Let’s spend most of this column taking a look back at the past weekend in the NFL as the playoff picture became finalized. Drama ruled the day as the Jaguars won the AFC South by beating the fading Titans, completing a remarkable turnaround from last year’s Urban Meyer debacle; the Dolphins, although without their top two quarterbacks, pulled a number seven seed by defeating the Jets in a game that produced no touchdowns; the beloved by the media Packers fell short to a resurgent Lions club; the Steelers completed their 16th consecutive winning season under Mike Tomlin but failed to qualify for the postseason; the Patriots’ last gasp effort to make the playoffs was stifled by the Bills; and the Seahawks snuck in as a seven seed by virtue of an overtime win over last year’s Super Bowl champion Rams. Fans of those teams were on the edge of their seats all of Sunday, watching not only their team’s game but also the scoreboard!
With the Chiefs and Eagles getting first-round byes due to having the best records in each conference, this coming weekend will feature some interesting matchups. Of particular note to fans around the area will be the Bengals hosting the Ravens for a second consecutive week. Zac Taylor’s crew will put an eight-game winning streak on the line—it’s hard to beat a team like the Ravens back-to-back so I’m a little worried but have faith in a Bengal team that is living up to its potential.
In other NFL news—
Three-time Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt is retiring from the Cardinals after a certain Hall of Fame career. Injuries over the past few years have hindered the defensive end who dominated offenses as few others have.
The 49ers ride a ten-game winning streak into this weekend, made all the more remarkable by the play of third-string QB Brock Purdy the past few games.
Browns’ legendary QB Bernie Kosar was basically fired from co-hosting the teams’ pregame radio show for wagering $19,000 on the Browns-Steelers game last week. Evidently he said he placed the bet for “charity” so take it for what you will!!
The annual bloodletting of coaches began in earnest with the Cardinals cutting ties with Kliff Kingsbury after four seasons and a 28-37-1 mark and the Texans dismissing Lovie Smith after only one year. Smith’s team won two of their last three games, costing them the number one pick in this spring’s draft so it was “hired to be fired” for Lovie!
Good news concerning Bills’ defensive back Damar Hamlin who has been flown back to Buffalo for further recuperation after suffering a life-threatening blow in Cincinnati last Monday night. The immediate response of the on-field medical staff and further follow-up at UC Hospital have certainly made the news as the young man’s life was saved. The trauma angle of the episode and the effect on players, fans, and the public in general should remind us of the sometimes overlooked sacrifices and impact suffered by our armed forces relating to the deaths and injuries sustained by their comrades. God bless them all!!
Moving on to other topics, legalized sports betting began in Ohio New Year’s Day. Evidently there will be four locations here in Darke County to place your wagers although I haven’t heard where they are at present. Supposedly there will be a ten percent tax on the difference between total wagers and paid out winnings, said tax to help fund both public and non-public education. With the past history of casino taxes that were pledged to go to Ohio schools, as a former ten-year school board member I remain somewhat skeptical as to the meaningful impact that will be made!
Greenville’s boys basketball team had a strange weekend that resulted in two losses. On Friday at Sidney the Wave had a 14-point lead at the end of three quarters only to fall short by a 58-55 count. Saturday the Green and White trailed Eaton by 18-points going into the fourth quarter, mounting a comeback to close within four, again losing, this time by a score of 57-53. First year Coach Matt Hamilton must be having sleepless nights as his charges still seek that first win of the season!!
Finally, the Houston Cougars basketball team has gained the top spot in the NCAA rankings after Purdue lost for the first time. Coach Kelvin Sampson (with a somewhat dubious record of violations at other institutions of higher learning) has his team playing well over the past year or two. How many of you remember the great Houston teams of the ‘80s with Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler? Coached by the late Guy V. Lewis they reached three consecutive Final Fours only to lose either in the semis or championship games. Remember NC State coach Jim Valvano running around the court following the Wolfpack’s upset of the Cougars? The nickname of that high-flying bunch of Cougars was one of the great monikers of all-time—-PHI SLAMA JAMA! Stay active and healthy!!