Axios Sports

A large foam finger.

January 23, 2023

👋 Good morning! Kendall is still making his way home from his European adventure, but he'll be back tomorrow.

Today's word count: 1,577 words (6 minutes).

Let's sports...

1 big thing: 🏈 The final four is set

chiefs eagles bengals niners logos

Graphic: Axios Visuals

The Conference Championships are set, as the Chiefs and Bengals will face off at Arrowhead and the Eagles and Niners will meet at the Linc after a weekend featuring numerous franchise and NFL records.

  • Eagles 38, Giants 7: Philly scored as many points on its opening drive as New York scored all game, and the Birds' 31-point victory not only tied a franchise playoff record, but was the largest playoff win between divisional opponents since the 1970 merger.
  • Bengals 27, Bills 10: Cincy's franchise record-extending 10th straight win was its most impressive, holding Buffalo — which only lost three games all year by a total of eight points — to a season-low 10 points.
  • Chiefs 27, Jaguars 20: Even with Patrick Mahomes clearly hobbled after suffering a high ankle sprain in the first quarter, Kansas City became just the third team in NFL history to make at least five straight conference title games.
  • 49ers 19, Cowboys 12: This defensive battle ended in familiar fashion for both sides, with San Francisco reaching its record-extending 18th NFC title game and Dallas failing to reach the conference championship for its record-extending 12th straight postseason appearance.
mahomes celebrating
Photo: Cooper Neill/Getty Images


  • All Pat does is win: Patrick Mahomes has won 72 games in the last five seasons (including playoffs), second only to Tom Brady for the most in any five-year span (77 wins from 2003-07).
  • The Burrow effect: The Bengals have as many playoff wins in the past year (5) as they had in their entire 52-year history before Joe Burrow's arrival (5).
  • Reid's double-double: Andy Reid is the first coach in NFL history to win 10 playoff games with multiple franchises (10-9 postseason record with the Eagles; 10-7 with the Chiefs).
  • Giant slayer: Eagles RB Boston Scott has more TD in nine career games against the Giants (11) than he has in 56 games against all other teams (8).
  • Early exit: The Bills are the first preseason title favorite who failed to reach the conference title game since the 2015 Seahawks.
  • 12 years, 3 hosts: Since 2011, only three stadiums have hosted the AFC Championship: Arrowhead (Chiefs), Gillette (Patriots) and Mile High (Broncos).

Go deeper: Divisional Round winners and losers (The Ringer)

2. 🎾 History in Melbourne

iga swiatek

Photo: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP via Getty Images

No. 1 Iga Świątek was the latest favorite to fall at the Australian Open, losing 6-4, 6-4 to No. 22 Elena Rybakina in Sunday's fourth-round match.

Why it matters: Her loss, plus last week's losses by No. 2 Ons Jabeur, No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 2 Casper Ruud, makes this the first Grand Slam in the Open Era (1968) with the top two men's and women's seeds all out before the quarterfinals.

The intrigue: Americans Ben Shelton, 20, and Tommy Paul, 25, reached the quarterfinals with late-night wins on Sunday, joining fellow American Sebastian Korda, 22, who'd advanced earlier in the weekend.

  • That marks the first time since 2000 that there are three American men in the Australian Open quarterfinals.
  • All three are in the final eight of a major for the first time, and Shelton's run has been particularly astonishing given he was ranked No. 569 in the world as a sophomore at Florida just last year.

Where it stands: The quarters begin tonight. Here are the matchups:

  • Men's: No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Jiří Lehečka; No. 4 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 5 Andrey Rublev; No. 8 Karen Khachanov vs. No. 29 Korda; Shelton vs. Paul
  • Women's: No. 3 Jessica Pegula vs. No. 24 Victoria Azarenka; No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka vs. Donna Vekić; No. 17 Jeļena Ostapenko vs. No. 22 Rybakina; No. 30 Karolína Plíšková vs. Magda Linette

3. 🏒🏀 Beantown on pace for rare double

boston vintage postcard

Photo: Found Image Holdings/Corbis via Getty Images

The Bruins (37-5-4) and Celtics (35-12) have the best records in the NHL and NBA with just under three months left in their seasons.

Why it matters: If they keep this up, Boston will join Detroit in 2005-06 as the only cities whose teams led the NHL and NBA in the same year.

  • The Red Wings went 58-16-8 (next best: Senators, 52-21-9)
  • The Pistons went 64-18 (Spurs, 63-19)

State of play: The Celtics are on a season-high-tying nine-game win streak, though their standing atop the league is being challenged by the Nuggets (33-14), whose own nine-game win streak just ended on Sunday.

  • The Bruins face no such challenge at the moment, as they have a 12-point lead over the Hurricanes for the league's best record.
  • In fact, the B's are on pace to smash the NHL record with 66 wins this season — four more than any other team in league history.

The intrigue: No city has ever won the Stanley Cup and NBA Finals in the same season. Could this be the year?

