This Weekend in Sports — NFL Battles and College Basketball
NFL teams scramble for a playoff spot, and some of college basketball’s best teams face off in non-conference play. Here are the games to watch this weekend:
Friday, December 21
Chicago Bulls at New York Knicks
Madison Square Garden, New York City; 7:30 p.m. (ET) on NBA-TV
Owners of the Eastern Conference’s best record, New York (19-6) was undefeated at home until dropping a game to the Rockets on Monday night. Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony returned from an ankle injury to score 31 points in a 100-86 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Chicago (14-10) is getting solid front court play from Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, all of whom will challenge the Knicks’ front line.
Saturday, Dec. 22
Maaco Bowl – Washington vs. (20) Boise State
Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas; 3:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN
Boise State (10-2) has become a college football powerhouse. While the Broncos aren’t BCS-bound this year, they will face Washington (7-5) in the MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas on Saturday. The Huskies’ key offensive weapon is quarterback Keith Price, who could struggle against the nation’s 12th-ranked pass defense. The Broncos average 30.4 points per game on offense with quarterback Joe Southwick leading the attack.
(9) Kansas at (7) Ohio St.
Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio; 4 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Kansas (9-1) faces Ohio State (9-1) in a rematch of their 2012 Final Four battle. The Jayhawks are led by center Jeff Withey and guard Travis Releford, while the Buckeyes’ Deshaun Thomas is a potential Player of the Year candidate.
(10) Illinois at (12) Missouri
Scottrade Center, St. Louis 6 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2
Two of the Midwest’s best teams meet in St. Louis, as Illinois (12-0) takes on Missouri (9-1). Guard Brandon Paul has been a force for the undefeated Illini, while guard Phil Pressey has provided leadership for the Tigers.
Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions
Ford Field, Detroit; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN
Quarterback Matt Ryan and Atlanta (12-2) can clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a victory over Detroit (4-10). Lions receiver Calvin Johnson is chasing Jerry Rice’s NFL single-season record of 1,848 receiving yards. He needs just 182 yards in his final two games to break the record.
Sunday, Dec. 23
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Cincinnati (8-6) will clinch a playoff berth—and eliminate Pittsburgh (7-7)—with a win on Sunday. Bengals receiver A.J. Green will face a Steelers secondary that anchors the NFL’s top-ranked pass defense. The Cincinnati pass rush has the most sacks in the league. They’ll try to add to their total by chasing down Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
N.Y. Giants at Baltimore Ravens
M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Defending Super Bowl-champion New York (8-6) faces Baltimore (9-5), which has lost its last three contests. Ravens receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin will challenge a Giants defense that ranks 28th in the NFL against the pass. New York can make the NFC playoffs by winning its next two games.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
CenturyLink Field, Seattle; 8:20 p.m. (ET) on NBC
San Francisco (10-3-1) will secure the NFC West title with a win over Seattle (9-5). The game could be a low-scoring contest, as the 49ers and Seahawks allow the fewest points per game in the NFL (15.6). Two of the NFL’s most consistent rushers—Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch and San Francisco’s Frank Gore—will try to give their respective teams an advantage.