Today's Names to Know: Leslie Nielsen vs. Leslie Frazier, Matt Ryan vs. Aaron Rodgers, Andre Johnson vs. Cortland Finnegan, Josh McDaniels vs. Sam Bradford, Peyton Hillis vs. Chris Johnson, Dwayne Bowe vs. Steve Johnson, Auburn vs. Oregon, Pacers vs. Lakers, LeBron vs. Eric Spolestra, Naked Gun's Detective Drebin vs. Airplane's Doctor Rumack and More.
NFL Talking Points: "...And don't call me Shirley."
*And the best team in the NFC is... the Falcons? (Meanwhile: How are the Bears suddenly alone in 1st place in the NFC North this late in the season?)
*Chargers roll along: Yeah, yeah -- they are a Top 5 team in the NFL right now, record notwithstanding. But it's the same old pattern: Start slow, finish hot, flame out in playoffs.
*Leslie Frazier: 1-0. Part of it is a team inspired by having shed a dispiriting coach. Part of it is getting to play the Redskins. Either way: Midseason coaching changes are good for good teams.
(How about that Brett Favre 10-yard scramble on 3rd-and-8 late to seal the win? Just when you think you're out, he sucks you back in.)
*Andre Johnson vs. Cortland Finnegan: It added even more insult to the Titans' suddenly tanking season, to see their DB get his head throttled by an irate Johnson.
*Steelers survive the Bills: Steve Johnson has the Drop of the Year. (And, perhaps, the Tweet of the Year, too.)
*SpyGate 2: Josh McDaniels probably has to worry about being fired for performance before he worries about being fired for cheating. (Who tapes an opponent... and loses?)
Meanwhile, how about Sam Bradford and the Rams? While McDaniels leaves Tebow on the bench, Bradford had his first 300-yard game -- and his best game as a pro, by far -- and seems to have NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year locked up. (Next stop: Playoffs?!?) I'll say it again: I was so wrong about Bradford back before (and after) the draft.
*Fantasy Stud: Peyton Hillis. Hillis won't earn many votes for league MVP, but he has had a sick enough year that he should run away with Fantasy MVP. (Runner-up? Dwayne Bowe).
*Fantasy Dud: Titans QB Rusty Smith -- or should I say Titans RB Chris Johnson, who had a career-low 5 yards rushing after Houston's D put, like, 11 in the box.
*MNF Tonight: 49ers-Cards. A true test whether the NFL's TV ratings can withstand anything. Absurdly, these are the two sub-.500 teams in the NFC West NOT leading the division.
BCS: Clarity, for now. Appropriately, Auburn is No. 1. (It is the definition of pollster inertia that the AP and Coaches kept Oregon at No. 1, just because they were No. 1 last week and won.)
Oregon is No. 2. If both win next week -- and that is no given -- then they will meet for the national title, with little fuss made about it.
If either lose, TCU will crash the party -- and give either a hell of a game.
And if both lose, then we will have TCU and... insanity. Which 1-loss team would deserve it most: Stanford? Wisconsin? Auburn or Oregon getting another chance? That's a mess.
(I haven't heard from the BCS experts, but I presume that Auburn's superior strength of schedule -- only better for having played South Carolina -- would leave it tops among 1-loss teams.)
Prelim BlogPoll ballot: (1) Auburn, (2) Oregon, (3) TCU, (4) Stanford, (5) Wisconsin, (6) Nevada, (7) Boise, (8) Ohio State, (9) Arkansas, (10) South Carolina.
UPDATE: TCU to Big East in 2012. Great move for both. TCU gets the automatic BCS bowl entry; the league gets a national-level contender (with the awesome Texas footprint). TCU will win the league every year, from 2012 until forever.
BTW: It would behoove the Big East to claim TCU's BCS-worthiness THIS season as its own, particularly given that its own champ is such a dud.
NBA Weekend: The Shoulder Bump Heard 'Round the World. Did LeBron knock into Coach Spo intentionally, in some sort of power move? From watching the replays, I don't buy it -- then again, I don't put it past LeBron to do it. (If your team was as mediocre as his was, wouldn't you be a little frustrated and wanting to take it out on the coach?) If nothing else, it made the coach LOOK like a chump.
Wow, how in the world did the Pacers beat the Lakers in LA? Did the Lakers forget there was a game? It was Indiana's first-ever win against the Lakers at Staples Center -- and their second world-beating road W in a week (this was way more impressive than beating the Heat).
Meanwhile, the Spurs roll on: They beat the Hornets in NOLA.
Pro Football HOF semifinalists: How big can a HOF class be? Because the first-time nominees are strong: Deion is a lock, as Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis all should be. (What a class for RBs it could be if Terrell Davis is added to the group.)
RIP, Leslie Nielsen: His role as Detective Frank Drebin included a classic sports-movie scene, when he took over as an ump in Naked Gun. (I'll always be partial to Nielsen as Dr. Rumack in "Airplane." The phrase of the day: "And don't call me Shirley." Oh, and I had the lasagna.)
More coming later today.