The National Football League will be my primary focus this weekend as the divisional playoff matches take place. Why the NFL call these games “divisional” playoff matches has always been puzzling to me, but the bottom line is they are the quarterfinal matches for the Super Bowl. Here are the sporting events I will be watching this weekend:
Saturday—World Cup men’s skeleton—www.cbcsports.ca–6:20 a.m. PT—The fourth World Cup men’s skeleton race of the season takes place in Winterberg, Germany. The current leader is Sungbin Yun of South Korea. Russia’s Alexander Tretiakov lost the World Cup lead a week ago in Altenberg, Germany when he was provisionally suspended because the International Olympic Committee was investigating him for possible doping violations during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. The suspension has since been lifted however, allowing Tretiakov to compete this weekend in Winterberg, Germany. It should be noted that Tretiakov has not been found guilty of any wrongdoing as of yet according to Inside the Games.
Saturday—World Cup two-man bobsled—www.cbcsports.ca—10 a.m. PT–The fourth World Cup men’s two-man bobsled race of the season takes place in Winterberg, Germany. Like the men’s skeleton, the World Cup leader is currently a Korean. Yunjong Won moved into the lead last week following a fifth place finish in Altenberg, Germany. Last week’s World Cup champion driver was Francesco Friedrich of Germany, who did not compete last month in Lake Placid. Friedrich, who also won in Whistler last month, will be the heavy favourite in Winterberg.
Saturday—NHL—Philadelphia Flyers @ Boston Bruins—Sportsnet—10 a.m. PT—In an intriguing Eastern Conference battle, both the Flyers and Bruins currently hold down playoff spots. The Bruins are second in the Atlantic Division with 49 points and the Flyers are fifth in the Metropolitan Division with 50 points. Boston lost 2-1 to the Nashville Predators on Thursday, while Philadelphia beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 in a shootout on Thursday.
Saturday—NFL—NFC Divisional Playoff—Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons—FOX—1:30 p.m. PT—Two high potent offenses will be battling it out in the Georgia Dome on Saturday. The 11-5 Falcons host the 10-5-1 Seahawks. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was second in the NFL this year in passing yards with 4944, while Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones was second in the NFL this year in receiving yards with 1409. The Seahawks meanwhile seem to have a strong offensive attack themselves, led by the mobile quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Thomas Rawls, who had 161 yards rushing in Seattle’s 26-6 win over the Detroit Lions in the NFC Wildcard game last week.
Saturday—NFL—AFC Divisional Playoff—Houston Texans @ New England Patriots—CBS—5 p.m. PT—The Houston Texans played well in the AFC Wildcard game last week in their 27-14 win over the Oakland Raiders. They will almost have to be perfect however this week to beat the AFC powerhouse in New England. The Patriots have had a great offense over the last decade. Now they have a great defense. Their 250 points against in 2016 was the lowest in the NFL. The Patriots are the clear Super Bowl favourites, and this will go down as one of the biggest upsets in NFL playoff history if Houston were to win.
Saturday—NHL—Calgary Flames @ Edmonton Oilers—CBC—7 p.m. PT—In the third installment of the Battle of Alberta during the 2016-17 NHL regular season, the Oilers are playing the Flames for the first time in exactly three months. In their first two meetings of the year, Brian Elliott played poorly for Calgary as the Oilers won 7-4 and 5-3. Since then however Chad Johnson has been the number one goaltender for Calgary. It will be interesting to see who the Flames start tomorrow night in Edmonton because Johnson will start tonight for Calgary when they host the New Jersey Devils.
Sunday—NFL—AFC Divisional Playoff—Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs—NBC—5:30 p.m. PT—The 12-4 Chiefs host the 11-5 Steelers in this AFC matchup of division winners. The Steelers come into the game with great momentum, having won their last eight games. However, the big story in Pittsburgh is the health of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who injured his ankle late in Pittsburgh’s 30-12 win over the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wildcard game last week. Both the Steelers and Chiefs have excellent offensive lines, which could see both teams utilize the run often. That will be the case if the forecast is correct with snow a strong probability.
Sunday—NFL—NFC Divisional Playoff—Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys—FOX—1:30 p.m. PT—The big question in this game is can youth beat experience? The Dallas Cowboys have great talent in the two most high profile offensive positions in rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott. However can they perform at a high level in an elimination playoff game when the pressure is significant? The Packers have issues themselves and will need to show improvements in their secondary, but one must realize Aaron Rodgers has been here before and delivered with a Super Bowl.
Sunday—NHL—New Jersey Devils @ Vancouver Canucks—Sportsnet—4 p.m. PT—The big question in this game is whether New Jersey Devils sniper Taylor Hall will play or not. Hall delivered a vicious elbow on Zack Kassian of the Oilers on Thursday and could face disciplinary action. The Canucks meanwhile are getting outstanding goaltending from Ryan Miller since Christmas. He is a major reason why the Canucks have got themselves back into the playoff hunt in the Western Conference. At 45 points, they are one point back of the Los Angeles Kings.
Sunday—Tennis—Australian Open—First Round—TSN2—4 p.m. PT—The first major of the ATP season begins Sunday with Canada’s Milos Raonic, seeded third. He is only behind tennis superstars Andy Murray of Great Britain and Novak Djokovic of Serbia. Raonic’s first match will be against Dustin Brown of Germany. On the women’s side, Eugenie Bouchard of Montreal will play Louisa Chirico of the United States. Raonic and Bouchard could play anytime over the first two days of the tournament.