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NFL power rankings (Final):
1. Philadelphia Eagles (14-3, LW: 1): The Eagles set an NFL record with four players with double-digit sack totals: Haason Reddick (16), Brandon Graham (11), Javon Hargrave
(11) and Josh Sweat (11). Fletcher Cox came close with seven. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has been great the past couple
years and understood one thing very well: You can never have enough pass rushers.
2. San Francisco 49ers (13-4, LW: 2): There was some thought that the 49ers would be better off losing in Week 18 to draw the Giants in the first round. I don't agree.
They still got a winnable wild-card matchup against the division rival Seahawks, and the potential home game against the Vikings in
the second round is a huge edge. The 49ers have a strong path to the NFC championship game.
3. Buffalo Bills (13-3, LW: 3): I'm not sure there was a better moment in the NFL season than Nyheim Hines' kickoff return to start Sunday's regular-season finale. It
also made you wonder how far the emotional adrenaline from playing for Damar Hamlin can take the Bills. Due to the NFL ruling that an
AFC championship game between the Bills and Chiefs would be on a neutral field, the Bills won't need to win a road game to make the Super
4. Kansas City Chiefs (14-3, LW: 4): Jerick McKinnon had nine receiving touchdowns, tying Marshall Faulk, Chuck Foreman and Leroy Hoard for the most by a running back in
the Super Bowl era. He got a receiving touchdown in six straight games, a record for a running back in the Super Bowl era. McKinnon
has always had talent, but mostly his hot streak shows that it hardly matters who is catching passes from Patrick Mahomes. He'll get
them in the end zone.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (12-4, LW: 6): The Bengals have a gripe. The NFL was willing to flip a coin for Ravens vs. Bengals home field if Baltimore won on Sunday, but not
for Bengals vs. Bills? Cincinnati has a much tougher road having to potentially go to Buffalo, but the Bengals are capable of making
NHL power rankings:
1. Boston Bruins, Previous ranking: 1: Boston must regret not finding a way to sign David Pastrnak to a long-term extension before
this season. Because the way Pastrnak has played, on pace towards the first 100-point effort of his career, only makes the winger
(deservedly) more expensive on his next deal. But hey, some problems are good to have.
2. Carolina Hurricanes, Previous ranking: 3: After signing Ethan Bear to a one-year, $2.2 million contract -- and then not playing him
in a single game -- the Canes dealt the defenseman to Vancouver. Now, the Hurricanes' lack of defensive depth has them searching for a
solid third pairing. A player like Bear (with three goals and 10 points in 34 games) would be a nice option, no?
3. Tampa Bay Lightning, Previous ranking: 8: Tampa Bay traded Ryan McDonagh -- an integral player in their back-to-back Stanley Cup
wins -- to try keeping enough cap space for a guy like Ondrej Palat, only to see him walk in free agency as well. That's a lot of
talent and much-needed leadership out of the door, the loss of which could come back to hurt the Lightning in the postseason.
4. New Jersey Devils, Previous ranking: 5: New Jersey's one regret has to be not addressing their goaltending sooner. Vitek Vanecek
coming on board over the summer helped ignite this Devils team into the special group into which it's blossoming.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs, Previous ranking: 2: Toronto had a golden opportunity to showcase Mitch Marner as a defenseman during their
early-season slump (which was highlighted by a slew of blue-line absences). Alas, coach Sheldon Keefe only floated the idea without
ever bringing it to fruition, and the Leafs' back end has been sturdy ever since. What magic Marner could have brought!
NBA power rankings:
1. Nuggets (31-13, Last week No. 1): While the Nuggets’ league-best offense rightfully grabs the headlines, Denver has the third-best
defense in the NBA over their last 10 games — it is that end of the floor that leads to questions about a playoff run, but when they
play like this they have the answers. Also, they have Nikola Jokic. On a night the Nuggets were sloppy in the second half and almost
gave a game away a 15-point halftime lead, Jokic bailed them out with a step-back 3 game-winner on a busted play. He is making a heck
of an MVP case.
2. Celtics (33-12, LW 2): Brooklyn is stumbling without Kevin Durant, the Bucks have never been healthy this season, and Boston has
taken advantage of all that and opened up a comfortable four-game lead in the East. They should finish the season as the No. 1 seed
in the East and maybe in the entire NBA. Boston has won seven in a row — mostly due to their shooting returning to normal (after it
deserted them in December) — and on Thursday they can make a statement hosting the Golden State Warriors in a Finals rematch.
