The Path to the Playoffs

January 10, 2022

By: Carlos Alvarez

Welcome Back 

Sunday brought a doozy of NFL fireworks. The three final playoff spots all went to overtime winners in a thrilling end to the season. But there’s more football to come with tonight’s CFP National Championship (8:00 pm ET, ESPN). Will it be more titles for Alabama or history for Georgia?

Letter Rip!



OT Thrillers Lock Down the Playoffs 


Raiders, Steelers & 49ers Secure Last 3 Playoff Spots With 3 Overtime Wins


Three overtime games and a stunner in the AFC South solidified the last three playoff spots. In Sunday’s playoff-scenario matchups, the Colts were stunned by the Jaguars (26-11). That loss bumped Indy from the would-be 6-seed to elimination. And it was a double-win for the Jags, who still finished with the worst record (3-14) and solidified the No. 1 pick in the draft. Here’s how the last three playoff teams got in:


49ers def. Rams (27-24, OT)

San Francisco snuck into the playoffs with an overtime field goal to beat the Rams. QB Jimmy Garoppolo (23-32, 316 yards, 1 TD) was efficient in the must-win. The 49ers jumped the Eagles for the 6-seed.


Steelers def. Ravens (16-13, OT)

Another overtime thriller decided the wild card who took the place of the Colts. Pittsburgh edged out Baltimore with an OT field goal despite a monster day from Ravens RB Latavius Murray (16 carries, 150 yards, 1 TD). The Steelers secured the 7-seed.\\


Raiders def. Chargers (35-32, OT)

An unreal scene in Las Vegas featured a 15-point comeback by the Chargers in the final five minutes to force overtime. Countless 4th-down conversions by L.A. led to a game-tying touchdown as time expired. In OT, both teams hit field goals before the Raiders were faced with a decision — to take a knee and let both teams in or go for the game-winning field goal. They kicked it, and Daniel Carlson’s 47-yard kick was pure. Raiders in. Chargers out. Steelers in.


NFL Playoff Picture



1. Packers (13-4)*

2. Buccaneers (13-4)

3. Cowboys (12-5)

4. Rams (12-5)

5. Cardinals (11-6)

6. 49ers (10-7)

7. Eagles (9-8)



1. Titans (12-5)*

2. Chiefs (12-5)

3. Bills (11-6)

4. Bengals (10-7)

5. Patriots (10-7)

6. Raiders (10-7)

7. Steelers (9-7-1)


*1 Seeds Receive 1st-Round Bye

1st-Round Matchups: 2-vs-7, 3-vs-6, 4-vs-5


All Week 18 Scores & Highlights

Browns def. Bengals (21-16) | Lions def. Packers (37-30) | Vikings def. Bears (31-17) | Washington def. Giants (22-7) | Jaguars def. Colts (26-11) | Steelers def. Ravens (16-13, OT) | Titans def. Texans (28-25) | Saints def. Falcons (30-20) | Bills def. Jets (27-10) | 49ers def. Rams (27-24, OT) | Dolphins def. Patriots (33-24) | Seahawks def. Cardinals (38-30) | Buccaneers def. Panthers (41-17) | Chiefs def. Broncos (28-24) | Cowboys def. Eagles (51-26) | Raiders def. Chargers (35-32, OT)


Black Monday: Coaches on the Hot Seat

The first day after the regular season always sees multiple head coaches fired. We’ve already seen Jon Gruden (Raiders) and Urban Meyer (Jaguars) ousted this season, and Vic Fangio (Broncos) was terminated yesterday. Expect at least three or four more exits today, potentially including Matt Nagy (Bears), Pete Carroll (Seahawks), Joe Judge (Giants) and Mike Zimmer (Vikings).


Additional Storylines

CBS Sports: NFL Releases 1st-Round Schedule for 2022 Playoffs

ESPN: NFL Playoffs Preview: Schedule, Bracket, Super Bowl Chances for Teams

SI: Week 18 Takeaways: Jimmy G’s Niners Save Their Season, Jags Ruin Colts, Steelers, Somehow, Live



Here. We. Go.


CFP National Championship: #1 Alabama vs. #3 Georgia (8:00 pm ET, ESPN)


It all comes down to this. A rematch of the SEC title game and the 2018 national championship, it’s #1 Alabama vs. #3 Georgia for all the marbles. The Crimson Tide won the first meeting for SEC supremacy (41-24) behind QB Bryce Young’s 480-yard, 4-TD performance. The Heisman Trophy winner is the undisputed x-factor tonight, but the Bulldogs come in with a chip on their shoulder looking to avenge their losses in December and 2018.


Tale of the Tape


#1 Alabama (13-1)

The Crimson Tide are appearing in their sixth playoff final in eight seasons. Head coach Nick Saban claims seven national championships out of the program’s 18 total — tied with Yale for the most all-time. A win tonight would break the tie and cement Alabama as college football’s most decorated program ever (if there’s still a debate). Their only loss of the season came against #23 Texas A&M back in October (41-38).


