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Twins Reward Starting Pitcher Phil Hughes with Three-Year Extension


Mike McGinnis/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Minnesota Twins and starting pitcher Phil Hughes enjoyed their first season together so much, the two sides have already decided to extend the relationship as the team has agreed on a three-year extension with Hughes worth $42 million.

Hughes' new deal will give him a $1.2 million annual raise from his previous deal. He originally had two years left on his deal worth $16 million.

The overall value of Hughes' deal is now for five years and will pay him $58 million. It is the largest deal ever the team has ever spent on a pitcher.

The 28-year-old Hughes spent the first seven seasons of his career with the New York Yankees where he was a highly touted pitching prospect. He never quite lived up to expectations, and was let go by the team following the 2013 season.

In his first season with the Twins in 2014, Hughes went 16-10 with 3.52 ERA in 32 starts. He also had an impressive K/BB ratio of 182/16 in 202.2 innings.

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Brad Stevens Denies Rumors He's Going Back to the College Ranks


Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As the Boston Celtics dive further and further into their rebuilding effort, head coach Brad Stevens has denied any rumors that he will eventually leave the team for a college job.

“I’ve committed to being here,” Stevens told Paul Flannery of SB Nation. “I’ve already left a situation once and that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to choose to do. This is something that as long as they want me to be here, this is what I want to be doing and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got."

As the team slips further into the standings, there have been whispers saying Stevens will jump ship back to the collegiate ranks -- specifically replacing Tom Cream at Indiana.

"I know it’s all specific to the rumor mills and the discussion of one spot," Stevens continued. "I think they’ve got a good coach who’s done a helluva job. He doesn’t deserve that speculation."

Stevens experienced tremendous success at Butler, which led him to being hired by the Celtics last season at the age of 36. He signed a six-year deal with the Celtics prior to the 2013-2014 season.

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Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin Returning to Team in 2015


National Football League(MIAMI GARDEN, Fla.) -- Despite another season that will have them sitting out of the playoffs, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross says head coach Joe Philbin will return to the team next season.

At 8-7, the Dolphins flirted with the playoffs but ultimately came up short in Philbin's third season as the team's head coach.

"It's frustrating that we didn't make the playoffs. I feel as bad as everybody," Ross said. "But I think we're building something here, and I believe in the coach."

Despite a mediocre season, Philbin has support from his players.

"Coach Philbin is a big part of this franchise," Linebacker Cameron Wake said. "He's obviously part of the success of this team. That's great news and I'm looking forward to it."

Since taking over the team, Philbin has a 23-24 record, not quite what they were hoping for when they hired him.

The Dolphins haven't made it to the postseason since 2008 when Tony Sparano was the head coach.

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After Knocking Off Chiefs, Steelers Are Playoff Bound


Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL)

(PITTSBURGH) -- Ben Roethlisberger threw for 220 yards and a touchdown to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers past the Kansas City Chiefs 20-12 Sunday.

With the win, Pittsburgh (10-5) locked up a playoff berth for the first time in three years and will have a chance to win the AFC North title next week when they take on Cincinnati.

The Steelers pressured Alex Smith all day, sacking him six times. They also held star running back Jamaal Charles to 29 yards on nine carries.

Despite the loss, Kansas City (8-7) can still make the playoffs if they beat San Diego next week and get some help from other teams. The Steelers pressured Alex Smith all day, sacking him six times. They also held star running back Jamaal Charles to 29 yards on nine carries.

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Lions Rally Past Bears, Setting Stage for Huge Matchup with Packers


Leon Halip/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Down four with less than eight minutes to go, the Detroit Lions scored 10 unanswered points to beat the Chicago Bears 20-14 Sunday.

The Lions (11-4) will now take on the Packers in Green Bay next Sunday with the winner earning the NFC North championship.

The Bears (5-10) started Jimmy Clausen at quarterback. He completed 23 of 39 passes for 181 yards, logging two touchdowns and an interception in the loss.

Calvin Johnson caught six passes for 103 yards in the win.

"This is what we play for," Lions receiver Calvin Johnson said. "We're right there on the door step, we have one more task ahead of us and that's to go out next week and get another W."

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 243 yards, putting him over 4,000 yards for the fourth straight year.

If the Lions win next week in Green Bay, they will have their highest win total since 1991.

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Jameis Winston Cleared of Any Wrongdoing


Streeter Lecka/Getty Images(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston attended a student code of conduct hearing Sunday, during which he was cleared of allegations of sexual assault that were made in December of 2012.

The decision was released in a letter to Winston and the woman accusing him by retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Major Harding.

The letter was obtained by USA Today:

"This was a complex case, and I worked hard to make sure both parties had a full and fair opportunity to present information. In sum, the preponderance of the evidence has not shown that you are responsible for any of the charge violations of the Code. Namely, I find that the evidence before me is insufficient to satisfy the burden of proof."

With the decision, Winston will be allowed to play in Florida State's College Football Playoff semifinal on Jan. 1 against Oregon.

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Patriots Hold Off Jets, Clinch First-Round Bye


Jim Rogash/Getty Images

(EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.) -- Dont'a Hightower sacked Gino Smith for a 10-yard loss on a third-and-4 with 6:08 left to play, which led to Nick Folk missing a 52-yard field goal as the New England Patriots hold off the New York Jets 17-16 Sunday.

The win clinches New England (12-3) a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.

The Patriots trailed by three heading into the fourth quarter but took the lead with 13:51 left to play when Jonas Gray rumbled for a one-yard touchdown run.

"We made plenty of good (plays) in the fourth quarter to come from behind, so that was great," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "I'm glad it came out the way it did -- makes for a better Christmas. It's always tough to get a win here."

