If matching up with the Golden State Warriors becomes a concern again, that would be great because it means the Sixers will be in the 2018 NBA Finals.

No, the matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers at 7 tonight at the Wells Fargo Center (TV: NBCSP+; radio: 97.5, The Fanatic) is the measuring stick Sixers fans have been waiting for.

Cleveland has LeBron James and is the three-time reigning Eastern Conference champion.

It's likely that any team with designs on making serious noise come the playoffs is going to have to find a way to overcome the Cavaliers in a seven-game series.

This is the first of four meetings between Cleveland and the Sixers, so this will hardly be the final say. In fact, the matchups in March and April will give a better indication on how these teams might square up should they meet in the postseason.

Still, in something that can be as influenced by psychological factors as much as sports can be, it's never too soon for the up-and-comer to show it can bark with the Big Dog in the neighborhood.

The Sixers (11-7) have the eighth-best record in the NBA thus far, but they are just 2-5 against teams that currently have better winning percentages than they do.

The young Sixers are playing with a lot of confidence. A victory in the first matchup with Cleveland could provide an additional boost as they push forward.

Also tonight, the struggling Flyers will try to break out of their funk in Pittsburgh at 7 (TV: NBCSP; radio: 93.3 WMMR).

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) passes against the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 5.
JAMES KENNEY / AP
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) passes against the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 5.

Status in AFC playoff race at stake

This is the time of the season when many games result in teams' keeping their postseason hopes alive or starting to think seriously about next year.

That's basically the case for the Houston Texans when they play the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football at 8:30 on ESPN. Houston (4-6) has four teams ahead of it in the race for the final AFC wild-card bid and a loss will solidify the narrative that things might be different had standout rookie quarterback DeShaun Watson not suffered a season-ending injury just as he was finding his stride.

The Ravens (5-5) have overcome a ton of early-season injuries to stay in the hunt. A win would put them in a tie for the sixth playoff seed just as they are getting healthy.

What I’m reading

The Eagles are talking up the insane numbers being put up by quarterback Carson Wentz, but staff writer Paul Domowitch puts them in historical perspective.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Eagles crushing the Bears, 31-3, is the Birds fumbled the ball four times. Staff writer Les Bowen writes that negative in an overwhelmingly positive game did not go unnoticed by the Eagles.

Next up for the Eagles is a game at Seattle on Sunday night.  Larry Stone of the Seattle Times writes the Seahawks got a nice win over San Francisco but things get tougher starting with the Eagles.

With all the information so readily available on the web, John Adams at USA Today wonders how Tennessee athletic director John Currie got blindsided by the backlash.

In Las Vegas, the point spread isn't listed for entertainment purposes only. In November, the way favorites have handled their business has led to the worst NFL month the books have had during the Super Bowl era.

Greg Schiano stands on the sideline during an Ohio State game against Rutgers.
MEL EVANS / AP
Greg Schiano stands on the sideline during an Ohio State game against Rutgers.

The riff

To be honest,  Greg Schiano was never going to induce much enthusiasm from University of Tennessee football fans. Schiano was 68-67 in 10 seasons at Rutgers, but he's six years and a lousy stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers away from that minor miracle.

Still, Tennessee could have sold Schiano on his merits as defensive coordinator at Ohio State were it not for his connection with Penn State and one of the darkest scandals in the history of college football.

The evidence that Schiano, then a young assistant at Penn State, knew about former Penn State defensive coordinator and convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky's abuse of boys is denied, second-hand circumstantial evidence at best,  but it was enough for Volunteer Nation – from students to state congressional representatives – to launch a massive social media campaign to squash his impending hiring on Sunday.

Considering the Tennessee athletic department had recently settled a lawsuit concerning the handling of sexual assault allegations against student-athletes for $2.8 million, it's hard to contemplate how administrators thought they could hire Schiano with a strong wave of backlash.

Is that fair to Schiano given the questions concerning the only piece of hearsay evidence against him? Probably not, but it is a sign of the times.

Today’s schedule

TV/Radio

NFL
Texans at Ravens, 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

NHL
Flyers at Penguins, 7 p.m. (NBCSP, NHL Network; WMMR-FM 93.3)

NBA
Cavaliers at 76ers, 7 p.m. (NBCSP+; WPEN-FM 97.5)
Mavericks at Spurs, 8:30 p.m. (NBA TV)

Men's College Basketball
South Carolina at Florida International, 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
Maryland at Syracuse, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Alabama State at Cincinnati, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Eastern Illinois at Marquette, 8 p.m. (FS1)
Wisconsin at Virginia, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

Local Events

NBA
76ers vs. Cavaliers, 7:05 p.m., Wells Fargo Center

Horse Racing
Parx Racing, 12:25 p.m., Bensalem