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This Week in Sports Talk: January 12, 2020

This week in sports talk January 12, 2020

This Week in Sports Talk (TWIST) is our weekly roundup of top headlines and sports news, plus a preview of what’s up next. Heading into the week of January 12, 2020, here’s the top sports news, with a twist. Skim it, and you’ll be good to go all week.

This Week in Sports Talk: January 12, 2020

We begin with some short takes in sports news heading into the week of January 12, 2020.

Serena Williams wins

Earlier today, Serena Williams won her first WTA tournament title in nearly three years — and her first since having her daughter Olympia. She won an Australian Open “tune-up” event in Auckland, New Zealand, and immediately donated her winnings from the tournament to relief efforts in the ongoing bush fires in Australian

College Football Playoffs National Championship

No. 1 LSU plays No. 3 Clemson on Monday in the NCAA College Football National Championship game. Game time is 8:00P Eastern. L.S.U. had college football’s best offense all season. Clemson, the defending national champion, had the best defense. LSU is favored by 5.5 over Clemson in the Vegas odds. But as our Sports Desk always says:  anything can happen.

No. 3 Clemson meets No. 1 LSU in the College Football National Championship on Monday night.

Also worth noting: Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (who is absolutely adorable) has never lost a game as the starting quarterback for Clemson.

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NFL Coaching changes

After a fair amount of back-and-forth, the Dallas Cowboys fired coach Jason Garrett, replacing him with ex-Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy. The New York Giants have hired Joe Judge, previously the special teams coach for the New England Patriots, as their new head coach. The Carolina Panthers signed Matt Rhule, formerly the head coach at Baylor, to a whopping seven-year, $60 million contract – a staggering amount for a first-time NFL head coach. The last head coaching vacancy has reportedly been filled as of today – reports are that the Cleveland Browns plan to hire Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski as their next head coach. He would replace Freddie Kitchens, who was fired after just one season.

Joe Judge, new head coach of the New York Giants. Photo Credit: USA Today.

No progress on diversity in NFL coaching ranks

Astute observers have noted that after this round of changes, out of 32 total, there are still only three black head coaches in the NFL. Brian Flores (Miami), Anthony Lynn (L.A. Chargers) and Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh). That’s the same number as in 2003, when the NFL adopted the famous “Rooney Rule,” which requires that all head coach searches have a diverse slate of candidates. Apparently, the rule is easy to circumvent – meanwhile, 60% of the league’s players are African-American. 

Mike Tomlin, head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Tua Tagovailoa going pro

Alabama Crimson Tide star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has declared his entry into the NFL draft. Under normal circumstances, he’d be the #1 pick. But due to a devastating injury that sidelined him for the second half of the season, that’s in some doubt.

Tua Tagovailoa

Fans see him as great raw talent, and hope that a team with an established quarterback will sign him so he can take a year to get healthy and then be good to go as the starter.

Top Sports Headlines heading into the week of January 12, 2020

Now that we’re warmed up, here’s everything else you need to know about sports heading into the week of January 12, 2020:

1. NFL

Must Know:

Heading into the Divisional Round weekend, the four home teams were all favored to win, since they got a “bye” and didn’t have to play last weekend.

Yesterday, that proved to be true for the San Francisco 46ers, who rolled over the Minnesota Vikings, 27-10. But not for the Baltimore Ravens, who lost big to the Tennessee Titans in an upset at home, 28-12.

Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers during the NFC Divisional Round Playoff game. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

Today, the Houston Texans visit the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Seattle Seahawks play the Green Bay Packers at home, where the chilly temperatures may be a factor.

Nice to Know:

In case you missed it, last week’s Wild Card Weekend last was pretty wild. Two games went into overtime and the other two came down to last-minute plays determining the final outcome. Many fans viewed it as the perfect wild card weekend, with all four games turning out to be competitive.

In perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend, the New Orleans Saints lost in overtime to the Minnesota Vikings. Nearly everyone had viewed the Saints as one of the strongest of all the teams in the playoffs. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins won props for finally winning a crucial game (his record in the playoffs and in prime time games has historically been very poor).

The Buffalo Bills’ fairy tale season ended last weekend with a loss to the Houston Texans. Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson had a strong game.

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson during last weekend’s wild card victory.

In another close match-up, the Tennessee Titans’ Derrick Henry helped lead his time to a win over the New England Patriots, despite the Pats’ league-leading defense. And the Seattle Seahawks beat the Philadelphia Eagles in a convincing win.

Extra Credit:

Last weekend’s New England Patriots loss to the Tennessee Titans could be a catalyst for major changes in the off-season. After having been eliminated in the wild card round for the first time since 2009, quarterback Tom Brady is now a free agent.

Tom Brady after his wildcard loss to the Tennessee Titans last weekend. Photo Credit: Adam Glanzman, Getty Images.

The 42-year-old has indicated he’s highly likely to continue playing. But whether it will be for the Pats remains to be seen.  On the coaching side, many of New England’s coaches are prime candidates to be poached (one has already been hired by the New York Giants). Watch this space for further updates.

Bonus Round:

For Saints fans, the loss last weekend to the Vikings in overtime was particularly galling. It was their third loss in the playoffs in as many years. Perhaps as a result, they tried calling foul over the final play, claiming the Vikings’ player might have committed Offensive Pass Interference (OPI).

The final play of the wild card game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints. Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated.

The issue wasn’t called on game day, and there wasn’t much scrutiny at the time. Subsequently, the NFL reviewed the play in question and ruled there was not enough contact for a call of OPI. Ironically, the Saints are the team that precipitated an OPI rule change due to a heart-breaking missed call in last season’s playoff game against the LA Rams.

2. NBA

Must Know:

Heading into this week, the Milwaukee Bucks remain in first place in the East. And the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks are still in last place.

this week in sports talk January 12, 2020

In the West, the LA Lakers remain in first, and the Golden State Warriors continue to hold last place. Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embid is out for a few weeks due to surgery on his finger.

LeBron James. Photo Credit: The New York Times.

Nice to Know: 

The voting is underway for the NBA All-Star Game, and as of this posting, the LA Lakers’ LeBron James leads the pack, with the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic in second place.

Extra credit:

The head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, John Beilein, continues to have a very rocky first year as an NBA coach, following his long and successful run in the NCAA. This week, ESPN reported that in a video interview, Beilein said “the Cavaliers were no longer playing like ‘a bunch of thugs.’ 

Cleveland Cavaliers Head Coach

In subsequent interviews, Beilein was adamant that he’d meant to say that his players were no longer “a bunch of slugs,” referring to their improved energy level and competitiveness. Unsurprisingly, controversy has ensued. Freudian slip? Or innocent mistake? What do you think he meant to say, dear reader?

3. And in other news . . . 

Must Know:

The Australian Open, the first tennis Grand Slam tournament of the year, is scheduled to be played at Melbourne Park from January 20 to February 2.

A tennis event called the Australian Open Rally for Relief, is set to raise funds for the fire-fighting efforts in southern Australia. Superstars including Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have agreed to participate. Nick Kyrgios, a native of Canberra, has also pledged to donate $200 per ace during the Australian Open to the relief effort.

Nice to know:

2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu has announced her withdrawal from the Australian Open due to her ongoing recovery from a knee injury.

Extra Credit:

In women’s college basketball this week, No. 6 Baylor beat top-ranked Connecticut 74-58, ending the Huskies’ 98-game home winning streak. It was the second consecutive year that the Bears ended a long Connecticut run. Last season, Baylor stopped the Huskies’ 126-game regular-season winning streak.

This Week in Sports News January 12, 2020

That’s it. You’re good to go with the top headlines and coming attractions heading into the week of January 12, 2020. Have a good one, and see you next week.

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