New York Giants: Philadelphia promises to bring game in key matchup with Washington

The New York Giants are facing the Cowboys in their final game of the regular season, but that’s not the only game that will decide the division. For the Giants to make it into the playoffs, they need to win and Washington needs to lose their own season finale.

They’re in this situation because they haven’t been able to capitalize on earlier losses from Washington, and now, the Giants have to rely on a Philadelphia team that’s already been eliminated and doesn’t have anything to play for.

Because if Philly doesn’t pull off a win against Washington, it won’t matter what happens in the Dallas versus New York game. However, based on statements from Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, there’s reason to think that there might still be hope.

Schwartz has said that the Eagles don’t intend on just giving up because they don’t have something to play for against Washington.

“There’s too much at stake. It might not be at stake for us as a team with a playoff berth and things like that, but we’ve got a lot of individual things that players still can accomplish. We’ve got guys that are trying to earn their way in the league,” Schwartz said in the buildup to the game. “We have a division opponent that’s going to come and try to celebrate on our field. We’ve got to have a no-hat rule this week. We can’t let opponents put division win hats on at the Linc. There’s a lot of pride in that, and all our focus has to be to accomplishing that this week.”

There’s not much love between the Eagles and the Giants, but Giants fans will almost certainly be rooting for the Eagles on Sunday for the simple reason that an Eagles win is required to get the Giants into the playoff. The Giants will need a lot of luck to pull that off. But the last game of the season is so intriguing because regardless, there’s still a legitimate chance. And that hasn’t been true for this team for years until now.

New York Jets waive veteran K Sam Ficken prior to finale

The well-traveled Ficken got off to a hot start in 2020, but his New York Jets career appears to be over after two seasons.

The New York Jets have announced several roster moves leading into their season finale against the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Their most consequential moves may be the release of kicker Sam Ficken and the activation of starting blocker Greg Van Roten off of injured reserve.

Ficken, 28, sees his Jets career end after two seasons, continuing the Jason Myers saga on a sour note. He began the year on a strong note, converting his first nine field goal attempts and all six of his extra point opportunities through Week 6 action. A groin injury sidelined him for the next three games before he briefly returned for the Week 11 tilt against the Los Angeles Chargers, missing two extra points in the 34-28 defeat. In yet another visit to Los Angeles, this one coming against the Rams, Ficken score 11 of the Jets’ 23 points in their first win of the season, but he missed two, an extra point and field goal each, in last week’s victory over Cleveland at home.

The Jets (2-13) will use Chase McLaughlin as their kicker in New England. McLaughlin entered the league in 2019 and has spent time with eight different organizations in some capacity. This season, he was originally cut by Indianapolis after training camp before joining Minnesota’s practice squad. He later served as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ kicker for three weeks, converting all four field goal attempts, before the Jets picked him up in December. McLaughlin will become the fourth different kicker to appear in a regular season game for the Jets since the Pro Bowler Myers departed for Seattle after the 2018 campaign.

Van Roten partook in every offensive snap over the Jets’ first 11 games before leaving their Week 13 contest against Las Vegas with a toe injury. Ironically, the 30-year-old Van Roten was also paced in IR with a toe injury last season during his final year with the Carolina Panthers. Signed to a one-year deal over the offseason, Van Roten has been one of the Jets’ more consistent offensive line.

In addition to Van Roten and McLaughlin, a quartet of other Jets will make their debut on the active roster this week. Linebackers Noah Dawkins and Brady Sheldon were promoted from the practice squad, while another linebacker, Sharif Finch, and a defensive lineman, Tanzel Smart, were picked up and moved to the 53-man ledger.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants edge rusher Kyler Fackrell activated off IR ahead of crucial Week 17 matchup

The New York Giants made a list of roster moves today ahead of their final regular-season game of the 2020-2021 season. The Giants will host the Cowboys in a crucial Week 17 matchup with major playoff implications. If New York loses, they will be eliminated from playoff contention. If the Giants win, though, they will need a little help from Philadelphia, but will still have a shot at the playoffs.

