– Giants’ QB Eli Manning completed 21-of-33 passes for 330 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception as the Giants advanced to the NFC Championship Game in Sunday’s Divisional round upset of Green Bay, 37-20. The performance was the best of Manning’s career. WR Hakeem Nicks went off for 165 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches, as the Packers’ pass rush was simply sittin and waiting, putting absolutely no pressure on Eli and the front line. Manning was sacked just once, and converted on eight third-down attempts. Over his last three games, Manning is 68-of-98 (69.4%) for 953 yards (9.72 YPA), nine touchdowns, and one pick. His Giants have a date with the 49ers next weekend in the NFC Championship game.
Meanwhile, Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers completed 26-of-46 passes for 264 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception in the loss. He added seven rushes for a team-high 66 yards, and was sacked four times. The Packers’ receivers are to blame for most of this, as they had at least seven dropped passes. Rodgers, and many of the starters had 21 days off, so the lengthy layoff probably had some affect on their game.
In the AFC, Ravens’ QB Joe Flacco completed 14-of-27 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns as the Ravens defeated the Texans 20-13 in Sunday’s Divisional round playoff game. Flacco had first-quarter TD passes to Kris Wilson (1 yard) and Anquan Boldin (10 yards), but didn’t score again until Billy Cundiff’s 44-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Regardless, the team’s defence forced four turnovers and essentially won the game for them. The Ravens will head to the AFC Championship at Foxboro against the Patriots.
– ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Packers are “unlikely” to place the franchise tag on impending free agent QB Matt Flynn. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and SI’s Peter King had reported that the Pack could franchise Flynn and try to execute a sign-and-trade. The tag is now expected to be placed on TE Jermichael Finley.
– The Falcons have named Dirk Koetter as OC. He replaces Mike Mularkey, who was named Jacksonville’s head coach on Tuesday. Koetter spent the past five seasons with the Jags, where the offence finished better than 18th in points scored just once. Koetter runs a similar system to Mularkey.– According to the Kansas City Star, Todd Haley believed his personal cellphone and “many rooms” at Chiefs headquarters were bugged during his tenure as coach. The Star reports “intimidation and secrecy are among the Chiefs’ principal management styles.” If true, the Chiefs had already decided what Haley’s fate as head coach was going to be long before he was officially fired.
– As a final post for the season, pornstar Samantha Saint posted one last naked Tebow’ing picture:
– The Nationals have signed LHP Gio Gonzalez to a 5-year/$42M contract extension. The deal runs through 2016 and also contains team options for 2017 and 2018. Gonzalez was eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter as a Super Two qualifier, so the contract buys out at least one year of free agency. Gonzalez, 26, boasts a 3.17 ERA and 184 strikeouts per year since the start of the 2010 season. The 26-year-old went 16-12 last season (a career high for wins) with a 3.12 ERA in 32 starts.
– Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that Japanese RHP Yu Darvish’s preference for a 5-year deal and the Rangers’ desire for a 6-year contract is “the greatest sticking point” in negotiations between the two sides. Darvish believes he’ll already be getting less than market value and wants to reach free agency a year earlier. The two sides have until Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET to reach a deal.
– Rangers’ president Nolan Ryan publicly acknowledged Saturday that the AL champions have had “very preliminary” talks with free agent 1B Prince Fielder.
“We met (with Fielder and Boras) to try to get a true feel for where they are at this point in time in his free agency to try to see if we thought there might be something there that works for the Texas Rangers. It was very preliminary, and it’s very early in any type of negotiation process to even say if there’s anything that’s going to come of that or not.”
– Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the Yankees have talked to OF Johnny Damon about possibly being their DH. Damon would not be an everyday player, and would have to settle for a paycut from his $5.25M contract last season. Damon hit .261/.326/.418 with 16 homers, 73 RBI and 19 stolen bases last season for the Rays.
– The Twins have signed RHP Joel Zumaya to a 1-year contract, according to Jason Beck of MLB.com. Zumaya said he has “good offers” from three other clubs, but he chose the Twins because they offered him guaranteed money rather than a minor league deal with a spring training invite. Zumaya will earn at least $800K, with the possibility of getting $1.7M if he earns all incentives. Zumaya missed the entire 2011 season due to elbow surgery and hasn’t appeared in more than 31 games since his rookie year in 2006. He was throwing in the mid-90s during a recent workout, so he could be a good signing based on that price.
– The Blue Jays have signed OF Colby Rasmus to a 1-year/$2.7M contract for 2012. After hitting .246 with 11 homers in 94 games with the Cardinals in 2011, Rasmus hit .173 with three homers in 35 games for the Jays.
– The Red Sox have signed C Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a 1-year/$2.5M contract. The 26-year-old hit just .235 last season, but set career highs with 16 home runs and 56 RBIs.
