Lions in, Eagles out heading into regular-season finales
The Lions are in; the Eagles are out. Atlanta locked up a playoff berth. Cincinnati is closing in on one, while the Jets and Raiders need some help. All are part of a wild closing act to the NFL season.
With one remaining this weekend before teams hunker down for their finales (Atlanta at New Orleans on Monday night), the most notable news was made by Detroit.
The last time the Lions were a force, Barry Sanders was in their backfield. Sanders retired after the 1998 season, and Detroit made the post-season the next year then plummeted to the bottom of the league. In 2008, the Lions posted the only 0-16 record in NFL history. Now, they're in the chase for the championship. Their 38-10 rout of San Diego secured an NFC wild card.
"Once you get to the playoffs, it's anybody's ballgame," defensive end Cliff Avril said. "The city of Detroit needs it. They've been waiting on us to win for a while. It's such a football town and we haven't been winning, so it's huge."
At 10-5, the Lions join North champion Green Bay, West winner San Francisco and South leader New Orleans in the post-season parade. Either Dallas or the New York Giants also will get there — they meet next Sunday night at the Meadowlands in a winner-take-all matchup. So if the Cowboys and Giants, both 8-7, are battling for the NFC East crown, where does that leave the Eagles, the most disappointing team in the league? Dreaming of the playoffs.
The team that "won" free agency after the NFL lockout by signing such prizes as cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive end Jason Babin and receiver Steve Smith needs to beat Washington next Sunday to finish at .500.
The AFC East champion Patriots (12-3) would get home-field advantage for the playoffs by beating Buffalo next weekend.
Green Bay (14-1) defeated Chicago 35-21 Sunday night to lock up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
That's the simple stuff. As for the chaotic, well, just one look at the AFC wild-card race after Sunday's results can make your head spin.
Suffice to say that the Bengals (9-6) are in control. But if they lose to Baltimore (11-4), which needs a victory to clinch the AFC North over Pittsburgh (also 11-4), it brings three other teams into play for the final AFC berth: Tennessee, Oakland and the New York Jets.
■ Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Saturday after taking a direct hit in a 33-26 win over the Washington Redskins. Peterson said he knew "it was something bad" the moment he was hit and that he was in "severe pain" as he lay on the field. "Anytime you take a blow to the knee like that, you're concerned about the ACL, MCL," Peterson said. "I'm trying to stay as positive as I can."
High school basketball
Trinity vying for third title at LexCath
Louisville Trinity, which won Lexington Catholic's holiday tournament in 2004 and 2009, will try to win the Republic Bank Holiday Classic for a third time this week.
The Shamrocks, No. 1 in the state in the pre-season, are the obvious favorites in the tournament that begins Monday and runs through Friday at Lexington Catholic.
Trinity started the season 5-0, including victories over No. 3 Scott County and No. 5 Rowan County, before losing twice (to St. Raymond, N.Y., and Salesian, Calif.) in the City of Palms tournament in Florida last week.
Coach Mike Szabo's Rocks will have plenty of challengers this week. The 21-team field includes No. 7 Moore and No. 10 Lexington Catholic, along with No. 12 Henry Clay, No. 17 Glasgow, No. 19 Pulaski County, No. 22 Central, No. 23 Bardstown and No. 24 North Hardin. Fayette (Ga.) can't be overlooked, either. The Tigers, coached by former Woodford County and Transylvania University star Andre Flynn, are a perennial power in Georgia.
Ballard, which won the Republic Bank title last December, isn't in this year's tournament.
■ Republic Bank Holiday Classic schedule, Page C2
Cal's gift to fans: Watch practice online
Kentucky Coach John Calipari announced that his Christmas gift to the Big Blue Nation will be a live streaming of the team's first practice back from Christmas break.
Calipari said the practice, which can be viewed at CoachCal.com, is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Monday.
Holloway leads Xavier to win in Hawaii
Tu Holloway scored 21 points, and No. 14 Xavier ended a three-game losing streak with an 87-77 victory over Southern Illinois on Sunday in the seventh-place game of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. Before a sparse morning crowd on Christmas Day, the Musketeers won for the first time since Dec. 10, when they beat Cincinnati in a game cut short in the closing seconds by brawling and mayhem on the court.
■ John Bohannon tied his career high with 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead UTEP (6-6) to an 83-76 victory over Auburn in the third-place game of the Diamond Head Classic. Kenny Gabriel scored a game-high 24 points to lead the Tigers (8-3), who also got 18 from Varez Ward. Tony Barbee coached UTEP for four seasons before taking over at Auburn last year.
The last word
Dave Hyde of the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Eddy Curry, the Miami Heat's new center:
"He's a no-risk-possible-reward play. He might be the missing piece. He might be a lazy tub of goo. Who knows?"