Pats await Broncos, Steelers or Bengals in playoffs

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Pats await Broncos, Steelers or Bengals in playoffs

FOXBORO -- So now we know who the Patriots can't play in their first-round playoff game two weeks from now at Gillette Stadium: They can't play the Ravens or the Texans. (Actually, they knew going into today that they couldn't play the Texans . . . but that's besides the point.)
That means it'll be either Denver, Pittsburgh or Cincinnati coming to Foxboro for what the NFL calls the "divisional round", but is, in actuality, the AFC semifinals.

And we now also know that one of those teams will play the Patriots on Saturday, January 14, at 8 p.m.

Here's how it shook out:
The Ravens clinched the AFC North title, and the No. 2 seed, by beating the Bengals, 24-16. Baltimore, like New England, receives a first-round bye.
Cincinnati, however, qualified for the playoffs despite the loss because both the Broncos and Raiders lost. (The Bengals only needed one of them to lose, but both came through.) They're the No. 6 seed, and they'll travel to Houston for a wild-card weekend matchup next Saturday.
Because both the Broncos and Raiders lost, Denver -- and Tim Tebow -- won the AFC West and the No. 4 seed. Denver lost to Kansas City, 7-3, but got help from San Diego, which beat Oakland, 38-26. The Broncos are seeded fourth and will host the Steelers, the No. 5 seed, in a wild-card matchup on Sunday.
The Steelers finished 12-4 after their 13-9 win over the Browns, but -- because they lost both their meetings with Baltimore this year -- had to finish with a better record than the Ravens to win the AFC North. They both went 12-4, and thus Baltimore gets the division title.
In the 1 p.m. games, the Jets eliminated themselves with a 19-17 loss at Miami that drew raucous cheers from the Gillette Stadium crowd. The Titans won a thriller,beating the Texans, 23-22, to keep their hopes alive for a few hours, but the Jets' loss meant that Tennessee could only make it if the Bengals lost and both the Raiders and Broncos won. Their trifecta didn't come through.
So the conference seeds are: 1, New England. 2, Baltimore. 3, Houston. 4, Denver. 5, Pittsburgh. 6, Cincinnati. Next weekend, the matchups are 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5. Then they'll be reseeded, and the Pats will play the No. 4 seed.
(The reason they can't play Baltimore or Houston? The Ravens are guaranteed to be the No. 2 seed, and the Texans, if they win next weekend, will be the No. 3.)
For the Patriots to avoid the Steelers -- whom, we must assume, will beat Denver next weekend -- in the first round, the Bengals must win in Houston.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Suns

WATCH: Celtics vs. Suns

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics host the Wizards in a game with huge playoff-seeding implications. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game Preview: C's focused on Suns, not playoff seeding

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

- Live Extra FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Celtics: All of the most recent news and notes

- Talk about the game via social media on CSN's Pulse, presented by Ford

 

Jones-Molina WBC spat is a clash of cultures . . . and that's great

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Jones-Molina WBC spat is a clash of cultures . . . and that's great

The Adam Jones-Yadier Molina verbal skirmish is as predictable as it is annoying.

Was every cultural nuance for the 16 World Baseball Classic teams explained in a booklet the players had to memorize before the tournament?

No? Then it’s amazing there weren’t more moments like this.

Jones, the Orioles outfielder, said Team USA's championship game win over Puerto Rico was motivated by Puerto Rico's choice to plan a post-tournament parade for the team before the final game.

As Jones and his teammates know, parades in pro sports are for championship teams. Red Sox fans are likely aware of this.

As Jones and his teammates know, discussing a parade before a title is secured suggests overconfidence. Rex Ryan fans are likely aware of this.

After an 8-0 win for the U.S., Jones revealed the parade was used as bulletin-board material.

"Before the game, we got a note that there was some championship shirts made -- we didn't make 'em -- and a flight [arranged],” Jones said. “That didn't sit well with us. And a parade -- it didn't sit well with us."

But apparently, Jones didn't know the full context of the parade. It was reportedly planned regardless of whether Puerto Rico won.

One Team USA teammate of Jones whom CSNNE spoke with didn't believe that, however.

"It was called a champions parade that got turned into a celebration parade once they lost," the player said. "I think they just don't like getting called out by Jones, but all Jones did was tell exactly what happened."

Jones’ comments weren’t received well.

Puerto Rico's going through a trying time, a recession, and the entire island rallied behind the team.

“Adam Jones . . . is talking about things he doesn't know about," Molina told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. "He really has to get informed because he shouldn't have said those comments, let alone in public and mocking the way [preparations] were made.”

No one should be upset Jones explained what he was thinking.

Jones actually asked MLB Network host Greg Amsinger, “Should I tell the truth?”

Yes. It’s better than lying.

Look at the reactions across the WBC: the bat flips, the raw emotion. Honesty conveyed via body language.

People in the U.S. are starting to accept and crave those reactions. The WBC helped promote a basic idea: let people be themselves.

Jones said what was on his mind. We can’t celebrate bat flips and then say Jones should keep his mouth shut.

But there's an unreasonable expectation being placed on Jones here.

He heard about a parade -- which is to say, a subject he wouldn't normally think twice about or investigate before a championship baseball game.

Plus, it gave him motivation.

Why is Jones, or anyone with Team USA, more responsible for gaining an advance understanding of Puerto Rico’s parade-planning conventions -- we're talking about parade planning! -- than Puerto Rico is responsible for keeping U.S. norms in mind when making and/or talking about those plans?

No one involved here was thinking about the other’s perception or expectation. It's impossible to always do so.

But that’s how these moments develop: what’s obvious to one party is outlandish to the other.

Now Molina, Puerto Rico's catcher, wants an apology.

"He has to apologize to the Puerto Rican people," Molina told ESPN. "Obviously, you wanted to win; he didn't know what this means to [our] people."

Jones can clear the air with an apology, but he doesn't owe one. And he definitely doesn't owe one after Molina took it a step further.

"I'm sending a message to [Jones], saying, 'Look at this, right now you're in spring training working out, and we're with our people, with our silver medals,' " Molina said. "You're in spring training and you're working . . . you have no idea how to celebrate your honors, you don't know what it means.”

Team USA had no parade. Manager Jim Leyland made clear how the U.S. was celebrating, by recognizing those serving the country.

The silver lining here is how much attention the WBC has drawn, and how much conversation it can drive. People care, a great sign for the sport -- and its potential to foster better understanding across cultures.

Internationally, the sport is on parade.