NFL playoffs set
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Not without a fair share of drama, the NFL playoffs are set.
The road to the Super Bowl will go through Oakland and Philadelphia. Those traveling along that road will include the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons, but will not include the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints or the defending champion New England Patriots.
In a frantic finish to the final Sunday of the regular season, the Green Bay Packers could not hold onto home-field advantage and surrendered it to the Philadelphia Eagles, who had let it briefly slip from their fingers the day before.
The Patriots first staged a wonderful comeback against Miami to keep their playoff hopes alive, but then were knocked out of contention when the Jets blasted the Packers.
New Orleans had a chance to make the playoffs when Atlanta lost, but the Saints could not take advantage of the opportunity.
And both Tennessee and Tampa Bay earned a week off despite bland offensive efforts against lightly-regarded opposition.
The playoffs will begin next Saturday with Atlanta visiting Green Bay and the Jets hosging Indianapolis. On Sunday, the Cleveland will travel to Pittsburgh and San Francisco will host the New York Giants.
While all that is going on, Oakland, Philadelphia, Tennessee and Tampa Bay will be resting up for their entry into the action during the divisional round.
The key action Sunday revolved around Cleveland, Foxboro, New Orleans and East Rutherford, where the Jets were handed an unexpected chance and they seized on it.
Miami seemed headed for the AFC East title when it built a 14-point lead against New England with Ricky Williams scoring twice.
But the Patriots rallied to tie the game on Adam Vinatieri's 43-yard field goal with 69 seconds left in regulation and Vinatieri then delivered on a 35-yarder 2:03 into overtime to give New England a 27-24 win.
That meant the Jets could win the division if they could beat the Packers and New York blasted Green Bay, 42-17. Chad Pennington threw four touchdown passes to give the Jets the second division title in franchise history.
The Jets' win knocked Miami and New England out of the playoffs and put Cleveland in -- the Browns having given themselves a chance earlier in the day by fighting off the Atlanta Falcons, 24-16.
By losing for the third time in four weeks, Atlanta would have cost itself a chance for the playoffs if New Orleans could have defeated Carolina. But the Panthers held the Saints without a touchdown and won in the Superdome, 10-6.
Tennessee wrapped up the No. 2 seed in the AFC with a sluggish 13-3 win in Houston and Tampa Bay did the same thing in the NFC by blanking the Chicago Bears, 15-0.
Sunday's Dallas-Washington game was filled with nostalgia, meanwhile, as it represented an end to an era for both teams.
Washington halted a 10-game losing streak to the Cowboys with a 20-14 decision in what was the last game for Redskins defensive back Darrell Green. He was honored prior to the game.
Dallas is expected to announce Monday that Coach Dave Campo has been fired and Sunday's game might have been the last in a Cowboys uniform for all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith.
In addition, Smith saw his NFL-record streak of 11 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons come to an end. He needed 38 yards to get to 1,000 and he managed just 13 yards in 18 carries.
Lakers win second straight
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Shaquille O'Neal had 35 points and 10 rebounds Sunday night to help the Los Angeles Lakers bash the Toronto Raptors, 104-88.
Kobe Bryant added 13 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds for the Lakers and Rick Fox added 15. Los Angeles posted back-to-back wins for the first time since Dec. 6 and 8.
The Lakers, who routed Denver on Saturday, won on the second night of back-to-back games for the first time in seven tries this season.
The Lakers also improved to 13-19 overall following their third win in four games.
Morris Peterson had 18 points and Lindsey Hunter added 14 for the Raptors, who trailed by eight after 12 minutes and 58-44 at the half.
Other NBA results: Phoenix 103, Cleveland 84; Houston 97, New Orleans 85.
Red Wings tie Stars again
Detroit's lineup includes 500-goal scorers Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan and Luc Robitaille to go along with All-Stars Sergei Fedorov, defensemen Chris Chelios and Nicklas Lidstrom. Among Dallas' top players are Mike Modano, Pierre Turgeon and Bill Guerin.
On Sunday, those superstars were not a factor in the scoring as the teams battled to their fourth straight tie.
Holmstrom continued his recent resurgence with his eighth goal for Detroit just 70 seconds into the contest. Holmstrom surpassed last season's total 2:08 into the second when he deflected defenseman Jason Woolley's wrist shot.
