If you digested the projection of the NFL playoffs made by CBS Sports’ Will Brinson just after the regular season ended, you might be amused to see a Chargers-Saints Super Bowl matchup set for early February, and Philip Rivers hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. That’s all still alive after the previous wildcard weekend. But Brinson only got the two AFC games tagged right. Neither of his NFC wildcards came up right.
As a result, Los Angeles will have a rooting interest on both Saturday and Sunday when the divisional round comes into place.
For the record, the final eight lays out:
* Indianapolis at Kansas City, Channel 4, 1:30 p.m., Channel 4
* Dallas at Rams, Coliseum, Channel 11, 5:15 p.m., Channel 11
* Chargers at New England, Channel 2, 10 a.m., Channel 2
* Philadelphia at New Orleans, Channel 11, 1:40 p.m., Channel 11
What to know about the Chargers: They are 8-1 on the road this season, 8-0 when not in L.A. (the only road loss at the Coliseum to the Rams in Week 3), with wins in Seattle, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Denver and Baltimore (not to mention, London). Yet a road team hasn’t won a playoff game in Foxborough, Mass., in six years. A matchup of the 37-year-old Rivers and 41-year-old Tom Brady sets a record for their combined age in a playoff setting. What isn’t old news is that it should be pretty darn cold in New England this time of year. Weather.com says it’ll be snow showers with a high of 30 degrees and a low of 15.
What to know about the Rams: The Cowboys are just 3-5 away from home. But according to insiders at InsideTheStar.com, a less-than-edgy Cowboys’ fan site, the Eagles’ win over the Bears in the wildcard round that sends the Cowboys to L.A. is an outcome that is “arguably better for Dallas.” Meaning, they go to the No. 2 seed instead of the No. 1 seed New Orleans, even though Dallas had a Week 13 upset win over the Saints. “The prospect of a rematch with the Saints in the Superdome was not appealing. (The upset) would have been tough to duplicate. Not only that, but the Rams lost some steam to close the regular season. Their defense, despite featuring Aaron Donald, is one of the lesser groups in the league overall. And if you have a choice between Drew Brees and Jared Goff in an elimination game, then is there really much to debate?” Not really. At least we know Jerry Jones won’t really change his expression one outcome or another.
And the 2019 College Football Playoff champion will be … let’s check the resumes and see … ah, Alabama and Clemson. Again. It’s the fourth season in a row the two programs have met in this post-season format. The Crimson Tide play its fourth straight title game and seventh in the past 10 seasons. It has a 5-1 mark in its past six appearances — the lone loss coming to Clemson, of course. And somehow coach Nick Saban can claim a record-setting seventh national title. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney has his own little dynasty rolling. Enjoy the main event Monday on ESPN at 5 p.m. with Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit, plus a “MegaCast” breakdown: The “Field Pass” with Adam Amin and Steve Levy on the sidelines (ESPN2), the “Monday Night Film Room” with Joe Tessitore, Jason Whitten, Booger McFarland and Todd McShay instead of the Coaches’ Film Room (ESPNEWS), a “Command Center” with split-screens and shots of the coaches with info graphics (ESPNU), “Sounds of the Game” with no broadcasters (ESPN Classic), a production on the SEC Network called “Thinking Out Loud” with Greg McElroy, Marcus Spears and Alyssa Lang yucking it up, the ESPN Deportes feed, and more on ESPN3 with options of watching the “BlimpCast” through the Goodyear Blimp above Levis Stadium in Santa Clara or the “TechCast” with a mix of vantage points that includes cameras attached to referees, pylons and an even higher SkyCam above the field.
Someone must be watching all this through rose-colored glasses.
There is some value in both UCLA and USC owning 2-0 records after the first weekend of Pac-12 conference basketball play. The Bruins posted 92 and 98 points in wins over Stanford and Cal, the first time they’ve exceeded 90 points since the first three games of the season against. ahem, Purdue-Fort Wayne, Long Beach State and St. Francis. The Trojans haven’t started conference 2-0 since 2010.
The downside: As both are still 9-6 overall, it’ll take some doing to pretty themselves up by March. Now let’s ship them off to Oregon against the Ducks (9-5, 0-1) and Beavers (9-4, 1-0) and see if they sink or dog paddle.