The Dallas Cowboys offense has been electric over the last three weeks. Andy Dalton and Dallas are averaging 36 points per game during this active winning streak. The Giants will need to slow down the Dallas offense in order to win this game. Fortunately, New York is getting a little extra help back this week.

Kyler Fackrell activated from IR

The New York Giants announced today that they have activated edge rusher, Kyler Fackrell, off of injured reserve. Fackrell had been out since Week 13, recovering from a calf injury. He missed the Giants’ last four games but is healthy just in time for the hopeful playoff push.

The Giants signed Kyler Fackrell to a one-year deal this past offseason. He played in each of the Giants’ first eleven games this season, starting eight games this season. Through those eleven games, Fackrell managed to total three sacks, 31 combined tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble.

Arguably Kyler Fackrell’s best game of the season, ironically, came against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5. Now, Kyler is ready to return to the lineup ahead of the Giants’ final game this season against no other than the Dallas Cowboys.

In that Week 5 matchup, the Giants scored a season-high 34 points. One of the Giants’ touchdowns in this game came from the defensive side of the ball. Near the end of the first quarter, Kyler Fackrell picked off quarterback Dak Prescott and returned the interception all the way home for a 46-yard touchdown. Fackrell looked like a running back, making multiple men miss en route to the end zone.

Fackrell also totaled three combined tackles and one tackle for loss in that game while playing 98% of the Giants’ defensive snaps. Getting Kyler back will be crucial for the Giants. New York has been ravaged with injuries this season on the edge and can use all the help they can get generating a pass-rush. As he works back from injury, do not expect to see a ton of Kyler Fackrell on the field on Sunday, but expect to see him rushing off the edge in clear passing situations.

New York Giants: 3 causes of concerns against Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants are facing one of their division rivals, the Dallas Cowboys in week 17. The Cowboys are one game ahead of the Giants. If the Giants want to make the playoffs, they need to beat Dallas first. If they beat Dallas, they need some help from the Eagles to beat the Washington Football Team.

The Giants are facing a team that is trending in the right direction. This game against Dallas will not be easy, here are the three concerns for the Giants in Week 17.

Giants trending down, Cowboys trending up

The Giants went on a four-game win streak before losing against the Arizona Cardinals on Week 14. Since that Week 14 loss, the Giants are on a three-game losing streak. While the Giants are trending downwards the Cowboys are on the rise. The Cowboys have won their last three games and putting up points on the opponent’s defense.

The Giants had a top 10 run defense going into last week. In the last three games, the Giants have given up on average 171.3 per game on the ground. With Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard picking up steam over the last couple of weeks, the Cowboy’s run offense has significantly improved.

Giants pass defense

Whatever side James Bradberry chooses, I am not worried about. The side that has Issac Yiadom could and will likely be a weak point, especially with the weapons that Dallas has in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and rookie CeeDee Lamb.

The Cowboys went from a Dak Prescott/Zeke centric offense to a Mike McCarthy/spread centric offense with Andy Dalton at the helm. Since Dalton has come back from his concussion and Covid-19, he has gone 4-2 and brought the Cowboys all the way back to the playoff picture. Over the last three games, the Cowboys are averaging 36 points per game, and the Giants are averaging 8.6 points per game.

The Giants secondary is gonna need to create turnovers if they want a chance to play in the playoffs with home-field advantage.

Simple, Daniel Jones

Daniel Jones will be playing in the biggest game of his young career. If Jones can beat Dallas and get a little help from Philly, he could remove all the talks about him potentially getting replaced.

Jones spoke to the media this week about his previous injuries and admitted he is not a hundred percent. Jones also said that he would be a pocket passer and not use his legs until he is a hundred percent healthy. Jones technically just told Dallas that he will stay in the pocket and throw. Dallas has to prepare less now.

One thing that we love about head coach Joe Judge is that he keeps his opponents guessing. With Jones telling the media about staying in the pocket, that’s not keeping your opponents guessing.

