The Minnesota Vikings not only have yielded their grip on first place in the NFC North but also have dropped out of the top six in the conference as they prepare to visiting the skidding Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Minnesota's 5-0 start to the season is a distant memory in the wake of six losses in seven games that dropped the team one game out of the final playoff slot.
North Carolina makes its record 19th trip to the Final Four and must beat ACC rival Syracuse for the third time this season Saturday in Houston to reach its 10th title game. The Tar Heels are the only top seed remaining in the NCAA Tournament field and upstart Syracuse navigated its way to a sixth Final Four from the 10th seed.
It took six weeks and an overtime, but the Detroit Lions finally picked up their first victory last week and are ready for more. The Lions will try to make it two straight when they host the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Detroit was the last team in the NFL to secure its first win when it topped Chicago 37-34 in overtime last week and earned some redemption for quarterback Matt Stafford, who was benched late in the previous loss.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is open to playoff expansion down the road but is not as keen on the possibility of reseeding teams in the postseason. On adding two more playoff teams, Goodell said Tuesday night in an interview in New York, “That is under serious consideration. We think it’s one of the great things about the NFL, besides the fact that it’s unscripted.
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Colin Kaepernick beat the Green Bay Packers for the third time in 12 months, as the San Francisco 49ers rode their quarterback to a 23-20 wild-card playoff victory at frigid Lambeau Field on Sunday. Phil Dawson kicked a 33-yard field goal to deal the Packers their fourth home playoff loss under coach Mike McCarthy. The reigning NFC champions set up a rematch with the Carolina Panthers next Sunday in Charlotte. Carolina scratched out a 10-9 victory at San Francisco on Nov. 10.
CINCINNATI — San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers didn’t have the greatest passing day of his career Sunday. He didn’t need it. The Chargers rushed for 196 yards against the NFL’s fifth-ranked rushing defense and cruised to a 27-10 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals in an AFC wild-card playoff game Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. “We asked a lot of our defense today and they came up with three big turnovers,” said Rivers, who was 12 of 16 for 128 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.
MINNEAPOLIS — Austin Hollins scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the host Golden Gophers held off the Purdue Boilermakers for their first Big Ten win of the season 82-79 on Sunday. Andre Hollins added 17 points and a team-leading five assists for Minnesota (12-3, 1-1), which rebounded from a loss to Michigan on Thursday to improve to 7-1 in its last eight games.
MINNEAPOLIS — Zak Irvin scored 15 points on 5-for-8 from 3-point range as the Wolverines opened Big Ten play with a tough road win 63-60 Thursday. Jon Horford scored a career-high 14 points to go with a team-best nine rebounds for Michigan (9-4, 1-0 Big Ten), which has won five straight and nine of 10 against the Golden Gophers.
SAINT PAUL — Much is made of the notion that you can start over in the New Year.