December 28, 2004
Vince Carter:
Scores 23 in 42 minutes in Nets debut, but left the game in OT with a hammy cramp. What a scary-accurate representation of his future NJ career. QUICKIE LIVE! 9-10 a.m.
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
WILDER.  CARD.

The Runnin' Rams have made next Sunday even wilder for wild-card contenders.

Advantages among WC-wannabes follows a tie-breaker format almost as intricate as the NFL's system:

1st adv: Win-they're-in (WTI)
(1) WTI'ers playing teams:
(a) Brutally Out of It
(MIN vs. WAS)
(b) Clinched/Don't Care
(DEN vs. IND)

(2) WTI'ers playing teams:
(a) Playoff-Motivated
(STL vs. NYJ;
CAR vs. N.O.)

2nd adv: Need-help teams (NH)
(1) NH'ers playing teams:
(a) Clinched/Don't Care
(BUF vs. PIT)
(b) And Still Need Help
(NYJ L *or* DEN L)

(2) NH'ers playing teams:
(a) (a) Playoff-Motivated
(N.O. vs. CAR)
(b) And Still Need Help:
(StL L *or* SEA W + MIN W)

3rd adv: Keep-dreaming (KD)
(1) KD'ers need much to happen
JAX: W + BUF L + DEN L
BAL: W + BUF L/DEN L + JAX L

Got all that?

NBA Streakers
Heat win 12th straight, the best streak in franchise history. Correlative to Shaq's arrival? (Ya think?!)

Suns put 11-game W streak on the line tonight in San Antonio, in the latest "Game of the Year." It's only one game in December, but fans will be watching for evidence PHX can win the West title next spring.

Mets Eyeing Beltran?
Mets GM "Rumor" Minaya is at it again, reportedly ready to make a play for Carlos Beltran. Either that, or simply floating the gossip to keep the Mets in the headlines alongside the Yankees.

There's no way to make a bigger splash than to overpay for the highest-profile free agent on the market, particularly when swiping him from your crosstown rival.

CHECK OUT THE QUICKIE EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING!
WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...
Texas' Mack Brown: Gets raise, even if he can't beat OKLA
More from Mets GM Minaya: Eyeing solid SP Odalis Perez?
Tommy Tuberville: Huge deal extension (No rail this year)
... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'
Eric Milton: Were the Reds really the best option? Really?
College hoops top 25: No change in Top 12 ... *yawn!*
Toledo: Lets MAC down w/ loss to UConn in near-home game
 
Word of the Mets' serious interest should drive Steinbrenner's offer up at a few mil a year. Does Scott Boras send the Mets a gratuity for the favor?

Speaking of wild spending ...

MLB 'Haves' Taxed
Wow, that MLB luxury tax is an imposing disincentive to spend! Boston, Anaheim and (of course) the Yankees were all "hit" with it in 2004, and none of them were active in free agency this winter.

In fact, the Yankees are so intimidated that they declared they'll cut payroll to get under the luxury-tax threshold ...

(Wait for it ...)

No, seriously: They've reopened talks with the D'backs about acquiring Randy Johnson -- and will ultimately spend more on him than most teams will on an entire rotation. Yup, that luxury tax sure is effective ...

Tice: Cool Seat?
Vikings coach Mike Tice got assurances that he's got a job through 2005, but if he manages to blow Minnesota's near-assured playoff spot, "through 2005" could be "through Jan. 3, 2005."

If the Vikes win in D.C., they're in: Then again, we said that last year when they played Arizona in their season finale.

For those waiting giddily to watch Minnesota collapse (again), they miss the playoffs if they lose AND Rams d. Jets AND Panthers d. Saints.

Dec. 28, 1958
In lieu of no PTI this week, I'll deliver a "Happy, Happy": Happy anniversary to the NFL.

On this date in 1958, the Colts beat the Giants, 23-17 in OT, for the NFL championship in the "Greatest. Game. Ever." (That's formatting it in contemporary Quickie parlance.)

Amazingly, the game has retained its aura despite happening nearly 50 years ago, a rarity in today's Era of Instant History. Check out Michael MacCambridge's history of the NFL ("America's Game") for textured inside stories.

Louisville coach Bobby Petrino:
I'm all for upward mobility, but he JUST signed a deal extension *last week* (for millions). So why is he suddenly looking at the LSU job?
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie Live!
NBA Power Rankings
P2: Jim Caple's Year in Review
 
Ranking NFL WC Contenders
Vikings
Beat Skins, they're in
 
Panthers
Beat Saints, they're in
 
Broncos
Beat Colts, they're in
 
Jets
Beat Rams, they're in
 
Rams, Saints, Bills
Need some help
 

Bowl recap: Whatever's in the Boise water, Fresno St QB Paul Pinegar drank it (5 TDs in 37-34 OT upset of UVA); plus: UConn won its first bowl ...

Lance wins AP Male Athlete of the Year: He's won 3 in a row; how special could any given year be? ...

Annika repeats as Female AOY: Reveals dearth of worthy candidates in women's sports; how can they develop "bench strength?" ($$$, P.R. helps) ...

Indepenence Bowl: Miami (OH) vs. Iowa St in Shreveport. Last chance to catch MU coach Hoeppner before he takes his act to Indiana (6:30, ESPN) ...

Insight Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Oregon St in Phoenix. Tune in to find out what kind of team new Irish coach Charlie Weis will inherit ...

Correction: There's one scenario where Carolina can win and yet still be shut out of the playoffs (StL W + SEA L + MIN W) ...



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