 

Buffalo Bills: TE Tyler Kroft tests positive for COVID-19

The reserve tight end will be held out of the Buffalo Bills’ regular season finale against Miami on Sunday afternoon.

The Buffalo Bills announced on Saturday that tight end Tyler Kroft has tested positive for COVID-19 and will be held out of Sunday’s Week 17 showdown against the Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Buffalo has not announced any close contact absentees, but the situation is subject to change. They did call up four players from their practice squad, including tight end Nate Becker.

Kroft, a 28-year-old Rutgers alum, returned to the lineup last Monday night during the Bills’ 38-9 victory in New England, having not played since November 8 due to a prior placement of the reserve/COVID-19 list after he was in close contact with cornerback Josh Norman. His last four absences were due to coaches’ decisions, with the Bills opting to use Dawson Knox, Lee Smith, and Reggie Gilliam. Kroft returned to the New England visit after Gilliam was ruled out with a knee/hamstring issue. During his two years in Buffalo, Kroft has been a bit of a red zone target, earning four touchdowns, including three this season. Of Kroft’s dozen receptions in 2020, only three have not become first downs.

Due to the NFL’s mandated ten-day isolation period for those who test positive Kroft will not be able to partake in Buffalo’s Wild Card playoff game next weekend.

With the Kroft moves, Buffalo also elevated the following from their practice squad…

TE Nate Becker

Becker has spent the past two seasons on the Bills’ practice squad after going undrafted out of Miami University at Ohio. He has yet to partake in an NFL game.

CB Dane Jackson

Jackson, a seventh-round pick back in April, has been on and off Buffalo’s active roster all season. He notably came up big during the Bills’ October victory over the Jets, earning his first career interception at the end of the first half that led to a field goal in an 18-10 win.

DE Mike Love

Don’t break out the Beach Boys tunes, though Love certainly knows about some tropical tunes after spending his college days at South Florida. He has been on and off the Bills’ practice squad over the past three years, partaking in a trio of games during the 2018 season.

RB Antonio Williams

Williams is elevated to the active roster, having spent most of this season on the Bills’ practice squad after joining as an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

NASCAR: Two young drivers looking to finally break out in 2021

As more and more of NASCAR‘s veteran drivers continue to retire, a new generation of young drivers has begun to roll in. Two new young stars include William Byron of Hendrick Motorsports and Matt DiBenedetto of Wood Brothers Racing. While Byron was fortunate enough to land a big-time ride straight out of the Xfinity Series, DiBenedetto has had to work his way up from underfunded teams.

Both drivers have started to make a name for themselves with strong finishes over the past few seasons but haven’t quite broken out with major success. Will 2021 be the year that both Byron and DiBenedetto finally have a breakout season?

William Byron

After 2 1/2 years of inconsistency, William Byron finally picked up his first Cup Series victory in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway in August 2020. The event was the last race of the Cup Series regular season, and the win secured Byron’s spot in the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

However, unlike 2019, Byron failed to make it to the second round of the playoffs. He finished 5th at the Southern 500, but 21st and 38th place finishes at Richmond, and Bristol helped sink the 23-year-old’s championship hopes.

Although back-to-back playoff appearances are impressive, he’d have more success over the course of a season if he could limit how bad the bad days are. In 108 Cup Series races, Byron has finished 30th or worse 17 times. Those are the results that derail a season, putting a driver in a bigger points deficit with each poor finish. If he can find consistency and avoid wrecks, there’s no reason why Byron can’t win multiple races in 2021 and compete for a championship.

However, he’ll have to do so with a new Crew Chief. Chad Knaus, Byron’s Crew Chief the past two seasons, is taking off the headset to become the Hendrick Motorsports Vice President of Competition.

Replacing Knaus atop the pit box will be Rudy Fugle, Byron’s former Camping World Truck Series Crew Chief. In 2016, the duo won seven times and finished fifth in points. This will be Fugle’s first Cup Series job after spending seven seasons with Kyle Busch Motorsports.