#3 Georgia (13-1)

The Bulldogs are appearing in their second national title game of the playoff era, with the previous loss coming to ‘Bama in 2018. Head coach Kirby Smart has never won a title, and Georgia hasn’t been crowned national champs since the 1980 season. The program has two titles in its history (1941 & 1980). Georgia ran the table in the regular season (12-0) before stumbling against the Tide in the SEC Championship. Their biggest question mark: Can QB Stetson Bennett really lead the team to a title?


Quarterback Comparison

QB Bryce Young (ALA): 4,503 yards, 46 TDs, 5 INTs

QB Stetson Bennett (GA): 2,638 yards, 27 TDs, 7 INTs


CFP National Championship

#1 Alabama vs. #3 Georgia (8:00 pm ET, ESPN)


Additional Storylines

SI: CFP National Championship Game Betting Preview

FOX Sports: How Georgia Can Turn the Crimson Tide in Rematch

CBS Sports: Dawgs Bring Tide Blast from Their Past as Styles Clash in National Championship



Klay\’s Comeback


Warriors Top Cavs in Klay Thompson’s Return to the Lineup (96-82)


Welcome back, Klay Thompson! The second Warriors splash brother made his triumphant return to the court on Sunday after a 941-day absence since tearing his ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals. Thompson then tore his achilles tendon during rehab in 2020. On Sunday, he got the start for Golden State against Cleveland in front of a thunderous Chase Center crowd. Thompson scored 17 points in the Warriors’ win (96-82) and reached two milestones — 12,000 career points and 1,800 career 3s. The Warriors (30-9) have their other star back, and they’re tied for the best record in the NBA.


Watch: Klay Thompson Scores 17 Points in Warriors’ Win


Additional Storylines

Yahoo! Sports: Klay Thompson Makes Emotional Return for Warriors

FOX Sports: Klay Thompson’s Grueling Road Back From 2 Serious Injuries


Other NBA Highlights


Grizzlies Win 9th Straight: The Grizzlies continued their win streak Saturday night with a takedown of the Clippers (123-108) before Sunday’s win over the Lakers (127-119). They own the league’s top win streak.


Mavs Snap Bulls Streak at 9: Chicago’s nine-game win streak came to an end on Sunday thanks to the Mavericks (113-99) a triple-double from Luka Doncic (22 points, 14 rebounds, 14 assists).


Cam Thomas Calls GameThe Nets avoided losing five of their last six with an escape against the Spurs on Sunday (121-119, OT) courtesy of Cam Thomas’ clutch floater with 1.4 seconds left.



Upset Weekend in College Hoops


Four Ranked NCAA Teams Suffer Upsets on Saturday


The Baylor Bears (15-0) are still undefeated, but the fates of multiple Top-15 teams took a tumble in an upset-special Saturday on the hardwood. No. 2 Duke, No. 6 Kansas, No. 11 Iowa State and No. 14 Texas. The top-3 teams in the Big 12 all went down to cause a massive shake atop the conference. Duke’s loss to Miami (76-74) came down to the wire.


NCAA Men’s Ranked Upsets

Miami def. #2 Duke (76-74)

#25 Texas Tech def. #6 Kansas (75-67)

Oklahoma def. #11 Iowa State (79-66)

Oklahoma State def. #14 Texas (64-51)


Additional Storylines

ESPN: How the Latest COVID-19 Spike Will Impact the Rest of the College Basketball Season

NCAA: Women’s Hoops: USC Upsets Arizona, Gamecocks Cruise & More From a Loaded Sunday



\"🏒\" NHL: Stars Stall Penguins Win Streak

The Penguins’ 10-game win streak ended Saturday night via comeback by the the Stars (3-2). Dallas trailed 2-0 in the first period before Gurianov, Pavelski and Hintz all scored in the rally.


\"⛳️\"  PGA: Cameron Smith Captures Sentry TOC

Cameron Smith (-34) sunk a short birdie putt on the 18th hole Sunday at the Sentry Tournament of Champions to win the first PGA Tour event of 2022. He held off Jon Rahm (-33) and a furious comeback attempt from Matt Jones (-32).



\"🏈\" The 17th Game, for the First Time

The impact of the longer NFL regular season on player safety, potential fan fatigue, the bottom line and, yes, the potential for an 18-game season. (Sports Illustrated)


\"🏀\" NBA Trade Ideas for Buyers & Sellers

Separating the NBA\’s buyers and sellers ahead of the trade deadline has grown exponentially harder this season. Let\’s assume the trade deadline will be active. (Bleacher Report)


\"⚾️\" MLB Lockout Progress

The owner lockout that’s grounded the MLB offseason drags on. The two sides haven’t discussed issues since December, but there’s hope discussions will begin again this month. (CBS Sports)



Share The Sportsletter by using your unique Team ID and you\’ll get rewarded with team gear as you rack up points and climb the ranks!

\"E-Mail\" \"Facebook\" \"Twitter\" \"WhatsApp\"