March 20, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring Canes/NCAAs, Fernandez saga, Heat down to 8, viva Team USA!, tennis, Cats, cricket; plus Cote says thanks, Chuck Berry, your Jose verdict, Hot Button Daily & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Chuckberry1) It is MONDAY, March 20. R.I.P., Chuck Berry (pictured in his latter years), the influential rock 'n roll guitar icon, gone over the weekend at age 90. Rest in Peace, Johnny B. Goode. 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): We name our March Madness Haiku Challenge champion, Love & Regret/Jose Fernandez saga with poll, UM men fall in NCAAs & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

'Cote's Coterie' lifts us to final four!: A late surge of support Sunday carried us past Mike Ryan and into the final four of Slice Miami's annual sports media poll. I'm now up against Amber Wilson in the semifinals. Uh oh. Click on Slice Miami Final Four to vote.

My bracket update: Still solid: As the NCAA Tournament pauses and exhales I stand tied for ninth place among some 90 entries in a LeBatard & Friends pool. I have 12 teams still alive in the Sweet 16. Is that pretty good? Or average? Took a hit though with Duke falling. I'd had the Devils reaching the (but not winning) the championship game. By the way, to this point, favorites (based on seeding) are 38-10, a 79.2 percent win rate. Once again, the Cinderella aspect of March Madness appears largely oversold.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. HURRICANES / NCAA TOURNAMENT: Miami makes quick exit from March Madness: An unexpectedly good season ended so badly for Canes men in a very disappointing 78-58 opening loss to Michigan State Friday night in Tulsa. How is your bracket looking as we arrived Sunday at the Sweet 16? Mine is a sieve leaking a torrent of my own tears. (It isn't, really. But it's funnier to say that...)

2. JOSE FERNANDEZ: State says Jose at wheel, caused crash: The story that couldn't possibly get any worse keeps getting worse. The latest: A report confirming Fernandez was at the wheel and to blame for fatal boat crash. Isn't a tragedy worst when you know it should never have happened? (Click on A Complicated Legacy for my column on latest development in saga).

3. HEAT: Can we please start a “We're No. 8!” chant?: Heat fell from 7th to 8th seed with Sunday's home loss to portland -- only the team's sixth loss in past 29 games. Meantime Dwyane Wade is out for the rest of season in Chicago, another reminder Heat seems more and more right to have let Wade go.

4. WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC: Stanton homers as Team USA wins, makes final four: Americans beat Dominican Republic late Saturday in San Diego, 6-3, led by Marlin Giancarlo Stanton's go-ahead home run. Winner-take-all game eliminated D.R. and lifted U.S. to WBC championship round at Dodger Stadium and a semifinal vs. Japan. Team USA has never won this event. "Can you believe it?" said a clearly annoyed Abner Doubleday. Let's gooooo States!

5. TENNIS: Miami Open begins on Key Biscayne: Andy Murray and especially Serena Williams are among major withdrawals with injuries for the two-week event starting Monday. I feel like Serena is so good she could at least reach the semifinals playing on crutches. Meantime, IMG, which owns the event, assures it will remain on Key Biscayne long-term. That means the Miami Open has won the Miami Open.

6. UM WOMEN: Canes win NCAA opener, carry banner for UM hoops: Miami survived upset-minded Florida Gulf Coast, 62-60, at home Saturday in its NCAA Tournament opener and will now face Quinnipiac Monday night 9, home again. What the Hurricanes men failed to do, the women did: Avoid a one-and-done.

7. PANTHERS: Don't write Cats off yet. Almost. But not yet: Florida is six points off NHL playoff pace with only 11 games left after getting spanked 4-0 Sunday in Pittsburgh. Somewhere between simply needing a lot of luck and needing a miracle rest the Panthers' chances.   

8. BOXING: Mayweather-McGregor penciled in for September: The hype has begun with Conor McGregor saying he's going to "shock the world" and win by boxing against heavily favored Floyd Mayweather in their mixed boxing/UFC bout rumored for September. Am I alone in wishing there were a way they both could lose?

9. NFL FREE AGENCY: Report: Teams awary of Kaepernick because of Trump: An AFC GM said teams are hesitant to sign available QB Colin Kaepernick for fear of a an onslaught of negative Tweets from Donald Trump. And in other free agency news, the Dolphins have done pretty good so far but not quite as good as the Patriots. Or did that go without saying?  

10. CRICKET: India beats Australia, I think: Actual lead of news story I read Sunday morning: "RANCHI, India (AP) -- A 199-run seventh-wicket partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha gave India a 152-run lead after they declared their first innings at 603-9 against Australia on Sunday." Anyone who has any idea what any of that means, would you please keep it to yourself?

Missing the HB10 cut: Congrats to our blog's March Madness Haiku Challenge champion, Ken Whiteley of Chattanooga, Tennessee ..... Canes baseball fell to 8-13 Saturday. Sorry to place you below cricket, Jim Morris, but until you start winning, no Top 10 for you! ..... NASCAR runs today in Phoenix. It will be loud. I won't watch. 

Poll result: Shaky support for Marlins honoring Fernandez with uniform patch: We asked if, in light of this week's report putting Jose Fernandez behind the wheel of the fatal boat crash that killed him and two others, it still is appropriate that the Marlins this season to wear a uniform patch honoring Jose. The results: 39.2 percent "Yes. Because of all he meant to Miami and to the Marlins." "No. Not when he caused the tragedy that took two other lives"; and 28.0% "Not sure. I can see both sides." That's a plurality who still favor the patch, but roughly another 60% who are against it or have misgivings. 

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 3-20-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:

1. Quinnipiac at Hurricanes, 9:10 p.m.: UM women host 2nd-round game for spot in Sweep 16.

2. Netherlands vs. Puerto Rico, 9 p.m.: First World Baseball Classic semifinal game from L.A.

3. Miami Open tennis, 10 p.m.: Main draw starts Tuesday, but qualifying matches happening today.

4. Marlins vs. Braves, 1:05 p.m.: Spring game in Lake Buena Vista.

Select recent columns: A Complicated Legacy, the latest, on developments in the Jose Fernandez saga. A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness, on the NCAA Tournament. D.R. and Miami Win the Night, from the World Baseball Classic. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing WBC at Marlins Park. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: The Wonder of Coach L.  The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

March 06, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring Canes hoops, WBC, non-LeBron, fading Cats, Gunnevera; plus our ghost tour of Miami's sports past, your NFL Combine verdict & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, March 6. Good day, folks! 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Saturday in SoFla sports, NFL Scouting Combine with poll & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

My Sunday column: A ghost tour of Miami's sports graveyard: IA conversation with an eye-witness to Joe Namath's famous Super Bowl guarantee in Miami got me reminiscing about our sports past and all of the teams that have come and gone. Click on A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past to read.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. HURRICANES: UM men close season, prepare for ACC Tournament: No. 25 Canes men ended regular season Saturday with a loss at No. 15 Florida State. Now the real season season starts, with Canes' ACC Tournament opener (after a first-round bye) on Wednesday at noon vs. Syracuse in Brooklyn. Then it's Selection Sunday for NCAA Tournament in six days … and then … Madness!

2. WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC: Games at Marlins Park on deck: We're already bored with spring training. The solution? Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and three other Fish will take a break to play in the WBC, with Marlins Park hosting U.S., Dominican Republic, Colombia and Canada for six games starting this Thursday.

3. HEAT: LeBron sits as Cavaliers get pounded: Is LeBron James returning with Cavaliers to play in Miami still a big deal? Not when he doesn't bleepin' play it isn't. Miami crushed Cavs 120-92 last night as both LeBron and Kyrie Irving sat out, leaving hot Heat still 1 1/2 games back in playoff chase. Teams meet again tonight in Cleveland. (Psst, I think LeBron will play).

4. PANTHERS: Cats deal at deadline, try to regain spark: Florida acquired scoring punch in Thomas Vanek at NHL trade deadline. They need it. They need something. Panthers have now lost five of past six after Saturday's home loss to Dallas, and are now two points off playoff pace. It's there for you, Cats. But you gotta go get it.

5. HORSE RACING: Gunnevera win Fountain of Youth: Gunnevera took Saturday's annual Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park in a major Kentucky Derby prep race. Now we see if the horse can live up the expectations for Churchill Downs that have been newly minted.

6. UM WOMEN: Team Katie falls to Duke in ACC semifinals: Nice little ACC tourney run ended in Conway S.C. yesterday as Canes women fell to Duke, 57-52, one win short of reaching today's championship game. Next stop: NCAA Tournament.

7. NFL: Dolphins scout, Canes audition as Combine nears end: NFL's weeklong pre-draft Scouting Combine in Indianapolis ends Monday, with Dolphins figuring what to do with 22nd overall pick while nine Hurricanes have been auditioning. Think of the annual meat market as a beauty pageant for men.

