1. NBC’s Cris Collinsworth has offered a mea culpa after making a head-scratching comment during Wednesday’s Ravens-Steelers game.
The Sunday Night Football analyst was talking about how passionate Steelers fans were when he said, “In particular, the ladies that I met. They had really specific questions about the game. I’m like, ‘Wow.’ You’re just blown away by how strong the fans are here in this town.”
Collinsworth singling out “ladies” instantly generated backlash on social media, with many people pointing out that it shouldn’t surprise anyone that women are knowledgeable about the NFL—or any sport, for that matter.
A few hours after the game ended, Collinsworth addressed the controversy and issued an apology for the insulting remarks.
2. A brand-new SI Media Podcast dropped late Wednesday night with Chris Long. The Super Bowl champion, who now hosts the Amazon Prime pregame show on Thursday nights and the Green Light podcast three days a week, shared his insight into what NFL players are going through this season while trying to play through a pandemic.
Long also talks about what’s going on with Tom Brady and the Bucs and why he thinks people shouldn’t sleep on the Packers.
Non-football topics Chris and I discussed include our hatred of shaving, UGGs, celebrity-scented candles, the funniest TV/movie death or funeral scenes and much more.
Or you can watch the podcast on YouTube.
3. We need more honesty like this from NFL head coaches.
4. Anyone else surprised that casino revenue in Las Vegas is down only 36% this year? I expected that number to be much higher.
5. It’s giveaway time. Easton Baseball has relaunched its “Green Easton” bat, and they are providing one for a Traina Thoughts reader.
The first person to email me (Jimmy.Traina@si.com) the correct answer to these two questions wins the Green Easton bat. You have to email me the answer. Do not send it via Twitter, Instagram, etc.
• On this week’s SI Media Podcast, Chris Long said he expected Mark Sanchez to be doing commercials for what after his football career?
• On the same podcast, Long cited which TV show as having the funniest funeral scene?
6. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: As I’ve said, funniest TV/movies death or funeral scenes was a topic on this week’s SI Media Podcast with Chris Long. Some of my Twitter followers passed along their favorites, and I need to shout out Sean Malone for this one.
7. SPORTS VIDEO OF THE DAY: Barry Sanders won the Heisman Trophy on this date in 1988. We’ve all seen Sanders’s Lions highlights many times, but did you all know he once had a 100-yard kickoff return during his Heisman season at Oklahoma State?
Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on Apple, Spotify or Stitcher. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.
NFL Divisional Round: What to watch for in Saturday’s games – Sportsnet.ca
Now things get real.
With wild-card weekend in the rear-view mirror, the top seeds in the AFC and NFC have entered the playoff chat.
Divisional weekend kicks off with a Saturday double-header that features the 2020 MVP favourite against arguably the league’s top defence and a pair of electrifying young quarterbacks squaring off in Western New York.
To help get set for the action, here’s what to watch for in the NFL playoffs on Saturday.
LOS ANGELES RAMS AT GREEN BAY PACKERS
Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET
What Vegas is saying: Packers -6.5 | O/U 45.5
Packers: Kingsley Keke, DE (Out, concussion)
Rams: Cooper Kupp, WR (Out, knee); Terrell Lewis, LB (Out, ankle); John Wolford, QB (Out, neck); David Edwards, G (Out, ankle)
How they got here
Packers: With Aaron Rodgers back in MVP form, the Packers thrived in head coach Matt LaFleur’s second year in charge on the way to an NFC-best 13-3 record behind the league’s highest-scoring offence.
Rams: Sean McVay’s team was able to survive a worst-case scenario at quarterback on wild-card weekend thanks to an absolutely dominant defensive performance against division rival Seattle.
What To Watch For
MVP favourite Rodgers faces toughest test yet
It’s been a renaissance season for the 37-year-old Aaron Rodgers, who led the league with 48 touchdown passes in the regular season and quarterbacked his team to the second-best record in football. Along with a top offensive line (even without All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari), arguably the best receiver in the game in Davante Adams and a dangerous run game, Rodgers and the Packers are an offence to be reckoned with.
