This Week in Sports Talk (TWIST) is our weekly roundup of top headlines and current events from the past seven days in the world of sports, plus a preview of what’s up next. Heading into the week of December 13, 2020, here’s how to talk about the top sports news of the moment. Skim it, and you’ll be good to go all week.
This Week in Sports Talk: December 13, 2020
Here are the top stories of note in the world of sports heading into the week of December 13, 2020.
1. Steelers fall to the Footballers; Jets remain winless
On Monday night, the previously undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers (11-1) went down to defeat at the hands of the Washington Football Team (5-7), 17-23.
But some things remain the same: the New York Jets remained winless after a truly heart-breaking last minute loss to the Raiders. The Jets had a 4-point lead with about a minute and a half to go. But as the Raiders set up for their last play, the Jets’ defensive coach made an inexplicable call that left a receiver open behind the defensive line. The Raiders scored a touchdown with 5 seconds left in the game.
It was such an epic bad call that the Jets fired their defensive coordinator a day later. What to say? Sometimes it’s better to just say nothing. Although we did hear the Sports Desk dudes muttering the words “dumpster fire” under their breath.
2. Spills, thrills and chills in week 13 of the NFL season
Also in week 13, the New York Giants shocked everyone by beating the Seattle Seahawks, 17-12. The New England Patriots torched the Chargers, 45 – 0 (“torched” is our Sports Desk’s term, and it seems accurate here). On Monday night, the Buffalo Bills beat the San Francisco 49’ers. On Tuesday, the Baltimore Ravens beat the Dallas Cowboys.
And if it seems lately as if there’s an NFL game every day, well, you’re not far off. It’s 2020 and nothing that appears to be fixed is inviolate.[white_box]
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The Philadelphia Eagles have benched quarterback Carson Wentz in favor of Jalen Hurts. When Hurts takes the field today against the New Orleans Saints, it’ll be his first start for the team.
The Eagles may want to trade Wentz, but they’ve made a huge investment in him. He signed a significant contract extension a couple years ago. The best landing spot for him appears to be the Indianapolis Colts. That move would reunite Wentz with his former offensive coordinator, Colts Head Coach Frank Reich. Reich was his coordinator when Wentz was on track for an MVP before a season-ending ACL injury late in the 2017 season.
Finally, the Carolina Panthers will reportedly fine players who violated COVID-19 protocols during the team’s Week 13 bye. The fines would be at least $10,000 per person, and reports are that about 8 players will be subject to the penalty for congregating outside of team facilities and then ending up on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week.
3. NFL week 14 – games of note
Rams beat Patriots
On Thursday night, in a stunning reversal of fortune, the New England Patriots got mauled by the LA Rams in a revenge game, 24-3. It was a rematch of the Super Bowl almost three years ago, when the Pats shut down Sean McVeigh and Goff.
New England had won four of their last five heading into this game, but Thursday night they looked terrible. All the chatter about the Pats going to the playoffs after last weeks 45 – 0 beat down of the Chargers quickly evaporated after the loss. Furthermore, quarterback Cam Newton played terribly, so it may be the end of the line for him.
Seahawks host Jets
Today the Seattle Seahawks host the New York Jets. They’re coming off of an upset loss to the New York Giants last week, and looking to bounce back. Meanwhile, Jets fans are faced with two scenarios: (1) remain winless and draft star Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with a number one pick. Or (2) win this game and lose the number one pick in the draft. They’re stuck on the horns of a dilemma – which outcome is your preferred scenario, dear reader?
other big games this week
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers face the Minnesota Vikings – fans are watching to see if the Bucs and Tom Brady can win the last 4 games of the regular season and go into the playoffs strong.
The newly-resurgent New York Giants host the Arizona Cardinals and their adorable quarterback Kyler Murray in a bid to hold onto to first place in the NFC East. They’ve been on a roll, with an impressive win against the Seahawks last week – and its likely that their rookie quarterback, Daniel Jones, will return.
On Monday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers face the Buffalo Bills in a game that will demonstrate whether or not the previously undefeated Steelers can bounce back from their surprise loss last week to the Washington Footballers.
And there’s football on Tuesday this week! The Baltimore Ravens meet the Cleveland Browns as they vie for second place and a possible wild card berth in a game too close for even Vegas to call – the odds are dead even heading into game time.
4. College football sees another “first”
Sarah Fuller is on fire
Pioneering Vanderbilt athlete Sarah Fuller, 21, has chalked another first in the record books. Yesterday, when she scored the extra point in the first quarter of the game, she became the first woman to score in a Power Five football game. She’s the goalkeeper for the school’s women’s soccer team, and has been pressed into service as players have been sidelined due to COVID-19.
Also yesterday, Navy’s Midshipmen fell to Army’s Black Knights 15-0 at West Point. No. 9 Georgia dominated No. 25 Missouri, 49-14. And No. 17 North Carolina thumped No. 10 Miami, 62-26. No, that is not a typo. Just elegant symmetry.
games that didn’t get played this weekend
There’s almost as much news this week on college football games that didn’t happen as on the ones that did.
For starters, in a players-only meeting Friday morning, Utah State players voted not to play at Colorado State to protest comments made this week by USU president Noelle Cockett. Cockett made remarks about the university’s interim football coach Frank Maile this week, and players report that he expressed religious bias against Maile (who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) while addressing his candidacy for the head coaching vacancy. Utah State is expected to hire Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson to fill the position, per media reports.