4. ⚡️ Lightning round

jon rahm holds his trophy

Photo: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

⛳️ Rahm's on fire: Jon Rahm (-27) held off rookie Davis Thompson (-26) to win the American Express — the Spaniard's second straight PGA Tour victory and fourth win in his last six starts worldwide.

🏀 Top two teams fall: No. 1 Houston and No. 2 Kansas each suffered home losses this weekend, marking the first time in AP poll history that the top two teams both lost at home in a two-day span.

⚾️ First woman: The Diamondbacks on Friday named Ronnie Gajownik as manager of the Hillsboro Hops, their High-A affiliate. Gajownik, who spent last season as the first-base coach for Arizona's Double-A squad, will be the first woman to manage a MiLB team at this level.

🏀 Huge comeback: The Lakers overcame the second-largest halftime deficit in franchise history on Sunday night, coming back from 25 points down to beat the Trail Blazers, 121-112.

5. ⚽️ Erling Haaland: Scoring machine

erling haaland flashing the number 3

Photo: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

Erling Haaland recorded a hat trick in Manchester City's 3-0 win over Wolverhampton on Sunday, upping his total to 25 goals just over halfway through his inaugural Premier League campaign.

Why it matters: With 18 games left, the 22-year-old Norwegian is on pace for 48 goals, which would shatter the record for the most scored in a Premier League season of any length:

  • 34 is the record in a 42-match season, accomplished by Newcastle's Andy Cole (1993-94) and Blackburn's Alan Shearer (1994-95).
  • 32 is the record since the league switched to 38-game seasons in 1995-96, set by Liverpool's Mohamed Salah in 2017-18.

State of play: Haaland's current total would have led the league in each of the past four full seasons, and it's not as if he's being aided by a leaguewide scoring boom:

  • His lead over second place (Harry Kane, 15) is the same as Kane's lead over the six players tied for 21st place.

Wild stat: Sunday was Haaland's fourth Premier League hat trick in just his 19th career appearance. The next fastest Premier League player to hit that mark? Ruud van Nistelrooy in his 65th appearance.

6. 🇺🇸 Photos across America

duke fans
Photo: Lance King/Getty Images

DURHAM, N.C. — Duke's 68-66 win over No. 17 Miami on Saturday was their NCAA-record-extending 500th consecutive sellout at Cameron Indoor Stadium, dating all the way to 1990.

  • The next-longest active streak belongs to Kansas (345 games).
joseph brothers
Photo: Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

PITTSBURGH — The first career meeting between brothers Mathieu (Senators) and Pierre-Olivier Joseph (Penguins) featured a funny twist when the two got sent to the box together for high-stick penalties against each other … with their parents in attendance.

joe burrow in the snow
Photo: Cooper Neill/Getty Images

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Few things are as beautiful as football in the snow.

7. 🌎 Photos around the world

eddie nketiah
Photo: Mark Leech/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

LONDON — Eddie Nketiah's 90th-minute goal gave Arsenal the 3-2 win over Manchester United, as the Gunners won the battle of top-four clubs to maintain their five-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the table.

connor mcdavid
Photo: Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

VANCOUVER — Connor McDavid scored his 40th goal of the season on Saturday in just his 48th game — the fastest any player has reached 40 goals since Pavel Bure in 1999-2000 (also 48 games).

karen khachanov in shadows
Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

MELBOURNE — We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Sports photography is awesome.

8. 📺 Watchlist: Women's hoops superstars

Animated illustration of a star going through a basketball net

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Tonight's ranked women's hoops matchups feature five players named to the Wooden Award midseason top 25, including at least one on each of the four teams in action.

  • 7pm ET, ESPN2: No. 10 Iowa at No. 2 Ohio State … Caitlin Clark (26.7 pts, 7.6 reb, 7.5 ast) and Monika Czinano (17.9 pts, 6.6 reb, 65.1% FG) lead the Hawkeyes (15-4); Taylor Mikesell (18.5 pts, 3.3 reb, 40.1% 3PT) and the Buckeyes have yet to lose a game (19-0).
  • 8pm, BTN: No. 6 Indiana at No. 14 Michigan … Mackenzie Holmes (21.7 pts, 8.2 reb, 1.7 blk) has led the Hoosiers (17-1) to near-perfection; Emily Kiser (17.6 pts, 6.8 reb, 3 ast) stars for the Wolverines (16-3).

More to watch:

9. 🏀 College hoops trivia

antoine davis

Photo: Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Detroit Mercy's Antoine Davis (3,274 career points) passed former Portland State guard Freeman Williams (3,249) on Saturday to become the No. 2 scorer in D-I men's college basketball history.

  • Question: Who's No. 1, with 3,667 points?
  • Hint: Played in the SEC.

Answer at the bottom.

Talk tomorrow,

Jeff "It's been a while since my last hat trick" Tracy

Trivia answer: Pete Maravich (LSU)

🙏 Thanks for reading! Follow us for more (@kendallbaker and @jeffreytracy). Friends can sign up here. Thanks to Carolyn DiPaolo for copy edits.