3. Grizzlies (30-13, LW 3): The most concerning thing that could slow a deep Grizzlies playoff run was Desmond Bane‘s admission on JJ
Redick’s and Tommy Alter’s “Old Man and the Three” podcast that he likely will need foot surgery in the offseason to really clean
things up. The Grizzlies need peak Bane and he has looked close to that of late: in his last five games he’s averaged 22 points a
night shooting 51.9% overall and hitting 59.4% from 3. He’s been playing under 30 minutes a night, the real test comes when his minutes
ramp up to the mid-30s a game (closer to playoff numbers). Memphis has won 10 in a row and, after the Cavs at home Wednesday,
heads out on an interesting five-game trip through the West.
4. 76ers (28-16, LW 5): Watch the 76ers in person (as I did this past week) and the path to a deep playoff run jumps out in one action:
The James Harden/Joel Embiid pick-and-roll is nearly unstoppable. It’s the kind of signature action with elite players that can have a
team playing late into May and maybe June. There are other questions about a Sixers playoff run — defense at the guard spots, Embiid
staying healthy, Harden not melting down in an elimination game — but you can see a path for this team to a place they haven’t been
since Allen Iverson was stepping over Tyronn Lue. Philly is an impressive 3-0 to start their road trip through the West.
5. Cavaliers (28-17, LW 6): Cleveland is not going to find its long-term answer at the three at the trade deadline, but it’s possible
— getting someone such as Malik Beasley from Utah or Bojan Bogdanovic from Detroit — could help the next season or two while the search
for a long-term answer takes place. Kevin Love may be in a shooting slump but he still had the moment of the week, playfully smacking
Larry Nance Jr. during a dead ball and Nance trying to draw a foul out of that somehow.
CBA power rankings:
1. UCLA (Record: 16-2 | Last week: 2): Check my disclaimer above. Significant winning streaks get recognized and rewarded in these rankings,
because I'm slotting out both the best AND hottest teams in college basketball. The Bruins, right now, are the top combination of
best + hottest team. Their 13-game winning streak is third-longest in the country, only behind Charleston and Florida Atlantic.
The streak gets put to the test in a major way starting Thursday: UCLA plays at 15-3 Arizona State, then heads down to Tucson to
play 15-3 Arizona on Saturday.
2. Houston Record: 18-1 | Last week: 3): Not only are the Cougars first in efficiency at KenPom, their efficiency margin checks in at +31.49,
which is 3.02 points ahead of No. 2 Tennessee. Considering Tennessee's likelihood of taking more losses in SEC play, Houston is
approaching 2020-2022 Gonzaga territory in terms of likelihood they'll have the No. 1 KenPom ranking on lock throughout the rest
of the regular season.
3. Alabama (Record: 16-2 | Last week: 4): Plans can change, but Alabama is easily playing the best ball of anyone in the SEC. The Tide have won
all six of their league games by 11 or more points and are +20.8 in scoring margin. Obviously, the biggest news with this team at
present is the arrest of Darius Miles, who was one of two men charged with capital murder on Sunday; he was subsequently removed
from the team. Court documents claim Miles was not the shooter in the alleged murder, but it was his gun that was discharged in the
killing of 23-year-old Jamea Harris.
4. Purdue (Record: 17-1 | Last week 6): Fletcher Loyer (13.4 ppg) has won Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times already. If he does it once
more in the next two months, he'll set a program record. Loyer is averaging 20.3 in his past three games — right alongside the best
player in the sport, Zach Edey. Non-Purdue fans in the Big Ten: prepare for the Boilermakers to be a problem for the next 3.5 years,
because Loyer and Braden Smith could run the league if they stay in college and continue to grow, which is very much the expected
5. Kansas (Record: 16-2 | Last week: 1): The Jayhawks had won 15 straight games decided by single digits, until they got knocked off in OT on
Tuesday night at Kansas State. In fact, HALF of KU's wins this season are by two possessions/six points or fewer. The team is living
on the edge a bit, but I'd argue it might thrive in those conditions considering how Bill Self excels (late timeout on Tuesday
notwithstanding) in putting his team in advantageous situations.
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