But in their first game of the playoffs, Green Bay faces what might be its toughest test of the season in the Rams defence, which allowed both the fewest points and yards in the regular season and is fresh off smothering Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offence last Saturday.
With juicy matchups all over the field – Adams vs. Jalen Ramsey and the Packers offensive line vs. Aaron Donald being our favourites – how the Packers fare against Brandon Staley’s defensive unit is must-watch TV.
Can elite Rams defence steal another one?
It’s been laid out above so we don’t need to belabour the point: the Rams defence is dominant.
But the offence, which is usually a strength of L.A.’s under Sean McVay, is in a bit of a funk these days because of a very sticky situation at quarterback. Not only is Jared Goff dealing with the effects of recent thumb surgery but he hasn’t been at his best in the second half of this season even when healthy.
John Wolford, the backup QB who led the Rams to the playoffs with a Week 17 win when Goff was sidelined, is out for Saturday’s game after suffering a neck injury against Seattle. So the options at quarterback are slim for an offence that has been struggling to find the end zone.
That means an upset win will almost definitely fall on the shoulders of the defence… again. Can they repeat last week’s performance and shock the Packers at Lambeau? It’s going to be a tall task, but the good news is defensive superstar Aaron Donald is a go despite leaving the wild-card game with a rib injury last week.
BALTIMORE RAVENS AT BUFFALO BILLS
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET
What Vegas is saying: Bills -2.5 | O/U 49.5
Bills: Darryl Johnson, DE (Questionable, knee)
Ravens: D.J. Fluker, G (Questionable, knee); Marcus Peters, CB (Questionable, back)
How they got here
Bills: Buffalo survived a scare from Philip Rivers and the Colts on wild-card weekend in the best game of the first round, mostly thanks to another MVP-type performance from Josh Allen.
Ravens: Lamar Jackson got the monkey off his back last weekend, earning his first playoff victory with a win over the Titans in which the reigning MVP torched Tennessee with his legs and the Ravens defence stuffed rushing champ Derrick Henry.
What To Watch For
Can Bills slow down Lamar and the Ravens?
Josh Allen put on a show in last week’s tight win over the Colts, and we expect the third-year Bills quarterback will be able to keep up his stellar season against the Ravens. But the biggest question heading into the divisional round for Buffalo is how the defence will slow down the quarterback on the opposite sideline.
Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier had success against the Ravens in their matchup last season, holding that prolific Ravens offence to its lowest total yards in a game in all of the 2019 regular season.
But that Bills defence was a top-three unit; the 2020 edition of the Buffalo defence is still above average but has had its ups and downs, which includes giving up 472 total yards to Indy last weekend.
Jackson and the Ravens offence has been explosive throughout their six-game win streak, averaging 425.5 total yards of offence – including 262.2 yards per game on the ground – and more than 34 points per contest over that span.
Can the Bills defence rebound from wild-card weekend to slow Lamar Jackson and get big stops? That will be the key to Buffalo advancing to its first AFC title game since 1993.
Will blitz-heavy Ravens get after Josh Allen?
During the regular season, no defence blitzed more than the Ravens: Baltimore rushed five or more players on 44.1 per cent of dropbacks, according to Pro Football Reference.
It’s a strategy that’s worked well for a defence that has been among the league’s best under defensive co-ordinator Don “Wink” Martindale the last three seasons, including in 2019 against Buffalo when Josh Allen struggled in a big way against the Ravens’ blitz.
In Josh Allen’s previous matchup with the Ravens, he was blitzed on a career-high 64% of dropbacks.
Allen was sacked 5 times on blitzes (tied for the 2nd-most in a game since 2016) and lost -17.7 EPA (6th-worst by a QB).#BALvsBUF | #RavensFlock pic.twitter.com/ywICPZOrHW
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 14, 2021
But, unfortunately for the Ravens, success against the blitz is among the many incredible transformations Allen has undergone as a passer this season, and in 2020 the Bills QB has emerged as among the league’s best in that category.
