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The Wolf Sports Newsletter: January 9, 2024

A college football national champion was crowned, and the NFL playoffs begin this week!


Week 18 NFL recap


The final game of the NFL regular season delivered again this year, with the Bills holding on to win a crazy game against the Dolphins, 21-14, to clinch the AFC East for the fourth consecutive season and secure the No. 2 seed in the AFC. It was a rollercoaster ride for Josh Allen, but he did everything for Buffalo, throwing for 359 yards and two touchdowns (two interceptions and a lost fumble) while leading the team in rushing with 67 yards on 15 attempts. Allen’s 44 total touchdowns comfortably led the NFL in 2023.



Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud (20/26, 264 yards, two touchdowns) led the Texans to a tight 23-19 win at the Colts to secure a playoff spot on Saturday night. Thanks to the Jaguars’ loss on Sunday, Houston clinched the AFC South in a fantastic first season for first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans and Stroud. A heroic effort from Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (30 carries, 188 yards, one touchdown)—who was a rare “doubtful” (ankle) that was able to return to the game—should not be forgotten. The Texans sealed the win on a fourth down stop where Gardner Minshew and Tyler Goodson could not connect on a short pass.



In perhaps the final game for Derrick Henry with the Titans, he (19 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown) and the ground game led an upset victory over the Jaguars to kick the division rival out of the postseason. The Jaguars lost five of their final six games in a stunning collapse, and quarterback Trevor Lawrence said they should feel “sick” over it. Following the win, Henry addressed the Tennessee crowd and gave a bit of a farewell.



Jordan Love had another excellent outing (27/32, 316 yards, two touchdowns), and the Packers defense stepped up for the second straight week to help Green Bay claim the final spot in the NFC postseason. Thanks to the Titans’ win over the Jaguars, the Steelers took the final wild card spot in the AFC after their 17-10 win at Baltimore on Saturday. However, Pittsburgh will likely be without superstar pass rusher T.J. Watt at Buffalo due to an MCL sprain.




‍☠️ The Buccaneers clinched their third consecutive NFC South title and made the postseason for the fourth consecutive year with a 9-0 win over the Panthers. Pro Bowl snub Antoine Winfield Jr. made a tremendous play at safety, forcing a touchback on what looked like a DJ Chark Jr. touchdown for Carolina. Tampa Bay went 5-1 down the stretch.



Other Week 18 games:


  • Jets 17, Patriots 3: Snowy conditions were fitting if this was the final game leading the Patriots for Bill Belichick, but the results were unfortunate. Now the attention turns to Belichick’s job status. Also, a shoutout to special teams ace Matthew Slater in what was likely his final NFL game.
  • Lions 30, Vikings 20: Jared Goff threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Lions outpace Justin Jefferson (12/192/1) and Minnesota. Unfortunately, star rookie tight end Sam LaPorta is likely to miss time with a knee injury, but at least the injury isn’t as bad as it first looked.
  • Saints 48, Falcons 17: Derek Carr capped his first season in New Orleans on a high note to help the team finish 9-8, but the highlight was Arthur Smith understandably getting mad at the Saints for running up the score after Saints players wanted to get Jamaal Williams a touchdown instead of kneeling it—and Jameis Winston delivered comedy postgame.



  • Bengals 31, Browns 14: This felt like a preseason game on the Cleveland side ahead of the Wild Card Round, but the Bengals concluded a challenging year at 9-8. Joe Mixon scored twice in the Week 18 victory.
  • Cowboys 38, Commanders 10: Dak Prescott threw four touchdowns and the Dallas defense dominated to help lock up the NFC East (still no repeat division winner since 2004) and the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
  • Raiders 27, Broncos 14: Antonio Pierce made a strong final case as the interim head coach for Vegas, finishing with a 5-4 record.
  • Giants 27, Eagles 10: A dreadful performance by Philadelphia has them limping—literally and figuratively—heading into the postseason. Jalen Hurts (finger), DeVonta Smith (ankle), and A.J. Brown (knee) are all banged up.
  • Seahawks 21, Cardinals 20: They didn’t get the help they needed to make the postseason, but the Seahawks were happy to end the year on a high note with a win on a two-point conversion from Geno Smith to Tyler Lockett.
  • Rams 21, 49ers 20: Carson Wentz threw two touchdowns and ran for another in his first start of 2023, and LA’s win put them in the No. 6 seed in the NFC—setting up an interesting matchup with the Lions. Puka Nacua set NFL rookie records with 105 receptions for 1,486 receiving yards.
  • Chiefs 13, Chargers 12: The Chiefs were locked into the AFC’s No. 3 seed, so they rested a bunch of players but were still able to beat the Chargers, ending an extremely disappointing campaign for LA.


NFL Wild Card Round matchups


“Super Wild Card Weekend” from Saturday through Monday is filled with intriguing matchups and storylines—most notably, three games that carry some revenge storylines. Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill, who did not play well in the first matchup in Germany during the regular season, takes on the Chiefs again. Mike McCarthy’s Cowboys host the Packers after Green Bay unceremoniously fired him during the season in 2018. And Jared Goff gets a crack at a Rams team that traded him away while the Lions host their former quarterback Matthew Stafford.



Fantasy football leaders in 2023


  • QB: Josh Allen, Bills (392.64 points)
  • RB: Christian McCaffrey, 49ers (357.8 points)
  • WR: CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys (335.7 points)
  • TE: Sam LaPorta, Lions (196.3 points)
  • D/ST: Cowboys/Ravens (172.0 points)


(point totals are for half PPR scoring)


“Black Monday”


One of the worst parts about the NFL season is the day after the final week of the regular season, also known as “Black Monday.” Falcons head coach Arthur Smith and Commanders head coach Ron Rivera were both fired, joining previous openings of the Raiders, Panthers, and Chargers—with more moves potentially coming. Also, Panthers general manager Scott Fiterrer was unsurprisingly fired on Black Monday.


The huge domino is the status of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who in his season-ending press conference early yesterday said that he is under contract and plans to keep working hard for the organization—setting up a situation where he might need to be fired to leave. Belichick also said he might be open to giving up full control of personnel if that’s what’s best for the franchise. It’s interesting that current and former Patriots are voicing total support of the legendary coach.



More NFL news


‍⬛ The Ravens added running back Dalvin Cook after his release from the Jets.


The NFL fined Panthers owner David Tepper $300K for throwing his drink at a fan in Jacksonville in Week 17.


⬇️ The NFL announced the 2024 Pro Bowl rosters, with notable snubs including touchdown leader Josh Allen.



Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers made a joke on ESPN on The Pat McAfee Show about ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel and the Jeffrey Epstein client list, and he says he’ll comment on Kimmel’s response today.


Other Sports Updates


A powerful rushing attack sparked early by Donovan Edwards (six carries, 106 yards, two touchdowns) and finished by Blake Corum (21 carries, 134 yards, two touchdowns) paired with solid defense helped Michigan defeat Washington, 34-13, in the CFP National Championship Game to win their first title since 1997. The Wolverines finished with a perfect 15-0 season.



In the FCS, South Dakota State won the national championship with a 23-3 victory over Montana. The Jackrabbits have won back-to-back titles.