Yahoo Sports AM: The NFL’s playoff logjam

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🚨 HEADLINES

🏀 64 points: Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a franchise-record 64 points in the Bucks’ 140-126 win over the Pacers, shooting 20-of-28 from the field and 24-of-32 from the foul line. He also added 14 rebounds.

🇧🇷 NFL in Brazil: The NFL will play a 2024 regular-season game in São Paulo, Brazil (the first ever in South America) as the league continues to expand internationally.

🏀 Indefinite suspension: The NBA has suspended Draymond Green indefinitely following his 19th career ejection on Tuesday for swinging at Suns center Jusuf Nurkić. Green is expected to meet with the Warriors today to discuss a “path of counseling and help.”

⚾️ Ohtani fever: Shohei Ohtani’s No. 17 Dodgers jersey broke Fanatics’ record for the highest sales within the first 48 hours of its release, topping the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. He will be introduced at Dodger Stadium today.

🏈 SEC schedule: The SEC released the 2024 football schedules for each of its 16 teams on Wednesday. Newcomers Texas and Oklahoma will both open their inaugural SEC campaigns at home, with the Longhorns hosting Mississippi State and the Sooners hosting Tennessee.

🏈 THE NFL’S PLAYOFF LOGJAM

(Henry Russell/Yahoo Sports)(Henry Russell/Yahoo Sports)

(Henry Russell/Yahoo Sports)

There are four weeks left in the NFL’s regular season, and the playoff picture in both conferences — particularly the AFC — is incredibly crowded, Jeff writes.

AFC: 11 teams have winning records and six are 7-6. Both are the most for a single conference through Week 14 since the 1970 merger.

  1. Ravens (10-3)

  2. Dolphins (9-4)

  3. Chiefs (8-5)

  4. Jaguars (8-5)

  5. Browns (8-5)

  6. Steelers (7-6)

  7. Colts (7-6)

In the hunt… The Texans, Broncos, Bengals and Bills are all 7-6. Even the Chargers, Raiders, Jets and Titans (all 5-8) could still make a run.

NFC: There are fewer spots up for grabs than in the AFC thanks to a trio of 10-3 teams and the 9-4 Lions. But that still leaves nine teams separated by two games fighting for the other three spots.

  1. 49ers (10-3)*

  2. Cowboys (10-3)

  3. Lions (9-4)

  4. Buccaneers (7-6)

  5. Eagles (10-3)

  6. Vikings (7-6)

  7. Packers (6-7)

In the hunt… The Rams, Seahawks, Falcons and Saints are all 6-7, and the 5-8 Giants and 5-8 Bears are, incredibly, still very much alive.

*The 49ers are the only team that has already clinched a playoff spot.

📸 BEHIND THE LENS

(David Ramos/Getty Images)(David Ramos/Getty Images)

(David Ramos/.)

Each week, we go “Behind the Lens” with . to get the backstory on the best photographs in sports.

‌‌This week’s photos: David Ramos went to Nazaré, Portugal — home to the world’s biggest waves — to capture some surfing sessions. We couldn’t pick just one photo, so here are a few accompanied by commentary from David.

I went to Nazaré last weekend because the conditions were expected to be good. This is an important part of the preparation, the weather. Tide, wind strength, wind direction — even if you plan the trip a week in advance, the forecast is not accurate enough until the last 24-48 hours. For me, it was finally like getting rid of a thorn in my side. It was a story that I had been trying to cover for years.

(David Ramos/Getty Images)(David Ramos/Getty Images)

(David Ramos/.)

For this kind of surf photography, you want to show the dimension of the wave. We are talking about 10, 15 or 20-meter waves. That’s why I shot from a high position with a long lens, but not too long so you don’t lose the size relationship between the wave and the surfer.

(David Ramos/Getty Images)(David Ramos/Getty Images)

(David Ramos/.)

This particular image shows the moment when Will Santana is hit by the full force of a big wave. It’s described as a bomb, because of the roar it produces when it hits the sea. There were moments of concern when he disappeared in the foam, but the rescue teams on jet skis quickly located Will and dragged him to the beach.

