Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots
Getty Images

Good morning to everyone but especially to...

THE BUFFALO BILLS

The Buffalo Bills had an up-and-down November with two losses and two less-than-convincing wins. They opened December by returning to their dominant selves, cruising past the Patriots, 24-10.

  • Josh Allen threw touchdowns to Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis and committed just one turnover. The Bills are 7-1 this season when he has one or zero turnovers and 2-2 when he has multiple.
  • In another positive development, rookie James Cook registered career highs in touches (20) and yards from scrimmage (105), and fellow running back Devin Singletary found the end zone.
  • The Bills have now won three straight games at New England for the first time since 1992-94.

Buffalo's significant talent advantage -- particularly on offense -- was evident throughout the game as Mac Jones and the New England offense struggled to get anything going. Jones was caught on camera getting animated (and explicit) about the play-calling.

The Bills, meanwhile, have quietly won three straight and now get an extra few days to prepare for a crucial stretch against two of the three teams that have beat them this season: the Jets and the Dolphins.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for...

untitled-design-41.png
Getty Images

GERMANY AND BELGIUM

Entering the World Cup, eight teams had +1200 or shorter odds to win the World Cup. Thursday, two of those eight went home without making it out of the group stage.

Belgium finished third in Group F after a scoreless draw with Croatia, and Germany finished third in Group E despite a 4-2 win over Costa Rica.

  • Belgium, ranked second in the world, had plenty of chances, and no one will feel worse than Romelu Lukaku, who bungled several close-range opportunities, including one that hit the post. Roberto Martínez has stepped down as Belgium coach.
  • Morocco won Group F with a 2-1 victory over Canada, and Croatia also advanced.
  • Unlike Belgium, Germany did all it could to advance, but a shocker elsewhere sealed the Germans' fate: Japan stunned Spain, 2-1, behind goals from Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka to not only eliminate the Germans but to top Group E. Spain also moved on.
  • After lifting the trophy in 2014, Germany has failed to get out of the group in each of the last two World Cups.
  • Just like Tuesday and Wednesday, there was plenty of drama and controversy.

While the eliminations are big stories, Japan's advancement is a shocker, and it's in large part thanks to manager Hajime Moriyasu, writes soccer expert James Benge.

Morocco will face Spain and Croatia will face Japan in the round of 16. Here are our experts' picks for today's action.

Not so honorable mentions

NFL Week 13 picks: Chiefs-Bengals, Mike McDaniel's 49ers homecoming headline loaded slate 🏈

AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs
Getty Images

There are no two ways around it: Week 13 is absolutely loaded. I'm ecstatic to sit on my couch and watch sports all day Sunday (after doing so on Saturday, of course).

Last week, the Bengals beat the Titans in a rematch of their AFC Divisional Round game last year. Now, they'll try to replicate the result of last year's AFC Championship Game when they host the Chiefs. There's an absurd amount of offensive talent in this one -- especially with Ja'Marr Chase expected to return -- so our NFL senior writer Pete Prisco expects a lot of points.

  • Prisco: "This Chiefs team is the best in the league right now. Patrick Mahomes and the passing game will be tough to stop. But so will Joe Burrow with Ja'Marr Chase back. This will be a shootout. Chiefs win a close one. Pick: Chiefs 35, Bengals 34"

As for other teams that are familiar with each other, the 49ers host the Dolphins, whose head coach, Mike McDaniel, coached in San Francisco from 2017-21. Miami has won five straight and San Francisco has won four straight, so something has to give. Here's our NFL expert Jordan Dajani's take:

  • Dajani: "This is a fascinating matchup as Miami rides its offense to victories, while San Francisco relies on its defense. Tua Tagovailoa still hasn't lost a game this season when he plays the entire contest, and is 5-0 since he returned from his concussion. He hasn't thrown an interception since September! People tell me defense wins championships, but I say offense wins this game. ... The pick: Dolphins +4 | Projected score: Dolphins 30-24"

Here are all of our experts' picks:

Pete Prisco | John Breech | Jordan Dajani | Tyler Sullivan

Everything to know about CFB conference championships 🏈

1130-usc.jpg

As if the NFL isn't providing enough amazing matchups, we also have college football conference championship weekend. It kicks off tonight with No. 11 Utah taking on No. 4 USC. The Trojans finally moved into the CFP top four this week, but in order to stay there, they'll have to avenge an October loss to the Utes -- their only loss this season.

Here's Tom Fornelli's pick:

  • Fornelli: "USC has played some of its best football recently, and quarterback Caleb Williams seems to be on the verge of winning the Heisman. Teams change as the season goes on, and I think late-November USC is better than mid-October USC, particularly on defense; I don't think the Utes have improved. The Trojans will get their revenge. USC 37, Utah 27 | USC -2.5 "

We also have previews of all of these championship games:

I also recommend checking out this from Dennis Dodd on how the Riley brothers -- Lincoln (USC) and Garrett (TCU) -- could both make the CFP.

How the USMNT can upset the Netherlands in round of 16 ⚽

gettyimages-1445555980-usmnt-defeat-iran-2022-world-cup-1400.jpg
Getty Images

The U.S. men's national team takes on the Netherlands tomorrow with a berth in the quarterfinal on the line. It's a big opportunity for the Stars and Stripes, who haven't made a quarterfinal since 2002, but also a big challenge: The Netherlands is a -250 favorite at Caesars Sportsbook.

But it's not an impossible challenge. Roger Gonzalez has the keys for how the U.S. can beat the Netherlands in his scouting report.

  • Gonzalez: "One thing that they don't do particularly well is go at defenders one-on-one. They have attempted just 22 take-ons at the cup and completed 12, which is 26th overall out of all of the teams. ... The midfield can struggle with pressure... and the expectation is for the U.S. to press and not let them settle in and dictate the pace that they want."

The USA will also have to limit breakout star Cody Gakpo, who already has three goals. James Benge wrote about what makes Gakpo so good, and how the USA can stop him. As for the USMNT attack, Christian Pulisic -- who scored one of the USA's goals and assisted the other -- cleared up the exact nature of his injury, and former USA striker Charlie Davies explained why Josh Sargent deserves another start up top if healthy.

Make sure you know how to watch the biggest USMNT game in a long time.

What we're watching this weekend 📺

We're watching the World Cup all weekend. Here's the schedule.

Friday

🏀 Lakers at Bucks, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏈 No. 11 Utah vs. No. 4 USC, 8 p.m. on FOX
🏀 No. 16 Illinois at No. 22 Maryland, 9 p.m. on BTN
🏀 Bulls at Warriors, 10 p.m. on ESPN

Saturday

🏈 No. 10 Kansas State vs. No. 3 TCU, Noon on ABC
🏈 No. 14 LSU vs. No. 1 Georgia, 4 p.m. on CBS
🏈 Purdue vs. No. 2 Michigan, 8 p.m. on FOX

Sunday

🏈 Here's the NFL Week 13 schedule.
🏀 Michigan at No. 19 Kentucky, 1 p.m. on ABC