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Thursday, December 13, 2012

This Week in Sports: December 14, 2012

The Week That Was:  In December, it is hard to find something more important in the sports world than NFL football, but this week gave us a stunning result in the world of boxing.

(Getty Images)
Boxing:  On Saturday night, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez faced off against each other for the fourth time in their careers.  Officially, Pacquiao had one two of the three previous bouts.  The other was officially ruled a draw.  But controversy and dispute surrounded all three previous fights.  Pacquiao-Marquez IV was televised on HBO pay-per-view, and the folks who shelled out the $65 to watch the fight certainly got their money's worth.  This time around, Marquez took the decision out of the judge's hands when he delivered a thundering right hand that knocked the Pacman out cold in the sixth round.  Both men had been knocked down earlier in the fight.  Most observers had Pacquiao ahead on the scorecards heading into the sixth round.  And it was Pacman who was turning up the pressure in an attempt to finish off Marquez before the bell sounded to end the sixth round.  And then ... BANG!  Marquez landed one of the most punishing single punches I have ever seen.  Pacquiao fell face down like a sack of rotten potatoes and was motionless for several minutes before he was able to get onto a stool in his corner.  And with that, the future of the world's most popular fighter is in serious doubt.

Heisman:  Johnny Manziel made history on Saturday night when he became the first freshman to win the Heisman trophy.  Typically, the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City, the organization that awards the Heisman, invites five finalists to attend the awards ceremony,  This year, only three finalists were in attendance.  The third place finisher was Colin Klein, quarterback for the Kansas State Wildcats.  The runner-up this year was Manti Te'o, a linebacker and pure defensive player from Notre Dame.  Both Te'o and Klein are seniors.  But, it was the freshman quarterback from Texas A&M that won college football's most prestigious award.

(Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
NFL:  With only a few games left on the NFL schedule, every game takes on do-or-die importance for the teams fighting for a playoff berth.  In the NFC, the Chicago Bears relinquished their spot atop the NFC North by losing to the Vikings.  Meanwhile, almost everyone else in contention in the NFC won this week.  At the end of Week 14, the division leaders in the NFC are the New York Giants, the Atlanta Falcons, the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers.  The Seahawks and the Bears hold the wild card positions with records of 8-5.  The Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys are hot on their heels with records of 7-6.  It should be noted that the Redskins and the Cowboys are also only one game behind the Giants for the division crown in the NFC East.

In the AFC, things are a little more clear cut.  The marquis matchup of the week was on Monday night when the 11-1 Houston Texans visited the 9-3 New England Patriots.  The Patriots thrashed the Texans 42-14.  Nonetheless, the Texans still have the AFC's best record at 11-2.  The Patriots and the Broncos have also both clinched playoff berths.  Although it's not a mathematical certainty, the Baltimore Ravens and the surprising Indianapolis Colts are both in solid playoff positions with records of 9-4.  That leaves the Steelers and the Bengals locked in a battle for the final playoff berth.  The Bengals already won their Week 15 matchup on Thursday night to move to 8-6.  The Steelers head into the week with a record of 7-6.

The Week Ahead:  Heading into mid-December, the NFL clearly takes center stage.

NFL:  In terms of the NFC playoff picture, two games jump off the schedule for Week 15.  First is the New York Giants versus the Atlanta Falcons.  The Falcons are sitting pretty at 11-2 and have already clinched their division.  The Giants are coming off a convincing route of the Saints but are barely clinging to a one-game lead over the Cowboys and the Redskins for the top spot in the NFC East.  That game will be shown on FOX at 1:00 p.m. EST.  The other pivotal NFC game this week features the the Packers at the Bears.  The Packers currently have a one-game lead over the Bears in the NFC North division.  The Bears currently have a one-game lead over the Cowboys, Vikings and Redskins for a wild card berth.  That game will also be shown by FOX at 1:00 p.m. EST.  In a cross-conference match-up, the Steelers are visiting the Cowboys.  Both teams are 7-6.  The winner is still very much in the playoff hunt while the loser is in serious trouble.  That game will be shown on CBS at 4:25 p.m. EST.  Perhaps the most anticipated game of the weekend is NBC's Sunday night matchup between the 49ers and the Patriots.  Although it will have little impact on the playoffs picture, according to many pundits, this game may very well be a Super Bowl preview.  The game will be played at New England at 8:20 p.m. EST.  NBC will broadcast the game.

College Basketball:  March Madness is still three months away.  But, for all you bracketologists out there, it's never too early to start scouting the college basketball landscape.  On Saturday afternoon, the #5 Florida Gators head out west to face the #8 Arizona Wildcats.  CBS will broadcast that game at 2:00 p.m. EST.
(Al Messerschmidt)

College Football:  The Bowl Season kicks off this weekend.  All tolled, there will be 35 bowl games played.  The first one on the schedule is the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.  That game between Arizona and Nevada will kick off on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. EST on ESPN.  The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl between Toledo and #18 Utah State will be shown on Saturday on ESPN at 4:30 p.m. EST.  On Thursday night, BYU will play San Diego State in the San Diego County Credit Union Pointsettia Bowl.  Yes, you read that correctly.  That game will be shown on ESPN at 8:00 p.m.  This week's schedule finishes off with the always thrilling Beef O'Brady's Bowl.  This year's matchup between Ball State and Central Florida will be shown on Friday night on ESPN at 8:00 p.m. EST.  Click here for a a complete, printable bowl schedule.

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