Welcome back, friend! We’ve got a brand new week on our hands and we’re coming up on the last days of September. I’m kind of battling a “Sunday Scaries” sort of feeling with sports right now…the Stanley Cup playoffs will come to an end this week (perhaps tonight?) while the NBA Finals will conclude shortly after. Baseball’s heading into its postseason, which will be exciting, but soon enough football is going to be the only major sport left on the calendar. And beyond that? Well, a lot’s still up in the air.
I’m not saying this to be a downer, but more to provide a reminder that we should make sure to enjoy what we’ve got while it’s still around because we’re being quite spoiled right now. With that in mind, let’s have ourselves a chat about all the action we’ve got on our plate at the moment.
📰 What you need to know
1. NFL Week 3 grades 🏈
I feel like the most normalcy we’ve had since March has come via NFL Sundays over the past couple weekends. The weather getting crisper, leaves changing colors and football on when it’s supposed to be on…and actually looking like normal football. What a blessing.
And while you were busy enjoying your lazy Sunday on the couch yesterday, our football crew was hard at work dissecting all the action of Week 3 across the NFL. Luckily for everyone, there was plenty to chew on from the day’s slate. Let’s get some grades from the day:
- Bears (A+) mount latest comeback over Falcons (F): Is there anything that the Atlanta Falcons love more than collapsing and choking away games in the most embarrassing fashion possible? We all know the answer to that one. The Falcons blew a 15-point lead for the second straight week after Nick Foles (who took over for an ineffective Mitch Trubisky) led a fourth-quarter comeback for Chicago
- Bills (B+) edge Rams (B-) in 35-32 shootout: It was a pretty good display by two potential postseason teams, but Buffalo’s win came down to one thing: Josh Allen. The young quarterback was sensational yet again, throwing for 311 yards and accounting for five total touchdowns
- Eagles (F) end in a tie with…the Bengals (C): A disastrous start to the season for the Eagles continued into this weekend. A tie against a rebuilding Bengals team is essentially a moral loss, especially because they gave themselves a shot to win the game at the end and blew it with poor discipline. Doug Pederson deserves plenty of blame for this one too
- Seahawks (A) continue rolling against Cowboys (C+): All aboard the Russell Wilson MVP train, which isn’t slowing down heading into Week 4. Against Dallas, Wilson threw for five touchdowns in his second consecutive game and had zero interceptions
Also, a big shoutout to the Cleveland Browns, who are above .500 for the first time since December 2014 after beating the Football Team. (Still laughing at that in Week 3? You bet I am.) We all know the Browns are hilarious and depressing but it’s still easy to be stunned by a stat like that.
Worth mentioning that Aaron Rodgers’ revenge tour continued this weekend as he picked apart the Saints’ defense in primetime. It’s been a tough few weeks for that New Orleans defense, but they can take solace in the fact that a petty Rodgers is almost unbeatable.
You can find all your other Week 3 grades right here.
2. Heat punch their ticket to NBA Finals 🏀
The 2020 NBA Finals matchup is officially set and it’s time to get ready for Lakers-Heat over the next few weeks. The Celtics met the end of their road last night in Game 6 against Miami, as the Heat punched their ticket to the final round with a 125-113 victory over Boston.
It was a close entertaining tilt for a while and we saw some back-and-forth swings, but the Celtics ultimately fell apart down the stretch as the Heat plunged the dagger deeper and deeper. Our James Herbert came through with some takeaways from the clincher:
- Miami didn’t even need Dragic down the stretch: Goran Dragic has been one of the Heat’s biggest contributors in the bubble so far but he remained on the bench for the last nine-ish minutes of this game. Miami closed out with Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Andre Iguodala and Bam Adebayo on the court as they erased a six-point Celtics lead and ran away with it late
- Hot hot Heat: It sounds rather simple, but a big key to success for the Heat was hitting shots at the right time. They caught fire in Game 6 from inside and outside. They shot 13-for-27 from 3-point range (including 5-for-7 from Robinson and a couple massive treys from Iguodala late). It also helps that the Celtics struggled, going 15-for-46 from deep
- Boston’s bright spots: The Celtics played a strong game for most of the night but part of the problem in this series was that they only played well most of the time. They could have won the series had they showcased a few more complete efforts and not come up short in crunch time
As a Celtics fan myself, it was pretty painful to watch some of these games toward the end. They made an adventure of pretty much every game in the series and they seemed to lack the killer instinct of a championship team. Also, Bam Adebayo was unquestionably the most fun player to watch in this series and I’m excited to see what he brings in the Finals.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shoutout to Old Man Iggy real quick, as Iguodala is making his sixth straight trip to the Finals this year. That’s a pretty incredible accomplishment for a veteran role player, especially one who had the adventure that he did over the course of this year. And also a shoutout for Jimmy Butler, who’s getting the last laugh yet again.
