

Photo: Stacy Revere / Getty Images

The Most Important NFL Matchups in the Final 3 Weeks

We’ve analyzed the NFL playoff race throughout the last month, but it all comes down to the next three weeks. Four teams have already clinched playoff spots (Packers, Chiefs, Steelers and Saints), but five teams can add their names to the postseason this weekend (Bills, Titans, Rams, Seahawks and Bucs). Here are the most important games during the NFL’s final stretch.

NFL: Week 15 (Dec. 19-21)
Bucs at Falcons (Sun. 1:00 pm ET, FOX)
Patriots at Dolphins (Sun. 1:00 pm ET, CBS)
Seahawks at Washington (Sun. 1:00 pm ET, FOX)
Chiefs at Saints (Sun. 4:25 pm ET, CBS)
Browns at Giants (Sun. 8:20 pm ET, NBC)

Complete Week 15 NFL Schedule

NFL: Week 16 (Dec. 25-28)
Vikings at Saints (Fri. 4:30 pm ET, FOX)
Dolphins at Raiders (Sat. 8:15 pm ET, NFL)
Colts at Steelers (Sun. 1:00 pm ET, CBS)
Rams at Seahawks (Sun. 4:25 pm ET, FOX)
Titans at Packers (Sun. 8:20 pm ET, NBC)
Bills at Patriots (Mon. 8:15 pm ET, ESPN)

Complete Week 16 NFL Schedule

NFL: Week 17 (Jan. 3)
Dolphins at Bills (Sun. 1:00 pm ET, CBS)
Packers at Bears (Sun. 1:00 pm ET, FOX)
Steelers at Browns (Sun. 1:00 pm ET, CBS)
Washington at Eagles (Sun. 1:00 pm ET, FOX)
Cardinals at Rams (Sun. 4:25 pm ET, FOX)

Complete Week 17 NFL Schedule

Additional Storylines
ESPN: The NFL Playoff Machine (Playoff Scenario Simulator)
USA Today: Chiefs & Saints Square Off in Week 15 Potential Super Bowl Preview



Run It Back: The NBA Restart

Photo: Harry How / Getty Images

The NBA Returns After the Shortest Offseason in League History

A mere 72 days separate the end of the 2019-20 NBA season and the beginning of the 2020-21 calendar. The offseason was brief but jam-packed with free agency news, draft acquisitions and promise of a new year. Two of the biggest stars in the game make their returns for opening night — Kevin Durant & Steph Curry — and a five-pack of Christmas Day games remain an NBA tradition. Here are the biggest games of opening week, but there’s an endless supply of NBA action throughout the break.

Opening Night (Tuesday, Dec. 22)
Warriors at Nets (7:00 pm ET, TNT)
Clippers at Lakers (10:00 pm ET, TNT)

Christmas Day (Friday, Dec. 25)
Pelicans at Heat (Noon ET, ESPN)
Warriors at Bucks (2:30 pm ET, ABC)
Nets at Celtics (5:00 pm ET, ABC)
Mavericks at Lakers (8:00 pm ET, ESPN)
Clippers at Nuggets (10:30 pm ET, ESPN)

Complete NBA Holiday Schedule

Additional Storylines
The Ringer: NBA Power Rankings: Starting From the Bottom
B/R: Predicting the Next Wave of NBA Stars to Demand a Trade



College Hoops On Tap

Photo: Douglas P. DeFelice / Getty Images

The Top-10 College Basketball Games Over the Break (Men’s & Women’s)

There’s nothing better than holiday hoops. And while the events of 2020 have shaken the schedule, there are a number of marquee matchups that still have the green light. Here are our top-10 college basketball games to watch over the holidays (men’s and women’s) in chronological order.

1. Saturday (Dec. 19)
M: #3 Iowa vs. #1 Gonzaga (Noon ET)

2. Sunday (Dec. 20)
M: #13 Illinois vs. #19 Rutgers (1:00 pm ET)

3. Monday (Dec. 21)
W: #1 Stanford vs. #11 UCLA (3:00 pm ET)

4. Tuesday (Dec. 22)
M: #5 Kansas vs. #8 W. Virginia (9:00 pm ET)

5. Friday (Dec. 25)
M: #4 Mich. State vs. #12 Wisconsin (12:30 pm ET)

6. Saturday (Dec. 26)
M: #1 Gonzaga vs. #17 Virginia (4:00 pm ET)

7. Thursday (Dec. 31)
W: #9 Kentucky vs. #12 Arkansas (8:30 pm ET)

8. Friday (Jan. 1)
W: #1 Stanford vs. #6 Arizona (TBD)

9. Saturday (Jan. 2)
M: #5 Kansas vs. #11 Texas (TBD)

10. Sunday (Jan. 3)
W: #11 UCLA vs. #7 Oregon (TBD)

Additional Storylines
NCAA: What 9 March Madness Contenders Might Put on Their Wish Lists This Season
SI: Despite Downplaying the Pressure of a Bad Start, Kentucky Knows It Needs a Win



Other Events to Watch

🏈 The CFB Playoff Announcement
The College Football Playoff Committee reveals the Top-4 teams in the playoff on Sunday (Dec. 20) at Noon ET, just one day after the final games of the regular season. You can watch the reveal on ESPN.

🏈 The Heisman Trophy Presentation
The schedule for the most prestigious award in college football looks a little different this season. The Heisman Trophy finalists will be revealed on Thursday (Dec. 24) while the virtual ceremony will be held Tuesday, Jan. 5.

⚽️ Boxing Day (English Premier League)
The English tradition of “Boxing Day” arrives next Saturday (Dec. 26) with a full slate of English Premier League matches. This year’s schedule features Manchester United vs. Leicester City (7:30 am ET) and Arsenal vs. Chelsea (12:30 pm ET).



What’s Next in 2021?

The Sportsletter crew wants to say thank you for sticking with us through such a challenging time. In a year when sports were shut down for almost four months, we were forced to navigate the hurdles of unique seasons and schedules. Even so, you came back each morning to spend a few minutes with us. Thank you.

When we come back in 2021, we’ll dive into the College Football National Championship, crown a Heisman Trophy winner, and go all-in on the NFL Playoffs. You can also look forward to more original content, underdog features and exciting new additions to our platform. The show goes on.

We’ll return to your inbox on Monday, Jan. 4. Stay safe, enjoy the holidays and watch a lot of sports. As we say…

Letter Rip!