(David Ramos/Getty Images)(David Ramos/Getty Images)

(David Ramos/.)

This was an image that I had in my head — getting a surfer on a big wave with the iconic lighthouse, the Fort of São Miguel Arcanjo, in the background. For this one, it was necessary to use a drone to be able to position myself at that angle that gave me that perspective I wanted.

🌊 Watch: Nazaré’s massive waves (YouTube)

🏀 21 STRAIGHT LOSSES

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

(Gregory Shamus/.)

The Pistons suffered their 21st straight defeat on Wednesday, falling 129-111 to the 76ers. That’s tied for the longest losing streak in franchise history and puts them in not-so-elite company, Jeff writes.

Longest losing streaks in NBA history:

  • 28 games: 76ers (2015)

  • 26 games: Cavaliers (2010-11), 76ers (2014)

  • 24 games: Cavaliers (1982)

  • 23 games: Grizzlies (1996), Nuggets (1997-98), Bobcats (2012)

  • 21 games: Pistons (1980), Pistons (2023)

The streak: Detroit started the season at 2-1, winning two straight games after a one-point loss on opening night. Since then, 21 straight losses:

  • Thunder 124, Pistons 112

  • Trail Blazers 110, Pistons 101

  • Pelicans 125, Pistons 116

  • Suns 120, Pistons 106

  • Warriors 120, Pistons 109

  • Bucks 120, Pistons 118

  • Sixers 114, Pistons 106

  • Bulls 119, Pistons 108

  • Hawks 126, Pistons 120

  • Cavaliers 108, Pistons 100

  • Raptors 142, Pistons 113

  • Nuggets 107, Pistons 103

  • Pacers 136, Pistons 113

  • Wizards 126, Pistons 107

  • Lakers 133, Pistons 107

  • Knicks 118, Pistons 112

  • Cavaliers 110, Pistons 101

  • Grizzlies 116, Pistons 102

  • Magic 123, Pistons 91

  • Pacers 131, Pistons 123

  • Sixers 129, Pistons 111

Meanwhile in San Antonio… The Pistons aren’t the only team putting together a historic losing streak. The Spurs lost their 18th straight game on Wednesday, extending their own franchise record and falling to 3-20.

⚽️ CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: 16 TEAMS LEFT

FC Porto clinched their spot in the knockouts with a win on Wednesday. (Octavio Passos/Getty Images)FC Porto clinched their spot in the knockouts with a win on Wednesday. (Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

FC Porto clinched their spot in the knockouts with a win on Wednesday. (Octavio Passos/.)

The Champions League group stage ended Wednesday, leaving 16 European clubs to fight it out in the knockout rounds, Jeff writes.

The last 16, by country: Eight nations are represented, led by four Spanish clubs.

  • 🇪🇸 Spain: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, Real Sociedad

  • 🇩🇪 Germany: Bayern Munich, Dortmund, RB Leipzig

  • 🇮🇹 Italy: Lazio, Inter Milan, Napoli

  • 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England: Arsenal, Manchester City

  • 🇩🇰 Denmark: Copenhagen

  • 🇫🇷 France: Paris Saint-Germain

  • 🇵🇹 Portugal: Porto

  • 🇳🇱 Netherlands: PSV Eindhoven

What’s next: Monday’s draw will determine the Round of 16 matchups.

📆 DEC. 14, 2021: THE THREE-POINT KING

(Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)(Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Evan Yu/NBAE via .)

Two years ago today, Steph Curry made his 2,974th career three-pointer, passing Ray Allen for the most in NBA history, Jeff writes.

The top 5: Curry’s lead has grown immensely since then and he’s now joined by two other active players in the top five. That includes Damian Lillard, who overtook Kyle Korver on Wednesday for the fifth spot.

  1. Curry: 3,496

  2. Allen: 2,973

  3. James Harden: 2,795

  4. Reggie Miller: 2,560

  5. Lillard: 2,451

More on this day:

  • 🏁 1947: A group of racers and promoters gathered at a hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida, to bring more structure to the sport of stock car racing. They left having founded NASCAR.

