New York Giants officially eliminated from the playoffs, clinch 11th pick in 2021 NFL Draft

The New York Giants have been officially eliminated from the playoffs. After an exciting win over the division-rival Dallas Cowboys today, the Giants had to wait until tonight to see if their season would continue. All the Giants needed was a Philadelphia win over the Washington Football team.

Unfortunately, the Giants did not get what they needed out of their rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles. The Washington Football Team beat the Eagles on primetime and won the NFC East for the first time since 2015. The Football Team won by a final score of 20-14.

The New York Giants, now eliminated from playoff contention, can focus their attention on the offseason. Had they won, they would have played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Saturday. Instead, Washington will host Tampa Bay and the Giants will look ahead to free agency and the draft.

The Giants clinched the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft today. Their win over Dallas improved their record to 6-10. This is an improvement over last year’s 4-12 record. However, this win did push the Giants down the draft order and they are now selecting behind the Dallas Cowboys.

Regardless, it was a sloppy, interesting, but hopeful season for the New York Giants and rookie head coach Joe Judge. In their first year without Eli Manning, the Giants played meaningful football through December. If not for some heart-breaking losses down the stretch, the Giants could have won their division. Unfortunately, the Giants did not put together enough wins to control their own destiny.

Looking ahead to 2021, fans can anticipate a bloodbath between the Giants and the Eagles. After Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson’s decision to pull quarterback Jalen Hurts from their Week 17 game in the fourth quarter, suspicion arose amongst the football world. It seemed to many that the Eagles tanked this game and disregarded all competitive integrity in order to gain a higher draft pick. Needless to say, Giants fans and players alike are not happy about this decision by Pederson and the game’s outcome because of this decision. New York will not forget this night and will eagerly anticipate the opportunity to seek revenge in the 2021 NFL season.

REPORT: MLB expected to start Spring Training as planned

New York Yankees, Brett Gardner

According to a report from The Athletic, Major League Baseball is expected to start Spring Training and the Regular Season on time despite COVID-19 concerns. Previous rumors indicated a possibility of the season getting pushed back.

Many owners had pushed for a delayed start to the season, while the Players Association disagreed. The MLBPA believes that players can adequately follow the same protocols set in the shortened 2020 season. By social distancing, wearing masks, and frequent testing, MLB managed to have a mostly problem-free 2020 season.

Players are scheduled to report to Spring Training facilities in mid-February for an April 1 Opening Day. The league is expected to play a full 162-game schedule, meaning teams will play in home stadiums and travel as usual.

Most stadiums are likely to start the season with limited attendance, with numbers hopefully increasing as the season progresses. If the COVID-19 vaccine works and projections are accurate, teams could be allowed to host a full attendance by September.

Statements from MLB and the MLBPA to The Athletic are provided below:

MLB: “We have announced the dates for the start of Spring Training and the Championship Season. As we get closer we will, in consultation with public health authorities, our medical experts, and the Players Association, determine whether any modifications should be considered in light of the current surge in COVID-19 cases and the challenges we faced in 2020 completing a 60-game season in a sport that plays every day.”

MLBPA: “As we’ve made clear to the league on multiple occasions, we expect Spring Training and the Regular Season to start on time and as scheduled, consistent with our CBA. The league does not have the authority or legal bias to unilaterally delay or shorten the schedule without Players’ consent. While there will continue to be challenges, our Players have proven they can safely play a season under difficult circumstances, as have the other sports. The Commissioner’s Office has assured us that they have instructed Clubs to prepare for an on time start.” 

BREAKING: New York Jets fire head coach Adam Gase

New York Jets, Adam Gase

The New York Jets have relieved Gase of his duties after two seasons at the helm, the shortest tenure since Al Groh’s single campaign.

The New York Jets have announced the firing of head coach Adam Gase following their 28-14 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon.

Gase’s two-year New York tenure ends with a mark of 9-23, picking up the second-worst win percentage for a Jets head coach with at least one full year in the role, besting only Rich Kotite (1995-96, .125). His two-year term is also the shortest for a Jets head coach since Al Groh served a single season in 2000. Gase also held the title of interim general manager for just under a month after the firing of Mike Maccagnan during the 2019 offseason.

“This evening, I informed Adam Gase he will no longer serve as the Head Coach of the Jets,” Jets Chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson said in a team statement. “During his time here, I had the pleasure to get to know Adam and his wonderful family and wish them nothing but the best moving forward.  While my sincere intentions are to have stability in our organization – especially in our leadership positions – it is clear the best decision for the Jets is to move in a different direction. We knew there was a lot of work that needed to be done when Adam joined us in 2019. Our strong finish last year was encouraging, but unfortunately, we did not sustain that positive momentum or see the progress we all expected this season.