8. GOLF: Doral too quit as an era ends: It should have been championship Sunday on Doral's Blue Monster as the PGA Tour played here for the 56th straight March. Instead, for the first time since 1961, no pros for us.

9. CANES BASEBALL: Ugh. UM's rough start continues It was rubber game of home series vs. Dartmouth Sunday and Canes got spanked 5-0. Now 4-6 after 10 games, this is not the rollicking start to the season that Jim Morris imagined or hoped for.

10. SOCCER: Major League Soccer season underway: The 22nd MLS season has begun. Maybe by the 23rd or 24th seasons roll around David Beckham will finally have realized that team in Miami. Dare we dream? Maybe by the 25th season...?

Missing the HB10 cut: Miami honored the late Herald giant Edwin Pope with a PopeFest celebration at The Clevelander at Marlins Park. It was hosted by Dan LeBatard and Greg Cote, yet was a huge success, anyway.

Poll result: Interest in NFL Scouting Combine is minimal: Teams love it as a major draft-preparation tool. Players love it for the chance to raise their stock. Fans don't love it. We asked what is your interest level in the NFL Scouting Combine, and it was 31.8 percent "non-existent," 30.1% "low," 27.3% "medium" and only 10.8% "high."

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 3-6-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Heat at Cleveland, 8:30 p.m.: Gee, maybe LeBron will even play this time.

2. N.Y. Mets at Marlins, 1:05 p.m.: Fish welcome division rival to spring game in Jupiter.

3. NFL Scouting Combine, 9 a.m.: Pre-draft meat market ends in Indy. Finally!

Select other recent columns: A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: Amar'e Joins the Shame Club, NFL's Arrested Development, The Wonder of Coach L, It's What's Great About Sports, The Miracle of Liberty City, Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball!Loria: The End Of An ErrorThank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

February 20, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated), starring ridiculous ASG, Heat plans, Marlins weirdness, sizzling' Cats, Hurricanes, Dolphins; plus is he whale enough? (my Whiteside column), your verdict on Marlins expectations & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Prezday1) It is MONDAY, February 20. It is the federal holiday Presidents Day, which of course can mean only one thing. That's right. "Not My Presidents Day" anti-Trump protests across America. 2) Our Miami Dolphins book on club's first half-century makes a great gift for any Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins open spring training with expectations poll, Kate Upton revealed, ode to the Monopoly thimble & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

On Heat, Whiteside: My new Sunday column: We're coming into Pat Riley Season: Trading deadline, then draft, then free agency. So, the question hovering over the Miami Heat at the all-star break: Is Hassan Whiteside "whale" enough for Riley? Good enough to be the centerpiece around which Riley can build another champion? Click on Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs? to read in full.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (FEBRUARY 19): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. NBA: Ridiculous All-Star Games breaks scoring records: The West beat the East 192-182 in NBA's 66th All-Star Game on Sunday night (sans any Heat participants, alas) in New Orleans. That was a record for total points, as was MVP Anthony Davis' ASG-record 52 points. But league's biggest news Sunday was Pelicans acquiring DeMarcus Cousins to pair with Davis in frontcourt. Look out, Warriors?

2. HEAT: And what does Miami have in store post-break?: Heat resume play this coming Friday only two games off playoff pace after winning 14 of last 16 games before the All-Star break. But first, up next: What you got planned for that Feb. 23 (Thursday) trade deadline, Mr. Riley? Anything? Or will you stand Pat?

3. MARLINS: Full spring work underway as sale talk turns weird: Full-squad spring training got underway Friday up in Jupiter as talks to sell the club took a weird turn. I mean, what were the odds that Jeffrey Loria maybe becoming U.S. Ambassador to France might somehow cause the frontrunning buyer to back out?

4. PANTHERS: Sizzling Cats hovering around playoff pace: Florida on Saturday won its fourth straight and seventh of past eight to get on playoff pace but is one point off entering tonight's game in St. Louis. Meanwhile Jaromir Jagr scored his 1,900th career NHL point the day he turned 45. Who else gives middle age a good name like this dude?

5. HURRICANES: Big games in play for UM men, women as regular seasons ebb: Miami's 16th-ranked women's fell at No. 13 Duke on Sunday, now the Canes men play at No. 14 Virginia tonight as last few games of regular season help shape NCAA seeding for both. CBS featured Jim Larranaga Sunday in its "Men Of March" series.

6. UM BASEBALL: Diamond Canes fail to nail down sweep in season-opening series: Jim Morris' guys got clobbered on Sunday but still took two of three from Rutgers in their season-opening home series at the Light. Reaching Omaha the imperative as usual in Morris' next-to-last season.

7. DOLPHINS: Team extends Wake's contract: Cam Wake is 35, but last season proved he ain't done yet, and the Dolphins rewarded him on Saturday with a two-year, $19 million contract extension. Everybody's happy except opposing quarterbacks.

8. NASCAR: Elliott, Dale Jr. on Daytona front row: NASCAR season -- funneling to the title run in Homestead in November -- begins this coming Sunday with the Daytona 500, and qualifying runs yesterday found Chase Elliott winning the pole position and Dale Earnhardt Jr. joining him on the front row.

9. TENNIS: Delray Beach Open tennis gets going: Running through next Sunday, it's a second-tier pro event on the men's ATP tour. Low on starpower, but if watching Jack Sock play is your thing, then go for it.

10. BOATING: Miami International Boat Show ends today: Four-day event's 76th edition has drawn thousands to Miami Marine Stadium. But you know that it's like they say: You are never happier than the day you buy a boat … other than the day you finally unload that money-eating monster you hardly used.

Missing the HB10 cut: Unlike his predecessors, President Donald Trump declined to fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket. Like championship teams eager to visit the White House, it seems like another presidential tradition is dying ..... Nine ex-Hurricanes led by Brad Kaaya have been invited to the March 2-5 pre-draft NFL Scouting Combine. Let the meat market begin! ..... UConn women's team won its 100th straight game (streak is now 101), and it's sort of embarrassing. C'mon, women's basketball. A little parity, please? ..... Urgent reminder: the Sailing World Cup is now less than 100 days away ..... Major League Soccer season is almost upon us as David Beckham marks what feels like the 20th anniversary of his protracted, stalling efforts to see a team in Miami.

Poll result: Mild optimism for Marlins to contend, but not to make playoffs: We asked what you realistically expect of the Miami Marlins this season, and a plurality of 37.6 percent voted "mediocre team never really in the hunt. But another 36.1% voted "contending team that just misses playoffs," while 17.3% voted "the playoffs, finally!" The other 9.0% voted for "post-Jose, a bad season." Overall, that's 53.4% who see a contending team vs. 46.6% who do not.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 2-20-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Panthers at St. Louis, 8 p.m.: Hot Cats, now one point off playoff pace, seek fifth straight win.

2. Hurricanes at Virginia, 7 p.m.: UM men face ranked foes in three of last four games including No. 14 Cavaliers.

3. Delray Beach Open, 11 a.m.: Second-tier men's ATP event continues.

4. Boat show, 10 a.m.: Miami International Boat Show wraps up at Miami Marine Stadium.

Select recent columns: Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?, my new one, surveying Heat at the all-star break. French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball!, from the start of Marlins spring training. Also: Loria: The End Of An Error, on team's reported possible sale. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at the wheel of recent long win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

February 13, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Heat back at it, Loria's decision, Cats in hunt and UM hoops lead way; plus The Luddite's Heat MVP Standings (55 games), "Spobama," disrespect for Whiteside in your Heat MVP verdict & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Spobama1) It is MONDAY, February 13. Spobama, pictured right, a photo mashup of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and ex-prez Barack Obama. Saw this on Twitter @brassjazz, loved it and thought you might too. 2)Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century (pictured) makes the perfect gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to learn me or to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Rollicking Heat with polls, your greatest-2016-champion verdict & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Thank you, Jeffrey Loria: Looks like immensely unpopular Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has finally figured out how to do something that will be unanimously cheered and make Marlins fans overjoyed. Sell the team. Reports are, he plans to do just that, and soon. Click on Loria: The End Of An Error for my latest column.

Heat win streak ends at 13 games in loss at Philly: Click on Spoelstra Leads the Parade for my Heat column on season's second-half surge.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Hot Miami sees 13-game win streak end; back at it tonight: Scorchin' Heat had won 13 consecutive games before Saturday night's 117-109 loss in Philadelphia, and now returns home Monday night vs. Orlando. A Heat team once 11-30 is now only two games off playoff pace. But will Miami now lapse back into losing? Let's find out starting tonight.

2. MARLINS: Fish set for spring training as sale rumors fly: Team's weekend Fan Fest concluded Sunday, now players begin to report Tuesday for spring training in Jupiter. Meanwhile owner Jeffrey Loria reportedly has a "handshake agreement" to sell team. That sound you hear? Marlins fans cheering.