  • ⚾️ 1954: Brooklyn native Sandy Koufax, 18, signed with his hometown Dodgers. He debuted the following year and ultimately put together one of the greatest pitching primes* ever.

*What a run: From 1962 to 1966 (age 26-30), Koufax went 111-34 with a 1.95 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 100 complete games. He won three Cy Youngs and an MVP — then abruptly retired.

📺 WATCHLIST: VOLLEYBALL SEMIFINALS

Nebraska celebrates their Elite Eight win. (University of Nebraska Athletics)Nebraska celebrates their Elite Eight win. (University of Nebraska Athletics)

Nebraska celebrates their Elite Eight win. (University of Nebraska Athletics)

The NCAA volleyball semifinals are tonight in Tampa, where three previous champions and one program that can’t quite get over the hump will square off for a spot in Sunday’s national championship, Jeff writes.

  • No. 1 Nebraska vs. No. 1 Pittsburgh (7pm ET, ESPN): The Cornhuskers have won five national championships (third-most of any program*). The Panthers have appeared in three straight Final Fours but are still seeking their first title.

  • No. 1 Wisconsin vs. No. 2 Texas (9:30pm, ESPN): The Badgers won their first and only national championship in 2021. The Longhorns have won three, including last year.

More to watch:

  • 🏈 NFL: Chargers (+3) at Raiders (8:15pm, Prime)

  • 🏀 NBA: Cavaliers at Celtics (7:30pm, NBA); Warriors at Clippers (10:30pm, NBA)

  • 🏒 Women’s hockey: USA vs. Canada (7pm, NHL) … Game 3 of 7 in the fourth annual Rivalry Series.

  • ⚽️ Women’s Champions League: Matchday 3 (12:45-3pm, YouTube) … Four games.

*Top two: Only Stanford (9 titles) and Penn State (7) have won more volleyball championships than Nebraska.

🇺🇸 STATE TRIVIA

(Found Image Holdings/Corbis via Getty Images)(Found Image Holdings/Corbis via Getty Images)

(Found Image Holdings/Corbis via .)

If Virginia does indeed get the Capitals and Wizards, it will no longer be the most populous state without a major league franchise (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) playing within its borders.

Answer at the bottom.

🏀 DRAYMOND GREEN HAS BECOME A CARICATURE OF A ONCE-GREAT PLAYER

Draymond during the 2022 Western Conference Finals. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)Draymond during the 2022 Western Conference Finals. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Draymond during the 2022 Western Conference Finals. (Ezra Shaw/.)

Draymond Green’s game was built on athleticism and anger. As the former has faded, each suspension-worthy outburst shows anger is all that’s left, writes Yahoo Sports’ Ben Rorhbach.

The emotion that drove Green to the NBA’s 2017 Defensive Player of the Year award, four All-Star appearances and four championships has been described any number of ways — “competitive spirit,” “energy,” “bravado,” “the frenzy,” “passion,” “a fiery attitude,” “aggression” and, yes, even “that rage.”

Everyone in the Warriors organization has spoken ad nauseam over the past decade about the importance of Green striking a balance between anger and action. The dynasty’s success has depended on his straddling that line, they’ve all said.

“If you take my fire away, I may be a decent player because I can really think the game,” Green told Howard Beck, then of Bleacher Report, in 2018. “I’d still have that, but if you take my fire away, I’m not near the guy that I am and the player that I am.”

This ignores Green’s ability to play basketball. In addition to his anger and acumen was an athleticism — never elite by NBA means but enough to switch onto any position, help at the rim, recover to the perimeter. Enough to drop a 32-15-9 line in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Enough to put his acumen into action.

But what happens when his athleticism fades, when he cannot compete with his less “fiery” rivals, when he can no longer make good on his basketball IQ? The only thing left for Green to act upon, I fear, is the anger.

Every so often in the past, Green crossed the line between passion and destruction, and each time the Warriors defended it as a fuel that drives them, for better or worse. But with increasing frequency, it is for worse, and Golden State is running out of ways to excuse his antics in the name of competition.

Keep reading.

___

Trivia answer: South Carolina (5.3 million population)

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