What a wild few days. NFL action began early Thursday afternoon with a truly ugly Bears win over the Lions and was bookended Monday night when Washington defeated the Seahawks and catapulted into a playoff spot in the process.
Several coaching changes at marquee college football programs shook up the sport. Lincoln Riley is headed to USC. Brian Kelly will take over in Baton Rouge. The Gators got their guy in Billy Napier. Oh, and there are still conference championships to be played this coming weekend.
There’s a new No. 1 in college basketball after then No. 5-Duke outlasted top-ranked Gonzaga on Friday night. The Blue Devils, for now, are the best team in the land, which seems appropriate for Mike Krzyzewski’s last go-around.
There’s a lot to digest and still more to prepare for. Buckle in.
NFL and Fantasy Football
The playoff picture is starting to take shape at the top of the NFC and AFC. The Cardinals, Packers, Ravens, Patriots and Titans are looking good, but the image is blurrier after the top seeds. Only half a game separates seventh seeds from 12th-place teams.
Waiver Wire Pickups: Injuries to star running backs in Week 12 make waivers even more important this week. The good news is there are some potential league-winners available. “I hope you saved some of that FAAB because now is the time to use it,” writes Jen Piacenti.
Christian McCaffrey Done for the Year: The Panthers’ running back and top pick in most fantasy drafts landed on injured reserve after he suffered an ankle injury against the Dolphins. McCaffrey played in just seven games this season after appearing in only three the previous year. Carolina again turns to rookie Chuba Hubbard to fill in for its do-it-all back.
Dalvin Cook to Miss a Few Weeks: The Vikings’ star running back left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury and will be shelved for a few weeks. Alexander Mattison, who has filled in well when asked to start in the past, will get Cook’s sizable workload while he’s sidelined. “We're talking about a league-winning roster addition,” writes Matt De Lima.
Bye Week Blues: Four teams are off for Week 13 in the second-to-last bye week of the year, including one of the league’s best offenses. Your teams will be down players from the Packers, Panthers, Titans and Browns. It’s not as bad as Week 7, but, as Craig Ellenport writes, “There will definitely be some lineup issues—especially at running back.”
NBA and Fantasy Basketball
Tuesday evening brings five NBA games, including the battle for New York between the Knicks and Nets and a showdown for the top seed in the Western Conference when the Suns host the Warriors.
Matt Ehalt and I will be picking the Grizzlies-Raptors and Pistons-Trail Blazers games later today on si.com/betting in the latest edition of NBA SO/UP picks. Visit si.com/sportsbook to find odds on these games and more.
NBA Power Rankings: Stephen Curry and Golden State have a death grip on the top spot but the surging Suns, riding a 16-game winning streak, are close behind. The Bucks, who are beating away the championship hangover, took a leap in the latest rankings after stringing together seven consecutive wins.
Michael Porter Jr. Expected to Miss Rest of Season: The Nuggets’ star continues to be plagued by back injuries. His latest will reportedly require season-ending surgery. The former first-round pick signed a five-year extension with Denver before the season began.
College Football and Hoops
The top two teams in college basketball are in action tonight as Ohio State hosts No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Purdue hosts Florida State. I’ll be breaking down and picking both games later today on si.com/betting.
Predictions for Bowl Season: Conference Championship week is upon us and the results of the Big 10, Big 12 and SEC Championship games could send college football further into chaos. “The playoff picture has six teams seemingly within reasonable striking distance heading into championship weekend, so the top of the projections could still see some wild changes that upset the New Year's Six picture,” writes Richard Johnson.
What a Week for College Football: An Oklahoma loss sent Riley west to USC, while Kelly’s Notre Dame still has a legitimate shot at making the College Football Playoff—but he’s headed south to take the LSU job. “The entire industry has been gobsmacked by blockbuster power moves, blueblood-on-blueblood crime, job hops few saw coming, lunatic spending … and the promise of still more massive dominos to fall,” writes Pat Forde.