NFL playoffs start today


Wild Card weekend kicks off Saturday, and the first two games of the NFL playoffs are rematches of Week 17 blowouts. The Jets and Bengals get things started in Paul Brown Stadium at 4:30 p.m. (et), and New York will be looking to duplicate last week's 37-0 victory. While Cincinnati had already wrapped up the AFC North title regardless of the game's outcome, the Jets needed a win last week to sneak in as the AFC's last wild card team. Rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez and a run-heavy Jets offense hopes history repeats itself against a Cincinnati team attempting to score its first postseason win since Jan. 6, 1991.

In the nightcap, the NFC East-champion Dallas Cowboys -- courtesy of last week's 24-0 drubbing of their division-rival -- host the Philadelphia Eagles. The one-sided affair in the regular season finale dropped the Eagles from the conference's No. 2 seed and vaulted Dallas to host in the opening round. The playoffs have treated both teams differently this decade though, as Dallas has lost five straight postseason games dating back to 1996, while Philly is 7-0 in its first playoff matchup under head coach Andy Reid.

On the eve of the NFL playoffs, the Seattle Seahawks fired head coach Jim Mora Jr. after just one season at the helm. Mora guided the Seahawks to a record of 5-11 this past season, ending the campaign with a four-game losing streak. Mora had taken over following the retirement of Mike Holmgren, who had been the Seahawks' coach from 1999-2008 and ended his one-year hiatus recently by accepting the team president position with the Cleveland Browns. The Seahawks struggled the past two years, combining for just nine wins after five consecutive playoff seasons, including a Super Bowl berth following the 2005 campaign. Mora had served as the Seahawks assistant head coach and secondary in the two years prior to his elevation as head coach.

The Kansas City Chiefs officially named former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis their offensive coordinator on Friday. The Chiefs spent last season without an offensive coordinator, as first-year head coach Todd Haley dismissed Chan Gailey from the post before the regular season began and ran the offense himself in a 4-12 campaign. Weis has a history with Haley, having worked with him during his three seasons with the Jets from 1997-99 as part of Bill Parcells' staff. Before his five-year run at Notre Dame, Weis was the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots for five years and helped the team win three Super Bowl titles.

Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith are among the 15 finalists announced Friday who will be considered for 2010 election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The original list of candidates consisted of 131 names and was whittled down to 25 semifinalists in November. Tim Brown joined Rice, the NFL's all-time leading receiver, and Smith, the league's all-time leading rusher, as the only first-year eligible players to make the list. Other previous finalists again on this year's list are wide receivers Cris Carter and Andre Reed; tight end Shannon Sharpe; offensive linemen Dermontti Dawson and Russ Grimm; and defensive linemen Richard Dent, John Randle and Cortez Kennedy. Four players, including coach Don Coryell, running back Roger Craig, defensive end/linebacker Charles Haley and linebacker Rickey Jackson, were named finalists for the first time.

New York Jets linebacker David Harris and cornerback Donald Strickland are both listed as questionable for the team's wild card playoff game against the Bengals on Saturday. Harris (ankle) and Strickland (quadriceps) were both limited participants in Friday's practice. Harris, who had recorded 127 tackles and two interceptions this season, said on Thursday he is doing everything he can to play despite suffering through some ankle stiffness. Strickland has been limited all week and missed last week's win over the Bengals.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin heads a list of five starters listed as questionable for Sunday's NFC wild card bout with the Green Bay Packers. Boldin is dealing with both a high left ankle sprain and a sprained MCL in his left knee and is considered a game-time decision, having been unable to practice all week. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (knee) and safety Antrel Rolle (thigh) are among the injured starters. Defensive end Calais Campbell (thumb) and starting right guard Deuce Lutui (back) are also questionable.


The Seattle Mariners avoided arbitration with outfielder Franklin Gutierrez on Friday, signing him to a four-year deal with a team option for a fifth season. Gutierrez, whose contract is worth $20.5 million, enjoyed a career year in his first season in Seattle, hitting .283 with 18 home runs and 70 RBI in 153 games. In addition to setting career-highs in every offensive category, Gutierrez led all big league outfielders with 445 putouts. He also became just the ninth player in Mariners club history to record a season with 15 home runs and 15 stolen bases.