3. Welcome to playoff baseball ⚾
It’s almost October and that means playoff baseball, even in this screwed up COVID timeline we’re living in. MLB’s abbreviated regular season is officially in the books and we’ve got our expanded 16-team playoff bracket set and ready to go. Wild Card Series action will begin on Tuesday (AL) and Wednesday (NL) and here are the matchups you can look forward to:
So, if your favorite team is out of the picture or you just want to see the most entertaining World Series possible, who should you be rooting for? Our Mike Axisa ranked the top 10 most exciting potential World Series matchups and here are his five best options:
5. White Sox – Cubs: It’s the only possible same city World Series matchup this year and it would still be a lot of fun even in a neutral site without any fans. (Of course it would be more exciting in Chicago but we’ll take what we can get.) Could little brother beat big brother?
4. Yankees – Dodgers: It’s the dream matchup for MLB from a marketing and ratings standpoint and there would be a ton of star power involved here. There’s also plenty of history to add to the mix
3. Indians vs. Padres: This matchup would feature the two longest postseason droughts in each league (Cleveland’s 71-year title drought is the longest in baseball) and it would also have Mike Clevinger going up against his former team
2. Athletics vs. Dodgers: There’s significant history with this matchup, as the 1988 World Series matchup between the two featured maybe the most well-known home run in baseball history. A rematch would have a David vs. Goliath feel but it would be a whole lot of fun to watch
- White Sox vs. Padres: Two of the most electric teams in baseball with plenty of talent (especially young talent) on both sides. Both teams have had a flair for the dramatic this season, too, so it could be a riveting, edge-of-your-seat Fall Classic
I’m going to have to agree with Axisa here. I said a couple weeks ago I was rooting for a Sox-Padres World Series and I’m standing by that. The youth and personality injection that that matchup would bring might be the best thing for baseball right now.
4. College football overreactions 🏈
Have we really not talked about college football yet today? Sheesh, let’s change that.
Obviously, it was a big weekend for CFB as we saw the return of the SEC and were treated to some pretty intriguing matchups throughout the day on Saturday. Being a Texas fan, I really ran the gamut of overreactions during an absurd game against Texas Tech but there were plenty more overreactions a college football fan could have after that weekend. Ben Kercheval takes us through a few:
- LSU is in for a major rebuild after all: How quickly things can change in college football. The reigning champs struggled in a 44-34 loss to Mississippi State, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Mike Leach’s system shredded the Tigers, as quarterback K.J. Costello threw the ball 60 times and racked up over 600 yards. LSU could sorely miss their difference-makers this season
- The Big 12 doesn’t have a single great team: Oklahoma had a stunning collapse against Kansas State, Texas made an adventure out of beating Texas Tech, and it looks like there’s not one great team in the Big 12 right now. The conference could be a little bit more wide open than we expected
- Florida’s offense is going to be a problem: Kyle Trask? He’s nasty and he might lead the SEC in passing this year. The Gators QB threw for 416 yards and six touchdowns in a 51-35 win over Ole Miss and it was a ton of fun to watch. He’s gonna face better defenses coming up but there’s plenty of reason to buy in
If you want a full recap of Week 4 action, our David Cobb has you covered right here. And now we start counting down the days until Saturday again.
📝 Odds & Ends
📺 What to watch tonight
🏒 Lightning vs. Stars, 8 p.m. | DAL +150 | TV: NBC
🏈 Chiefs vs. Ravens, 8:15 p.m. | BAL -3.5 | TV: ESPN
📝 Top scores from last night
🏀 Heat 125, Celtics 113
Bam Adebayo had 32 points and 14 rebounds as the Heat clinched a spot in the NBA Finals
💵 Winning wagers: MIA +129, Over (216)
🏈 Buccaneers 28, Broncos 10
Tom Brady threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns as the Bucs improved to 2-1.
💵 Winning wagers: TB -6, Under (42.5)
⚾ Cardinals 5, Brewers 2
Harrison Bader tripled and homered to help the Cardinals clinch a postseason berth on the final day of the regular season, but the Brewers also managed to clinch a playoff spot despite the loss.
💵 Winning wagers: STL -109, Under (8)