Another huge week of sports is upon us as one of the Big 4 pro sports leagues starts up again, college football will crown a new National Champion and the NFL Playoffs roll on. In this week’s TheLines Lookahead, we survey what’s on tap from Monday, Jan. 11 through Sunday, Jan. 17.
CFP National Championship – Monday
It’s the ultimate culmination of the 2020 college football season, with the nation’s two best teams – No. 3 Ohio State and No. 1 Alabama going head-to-head. Both teams bring an explosive offense, highlighted by Heisman winner DeVonta Smith, to the table. Justin Fields leads Ohio State to their second CFP Championship (only team outside of Alabama and Clemson to make two title games), with the first one resulting in a victory. The last time these two teams played, No. 3 Ohio State– led by Ezekiel Elliott– upset No. 1 Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl. This time around, the Tide have an embarrassment of riches on their roster and it’s up to the underdog Buckeyes to topple Goliath.
College Basketball: Monday – Saturday
Is this cheating? Kind of. This week, we can’t just choose one game – it may be the most studded week of the last two seasons in college basketball. There are nine matchups between top 25 opponents, highlighted by No. 8 Wisconsin at No. 10 Michigan (Tuesday), No. 14 West Virginia at No. 2 Baylor (Tuesday), and No. 2 Baylor at No. 18 Texas Tech (Saturday).
NHL Opening Night – Wednesday
The past few months have been dominated by NFL and NCAAF headlines, with the NHL receiving little light. They successfully completed their postseason in a bubble that went without a single positive COVID-19 test. It’s expected to be a competitive hockey season in 2021, with the Colorado Avalanche (+600) leading odds tables to win the 2021 Stanley Cup. Other contenders include the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning (+750), the Vegas Golden Knights (+900) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (+1100). This season, teams based in Canada (Maple Leafs, Oilers, Senators, Canadiens, Canucks, Jets) will play each other exclusively. The rest of the league will play in regional divisions, playing only in-division games.
NFL Divisional Round: Browns vs. Chiefs – Sunday
The Cleveland Browns hadn’t won a playoff game since 1994 before Sunday night’s upset of the rival Steelers. In short, it’s been a long time. Patrick Mahomes and the defending champion Chiefs are a much more formidable opponent than the reeling Steelers, but they haven’t exactly been dominating of late. Kansas City hasn’t won a game by more than a touchdown since Nov. 1.
NFL Divisional Round: Buccaneers vs. Saints – Sunday
New Orleans swept the regular season series between these two teams but that won’t hold back Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. It’s the first matchup between quarterbacks aged 40 or older in the postseason and the first playoff meeting between Drew Brees and Brady. For Brees, it could be his last career game and the Saints are making a last push for the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay had their hands full with Taylor Heinicke and the Washington Football Team while the Saints handled their business against an outclassed Bears team. Brees is 5-2 all-time against Brady in what could be their final matchup.