3. PANTHERS: Cats need solid road trip to stay in hunt: Florida won in Nashville 7-4 Saturday night to begin a five-game roadie and make it four wins in past five games. Team is only three points off playoff pace despite being in league's bottom five in goals scored. Saturday was a good sign, though. Remember Cats: Support Your Local Goaltender.

4. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men fall at No. 4 Louisville: Hurricanes might have cracked Top 25 with big upset at Louisville Saturday but fell short, losing 71-66 after leading at halftime. A spectator entered the UM huddle in first half before being apprehended by security. I apologized. An NCAA Tournament bid is still very much still in play for Team Larranaga. Meanwhile No. 16 UM women routed visiting Clemson 81-57 on Sunday.

5. BEACH VOLLEYBALL: Brazilians dominate Fort Lauderdale tour stop: The Fort Lauderdale Major, an FIVB World Tour pro event, wrapped up Sunday with Brazil winning the women's gold medal match, after Brazil's men also had won. Which answers the question, "What? You mean beach volleyball is played more than once every four years at the Olympics?"

6. DOLPHINS: Annual charity bike ride draws thousands: Saturday's seventh annual Dolphins Cancer Challenge drew the largest crowd of participants in its history as thousands of riders raised funds to fight cancer. If only the Dolphins consistently did as well on the field as they do in the community.  

7. GOLF: McCarron wins Allianz Championship in Boca: Don't call it the Senior Tour anymore, but the PGA Tour's older division completed its event in Boca Raton on Sunday with Scott McCarron carding a one-shot victory. Must be nice: Still getting paid to not be as good as you used to be.

8. UM BASEBALL: Canes  season open in five days: Jim Morris' guys held their First Pitch Banquet on Friday and Fan Fest on Saturday. Now the season opens in four days with a Friday-through-Sunday home series vs. Rutgers at The Light. As always three words define this program's standard: Omaha Or Bust.

9. KEVIN DURANT: K.D. big winner in first return to Oklahoma City: Durant's response to the booing that OKC fans had saved up for him? Thirty-four points in a 130-114 rout by Golden State on Saturday.

10. UCONN WOMEN: Team seeks 100th straight win on Monday: And you thought the Heat's 13-game streak was impressive? Geno Auriemma's top-ranked UConn win seek their 100th win in a row tonight vs. No. 6 South Carolina. Streak is great for UConn. But for women's college basketball? Hmm.

Missing the HB10 cut: German tennis players were aghast prior to women's Fed Cup opening ceremony in Hawaii when an outdated version of German national anthem was performed -- one harking to Nazi/Hitler era. Supposedly it was an accident, but I blame Steve Bannon ..... Charles Oakley was booted from a Knicks game at the Garden. If the Knicks were any more dysfunctional, they'd be the Browns ..... Under Armour's president called Donald Trump an "asset" to the U.S. Under Armour spokesman Stephen Curry said that was accurate if you dropped the letters "et" from the end ..... Patriots Super Bowl parade was Tuesday. As further proof it wasn't a dream, Tom Brady woke up Sunday morning wearing five Super Bowls rings being spooned by Giselle Bundchen. Damn him! ..... At least six Patriots won't attend the White House honor in protest of Trump. Get the feeling that sports tradition may slowly wither over next four years? ..... No. 17 Gators men beat visiting Texas A&M 71-62 Saturday but No. 14 Seminoles fell at Notre Dame 84-72. One out of two ain't bad. For the Gators ..... Golfer Jordan Spieth got into ugly verbal altercation with what he called adult "professional autograph seekers." Good for Spieth! Anybody over the age of 12 asking for an autograph is probably a memorabilia cretin ..... Germaine de Randamie decisioned Holly Holm atop last night's UFC 208 card in Brooklyn. Germaine de Randamie sounds like a bottle of riesling ..... R.I.P., Fab Melo, who died unexpectedly in Brazil at 26. Never did much in NBA, but had an epic name.

UPDATED: THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS (55 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and offer a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 24-31 after Saturday's end to the 13-game winning streak, here's The Luddite's 11th installment, with 50-game rank in parentheses. Dragic, by the way, has narrowed his deficit to Whiteside from 216 points to 129 in past five games. 

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (50 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,573

2. Goran Dragic (2)              1,439

3. James Johnson (4)          1,027

4. Tyler Johnson (3)            1,001

5. Dion Waiters (5)               740

6. Rodney McGruder (6)      566

7. Wayne Ellington (9)        518

8. Josh Richardson (7)        483

9. Willie Reed (8)                  482

10. Justise Winslow (10)      355

Others: Luke Babbitt 320, Derrick Williams 234, Josh McRoberts 232, Okaro White 99, Udonis Haslem 72.

Poll results: Dragic is MVP in landslide, and winning trumps lottery: We had two Heat polls, and you had two clear verdicts. We asked who has been team's Most Valuable Player so far this season, and it was Goran Dragic with a commanding 72.7 percent. Then it was Hassan Whiteside a distant second at 12.5% followed by Dion Waiters 7.2%, James Johnson also 7.2% and Tyler Johnson 0.3%. We asked if it's better for Heat to keep winning and make playoffs as likely low-seed expected to lose in first round or to get back to losing for increased lottery shot at top-three draft pick, and "winning" won easily with 83.6 percent.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 2-13-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Orlando at Heat, 7:30 p.m.: Its' 13-game win streak done, Miami tries to start another one tonight.

2. South Carolina at UConn, 9 p.m.: No. 1 UConn women go for 100th straight win, but SC is No. 6.

3. Texas at Florida State, 7 p.m.: FSU women are No. 5 and Texas is No. 11.

4. No, that'll about do it.

Select recent columns: Loria: The End Of An Error, my latest, on team's reported likely sale. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at the wheel of recent long win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

February 06, 2017

Pats' monstrous Super Bowl rally tops updated Hot Button Top 10, also starring surging Heat, Jason Taylor, Canes; plus, debate "greatest," but not "winningest." Belichick will never surpass Shula for most career victories & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, February 6. A Herald Sports Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Jason Taylor gets into Canton, predicting football Hall of Fame class, week's final Super Bowl With a Smirk & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

A Super Bowl to save a season: This has been a bad season for the NFL in general, but Falcons vs. Patriots in Super Bowl 51 is matchup capable of being spectacular and saving the season. Click on Patriots  and Falcons to the Rescue to read my Sunday column previewing the game.

Patriots 31, Falcons 23: Click on Super Bowl Gem for my full prediction capsule on today's Super Bowl. (I got the score pretty close, If I do say so).

'GREATEST COACH' DEBATE MAY BE LOSING CAUSE, BUT SHULA HAS TWO DISTINCTIONS THAT REMAIN HIS ALONE: "Bill Belichick closing in on Don Shula!" somehow became a Donbillmanufactured subplot to this Super Bowl from a Miami perspective. I get it. It's easy. But it's also a false narrative, for two reasons. 1) "Greatest coach ever," alas, is a train that may have already left the station for Shula. The Dolphins' icon was 2-4 in Super Bowls. Belichick just won his fifth. I don't know that there are a lot of NFL scholars and historians who would not already give the greatest-ever nod to New England's guy. But! 2) The two great distinctions that will always keep Shula's name in the greatest-ever argument -- most career victories and only Perfect Season -- seem safely his. I laugh at the suggestion Belichick is a real threat to Shula's career mark of 347 overall victories. He would have to win at his current pace and still be coaching at age 72 to have a shot, and maintaining that current pace will be tougher indeed when Tom Brady (finally) retires presumably after one or two more years. The likelihood of Belichick winning and coaching long enough to surpass 347 wins seems roughly as likely as the odds another team will equal Miami's 1972 Perfect Season. Could happen, but wouldn't bet on it. History might already see Belichick as "greater," but the distinctions of "winningest" and perfection are safely with Shula.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. SUPER BOWL: Monstrous rally grows Patriots dynasty: Awful game much of the way, but Patriots made a thriller of Super Bowl 51, rallying from 21-0 and 28-3 holes to win in overtime, 34-28. Massive choke by the Falcons? Maybe. But Tom Brady had a little to do with that, no?

2. HEAT: Surging Miami seeks 11th straight tonight: Heat crushed visiting Philadelphia 125-102 Saturday night behind Hassan Whiteside's 30 points and 20 rebounds to win a 10th straight and now begins a four-game road trip tonight at Minnesota. Might disappoint lottery-minded fans, but eighth seed and playoffs are no longer out of reach for the way-hot Heat.

3. HURRICANES: UM football claims signing-day bounty: Miami loaded up on National Signing Day with a 24-man bounty that ESPN ranked as the No. 12 recruiting class in the nation. "We nailed it!" said Mark Richt … then again, so did every other college coach in America on signing day.

