NFL: New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings

Happy Friday, everyone! What a huge weekend coming up.

Let's get right to it.

Good morning to everyone but especially to...


It's here! The NFL playoffs begin this weekend with the second-ever Super Wild Card Weekend (full schedule here), and I cannot wait for what should be a lot of high-level football.

Pete Prisco's picks are in, and he's only in on one true "upset" this weekend.

  • Prisco: "Giants at Vikings -- These two played on Christmas Eve, and the Vikings needed a 61-yard field goal by Greg Joseph to win it. The Giants gained 448 yards of offense that day and probably should have won the game. But they didn't. .. This one should be high scoring, as Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson will make some plays, but it will be the Giants that win it with a late field goal this time to advance. Pick: Giants 30, Vikings 28"

We also have Wild Card picks from John Breech and Tyler Sullivan.

As for the bigger picture, our Jordan Dajani has predictions for every game between now and the lifting of the Lombardi Trophy. He has some upsets here and there, but ultimately has the Bills and Eagles facing off in Super Bowl LVII.

  • Dajani: "In a way, it feels like we have been leading up to this all year. ... Opinions probably fluctuated after Allen's elbow injury and Hurts' shoulder injury, but the cream rises to the top, and that's what happens here. ... I'm expecting a sloppy first half followed by a high-scoring second half. This game goes to overtime, where Buffalo kicks a game-winning field goal on its second drive of the extra period. The Bills fulfill the "team of destiny" narrative. Projected score: Bills 33-30 in OT"

Here's everything else you need to know:

Honorable mentions

... And a not so good morning to

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers
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The Mavericks emerged with a 119-115 double-overtime win against the Lakers on Thursday night, but they probably emerged bumped and bruised.

That's because this game was "rugby disguised as basketball," as our Sam Quinn elegantly put it. The refs really let the game get physical -- to a fault.

  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted that it was the "worst officiated game." Dallas shot just 17 free throws all night.
  • The Lakers shot 27 free throws but certainly had their qualms, including on a potential go-ahead 3-point attempt with second remaining in regulation from Troy Brown Jr. on which he appeared to get hit by Tim Hardaway Jr.
  • As for the game itself, Luka Doncic had 35 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists and made enormous 3-pointers late in both regulation and in the first overtime.

There's "letting them play" and there's, well, whatever happened Thursday night, writes Quinn.

  • Quinn: "When both sides have complaints, it typically means that the officiating was probably fair. In this case, almost every gripe feels legitimate. The officials seemingly lost control of the game and allowed it to get far more physical than it should have been. The result was one of the sloppier games of the season thus far, and one that needed two overtimes of controversy to resolve itself."

Not so honorable mentions

Derek Carr says goodbye to the Raiders 🏈

Officially, Derek Carr is still a Raider. Unofficially, he's all but gone. Carr said goodbye to the only franchise he's ever played for Thursday on Twitter, the first step in what will be an interesting offseason for the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback.

Carr, 31, wrote "It breaks my heart I didn't get an opportunity to say goodbye in person" and later added, "I once said that if I'm not a Raider I would rather be at home and I meant that, but I never envisioned it ending this way. That fire burning inside of me to win a championship still rages."

Here's how both parties ended up in this situation:

  • The Raiders benched Carr for Jarrett Stidham for the final two games of the season, the first sign that Las Vegas may have been thinking about moving on from Carr, who has started all but four regular-season games since joining the team in 2014.
  • This season, Carr posted his worst completion percentage and passer rating since his rookie year and the highest interception rate of his career. That came despite the team trading for Carr's college teammate, superstar wide receiver Davante Adams, ahead of the season.
  • Carr will leave the Raiders as the franchise leader in every major statistical passing category, but he won zero playoff games and only made the postseason twice -- 2016 and 2021. In the 2016 season, the best of his career, Carr guided the Raiders to a 12-3 record before breaking his leg in the final regular-season game and missing the playoff game.

Carr's relative lack of team success isn't all on him, of course. Since he entered the league, the Raiders have allowed the most points in the NFL. This season, however, Carr struggled under new head coach Josh McDaniels, and the team is expected to explore all options, as it can save $30 million by releasing or trading Carr this offseason, with Feb. 15 as a hard deadline.

So, where could Carr end up? Cody Benjamin sees several logical suitors, including...

  • Benjamin: "The Jets hung in the AFC playoff picture this year almost entirely in spite of their QB play, with Zach Wilson now on the bench indefinitely. The roster is pretty much ready to go on every other front, which is why Carr himself would likely also relish the opportunity to swap colors in the conference."

Here's what our friends at SportsLine think:

For what it's worth, Jets owner Woody Johnson said Thursday he's "absolutely" willing to pay for a veteran quarterback. As for the Raiders, here are some potential options

Grading MLB offseasons: How Carlos Correa impacted three teams' marks ⚾

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With the MLB offseason now several months old and 46 of our top 50 free agents having signed, it's time to hand out offseason grades.

No free agent had a busier (or stranger, or more dramatic, or more confusing) offseason than Carlos Correa, who agreed to deals with the Giants and Mets before ultimately staying with the Twins. That's a huge boon for Minnesota, writes Dayn Perry.

  • Perry: "Two failed physicals with the Giants and Mets accrued to the Twins's advantage... As well, Christian Vázquez is a quality addition behind the plate, and Joey Gallo promises power and plus defense at an outfield corner. Those lesser additions are partially offset by the trade with the Angels that sent Gio Urshela out of town. Grade: A"

The Twins were one of six teams to earn an A grade. As for the teams who missed out on Correa, they ended up with very different report cards.

  • Perry: "If you're a team owner, then your sole objective should be to win baseball games (and, yes, you're going to be quite profitable along the way). No one right now better lives up to this obligation than Steve Cohen. The Mets were hit by some free-agent losses, yes, but the signings of Justin Verlander, Brandon Nimmo, Kodai Senga, and José Quintana more than make up for the departures. Grade: A ... The Giants were unable to lure Aaron Judge away from the Yankees despite strong regional ties, and the Carlos Correa non-signing was an utter embarrassment for the organization. ... Grade: F"

You can see every grade here.

Dodgers officially release Trevor Bauer following suspension ⚾

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Trevor Bauer is officially a free agent. After designating him for assignment last Friday, the Dodgers had one week to trade, release or waive Bauer, but a release always seemed like the only outcome: Finding a trade partner was likely impossible, and no team would claim Bauer on waivers and pay him the $22.5 million he's owed in 2023.

  • The Dodgers are responsible for the remaining $22.5 million on Bauer's contract. If a team does sign Bauer, that team would owe him the prorated portion of the $720,000 league minimum.
  • Bauer was reinstated Dec. 22 after an arbitrator reduced his suspension under MLB's domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse policy from 324 games to 194 games.
  • Bauer last pitched June 28, 2021. He was then placed on administrative leave as MLB looked into accusations that he had assaulted a woman. Bauer did not face criminal charges, but in April 2022, MLB announced the 324-game (essentially two-season) unpaid ban.

What we're watching this weekend 📺

🏈 Here's the NFL Super Wild Card Weekend schedule.
We're also watching Serie A on Paramount+.


🏀 Warriors at Spurs, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Nuggets at Clippers, 10 p.m. on ESPN


🏀 Kentucky at No. 5 Tennessee, Noon on ESPN
🏀 Bucks at Heat, 1 p.m. on ABC
🏀 No. 11 Kansas State at No. 17 TCU, 2 p.m. on ESPN2


🏀 No. 25 Marquette at No. 12 Xavier, Noon on FOX
🏀 No. 11 NC State at No. 22 North Carolina, 3:30 p.m. on ESPN