Good morning to everyone but especially to...
For the first time in two-and-a-half months, the Packers have a winning streak. Green Bay cruised past the Rams, 24-12, for its second win in a row. It keeps Aaron Rodgers and Co. on the fringes of the playoff hunt.
The Green Bay running backs were the stars of the show: Aaron Jones had 126 yards from scrimmage and caught Rodgers' lone touchdown pass, and AJ Dillon had 71 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
- The Packers' defense was terrific, led by two sacks by Preston Smith and an interception by Rasul Douglas. Overall, Baker Mayfield was sacked five times in his first start as a Ram.
- With the loss, the Rams are officially eliminated from playoff contention. It's tied for the earliest a defending Super Bowl champion has ever been eliminated.
At 6-8, the Packers are still 10th in the NFC, and their closing stretch -- at Dolphins, vs. Vikings, vs. Lions -- is no walk in the park. But, hey, when you have Rodgers and the talent the Packers do, all you can ask for is a chance.
- Damian Lillard passed Clyde Drexler as the Trail Blazers' all-time leading scorer.
- Aaron Donald and Jaire Alexander are heading to the 2023 NFL Pro Bowl Games.
- Bijan Robinson declared for the NFL Draft.
- The first round of the bidding process for the Commanders closes Friday.
- Here's the AP women's basketball Top 25.
And not such a good morning for...
JALEN HURTS AND THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
It's not the worst news, but it's certainly not good news for the Eagles. Jalen Hurts suffered a right shoulder sprain in Sunday's 25-20 win over the Bears, and his status for Philadelphia's upcoming game against the Cowboys is "in doubt," according to CBS Sports NFL insider Jonathan Jones.
Hurts suffered the injury in the third quarter when 6-foot-4, 263-pound defensive end Trevis Gipson landed on him after a run. Hurts finished the game, ultimately throwing for 315 yards and rushing for 61 more. He had three rushing touchdowns and ran a season-high-tying 17 times against Chicago. Also of note, Hurts has been contacted more than any other quarterback this season, largely thanks to his running.
- The injury comes at an inopportune time for Philly, as the Eagles can clinch the NFC East with a win over Dallas. The Eagles then close the season with the Saints and Giants.
- If Hurts cannot play, Gardner Minshew will start for Philadelphia.
- Here's how Hurts' injury impacts the Fantasy landscape.
To show just how much Hurts means, the Cowboys opened as 1.5-point favorites at Caesars Sportsbook. They're now six-point favorites.
Obviously having Hurts as close to 100 percent as possible for the postseason is the most important thing, and it would certainly help if Philadelphia can earn the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye. But for the injury to come just before a crucial division showdown is a bummer.
Not so honorable mentions
- Donovan Mitchell apparently did not enjoy his time in Utah.
Purdue still No. 1, UConn rises to No. 2 in men's Top 25 🏀
A lot of college programs like to say they're "back." Not many of them prove it. This year, UConn men's basketball is proving it.
The Huskies are up to No. 2 in the latest AP Poll, their highest ranking since 2008-09. Purdue retained the top spot. Here's the new top five:
- 1. Purdue (prev: 1)
- 2. UConn (prev: 3)
- 3. Houston (prev: 5)
- 4. Kansas (prev: 8)
- 5. Arizona (prev: 9)
As I wrote in Monday's newsletter, it was a huge weekend in college hoops, and all five of these teams came through with wins. Purdue and UConn are two of four undefeated teams this season, joining New Mexico and No. 15 Mississippi State.
Not only are the Huskies a perfect 12-0, but all of their wins are by double digits. They are outscoring opponents by an average of more than 26 points per game, second in the nation. Adama Sanogo is a dominant force with 19 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game. Basically, they're really good, and the program having its highest ranking since Kemba Walker was a freshman proves it.
NFL notes: Patriots attempt to explain that final play; are changes coming to how games are refereed? 🏈
It's been nearly 48 hours and I still can't get over that Patriots play. You know, this one. The one that not only lost them the game against the Raiders, but also put a huge dent in their playoff hopes.
So, we're all still wondering how and why it happened. The Patriots players involved tried to explain on Monday:
- Rhamondre Stevenson (responsible for first lateral): "The play call was just a draw play, nothing more, nothing less than that. I'm supposed to know the situation. I'm supposed to know how much time's on the clock and critical situations. And I failed to do that today, so it is what it is."
- Jakobi Meyers (responsible for lateral that resulted in Chandler Jones' touchdown): "I was just trying to do too much and trying to be a hero."
Another angle that has been brought to light is why the Patriots didn't try a Hail Mary instead. They were only 55 yards away from the end zone, after all. The answer, according to Bill Belichick, is (earmuffs, Mac Jones) that was too far for Mac Jones to throw. Of course, that's an entirely separate issue in a Patriots season that's been full of them.
Jonathan Jones broke down the tape of that play and has many more observations from across the league in his insider notes -- including if, after a less-than-great week for the league's refs, changes may be coming.
- Jones: "Bad calls happen. Missed calls happen. Human error is part of this game we love. But resist as it might, the NFL may have to cave to some greater review or challenge system... [NFL executive] Troy Vincent said last week at the owners meetings that there will be a 'healthy discussion' this spring with the competition committee on potentially opening up plays that can be reviewed, whether it comes in the form of a challenge or a sky judge."
What to watch for on National Signing Day 🏈
Tomorrow is National Signing Day, and if it's anything like last year's, we're in for a treat. The biggest story last year was No. 1 Travis Hunter flipping his commitment from Florida State to Jackson State and then-coach Deion Sanders.
Now, of course, Sanders is the head coach at Colorado, and Hunter is in the transfer portal... with following Jackson to Colorado on the table.
Regardless, "Coach Prime" will be the center of attention again this year, writes Brandon Huffman.
- Huffman: "Sanders is already making a splash. He's flipped former Notre Dame running back commit Dylan Edwards, and this weekend he had elite edge rusher Tausili Akana, the No. 1 prospect in Utah, in for a surprise unofficial visit. Also visiting was the No. 1 prospect in Nebraska, Malachi Coleman... [and] Vicari Swain, a Top247 athlete from Georgia... Colorado is once again cool, and with the way Coach Prime recruited at Jackson State, we should not count out a Hunter-like surprise this week."
You can see the rest of our top storylines here.
What we're watching Tuesday 📺
🏀 No. 19 Michigan at No. 6 North Carolina, 7 p.m. on ESPN 2
🏀 Warriors at Knicks, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 No. 6 Virginia at No. 22 Miami, 8:30 p.m. on ACC Network
🏀 Grizzlies at Nuggets, 10 p.m. on TNT