4. HALL OF FAME: Dolphins' Taylor among new inductees: LaDainian Tomlinson was a lock. Nobody else was. But ex-Dolphins great Jason Taylor was among the seven who got in, along with Kurt Warner, Terrell Davis, Jerry Jones, Kenny Easley and Morten Andersen. Congrats, J.T. Now what about Zach Thomas.

5. PANTHERS: Barkov, Huberdeau back on the ice: Florida has reinforcements as it chases a playoff spot as young stars Sasha Barkov (out previous 15 games) and Jonathan Huberdeau (out all out season) returned from injuries Friday to spark Cat's third straight win. That's two fewer excuses for Cats to miss the playoffs.

6. UM BASKETBALL: Canes women outshining men: UM men were only 3-5 since Jan. 1 before winning Friday, but Canes women are 17-5 and ranked 16th entering Monday game at No. 6 Florida State. Coach Katie Meier got her 300th career win. Adding a few more in March would be nice.

7. SOCCER: U.S. men beat Jamaica in friendly: After a scoreless draw vs. Serbia in Bruce Arena's debut as coach, the U.S. men beat Jamaica 1-0 Saturday night in Chattanooga. Now, it's what's next on the team's calendar that matters and will judge Arena: World Cup qualifying.

8. GOLF: Comeback short-lived, Tiger out again: He's out a year and a half with various back ailments, he comes back, and he can't finish the tournament, withdrawing with back spasms. Hate to say, but it may be time for Tiger Woods to call it quits.

9. BARKLEY-LEBRON: Basketball beef gets personal: Broadcaster Charles Barkley called LeBron James "whiny." LeBron shot back with a litany of bad stuff Chuck has done in the past. C'mon, kids. Play nice!

10. BASEBALL: It's just about here, folks: Miami Marlins hold their annual stadium FanFest next Saturday and Sunday, the precursor to when players negin to report for spring training. Ready or not, almost time to play ball!

Missing the HB10 cut: The 2017 FIVB world beach volleyball tours opens with the Fort Lauderdale Major beginning Tuesday, a five-star men's and women's event featuring Kerry Walsh Jennings and a bunch of people I've never heard of ..... Falcons QB Matt Ryan won the NFL MVP Saturday night. Correctly had a feeling Tom Brady would be lifting the more coveted hardware Sunday ..... Five days until Kevin Durant makes his first return to Oklahoma City. Thunder fans already are practicing their booing in preparation ..... The Winter X Games have been going on. The question is, WHY!?

HOT BUTTON DAILY / 2-6-17: What events on the Monday, Feb. 6 sports calendar interest South Florida fans most:

1. Heat at Minnesota, 8 p.m.: Good shot at 11th straight win tonight at Timberwolves.

2. Hurricanes at Florida State, 7 p.m.: No. 16 UM women visit No. 6 Seminoles.

3. Um, pretty much nothing. Light post-Super Bowl Monday.

Select recent columns: Patriots  and Falcons to the Rescue, the latest, previewing today's Super Bowl. Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 31, 2017

Worldwide premiere: Super Bowl With a Smirk, today starring dodgeball, Trump, Adolphus Busch and chicken wings; plus The List (Canes on top) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is TUESDAY, JANUARY 31. A new Miami Herald Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE to visit. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century (and it includes a lot of vintage stuff from the late great Edwin Pope) makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl polls & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz, 8:55 a.m. to 1 p.m. locally on 790 The Ticket and 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio. You can also watch us on TV from 10-Noon on ESPNU and Noon-1 on ESPN2. 

Select recent columns: Greatness Times Four, my latest, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions held here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Also: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? When Playoffs Become the Norm Again. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile. An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

"Yeah, I know. The schedule has been favorable lately. But c'mon, it's still eight straight wins..." -- Greg Cote

IT'S BACK! 'SUPER BOWL WITH A SMIRK' DAILY NOTES COLUMN DEBUTS WITH DODGEBALL, TRUMP, VIBRATING BRADY, ADOLPHUS BUSCH AND CHICKEN WINGS: Super Bowl With a Smirk returns this year with a daily needling jab at the self-important NFL and the excess and gravitas of its big game. Flying under the banner, "Make Fun, Not War," Smirk is an annual week-long feature in the Miami Herald except years we forget to do it. The first of five Smirks:

SmirkHey, did you catch the Pro Bowl game Sunday night? Yeah, me neither. But I heard one of the skills challenges the day before involved Dodgeball. No, seriously, because evidently they couldn't think of an idea even dumber. On deck: Twister!

The Pro Bowl unofficially kicks off Super Bowl Week each year, although it actually launched Monday with two major events in host-city Houston:

1. Super Bowl Live opened, a 250,000 square-foot "fan village" that features a virtual-reality trip to Mars, an outdoor skating rink and the daily live arrest of an NFL player. (OK we made up that last one).

2. Super Bowl Opening Night, formerly Media Day, where fans sat in the stands at Minute Maid Park, home of the Astros, to watch reporters interview players down on the field. The only thing worse than a mass Q&A session at a Super Bowl? Paying to watch it.

DodgeballThe interview process will be its own game of NFL Dodgeball all week as the Patriots maneuver to dodge all inquiries related to Deflategate, the Pats' buddy relationship with President Donald Trump, Tom Brady's appetite for revenge against commissioner Roger Goodell, and cheating-tainted legacies.

Smirk is surprised this hasn't gotten more attention, but Trump -- close friends with Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Brady -– quietly signed an executive order on Monday ordering Matt Ryan to have a lousy game.

(*) NFC champion Atlanta arrived in Houston Sunday afternoon, while AFC champ New England arrived Monday. It was expected to be the last time all week the Falcons were ever ahead of the Patriots.

(*) The point spread might have swung wildly in Atlanta's favor, but airport officials rejected the Falcons' claim that Brady was Muslim and therefore should not be allowed to deplane.

Electricfb(*) The Patriots won by an average score of 28-25 in 50,000 computer simulations conducted by PredictionMachine.com. Smirk conducted his own simulation using an electric football game from the '60s but results were inconclusive as a wildly vibrating Brady kept falling over.

(*) To absolutely guarantee no more Deflategate-type skullduggery from the Patriots, Goodell has ordered that all of the balls used in this Super Bowl be bowling balls.

(*) "Goodell's executive orders are almost as fantastic as mine!," said Trump.

(*) Security is heightened throughout Houston this week as NFL officials crack down on counterfeit merchandise and media interviews with brain-injury experts.

(*) Enterprising columnists sniffing an offbeat angle were scrambling to locate ex-Falcon Eugene Robinson – the devout Christian arrested for soliciting a prostitute in Miami the night before Atlanta's only previous SB appearance -– only to learn, crestfallen, that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution just did that.

Busch(*) Budweiser's Super Bowl ad will tell the story of immigrant founder Adolphus Busch's 1857 journey from Germany to St. Louis, unless Trump signs an executive order banning the ad.

(*) CBS Sports played a "Madden '17" simulation of the Super Bowl and -– ah, who cares who won the video game!

(*) By the way, it's Super Bowl 51 to Smirk, not the Roman numeral "LI," because demographic studies indicate only 12 percent of current Miami Herald readers are ancient Romans from 900 AD.

(*) Finally, our Super Bowl Party Tip du Jour: When deciding how many chicken wings to order, the standard is 240 per person, according to the National Chicken Council.

Poll result: Landslide wants Falcons, but (narrow) majority thinks Pats: We asked who you want to win this Super Bowl and it was Falcons with 83.7 percent. We asked you think will win and it was Patriots with 51.8%.

THE LIST: CANES TOP COLLEGES WITH MOST ALL-TIME SUPER BOWL PARTICIPANTS: The top 10:

School                        SB players

1. Miami                        118

2. Southern Cal              116

3. UCLA                         110

4. Michigan                    106

5. Penn State                  104

6. Notre Dame                102

7. Tennessee                    97

8. Nebraska                     92

9. Colorado                     91

10. Georgia                     89

Note: Florida State is 14th with 82 and Florida is tied for 16th with 77. Alabama leads this Super Bowl with six total players. UM has only one alum playing: Falcons punter Matt Bosher.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 23, 2017

The latest Hot Button Top 10: Show us the way, Edwin Pope, Falcons-Patriots SB, Women's March, Juan Pablo Montoya & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, JANUARY 23. There is a new Miami Herald Facebook page, debuting today. Click HERE to visit. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century -- and it includes a lot of vintage Edwin Pope -- makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Remembering Edwin Pope, NFL Championship Game picks, Heat/Whiteside battered in all-star voting & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

It's a Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl!: Click on Championship Game Gems for yesterday's Packers-Falcons and Steelers-Patriots NFC and AFC title-game picks, and on A Dramatic Final Four for my preview column.

