So it’s not the Super Bowl a lot of people were hoping for, unless you are from the New England area or eastern Pennsylvania. Yet, it’s the one we’ve got and per usual, it’s going to feel like an eternity between now and kickoff in 13 days.
Normally, this is the time where some of the football junkies of America start looking for a fix elsewhere, realizing that after the Super Bowl, there will be no actual NFL games to speak of until the Hall of Fame Game kicks off the preseason in August. Yet, as anyone with a pulse knows by now, there’s far from a total void of sporting action until August. Heck, there really isn’t one in the next two weeks!
So, here at TSFJ, we want to help the people. It’s what we do. We’ve provided a list of games and events that can whet your appetite this week, with a second goodie bag to be dropped here next Monday. (Hey, it’s a lot to compile all in one shot.) Many games have been left out here for various reasons, but in choosing the best each night, we have to consider both what’s at stake and what’s somewhat under the radar, even for us here at TSFJ. There’s also a matter of scheduling: the Australian Open overlaps every event for the remainder of the week, including quite a few intriguing men and women’s college hoops matchups that you can find from our friends at FuboTV. (Yes, we are quite shameless for you, good sports fans).
So if you don’t mind staying up past your bedtime or you have watched everything there is to watch on streaming services, this is a pretty good time to dive in.
Mon. 1/22: Miami Heat @ Houston Rockets, 8PM EST/5PM PST on NBA TV
You just saw the Rockets throw everything plus the kitchen sink at the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors over the weekend. The Rockets’ admitted obsession with the Warriors is one that could either give the city a chance to celebrate two major league champions simultaneously or completely cause them to self-destruct, yet it makes for a remarkable offensive display on any given night. Miami, winners of eight of their last 10, not only sits fourth in the Eastern Conference standings, but shockingly has the fourth-best road record in the NBA at 15-10. Raise your hand if you expected any of that this year.
Tues. 1/23: Columbus Blue Jackets @ Vegas Golden Knights; 10PM EST/7PM PST, NHL Center Ice/NHL.tv
Most will flip over to TNT to see LeBron James going for 30,000 career points when his Cavaliers travel to San Antonio. And there’s also a second NHL matchup of the league’s best between Tampa Bay and Nashville. But if you have the chance, check this one because it’s kind of insane how an expansion team has the best record in the entire league, which is what the Golden Knights have managed to accomplish just days from the NHL’s All-Star break. Traditionally a new franchise is supposed to stumble out of the gates, but they have more or less blended luck with absurd skill, especially with James Neal and Jonathan Marchessault lighting the lamp. Vegas hosts Ohio’s NHL outfit, with the Jackets serving as one of the league’s best defensive teams.
Wed. 1/24: Toronto Maple Leafs @ Chicago Blackhawks; 8PM EST/5PM EST, NBCSN
Okay, so Wednesday is sort of a light night when it comes to the top matchups in sports, though Minnesota/Portland could be a lot of fun for NBA League Pass addicts. This one is sort of the default offering for the night because of how sick most NHL fans are of the Blackhawks on NBC. Yet, if you also love watching them lose, the Leafs are your catharsis. Auston Matthews is still the truth, and though he hasn’t gone to the exact same heights as in his rookie season, an aging and uneven ‘Hawks team could provide ample chances for him and the young Leafs to dazzle.
Thur. 1/25: Australian Open, men and women singles semifinals; ESPN
This may be hard to believe for some since Serena Williams isn’t playing and Novak Djokovic just got knocked out in a straight-set upset. But if you watched an incredible Round of 32 battle between top ranked Simona Halep and Lauren Davis this past Thursday, you know that a Grand Slam tournament always has something remarkable to show you. Since the live action is shown quite late for North American audiences, and both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are still in it, consider staying up for some tennis after dark. (Insert naughty innuendo here.)
Fri. 1/26: Philadelphia 76ers @ San Antonio Spurs; 8:30 EST/5:30 PST, NBA League Pass
With the NHL breaking for its All-Star festivities, it’s truly a basketball night. With a nod to our euphoric Philly faithful and staffers, the Sixers’ annual trip to San Antonio should be a lot more interesting than years past. The Spurs remain the machine that never stops running, but it’ll be fun to see how their frontcourt tries to counter Joel Embiid and the overlooked Dario Saric. Here’s to hoping that Embiid, NBA Twitter’s beloved troll, even attempts to poke the bear that is Gregg Popovich.
Sat. 1/27: #2 Virginia @ #4 Duke; 2PM EST/11AM PST, CBS
Yes, ABC will show a potential NBA Finals preview on Saturday evening, with the Boston Celtics visiting the Warriors. But to show proper love to the college version of roundball, you’re blessed with one of those “styles make fights” kind of games that we always get from the ACC. Our resident men’s college hoops scribe Josh Naso will tell you plenty more about these rivals and plenty more this week. Yet, let’s keep this simple: two top-five teams, a defensive labyrinth from the Commonwealth versus the offense of the always-loaded Blue Devils.
Sun. 1/28: WWE Royal Rumble; WWE Network, Pay-per-view
Yes, there’s the Pro Bowl – stop lying, you’re probably going to watch it. Yes, there are the Grammys – stop lying, you’re probably going to tweet jokes about it.
But this is the Royal Rumble, y’all. And this year, the women will finally have an over-the-top rumble all to themselves. We’re always here for the out of nowhere participants for the men, but let’s hope there are a few for the ladies, too. Did we mention that the Rumble is in Philadelphia this year? Expect the normally rowdy crowd to be a wee bit more extra this time around thanks to the Eagles’ punching their Super Bowl tickets the week before.
And there’s of course, our annual pick ‘em on Twitter. (Stay tuned.)
Jason is the editor-in-chief here at TSFJ. In addition to a past life as a research analyst in advertising, television and online media, he spent seven seasons as the New York Beacon’s beat writer for the New York Giants. Jason has written for Yardbarker, Dime Magazine, Decider, Awful Announcing and The Week. He is also a member of his high school’s 4th period gym class floor hockey champions.
He shares more of his perspectives at jasonclinkscales.com.