With a new Crew Chief and budding success in 2020, William Byron’s looking to finally breakout with a strong 2021 season.

Matt DiBenedetto

There might not be anyone more needing of a breakout season than Matt DiBenedetto of Wood Brothers Racing. DiBenedetto was offered an extension with the team through 2021, but its already been announced that young Austin Cindric will drive the iconic No. 21 in 2022.

That makes 2021 another contract year for DiBenedetto, as he’s looking to hold onto a top ride.

The 2020 season was the first time DiBenedetto saw a top ride, previously jumping around with underfunded teams. He spent the 2019 season with the now dismantled Leavine Family Racing, almost pulling an upset victory in the Bristol night race. That race helped get eyes on him, leading to the Wood Brothers deal.

With 3 top-5s and 11 top-10s in 2020, DiBenedetto made the Cup Series playoffs for the first time in the career but failed to make it to the second round. 21st, 17th, and 19th place finishes in the round of 16 led to his elimination at the Bristol night race. Seven consecutive finishes outside the top-10 ruined the No. 21 team’s momentum, with that trend carrying into the playoffs.

However, DiBenedetto is ready to forget about his early departure and focus on the 2021 season. He knows how much is on the line for his career with this upcoming season and hopes to stay in competitive equipment.

But for DiBenedetto to do so, the team needs to avoid a late-season fall-off as much as possible and maintain consistency. The team has top equipment, meaning there’s no reason why DiBenedetto can’t break-out in 2021 and make a deep playoff run.

7 days that will shape the 2021 New York sports calendar

It was the least of our worries, but New York sports took a beating in 2020. These dates in 2021 could be steps in the right direction.

2020 has come and (finally) gone…now what?

Defeatist as the naysayers may be, they’re right in the fact that our problems don’t immediately disappear in 2021r. It’s the least of our issues at this point in time…and, frankly, that probably applies on an eternal basis…but the axiom applies for New York’s major sports teams. Any hint of good juju will do in these trying times, but every team knows they have work to do that won’t be accomplished with a mere calendar flip. However, there are plenty of names giving us hope and excitement, and the 2021 ledger has plenty of days as well that could help this area’s athletic programs turn the corner and get back in the right direction.

These seven days could win up changing everything…

(unscheduled events, like the WNBA Draft, Buffalo Bills wild card game, etc. are not included due to lack of date)

January 14: Islanders-Rangers open at MSG

Critics have remarked that, in addition to their current woes, the modern New York sports teams don’t much hope for the future. The New York Rangers seemed to be a welcome counterargument through a rebuilding process that netted them (pun intended) two elite scorers (Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad) and heir to Henrik Lundqvist in Igor Shesterkin. The Rangers had to bid farewell to several friendly faces in the process (including Lundqvist, Mats Zuccarello, and Derek Stepan) but reloaded with a strong prospect pool. Their uncanny ability to move up through the draft ranks thanks to the bounce of the ping-pong ball also saw Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenière don blue.

But their biggest rivals through a bit of a wrench into the good feelings with a length playoff run that ended two wins away from their first Stanley Cup final appearance since 1983. Under head coach Barry Trotz, the Islanders have won playoff series in consecutive years for the first time since that magic Cup run in the 1980s. John Tavares has been quickly forgotten, with the new Islander core led by homegrown talents Mathew Barzal, Josh Bailey, and Brock Nelson. Washington Capitals alum Semyon Varlamov has manned the pipes, forming a strong veteran platoon with Thomas Griess.

With the 2021 NHL season set to get underway this month, the battle for New York ice recommences at Madison Square Garden, the latest struggle serving as the season opener for both teams. The last get-together was one for the ages from a Rangers standpoint, as they took the gritty tilt in a 4-3 final, with Zibanejad scoring on a one-timer from Panarin 28 seconds into a 3-on-3 overtime session.