And the epic traditional rivalry game between Ohio State and Michigan was canceled due to coronavirus protocols. Even that was not without controversy, though. Before the cancellation was announced, ESPN analyst and former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit predicted that the struggling Wolverines would “waive the white flag” and not play the game. Implying that they would use COVID-19 as an excuse to avoid playing the Buckeyes, who have been on fire this season. Michigan’s Athletic Director was – unsurprisingly – incensed by the comment.[white_box]
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5. NBA Pre-season is underway
In the second week its pre-season, the NBA is flatting the coronavirus curve in a rather impressive way. The COVID-19 positivity rate among NBA players is down to 1.5 percent from nearly nine percent just a week ago.
The NBA preseason — 49 games in nine days — opened Friday with a five-game schedule. And the stands were basically empty, as they will be this season until further notice.
James Harden has made it clear that wants out of Houston. And while technically, the Rockets don’t have to do anything, as Harden is under contract with the team for two more seasons, something is likely to give. Harden has expressed interest in a trade to a number of teams, including the Nets; the 76’ers; the Bucks; and the Heat.
And speaking of the Nets, Kyrie Irving is already making news by . . . well, refusing to talk to the news media. Instead of attending a press conference, he issued a statement. And indicated that he plans to do that the entire season. It’s a costly move, since his contract requires him to talk to the NBA press; he was fined $25,000.
6. Upsets are the new norm in college hoops
The college basketball season has seen a string of upsets in the past two weeks.
Unranked San Francisco upset No. 4 Virginia, 61-60, late last month. During the same week, Virginia Tech overcame some late-game challenges and won an upset overtime victory against No. 3 Villanova. Last week, unranked Marquette upset No. 13 Wisconsin. Why is this happening? Dear reader, we have no idea.
It’s unsurprising, but COVID-19 continues to plague college basketball. Yesterday, Florida basketball star Keyontae Johnson collapsed early in a game against rival Florida State. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, and as of this posting remains in critical but stable condition. Johnson had previously tested positive for coronavirus but had subsequently been cleared to play.
Duke basketball has decided not to play non-conference games to try to minimize player exposure to COVID-19. The legendary “Coach K,” Mike Krzyzewski, has also raised the question of whether the season should even be continuing, giving the surging number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. Rivals immediately noted that Duke is off to its weakest season start in more than 20 years, implying that their 2-2 record could have something to do with the team’s willingness to pull back this season.
Finally, in a sign that coping with stress and pandemic fatigue takes many different forms, the Georgia Tech basketball coach was seen smashing a piñata shaped like a COVID-19 sphere. We feel you, brother.
7. Tennis schedule for 2021 in flux
This week, organizers announced the schedule for the 2021 Australian Open. The tournament will begin on February 8 – about a month later than usual. Players will fly to Australia in chartered flights on January 15 and 16. Then they’ll quarantine inside a “bubble” upon arrival. Once they test negative, players will be free to live anywhere they want and move around Melbourne during a free week from February 1-7.
Seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams announced that she will be there – at 40, she’s planning to continue her playing career in ’21.
As of this posting, the 2021 BNP Paribas Open is still slated to be held from March 8 – 21 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Of course, that’s subject to change now that the Australian Open schedule has been finalized.[white_box]
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8. New York Mets name their new General Manager
MLB’s Mets super-fans continue to live the dream. Yesterday, some of the team’s season ticketholders were invited to Citi Field to add to their bobblehead collections. In a holiday surprise, the new team owner Steve Cohen and his wife, Alex, appeared and spent time handing out gifts and chatting with fans outside the stadium.
“We want to thank our fans for going through a season that was obviously incredibly difficult,” Cohen said during an interview. “We just wanted to thank them for the support. Our fans are the best fans in baseball. And so we just wanted to say thank you.”
Well played, Mr. Cohen.
In late-breaking news, yesterday afternoon multiple publications reported that the Mets are finalizing a contract with Arizona Diamondbacks assistant general manager Jared Porter to be their new General Manager. He’ll replace Brodie Van Wagenen.
9. The best of 2020: sportspeople of the year
Sports Illustrated has named its annual “Sports Person of the Year.” And the winner is . . . The Activist Athlete.
SI named five individuals who were “champions on the field, champions for others off of it” this year. LeBron James, Breanna Stewart, Patrick Mahomes, Naomi Osaka and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif took the honors.
LeBron James is also TIME Magazine’s 2020 Athlete of the Year. And 14-year old Tyler Gordon is the illustrator for the cover image. The San Jose teen first made news when he painted a portrait of the Vice President-elect and she called to thank him.
Congratulations, all! And thank you for showing us how it’s done.
10. Florida Man
We close this week’s report with the latest episode in the popular adventure series Tampa Bay Watch. This week, the Buccaneers star quarterback Tom Brady, 43, officially declares himself to be a Florida Man.
In an interview this week about whether or not he’ll be playing for Tampa Bay next season, he waxes rhapsodic about the weather in Florida and how good it feels. Then he says “you won’t catch me dead living in the Northeast anymore.”
And the dude is not bluffing. Brady and wife Gisele Bündchen sold their New York City apartment for just under $40 million this week. So no Buffalo, no Pittsburgh. No New York. And definitely no New England for this dude. He’s getting older. And like so many before him, he’s shopping for a condo, a golf cart and lots of polo shirts – and looking forward to many golden retirement years in the sun.
This Week in Sports Talk December 13, 2020
That’s it. You’re good to go with the top sports headlines and coming attractions heading into the week of December 13, 2020. Stay safe and healthy, dear reader. See you next week.
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For access to insider ideas and information on the world of luxury, sign up for our Dandelion Chandelier newsletter here. And see luxury in a new light.