Brady was part of that. With the ball on the Jets' 13 yard line, Brady evaded the rush and for the third straight week ran for a long first down, this time going down on the Jets two yard line to set up Gray's touchdown. The Jets (3-12) mustered a field goal on their next offensive possession. They then stopped the Patriots to get the ball back, but couldn't take the lead when Folk's field goal attempt was tipped by Vince Wilfork.

The Patriots never allowed New York another chance, making four first downs in the final 5:16 of the contest to secure the win.

The Patriots can clinch the top overall seed in the AFC with a Denver loss to Cincinnati Monday night, or a win over Buffalo next week.

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Scoreboard Roundup - 12/21/14


Hemera/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- NFL: Atlanta Falcons 30 (6-9) - New Orleans Saints 14 (6-9)

Carolina Panthers 17 (6-8-1) - Cleveland Browns 13 (7-8)

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 (10-5) - Kansas City Chiefs 12 (8-7)

Green Bay Packers 20 (11-4) - Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3 (2-13)

Miami Dolphins 37 (8-7) - Minnesota Vikings 35 (6-9)

New England Patriots 17 (12-3) - New York Jets 16 (3-12)

Detroit Lions 20 (11-4) - Chicago Bears 14 (5-10)

Houston Texans 25 (8-7) - Baltimore Ravens 13 (9-6)

Dallas Cowboys 42 (11-4) - Indianapolis Colts 7 (10-5)

Oakland Raiders 26 (3-12) - Buffalo Bills 24 (8-7)

New York Giants 37 (6-9) - St. Louis Rams 27 (6-9)

Seattle Seahawks 35 (11-4) - Arizona Cardinals 6 (11-4)

NBA: Toronto Raptors 118 (22-6) - New York Knicks 108 (5-25)

Cleveland Cavaliers 105 (16-10) - Memphis Grizzlies 91 (21-6)

Miami Heat 100 (13-15) - Boston Celtics 84 (10-15)

Sacramento Kings 108 (12-15) - Los Angeles Lakers 101 (8-19)

Brooklyn Nets 110 (11-15) - Detroit Pistons 105 (5-23)

Philadelphia 76ers 96 (3-23) - Orlando Magic 88 (10-20)

Phoenix Suns 104 (15-14) - Washington Wizards 92 (19-7)

Indiana Pacers 100 (9-19) - Minnesota Timberwolves 96 (5-21)

New Orleans Pelicans 101 (14-13) - Okalahoma City Thunder 99 (13-15)

NHL: Colorado Avalanche 2 (12-13-8, 32 pts) - Detroit Red Wings 1 (17-8-9, 43 pts) (F/SO)

Dallas Stars 6 (14-13-5, 33 pts) - Edmonton Oilers 5 (7-20-7, 21 pts) (F/OT)

Boston Bruins 4 (17-14-3, 37 pts) - Buffalo Sabres 3 (13-18-3, 29 pts) (F/OT)

Chicago Blackhawks 4 (23-9-2, 48 pts) - Toronto Maple Leafs 0 (19-12-3, 41 pts)

New York Rangers 1 (17-10-4, 38 pts) -  Carolina Hurricanes 0 (9-20-4, 22 pts)

Philadelphia Flyers 4 (13-14-6, 32 pts) - Winnipeg Jets 3 (17-10-7, 41 pts) (F/OT)

NCAAM: (6) Virginia 76 (11-0) - Harvard 27 (7-2)

(17) Maryland 73 (11-1) - Oklahoma State 64 (9-2)

 

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Cowboys Crush Colts, Capture NFC East Crown


Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

(DALLAS, Tx) -- The Dallas Cowboys beat down the Indianapolis Colts Sunday with a 42-7 victory to capture their first NFC East title since 2009.

Tony Romo was magnificent as he completed 18 of 20 passes for 218 yards and 4 touchdowns. Romo also surpassed Troy Aikman to become the franchise leader in passing yards.

Tony has obviously been a great quarterback for this franchise for a long time," head coach Jason Garrett said. "I think we've done a good job, organizationally making the team better around him. 

I think the way he has played this year is the way great quarterbacks in this league have played for a long time.  I know that's the way Troy played."

Romo's supporting cast was equally impressive.  Jason Witten, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, and Dez Bryant all caught a touchdown pass from Romo. Williams would add another after the rout was on and Brandon Weeden came on in relief.

The Colts (10-5) did not have much to play for as they had already sewn up the AFC South, but the effort was far from what they would likely desire heading into the playoffs.  

Andrew Luck was lackluster, completing 15 of 22 passes for 109 yards and tossing two interceptions before being replaced by Matt Hasselbeck.

Dallas (11-4) now has an opportunity to earn a first round bye as they travel to Washington for the regular season finale against the Redskins. 

 

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Packers Pace Buccaneers


Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images(TAMPA BAY) -- The Green Bay Packers took care of business Sunday with a 20-3 win over the Buccaneers.

Aaron Rodgers continued his magnificent season, picking apart the Bucs secondary, completing 31 of 40 passes for 318 yards and a touchdown.

Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson proved to be the reliable targets that Rodgers has trusted all seasons. Cobb caught 11 passes for 131 yards and Nelson 9 passes for 113 yards and the one Packers aerial touchdown.

Eddie Lacy provided balance for the Packers offense, rushing for 99 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries. 

The Packers' defense clamped down on Tampa Bay, as they held Bucs running back Doug Martin to 17 yards on the ground and kept Josh McCown in check. McCown threw for just 147 yards and tossed an interception.

The Packers host the Detroit Lions next week, with the winner earning the NFC North title.

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