- Associated Press
Monday, December 31, 2018

NFL

The playoff chase went down to the final minutes of the season Sunday, when Baltimore squeezed in as AFC North winner, and defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia got some help to secure an NFC wild card.


That left Pittsburgh and Minnesota out.

Kansas City (12-4) grabbed the AFC’s top seed, followed by New England (11-5), Houston (11-5) and Baltimore (10-6). The Chargers (12-4) own the first wild card and will play at the Ravens next Sunday at 1 p.m. EST. The Colts (10-6) romped past the Titans 33-17 at Tennessee and have the other wild card. They travel to Houston on Saturday afternoon.

The Saints (13-3) have the top seed in the NFC, and the Rams (12-4) got the No. 2 spot when they beat San Francisco. Chicago (12-4), whose win at Minnesota knocked out the Vikings and put the Eagles into the postseason, is seeded third and gets Philadelphia (9-7) next Sunday at 4:40 p.m.

Dallas (10-6) is the fourth seed and will play Seattle (10-6) on Saturday night.

NEW YORK (AP) - The New York Jets have fired coach Todd Bowles after four seasons, ending a disappointing tenure that began with plenty of promise but finished with lots of losses and no playoff appearances.

The team announced the long-expected decision Sunday night that it moved on from Bowles, who went 24-40.

There was some uncertainty surrounding general manager Mike Maccagnan’s job status, but it appears he will remain in his role and help lead the Jets’ search for a new coach.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Dirk Koetter has been fired as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The team made the announcement Sunday night, a little more than three hours after the Bucs concluded a disappointing season with a 34-32 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

Koetter was promoted from offensive coordinator to his first NFL head coaching position when Tampa Bay fired Lovie Smith in January 2016. He led the Bucs to a 9-7 record that year, but followed up with consecutive 5-11 finishes.

The Bucs started 2-0 this year, and then lost 11 of 14 down the stretch, including four straight games to finish the season.

Koetter, who had a 19-29 record, was dismissed after meeting with team ownership after Sunday’s game.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Alabama and Clemson, again.

The top-ranked Crimson Tide and No. 2 Tigers both had double-digit victories in their semifinal games Saturday, setting up what has quickly become an annual postseason meeting. They will meet in the College Football Playoff for the fourth consecutive year, the third time in the championship game.

And the winner this time will become the first 15-0 FBS champion.

Alabama-Clemson Part IV, Nick Saban vs. Dabo Swinney, comes Jan. 7. The national title will be at the home stadium of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, California.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) - Miami coach Mark Richt announced he will retire, a stunning decision made after three years leading his alma mater and with five years remaining on his contract. Hours later, the Hurricanes announced Manny Diaz had agreed to a five-year contract to replace Richt.

Diaz left Temple before ever coaching a game there. Diaz took the job to become coach of the Owls earlier this month, a deal he has now backed out of to take over at Miami.

Diaz had been the defensive coordinator under Richt for the past three seasons, and is a Miami native.

Richt says the decision was his.

Miami struggled to a 7-6 record this season, falling to Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Hurricanes have lost nine of their last 16 games going back to a 10-0 start last season.

Richt was 26-13 at Miami, and 171-64 in 18 seasons between Georgia and the Hurricanes.

BASEBALL

TORONTO (AP) - The Toronto Blue Jays acquired left-handed pitcher Clayton Richard and cash considerations from the San Diego Padres on Sunday for Canadian outfielder Connor Panas.

The 35-year-old Richard was 7-11 with a 5.33 earned-run average in 27 starts for San Diego last season. He is 68-79 with a 4.46 ERA in 10 seasons in the majors with the Padres and Chicago White Sox and Cubs, with a National League-best 60.3 ground-ball percentage over the last four years.

The 25-year-old Panas hit .232 with nine home runs, and 39 RBIs in 105 games last season for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in the Class AA Eastern League.

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy has finalized a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels.

The team announced the move Saturday. To make room on the roster, right-hander Austin Brice was designated for assignment.

Yahoo Sports reported the deal is for $3.35 million.

A two-time All-Star, the 32-year-old Lucroy batted .241 with four homers, 51 RBIs and a .617 OPS in 126 games this year during his only season with the Oakland Athletics. Though he struggled at the plate, he received praise for his management of the A’s pitching staff.

HOCKEY

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) - Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice says defenseman Dustin Byfuglien will be “out for a while” after leaving Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury in the third period.

Maurice, speaking to reporters on Sunday, said Byfuglien will not need surgery, but likely will not play until after the All-Star break at the end of January.

Byfuglien went to the dressing room midway through the third period of Winnipeg’s 3-1 home loss against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. The 33-year-old appeared to hurt his leg when he and Wild forward Luke Kunin collided along the boards.

MMA

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) - Amanda Nunes knocked out Cris “Cyborg” Justino 51 seconds into the first round at UFC 232 on Saturday night, ending the featherweight champion’s 13-year unbeaten run with one of the most surprising victories in mixed martial arts history.

Jon Jones also reclaimed his light heavyweight title in his return from a 17-month cage absence, stopping Alexander Gustafsson with strikes on the ground in the third round.

SOCCER

LONDON (AP) - The English Premier League’s new chief executive has pulled out of the job before even taking up the position.

Broadcasting executive Susanna Dinnage has changed her mind about succeeding Richard Scudamore in running the world’s richest soccer competition, despite being hired for the job in November, the league said in a statement on Sunday.

Dinnage was set to become the most powerful female executive in global sports after agreeing to leave her role as global president of Discovery’s Animal Planet brand early next year to succeed Scudamore.

Dinnage has now decided to stay in broadcasting at Discovery, a person familiar with the situation said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the reasons for her not taking up the league job were not being publicly discussed.

-By Rob Harris and Mattias Karen.

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