Montoya wins historic Miami Race Of Champions: Historic? The 28th annual ROC had never before been held in the U.S. before Saturday's race in Miami, on a racetrack built inside Marlins Park. And Miami driver Juan Pablo Montoya won. Crazy, one-of-a kind day. Click on Home Run For Montoya, Miami for my column from the race.

The Death of a Wordsmith, other select recent columns: Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great?, on NFL's final four from a Miami vantage. When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. EDWIN POPE: Herald sports icon dies at 88: If you are from South Florida, are aware life existed before ESPN SportsCenter or have ever held a newspaper in your hands, then you probably said or thought last week, “I grew up reading Edwin Pope.” Thank you, kind sir, friend, colleague and mentor. R.I.P. 

2. NFL: Championship Sunday gives us a Falcons-Pats Super Bowl: Atlanta walloped Green Bay and New England dispatched Pittsburgh on Sunday for the NFC and AFC titles to reach Super Bowl 51 Feb. 5 in Houston. The blowout games were decided by 23- and 19-point margins. The challenge? For the Super Bowl to be better. You know, an actual good game?

3. WOMEN'S MARCH: Women lead world's biggest protest march. Ever: Estimates are more than 4 million women worldwide including more than 500,000 in Washington, D.C. marched Saturday to protest Donald Trump and stand up for the freedoms and rights. Hmm. Impressive. But can't help but wonder: If that same passion and numbers had participated in the election, would there have been a need to march?

4. MOTORSPORTS: Montoya wins Race of Champions at Marlins Park: Most different, unique sporting event in Miami history? You could do worse than nominating NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One stars racing against each other inside a baseball stadium this weekend in the ROC series' first U.S. appearance. Miami won twice as hometown driver Juan Pablo Montoya won Saturday's main event.

5. HEAT: Three straight wins in a lost season as trade deadline looms: Good news? Miami has its first three-game win streak of season. Bad news? Everything else. Record is still only 14-30 and streak is unlikely to reach four as Heat host Golden State tonight. Be honest. The most compelling things left in this lost season are the two dates for the trade deadline and draft lottery.

6. MARLINS: Fish acquire quality starting pitcher: The latest aftershock of the Jose Fernandez tragedy: Miami dealt three prospects to Cincinnati for righty starter Dan Straily, who was 14-8 in 31 starts for Reds last year.

7. BASEBALL: Two ex-Marlins elected to Hall of Fame: Pudge Rodriguez, of course, had a starring role in helping Marlins win the 2003 World Series. But count yourself a real Fish fan if you also recall that, the year before, Tim Raines ended his 23-year career as a reserve here.

8. TENNIS: Both No. 1 seeds out as Australian Open enters final week: No. 1 seeds Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber both were ousted the same day, the first time in the modern era the Australian Open has lost both No. 1s before the quarterfinals. An even bigger shock: Why wasn't Serena Williams No. 1?

9. PANTHERS: Three straight losses, but Florida still in playoff hunt: As NHL all-star break looms, Cats have cooled off with three straight losses but lurk only two points off playoff in Eastern Conference. Still, when you were talking Stanley Cup and are scrambling for an eighth seed -- that's a disappointing season.

10. UM BASKETBALL: Tough stretch for Canes men, women: Miami's No. 14-ranked women have lost three of past six. The men have dropped four of past five  after Saturday's loss at Duke. Better snap out of it fast, Team Larranaga. No. 9 North Carolina visits in five days.

Missing the HB10 cut: San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich devoted seven minutes of a news conference Saturday to a pro-women's march, anti-Donald Trump soliloquy, pretty brave for a man who lives and works in Texas. It's enough to make me root for a Spurs championship just to see if he gets a White House invite, or goes ..... Former Marlins ace Josh Johnson retired at 32 from elbow issues, surprising analysts who thought he'd retired years ago ..... Prior to Bellator 170, Chael Sonnen talked trash. Tito Ortiz made his statement in the fight ..... A 25-year-old dunce from Boston was arrested for pulling a fire alarm in the Steelers hotel at 3 a.m. Put him in a room alone with James Harrison for 20 minutes ..... Saw the headline, 'Beagle scores in OT as Capitals beat Stars,' and thought, "Wow, what a great story!" But it turned out to be a guy named Jay Beagle ..... Sentences I Never Imagined Writing, one in a series: "Florida Panthers owner and Trump nominee for Secretary of the Army Vinnie Viola once was accused of punching a man in the face at a horse auction."

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 16, 2017

The latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated); plus NFL Divisional-Round playoff picks and the perfect Super Bowl (with poll; vote now!); also, your UM/Braun verdict, The List, Bitter Mickey (video) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, JANUARY 16. Congratulations to my son Christopher on his wedding to Christie! So happy for them. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it's-not-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings, Dolphins lose coordinator, UM/Braun poll, Heat-Golden State, Saban loses & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Select recent columns: When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, off Sunday's eliminating loss, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. NFL: Dolphins out, but hunt for Super Bowl continues: The Dolphins were quickly eliminated from the playoffs in the first round in Pittsburgh last week, but the NFL decided to go on with its postseason anyway and this weekend pared from eight surviving teams down to a final four. It'll be Packers at Falcons and Steelers at Patriots on Championship  Sunday, which is better than Super Bowl Sunday -- but without the parties.

2. HEAT: Homestand awaits for reeling, miserable Heat: Miami is 11-30 with 10 losses in its past 11 games, and now begins a four-game homestand on Tuesday. And now here is your official Heat midseason report in one word: Depressing!

3. PANTHERS: Finally, Cats showing signs of life at midseason: Florida has won three of its past four games and drawn to within one point of eighth place in the Eastern Conference -- playoff pace -- entering a four-game roadie. Stanley Cup dream still far off, but progress being seen.

4. TENNIS: Serena seeks history in Australian Open: The year's first tennis major, the Australian Open, begins on Sunday in Melbourne with Palm Beach's Serena Williams chasing her women's-record 23rd major title. It's becoming less a question than a statement: She's the G.O.A.T.

5. MOTORSPORTS: Marlins Park readies for Race Of Champions: Can you picture a major auto race inside a baseball stadium? Me, neither. But top drivers from NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula One and other circuits will compete against each other here next weekend. Vroom!

6. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Clemson, Saban haters still celebrating: Six days after Clemson's 35-31 defeat of Alabama in the College Football Playoff championship game, it's still a tie between who's happier: Tigers fans, or Nick Saban haters.

7. DOLPHINS: Fins lose defensive coordinator to Denver: Vance Joseph left for the Broncos' head-coaching job, replaced in Miami with the promotion of linebackers coach Matt Burke. Given Fins' 29th ranking in most yards allowed and 18th in most points given up, tell me again why Joseph leaving is bad?

8. MLB: Cooperstown announces latest HOF class Wednesday: As many as five may get in. Based on vote-tracking, Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell are locks and Pudge Rodriguez is likely. Maybes are Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman. The short-agains notably include Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. (But they're getting closer).

9. UM BASKETBALL: Big challenges for Canes men, women: Things getting interesting for Hurricanes hoops. UM men, 12-4, play at No. 7 Duke in five days. Canes' No. 14-ranked women are now 14-4 after 63-59 loss at No. 9 Louisville on Sunday. 

10. NBA: Pacers-Nuggets play in London: Nuggets beat the Pacers 140-112 Thursday night in London -- the fifth straight year the NAB has played a regular season game in the United Kingdom. So, the NFL's obsession with London apparently is catching, and the spread of the virus may be unstoppable. 

Missing the HB10 cut: The San Diego Chargers are leaving for Los Angeles. Seldom has the nickname "Bolts" been more fitting ..... Rams made Sean McVay, 30, the youngest head coach in NFL history. He's paid his dues. They were just a very small amount ..... Mavs owner Mark Cuban supports putting an NBA team in Mexico. Donald Trump vows to expedite his wall to prevent it ..... Ex-FIU coach Mario Cristobal, the Alabama O-line coach, has become co-offensive coordinator at Oregon. Who think that's a better job? Yeah, me neither.

Fripix DivisionalPLAYOFFS: DIVISIONAL-ROUND WEEKEND: OUR PICKS FOR NFL'S CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS: Update: It'll be Steelers at Patriots and Packers at Falcons in the AFC and NFC title games next Sunday ..... Original post: Four teams including the Dolphins have been bounced as pretenders. King Sport is down to its final eight playoff teams, and only four will survive this weekend. Our 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald saw us a robust 56.0 percent against the spread in the regular season, and 2-2 as the postseason began last week. Click on Divisional-Round Gems for our playoff picks for the weekend's conference semifinals. I see an outright upset in one of the four games. (I wish I could tell you it was the Patriots, Dolfans, but it ain't). We also offer our accompanying NFL notes column that today delves into possible Super Bowl matchups. Of all the combinations possible, two rise above the rest -- and one above them all. A Super Bowl to Save the Season to read.

