Update on the latest sportsAP
Chiefs visit Broncos, Eagles host Cowboys
UNDATED (AP) — NFL teams play their 17th regular-season game this weekend for the first time. The action starts Saturday when the Kansas City Chiefs visit the Denver Broncos and the Philadelphia Eagles host the Dallas Cowboys.
The Chiefs are double-digit favorites to win their season finale, but they lost the pole position in the AFC playoffs with their loss at Cincinnati last week. So to win the No. 1 seed and the bye that comes with it, Kansas City will have to beat the Broncos, and the Tennessee Titans will have to lose to the Texans on Sunday. The Chiefs have won the AFC West for the sixth straight time and they are seeking their 13th consecutive victory over the Broncos, who are missing the playoffs for the sixth straight year.
The NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys visit the playoff-bound Philadelphia Eagles Saturday night in a game that will only determine seeding in the playoffs. The Cowboys enter the weekend with the No. 4 seed and have a chance to climb to No. 2 depending on how the Rams, Cardinals and Buccaneers fare. The Eagles hold the No. 7 spot and can finish no higher than the sixth seed. It’s likely Philadelphia will rest some starters and the Eagles already could be shorthanded because 12 players landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list early in the week. The Cowboys are seeking a series sweep.
Thirteen of the 16 games on the ledger this week will have a bearing on the playoff bracket. There are 18 teams still mathematically in championship contention. That’s the most entering the final week since 20 teams were alive in 2006.
The 17th game also affects the record books. Cooper Kupp of the Rams needs 12 receptions to beat Michael Thomas and 136 receiving yards to pass Calvin Johnson for the all-time single-season marks.
The NFL had a 16-game schedule for the past 43 years.
Browns place Pro Bowl corner Ward on COVID-19 reserve list
UNDATED (AP) —Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward has been placed on the COVID-19 reserve list and will miss Sunday’s season finale against Cincinnati.
Ward was already questionable with a groin injury suffered in Monday’s loss at Pittsburgh.
The fourth-year corner had three interceptions, including a 99-yard return for a touchdown that set the tone in Cleveland’s 41-16 win over the Bengals on Nov. 17.
The Browns will finish a disappointing season without Ward and linebacker Malcolm Smith, also placed on the COVID-19 list.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL-FCS CHAMPIONSHP
NDSU looks for 9th FCS title against upstart Montana State
FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Montana State is facing North Dakota State again in the FCS playoffs, this time for the national title.
This is the first championship game for Montana State since 1984. The Bobcats advanced with playoffs wins over the two teams that played for the last FCS title less than eight months ago.
North Dakota State has won a record eight FCS titles the previous 10 seasons. The Bison had lopsided victories over Montana State in the early playoff rounds on way to winning their last two national titles at the end of the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Last year, a bizarre spring season cost the Bison their three best players and a chance for a ninth national championship. North Dakota State had won seven of eight FCS titles before losing to Sam Houston State in the quarterfinals that were moved to the spring because of COVID-19. The Bison entered the playoffs without three future NFL players, including quarterback Trey Lance.
Court documents show Djokovic had COVID-19 last month
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Lawyers for Novak Djokovic (NOH’-vak JOH’-kuh-vich) have filed court documents in his challenge against deportation from Australia that showed the tennis star contracted COVID-19 in the middle of last month.
The world No. 1 men’s player was denied entry at the Melbourne airport late Wednesday after the Australian Border Force canceled his visa for failing to meet its entry requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. He has been confined to an immigration detention hotel in Melbourne ever since.
Djokovic was given a medical exemption on Jan. 1 based on his recent infection and it was backed by the Victoria state government and Australian Open organizers based on information he supplied to two independent medical panels. He will go to the Federal Circuit Court on Monday to challenge his visa cancellation and deportation. That’s a week before the season-opening major starts.
In other tennis news:
— Defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from her semifinal match at a WTA tournament in Melbourne with an abdominal injury. That allowed her opponent Veronika Kudermetova to advance to the final on a walkover. Earlier, American Amanda Anisimova advanced to her first final since 2019 with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Daria Kasatkina.
Bell tops Chen to win US figure skating championship; both are locks for Olympics
UNDATED (AP) — Mariah Bell put together a mesmerizing free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, edging Karen Chen on Friday night for her first gold medal.
The win took any drama out of whether she’s headed to her first Winter Olympics. Bell and Chen are locks when U.S. Figure Skating’s selection committee announces the three-woman team that will go to the Beijing Games next month.
The other spot is likely to go to Alysa Liu, the two-time national champion who was third after her short program but had to withdraw earlier Friday following a positive test for COVID-19. Fourteen-year-old Isabeau Levito, who is too young to compete at the Olympics, claimed the bronze medal.
In other news related to the Olympics:
— Elana Meyers Taylor of the U.S. has her fourth women’s monobob victory of the season and the 25th overall win of her career in major international competition. Australia’s Breanna Walker finished second today and Germany’s Laura Nolte was third. Kaillie Humphries of the U.S. took fourth, meaning the Americans joined Canada as the only nations with two sleds in the top six spots. Meyers Taylor has 19 wins in traditional two-person World Cup races, two more in world championship events and now four in monobob. The monobob event will be part of the Olympic program for the first time at the Beijing Games.
— Zack Di Gregorio and Sean Hollander are headed to the Olympics for USA Luge. They’re waiting to see if reigning silver medalist Chris Mazdzer will join them. Di Gregorio and Hollander clinched their first Olympic berths Saturday, on a day when Germany took three of six medals awarded in a pair of World Cup races.
WORLD CUP-WOMEN’S GIANT SLALOM
Hector dominates, overtakes Shiffrin in GS standings
KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia AP) — Swedish skier Sara Hector dominated a women’s World Cup giant slalom Saturday and overtook Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin on top of the discipline standings.
Hector posted the fastest time in both runs as she extended her first-run lead to a huge .96 seconds over runner-up Tessa Worley. World Cup GS champion Marta Bassino placed third.
Shiffrin improved from 14th after the opening run to seventh. Hector now leads the American by 46 points in the GS season standings. Shiffrin stretched her lead in the overall World Cup standings to 135 points from Petra Vlhova.