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13
JAN

North American sports week: NFL football semifinals are this weekend and a look at the shifting landscape in the NBA

NFL Football

 

The NFL is down to its final four teams. The Indianapolis Colts win at Denver Sunday night set the conference championship games. The New England Patriots, in the AFC Championship for the fourth straight year, will play host to the Indianapolis Colts. In the NFC matchup, the Green Bay Packers travel to Seattle to play the defending Super Bowl champions at the loudest sports venue in the USA.

 

With the Colts having defeated the Broncos, the advantage in the AFC game goes to #1 seed New England Patriots. The Patriots had a bye during the Wild Card week while the Colts had to play, New England is playing this game at their home field, and the Patriots bring much more playoff experience. With that said, the Colts went into Denver this past weekend and beat them convincingly so Indianapolis certainly has momentum and confidence going into this game.

 

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As far as the NFC matchup, Seattle features the league’s best defense squaring off against the Packers and the NFL’s best quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has been hampered by a calf injury that has limited his mobility, yet he can make up for his inability to scramble with his arm strength and accuracy. Despite being hobbled last weekend, Rodgers the Packers back from a halftime deficit to advance to the NFC Championship game. Can Rodgers deliver for a second straight week against a more dangerous defense or will the Seahawks show why they, and not the Packers, are the defending champions?


The NBA’s landscape is changing

 

Every year, there are basketball teams that improve while other fall short of expectations. This isn’t exclusive to the NBA, but the shift this year has been remarkable. Nearly every division has seen significant differences in the standings over years past. Golden State, while a good team last year, is dominating everyone right now. An improvement was expected but, at 29-5, this pace is reminiscent of historic Bulls and Spurs teams. Atlanta (28-9) is another team that was expected to improve but they now hold the best record in the Eastern Conference.

 

Part of the shift is teams not playing up to expectations. The Thunder, despite some injuries, is a disappointing 18-19 in a division where that record is good for 2nd place. Cleveland is 19-19 at the moment. When LeBron James returned, he said it might take some time to build a winner in Cleveland. However, that was before the Cavs signed Kevin Love and expectations most certainly changed at that point.

 

Perhaps it’s too early to make any solid judgments. We’ve seen teams have greatly improved regular seasons only to fall to the usual suspects like San Antonio come playoff time. Teams like Cleveland may get their act together and start playing quality ball. Regardless, it’s an exciting time for a handful clubs that had been consistent losers for many years. They’ll get their chance to prove if they are contenders in just a few short months.

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