Poll results: Divided views, but most (barely) OK with Braun at UM banquet: We asked what best reflects how you feel about PEDs-convicted Ryan Braun speaking at Hurricanes' First Pitch baseball banquet next month, and it was 42.5 percent "very good" and 36.6% "not good." Another 4.6% were undecided. The remaining 16.3% didn't care.

THE LIST: NFL'S FINAL EIGHT: The eight teams in this weekend's divisional-round playoffs, ranked in order of most all-time NFL championships won, along with all-time postseason records:

Team                                Titles (Last)    All-time postseason

Green Bay Packers                13 (2010)        .604 (32-21)     

Pittsburgh Steelers                 6 (2008)        .596 (34-23)

Dallas Cowboys                      5 (1995)        .567 (34-26)

New England Patriots             4 (2014)        .604 (29-19)

Kansas City Chiefs                  1 (1969)        .360 (9-16)

Seattle Seahawks                   1 (2013)        .517 (15-14)  

Atlanta Falcons                      0                  .368 (7-12)

Houston Texans                      0                  .400 (2-3)

MICKEY AUDITIONS FOR MNF BOOTH: This was a bit we did from this week's LeBatard Show. Hope you enjoy!:

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 10, 2017

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 76.2% (season final); plus Fins out of playoffs in 30-12 loss at Pittsburgh with my game column, latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, JANUARY 9. Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect celebrate-they're-back-in-the-playoffs gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL Wild-Card Weekend predictions, Jose Fernandez death voted biggest Miami sports story of 2016 & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Nflplayoffs

 

 

 

 Our Dolphins-Steelers game column from Pittsburgh: Click on When Playoffs Become the Norm Again to read. And find our in-game blog and other postgame thoughts directly below the latest DSM poll.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: SEASON/FINAL: 76.2%: Results are certified in the latest -- and season-last -- Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, this in the wake of Sunday''s 30-12 DsmAFC wild-card playoff loss at Pittsburgh eliminating Miami following a 10-6 regular season and first postseason appearance in eight years. Reflecting that accomplishment, this is the highest final DSM reading since 2008. The DSM is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Because this was the season-ending poll, I suggested special emphasis be given to the season as a whole. Results are certified official the day after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 6:30 a.m. today/Tuesday.

2016 DSM results

G1: 52.5% (following 12-10 loss at Seattle)

G2: 13.3% (following 31-24 loss at New England)

G3: 9.9% (following 30-24 OT victory vs. Cleveland)

G4: 3.0% (following 22-7 loss at Cincinnati)

G5: 3.2% (following 30-17 loss vs. Tennessee)

G6: 67.4% (following 30-15 victory vs. Pittsburgh)

G7: 90.9% (following 28-25 victory vs. Buffalo)

G8: 94.0% (following 27-23 victory vs. N.Y. Jets)

G9: 96.8% (following 31-24 victory at San Diego)

G10: 95.7% (following 14-10 victory at Los Angeles)

G11: 95.9% (following 31-24 victory vs. San Francisco)

G12: 34.8% (following 38-6 loss at Baltimore)

G13: 93.2% (following 26-23 victory vs. Arizona)

G14: 98.0% (following 34-13 victory at N.Y. Jets)

G15: 98.3% (following 34-31 OT victory at Buffalo)

G16: 72.6% (following 35-14 loss vs. New England)

Playoffs/Final: 76.2% (following 30-12 loss at Pittsburgh)

Yearly DSM Results: 2016--76.2% (following 10-6 season/playoff loss); 2015--18.1% (6-10); 2014--2.7% (8-8); 2013--4.2% (8-8); 2012--29.8% (7-9); 2011--34.9% (6-10); 2010--3.8% (7-9); 2009--31.2% (7-9); 2008--96.9% (11-5/playoff loss).

MY DOLPHINS-STEELERS SUNDAY PREVIEW COLUMN: Click MASSIVE CHALLENGE  /  NFL Wild-Card Weekend predictions: Click Wild-Card Gems  /  Ranking playoff teams, year-end awards: Click Playoffs And Hardware.

Dolphins playoffs, other select recent columns: It Isn't About Tannehill, how Fins have a chance in Pittsburgh with Moore if everything else goes right. There's A Longer Drought to End Now, on Dolphins preparing for first playoff game in eight years. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade, Football Town Strikes Back.

MiapitPLAYOFF: PITTSBURGH 30, DOLPHINS 12: POSTSEASON DROUGHT ENDED TODAY FOR MIAMI ... BUT SO DID SEASON: Postgame thoughts: Watch for our game column from Pittsburgh online by early evening. For now, a good season for Miami ended badly today in Pittsburgh withj this 30-12 loss. Miami's defense got crushed early in giving up three long scoring drives for a fast 20-3 hole, and Fins could never recover. Moore's three turnovers really hurt, especially a lost fumble at the Pittsburgh 8 when Miami trailed 20-6 and had a chance to be withing 20-13 at halftime. A season of progress for the franchise, but an ending that verified how much of a gap remains between the Dolphins and better teams ..... 4Q: Howard intercepts Roethlisberger, begging the question, "Why was Ben still in the game?" ... Fins onside kick fails ... MIA now down 30-12 after first TD of day, 4-yard Moore to Williams pass, followed by failed 2-point pass ... Ajayi leaves game shaken up but seems OK. Tough, quiet game for him: 16 carries, 33 yards ..... 3Q: Fins turn it over on downs with :02 left in quarter ... PIT 30-6 now late in quarter after Bell 8-yard scoring run. Call it. Dolphins are done ... Dolphins continue to kill themselves. Moore's interception, his third turnover, has Steelers threatening again ... PIT expands lead to 23-6 on 34-yard FG ... That's twice in a row Moore fumbles on sacks have cost Miami points. Dolphins having chances to get back in this game but keep squandering them ..... Halftime thoughts: Three dominant drives have been enough for Pittsburgh in a 20-6 half. Roethlisberger's 188 yards passing, Bell's 99 rushing and Brown's 125 receiving have owned the Dolphins defense. And yet Miami, with the ball to start the second half, is hardly out of it. Fins had a wonderful chasnce late to make it 20-13 and seize momentum before Moore's sack/fumble loss at Steelers 8 in final moments. A crater of a hole Miami has dug itself, but I sense a chance, a bit of hope ..... 2Q: Parker 37-yard catch makes it 1st and goal at PIT 8 but play gioes for naught as Moore is sacked, loses fumble ... Fins' Thomas intercepts Roethlisberger. PIT was on edge of FG range so play may have saved three points ... Big interference penalty on MIA's Howard, then Mitchell drops an interception ... MIA within 20-6 on Franks 47Y FG. Dirty, penalized hit by PIT's Dupree knocks Moore from game during series, but he's back in after missing only one play. Tough young man ... Grant fumbles Miami kickoff return but Fins keep it ... Bell 1-yard TD run has PIT up 20-3 after missed extra point kick. Bell's 26-yard scoring run had been overturned, with ball marked at 1 ... MIA defense gave up 213 yards, 162 through air, in first quarter ..... 1Q: Seeing some really bad non-tackling by Fins so far ... MIA on board at 14-3 with 38-yard Franks FG. Stills 36-yard catch on 3rd down led the drive ... Absolute nightmare start for Miami. Pit 14-0 now on Brown 62-yard scoring pass. Steelers have 175 yards on 11 plays so far ..... PIT quick 7-0 lead when Brown turns screen pass into 50-yard scoring play down left sideline. Great hesitation and acceleration by Brown and exactly what underdog Fins didn't need: an early deficit ..... Pregame: Dolphins in aqua pants, white jerseys today ...  Coming to you from freezing Pittsburgh, where the temp is hovering around 10 degrees but the wind-chill factor supposedly makes it feel 2-below. I'm pictured arriving this morning at the game. Sunny and dry, though ... Betting line shot all the way to 13 but settled back down to 11 1/2 ..... Original post: Dolfans this morning awakened to a playoff day for their team for the first time since Jan 4, 2009 -- or 2,926 days later. This ends the franchise's eight-year postseason drought. But Miami's season will end today in Pittsburgh (1 p.m. kickoff, CBS) unless the Dolphins can rid themselves of another, longer drought: a first playoff victory since Dec. 30, Meheinz2000. Miami (10-6, No. 6 AFC seed) is not given much of a chance vs. Pittsburgh (11-5, No. 3). Dolphins are 11-point underdogs, biggest of Wild-Card Weekend. Teams that were double-digit underdogs were 0-14 this season. That means, by that measure, it would be the biggest upset of the entire NFL season if Miami won today. Fins are huge 'dogs despite having beaten the Steelers in Miami, 30-15, in October. Some of that is the perceived huge home-field advantage of Pittsburgh in January, with temps expected today as low as 10 degrees. Miami also will be missing four key players who led the October win: QB Ryan Tannehill, C Mike Pouncey, S Reshad Jones and CB Byron Maxwell. And Pitt is healthier now. This time Steelers will have run-stopping linebacker Ryan Shazier to make sure Jay Ajayi doesn't run for 204 yards again. The gaping point spread also reflects a perception that Miami, taking its first playoff bow since '08, is the sort of the happy-to-be-here interloper ready for its reality check, in contrast to the playoff-tested Steelers. Also, it's hard to envision that Big Ben Roethlisberger, the two-time champion making his 18th postseason start, won't best Matt Moore making his first postseason start. Did I mention Steelers are on a seven-game winning streak? One more: Dolfans should be concerned less about no-Tannehill than about their defense giving up 31 or more points in three of past five games. Having said all that, though, the double-digit betting line either flatters Pitt or (more likely) disrespects Miami, or both. Do I see Dolphins winning a playoff game today for the first time since 2000? Nope. But I like them with the points, respectably bowing out, not getting blown out. My pick: Pittsburgh, 27-20.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Playoffs!?! Yes, playoffs. But they didn't last long for Miami: Miami visited Pittsburgh Sunday for Dolphins' first playoff game in 8 years and 4 days. Alas, it was hardly worth the weight, with Fins bounced after a resounding 30-12 defeat. Oddsmakers had given Miami little chance. Buncha know-it-alls.

2. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Alabama-Clemson Monday for CFP crown: It's a rematch in the third College Football Playoff championship game tonight in Tampa, after Alabama won 45-40 a year ago. Nick Saban haters everywhere are temporarily Clemson's biggest fans.

3. HEAT: Winslow done as Miami flails through season: Heat has lost eight of past nine games and is 11-28, the NBA's third-worst record. And now Justise Winslow is is done for the season after shoulder surgery. Well, um, Tuesday at Golden State should be fun! 

4. HURRICANES: Kaaya departure rocks Canes football: Still glowing from a first bowl win in 10 years, UM football took a sack with the announcement Brad Kaaya would forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. Mark Richt's starting QB is now [Your Guess Goes Here].

5. NFL PLAYOFFS: It's Wild-Card Weekend!: Eight teams including Miami were in action this weekend, but only Houston, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Green Bay survived. Their prize? The four winners get to go on the road and be underdogs next week vs. the rested, top-seeded Chiefs, Patriots, Cowboys or Falcons.

6. UM BASKETBALL: Big week for Canes hoops: Coming into the meat of the season with ACC play underway. The No. 14-ranked UM women hosted and lost to No. 7 Notre Dame on Sunday, and now the Canes men, not ranked but close, host the No. 23 Irish on Thursday.

7. PANTHERS: At midseason, Cats disappointing but not done: Florida has lost six of past eight and is 6-13 since the coaching change, and yet Panthers find themselves only four points off playoff pace at midseason. Anybody up for a hopeful “We're No. 8!” chant?

8. ESPN: The downsizing of Chris Berman: Mr. BackBackBackBackBack is slowly fading to BlackBlackBlackBlackBlack with this week's ESPN announcement of a diminished role for their iconic, original voice.

9. DUKE: Tripping guard reinstated: Duke basketball star Grayson Allen was given an "indefinite suspension" by coach Mike Krzyzewski for tripping opponents. Duke lost its first game without him. He was immediately reinstated. Lesson learned!

10: NHL: Columbus finally loses: Blue Jackets lost after 16 wins a row, one short of the 24-year-old record set by Pittsburgh. Yes, because when you think of hockey tradition and excellence, you start with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Missing the HB10 cut: Nate Silver's fivethirtyeight.com is calling a Patriots Super Bowl win. If Nate's as accurate with that as he was on Hillary beating Trump, Pats fans should be worried, indeed ..... Erik Spoelstra called it "shameful, disgraceful" that Goran Dragic was ejected from Friday's game. Also shameful and disgraceful: Heat's 11-27 record following the loss ..... Ex-Dolphin Jason Taylor and Fort Lauderdale-born Isaac Bruce were locals making the Pro Football Hall of Fame cut to 16 finalists ..... U.S. beat Canada to win the world juniors title in hockey. First we steal their Stanley Cup trophy every year, now this ..... Marlins and Canes fans, we're one month from baseball kicking into gear ..... R.I.P., Marti Huizenga.

THE LIST: SUPER BOWL TOURNAMENT: Twelve teams were in it including Miami entering this weekend, but all teams are not created equal. Here are the 12 playoff teams listed in order of betting odds that each will win the Super Bowl, via the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. We also list each team's points differential. Notice how the two correlate to some degree:

Team                                Odds       Point +/-

New England Patriots         13-10     +191

Dallas Cowboys                   4-1       +115

Pittsburgh Steelers              8-1       +72

Kansas City Chiefs             10-1       +78

Green Bay Packers             10-1       +44

Atlanta Falcons                 12-1       +134

Seattle Seahawks              12-1       +62

New York Giants                16-1       +26

Houston Texans                 80-1       -49

Oakland Raiders               100-1      +31

Detroit Lions                    100-1      -12

Miami Dolphins                 100-1      -17

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

December 26, 2016

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 98.3% (season-high for playoff-bound Dolphins); plus Fins win at Buffalo, end 8-year postseason drought; also, our annual Christmas video from me to you, the new Hot Button Top 10 (updated), George Michael & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Mc1) It is MONDAY, DECEMBER 26. R.I.P., singer George Michael. Never a huge fan, honestly, but respect his artistry and imprint on pop music. Loved his live duet on Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" (video at bottom of this post). 2) Hope my fellow Christians had a wonderful and Merry Christmas! Shameless Plug Alert: Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century is now available -- a perfect late gift for any Dolfan on your list! Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL Week 16 picks, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (30 games), Heat honor Shaq with Whiteside poll, your players-skipping-bowls verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Xmas16OUR ANNUAL CHRISTMAS VIDEO, FROM ME TO YOU: This year's Christmas video was taken on a sledding trip that included myself, Dan LeBatard, Cam Wake, Pat Riley and Santa Claus. What a great time we five guys had! A picture from our trip is shown at left. To watch the brief video, click HERE.

Select recent columns: Haven't been as many lately, due to vacation time. Week 16 Gems, our latest NFL picks. Quit Rewarding Teams That Win Bad Divisions, our latest NFL notes column. The Gift Of Winning, on the Dolphins rewarding their fans with a happy holiday for a change. Also: The Handoff Nobody Wanted. Just Make the Damned Playoffs For a Change. Missing Dwyane Wade. Football Town Strikes Back.

DOLPHINS IN PLAYOFFS, EARLY PROJECTION ON BETTING ODDS!: No, seriously. Miami is in the postseason. Fins likely will open the postseason Jan. 7 or 8 as the No. 6 seed at Pittsburgh. Miami would have a more favorable matchup as No. 5 seed at Houston only if Dolphins beat New England this coming week and the Chiefs lose at San Diego. A friend of mine in the business of setting betting lines early-estimates that Miami would be around a 6-8 point underdog at Pittsburgh but that a game at Houston would be close to even with perhaps the Dolphins opening as very slight favorites.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: 98.3%: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show a season-high 98.3 percent overall approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Saturday's 34-31 overtime win at Buffalo putting DsmMiami's season record at 10-5 and helping qualify for the playoffs. The DSM is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the day after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 8:45 a.m. today/Monday.

2016 DSM results

G1: 52.5% (following 12-10 loss at Seattle)

G2: 13.3% (following 31-24 loss at New England)

G3: 9.9% (following 30-24 OT victory vs. Cleveland)

G4: 3.0% (following 22-7 loss at Cincinnati)

G5: 3.2% (following 30-17 loss vs. Tennessee)

G6: 67.4% (following 30-15 victory vs. Pittsburgh)

G7: 90.9% (following 28-25 victory vs. Buffalo)

G8: 94.0% (following 27-23 victory vs. N.Y. Jets)

G9: 96.8% (following 31-24 victory at San Diego)

G10: 95.7% (following 14-10 victory at Los Angeles)

G11: 95.9% (following 31-24 victory vs. San Francisco)

G12: 34.8% (following 38-6 loss at Baltimore)

G13: 93.2% (following 26-23 victory vs. Arizona)

G14: 98.0% (following 34-13 victory at N.Y. Jets)

G15: 98.3% (following 34-31 OT victory at Buffalo)

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Fins win in Buffalo, clinch playoffs Sunday: Well, Dolfans sure got what they wanted for Christmas. Miami in the playoffs. Feels weird, right? The Dolphins' 34-31 overtime victory at Buffalo Saturday and then Denver's loss Sunday night puts Fins in postseason for first time since 2008. There is a Santa Claus! There is a Santa Claus!

