Browse Month by December 2016
Jacksonville Jaguars

Durant will likely have to go through James, Irving and the Cavaliers if he hopes to get his first NBA championship

So here it is, the last week of December. And you know what I can’t get out of my head? Bartolo Colon’s home run. Yeah, really. What the heck is wrong with me, anyway?

And then I realize. Nothing is wrong with me. I’m thinking about Bartolo’s magical home run because it makes me laugh — but also because it reminds me of something I never want to forget.

That baseball is awesome. And this totally goofy, totally exhilarating, totally out-of-the-blue home run was one of those OMG moments that sums up the strange but true beauty of this incredible sport.

Every single day, for six months a year, we find ourselves asking: How the hell did that happen? Or: When was the last time that happened? Or: Did you just see what I saw? Or something like that. Well, you know what? Even in December, when we find ourselves halfway through baseball’s long, cold, box-score-free offseason, that’s something to celebrate.

So what better time to savor those beautiful moments than the final week of 2016, when there is no baseball at all — other than the awesome memories that get us through the winter? C’mon, raise your champagne glasses as we toast the 100 percent nonfictional wackiness that makes baseball so relentlessly cool.

Cleveland has now beaten the Warriors in four-straight emotional and contested games, dating back to the 2016 NBA Finals. Irving and James hooted and hollered in appreciation as they entered the victorious home locker room after their Christmas win. The Warriors host the Cavaliers in the final regular-season meeting between the two teams on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 16, 2017.

Durant will likely have to go through James, Irving and the Cavaliers if he hopes to get his first NBA championship, but admitted that his first Warriors-Cavs experience was actually pretty cool.

“It’s amazing. Every time you get to play in this atmosphere, it’s incredible. I’m looking forward to the next one,” Durant said. “It’s fun. I wish that we could keep playing.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for The Undefeated. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Chargers sink to new low, fall to lowly Browns

The Chargers twice had chances to tie the game. With 3:49 left, San Diego kicker Josh Lambo’s 32-yard attempt was blocked by Cleveland defensive lineman Jamie Meder.

San Diego got the ball back with 1:52 left and Philip Rivers again marched his team into field goal position, but when the field goal team rushed onto the field, Lambo pushed his 45-yard attempt wide right as time expired and Cleveland players rushed the field.

San Diego, which dropped to 5-10, has lost four straight and six of their past eight games. The Chargers finished the game with nine accepted penalties for 92 yards.

Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings: Only 26 individual performances this season have been worth 30-plus fantasy points, and Thielen’s — a career-best 32 Saturday — was one of the most unexpected. He was started in just 6.4 percent of ESPN leagues, the second-lowest rate of any player who has reached that threshold all year, behind only Jay Ajayi (32, started in 5.0 percent) in Week 6. What’s more, Thielen’s 12 catches gave him 44 fantasy points using PPR scoring, which is the third-best performance by any individual player all year, behind only Le’Veon Bell’s 51 in Week 14 and Julio Jones’ 48 in Week 4.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers: He was a much, much more obvious fantasy play than Thielen, started in 83.4 percent of ESPN leagues (third-most among quarterbacks), but Rodgers’ 36 points nevertheless led the way during the 1 p.m. ET block. It tied for his fourth-best total in his career and gave him his 15th performance reaching the 30-point threshold; only six players in history have had more (Drew Brees, 20; LaDainian Tomlinson, 20; Marshall Faulk, 18; Jim Brown, 17; Tom Brady, 16; and Steve Young, 16). They also pushed Rodgers’ seasonal fantasy point total past the 300 threshold — he now has 331, his third-best single-year total — giving him a record-tying fifth career season with at least that many, matching Peyton Manning.

Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL playoff scenarios, Week 16: Chiefs, Giants and Steelers can clinch

Four teams — the Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, and Dallas Cowboys — have clinched playoff spots for 2017. Nine more can join them in Week 16.