For UCLA (9-6, 2-0):
* At Oregon, Thursday at 6 p.m., ESPN/ESPN2
* At Oregon State, Sunday at 7 p.m., FS1
For USC (9-6, 2-0):
* At Oregon State, Thursday at 8 p.m., ESPNU
* At Oregon, Sunday at 5 p.m., ESPNU
For the other Southern California teams:
* Loyola Marymount (13-3, 1-1 WCC) vs. St. Mary’s, Gersten Pavilion, Saturday at 7 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet
* Pepperdine (8-8, 1-1 WCC) at Santa Clara, Thursday at 8 p.m.; at San Diego, Saturday at 1 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet
* Long Beach State (6-10) begins Big West play vs. UC Davis, at the Walter Pyramid, Saturday at 4 p.m., ESPN3
* Cal State Northridge (6-10) starts Big West play at UC Riverside, Wednesday at 7 p.m., ESPN3; at Cal Poly, Saturday at 7 p.m., BigWest.TV.
Games of national interest:
* Tuesday: Duke at Wake Forest, 4 p.m., ESPN; Texas A&M at Kentucky, 4 p.m., SEC Network; St. John’s at Villanova, 4 p.m., FS1; Oklahoma at Texas Tech, 6 p.m., ESPNEWS; North Carolina at North Carolina State, 6 p.m., ESPN; Alabama at LSU, 6 p.m., SEC Network.
* Wednesday: Georgetown at Xavier, 3:30 p.m., FS1; Auburn at Mississippi, 4 p.m., ESPN2; Arizona State at Cal, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Net; TCU at Kansas, 6 p.m., ESPN2; San Jose State at Nevada, 8 p.m., CBSSN; Arizona at Stanford, 8 p.m., Pac-12 Net.
* Thursday: Washington State at Colorado, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Net; Washington at Utah, 7 p.m.; Pacific at Gonzaga, 8 p.m., ESPN2.
* Friday: Indiana at Maryland, 4 p.m., FS1; Purdue at Wisconsin, 6 p.m., FS1.
* Saturday: Louisville at North Carolina, 9 a.m., ESPN; Providence at Georgetown, 9 a.m., FS1; Mississippi at Mississippi State, 10 a.m., Channel 2; Duke at Florida State, 11 a.m., ESPN; Seton Hall at Marquette, 11 a.m., FS1; Ohio State at Iowa, 11:30 a.m., BTN; Georgia at Auburn, 1 p.m., ESPN2; Kansas at Baylor, 1 p.m., ESPN; Tennessee at Florida, 3 p.m., ESPN; Arizona State at Stanford, 3 p.m., Pac-12 Net; DePaul at St. John’s, 3 p.m., CBSSN; Nevada at Fresno State, 5 p.m., ESPNU; Vanderbilt at Kentucky, 5:30 p.m., SEC Network; Gonzaga at USF, 7 p.m., ESPN2; Washington at Colorado, 7 p.m., ESPNU; Arizona at Cal, 7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Net.
* Sunday: Villanova at Creighton, 9 a.m., Channel 11; Michigan State at Penn State, 1:30 p.m.; Northwestern at Michigan, 4:30 p.m., BTN.
Sensing that the Lakers’ desperation with a 1-5 run since LeBron James went out with a groin injury in Christmas Day, dropping them to the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, the only comfort seems to be that there’s hope he could return by the time his former team, Cleveland, comes into town (at Staples Center, Sunday at 6:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet).
Sooner, sure. But let’s be sure about groin pulls.
The Lakers’ Friday night loss to the 10-29 Knicks, at Staples Center, followed by a 22-point drubbing at Minnesota on Sunday that was apparently so embarrassing for the Timberwolves that their fired their coach afterward, really doesn’t look all that swell.
Also this week for the Lakers:
* At Dallas, Monday at 5:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet
* Vs. Detroit, at Staples Center, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet, ESPN
* At Utah, Friday at 7 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet, ESPN
The Clippers have a meet-and-greet with Blake Griffin and Detroit at Staples Center (Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Prime Ticket). Consider the Pistons’ season. They started 4-0. Then lost five in a row (two in OT). They won five in a row over Thanksgiving. Then lost six straight. Griffin leads the team with 25.0 points and 5.2 assists a game, to go with 8.7 rebounds.
Also this week for the Clippers;
* Vs. Charlotte at Staples Center, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket
* At Denver, Thursday at 6 p.m., Prime Ticket
When Pittsburgh comes to Southern California for its only NHL stop of the year, is it still kind of a big deal? We shall see when the Ducks face the Pens on Friday (at Honda Center, Friday at 7 p.m., Prime Ticket) and the Kings get them the next day (at Staples Center, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., FSW). Sidney Crosby (19 goals, 32 assists) is 12th in the league in scoring. Neither the Ducks nor Kings have anyone in the top 90 in points.
Also this week for the Kings:
* At San Jose, Monday at 7:30 p.m., FSW
* Vs. Ottawa at Staples Center, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., FSW
Also this week for the Ducks:
* Vs. Ottawa at Honda Center, Wednesday at 7 p.m., Prime Ticket
* At Winnipeg, Sunday at 3 p.m., Prime Ticket