2. HURRICANES: Canes try to end long bowl drought this week: The Dolphins' playoff drought (now ending) gets all the attention, but UM is on an 0-6 bowl run dating to 2006. That's four coaches ago. And that is why Wednesday's game vs. West Virginia in Orlando matters so much to this UM program.

3. ORANGE BOWL: Michigan, Florida State tee it up Friday: Miami isn't hosting a College Football Playoff game this year (the semifinals are in six days), but the OB gets the next-best thing in No. 6 Michigan and No. 11 Florida State, two top-tier teams that began the season with national-championship hopes.

4. PANTHERS: Ageless Jagr vaults to second in NHL career points: Cats are a disappointing 15-20 and skating off playoff pace so far, but holiday cheer visited as Jaromir Jagr scored his 1,888th career point to move into second all-time behind only some guy named Wayne Gretzky. Even more impressive: Jagr turns 45 in February.

5. HEAT: Miami retires Shaquille O'Neal's jersey: Heat fans celebrated the Miami career of Shaq and recalled the 2006 NBA title he helped win as the franchise retired his No. 32. With the current Heat team mired with a record of 10-21 and hosting Oklahoma City Tuesday, celebrating anything felt good.

6. NFL: Chase for final playoff spots dominates league storyline: The Cleveland Browns won! The Cleveland Browns won! But the playoff picture is the big news, of course. Entering tonight's game 10 of the 12 playoff spots have been locked down, including the Dolphins, with the Lions and Packers frontrunners for the final two.

7. CHRISTMAS: Jesus! Sports have taken over holiday: To Christians, yesterday was first and foremost a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. To others, it was a day to open gifts and watch five NBA games and two NFL games in a nonstop, noon-to-midnight banquet of sports.

8. UM BASKETBALL: Canes women prepare for No. 7 FSU: UM's men (9-2 but unranked) are having a nice seasons. But the Canes' women are better so far, 11-1, ranked NO. 11 and hosting No. 7 Florida State this coming Thursday.

9. GOLF: Tiger, Trump play a round: President-elect Donald Trump and Tiger Woods (wearing a white billygoat goatee) played golf Friday at Trump's course in West Palm Beach. No word on who won. But if Woods won, I wonder if trump thought the result was rigged?

10. UFC: Rousey prepares for comeback: Ronda Rousey make her comeback this coming Friday by headlining UFC 207 in Las Vegas. Question, though: If you've barely been gone long enough to be missed ... is it really a comeback?

Missing the HB10 cut: Hurricanes left seven behind on the bowl trip to Orlando for not meeting program standards. Notable are Gerald Willis, a D-line contributor, and Micheal Irvin Jr. The capacity of college athletes to do something dumb never ceases to amaze ..... Baseball Hall of Fame ballots are due this week. Mine's already in. I voted for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, but I doubt again there were enough like me ..... Thank you, Mike Krzyzewski, for indefinitely suspending spoiled brat Grayson Allen for intentionally and repeatedly tripping opponents. Dear Grayson: America hates you ..... Defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Cam Wake were the Dolphins' only Pro Bowl choices. Some thought Jarvis Landry got snubbed. Um, he has three TD catches, not a Pro Bowl number ..... A developmental spring league unaffiliated with the NFL is to launch in April 2017 and, other than unemployed NFL free agents, nobody cares ..... Floyd Mayweather said he'd "slap the s---" out of Conor McGregor. America responded it would like to "slap the s---" out of Floyd Mayweather.

G15: DOLPHINS 34, BUFFALO 31 (FINAL/OT): HUGE ROAD WIN HAS MIAMI THISCLOSE TO PLAYOFFS!: Final thoughts: Miami's defense allowed 589 yards and twice blew 14-point leads but all that matters is a 34-31 win at Buffalo, a 10-5 record, and the driver's seat to end an eight-year playoff drought. Miami needs a loss by Denver Sunday night or a win vs. New England next week in Miami for its first postseason since 2008. Jay Ajayi's 206 yards on 32 carries lifted and carried Miami all day -- his third 200-yard game of the season .....  OT: Franks 27-yard FG wins it for MIA 34-31! ... BUF timeout as Miami set to try game-winning 27-yard FG with 51 seconds ... Ajayi has third 200-yard game of year, leaves game with banged up shoulder ... Ajayi 57-yard run (giving him almost 200 for day) has Dolphins in position for game-winning FG! ... Miami  forces Bills punt. With 4 minutes left, a no-decision tie game is a looming possibility ... Dolphins punting. Punting in OT is seldom a good thing, although Miami downs it at BUF 4 ... Still tied as BUF's Carpenter misses 45-yard FG try. What luck for Miami! ... Bison win coin toss and on the move. Uh oh ..... 4Q: Oh man. Franks career-long 55-yasrd FG ties it 31-31 with six seconds left, forces overtime ..... Wow. Buffalo take first lead at 31-28 with 1:20 left on Taylor 7-yard TD pass to ex-Fin Clay ... Bills trick-play completion to Woods off lateral back to QB ... Defense stiffens, holds BUF to 28-yard FG and it's now 28-24 ... Oh my. Twelve men on defense gives BUF first down on 4th and 1 play ... Franks 46-yard FG try bounces off goalpost no good ... 3Q: Turning into a shootout. BUF within 28-21 on Taylor 18-yard TD pass to ex-Fin Charles Clay ... Damien Williams 44-yard catch and run for Fins sets up 6-yard Moore to Stills TD pass; MIA up 28-14 ... BUF within 21-14 on McCoy 19-yard TD run ... Miami 21-7 on Moore 56-yard TD pass to Parker. I said they'd need more from Moore in second half. Done! ..... Halftime thoughts: Miami with nervous 14-7 lead. Will need more from Matt Moore in second half. He's 5-for-14 for 57 yards with one pick, a 19.0 passer rating. Bills outgaining Miami in total yards 212-183 ..... 2Q: Momentum swinging to Bills late in half as Moore intercepted in end zone ... BUF within 14-7 on gorgeous 38-yard scoring pass into end zone and Watkins' hands ... Big 4th and 1 defensive stop for Miami. All Fins so far ... Bills fans in a booing mood. Can you blame 'em? ... Drake busts 45-yard scoring for for 14-0 MIA lead. Play was bottled up to left; Drake reversed field and was untouched along sideline ..... 1Q: Dolfans thanking ex-Fin Carpenter as he pushes 46-yard FG try wide ... So dumb! Bills delay of game on 3rd and 5 at edge of FG range ... Good sign: Ajayi 43 yards, 6.1 per in first quarter ... MIA 7-0 on Ajayi 2-yard run ... Dolphins 3-and-out on their first series, too ... Miami opens with defensive 3-and-out ..... Original post: Maybe it's that the Dolphins are missing their starting quarterback and last week's big game by backup Matt Moore didn't convince everybody. Maybe it's that people can't imagine that a team from Miami (d.b.a "South Beach") won't wither and shrink in today's Buffalo weather -- temps in the 30s with a Miabufchance of sleety rain for the 1 p.m. kickoff. Or maybe it's simply that, despite the Fins superior record (9-5 to 7-7), folks just think the Bills are better. Whatever the reason, Buffalo opened as a 3 1/2-point betting favorite and that jacked up to today's 4 1/2 as money poured in on the Bills. The point is, the proving continues for Miami as it endeavors to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. It could happen this Christmas Weekend. It isn't complicated: Miami ends its eight-season playoff drought if it beats the Bills today and if Denver loses Christmas night in Kansas City. But if Miami loses today, or if the Broncos win Sunday, it will come down to the final week of the season for the Fins' postseason fate to be known. The first part of the equation -- beating the Bills --  won’t be easy. The Dolphins haven’t won in Buffalo since 2011, freezing rain is forecast, and the Bills — with only infinitesimal, barely breathing playoff hopes — are in a classic spoiler’s role vs. their AFC East rivals. Fins beat Buffs 28-25 in Miami on Oct. 23 as Bison blew an 11-point lead entering fourth quarter. Jay Ajayi galloped for 214 yards that day but has only 205 yards in his past four games combined. LeSean McCoy is the hottest runner entering this game. Tyrod Taylor could be a handful, too. He has a 122.8 rating his past three games vs. MIA and leads all QBs with 520 yards rushing this season. I respect the 8-1 run Miami is on that has made playoff hopes real, but I consider Buffalo to be just as good and think the home-field edge in this weather will be large. Also, Moore will be facing a much better pass defense than the Jets’ version he scalpeled last week. Sorry, Dolfans, but Grinch Cote says no playoff-clinch this week. My pick: Buffalo, 23-20.

Poll result: Most see Whiteside as a Heat keeper, but many do not: Pat Riley says he'll "rebuild quick." We asked if you think Hassan Whiteside will be a centerpiece of the rebuild or be traded away, and it was 59.3 percent centerpiece and 40.7% traded away.

 
Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote