Yahoo Sports AM: Bring on the NFL playoffs

The NFL season ended for 18 teams on Sunday. The other 14 are headed to the postseason.

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🚨 Headlines

🎾 Nadal withdraws: Just one week after making his long-awaited return at the Brisbane International, Rafael Nadal was forced to withdraw from the upcoming Australian Open due to a "micro tear" in the same hip that kept him out for nearly a year.

⛳️ Records fall in Hawaii: The PGA Tour season got off to record-breaking start, with Max Homa blasting the longest drive in the ShotLink era (477 yards) and Sungjae Im setting the record for most birdies in a 72-hole event (34).

🏀 Paul out, Green in: The Warriors will be without Chris Paul (fractured left hand) for 4-6 weeks; Draymond Green (12-game suspension) has been reinstated and should return this week.

🏒 Another losing streak: The Sharks have lost 11 straight games for the second time this season, making them the first NHL team since 1992-93 to have multiple 10+ game skids. The two teams to do it that season? The Senators and… the Sharks.

🏈 Bring on the playoffs

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)
(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

The NFL season ended for 18 teams on Sunday. The other 14 are headed to the postseason, which begins with this weekend's Wild Card Round.

Familiar foes: A major theme for the opening round is players and coaches facing former teams. Matthew Stafford returns to Detroit, Tyreek Hill is back in Kansas City, and Mike McCarthy takes on Matt LaFleur, the coach who replaced him in Green Bay.

NFC: The 49ers earned the NFC's first-round bye after finishing 12-5 and are the Super Bowl favorites entering the playoffs (+225 at BetMGM).

  • No. 7 Packers at No. 2 Cowboys: The Packers are the fifth-youngest team to ever make the playoffs (average age: 25.13 years). They'll have their work cut out for them in Dallas, where the Cowboys have won 16 consecutive games (12th-longest streak ever).

  • No. 6 Rams at No. 3 Lions: Matthew Stafford returning to the Motor City for Detroit's first home playoff game in 30 years is quite the storyline. So is Jared Goff vs. the team who gave up on him. May the best former No. 1 overall pick win.

  • No. 5 Eagles at No. 4 Buccaneers: The Birds have lost five of six after starting the season 10-1 and look utterly lost. The Bucs have won five of six after starting 4-7 and are in the playoffs for the fourth straight year, the only NFC team that can say that.

AFC: The Ravens earned the AFC's first-round bye after finishing an NFL-best 13-4. They currently have the second-best odds to win the Super Bowl (+325).

  • No. 7 Steelers at No. 2 Bills: These two teams have met in the playoffs three times (1974 divisional round, 1993 divisional round, 1996 divisional round). Each time, the winner made the Super Bowl. Could it happen again? Buffalo does have the third-best title odds… (+650).

  • No. 6 Dolphins at No. 3 Chiefs: Kansas City is 1-4 against the playoff field, with their only win coming against Miami in Frankfurt, Germany. They'll try to beat them again on Saturday night at Arrowhead, where temperatures could reach as low as 0 degrees.

  • No. 5 Browns at No. 4 Texans: This game would be all about former Texan and current Brown Deshaun Watson — if he was healthy. Instead, it's about Joe Flacco and C.J. Stroud, who was six years old when Flacco made his playoff debut in 2008 with the Ravens.

More from Week 18: In what may have been his final game in New England, Bill Belichick tied Dan Reeves and Jeff Fisher for the most regular-season losses in NFL history (165) and saw the Jets snap a 15-game losing streak against the Patriots. We're on to the No. 3 pick!

Bill Belichick didn't want to address his future after a loss to the Jets. (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
Bill Belichick didn't want to address his future after a loss to the Jets. (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
  • Best division in football: The AFC North is the second division in NFL history* to have every team finish above .500 (13-4 Ravens, 11-6 Browns, 10-7 Steelers, 9-8 Bengals). Quite the feat, especially when you consider three teams lost their QB1 for big chunks of the season.

  • Puka makes history: Fifth-round pick Puka Nacua broke the rookie record for receptions (105) and receiving yards (1,481). Could the Rams breakout star challenge C.J. Stroud for Offensive Rookie of the Year?

  • Houston's rare feat: The Texans are the fifth team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a rookie QB (Stroud) and rookie head coach (DeMeco Ryans). The last team to do that? The 2012 Colts (Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano).