“To our fans, it is obvious we have not been good enough. We are committed to building a strong organization, on and off the field, and will continue to provide the necessary resources to field a team that you can be proud of.”

Hired in January 2019 after three years overseeing the Miami Dolphins, Gase was marketed as a head coach that could help the Jets’ offense turn the corner. He was reportedly even recommended by Peyton Manning, who posted the best numbers of his career during Gase’s time as the offensive coordinator in Denver.

However, the Jets never lived up to the promises of offensive prosperity, ranking dead last in the league in yardage in each of their two years under Gase’s watch. Additionally, franchise quarterback Sam Darnold never took the steps forward the Jets were hoping to see. The Jets endured several lengthy losing streaks over the past two seasons, including a streak of 13 consecutive defeats to open this season.

Gase’s tenure was also marred by rumors of in-fighting with several notable names in the organization, namely former rusher Le’Veon Bell, who was released in October. Bell was in the midst of the second season of a four-year, $54 million contract and never returned to his former All-Pro form displayed in Pittsburgh. Other prominent Jets to depart during the Gase years included Jamal Adams, Robby Anderson, Steve McLendon, Avery Williamson, Jason Myers, and Andre Roberts.

With this latest lost season, the Jets now own the longest active postseason drought in the NFL at 10 seasons after Cleveland, and Tampa Bay ended their respective streaks of futility this year. The Jets’ most recent two-win campaign was also their worst victory tally since the 1996 season under Kotite (1-15). Their last winning season came in 2015 when they finished 10-6 and lost their playoff spot on the last day of the season. Relative consolation comes from the fact that the Jets will choose second in the 2021 NFL Draft in April, a choice they will potentially use on their next franchise quarterback.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

UFC’s Mike Perry ‘Spills own blood’ in alarming social media posts

2020 was a very eventful year for the UFC‘s Mike Perry (14-7). Perry had two fights inside the octagon, however, it was what happened outside the octagon that made headlines nationally.

For starters, Perry punched an old man in a bar while yelling the N-Word. Then, Perry was accused of domestic violence by his ex, and then he badly missed weight for his last fight at UFC 255.

Inside the octagon, Perry went 1-1. However, he also raised eyebrows by fighting with no coaches and choosing to have his fiancé in his corner for his last couple of fights. Perry has also been very active on social media and not in a good way.

Starting yesterday, Perry tweeted messages regarding anyone coming up to him and asking him a question. Now, I completely understand where he’s coming from in the sense of wanting privacy.

However, the manner in which Perry voiced the message was a little concerning. Then today, the UFC welterweight tweeted out saying that he’s happy to spill his own blood because whatever he does is not enough so he acts out.

The UFC welterweight also posted the below video of himself after he seemingly put his foot through a glass window. Please be advised that the video does contain some graphic images. 

Should the UFC get involved?

Stating the obvious here, but Mike Perry needs some serious help. The man is just not all there mentally and needs help. The UFC needs to step in and do one of two things in my opinion.

The first thing they should do is try and get this guy the help he needs. He’s a good fighter with a ton of personality who just needs some help controlling his emotions. Perhaps the UFC could assist with that.

If they can’t get him any help, they need to cut him and move on. Perry is a PR nightmare for the UFC as things currently stand. He’s constantly bringing negative attention to himself and the sport.

I actually really like Mike Perry. He’s incredibly entertaining and the guy is incredibly tough when he steps into the octagon. I want to see him get things worked out. However, if things keep going down this path, the promotion needs to move on.

Buffalo Bills to face Indianapolis Colts in AFC Wild Card playoffs

The Buffalo Bills (13-3) will face their former AFC East brethren in the first round of the 2021 NFL postseason.

It’s only appropriate that this Buffalo Bills season, one that conjured the ghosts of AFC East past, it’s only appropriate that the potential postseason trek opens with a meeting against a former member of the divisional brotherhood.

The end of the American Football Conference’s regular season action has solidified its portion of the playoff bracket. Seeded in the second-slot, the BIlls will battle the seventh-ranked Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round of the postseason. It will be held next weekend on January 9 or 10.

Buffalo and Indianapolis are former AFC East rivals, with the Colts (then based in Baltimore) joining the division upon the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. They were shifted to the newly formed AFC South when the Houston Texans became the NFL’s 32nd franchise in 2002. There have been 70 prior meetings in the postseason between the Bills and Colts, with the former leading the series by a 37-32-1 tally. This Wild Card meeting will be their first postseason showdown.

