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Games to Watch
December 30, 2001-January 6, 2002

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January 7-13, 2002
December 30, 2001-January 6, 2002

By JARED BYRD

Hi, I'm Jared Byrd, and this is the first installment of a weekly column called "Games to Watch," profiling the best matchups in professional sports. Think of this as the direct opposite of Roy Bellamy's column "Games of the Weak," which profiles the worst matchups in professional sports. In fact, the original title for this column was "Games of the Week," but was quickly changed to avoid confusion.

Anyway, I have looked at the schedules of the NBA, the NFL and the NHL in order to find the top games for your viewing pleasure. Here they are:


NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE

Philadelphia @ Tampa Bay > Advantage - Buccaneers
Even though the Eagles have only lost once on the road this season (Dec. 23 to San Francisco), they really don’t have much to play for in this game since they clinched the NFC East, and secured a first-round home playoff game. Don’t be surprised if Eagles head coach Andy Reid rests several of his regulars, especially if the score becomes lopsided. The Bucs are 5-2 at home, including a victory against Baltimore last week.

Oakland @ New York Jets > Advantage - Push
The Raiders are the AFC West winners; for the Jets this is a must-win game. However, both teams are in a free fall currently; Oakland has lost their last two games, while the Jets are coming off an embarrassing loss to Buffalo. Can “Vinny the Magician” work any more magic?

Honorable Mention: Green Bay @ New York Giants, San Francisco @ New Orleans


NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION

New Jersey @ Washington, Dec. 31 > Advantage - Wizards
Michael Jordan, less than a week after scoring a season-high 51 points, and the red-hot Wizards take on the top team in the Eastern Conference. Home-court advantage gives the slight edge to Washington.


Phoenix @ Los Angeles Lakers, Jan. 4 > Advantage - Lakers
The Lakers, with the best record in the NBA (at the time of this article), should win this game easily, whether or not Shaquille O’ Neal is available. They could probably beat the Suns in Phoenix as well.

Milwaukee @ Sacramento, Jan. 6 > Advantage - Kings
Sure, Milwaukee has a great overall record ... but they’re only 8-7 on the road, whereas the Kings are 17-1 (not a misprint) at home.

Honorable Mention: Milwaukee @ Minnesota - Jan. 2, Sacramento @ Phoenix - Jan. 5, Los Angeles Lakers @ Toronto - Jan. 6


NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE

New York Rangers @ Edmonton, Jan. 2 > Advantage - Rangers
Both teams lead their respective divisions, but the line of Lindros/York/Fleury, when healthy, is unstoppable.

Colorado @ Detroit, Jan. 5 > Advantage - Red Wings
Detroit has the best record in the entire league, as well as home-ice advantage. Arguably the best rivalry in the NHL over the last six or seven years.

Dallas @ St. Louis, Jan. 5 > Advantage - Push
The Blues have allowed the second-fewest goals in the Western Conference. The Stars have scored the third-most goals in the West. The Blues have double-digit victories at home; the Stars have double-digit victories on the road. This should be a good matchup.

Honorable Mention: Philadelphia @ San Jose - Jan. 2, New York Rangers @ Colorado - Jan. 3, Toronto @ Boston - Jan. 3

Well, that's all for now. See you next week - same time, same website!

E-mail Jared Byrd at jbyrd002@yahoo.com.

This article was written December 31, 2001.

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