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Mitch's Sports Report: Patriots Secure Home Field In AFC Playoffs; Bills In After Ravens Collapse

The New England Patriots did what they had to do, and by winning their final game of the regular season 26-6 in workmanlike fashion over the NY Jets, Tom Brady and company have secured home field advantage for the duration of the AFC playoffs.

For most of this game it seemed the Patriots were fighting the elements more than the Jets, while the latter were fighting their own mistakes. The Jets committed multiple defensive holding penalties that kept Patriots drives alive and resulted in touchdowns or field goals and most of the scoring came courtesy of the smallest player on the field, Dion Lewis, who stands just 5'8" but uses his quickness and guile to find holes in defenses and fights for yards even after an initial stop, driving forward with a relentlessness that makes him seem like a much bigger running back to the linemen trying to stop him.

Lewis rushed for one touchdown and caught another, carrying the ball a season-high 26 times and garnering 93 total yards. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks hauled in a Tom Brady touchdown pass and had 11 catches on the day on a day when tight end Rob Gronkowski was uncharacteristically AWOL from the offense, held without a catch in the game, and Brady didn't even really look his way, preferring to hand the ball off to Lewis.

Brady was just sharp enough but did over and under-throw a number of passes, which is somewhat understandable on a day when there was a nip of Jack Frost in the air, which is to say it was bloody cold in Foxboro yesterday. You may have noticed these conditions persisting in your own neck of the woods over the past couple of weeks, so imagine trying to throw a football accurately in those wind chills while large men of ill temper try to ram your body into the ground. Probably better to leave it to the professionals.

In any event, the Pats get a welcomed bye week and will await the lower seed winner of the wild card contests featuring the Tennessee Titans versus the Kansas City Chiefs and the Jacksonville Jaguars against the Buffalo Bills, whose fans were partying last night like it was 1999, the last time their beloved Bills were in the playoffs, ending a 17-year drought. And they got there courtesy of a huge upset and blown opportunity by the Baltimore Ravens, who lost their final regular season game and chance for the playoffs at home against a team that had nothing to play for but an upset in the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals overcame a 14-point deficit and won the game on an Andy Dalton touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd with just 44 seconds left in regulation. Had the Ravens won, they would have been in, and losing that game at home, with a two touchdown lead, is a major let-down.

The Philadelphia Eagles lost a 6-0 snoozer to the Dallas Cowboys but it doesn't matter as the Iggles had already wrapped up home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The wild card rounds will feature the New Orleans saints against the Carolina Panthers and the surprising L.A. Rams taking on last year's Super Bowl losing Atlanta Falcons.

To the NHL and I can't really understand how an expansion team is cutting such a swath through the league but the Las Vegas Golden Knights can no longer be dismissed as a team that got off to a hot start but will have to come back to earth. Too much hockey has been played for this team to be on a Vegas-like lucky streak and unless there's a cooler waiting in the wings, these guys are for real. Last night they doubled up the very good Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 with William Karlsson scoring a hat trick, the first in the franchise's history. Against all pre-season odds, the Knights lead the Pacific division with 54 points and in fact they've got the best record of any team in the western conference as the New Year begins.

Today of course it's the NHL's showcase event, the outdoor classic, now celebrating its tenth anniversary, and today's outdoor game will feature the NY Rangers skating against the Buffalo Sabres in upstate New York. Record amounts of hot cocoa will likely be consumed by those brave, or crazy enough depending on your point of view, to attend.   

In the NBA the Boston Celtics may have thought they'd cruise to a win over the last place Brooklyn Nets, but the game wasn't decided in Boston's favor until Kyrie Irving hit two free throws with seven seconds left in regulation to gain a 108-105 victory in Boston. Irving finished with 28 points and Al Horford had a double double with ten points and ten rebounds.

The leading scorer and rebounder for the University of Vermont men's basketball team could be out for the season with a broken foot.

The school's athletic department reported Saturday that sophomore Anthony Lamb is out indefinitely after suffering the injury in practice.

The 6-foot-6, 227-pound forward leads the team in scoring with 16 points per game and averages 6 rebounds a game, also tops on the squad.

Coach John Becker told The Burlington Free Press that Lamb will be sidelined for about eight weeks, so he could return around the start of conference playoffs, although but Becker said it's too early to say. The Catamounts got off to a hot 6-1 start to the season but are now sporting an 8-5 record as the news sinks in that Lamb could be out for the year.

The Saint Michael's men's hockey team finished 2017 on a winning note, scoring a 4-2 win over Neumann College in the consolation game of the Middlebury College Hockey Classic at Kenyon Arena yesterday. Big game for senior Eric Salzillo, who scored twice and added an assist for a three-point night, and the center also dominated winning eight of fifteen face-offs. With the win St. Mike's improves to a game over .500 at 6-5-1 on the season.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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