Ironically, the Bills (13-3) partially allowed the Colts (11-5) to clinch a playoff spot, as their 56-26 destruction of the Miami Dolphins in Sunday’s early window put Indianapolis in a “win-and-in” situation against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Rookie running back Jonathan Taylor ran for 253 yards and two scores en route to a 28-14 victory.

The second-round pick out of Wisconsin (41st overall) has been one of the biggest reasons behind the Colts’ resurgence, having scored seven touchdowns over the last four games. His 1,169 rushing yards are the most amongst first-year players. Other talented in the Indianapolis roster include quarterback Phillip Rivers, receiver T.Y. Hilton, and linebacker Darius Leonard. The Colts have won five of their last seven games entering the playoffs.

Buffalo last faced Indianapolis in 2018, when the Colts took a 37-5 final at Lucas Oil Stadium. The last visit to Orchard Park was in December 2017, when the Bills earned a 13-7 overtime win in a blizzard.

Elsewhere on the AFC bracket, the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Cleveland Browns while the Tennessee Titans host the Baltimore Ravens.

Time and television information will be announced in the near future, likely during the final overall regular season game of 2020, Sunday’s night NFC East deciding event between the Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). Washington will win that division if they take the tilt, while an Eagles victory secures the title and the playoff spot that comes with it to the New York Giants.

[UPDATE: 9:25 p.m. ET]]: The NFL has released times and dates for the first round of the playoffs, with the Bills-Colts showdown opening things up on Saturday, January 9. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on CBS.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Islanders: Mat Barzal contract negotiation update

Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders

New York Islanders training camp started today, and to everyone’s surprise, they still haven’t re-signed franchise center Mat Barzal. Contract negotiations resumed just last week after the all the dates were announced. Regardless of this, Barzal could sign any day now. General manager Lou Lamoriello and fellow Islanders’ teammates believe that Barzal will sign within the coming days.

Mat Barzal is currently on Long Island and is quarantining in hopes of joining his team immediately after signing his contract. Everyone around the Isles are confident in Barzal’s new contract, but the terms of the deal have not been finalized.

When I think about this contract, I look at similar players around the league. Players like Mitch Marner and Pierre-Luc Dubois. These elite players got bridge deals after holding out for many, many months. Mat Barzal is no exception to this trend. Barzal is 100% looking at a 2-3 year deal. This helps both sides. The Islanders get time to resign all their guys like Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech, and Ilya Sorokin to long term deals. While Barzal can earn even more for a longer period of time-based on his play for the next few years. A bridge deal is the only deal in play here.

Amount

Excuse me if I sound like a broken record here, but the Islanders don’t have a ton of salary cap. The terms of Matt Martin’s contract has not come out yet. The same thing goes for Andy Greene.

I assume it’s either the league minimum or very close to it. So, this leaves the Islanders with about $7.5 million dollars left to sign their franchise center. This is probably not enough to sign Barzal. But Lou Lamoriello can just send someone down or put Andrew Ladd on LTIR and solve this cap space issue. I believe the deal will come in at around $8.5-$9 million dollars. So, my final prediction for Mat Barzal’s new contract is 3 years worth $8.7 million a year.

New York Giants: 3 major takeaways from the win over Dallas

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

The New York Giants walked away with a victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon, by a score of 23-19. After Dallas had recorded 30+ points over their last three games consecutively, the Giants’ defense showed up in a big way, limiting them to just nine points at halftime.

Luckily, the offense did just enough to overcome a surging Cowboys team, with Sterling Shepard recording 112 yards through the air, one touchdown reception, and two rushing attempts for 24 yards and a score. Overall, he was phenomenal, and coordinator Jason Garrett finally realized that targeting him in man coverage was exactly what they needed to walk away with a victory.

However, there were many factors that played a significant part in the Giants’ win, so it is only fair to give credit where it’s due.

Three major takeaways from the New York Giants’ win over Dallas:

1.) Daniel Jones looked good

After a shaky first quarter, quarterback Daniel Jones began to sling the ball with accuracy and great timing. He finished the day with 229 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. The one turnover was a result of an Evan Engram dropped pass, something we’ve seen routinely this season.

Jones also activated his legs more than previously thought, as he bluffed that he would stay in the pocket this week during a press conference. He picked up 17 yards on nine carries, but he was able to move out of the pocket adequately and throw the ball downfield.

One connection that has seem to pay off is with Jones and WR Dante Pettis, who hauled in two receptions for 43 yards and a score. DJ threw multiple balls with zip and fantastic accuracy, showing off his ability to throw the ball downfield in man coverage. Impressively, with solid pass blocking, Jones looked like a stable quarterback who has plenty of potential left to unearth. Adding Saquon Barkley and a top wide receiver to the mix should do the trick, and I feel more confident than ever that DJ can be the answer moving forward.

2.) Pay Leonard Williams!

One player that stood out was interior pass rusher Leonard Williams, who finished the afternoon with seven total tackles, three sacks, three tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, and one pass defended. He was phenomenal all afternoon long, putting pressure on quarterback Andy Dalton and even forcing the interception that ended the game in the waning moments.

While Williams has disappeared at times, he remains a fantastic player for the Giants, who continued to develop and extract value from. He has proven he deserves a long-term deal, and Big Blue should make him an offer this off-season. The defense without him simply isn’t the same.

3.) Julian Love/Xavier McKinney

The Giants utilized Julian Love as the second cornerback alongside James Bradberry against Dallas, and he played with feistiness and desire. Love have been primarily used as a safety to start his career in the NFL, but making the transition to CB has paid off, as he looked a lot better than Isaac Yiadom has this season.

He finished the day with seven tackles, one pasts defended, and nearly walked away with an interception. He impressed me in this game against some very talented receivers, and the Giants should heavily consider him as a potential option at cornerback in 2021.

In addition, young safety Xavier McKinney left his mark on the win. He recorded eight tackles, one tackle for a loss, one pass defended, and an interception. He almost had an interception earlier on in the contest, but it was called back on a holding penalty.

McKinney has taken gradual steps forward, but he seems to be a fantastic fit on this defense, with Patrick Graham developing the scheme. He has a bright future ahead of him, and this one performance shows us that.

New York Jets: Three Stars from Sunday’s finale at New England

The New York Jets’ 2020 season ended on an appropriately sullen note, as they fell to the New England Patriots in a snowy slog.

If there was ever a perfect day to end the 2020 New York Jets’ season, it was an overcast, cold, snowy, sloppy day at Gillette Stadium…where the Jets were on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

Cam Newton put up 322 yards of total offense and threw for three scores in the New England Patriots’ victorious season finale, topping the Jets by a 28-14 final in a meaningless game in Foxboro. The Jets (2-14) were paced by 84 receiving yards on a trio of receptions by Breshad Perriman. In what could his final game as the Jets’ franchise quarterback, Sam Darnold threw for 266 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions.

The Jets end this season with their lowest win total since 1996, when they won a single game under Rich Kotite. New York also endures their fifth consecutive sweep at the hands of the Patriots (7-9).

For the final time this season, ESM issues the game balls, as multiple eras come to their potential end in Florham Park and East Rutherford.

3rd Star: WR Breshad Perriman

3 receptions, 84 yards

Last season, Perriman earned himself de factor WR1 duties with a strong finish to the regular season. It wasn’t as impressive this time around, but he provided the Jets a strong potential parting gift by serving as their deep ball threat in Foxboro. This comes after he was kept off the stat ledger in last week’s win over Cleveland.

2nd Star: RB Josh Adams

11 carries, 47 yards, 1 TD, 2 receptions, 11 yards

It truly is a shame that, with all due respect to Frank Gore, that consequence-free football in Florham Park and East Rutherford wasn’t dedicated to exploring the Jets’ rushing future. During their brief time together, Adams and Ty Johnson formed a dynamic pair, and it was the former who wound up scoring the final touchdown of this wretched season. He and Johnson united for 92 yards in New England (4.2 average carry) after previously putting up a collaborative 178 in the infamous December loss to Las Vegas.

1st Star: TE Chris Herndon

7 receptions, 63 yards, 1 TD

The case for keeping Sam Darnold often covers the ridiculous amount of turn over he has experienced in only three years at the New York helm. No receiver remains from his rookie campaign, with the exception of the tight end Herndon. Darnold’s former rookie camp roommate had struggled to replicate the success of his rookie season, hampered by injuries and other calamities. But Herndon managed to recapture a little bit of his 2018 spark toward the end of the season, capping things off with a game-best in receptions and a touchdown in each of his last two games.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

NASCAR News/Rumors (1/3/21): Larson reinstated, Wood Brothers with full ownership of charter

Read for a recap of the latest news and rumors around NASCAR:

Kyle Larson officially reinstated

With the turn of the year, Kyle Larson is officially reinstated by NASCAR and cleared for racing in 2021. Larson was suspended on April 13, 2020, after he was caught saying a racial slur during an iRacing event.

Once NASCAR announced in the fall that Larson would be eligible to race in 2021, Hendrick Motorsports signed the 28-year-old to a multi-year contract.

