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January 5, 2019

NFL PLAYOFFS-COLTS/TEXANS

Texans, Colts meet in playoffs after turning around their seasons

HOUSTON (AP) — Saturday’s wild-card game between the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts is a matchup that seemed improbable early this season after Houston dropped its first three games and the Colts limped to a 1-5 start.

But the two teams, which both finished 4-12 last season, turned things around to lead the AFC South.

Houston’s rebound began at the expense of the Colts, thanks in part to a controversial call by Indianapolis coach Frank Reich in overtime. That 37-34 win in Week 4 was the first of nine straight for Houston. The Texans didn’t lose again until a visit from the Colts on Dec. 9, a 24-21 Indy victory. Houston then won two of its last three games, capped by a 20-3 victory over the Jaguars on Sunday to clinch the division — and become the sixth team since 1980 and first since 1998 to make the playoffs after a 0-3 start.

The Colts are the third team in NFL history to reach the postseason after losing five of the first six games. This is their first playoff appearance since a 2014 AFC championship game loss at New England in the “Deflategate” game.

NFL PLAYOFFS-SEAHAWKS/COWBOYS

Cowboys’ Prescott seeks 1st playoff win vs Wilson, Seahawks

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Dak Prescott tries for his first playoff win when Dallas hosts Seattle in a matchup of quarterbacks who became instant NFL success stories.

Seattle’s Russell Wilson won a wild-card game with Seattle as a rookie, a Super Bowl in his second season and another NFC championship the third time around.

Prescott guided the Cowboys to the top seed in the NFC two years ago, then had to wait two years for his second chance.

Both teams have strong running games. The Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott has won the NFL rushing title for the second time in his three seasons, and Chris Carson heads a group of Seattle backs that led the NFL in rushing.

Seattle was 0-2 this year when the season turned on a 24-13 win over the visiting Cowboys.

The Seahawks have won six straight wild-card games, a streak that started when Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, a first-year starter and still the holder, flubbed the snap on a potential go-ahead field goal in the final two minutes of the Seahawks’ 21-20 home win during the 2006 season. Oddly enough during this streak, Seattle has lost every time in the divisional round.

WORLD CUP-WOMEN’S SLALOM

American Shiffrin gets personal best 7th straight slalom win

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin dominated the first women’s World Cup slalom of 2019 on Saturday to match her personal best winning streak in the discipline with seven straight victories.

The American two-time overall champion built on a big first-run lead of more than a second to beat Petra Vlhova of Slovakia by 1.25. Wendy Holdener of Switzerland was 1.75 seconds behind in third.

It was Shiffrin’s fourth triumph in the race on the outskirts of Croatian capital Zagreb, after winning it in 2013, 2015 and last year. She has won 12 of the last 13, and 28 of the last 34 World Cup slaloms she competed in.

At a night race in Austria on Tuesday, Shiffrin can match the all-time record of eight consecutive slalom wins, set by Vreni Schneider of Switzerland in 1989 and repeated by Janica Kostelic of Croatia in 2001.

TENNIS-HOPMAN CUP

Federer wins Hopman Cup with Switzerland for record 3rd time

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer has won the Hopman Cup for a record third time after defending champion Switzerland beat Germany 2-1 on Saturday.

Switzerland took its fourth Hopman Cup title overall when Federer and Belinda Bencic beat Alexander Zverev and Angelique Kerber 4-0, 1-4, 4-3 (4) in the Fast4 format in the mixed doubles decider.

In the men’s singles, Federer defeated fourth-ranked Zverev 6-4, 6-2.

Ahead of his Australian Open title defense, the 37-year-old Federer didn’t drop a set in four singles matches at the tournament, beating Frances Tiafoe, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Cameron Norrie and Zverev.

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