The Football Five 🏈
- With Damar Hamlin watching from a hospital in Ohio, Nyheim Hines returned the opening kickoff from the Patriots 96 yards for a touchdown. It was a moving moment in a Sunday full of ones that were dedicated to Hamlin.
- The Dolphins beat the Jets 11-6 in a defensive slugfest that saw starting quarterbacks Skylar Thompson and Joe Flacco combine for a mere 289 passing yards. Both teams came in with five-game losing streaks, but Miami came through with a big home win to stop the bleeding and punch its ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
- Miami's win spelled doom for the Steelers' postseason hopes, however. Pittsburgh beat the Browns 28-14, its sixth win over the last seven games and fourth straight, but will not make the playoffs by virtue of the Jets-Dolphins result.
- The Cowboys mustered only six points in an embarrassing blowout loss to the Commanders -- a team that had already been eliminated from the playoffs and was starting fifth-round quarterback Sam Howell for the first time -- as Dak Prescott struggled mightily (14-of-37 passing for 128 yards, a touchdown and a pick-six).
- While it came in a 38-13 loss that dropped the Cardinals to 4-13, J.J. Watt dominated with two sacks, three tackles for loss and a pass deflection against the 49ers in his final NFL game. Watt, a three-time AP Defensive Player of the Year who announced his plans to retire late last month, stepped away from the sport in style.
Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Things broke just right for the Seahawks in Week 18, and they're headed to the playoffs as a result.
Seattle overcame an uncharacteristically weak Geno Smith performance (19-of-31 passing for 213 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions) to beat the Rams 19-16 in an overtime thriller.
At 9-8, the Seahawks still needed the Lions to beat the Packers in Lambeau Field on Sunday night to get the NFC's last Wild Card spot. The day of destiny for Seattle continued, as Detroit knocked off Green Bay 20-16 (in a game that could've marked the end of the Aaron Rodgers era, but that's a different story that will probably be harped on all offseason).
While the Packers result may seem stunning, it doesn't hold a candle to the finish between the Seahawks and Rams at Lumen Field:
- With less than a minute left in regulation and the game tied at 16, Smith scrambled for 25 yards before drawing a questionable unnecessary roughness penalty on Jalen Ramsey, who collided with him near the sideline.
- The 15-yard penalty put Seattle in position to kick a game-winning field goal, but Jason Myers' 46-yard attempt hit the right upright and the game went to overtime.
- Seattle then looked to be in serious trouble after gaining only three yards and going three-and-out on the first possession of overtime. But Baker Mayfield threw an interception to Quandre Diggs on his very first pass attempt of the ensuing drive, leading Smith to bring his team down the field for an eventual 32-yard game-winner from Myers.
The Seahawks fortuitous regular-season finish has them back in the playoffs for the first time since 2020, when they lost 30-20 to the Rams in the Wild Card round.
And not such a good morning for...
LOVIE SMITH AND THE TEXANS
The Texans can't even get losing right. In a season finale Houston fans will lament for quite a long time, the Texans stunned the Colts with a late touchdown and two-point conversion to win the game -- but lose the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to the Bears.
Here's how it all played out:
- Houston led for the first three quarters and change over the Colts, but a four-yard touchdown pass from Sam Ehlinger to Mo Alie-Cox gave Indianapolis a 28-24 lead with 10:30 to go.
- The Colts then forced a three-and-out and on the other end extended their lead to seven with a field goal at the 3:33 mark.
- Houston needed a game-tying drive from Davis Mills, who seemed to have delivered exactly that by hitting Jordan Akins with a miraculous 28-yard touchdown pass on fourth and 20 with 50 seconds remaining. But much to Texans fans' dismay, Mills connected with Akins once again on a two-point attempt to give Houston a 32-21 lead it would ride to victory.
The win Houston brought Houston to 3-13-1, just a tad better than the Bears' 3-14 record. It wasn't enough to save first-year coach Lovie Smith's job, however. Smith was fired hours after the game, with Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair saying he and general manager Nick Caserio are "confident we will find the right leader for our football team."
Here is the rest of the 2023 NFL Draft order.
