The Denver Broncos had the game won.
The Atlanta Falcons had the game won. Then the Seattle Seahawks had the game won. Then the Falcons had the game won again. Then they un-won it again. Then they actually won it.
It was a wild weekend in the NFL, with four teams heading home for the offseason shaking their heads — albeit for different reasons. It will take weeks (longer?) for Denver for come to grips to how it lost to Baltimore, Seattle could not finish off what would have been a historic comeback in Atlanta, Houston still can’t figure out New England, and Green Bay’s defense was an insult to the NFL playoffs.
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As bad as last weekend was for some, the Monday hangover may be even worse (all odds provided by Sportsbook.ag).
Rahim Moore. Seriously? Seriously? Kids in their first year of Pop Warner know that when the other team needs a virtual hail mary at the end of a game, you don’t let any receiver get behind the defense. How the Denver Broncos did not know the same thing in a win-or-go-home NFL game is something that can never be explained. It wasn’t just Moore’s fault — Denver should have had at least three guys behind Jacoby Jones — but Moore will shoulder the blame (and he did) for his coverage on that play. Jones hauled in a 70-yard, game-tying touchdown strike with 31 seconds left before Baltimore eventually stunned the Broncos in overtime. The Ravens have opened as +9 underdogs in the AFC Championship at New England.
Packers’ defense. It started off well enough for Green Bay. Colin Kaepernick’s second pass of the game was intercepted by Sam Shields and returned 52 yards for a touchdown, giving the Packers a 7-0 lead. To say it went downhill from there would be a bit of an understatement. Kaepernick ended up having the game of his career, rushing for 181 yards and passing for 263 more while accounting for four touchdowns. In the second and fourth quarters alone, the visitors gave up four touchdowns. After the initial blemish, San Francisco did not commit another turnover the rest of the way. The 49ers have opened as -4 road favorites in the NFC Championship against Atlanta.
Seahawks’ secondary. Seattle’s big, bad secondary — led by cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman — allowed Matt Ryan to pass for 250 yards and three touchdowns, including a 47-yarder in which Roddy White burned Sherman by a solid five yards. After a miracle comeback by the Seahawks, their ‘D’ promptly allowed 41 pass yards in 18 seconds en route to a Matt Bryant game-winning field goal. The Falcons are not expected to make similar work of San Francisco’s defense, as the “over/under” for Sunday’s showdown is set at 48.5.
Rob Gronkowski. Last year, Gronkowski was way less than 100 percent in the Super Bowl, and it arguably cost New England the game. This time around, he won’t even be on the field if the Pats make it to New Orleans. Gronkowski re-injured his arm in his team’s win over Houston and is out for the playoffs. How will New England’s offense fare without Gronk on Sunday? The over/under for the AFC Championship is set at 51.5.
Houston Rockets. A three-game losing streak has the Rockets only 1.5 games inside the playoffs, if the season ended now. James Harden and company are coming off a week in which they fell to New Orleans (the worst team in the Western Conference at 11-26), to Boston by 12 points, and to Philadelphia — which went in on a five-game losing streak of its own. Houston has allowed at least 100 points in four of its last six outings. The team is +4000 to win the Western Conference title.
Manti Te’o. Any way you slice it, it was still a dream season on the field for Te’o. However, it ended — of course — in nightmarish fashion. Not only did Notre Dame get blown out by Alabama, 42-14, but Te’o also turned in his worst performance of the season. He recorded only three solo tackles and did not find the box score in any other way — no turnovers, no sacks, no tackles for loss, no passes defensed, no nothing. The question now (the answer to which we will not find out until April) is how much did the linebacker’s draft stock suffer. Alabama is an early +250 favorite to win its third straight BCS title in 2014, while Notre Dame is back at +3000.
Undefeated teams. And then there were none. All four remaining undefeated teams in college basketball took a tumble last week. First Wyoming lost at home to Boise State, 63-61, then Arizona ran out of late-game magic at Oregon, then Ryan Kelly-less Duke fell at N.C. State. On Sunday, it was all right there for Michigan to ascend to the No. 1 ranking for the first time since November of 1992. Instead, the Wolverines succumbed at Ohio State on Sunday, 56-53, after a potential go-ahead trey by Trey Burke went in and out. Michigan is still the co-favorite (with Indiana) to win the NCAA Championship at +600.
Kevin O’Neill. O’Neill was given his marching orders from USC on Monday. Ironically, it came after the Trojans’ biggest win of the season on Saturday, a 76-59 domination of host Utah. Of course, that such a victory was their biggest of the season says a lot — too much, in fact, for the fate of O’Neill. Associate head coach Bob Cantu will take over on an interim basis for the rest of the year. USC’s next contest is a tough one against Oregon, which is +15000 to win it all.
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