Despite that marked improvement, Martindale says his defence won’t shy away from bringing the house against Allen in Saturday night’s prime-time showdown – and with good reason seeing how well it work last time. But Baltimore did show an openness last week to change tactics when blitzing wasn’t getting the desired results, and cut the percentage of dropbacks on which they blitzed Ryan Tannehill in half in the third and fourth quarter last Sunday – and it worked.
So will the Ravens blitz Allen Saturday at their normal rate, and if so, how will Allen fare? If Allen continues his success against the blitz, will Baltimore adjust on the fly?
Whatever happens, Saturday’s clash between two of the AFC’s most prolific teams will be fascinating.
Andreescu's coach among positive COVID-19 cases forcing Australian Open players into quarantine – CTV News
Bianca Andreescu’s coach, Sylvain Bruneau, has tested positive for COVID-19, one of three confirmed cases that have forced 47 Australian Open players into quarantine ahead of the tournament.
The three positive cases, including Bruneau, were detected among charter flights carrying players, coaches and officials to the Australian city before Saturday’s tournament.
Despite following all of the safety protocols, including receiving a negative test result within 72 hours before his flight, Bruneau said he tested positive shortly after arriving in Melbourne.
“I am deeply sorry to share that I have just tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival here in Melbourne, after travelling from Abu Dubai on flight EY8004,” Bruneau said in a statement issued Saturday, noting he felt fine when he boarded the plane.
“I also respected and followed all COVID protocols and guidelines while in the Middle East. I have no idea how I might have contracted this virus.”
Andreescu has yet to comment on her coach’s diagnosis but has tested negative for the virus.
Three coronavirus cases have now been detected among flights carrying tennis players, coaches and officials ahead of the Australian Open.
A total of 47 players from two affected flights – one arriving from Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi – are now in a strictly enforced 14-day quarantine without the ability to leave their hotel rooms, even to practice.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley issued a statement saying the 24 players who were on the flight from Los Angeles would not be able to leave their hotels rooms for 14 days and until they are medically cleared.
“We are communicating with everyone on this flight, and particularly the playing group whose conditions have now changed, to ensure their needs are being catered to as much as possible, and that they are fully appraised of the situation,” Tiley said.
It’s unclear how serious Bruneau’s case is.
“I am extremely saddened and sorry for the consequences now on everyone’s shoulders sharing my flight,” he said. “The rest of my team is negative and I sincerely hope that any further disruption is kept to a minimum.”
The Australian Open is scheduled to start Feb. 8.
SENATORS AFTERTHOUGHTS: A closer look at the Senators' 5-3 win over the Maple Leafs Friday – Ottawa Sun
Game One: Senators 5, Maple Leafs 3
WHY THEY WON: The young and rebuilding Senators sent a loud message to a veteran-laden Maple Leafs squad that should have known better.
The Maple Leafs were flashing their considerable talent and had the Senators on their heels throughout the first half of the second period, breaking a 1-1 tie on Alexander Kerfoot’s goal.
Apparently, they thought they could coast to victory from there.
Guess again. Led by Brady Tkachuk, the Senators came off the ropes, rallying for three goals in a 4:35 span to close out the second period.
Maple Leafs goaltender Fredrik Andersen certainly didn’t have his best night, swimming around his crease for much of the game, but he didn’t have much help when the Senators cranked up the pressure.
In the final period, the Senators effectively shut down a Maple Leafs squad that couldn’t regain its edge and was guilty of backing up and coughing up the puck against the Senators pressure.
It’s only one game, of course, but the Senators set an example that they will battle their way to the end.
Goaltender Matt Murray was solid in his Senators debut, not panicking when the Maple Leafs were threatening to run away with the contest.
THEY SAID IT:
Senators winger Brady Tkachuk: “We want to win games, we want to be a playoff team and we want to keep learning from the mistakes we made. We want the two points every night. That’s our goal and I think the pace of play and the physicality is going to determine that.”
Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe: “When you score a goal like that (Kerfoot) and you have control over the period the way that we did, for us, if we want to be a team that is going to accomplish anything, the game should be over from there. We should be able to take care of the lead and build on the lead. Obviously, it showed that we are not there yet.”
NFL Divisional Round: What to watch for in Saturday’s games – Sportsnet.ca
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