The Kansas City Royals have signed veteran outfielder Scott Podsednik. The deal is for one year with an option for 2011. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the pact is reportedly for $1.75 and includes incentives that could take it to $2 million in 2010 and $2.3 million in the option year. Podsednik, who will turn 34 in March, joined the White Sox in May of last season and appeared in 132 games, hitting .304 with seven home runs, 48 RBI and 30 stolen bases. He has swiped at least 30 bases in each of his five full seasons in the big leagues, including a career-high 70 for the Brewers in 2004.


Montreal Canadiens forward Andrei Kostitsyn underwent knee surgery Friday and is out indefinitely. The organization did not reveal how the injury occurred or the nature of the surgery, only saying the injury stemmed from a December 31 win against Florida. Kostitsyn had missed the last three games. Kostitsyn has 12 goals and 13 assists in 40 games this season for Montreal. He also missed three games from late November into December with a foot injury. A former first-round pick (10th overall) in the 2003 draft, the 24-year-old Belarussian is in his fifth season with the Habs and has accumulated 64 goals and 69 assists in 226 career games.


South Florida head football coach Jim Leavitt was fired today in the wake of allegations that he struck a player during a game this season, becoming the third coach to lose his job after reported mistreatment of players. The school conducted an investigation into claims that Leavitt grabbed walk-on sophomore Joel Miller by the throat and hit him twice in the face at halftime of a November 21 game against Louisville. Leavitt, the only coach in the 13-season history of the South Florida program, has denied the accusations. He posted a record of 95-57 and took the Bulls to bowl games in each of the past five seasons. Kansas coach Mark Mangino was forced out after reportedly verbally and physically abusing some of his players, while Texas Tech fired Mike Leach after his issues with wide receiver Adam James.

Southern California running back Joe McKnight announced Friday he will forego his senior season and enter the 2010 NFL Draft. The announcement coincides with junior wideout Damian Williams' decision to leave for the NFL and also amidst reports Friday that coach Pete Carroll could be leaving the school to take the head coaching position with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks in the wake of Jim Mora Jr.'s firing earlier in the day.


Tennessee senior forward Tyler Smith has been dismissed from the basketball team after an arrest that resulted in drug and weapons charges. Three other players were involved and Smith became the first to be kicked off the team by head coach Bruce Pearl. Smith had been averaging a career-low 11.7 points and 4.7 rebounds this season in 12 games for the Volunteers. His best season came in 2008-09, when he posted per-game averages of 17.4 points and 5.8 rebounds in 34 contests. Pearl said that the other three players will remain indefinitely suspended.


Former world No. 1s Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters won their respective semifinal matches to set up an-all Belgian final at the season-opening Brisbane International tennis event. Henin, a seven-time major titlist, is playing her first professional tennis in 20 months this week after abruptly retiring as the world's top-ranked player in May of 2008. Friday at Queensland Tennis Centre she took another step toward returning to the winner's circle by dousing the third seed Serbian Ana Ivanovic in a 6-3, 6-2 victory in a little over an hour. The top-seeded Clijsters took care of German Andrea Petkovic in a 6-4, 6-2 win in one hour, 21 minutes and will be pitted against her fellow countrywoman for the 23rd time.

The men's season-opener in Doha could have featured a final with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, but Russia's Nikolay Davydenko spoiled it with a 6-4, 6-4 win over the Swiss superstar in one of Friday's semifinals. Davydenko, who also knocked off Federer in the semifinals of the ATP World Tour Finals last November, will get to face Nadal in Saturday's title match. Nadal advanced with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Serbia's Viktor Troicki.


Lucas Glover posted another solid round Friday as he fired an eight-under 65 to grab a three-stroke lead after two rounds of the season-opening SBS Championship. Glover, the reigning U.S. Open champion, completed 36 holes at 15-under-par 131. He missed the 36-hole scoring mark by two strokes. The 30- year-old did all of his damage in the middle of the round again Friday. After going nine-under for a nine-hole stretch Thursday, Glover went nine- under over 12 holes from the fifth to the 16th to pull away. John Rollins carded a bogey-free, seven-under 66 on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort to move into second place at 12-under-par 134. Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy also shot 66 and is tied for third place at minus-11. He was joined there by Matt Kuchar (68), Sean O'Hair (67) and Martin Laird (68).