January 18: Islanders Battle for Respect vs. Boston

With the opening faceoff approaching, you’d almost never think that the Islanders were one of the final four teams battling for the Stanley Cup last season. The preseason accolades in the Eastern Conference include the usual suspects (Tampa Bay, Boston, Washington), many have pegged the Islanders as afterthoughts who may miss the playoffs entirely. Their temporary divisional settings, made to minimize travel, are packed with matchups against dangerous competition. That includes a whopping eight matchups with Boston, who joins what was essentially the Metropolitan division this season.

While the Islanders may have to wait a year to take revenge on the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning, they have a big chance to make an early statement against the Bruins at Nassau Coliseum. Boston took two-of-three meetings last season, with the Islanders’ win coming in shootout fashion last December.

February 18: Nets @ Lakers

Just before 2020 took away sports, the Brooklyn Nets walked into Staples Center and stole a 104-102 decision from a Los Angeles Lakers team that was seven months away from championship glory. Brooklyn did so without Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and a full-time head coach, having parted ways with Kenny Atkinson three days prior. Spencer Dinwiddie drained the game-winning jumper with 28 seconds remaining.

Brooklyn’s return trip could be a potential NBA Finals preview with both teams firing out of the gate in the early going. It will also mark the first meeting between Durant and LeBron James since Christmas 2018, when James and the Lakers torched Durant’s Golden State Warriors in a 127-101 final. The battle between Durant and James for the Western Conference title came to an end shortly after, as James’ season was never the same after an injury he sustained shortly after.

April 1: The Cohen Era Begins

Mets fans have waited a long time for some long-term, consistent hope for this franchise. They believe that new owner Steve Cohen can finally provide it. In his brief time at the New York helm, Cohen has shown a willingness to splurge on name-brand talent, thus far adding catcher James McCann to their arsenal.

The Mets’ first game under Cohen’s watch comes on April 1 against the Washington Nationals, the defending champions under a full-season setting. Both the Mets and Nationals are looking for redemption after the shortened campaign, the pair uniting for the NL East cellar with matching 26-34 records last season.

New York Jets
(Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

April 21: NFL Draft

Both metropolitan football squads will have major decisions to make when the NFL convenes in Cleveland (hopefully in person) for its annual selection proceedings. Following the Sugar Bowl semifinal in New Orleans, the Jets will be situated in the middle of one of the most intriguing quarterback debates in recent memory, as they’ll likely choose between Justin Fields or Trevor Lawrence at the top of the draft board. Of course, this will come after the Jets make a decision on their current throw Sam Darnold…could they be persuaded to take another blocker or a receiving weapon instead?

Meanwhile, the Giants are in a most uncanny position, one that partially depends on how they do on Sunday afternoon against the Dallas Cowboys (1 p.m. ET, Fox). They could either be defending NFC East champions or hitting the clock third on draft day. Do they stick with Daniel Jones, or perhaps take a waiver on BYU’s Zach Wilson? Will general manager Dave Gettleman still be around to oversee it? Either way, the decisions each team makes on this day will affect their respective futures for years to come.

May 4: The Astros (Finally) visit The Bronx

Time will tell just if the handling of the ongoing health crisis will allow fans to return to Yankee Stadium. Even if they’re welcomed back on a limited basis, the top game to attend on everyone’s list would likely be the Houston Astros’ first visit.

Much was made about MLB’s response…or lack thereof…to the Astros’ sign-stealing operation. While the Astros got an earful from opposing fans upon visits to spring training facilities, they were shielded from jeers in the regular season by public health restrictions. Even if only a limited group is allowed into Yankee Stadium by the time May rolls around, one can guarantee that they’ll make their prescience felt when the hated Astros come by. Houston may have taken the past two series matchups with the Yankees, taking the ALCS from them in 2017 and 2019, but most of their wins have come within the confines of Minute Maid Park. In those playoff meetings, the Astros were 2-4 in The Bronx. It also mark a reunion between the Astros and Gerrit Cole, now the Yankees ace after inking a $324 million contract in New York.

