Today's Names to Know: Peyton Manning, Chris Johnson, Brett Favre, Tim Tebow, Fantasy Football Finales, Cliff Lee, Cam Newton, Cecil Newton, Army-Navy, 1-AA Playoffs, Kyrie Irving, Temple hoops, Bill Simmons and More.
Peyton Manning: You know it's an off-year for Peyton when it's considered a good game when he doesn't throw it away. Colts still on the outside looking in with the AFC playoffs.
Chris Johnson: As a member of the "Used a No. 1 overall fantasy draft pick on CJ" club -- rising and falling with Johnson's inconsistency this season -- last night was a timely breakthrough.
NFL Week 14: Storylines to Watch
*Pats roll on? You could argue that playing the Bears in Chicago is a lot tougher than playing the Jets in Foxboro. Then again, the Jets put up so little resistance, that's hardly a high bar.
*NFC East: The Giants (8-4) are at Minnesota. The Eagles (8-4) are at Dallas, looking to play the spoiler. And, yet, the only question people are going to be talking about is whether Brett Favre will start, extending his record streak.
*Brett Favre digression: Can we stop and talk about that for a sec? How much b.s. is it if Favre takes the first snap of the game, hands off to Adrian Peterson, then leaves the game -- only to keep his streak going? You'd think any competitor who had any sense of pride would want to earn it the right way. Then again, this is the QB who intentionally tanked a play to give Michael Strahan a sack record. So I would be surprised if he DIDN'T selfishly take the snap.
*Division jockeying: Two games behind, the Chargers are in a must-win against the Chiefs... With the Colts winning last night, it puts pressure on the Jags to do the same, to stay one game ahead... The Bucs have little room for error in D.C....
*Sub-.500 Division Champ Watch: I am getting a little obsessed with the idea of a sub-.500 team winning the NFC West. So to help that happen, we need the Rams to lose in New Orleans and the Seahawks to lose in San Francisco.
*Tebow Time? With Josh McDaniels out of the picture, will interim coach Eric Studesville give Tebow more snaps than McD did? With the Broncos' season effectively over, why wouldn't he?
*Draft positioning: What incentive do the Panthers have to play to win, knowing they have the inside track to drafting Andrew Luck as their franchise QB. A surprise win over the NFC-leading Falcons (however unlikely that may be) would just open the door for the Bills -- who also need a franchise QB -- to jump ahead of them for Luck.
Fantasy Football Finales: For many (most?) fantasy leagues, this is the regular-season finale. Good luck to all of you playing for a playoff spot -- or just looking to play the spoiler and finish the season on a good note. Last year I finished last in my KSK keeper league, but beat DJ Gallo in the final week of the regular season, denying him a playoff spot. It was kind of fun. (Sorry, DJ.) In my sponsored P&G league, I had Chris Johnson AND Pierre Garcon. Great start to the week.
Cliff Lee: The Yankees are willing to pay whatever. The Rangers should be willing to pay whatever. Feels like -- all money being equal -- Lee would like to stay with Texas (otherwise, why wouldn't he take New York's offer immediately?). Will Nolan Ryan pay up?
Cam Newton: Won the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's best QB, the Maxwell Award as the nation's best player -- and will run away with the Heisman tomorrow night. I'll say it again: He had the single-greatest individual season in college football history.
Cecil Newton: Will not be at the Heisman ceremony to celebrate with his son, because his presence there would cause a media frenzy. Honestly, that's kind of a shame. I'm not saying what he allegedly did wasn't bad, but he obviously loves his son, and to miss this crowning moment of the kid's career seems like a cruel (if appropriate) outcome.
More CFB award winners last night: Justin Blackmon won the Biletnikoff (Best WR) and LaMichael James won the Doak Walker (Best RB). LSU CB Patrick Peterson won the Bednarik for top defensive player, in a mild upset over Da'Quan Bowers, who won the Nagurski (top defensive player). Yeah, confusing, I know.
Army-Navy: Has the college football stage to itself this weekend. As always, will be one of the more visually stunning games, with those shots of the students in gray and blue in the stands.
CFB Playoffs! (1-AA Quarterfinals). New Hampshire vs. Delaware. Villanova vs. App State. Georgia Southern at Wofford. North Dakota State at Eastern Washington. Playoffs!
Kyrie Irving: Complete uncertainty about his toe injury -- which makes me think that the most prudent course is to shut him down for the season and let him rehab fully for the NBA Draft, where he will be a Top 3 pick (and likely No. 1 overall).
Ramone Moore: Led Temple with 30 points in an upset over Georgetown last night. The win should put Temple on the hoops map this season -- and into the Top 25.
Jared Sullinger: 40 for the Ohio State freshman big man. 'Nuff said.
CBB This Weekend: The headliner is Tennessee at Pitt (but also: Indiana fans will get a good indication of where things stand with the Crean rebuild when they play Kentucky).
NFL Lockout Watch: So the owners really seem committed to this 18-game thing. I'm convinced that no matter what the protest now, fans will watch even more (and with the NFL being an advertiser cash-cow, sports media will support). My only problem is that I don't think the league will be fair to players in the exchange.
(I buy the injury-risk argument, but not in the "more chances to get hurt!" way -- that could happen in Week 1, let alone Week 18 and 19. I buy it as a long-term accumulation of hits. But if you agree with that, you fundamentally agree that the sport is far too brutal at ANY length.)
Bill Simmons: Makes his debut as an ESPN NBA TV game analyst when he sits with Dan Shulman and Mark Jackson for Heat-Warriors. It's a must-see. All I can say is: I hope he is himself.
Coming later this morning: Top 10 moments of the sports year.