As we reach the end of the calendar year, let’s take stock on a few developments around the sports world – from the NFL playoff picture shaping up, MLB hot stove, and a few college basketball updates.
Hot Stove and Hall of Fame Election
- The MLB offseason started out much faster than the unusually slow 2017 offseason, with several major signings and trades occurring prior to the Winter Meetings. The Yankees made some moves, the Red Sox re-signed their playoff hero, the Mets made a splash, the Nationals landed an All-Star starting pitcher, and the Cardinals secured a slugger. But the two biggest prizes of the offseason remain unsigned, and very little developed at the Winter Meetings. We’ll just have to wait and see whether we get the largest sports contact ever this offseason.
- Lee Smith and Harold Baines were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the 16-member Today’s Game Committee – and at least regarding Baines’ election, to the surprise of many, including Baines himself. Only previously receiving 6.1% of voter support while on the ballot for the BBWAA elections, Baines has the lowest peak BBWAA support in the post-1960 expansion era for someone ultimately elected, and a WAR lower than 24 of the 25 other right fielders currently in the Hall of Fame. Nevertheless, others have voiced colorful support of the election of the right-fielder/DH with 2,866 hits to his name.
NFL Playoff Picture
- Heading into the weekend, there were still nine playoff spots open. With the Chargers and Bears both punching their playoff tickets over the weekend, that number dropped to seven. After falling to the Dolphins via the longest touchdown to win a game with no time remaining since the 1970 merger, the Patriots dropped a second game in a row with a loss to the Steelers.
- On the AFC side, the Chiefs, Patriots, Texans and Steelers sit atop their divisions, while several teams remain the hunt; yes, even the Browns still have a chance to sneak in.
- In the NFC, the Rams and Saints have punched their playoff tickets, despite displays of vulnerability in recent losses. The Cowboys and Seahawks both suffered losses over the weekend but remain likely to clinch playoff spots in the coming weeks. The Vikings also look primed to snag that last wildcard spot.
College Basketball Updates
- After just over a month of college hoops action, unbeatan Kansas is atop the AP Top 25, returning to its preseason rating. Other unbeatens among the top 10 include Michigan, Virginia, and Nevada.
- No. 2 Duke’s Zion Williamson has taken college basketball by storm this season, looking to one of the best college players in over ten years. The likely future 2019 #1 pick, Williamson boasts a player efficiency rating of 41.9, the highest since the metric was first tracked in 2009.
- Defending champ Villanova was knocked off by the University of Pennsylvania in a major upset, the first Big 5 loss for the Wildcats in six years and first to the Quakers in 16.
- The Furman Paladins are nationally ranked for the first time ever – the Southern Conference squad currently sits at No. 23 as one of the 9 unbeatens in the country.