Before Morrow's 10th goal, Jere Lehtinen scored his 14th goal with just under five minutes remaining in the first.
Detroit failed to extend its winning streak to five games, but extended its unbeaten streak to eight (5
Other NHL results: Colorado 6, Los Angeles 1; Tampa Bay 5, New York Rangers 3; Calgary 4, Anaheim 2; St. Louis 5, Columbus 2.
Duke remains perfect
DURHAM, N.C., Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Freshman J.J. Redick scored a season-high 26 points Sunday night as top-ranked Duke nearly blew a 23-point lead before downing Dayton, 85-74.
Duke (7-0) never trailed as it jumped to a 10-1 lead and built a 42-25 cushion at halftime. The lead grew to as many as 23 points and was still 63-41 after a basket by Casey Sanders with 13 1/2 minutes remaining.
Dayton (7-3) responded with an 11-2 run to get within 64-52. The Flyers continued to cut into the lead and made it 73-67 on Ramod Marshall's runner with just under four minutes left.
The teams traded baskets before Redick and Chris Duhon each split a pair at the line to make it 77-69. Duhon came up with a steal and a dunk for a 10-point advantage with just over two minutes remaining.
Once again, the Blue Devils enjoyed a major advantage at the free-throw line. They converted 24 of 37 attempts to 14 of 24 for Dayton.
Duke has shot more foul shots than all seven opponents it has faced.
In College Park, Md., Drew Nicholas scored a career-high 29 points and Ryan Randle had 16 points in the second half to lead the 22nd-ranked and defending national champion Maryland Terrapins to an 84-77 victory over Georgia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams.
Rahlves wins World Cup downhill
BORMIO, Italy, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Daron Rahlves claimed a World Cup downhill Sunday, capping a brilliant day for the United States' squad.
Rahlves, the reigning super-G world champion, blasted down the steep, arduous 12,000-foot Stelvio course, reaching a peak speed of 77 miles per hour before crossing the finish line in 2 minutes, 1.42 seconds, a convincing .18 faster than his nearest challenger.
"It's great to be the boss again," Rahlves said with a wide grin. "These are the moments I live for. The more difficult it is, the more I like it."
A handful of Austrians swept the next three spots with Olympic champion Fritz Strobl of Austria, who won the last downhill here, settling for second in 2:01.60. Hannes Trinkl was third in 2:01.66, with Peter Rzehak fourth in 2:01.85.
American Bode Miller, the winner of the previous World Cup race, a giant slalom in Alta Badia, Italy, posted his best career downhill result, placing fifth in 2:02.08.
When it appeared clear he had secured the win, Rahlves popped open a bottle of Italian sparkling wine, lifting a glass with the Austrians and spraying the wildly cheering fans at the finish area.
It marked Rahlves' third World Cup victory.
Final bowl surge begins
SEATTLE, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- After a disappointing regular season that began with high expectations, Oregon faces Wake Forest in the Seattle Bowl Monday.
It is one of two bowl games on the schedule and kicks off a surge of activity that will involve 16 games over five days leading up to the national championship contest between Ohio State and Miami.
The Ducks hope to have 1,000-yard rusher Onterrio Smith back in the lineup. Smith missed three of Oregon's final four games and underwent arthroscopic surgery on Nov. 18 to repair a partial cartilage tear in his right knee.
Prior to the injury, the junior tailback surpassed the century mark for the second straight year, rushing for 1,079 yards -- an average of 119 yards per game.
Coming off the first 11-win season in school history and a victory over Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl that cemented a No. 2 national ranking, the Ducks reeled off six straight wins to start this year and were ranked as high as sixth.
But a shaky defense, along with Smith's absence, contributed to Oregon's late-season slump. The Ducks dropped five of their last six regular season games and take a three-game losing streak to Seattle.
In Nashville, two teams heading in opposite directions at the end of the regular season meet for the first time when Arkansas takes on Minnesota in the Music City Bowl.
Arkansas (9-4) had won six straight games before falling to Georgia, 30-3, in the Southeastern Conference championship game Dec. 7. Minnesota (7-5) began its season with seven wins in its first eight games, but then suffered one-sided losses to Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin on consecutive weeks in November.