Analysis: Bills, Bengals look shaky in wins, set up rematch
The Bengals-Bills rematch coming next week almost didn’t happen. Both teams squeaked past undermanned opponents on Sunday, beating backup quarterbacks to advance to the AFC divisional round. First, the Bills blew a 17-0 lead against Miami and had to rally for a 37-34 win over the Dolphins. Then, the Bengals were 1 yard from trailing the Ravens in the fourth quarter before Sam Hubbard returned a fumble 98 yards for the decisive score, and Cincinnati barely held on for a 24-17 victory. This time, the Bengals will visit Buffalo. They met in Cincinnati on Jan. 2 when the game was stopped after Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed in the first quarter and needed to be resuscitated on the field. Hamlin is home following a remarkable recovery.
NFL playoffs: No lead safe, drama abounds in wild weekend
The Buffalo Bills blew a 17-point advantage before recovering to win. That narrow escape came less than 24 hours after the Jacksonville Jaguars overcame a 27-point deficit and pulled off one of the most stunning comeback victories in playoff history on Saturday. No lead is safe and the drama abounds so far in the NFL playoffs. A loaded Sunday schedule saw the Bills hang on for a 34-31 win over the Miami Dolphins, the New York Giants upset the Minnesota Vikings 31-24 and the Cincinnati Bengals hang on to beat the Baltimore Ravens 24-17. One more game in the round remains: Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night.
Brady plays down his perfect record against favored Cowboys
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady isn’t fazed by being a home underdog in the NFL playoffs for the first time in his career. After all, no one has enjoyed more postseason success than the seven-time Super Bowl champion, who begins his quest for a record eighth ring when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys in a NFC wild-card matchup Monday night. Brady owns a slew of playoff records, including most games played, wins, passing yards and touchdown passes. The 45-year-old quarterback has one more thing going for him — the Cowboys have never beaten him. Not that Brady believes career accomplishments or being 7-0 against America’s Team will have any bearing on Monday night.
Houston, KU stay atop Top 25 while FAU enters for 1st time
Houston and Kansas remain firmly atop The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll after a record weekend of Top 25 losses. Florida Atlantic took advantage of the chaos to crack the rankings for the first time in school history. Eleven ranked teams went down Saturday, tying a record that has stood for nearly 12 years, while UConn and Marquette lost Sunday to help give the AP poll one of its biggest shakeups in recent history. Clemson, Baylor and Rutgers joined FAU in entering the poll. That came at the expense of San Diego State, Duke, Wisconsin and Missouri.
Baylor out of women’s AP Top 25 for 1st time since 2004
Baylor’s 19-year run in The Associated Press women’s college basketball poll is over. The Bears had been ranked for 365 consecutive polls before falling out Monday after losing twice last week. Baylor had been in the AP Top 25 since January 2004, including a 21-week run at No. 1 in 2011-12. Only Tennessee and UConn have had longer streaks in the 46-year history of the poll. While Baylor is out, South Carolina continued its stay at No. 1. The Gamecocks were the unanimous choice again from a 28-member national media panel. They have held the top spot for 30 consecutive weeks. Ohio State, LSU, Stanford and UConn round out the top five teams.
Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud declares for NFL draft
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud will give up a final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft. The two-year starter for the Buckeyes made the announcement via social media on Monday, the last day eligible players can declare for the draft. He is projected to be a top-five pick. Stroud led the Buckeyes to back-to-back 11-2 seasons but lost to Michigan twice. Ohio State made it to the College Football Playoff in 2022 but lost to eventual national champion Georgia 42-41 in a semifinal.
Coach: Alabama ‘grieving’ after teammate charged with murder
Alabama men’s basketball coach Nate Oats says the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide is going through “kind of a grieving process” after player Darius Miles and another man were charged with capital murder following a fatal shooting near campus. Oats spoke Monday in a news conference. He said he couldn’t discuss any specifics related to the case. He said he spoke with Miles’ mother multiple times Sunday before meeting with the team that night. Oats said the players “understand the severity of the situation.” He said the team would practice later before Tuesday’s game at Vanderbilt. The university has said Miles is no longer a member of the team.
Nadal struggles at times during 4-set win at Australian Open
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal has started the defense of his Australian Open title with a bit of a struggle along the way to a four-set victory over a cramping Jack Draper. Nadal was not in peak form but did manage to beat Draper 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a match that took more than 3 1/2 hours in Rod Laver Arena. It was the first match win for Nadal in 2023. He had lost six of his preceding seven contests dating to the end of last season. The biggest development on Day 1 might very well have been the withdrawal of Nick Kyrgios. Americans Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff and Danielle Collins all reached the second round in the women’s bracket with victories earlier Monday.
4-time WNBA champion Maya Moore officially retires at 33
Maya Moore has decided to retire officially from playing basketball. The Minnesota Lynx great stepped away from the WNBA in 2019 to help her now-husband Jonathan Irons win his release from prison by getting his 50-year sentence overturned in 2020. Irons married Moore soon after getting released and the couple had their first child in July. The 33-year-old Moore won four WNBA championships with the Minnesota Lynx, two Olympic gold medals with USA Basketball and two NCAA titles with UConn. She’ll be eligible for the Naismith Hall of Fame next year since she stopped playing four years ago.
Hubbard’s 98-yard fumble return lifts Bengals over Ravens
CINCINNATI (AP) — Sam Hubbard returned Tyler Huntley’s fumble 98 yards for a tiebreaking touchdown in the fourth quarter, helping Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens 24-17 in an AFC wild-card game. Facing third-and-goal at the 1 with about 12 minutes left, Huntley tried to go over the top of the line for the go-ahead score. But he was stood up by Germaine Pratt and stripped by fellow linebacker Logan Wilson. The ball went right to Hubbard at the 2, and the defensive end took off down the field for the longest fumble return for a touchdown in NFL postseason history.