#SportsReport: NFL Playoff Games Preview

Jan 12, 2018

NFL:

The general belief is there are four contenders for the Super Bowl in the NFC, two in the AFC. Let's see if Tennessee or Jacksonville can prove that theory wrong this weekend. The Titans play at New England on Saturday night, the Jaguars are at Pittsburgh on Sunday. For weeks, it's been presumed Steelers vs. Patriots will decide who goes to the Super Bowl from the conference. But the Titans and Jaguars want to have their say.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady says his focus remains solely on football as his team prepares to host the Tennessee Titans in their divisional-round matchup. During Brady's tenure the Patriots are 6-1 against the Titans. Brady has 13 passing touchdowns and one interception in those games. It is his best touchdown to interception ratio against any opponent in his career.

Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez's life and death will be the subject of a one-hour special episode of 48 Hours to be broadcast on CBS on Jan. 20. The story will be told by best-selling author James Patterson, who is writing a book about Hernandez.

NBA:

The Boston Celtics entertained Londoners Thursday by storming back from a 22-point, second-quarter deficit to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 114-103. Kyrie Irving had 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds in the eighth NBA game played in England. Jaylen Brown had 21 points and Marcus Morris added 19 with eight rebounds in the Celtics' seventh consecutive win.

The Toronto Raptors dealt the Cleveland Cavaliers their second consecutive lopsided loss as Fred VanVleet came off the bench to score a career-high 22 points in a 133-99 romp. Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and a season-high 18 rebounds in Toronto's 12th win in its last 13 home games. LeBron James scored 26 points for the Cavs, who have dropped six of eight and were coming off a 28-point loss to Minnesota.

NCAA:

Schadrac Casimir scored 17points, including a key layup that pushed the lead to six points with just under two minutes remaining, and Iona knocked off Siena. 71-69 in a Metro Atlantic battle of long-time rivals. The game was the 111th meeting between the schools. Iona won for the 15th time in the last 18 games.

Ninth-ranked Wichita State scored 15 straight points as part of a 36-9 spurt to close out the first half of a 95-60 pounding of East Carolina. Wichita State missed nine of its first 12 shots and trailed 14-9 before rolling to a 45-23 lead by intermission. Rauno Nurger scored 14 points for the Shockers, who hare 4-0 in league play after ending their 72-year run as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference last season.

Unraked Oregon and N.C. State picked up victories against top-25 teams on Thursday. Omer Yurtseven scored a career-high 29 points and the Wolfpack held on to beat No. 19 Clemson 78-77. Oregon was a 76-72 winner at No. 11 Arizona State behind Payton Richard's 18 points, including two free throws with 13.8 seconds remaining.

Jordan Fox scored 18 points and Army rallied from a 19-point deficit in the second half to defeat Lafayette 81-71. Trailing 43-26 after the Leopards had their biggest half of the season, the Black Knights responded with their biggest half, outscoring Lafayette 55-28 after the break.

George Kiernan scored 13 points and Hasan Abdullah and Bryce Dulin each scored 10 and Navy defeated Holy Cross 61-56 in overtime. Kiernan started the extra session with a 3-point play, Dulin and Cam Davis each made jumpshots and Navy never trailed in the extra session.

Junior Robinson hit 14 of 17 free throws and finished with 23 points to help Mount St. Mary's hold on for an 81-75 win over Sacred Heart. Donald Carey had 14 points, Jonah Antonio scored 13 and Greg Alexander added 12 for Mount St. Mary's.

Tyler Scanlon had 13 points and 11 rebounds and Boston University beat cold-shooting Colgate 72-58. Boston U never trailed and a double-digit lead for most of the second half.

Rasheem Dunn scored 21 points and Jagos Lasic scored 16 and St. Francis (BKN) beat Central Connecticut 77-60. Jalen Jordan started with a pair of 3-pointers between a layup and jumper from Dunn to put the Terriers up 10-2.

