With two weeks left in the regular season, the playoff picture in the NFL is starting to take shape.
Predictably, the New England Patriots clinched the AFC East title after beating Denver on Sunday. With divisional games left vs. the Jets (Christmas Eve) and Miami (New Year's Day), the Pats, whose only two losses came at home, would be wise to rest Tom Brady and some of the other starters to protect them from injury, but if history is any barometer, coach Bill Belichick isn't one to do things the right way in the name of player safety. TE Rob Gronkowski, on injured reserve presently, ended the 2012 season on IR after suffering an injury whilst the Patriots were running it up on Indianapolis. New England is hoping their star party boy can return during the post-season, but don't hold your breath.
The other divisions are a little too tight at the moment. First place in the North will be on the line when Baltimore & Pittsburgh meet on Christmas Day, one of just 2 games on Sunday, as NBC will have the Kansas City-Denver rematch. Both AFC West teams are trying to catch Oakland for the division title. There stands the chance that neither Denver nor Carolina will reach the playoffs after being in the Super Bowl 10 months ago.
Over in the NFC, Seattle wrapped up the West, but, again, the other divisions will come down to the wire. Dallas needed Detroit to beat the Giants to clinch the East, but, nope. Now, the Cowboys will have to beat the Lions themselves next Monday to put the division to bed, provided Philadelphia doesn't do them a favor and beats Big Blue on Thursday. Got all that?
After mostly reading about the Keystone Kops approach to officiating this season (i.e. too many missed calls), it certainly looked like the fix was in last night when Carolina had to overcome a couple of missed calls to beat the Washington Americans. Quarterback/yogurt salesman Cam Newton was called for taunting despite the fact that he took a shot to the head as he slid on a play. Retired referee Gerald Austin, now a rules expert for ESPN, said that Washington should've been flagged for unnecessary roughness to offset the taunting call. Two plays later, after Washington gained possession on a punt, what looked like a false start on Washington was ignored in favor of an offsides against Carolina.
Newton has gone so far as to meet with embattled commissioner Roger Goodell about the perceptions of a double standard when it comes to a lack of personal foul flags when he's been hit by opposing defensive linemen while in the pocket. Newton is one of a small handful of African-American QB's starting for NFL teams this season, including Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay), Dak Prescott (Dallas), Tyrod Taylor (Buffalo), Robert Griffin III (Cleveland), and, briefly, Jacoby Brissette (New England). Every time a flag is thrown when someone like Tom Brady or Derek Carr or Drew Brees is hit, and a hit on Newton is ignored, you wonder what kind of backward message is being sent.
Of course, it can also be filed under, "What hath Donald Trump wrought?".
LaSalle Institute's current 7 game undefeated streak in hockey caught the attention of the fair weather hometown press, leading to a feature article in Monday's Record. If reporter Stan Hudy did his homework, he'd have known that senior forward-captain Logan DiScanio has recorded hat tricks in his last three games to lead the team in goals (11). The skating Cadets welcome CBA to what figures to be a noisy Conway Arena at Hudson Valley Community College on Wednesday night before taking part in the annual Mohawks tournament at Union College next week.
Troy High's boys basketball team returns home tonight after a 2-1 road trip, and will entertain Ballston Spa and CBA this week, with just one day's break between games. I'd pay close attention to the game vs. the Scotties tonight, as there might be some lingering tensions stemming from the football playoffs two months ago. Zotto Memorial Gym figures to be packed for CBA's annual visit on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, the women sit atop the Suburban Council's grey division (billed as Division X in the Albany Times-Union for some odd reason) at 3-1, and will visit Ballston Spa tonight and will play Glens Falls on Friday before a two week Christmas break. The Lady Horses avenged a loss to Mohonasen last Friday, and with defending division champion Albany off to a slow start, there might just be a changing of the guard in the league again,
Back to the boys for a second. The last thing Troy's Daniel Buie will want over the next three nights is a distraction. Older brother Taran, who played for coach Richard Hurley at Bishop Maginn a decade ago, was arrested on drug possession charges over the weekend. Taran is still trying to finish out his college career, but keeps taking missteps along the way. Now 25, Taran is playing for a smaller school flying under the radar, though I doubt he'll finish this season if the law has its way, and likely will. You can figure the Ballston Spa and/or CBA fans will look to taunt Daniel during games to throw him off his game. That's just the nature of things. Just saying.