El Estoque

What to expect from professional sports on Christmas Day

Aditya Pimplaskar

Christmas is a day to celebrate with family, to open presents and, of course, to watch some sports. The NBA and NFL both schedule big games every Christmas, and this year is no exception. Read below to see our predictions for this year’s Christmas Day matchups in professional sports.

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-11-37-52-amWEEK 16

Ravens Picture

With the Broncos losing and Ryan Tannehill out for the season, the Ravens and Steelers could both make the playoffs, even though one will lose the Christmas matchup. Photo by Keith Allison, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The NFL always gets scheduling right. While this matchup would have been even better in week 17, we’ll take this early playoff game on Christmas night. The loser will likely be eliminated from the playoffs with the AFC west primed to have at least two playoff teams. The matchup should be interesting due to the historic rivalry between the two teams, but the top five rankings of both the Steelers’ offense and the Ravens’ defense makes this a stalemate. The last time these teams faced off, the Ravens came out on top 21-14, as the defense held the Steelers to seven points through almost an entire game. Now, in Pittsburgh’s Heinz field with Big Ben Roethlisberger healthier and Le’veon Bell running like he did two years ago, the Steelers should put up more than 20 even on the Ravens smothering defense. Will the Ravens offense be able to keep up with the Steelers’? Against the Steelers’ defense, it’s possible. Keep in mind, the Ravens just put up 38 on the Dolphins who were rolling with a top defense and running game at 7-4. They should be able to stop the Steelers as well. Our prediction, 23-21 Ravens.

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs

How often does a kick from about 30 yards hit the upright and miss? Well, nowadays, kicks from even that close are no guarantee. How often does a kick that hits the upright bounce right back in? That’s how this matchup ended in week 12: in overtime, with the Chiefs prevailing 30-27.

This week 16 Christmas day game will have a hard time matching up to what happened in week 12, but the divisional matchup is still very tight due to the outstanding defense of both teams. Both offenses have struggled recently, so the game should be a low scoring one. But in the end it comes down to which quarterback can avoid mistakes and play the role of a game manager. Siemian showed flashes in the last matchup between these teams, but we trust Alex Smith much more in a managing role especially at home, given Kansas City’s strong home record. Our prediction, 26-17 Chiefs.

Christmas Eve game to look out for: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

Christmas Day Sporting Events Photo

The Vikings or Packers could make the playoffs as a wild card or as a division winner. But, only the winner of their week 16 matchup will make it. Photo by Keith Allison, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Despite the Lions holding a solid two game lead over Green Bay and Minnesota in the NFC North, the schedule shapes up for lots of drama in the division. Detroit plays the Chicago Bears and then has three tough games against Dallas, New York and Green Bay. That makes this game extremely pivotal in the division chase. If Minnesota wins, the rest of their schedule puts them at a very likely 10-6. If Green Bay wins, they will all but eliminate Minnesota and gain momentum heading into their week 17 clash with the Lions. If anything, this game is a battle for the division and with the Redskins skidding in the wild card chase, a sixth seed could also be a possibility for the victor. We think the Vikings take this one, 27-20.

Boston Celtics at New York Knicks

The Knicks looked like they were going to be a serious threat after the moves that they made this offseason. With the addition of Derrick Rose to last year’s Carmelo Anthony-Kristaps Porzingis duo, they looked like a postseason-ready team. But they haven’t really shown that much promise so far into the season. The Knicks are third in the Atlantic division, conveniently placed under their opponents, the Celtics. The last time these teams faced off this season, the Celtics blew the Knicks out, routing them by a score of 115-87. There’s no reason to believe that will not happen again. With Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford as Boston’s weapons, it seems as though Boston will take this one.

Chicago Bulls at San Antonio Spurs

The last time these two teams faced off in Chicago on Dec. 8, the Bulls snapped the Spurs’ road game win streak with a 95-91 win and handed San Antonio their fifth loss of the season. Nevertheless, we predict this game will be a close one. Will the Spurs, led by Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, be able to take down the Bulls, led by Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, to get revenge for their broken streak? We think the Spurs will take care of business.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Clippers photo

The Clippers have fallen off after an impressive first 15 games of the season and the Lakers have surpassed expectations. This matchup will be much closer than what it would have been a year ago. Photo by Keith Allison, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

There is no clear homecourt advantage here, in that both teams are the home team. You could call it the battle to prove who the better Staples Center team is. The Clippers are coming off of a hot start this season with Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan playing incredible basketball. Yet the Lakers’ charismatic young squad, led by Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell, has a few tricks up their sleeve, having taken down the defending Western conference champion Warriors handedly. This will be a close one, but the Clippers will likely edge out the inexperienced Lakers.

Minnesota Timberwolves at Oklahoma City Thunder

Russell Westbrook has been a monster for the Thunder this season, racking up triple-double on triple-double. To be fair, almost all of the Thunder’s success can be attributed to Westbrook. Despite the loss of Kevin Durant to free agency, Oklahoma City’s season is going well. The Timberwolves, on the other hand, struggled early on in the season, barely generating enough offense to get by. Despite the promise shown by sophomore Karl-Anthony Towns, they haven’t been successful against the West’s powerful teams. The Thunder should win this one fairly easily.

Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers

Warriors photo

In this finals preview, expect a highly contested matchup but it will not come close to last years Finals game 7. The best in the east vs. the best in the west. Photo by Keith Allison, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The long anticipated rematch of the last two NBA Finals will keep all basketball fans, irrespective of their favorite team, glued to the TV screen. For the last two seasons, these teams have asserted their dominance over their respective divisions, and have proven to create quite the spectacle when they duke it out. Last year, the defending champion Warriors defeated the Cavs on Christmas day by a score of 89-83 en route to their historic season. This time around, the Cavs come to the Christmas table as the defending champs, going up against a new Golden State team that they will be facing for the first time this season–the first time since KD’s decision to play alongside Steph and Klay. Will the Cavs’ big three (James, Love and Irving) be able to match up to the Warriors’ big three (Curry, Durant, Thompson) and their momentum? Only time will tell. But, for now, the Dubs are on an absolute tear and the Cavs won’t be able to stop them. Our prediction: Warriors.

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