The NFL playoffs are coming up, so every team in contention is playing for something vital. Those teams already eliminated will need to perform well to give their fans something to cheer about. There are tons of interesting NBA games despite many players still in health and safety protocols. Find out which teams are must-watch in both leagues by reading it all here.

NBA Standings & News to Focus On

  • Anthony Edwards scores 28 points as Wolves beat Clippers
  • Warriors defeat Miami in Draymond’s return, Heat’s Butler leaves with ankle injury
  • Trae Young scores 56 points, but Anfernee Simons has 43 points in Blazers victory over Hawks
  • Ja Morant gets 36 / 6 / 8 in huge win against Brooklyn
  • Bucks defeated by Pistons thanks to Saddiq Bey’s 34 points
  • Rajon Rondo ends up on Cavs after trade

Simons leads the Blazers to big home win over Hawks

Well, if you wanted a high-scoring, close NBA game on Monday night, then you certainly got it in Portland. The Blazers, minus Lillard and McCollum still to injuries, defeated the Hawks 136-131 in a thrilling matchup that was tight until the very end.

When looking at the box score, you’d be forgiven for assuming the Hawks grabbed a tough win after seeing Trae Young scoring 56 points and adding 14 assists, but numbers rarely tell the whole story. It was Portland’s Anfernee Simons with his career-high and equally impressive 43 points who helped take a much-needed victory to break the team’s four-game losing streak.

Simons went 13-21 from the field (including 9-16 from behind the three-point arc), as well as a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line. But more than that, the 22-year-old put a struggling Blazers team on his back and carried them all the way to the finish.

The third-year guard has shown glimpses of his true potential throughout the years, but this is one of the rare times that Simons has dominated on the court. Simons is only averaging 11.9 PPG and 2.2 APG, no doubt to the high usage minutes usually saved for Lillard and McCollum.

The Blazers are at 14-22 in the West NBA standings and haven’t had much to shout about this season. With injuries, H&S protocols, an in-and-out lineup harming the team’s chemistry, as well as trade rumors constantly circulating the squad, this must be a refreshingly huge win for Portland when they needed it the most. Furthermore, Simons is the youngest ever Blazers player to score over 40 points in a game.

On the other side, Young seemingly did everything he could for the Hawks, shooting 17-26 from the field (7-12 three-pointers) and 15-15 from the free throw line. Young’s 56 points is the current highest total by a player this season, but it surely can’t feel good coming in a loss. Atlanta is also a team that is slowly getting back its normal roster after being ravaged by injuries and protocols.

Atlanta has looked like they have been allergic to defense at some points this season, but the team is still without Collins, Reddish, Bogdanovic, and Hunter, so we’ll give them some slack. We hope to see the Hawks team that went to the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals again, as Atlanta is brimming with youth and talent when healthy and full of momentum.

Two Exciting NBA Games Coming Up

Bucks @ Nets on Friday 7th January

A rematch of the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals is never a bad thing. This epic series went to seven games and each one was as drama-filled as the last. Giannis and the Bucks are looking in fantastic form and should have all the confidence in the world to beat the Nets. Brooklyn has looked a bit shaky recently, as despite the stellar play of Durant and Harden, just need more bench help.

Kyrie Irving is playing again for Brooklyn, but only in road games during the NBA schedule because of his vaccination status, so we won’t see him in this home game. The Nets are bound to play well with two of their three superstars on the court, but the Bucks have such a better bench, so will take this one by at least 10 points.

Bulls @ Mavs on Sunday 9th January

Who would have thought that the Bulls would be leading the East NBA standings? If you’ve been watching DeMar DeRozan play, then perhaps it’s not too surprising, as the savvy veteran has been balling out of his mind and currently averaging 26.9 points per game.

Luka Doncic is back with the Mavs after completing his H&S protocols, but despite his superstar talent, the Bulls are simply crushing the league right now and will take down Dallas in their own arena. Can we please have the Bulls back in the Finals for the first time since 1998? Chicago is such a proud basketball city and, apart from a few years of brilliance in the Derrick Rose era, needs to prove there’s more to the Bulls than Michael Jordan.

NFL Power Rankings & News

  • Steelers steamroll Cleveland behind great performance by Big Ben
  • Jets coach Saleh takes responsibility for messing up a fourth-down play against Tampa Bay
  • Antonio Brown dismissed from Buccaneers after walking off the field against the Jets
  • Browns QB Mayfield to have offseason surgery on non-throwing left shoulder
  • Cowboys WR Michael Gallup out for season with torn ACL

Steelers take victory in what could be Ben Roethlisberger’s final game

The Steelers defeated the Browns 26-14 in Pittsburgh on Monday night football, but the biggest story of the day is the likelihood of it being QB Roethlisberger’s last home NFL game.

Big Ben Roethlisberger has hinted at retirement at the end of this season but is yet to fully confirm his decision. The 8-7 Steelers have a small chance of reaching the playoffs, but the expected outcome is that Pittsburgh will be on the outside looking in. Regardless, Roethlisberger gave an emotional farewell to his home crowd of nearly two decades.

“I don’t ever speak in definites or guarantees. That’s just not what I’ve ever done or who I am,” said Roethlisberger in an interview. “But looking at the bigger picture, I would say that all signs point to this could be it.”

39-year-old Roethlisberger is a six-time Pro Bowler who has spent his entire career with the Steelers since they drafted him in 2004. Big Ben has given the city two Super Bowls and a lot of sweat and effort over the years. The fact that we may never see Roethlisberger in a Steelers uniform, or any uniform for that matter, is certainly a humbling thought. The towering quarterback has had a solid season so far, and has completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 3,496 yards, as well as having 21 passing touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Cleveland has already been eliminated from playoff contention, but the team was still playing for pride in a 7-9 season that has been far from positive. QB Baker Mayfield has been dealing with a shoulder injury on his non-throwing arm and will have off-season surgery. Mayfield was sacked a total of nine times by a tough Pittsburgh defense, with four of those coming from T.J. Watt. 

At 18th place in the NFL Power Rankings and almost definite signs of missing the playoffs, the Steelers will be looking to see who can fill the void left by Roethlisberger next season.

Two Exciting NFL Week 18 Games Coming Up

Chargers @ Raiders on Sunday 9th January

This is an NFL Week 18 game that will attract a lot of attention and is exactly what the league needs heading into the playoffs. Both teams are 9-7 but it’s the Raiders that will be desperately seeking a win to reach the post-season and jump their division rivals.

Both team’s quarterbacks haven’t exactly been flawless this season, so the result could well depend on who has a better game out of the Chargers’ Justin Herbert and Raiders’ Derek Carr. One error could leave the team out of the playoffs, so no pressure. The Chargers’ offense has just looked slightly better, so we’ll have to go with L.A., but don’t be surprised if Las Vegas digs deep and pulls out a victory that hardly anyone will see coming.

49ers @ Rams on Sunday 9th January

The Rams are really finding their feet late into the season with five straight victories, and look settled at fourth in the NFL Power Rankings. QB Matthew Stafford has made the Rams offense really something to behold, although he’s still prone to annoying turnovers. Stafford is second in the NFL in passing touchdowns with 38, yet is also tied for second in interceptions with 15. So, take the good with the bad, right?

The 9-7 49ers have a chance if they come out of the gates firing and make the Rams play from behind, but if not, expect Los Angeles to take this close win and keep their incredible form into the playoffs.

Author: Joe Garland