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Happy Friday! Some of you may remember that about a year ago, beer brand Natural Light offered to buy school diplomas for an undisclosed project. Well, they finally revealed the outcome. The 2,600 diplomas now make up the 'most expensive piece of art in the world,' valued at over $470 million (~$180,000 per diploma).

We wish our degrees brought in that type of value...anyways, sports.

In today's Sprint:

  • 🏈   Divisional weekend
  • 📋   Coaching carousel
  • 🏀   Top matchups

NFL

A Generational Battle

A gif to support the story of the sports newsletter Sideline Sprint.
Via NFL on Twitter

This weekend will mark the second round of the NFL playoffs, and only 4 teams will be left standing after Sunday night. Let’s highlight the top storylines:

Matchup to watch: The Saints beat the Buccaneers twice this season, including a 38-3 annihilation in Tampa. But this is the playoffs, and Tom Brady is on a mission to claim his seventh ring. Unless Eli Manning shows up in a Saints uniform, the Sprint is rolling with the Bucs.

Feel-good story: The Cleveland Browns were counted out after COVID-19 decimated the team before playing the Pittsburgh Steelers… then the Browns crushed the Steelers last weekend. After winning 11 games from 2015-2018, the Browns have now won 12 games this season.

Even people outside of northeast Ohio are starting to believe in the perennial underdogs.

Biggest question mark: Three weeks ago, doctors inserted screws into Rams QB Jared Goff’s thumb. Many doubted he’d take another snap this season. Now, he’s starting against the NFC’s #1 seed Green Bay Packers. If the thumb doesn’t hold up, this game may get ugly.

Sideline snippet: The average age of the quarterbacks in the NFC is over 37. In the AFC, it’s just under 25. The Super Bowl will likely be a war of generations.

Saturday Slate

Since the Sprint isn’t released on Saturdays, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight those games.

No. 6 Los Angeles Rams (10-6) vs. No. 1 Green Bay Packers (13-3)

  • Saturday, Jan. 16, 4:35 p.m. ET, FOX
  • Opening line: Packers -6.5; O/U 45.5

No. 2 Buffalo Bills (13-3) vs. No. 5 Baltimore Ravens (11-5)

  • Saturday, Jan. 16, 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC
  • Opening line: Bills -2.5; O/U 50

WATER COOLER TALK
  • 🎾   After being born with a rare disease that left her with three fingers and a thumb on each hand, Fran Jones was told she would never be a tennis star. She just qualified for the Australian Open.
  • 🏈   Urban Meyer will become the next head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars after much speculation. Urban Meyer & Trevor Lawrence? We’re excited about it.
  • 🏈   Former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has agreed to join the New York Jets as the team’s new head coach. Saleh will be an immediate improvement from Adam Gase who was 9-23 before being fired.
  • 🏀   Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis purchased the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces. Rumor has it bowl cuts are increasingly being spotted throughout the city since the acquisition (okay, we just made this up… but it’s not a terrible idea).
  • 🏒   During an intermission of the Colorado Avalanche hockey game, play-by-play announcer Conor McGahey played a round of giant Solitaire on the ice. Unlike the Avalanche, McGahey won.

NCAAM

Basketball Schools

Via Clemson Tigers on Giphy

Schools typically known for their football programs have turned up the heat on the court this year (specifically #7 Michigan and #12 Clemson).

This weekend is stacked with top matchups. A full one-third of the nation’s top-25 teams face off against one another Saturday night; here are the top matchups to watch:

#15 Texas Tech vs. #2 Baylor - Sat. 4:00 p.m. ET on ESPN

  • After topping #4 Texas on Wednesday, Texas Tech looks to upset another top-4 Big 12 foe when they face off against the undefeated Baylor Bears.

#7 Michigan vs. #23 Minnesota - Sat. 2:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2

  • Michigan's stout defense, allowing only 62.8 points per game in Big Ten play (barely more than their football team), will look to stop Minnesota’s Marcus Carr, Liam Roberts, and randon Johnson, who account for 53% of the team's scoring.

s#12 Clemson vs. #18 Virginia - Sat. 6:00 p.m. ET on ESPN

  • Two of the ACC’s top teams will face off Saturday. We’ll see if Clemson can generate some Dabo Swinney magic and stop the Cavaliers, who haven't lost since the blowout at the hand of #1 Gonzaga.

TRIVIA

Before COVID-19 ended the postseason in March of 2020, which NCAA men’s basketball team was ranked #1 in the country?

  1. Gonzaga
  2. Michigan State
  3. Kentucky
  4. Kansas

*The Sprint will now be revealing trivia answers in the newsletter following the question. Tune in on Sunday to see who was college basketball’s pre-pandemic top seed. - h/t to reader Tom B. for the idea.


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