Larson will drive the No. 5 car with Cliff Daniels, formerly the Crew Chief of Jimmie Johnson, calling the shots. Sponsorship has yet to be announced.

Wood Brothers Racing now has full control of charter

According to their Twitter page, Wood Brothers Racing has purchased full ownership and control of their Cup Series charter. Since 2017, the team co-owned a charter with Go Fas Racing.

Wood Brothers Racing ran part-time from 2006-2015, going to victory lane once in that span with Trevor Bayne behind the wheel in the 2011 Daytona 500. The team began full-time operations again in 2016 with Ryan Blaney driving, and he remained with the team through the 2017 season before his switch over to Penske Racing. Paul Menard replaced Blaney as the driver of the No. 21 in 2018 and 2019 before Matt DiBenedetto took over the ride in 2020.

DiBenedetto will drive the car for one more season before Austin Cindric takes over in 2022.

Five teams remain without a driver

The Daytona 500 is just six weeks away, and five race teams remain without a driver: The No. 15, No. 51, No. 52, and the No. 53 for Rick Ware Racing, and the No. 38 for Front Row Motorsports. John Hunter Nemechek’s departure to the Camping World Truck Series opened the No. 38, with a full-time driver is expected to sign there eventually. Anthony Alfredo has been linked to the team, but nothing’s confirmed. Alfredo made 19 starts for the Richard Childress Racing No. 21 car in the 2020 Xfinity Series, picking up a pair of top-5s and 9 top-10s.

In contrast, a combination of drivers are expected to fill the four rides for Rick Ware Racing. The organization typically doesn’t hire drivers full-time.

Buffalo Bills: Three stars from Sunday’s win vs. Miami

The Buffalo Bills booted the Miami Dolphins from the AFC playoff bracket with a dominant effort in Orchard Park.

The Buffalo Bills’ historic regular season ended with “Scoragami“, a No. 2 seed, and a gift for the Tennessee Titans.

Buffalo capped off a dominant stretch with a 56-26 victory over the Miami Dolphins in the 2020 regular-season finale at Bills Stadium. Isaiah McKenzie scored two touchdowns through the air, while Antonio Williams added two more on the ground. Receivers Gabriel Davis and John Brown also had touchdowns, the latter also earned 72 yards in his first action since November 15 in Arizona.

With the win, the Bills (13-3) have clinched their best win tally since 1991 and they also locked up the No. 2 seed in the upcoming AFC playoffs. While the first-round bye only applies to the top-seeded Chiefs, the Bills will be assured of a home game if they reach the Divisional round and will face the defending champion from Kansas City no earlier than the AFC title game. Their win over the Dolphins (10-6) also allowed the Tennessee Titans to clinch a playoff spot and put Miami’s own playoff dreams on life support, now needing a loss from the Indianapolis Colts to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

ESM hands out game balls from the final regular season game…

3rd Star: QB Josh Allen

18-of-25, 224 yards, 3 TD

Those tuning in were treated to a lite version of Allen, who was removed in the early stages of the second half for Matt Barkley. While he struggled in the early going, a stretch that included his first interception since Week 14 against Pittsburgh, he was able to turn the game into one last case for MVP voters, tallying three touchdowns, including one to the returning John Brown, before giving way to Matt Barkley. Allen also managed to cap off his 16-game slate with one more team record, passing Drew Bledsoe’s mark in 2002 for the best passing-yard tally in a single season.

2nd Star: CB Josh Norman

4 tackles, 2 pass breakups, 1 INT/TD 

Norman gave fans an incredible blast from the past in the rout. In addition to two crucial pass breakups (one of which stifled a Miami comeback deep in the red zone), he took back a Tagovailoa interception 16 yards for a score to help bury their aquatic foes. It was Norman’s first touchdown since the pair he scored during his magical 2015 season in Carolina. Under Norman’s veteran leadership, Buffalo’s secondary is firing on all cylinders at the perfect time. In addition to the three turnovers, the defense let up only 171 yards from opposing throwers in their prior contests.

1st Star: WR Isaiah McKenzie 

6 receptions, 65 yards, 2 TDs, 1 punt return, 84 yards, 1 TD

Often seen as a “gimmick” receiver that comes up big on trick plays, McKenzie played a larger role on the receiving front on Sunday with Cole Beasley injured and Stefon Diggs getting some rest. He took full advantage of his extended opportunity, earning new single-game bests and his first multi-touchdown game. McKenzie also scored through more traditional methods, taking back a punt 84 yards for a score that more or less put the game away early in the first half.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags