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Home / frontsports / The Wolf Sports Newsletter: January 2, 2024

The Wolf Sports Newsletter: January 2, 2024


Happy New Year!

 

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Week 17 NFL highlights

 

The Ravens and the 49ers have clinched the No. 1 seeds in the NFL postseason. Baltimore demolished the Dolphins behind continued elite defense and five touchdowns from Lamar Jackson. Meanwhile, San Francisco unsurprisingly handled the Commanders in a bounce-back performance from Brock Purdy and company. We’ll have to see how the Ravens and Niners play Week 18 (against the rival Steelers and Rams) while juggling health/rest and the potential rust factor given the playoff bye. Unfortunately in their loss, Miami lost star pass rusher Bradley Chubb to a torn ACL.

 

 

‍♂️ The Cowboys survived against the Lions on Saturday night, but poor officiating at the end of the game overshadowed a fantastic contest. Left tackle Taylor Decker caught a go-ahead, potential game-winning two-point conversion with under a minute remaining, but the officials—apparently incorrectly based on video of Decker going right up to referee Brad Allen—said Decker failed to report as an eligible receiver before the play. The error could ultimately cost the Lions the No. 2 seed in the NFC, which is obviously a huge deal.

 

 

In yet another heated battle in perhaps the NFL’s best rivalry of the past few years, the Chiefs defeated the Bengals to clinch the AFC West and eliminate Cincinnati from the postseason. Isiah Pacheco (165 total yards and a touchdown) starred for Kansas City, and safety Justin Reid had two key sacks late to help seal the 25-17 victory. The Chiefs have now won eight straight AFC West titles.

 

 

The Cardinals upset the Eagles in Philadelphia, 35-31, in former Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s return. Arizona totally controlled the game with a 39:39 time of possession, and the win puts Dallas in position to clinch the NFC East with a Week 18 win over the Commanders. The odd vibes with the Eagles (1-4 in their past five games) have clearly continued, and it’s almost like a delayed Super Bowl hangover has caught up with them.

 

 

The Packers went on the road to dominate against the Vikings on Sunday night, setting up a win-and-in scenario for a Week 18 matchup with the Bears—a similar situation to last year when Green Bay lost to Detroit in a win-and-in contest. Jordan Love threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns in the crucial win.

 

 

Other Week 17 games:

 

  • Browns 37, Jets 20: The Browns clinched their second playoff berth in four years by dominating the Jets on Thursday night behind an excellent first half from Joe Flacco (309 yards, three touchdowns, one interception total in the win).
  • Texans 26, Titans 3: In C.J. Stroud’s return to the lineup, the Texans handled the Titans to set up a de facto playoff matchup with the Colts this Saturday night.
  • Bears 37, Falcons 17: Chicago picked off Taylor Heinicke three times, and Justin Fields got chants of support from Bears fans while leading a balanced offensive attack in another strong showing for Matt Eberflus’ club.
  • Saints 23, Buccaneers 13: The score was not indicative of how this game went, with the Saints severely outplaying the Buccaneers in Tampa. However, the Bucs can still win the NFC South by beating the Panthers in Week 18.
  • Bills 27, Patriots 21: Bill Belichick’s stingy defense and an opening kickoff return touchdown by Jalen Reagor made it a battle, but the Bills survived at home with cornerback Rasul Douglas intercepting two passes.
  • Jaguars 26, Panthers 0: Trevor Lawrence missed his first career game, but Jacksonville coasted as Travis Etienne Jr. ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns while Josh Allen recorded three sacks. Something to watch for the Panthers are repercussions of the inexcusable actions of team owner David Tepper throwing his drink at a fan.

 

 

  • Colts 23, Raiders 20: The Colts bounced back by jumping to a 14-3 lead on the Raiders and holding on to get to 9-7. First-year head coach Shane Steichen has Indy in the playoff mix heading into the final week of the regular season.
  • Rams 26, Giants 25: The Rams barely escaped MetLife Stadium with a win, which ultimately helped them clinch a playoff berth later moments later based on the Seattle result.
  • Steelers 30: Seahawks 23: Never count out Mike Tomlin’s team, which will not finish below .500 again (all 17 seasons under Tomlin) after getting to 9-7 with the win at Seattle. The Steelers can get into the postseason with a win and some help, while the Seahawks now need a win and help themselves to make it in the NFC.
  • Broncos 16, Chargers 9: Solid defense led the way for the Broncos at home, but the big story for Denver to begin the new year is the status of quarterback Russell Wilson.