Pauly Paulicap scored 14 points and Rich Williams 10 as Manhattan held off a late run to defeat Fairfield 59-53, ending a two-game losing streak. The Jaspers have swept Fairfield in Metro Atlantic play for the first time since the 2012-13 season, and snapped a string of 11 straight losses at Fairfield's Webster Bank Arena.

In college football news:

— National champion Alabama is losing four more underclassmen to the NFL draft, including All-America safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Safety Ronnie Harrison and tailback Bo Scarbrough have also announced they are skipping their senior seasons. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban says defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne is also entering the draft. Wide receiver Calvin Ridley previously announced his early departure.

— North Carolina offensive lineman Tommy Hatton says he is retiring from football after his fourth concussion. Hatton made eight starts as a redshirt freshman in 2016 but did not play in 2017 after he says a routine hit during an August preseason practice "left me hospitalized and in a concussion state for close to four months.

NHL:

The U.S. Army has filed a challenge opposing the application of the NHL's newest franchise to register the trademark "Las Vegas Golden Knights." The Army claims it will be damaged by registration of the marque and says it has acquired exclusive rights that predate any rights claimed by the NHL team. The Army says it has used the Golden Knights nickname since the late 1960s and claims it owns "common law rights" for the color schemes that combine black and gold and yellow and white.

The Capitals saw their 10-game home winning streak come to an end as Victor Rask scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period of Carolina's 3-1 victory at Washington. Washington still leads the Metropolitan Division by four points over Columbus after Kyle Okposo registered a goal and an assist to lead Buffalo past Columbus 3-1. Johnny Gaudreau had a goal and an assist as the Flames won their fifth in a row, 5-1 against the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.

College products Brock Boeser and Clayton Keller are impressing as NHL rookies after getting a taste of the professional game last season. Boeser, who played for the University of North Dakota, leads the Vancouver Canucks and all rookies in scoring. Keller, who went to Boston University, has the most points on the Arizona Coyotes. Playing in NCAA hockey helped them adjust quickly to the NHL.

MLB:

Outfielder Aaron Hicks agreed to a $2,825,000, one-year contract with the New York Yankees, who also settled with reliever Tommy Kahnle at $1,312,500 in the first deals among the team's eight players eligible for salary arbitration. New York's luxury tax payroll rose to just under $125 million for nine players with agreements and left its projected tax payroll at about $178 million _ well under the $197 million tax threshold. Hicks set career highs with a .266 average, 15 homers and 52 RBIs.

Two people familiar with the negotiations say free-agent outfielder Jay Bruce is set to return to the New York Mets after agreeing to a $39 million, three-year contract. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal is pending a physical and no announcement had been made.

PGA:

Zach Johnson and Chris Kirk are co-leaders through one round of the PGA's Sony Open at Honolulu. Both played bogey-free golf in firing 7-under 63s, putting them one shot ahead of four players. Vaughn Taylor and Brian Harman are at minus-6, as are Kyle Stanley and Talor Gooch. Jordan Spieth carded eight birdies on the day, but he also hit four trees with four shots on the par-4 eighth hole for a quadruple bogey that led to a 1-under 69.

Tennis:

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal and defending champion Roger Federer have been seeded first and second for the Australian Open. That means they can only play each other if they set up a rematch of last year's final. Grigor Dimitrov is the No. 3 seed, and six-time champion Novak Djokovic is 14th as he comes back from a six-month injury layoff. Simona Halep is No. 1 in the women's draw, followed by Carolina Wozniacki and Garbine Muguruza.

International Soccer:

Saudi women will be allowed for the first time to enter a sports stadium to watch a soccer match between two local teams, though they will be segregated from the male-only crowd with designated seating in the so-called "family section." The first stadium is to open its doors to women in the Red Sea city of Jiddah on Friday. The move is Saudi Arabia's first social reform planned for this year giving women greater rights. To prepare for the change, the kingdom has designated "family sections" in the stands for women. The stadiums have also been fitted with female restrooms and separate entrances and parking lots for female spectators. On Saturday, the national stadium in the capital, Riyadh, will open its gates for women to attend a soccer game.

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