July 2: The Subway Series Arrives

Cohen’s purchase and splurging in Queens has raised a question in the Big Apple…is the city becoming a Mets town? The Yankees have been consistent over the past few seasons, currently working on a four-year postseason streak that has seen them advance at least one round in each visit. But that seems to be the major issue: the Yankees appear to be complacent with just that: meaningful games in September and October, rather than championship rings. The Cole signing notwithstanding, numerous free agents have slipped through the Yankees’ grip, and their most consistent hitter in this process, DJ LeMahieu, remains a free agent.

The Mets will have a chance to show how far they’ve come during Cohen’s first Subway Series set, which will be staged on Independence Day weekend at Yankee Stadium. Small as it may seem on a national scale, clinching the Subway Series could do a lot for them from a personal standpoint. Queens hasn’t outright won the annual sets since 2013, though things have ended in a tie four times in that span (including the past three).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

UFC books Johnny Walker – Jimmy Crute

We have our first UFC match making news of 2021. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto was first to report this afternoon that the promotion is finalizing a banger of a matchup at light heavyweight between Johnny Walker (18-5) and Jimmy Crute (12-1).

The fight is expected to take place on March 27th. Both of these light heavyweight fighters rank inside the top 12 of the UFC‘s rankings at 205. Both are also two of the more exciting young contenders at light heavyweight.

Johnny Walker will try to make it two in a row when he makes the walk on March 27th. Walker was being looked at as one of the best prospects in the UFC in 2019. The Brazilian stormed onto the UFC scene in 2018.

After being awarded a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series, Walker made his UFC debut against Khalil Rountree. Walker knocked out Rountree in under two minutes. His next two fights both ended in under a minute.

The UFC moved him up to face Corey Anderson at UFC 244. Walker was the favorite, however, he ended up getting finished in the first round. He then lost a second straight fight to Nikita Krylov back in March. He did bounce back to knockout Ryan Spann in September.

Big UFC matchup at Light Heavyweight

Standing across from Walker will be The Brute, Jimmy Crute. Crute had a great 2020 where he won two fights by first round stoppage. One by submission then one by knockout back in October.

Crute is being looked at as one of the best prospects in the UFC. The Australian light heavyweight contender is just 24 years old. However, he has tremendous skills on the ground and on the feet as he showed in 2020.

This fight will be a big test for Crute. He’s in a very good position because if he doesn’t win, it won’t set him back a ton. However, if he’s able to beat Johnny Walker, he will be vaulted into the top ten with another big fight ahead of him.

This is a very big fight for the UFC’s light heavyweight division. With Jon Jones out of the picture and Israel Adesanya moving up to challenge Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259, the division is entering a new day. Undoubtedly, both of these men are big prospects for the future of 205.

Where does Dom Smith fit in the Mets’ defensive alignment?

dom smith, mets

The New York Mets could find themselves in a bit of a problem if the universal designated hitter isn’t implemented for the 2021 season. The rule was in play in the atypical 2020 campaign, and it was a success. But as of now, the league doesn’t seem too inclined to use it again unless it is part of a bargaining opportunity.

The Mets really took advantage of the DH in 2020. It allowed them to include Dominic Smith’s bat in the lineup on a regular basis while also playing Jeff McNeil, JD Davis, Brandon Nimmo, and Pete Alonso.

However, what will the Mets do if they can’t, as a National League team, use the DH spot this season? By trade, the most affected player would be Smith, at least at first glance. McNeil can play second, third, and left field, Nimmo can man center field, Davis can alternate between left field and the hot corner, and Andres Gimenez can play all over the infield except first base.

Smith is a first baseman who was tried in the outfield corners in recent years as a way to include his bat in the lineup more often. The issue, for the Mets, is that Pete Alonso is the first baseman and there are several outfielders, like McNeil, Nimmo, Davis, and Michael Conforto, the regular right fielder.