 

Top fantasy performers in Week 17

 

  • Ravens QB Lamar Jackson: 36.34 points
  • Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb: 33.7 points
  • Raiders WR Davante Adams: 31.1 points
  • Rams RB Kyren Williams: 29.1 points
  • Packers QB Jordan Love: 28.44 points

 

(point totals are for half PPR scoring)

 

Russell Wilson benched, likely done in Denver

 

The Broncos benched quarterback Russell Wilson with two games remaining.

 

  • The reasoning appears to be that the Broncos do not want to be on the hook for $37 million guaranteed in 2025 that becomes fully guaranteed due to injury (i.e., if Wilson cannot pass a physical at the start of the new league year).
  • The Broncos insist the move was made for football reasons, going to Jarrett Stidham at quarterback.
  • However, according to both multiple reports and Wilson himself, the team came to Wilson during the bye week and threatened to bench him for the rest of the year if he did not alter his contract—which got the NFLPA involved and eventually led to Wilson remaining the starter until the benching ahead of Week 17.
  • Wilson completed 66.4% of his passes for 3,070 yards, 26 touchdowns, and eight interceptions in 15 starts this season.
  • Denver traded two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant, and defensive lineman Shelby Harris for Wilson in the 2022 offseason—and his contract carries massive cap hits in 2024 and 2025.
  • Wilson spoke candidly to the media on Friday about the situation, and this story seems far from over.

 

 

Week 18 NFL schedule

 

️ The final week of the regular season includes two Saturday matchups and ends with Game 272 between the Bills and the Dolphins with the AFC East title (and potentially a playoff berth for Buffalo) on the line.

 

 

Other Sports Updates

 

College Football Playoff Semifinals:

 

  • Michigan 27, Alabama 20 (OT): The Wolverines came back down 20-13 in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Two Blake Corum runs in OT put them ahead before the defense stopped Bama quarterback Jalen Milroe on a quarterback run on fourth-and-goal to seal the thrilling Rose Bowl victory.
  • Washington 37, Texas 31: In an intense Sugar Bowl, the Huskies held off a fourth quarter comeback attempt by the Longhorns and sealed the win on a stop at the 13-yard line as time expired. Michael Penix Jr. threw for 430 yards and two touchdowns to help set up a battle of unbeatens in the national championship on Monday.

 

Bo Nix threw five touchdowns and set the single-season completion percentage record as Oregon handled Liberty in the Fiesta Bowl, 45-6.

 

Georgia demolished Florida State in the Orange Bowl. The Bulldogs broke their own record for largest margin of victory in a bowl game (63-3), which they had just set in the CFP National Championship last season. While the Seminoles were shorthanded, it’ll be harder for them to say that they should have been in the CFP after this.

 

Missouri won a defensive battle over Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl, 14-3.

 

Ole Miss took down Penn State in the Peach Bowl, 38-25.

 

✍️ Other bowl game results:

 

  • Holiday Bowl: USC 42, Louisville 28
  • Texas Bowl: Oklahoma State 31, Texas A&M 23
  • Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers 31, Miami 24
  • Pop-Tarts Bowl: Kansas State 28, NC State 19
  • Alamo Bowl: Arizona 38, Oklahoma 24
  • Gator Bowl: Clemson 38, Kentucky 35
  • Sun Bowl: Notre Dame 40, Oregon State 8
  • ReliaQuest Bowl: LSU 35, Wisconsin 31
  • Cheez-It Citrus Bowl: Tennessee 35, Iowa 0

 

⚾️ The Braves acquired starting pitcher Chris Sale from the Red Sox for infielder Vaughn Grissom.

 

The USFL and XFL have officially merged into the United Football League.