  • Falcons fire Smith: The Falcons fired head coach Arthur Smith on Sunday after a blowout loss to the Saints. Atlanta went 7-10 in each of Smith's three seasons and never made the playoffs.

  • Henry's farewell game: The Titans eliminated the Jaguars behind a monster game from Derrick Henry (19 carries, 153 yards, TD), who likely played his final game for the franchise. "Thank you for the greatest eight years of my life," he told fans after the game. "I love y'all."

  • Watt makes history, goes down: T.J. Watt (19 sacks) is the first player to lead the NFL in sacks three separate times. Unfortunately for the Steelers, he tore his MCL on Saturday and could miss multiple weeks.

  • Carolina stinks: The Panthers are the first team in NFL history to go an entire season without a fourth-quarter lead. Carolina ended the season by getting shut out in back-to-back games.

  • Aubrey's streak falls short: Cowboys rookie Brandon Aubrey was 35-for-35 on field goals entering Sunday. He finally missed (twice actually), leaving him just short of the record for most makes without a miss (Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt went 37-for-37 in 2003).

  • 2024 draft order: 1. Bears (via Carolina), 2. Commanders, 3. Patriots, 4. Cardinals, 5. Chargers, 6. Giants, 7. Titans, 8. Falcons, 9. Bears, 10. Jets, 11. Vikings, 12. Broncos, 13. Raiders, 14. Saints

Scoreboard: Bills 21, Dolphins 14; Texans 23, Colts 19; Steelers 17, Ravens 10; Titans 28, Jaguars 20; Lions 30, Vikings 20; Saints 48, Falcons 17; Jets 17, Patriots 3; Buccaneers 9, Panthers 0; Bengals 31, Browns 14; Packers 17, Bears 9; Cowboys 38, Commanders 10; Raiders 27, Broncos 14; Giants 27, Eagles 10; Seahawks 21, Cardinals 20; Chiefs 13, Chargers 12; Rams 21, 49ers 20

*89 years later: The only other division to have every team finish above .500 was the 1935 NFL West (7-3-2 Lions, 8-4 Packers, 6-4-2 Chicago Cardinals, 6-4-2 Bears).

⚾️ The Dodgers won't stop spending money

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Dodgers continued their historic offseason spending spree on Sunday, signing outfielder Teoscar Hernández to a one-year, $23.5 million deal.

Crazy stat: The Dodgers have committed roughly the same amount of money to players this winter ($1.202 billion) as every other MLB team combined ($1.225 billion), per Spotrac.

State of play: This unbalanced spending is a result of MLB not having a salary cap. In no other major U.S. sports league can a team so blatantly and aggressively try to "buy a championship."

  • But baseball is a funny game, so don't go crowning the Dodgers just yet.

  • Remember: The three biggest spenders last season (Mets, Yankees, Padres) all missed the playoffs entirely.

Counterpoint: The Rangers — who spent half a billion dollars on two players ahead of the 2022 season and had one of the largest payrolls in baseball last year — won it all.

🇺🇸 Photos across America

(Zach Del Bello/University of Montana/Getty Images)
(Zach Del Bello/University of Montana/Getty Images)

Frisco, Texas — South Dakota State beat Montana, 23-3, on Sunday to win its second straight FCS title and 29th consecutive game.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Maui, Hawaii — Chris Kirk (-29) shot an eight-under 65 on Sunday to win the season-opening Sentry by one stroke over Sahith Theegala. His prize: $3.6 million and a spot in the Masters.

(Hershey Bears)
(Hershey Bears)

Hershey, Pennsylvania — The Hershey Bears collected 74,599 stuffed animals for charity during Sunday's Teddy Bear Toss, one of the best traditions in sports. The furry friends will be donated to children throughout Central Pennsylvania.

(Virginia Tech Athletics)
(Virginia Tech Athletics)

Blacksburg, Virginia — No. 13 Virginia Tech handed No. 3 NC State its first loss of the season on Sunday thanks to Elizabeth Kitley's last-second layup. You couldn't have scripted a better ending to the first regular-season sellout in program history.

🌎 Photos around the world

(Bjorn Larsson Rosvall/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)
(Bjorn Larsson Rosvall/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)

Gothenburg, Sweden — Team USA crushed Sweden, 6-2, on Friday to win its sixth World Junior Hockey Championship. A nice bonus for winning: free Chipotle burritos for a year!

(Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
(Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Auckland, New Zealand — Coco Gauff defended her Auckland Classic title on Sunday with a three-set win over Elina Svitolina. The 19-year-old American has won 29 of her last 33 singles matches and will be a favorite to win the Australian Open.

(Patrick Hertzog/AFP via Getty Images)
(Patrick Hertzog/AFP via Getty Images)

Al Henakiyah, Saudi Arabia — The 46th Dakar Rally began this weekend, kicking off a two-week race through the desert with five divisions: motorcycles, quads, cars, UTVs and trucks.

(Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
(Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

Adelboden, Switzerland — The world's best skiers competed in the giant slalom on Saturday at the famed Chuenisbärgli course, which is a rolling cow pasture in the summer.

📆 Jan. 8, 2000: Music City Miracle

Kevin Dyson scoring the miraculous game-winner. (Allen Kee/Getty Images)
Kevin Dyson scoring the miraculous game-winner. (Allen Kee/Getty Images)

24 years ago today, the Titans beat the Bills in the "Music City Miracle." On a kickoff return in the waning seconds, TE Frank Wycheck* threw a lateral across the field to WR Kevin Dyson, who took it 75 yards to the house to win the AFC Wild Card game, Jeff writes.

Second miracle fell short: The Titans nearly pulled off another miracle three weeks later against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, but fell one yard short of the goal line as time expired.

More on this day:

  • 🏀 1955: Kentucky's NCAA-record 129-game home winning streak ended with a 59-58 loss to Georgia Tech. The streak lasted 12 years and three presidents (FDR, Truman, Eisenhower).

  • ⚾️ 1957: Jackie Robinson announced his retirement, choosing to call it quits rather than play for the crosstown rival New York Giants, who had traded for him one month earlier.

*RIP, Frank: Wycheck died last month at age 52 after he fell at his home and hit his head.

📺 Watchlist: The grand finale

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

The college football season concludes tonight in Houston (7:30pm ET, ESPN) as No. 1 Michigan and No. 2 Washington face off for the national title in a battle of unbeaten teams*, Jeff writes.

  • Spread: MICH -4.5 (via BetMGM)

  • Over/Under: 56.5

  • Moneyline: MICH -210, WASH +170

Quote of the day: Which team got better sleep on Saturday? That could make the difference tonight, according to Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh's logic.

"Two nights before is the sleep you play on. I have no scientific evidence to present to you on that. I just know when I played and sometimes when I coached, too, sometimes the night before the game I don't really sleep great. So, I've convinced myself that if I get a good sleep the night before the night before a game it's a great night of sleep there."

More to watch:

  • 🏀 NBA: Suns at Clippers (10:30pm, NBA)

  • 🏒 NHL: Penguins at Flyers (7pm, NHL)

*Undefeated matchup: This is the fourth CFP National Championship to feature two unbeaten teams. Clemson beat Alabama in 2019, LSU beat Clemson in 2020 and Alabama beat Ohio State in 2021.

🏒 NHL trivia

(Jason Mowry/Getty Images)
(Jason Mowry/Getty Images)

Minnesota's Marc-André Fleury notched his 551st career win on Saturday, tying Patrick Roy for second all-time among NHL goalies.

  • Question: Who is No. 1 on that list?

  • Hint: He shares an initial with Fleury.

Answer at the bottom.

🍿 Baker's Dozen: Top 13 plays of the weekend

LeBron poster. (Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
LeBron poster. (Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
  1. 🏀 Five seconds of magic

  2. 🏒 Incredible goal

  3. ⚽️ Sensational strike

  4. 🏀 Massive dunk

  5. 🏀 Full-court heave!

  6. ⚽️ Gorgeous goal

  7. 🏀 DeAndre Jordan!

  8. 🏈 Juggles it for six

  9. 🏈 How did he catch that?

  10. 🏒 What a play by Fleury

  11. 🏀 Denied at the rim

  12. ⛳️ 96-foot putt

  13. 🏀 LeBron poster

Watch all 13 plays.

Trivia answer: Martin Brodeur (691 wins)

We hope you enjoyed this edition of Yahoo Sports AM, our daily newsletter that keeps you up to date on all things sports. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.