Falcons grab NFC top seed, Lafayette and Boise win Bowl games, College Hoop Top 10s Fall, NBA News and Notes, MLB Hot Stove, Messi nets 91st + Free Play for Sunday, December 23, 2012

Falcons stop Lions to claim home field through the playoffs

The Atlanta Falcons took care of their business and beat Detroit 31-18 to improve to 13-2 and guarantee themselves home field throughout the NFC playoffs. Matt Ryan threw for 279 yards and four touchdowns for the Dirty Birds who will look to break a three-year schneid of first-round playoff exits. Matt Stafford was 37-56 for 443 yards but no scores and Detroit was ineffective in the red zone. Calvin Johnson broke several records with his big 11 catch 225 yard day, most importantly Jerry Rice’s all-time receiving yardage record. Johnson needs to 108 yards at home next week vs the Bears to break 2000. See below.

Megatron smashes Jerry Rice’s yardage record, is 2000 receiving yard next ???

Calvin Johnson and his father talk about breaking the all time single-season receiving record

Ragin’ Cajuns and Boise get Saturday Bowls wins

In Bowl action Saturday, both favorites won but only one covered as UL Lafayette beat East Carolina 43-34 and Boise State beat Washington 28-26 on a late field goal. The Cajuns defended their New Orleans Bowl title thanks to 591 yards of total offense but needed a final 39-yard field goal to get the money the way we keep score. East Carolina had the game covered the entire fourth quarter and had a chance to win late but was unsuccessful on fourth down deep in their own territory inside the final two minutes to give ULL the front door cover.

In Las Vegas, Boise State blew an early 18-3 lead but was able to hang on to beat Washington 28-26 on a Michael Frisina 27-yard field goal with 1:16 left in the game. The Huskies Bishop Sankey was the story in this one rushing for 205 yards on 30 carries for UWub. Joe Southwick was 26-38 for 264 and two scores for Boise State. Both games went over the total. Bowl action resumes on Monday with SMU taking on Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl. The Bulldogs are 12.5 point favorites over the Mustangs and the total is 59 1/2.

Syracuse, Florida, Ohio State, and Illinois all fall in college hoops

The final game before Christmas break is general a time to put top flight college basketball teams on upset alert as the kids usually have their minds on other things. That was the case on Saturday as four Top Tens went down in flames. Ohio State and Illinois were beaten by lower ranked quality opponents in Kansas and Missouri respectively. No.3 Syracuse was upset by Temple in a game that saw the orange shoot an abysmal 19-34 from the foul line. Florida traveled to a tough home floor and was beat 67-61 by a determined Kansas State team.

Highlights of Missouri’s 92-83 win over Illinois

Nash returns as Lakers edge Warriors in OT

Kobe Bryant had 34 points and 10 rebounds and Steve Nash returned for the first time in six weeks to kick in 12 points and add nine assists as the Lakers beat Golden State 118-115 in overtime. The Lake Show rallied from 14 down in the fourth quarter and then took over in the extra five minutes. Both benches played key rolls in this one as Metta World Peace, Jody Meeks and Jordan Hill came off the pine to combine for 46 points for the winners. Jarret Jack led the Warriors off the bench with a 29-3-11 stat line. David Lee had yet another 20/10 game for Golden State.

Cody Ross signs a three-year deal with the DBacks

The Arizona Diamondbacks and veteran utility outfielder Cody Ross have agreed to a three-year deal with an option for 2016. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Ross, 31, batted .267/.326/.481 with 22 homers and 34 doubles for the Red Sox in 2012. He is a career .262/.324/.460 hitter in parts of nine major league seasons. He’s also capable of playing all three outfield positions but best suited to a corner.

Messi closes out 2012 with 91st goal

Gerd Meuller’s 40-year record of 84 goals in a calendar was Europe’s DiMaggio 56-game hitting streak ….. it was the record that would never be broken. This year, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi not only broke it but shattered it and Saturday Messi closed out 2012 with his 92st and final goal of 2012 in a 3-1 win over Valladolid. Messi’s exploits have been well chronicled here at SP3 where we will continue to track top flight soccer and the Argentine striker’s amazing career.

Free Play

(NFL) Chargers/Jets under 37.5 (Sunday, December 23, 1:00 PM EST)

Free Pick record in December: 9-12