The Mets need to find a spot for Smith’s bat

So where would Smith play? His bat did the talking for the Mets in 2020, with a .316/.377/.616 slash line, 10 home runs, and 42 RBI. He was among the league leaders in wRC+, with 165, and extra base hits.

MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo can foresee a potential competition between Alonso and Smith for first base reps. “If the National League proceeds without a designated hitter in 2021, the Mets won’t have an obvious place to deploy Dominic Smith, their most valuable offensive player in ’20. Left field remains an option, though far less of one if the Mets acquire Springer. That leaves first base, where Smith outperformed Pete Alonso on both sides of the ball last season. Will that performance be enough for the Mets to call first base an open competition between Smith and Alonso, who is just two years removed from his breakout, 53-homer NL Rookie of the Year Award campaign? Or will Smith go back to the bench, where he thrived as a slugging, left-handed pinch hitter in 2019? Is a third option, such as a trade of Smith — a popular clubhouse figure — in play?” he explained.

As of now, the Mets could play McNeil at second, Davis at third, Smith in left field, Nimmo in center, and Alonso at first. The defense, however, would be very shaky, and that would leave one between Amed Rosario and Gimenez without a spot.

It’s an issue that Mets’ manager Luis Rojas will have to deal with, and soon.

Fights Bellator needs to make in 2021

2021 is officially here and it’s expected to be a big year for Bellator MMA. Despite having a lengthy shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the promotion had some really high points in 2020.

Not only did Bellator put on some tremendous fights, but they made some big signings. With a string of signings in the second half of the year, Bellator has a light heavyweight division that can compete with anyone’s.

We just entered 2021, but it’s looking good for Bellator. They have a lot of talent on the roster and they can be taken more seriously now. Gone are the days where Bellator cards are being headlined by the likes of Kimbo Slice and Dada 5000.

In 2021, there are a couple of fights that stick out as “Must-Makes” for Bellator. One of those fights comes from their most stacked division and the other comes from the division that holds the greatest fighter in the promotions history.

Bellator matchups that need to happen in 2021

Yoel Romero – Anthony “Rumble” Johnson

The first matchup that Bellator needs to make is Yoel Romero (13-5) against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (22-6). Both of these men were signed by Bellator in the last couple of months of 2020.

The two former UFC title challengers are two of the more terrifying fighters in the sport. Romero just fought for the UFC middleweight title back in February of 2020 before being released at the end of the year.

Rumble has been out since 2017, however, outside of Daniel Cormier, nobody has been able to stop him since 2012. Both of these men are terrifying and extremely talented. Neither are likely to get a Bellator title shot right away considering the title picture.

With that in mind, Bellator needs to book the two men against each other. A matchup between Rumble and Romero is bigger than the light heavyweight title. It’s a massive fight that would draw in a ton of fans. I fully expect Bellator to book this fight early in 2021.

Patricio Pitbull – AJ McKee

This potential Bellator matchup is one that will likely be booked by default. The potential featherweight matchup between Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (31-4) and AJ McKee (17-0) is one that Bellator absolutely needs in 2021.

Both men are currently in the featherweight Grand Prix. McKee has already punched his ticket to the finals while Pitbull still has to defeat Emmanuel Sanchez. Pitbull has already defeated Sanchez once before.

You can imagine that the promotion is praying that Pitbull makes it through that fight victorious. No disrespect to Sanchez, but the fight that everyone wants to see is Pitbull against AJ McKee.

McKee has fought all 17 of his pro fights with Bellator. He looks like he can become the homegrown superstar that Bellator needs. He definitely has mainstream appeal and he’s only 25 years old.

Pitbull is arguably the greatest fighter Bellator has ever had. He continues to get better and better and he’s currently a two-division world champion. The fight between these two could be massive.

The best thing for Bellator in 2021 is for McKee to get his shot against Pitbull and win. AJ McKee has what it takes to become a superstar in MMA. If he can come in and win the title from someone like Pitbull in 2021, look out.