The NFL playoff picture is set after a wild Week 18 🏈
Both the AFC and NFC playoff fields were in flux heading into the final week of the NFL regular season, but the dust has finally settled to reveal the 14 teams who'll be competing for a shot at Super Bowl LVII.
Here's a quick breakdown:
- The Chiefs and Eagles took care of business with wins in Week 18 to give them the No. 1 seeds in the AFC and NFC, respectively.
- In the AFC, Wild Card weekend will feature the following matchups: Dolphins at Bills, Ravens at Bengals and Chargers at Jaguars. Jacksonville won the AFC South in thrilling win-or-go-home game against the Titans on Saturday.
- The NFC Wild Card matchups are Seahawks at 49ers, Giants at Vikings and Cowboys at Buccaneers. The Vikings had a chance at the No. 2 seed after beating the Nathan Peterman-led Bears 29-13, but the 49ers' win erased that possibility.
Of note, every Wild Card matchup will be a rematch from the regular season. In the AFC, the Dolphins and Bills split their regular-season series; Baltimore defeated Cincinnati in Week 5 with a healthy Lamar Jackson, but fell to the Bengals in the season finale with third-stringer Anthony Brown under center; and the Jaguars steamrolled the Chargers 38-10 in Week 3.
Over in the NFC, Seattle lost its two games against the 49ers by a combined 28 points; the Vikings survived a Week 16 matchup with the Giants thanks to a game-winning, 61-yard field goal from Greg Joseph; Tampa Bay held Dallas to 244 total yards in an emphatic 19-3 win at Jerry's World in the season opener (a game in which Dak Prescott broke the thumb in his throwing hand).
Previewing the CFP National Championship 🏆
What seems to be a true David vs. Goliath matchup awaits in the CFP National Championship. Georgia will enter the game as a 13-point favorite over TCU. However, as TCU's 51-45 upset win over Michigan indicated, David can never be counted out in the delightfully unpredictable sport known as college football.
CBS Sports' Shehan Jeyarajah listed five keys for the Horned Frogs to win and shock the world once again. One of those keys is surviving in the trenches, which TCU more than accomplished by producing a 263-yard rushing performance against the Wolverines.
- Jeyarajah: "Georgia is going to win the battle against TCU's offensive line; the talent and depth is simply too overwhelming. However, the Frogs have to hold their own and create opportunities for the running game and quarterback Max Duggan to get going. If TCU can knock the 'Dawgs off their path -- like Ohio State did -- there are opportunities to be found down the field."
Georgia has an opportunity of its own, CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd argues, and it's a rare one: creating a college football dynasty. Dodd writes that coach Kirby Smart is leading the team in the direction his protege, Nick Saban, pushed toward with Alabama in the early 2010s.
- Dodd: "It's clear Smart is just getting started. Georgia is standing at the brink of college football's next great dynasty. We are witnessing a not-so-slow passage. At least over the past two seasons, Georgia has been the standard in the SEC. By Monday night, it could be the standard in the country."
The 2023 CFP National Championship is set for 7:30 p.m. ET from SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.
LeBron James calls out Lakers amid disappointing season 🏀
LeBron James is holding his tongue about the Lakers' struggles less and less by the day.
In an interview with The Athletic following a 136-134 win over the Kings, James lambasted the Lakers for their inaction on the trade front, saying in part, "Y'all know what the f--- should be happening. I don't need to talk." James, it seems, is referring to Los Angeles not dealing its 2027 or 2029 draft picks for a player capable of lifting the team into this season's playoff picture.
CBS Sports' Jack Maloney outlined the problems with James' win-now desire.
- Maloney: "There are a few problems with that. One, James' insistence that the Lakers trade for Westbrook in the first place removed most of their remaining flexibility. All that's left now in terms of interesting assets are the 2027 and 2029 first-round picks, which won't be fulfilled until likely after James has retired and could end up being extremely valuable."
Additionally, Maloney notes that the Lakers -- which sit at 19-21 despite a five-game winning streak -- aren't necessarily a player away from championship contention. Still, if the Lakers sit on their proverbial hands through the trade deadline, all eyes will be on James' response.
What we're watching Monday 📺
🏈 CFP National Championship: TCU vs. Georgia, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Bulls at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. on NBA TV
🏒 Predators at Senators, 7:30 p.m. on NHL Network