The Chiefs, Lions, and Giants will all hope the second time’s the charm as they enter Sunday with an opportunity to earn a postseason bid in back-to-back weeks. Kansas City and Detroit both suffered tough defeats that threatened their chances to claim division titles. New York came out on the happy side of its matchup with the Lions, but wins from Washington and the Packers denied Eli Manning a guaranteed playoff berth on Sunday.

The Texans, Dolphins, Steelers, Falcons, Packers, and Buccaneers will each have their first opportunities to extend their season this weekend. Pittsburgh can complete its rally from 4-5 washout to 10-5 AFC South champions by getting revenge on the Ravens in a rematch of their Week 9 showdown. The Dolphins can give the AFC East a second playoff team for just the first time since 2010 by rallying behind backup quarterback Matt Moore, who is subbing in for the injured Ryan Tannehill.

Things get complicated the deeper you look at the league’s Wild Card spots. The Packers and Buccaneers both need wins, and then a whole lot of help from teams across the conference to lock down a postseason bid. That’s better than Washington’s fate, however. Kirk Cousins’ team had the opportunity to control its own destiny, but lost to the Panthers on Monday Night Football instead. The defeat dropped the team out of the playoff picture for now, and means they won’t be able to lock down a Wild Card bid until Week 17 — if at all.

“I don’t know what [Marvin Lewis is] able and capable of doing,” Roethlisberger said. “Maybe he’s tried, maybe he hasn’t, I don’t really know, I can’t speak for what they do over there … I know some of their players they just can’t stand it and I know if it was on our team, we’d have to have a talk.”

Burfict had a huge game for the Bengals, but Cincinnati blew the 20-10 lead they carried into the half, losing 24-20.

A better pass rush has been a glaring need for the Cowboys just about all season, even with all of the success they have been having. If Irving can come close to reproducing those kinds of results at defensive end against other teams, the Cowboys will be tough to beat in the playoffs. He may end up being what they have been looking for all along.

Or not.

Only one way to really find out.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Carroll: I don’t expect people to understand fake punt

Because NFL coaches are not the type to turn around and say ‘You know what? That actually wasn’t the best idea’ we got another day of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll defending a fake punt late in Thursday’s game that injured Jon Ryan and kicked the head coach-less Rams while they were down three scores.

“We had a tremendous preparation for an opportunity to take that we knew could be like a turnover in the game,” Carroll said Friday, via The Seattle Times. “If we could get the opportunity we would go for it. It didn’t matter when it happened, we were looking for it the whole night. The opportunity that we took, it gave us a chance to hold onto the football and not give them even the chance to get the ball back. What more could I do to help my team?

The 10-year veteran could be a breath of fresh air for a rapidly-stalling Vikings offense. The team is currently 24th in points, 31st in total yards, and 32nd in rushing yards. Peterson had 50 yards on 31 carries through two games this season before placing him on injured reserve in late September. While their banged-up offensive line is a source of many woes, Peterson is one of the few players in football who can negate deficiencies up front.

Peterson had surgery for a torn meniscus back on Sept. 22.

The Vikings (7-6) are well aware that they have to win out to keep their lofty playoff goals alive — a road that starts this weekend against the Indianapolis Colts. Peterson certainly cannot hurt those chances, and has already moved his return date up a week. His original expectation was to be back for next weekend’s matchup against the division-rival Packers.

Darren McFadden will make his return from an elbow injury as Ezekiel Elliott’s backup against the Bucs, Rapoport reported. Alfred Morris, who served as Elliott’s primary backup throughout this season, could be inactive.

Despite Amari Cooper battling a shoulder injury and Michael Crabtree fighting through a finger injury, both Raiders receivers are expected to play, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

“It means the world to me, to be able to do this in Las Vegas in front of all my friends and family,” Pumphrey, who prepped at Las Vegas Canyon Springs High School, told ABC. “Our coaches did a great job of getting us ready for this game, and our offensive line, they took care of business. From that point on, I was able to hit the holes.”