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Falcons pick Saints, Louisville edges Rutgers, NIU/Kent + UCLA/Stanford tonight, Stern steamed, Notre Dame spanks Kentucky, Wright gets richest Mets deal, Mediation no help in NHL talks + Free Play for Friday, November 30, 2012

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Brees picked five times in 23-13 Falcon win, consecutive game TD streak stopped

Thursday night in the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons improved to a NFL best 11-1 and avenged their lone defeat of the season with a 23-13 win over the New Orleans Saints. The Dirty Bird defense was the story, intercepting Drew Brees five times and ending his consecutive game streak with a touchdown pass at 54. New Orleans had nine more first downs and outgained the Falcons 436-283 but were unable to overcome the five turnovers. The Saints were in a veritable must win situation to keep their slim playoff hopes alive as historically just 3% of team that go 5-7 through their first 12 games make the playoffs.

Louisville nips Rutgers, Cards likely to get BCS Bowl bid

The Louisville Cardinals got two second half touchdown passes from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in a come-from-behind 20-17 win over Rutgers. The Cards trailed 14-3 at the half but took advantage of a couple of late Scarlett Knight turnovers to get the victory. John Wallace kicked the 29-yard game winner with 1:41 left after Louisville intercepted a deflected Gary Nova pass. Nova threw for 283 yards and two long first-half scores for the Scarlet Knights.

MAC and Pac 12 Championship games go tonight

In the MAC championship game at Ford Field in Detroit, 11-1 Northern Illinois opened as a 5-point favorite over 11-1 Kent but has been bet up to -7.5 at this writing. The total has not moved from its opening number of 58. Northern Illinois has won 11 straight since a 16-14 loss in Chicago to Iowa in their opener. Kent has won 10 straight since a 47-14 Week Two loss at Kentucky. Northern Illinois lost this game two years ago but came back to win last year. Kent will go to a Bowl for the first time in 40 years and just the second time ever regardless of the outcome. Northern Illinois has won the last five games in the series by an average of 20 ppg. including 40-10 last in DeKalb.

In the Pac 12 championship game, Stanford is a -8.5 point home favorite over UCLA with the total currently at 45. Stanford (-2) waxed the Bruins 35-17 in Los Angeles last Saturday but don’t know how much credence to put in that result as the Bruins would have have had to face Oregon had they won. UCLA committed 12 penalties for 135 yards in the game. Stanford is 6-0 at home but just 1-4 as a home favorite. Rain and 20 MPH winds are expected all day in the Bay area.

Miami rallies to down shorthanded Spurs, Rondo suspended two games

In the first game of the Thursday night TNT double-header, Miami beat the San Antonio Spurs 105-100. The real story was San Antonio dressing just nine players. sending four starter home, and the response from NBA commissioner David Stern. The Spurs, at the end of a long road trip and playing their fourth game in five nights (Miami hadn’t played since Saturday), sent Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and sixth-man Danny Green home to rest for Saturday’s showdown with conference leading Memphis. Stern called the move unacceptable and promised severe sanctions against the Spurs. More to come on this story.

Irish roll young Wildcats in South Bend

Purcell Pavillion in South Bend is one of the toughest venues in college basketball. That proved to be exactly the case as the more experienced Notre Dame Fighting Irish drilled No.8 Kentucky’s wunderkind freshmen 64-50. Notre Dame jumped out to an 11-point lead at the half and were never threatened. Eric Atkins led the Irish with 16 points. Jack Cooley added 13 points and 11 rebounds. Julius Mays was one of only two Cats to hit double-figures. For the game, UK managed just 40% from the field.

The two other ranked college basketball teams that saw action on Thursday fared much better as No.7 Florida hammered Marquette 82-49 and No.12 Gonzaga drilled Lewis & Clark 104-57. Friday’s short college basketball card feature Tennessee traveling to Georgetown and the Syracuse Orangemen making a rare November out of state trip to Arkansas.

Mets give David Wright 7-year deal worth $122 million

The NY Mets have locked up third-baseman David Wright through 2020 with a seven-year $122 million dollar extension. Added to the one year he has left on his old deal for $16 million, Wright’s $138 million is the richest contract in NY Met history exceeding Johan Santana’s six-year $137.5 million dollar deal by $500K.
Wright, 29, is coming off a season in which he batted .306/.391/.492 with 21 homers and 41 doubles, and he also looked much better in the field than he had in recent seasons. For his career, Wright is hitting .301/.381/.506 with 204 home runs, 322 two-baggers and 166 steals.

Mediators no help in NHL CBA talks

After two days of negotiations with federal mediators, the NHL and the Players Association made no progressing in negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.

From the league …..

“After spending several hours with both sides over two days, the presiding mediators concluded the parties remained far apart, and that no progress toward a resolution could be made through further mediation at this point in time. We are disappointed that the mediation process was not successful,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.

From the NHLPA …..

“This afternoon, the mediators informed the parties that they did not think it was productive to continue the discussions further today,” Fehr said in a statement. “The mediators indicated that they would stay in contact with the league and the NHLPA, and would call the parties back together when they thought the time was right.”

The bottom line …..

As the lockout enters its 76th day today, both sides remain far apart and the chances of an NHL season this year get bleaker by the minute.

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