Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE NO. 13 KANSAS STATE WILDCATS
Just over two years ago, Keyontae Johnson collapsed on the court during a game. Tuesday night, he rose higher than anyone to throw down a ferocious, game-winning alley-oop to lift No. 13 Kansas State to an instant-classic 83-82 victory over No. 2 Kansas.
To illustrate just how monumental this win was, Kansas State had lost 15 of the last 16 Sunflower Showdowns dating back to 2016.
- It's the Wildcats' first win over an AP top-two team since 2016.
- The Jayhawks' streak of 15 straight wins in single-digit games is over
- Johnson and Desi Sills led the way with 24 points each, which was just enough to overcome Jalen Wilson's 38-point outburst, the most points in a game by a Jayhawk since Andrew Wiggins in 2014.
This was a terrific, gritty effort from the Wildcats, whose offense has been their calling card this season but whose defense got it done Tuesday, forcing 15 turnovers -- including one on Kansas' final possession -- and allowing just 6-29 (20.7 percent) shooting on 3-pointers.
The game will also boost Kansas State's case for a high seed come March, notes our David Cobb.
- Cobb: "The Wildcats entered with an excellent 4-1 record in Quad 1 games, but the win over Kansas stands out above any other victory to date for a few reasons. For one, it came against a despised in-state rival that had dominated the series in recent seasons. But it should also silence some of the lingering doubters wondering if Kansas State could stay nationally relevant under a first-year coach amid the rigors of Big 12 play."
- Aaron Rodgers doesn't have much to say about his future. Yet.
- Lamar Jackson has the support of his Ravens teammates.
- Jim Schwartz is the Browns' new defensive coordinator.
- Ran Carthon is the Titans' new GM.
- Alabama star Brandon Miller won Freshman of the Week.
And not such a good morning for...
JOE LOMBARDI, SHANE DAY AND THE LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
As the Chargers attempt to climb out of the disappointment of blowing a 27-point lead, they'll be doing it without two key coaches.
The team fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Shane Day on Tuesday.
- Both coaches had been with the team for the past two seasons, a span over which the Chargers ranked sixth in offensive points per game, fifth in yards per game and third in passing yards per game.
- However, as we chronicled in Monday's newsletter, offensive failures played a huge role in the Chargers' late-game collapse against the Jaguars. They scored just three second-half points.
- The Chargers struggled to run the ball over the past two seasons, too, ranking 24th in rushing yards per game and yards per rush and 29th in percentage of rushes gaining at least five yards.
Yes, you can't pin every part of the failure on Lombardi and Day. The Chargers (including Justin Herbert) were banged-up all season, and Mike Williams missed the Wild Card game with a back fracture he suffered in a meaningless Week 18 contest. But there's also no denying that change was needed.
Herbert -- despite his rocket for an arm -- threw the ball just 6.4 yards downfield on average, only ahead of Daniel Jones and Matt Ryan this season. The team was also 17th in red-zone touchdown rate and 23rd in goal-to-go touchdown rate.
This will be Herbert's third offensive coordinator in four NFL seasons, but it should be an attractive opening with him, Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, Williams and some talented offensive linemen on the roster. Finding someone who can make all the pieces work, though, has proved a tall task.
Not so honorable mentions
- Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) missed a fourth straight game.
- Tonight's Northwestern-Iowa game was postponed due to COVID-19 issues with the Wildcats.
- Heat and rain are wreaking havoc on the Australian Open.
Tom Brady's potential landing spots -- if he leaves Tampa Bay 🏈
Last offseason, Tom Brady flirted with retirement, actually retired and then unretired, all within a span of weeks after the Buccaneers got eliminated from the playoffs. Don't expect as much drama this time around.
The 45-year-old legend said he'll take things "one day at a time" in the aftermath of Monday night's 31-14 embarrassment against the Cowboys. Brady also had some pointed words about his frustration with the season as a whole, and it seems for now that if he does keep playing, it will be in a different uniform. The 2022 Buccaneers only made the playoffs thanks to a lousy NFC South, and the team seems as far away from Super Bowl contention as it ever has been in three seasons with Brady.
So, where will Brady go next? Our Cody Benjamin has eight potential landing spots for the seven-time Super Bowl champ, and one truly sticks out in my mind:
- Benjamin: "Raiders -- Derek Carr has already said goodbye in anticipation of a trade or release, marking the end of a long and gritty but mostly disappointing era of Raiders football. Who better to reset expectations as Josh McDaniels enters year two than the coach's longtime partner in crime from the Patriots? Las Vegas will have money to spend thanks to Carr's eventual split, and Davante Adams is already in tow as a No. 1 target, with Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller also due for rebounds."
The pieces are there, as Cody notes; the Raiders play indoors in a major, growing sports hub; and, as our Jonathan Jones reported Sunday, Las Vegas plans to aggressively pursue Brady this offseason. Of course, any team with quarterback questions ought to at least consider Brady, and Cody has plenty of other options, which you can see here.
Who should enter the Baseball Hall of Fame next? ⚾
In the least-surprising development ever, the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot is filled with controversial names for one reason or another. Cheating scandal? Check. Steroid involvement? Check.
These issues aren't new, and they aren't going away anytime soon.
What will be going away soon is our Matt Snyder's hypothetical ballot. Matt will be an official voter for the 2025 class (congrats, Matt!), so this is his penultimate hypothetical exercise. With less than a week until the 2023 class is unveiled, Matt revealed his would-be ballot, with one debutant the headliner.
- Snyder: "The biggest remaining name is a newcomer with a Hall of Fame resume in Carlos Beltrán. I ran through this case here. There is, of course, his heavy involvement with the 2017 Astros. I've wrestled with this back and forth and I might well change my mind again before it's a real ballot. ... Ultimately I'm coming down on a yes for Beltrán."
Matt's thought process on Beltrán and others -- he ended up "voting" for nine players -- was truly fascinating, and you can read all about it here.
Cowboys vs. 49ers can provide us with new chapter in historic rivalry 🏈
Joe Montana. Steve Young. Jerry Rice. Dwight Clark. Bill Walsh.
Troy Aikman. Roger Staubach. Emmitt Smith. Michael Irvin. Tom Landry.
The Catch. The Changing of the Guard.
The 49ers and the Cowboys have treated us to plenty of legendary players and legendary playoff games, and they'll renew the rivalry Sunday in the NFC Divisional Round. It will be the ninth postseason meeting between the two historic franchises, tied for most of any matchup.
Our Bryan DeArdo ranked all of those meetings eight so far, and, while most are from generations past, last year's 23-17 San Francisco triumph had one of the wildest endings we've ever seen. So, who will join the list above in Cowboys-49ers lore?
Brock Purdy is a good candidate after a four-touchdown playoff debut against Seattle, but he'll have to overcome one key weakness, notes Jeff Kerr.
- Kerr: "Purdy was just 9 of 20 for 153 yards and a 71.5 passer rating when his targets didn't get 5-plus yards of separation. He was also 9 of 10 for 179 yards and three touchdowns when a receiver had separation of 5-plus yards, showcasing the scheme had plenty to do with his impressive performance ... Credit to Kyle Shanahan for setting his quarterback up to succeed, but what will happen when Purdy faces a defense that can actually put pressure on the quarterback and is above average in coverage?"
What we're watching Wednesday 📺
🏀 Hawks at Mavericks, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Bruins at Islanders, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 No. 22 Providence at No. 20 Marquette, 9 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
🏀 Timberwolves at Nuggets, 10 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Stars at Sharks, 10 p.m. on TNT