– The Royals have signed 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff to a minor-league contract. Kouzmanoff hit .235 with seven homers and 33 RBIs in 73 games for Oakland and Colorado last season.
– Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports that the Athletics have signed free agent RHP Bartolo Colon to a 1-year deal, pending a physical. The A’s are in a rebuilding phase, so the signing is strange, given the number of people competing for a rotation spot. Colon could be used as trade bait at the deadline, though. He posted a 4.00 ERA and 1.29 WHIP over 164 1/3 innings in 2011.
– A source told ESPN’s Jayson Stark that the Phillies have signed RHP Joel Pineiro to a minor league contract. It’s a solid low-risk signing by Philly.
– Capitals’ F Alex Ovechkin was featured in a Russian rap video. Ovie kicks in at the 3:00 mark. Check it out:
– Stars’ D Mike Ribeiro (slight MCL tear) could be out through the All-Star Game break. Ribeiro is suffering from a knee-to-knee hit delivered by Oilers’ D Theo Peckham.
– Predators’ D Ryan Ellis laid out Flyers’ F Wayne Simmonds with a massive hipcheck, something you’d see out of NHL ’12. Check out the video:
– Heat’ G Dwyane Wade (sprained ankle) was limited to lifting weights on Sunday, and there is no timetable for his return. He wasn’t in a walking boot, which is good news, but the Heat are wisely going to play it cautiously. He was already dealing with a sore left foot and some sort of calf issue, and said his sprained ankle is the worst he’s ever had. Miami plays four home games this week.
– Bucks’ F Andrew Bogut (concussion-like symptoms) has been cleared to practice and is expected to play on Monday. Bogut worked out with the team on Sunday.
– The Memphis Commercial Appeal confirms that the Nets offered G Anthony Morrow (or G Jordan Farmar and a draft pick) to the Grizzlies in exchange for G O.J. Mayo. No deal is imminent, but either one is “there for the taking.” Memphis is very unlikely to give him an extension, so Mayo will probably not be in Memphis beyond the trade deadline.
– We’ve got a pair of awesome UFC 142 knockouts. First, we have Edson Barbosa taking out Terry Etim with a spinning heel kick:
Then, we have Jose Aldo beating Chad Mendes:
– New WWE tag team champions were crowned at Sunday night’s live event from Oakland, California–Primo and Epico defeated Evan Bourne & Kofi Kingston at the show to win the titles. Primo and Epico’s manager Rosa Mendes tweeted the following after the match:
“Guess who the new tag team Champions are!!??WE ARE!!! WE BEAT AIRBOOM in Oakland!! I will remember this day forever!”
Check out the video of Rosa Mendes, Primo and Epico with the WWE tag team titles:
– Celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton, who recently went through Divas Boot Camp with Alicia Fox, Kelly Kelly and Eve, will be a special guest ring announcer on Monday’s Raw SuperShow, WWE announced. He’ll be the guest ring announcer for the Divas match. The participants of the bout have not been announced.
– Speaking to Street and Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal, WWE Executive Vice President of Talent Paul “Triple H” Levesque reveals what he wants to accomplish personally and professionally in 2012. He says,
“My resolution is to continue sharpening my business and corporate skills in my new role as EVP, talent. Although whenever the day-to-day grind of being a company executive gets to me, I still have the opportunity to jump into the ring and take my aggression out on a few unsuspecting opponents.”
– Paul Heyman went on Twitter to praise Jim Ross. He wrote, “Greatest announcer ever. And 1 TOUGH mentor. I learned about wrestling and LIFE from JR.” In a trivia note, Ross indicated Saturday that he almost joined ECW following his dismissal from WWE in 1994. He tweeted Heyman, “but Happy…you never hired Ol JR..could’ve been a contend-a. Do you remember when we discussed me being a ‘surprise?” Heyman also said he’s high on Chris Jericho. He wrote, “HUGE fan of Chris Jericho, professionally and personally!”
– WWE has applied to trademark the term “Funkasaurus.” Brodus Clay was referred as Funkasaurus on last week’s Raw and SmackDown.
– Kelly Kelly celebrates her 25th birthday today.
– As a result of her accidental collision with Big Show during Friday’s World Heavyweight Championship Match on SmackDown, an injured A.J. had to be carried out on a stretcher. According to WWE physician Dr. Michael Sampson, “AJ is pretty beat up, as you can imagine. She has head trauma, a cervical sprain/strain and also multiple contusions all over her body.”
– Four-time ECW World Heavyweight Champion Shane Douglas announced Saturday via video message that “extreme wrestling” is coming back to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “The Franchise” is rounding up the band of hardcore misfits for Extreme Reunion, which takes place Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. at the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory (2700 Southampton Blvd & Roosevelt Blvd) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19154. An official website has been launched for the event at www.extremereunion.net. PWInsider.com reports that the show is not planned as a one-off event but as part of a larger project.