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Happy Thursday, sports fans! Well, maybe not so happy if you're a baseball fan, but fear not -- or at least not yet. The 2022 season isn't in peril, even as the sport enters a lockout. We'll touch on the ins and outs of that situation and more below.

Let's get to it.

Good morning to everyone but especially to...

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THE NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH

Yes, another day of Notre Dame in the news -- but this time the Fighting Irish are on the right side of things.

The program named defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman as its next head coach, and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees announced he'll be staying with the program as well. It's a positive development in the wake of ex-head coach Brian Kelly leaving for LSU, writes our college football expert Shehan Jeyarajah:

  • Jeyarajah: "Almost everywhere Freeman has coached has improved dramatically. ... Now, Freeman will try and reshape a Notre Dame program that has won near -- but not at -- the highest level over the past decade. Since Freeman took over the program, Notre Dame has been far more aggressive on the recruiting trail. Expect that to continue. If the public displays of support are any indication, players and recruits love him."

Honorable mention:

And not such a good morning for...

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MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Boy, that was a fun few days of big-name free agency deals, right? Don't expect it again for a while.

MLB went into a lockout after the collective bargaining agreement expired Wednesday night at 11:59 p.m. It's a bummer all around -- especially given the flurry of activity in the past week or so -- and it requires quite a bit of explaining.

Luckily, MLB scribe Dayn Perry has us covered:

  • What is a lockout? "A lockout is when the management side -- team owners in this instance -- initiates the stoppage. ... Bottom line: A lockout means the sport is on hold across all fronts until further notice. 'Further notice' in this instance almost certainly means when a new CBA is agreed to in principle."
  • Why is there a lockout? "[I]t's because a new CBA has not yet been agreed to and that owners are unwilling to allow the offseason proceed without one. Like those owners, players aren't typically fond of moving forward with the usual offseason and in-season calendar without a CBA in place, and they would likely strike close to the start of the season or during the season when their leverage is higher. Owners, however, don't want the players to gain such leverage, so a lockout well in advance of spring training is in some ways a preemptive measure on the part of owners and commissioner Rob Manfred (whose job is basically to do the bidding of the team owners)"
  • How long will it last? "This is unknowable. ... For now, the default assumption is that matters are resolved before the regular season is affected."
  • What are they fighting over? "From the players' standpoint, they'd like to address their shrinking share of those league revenues... the occasional practice of service-time manipulation... and the 'tanking' problem, among other matters. The owners, meantime, will likely be looking to maintain the status quo, since the expiring CBA largely worked out to their benefit."

So, what happens during the lockout? Our MLB expert Mike Axisa has some answers:

  • Transaction freeze.
  • Players get paid signing bonuses and deferred salary, but not base salary (which is only paid in-season).
  • No workouts at team facilities.
  • Likely no drug testing.
  • The minor leagues will continue.

As for what happens next for me, I'm a Nationals fan, so I will spend the lockout crying about Max Scherzer signing with the Mets. While I'm crying, you can check out what dates may be affected by this lockout.

As for free agency winners and losers before the lockout... ⚾

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There were signings galore before the lockout began, and that was all good and fun. Now as the dust settles (and may have settled for a while, unfortunately), Mike Axisa takes a look at the winners and losers from free agency so far:

  • Winner: The Mets: "Steve Cohen's team completely flipped the narrative on their offseason in the span of 72 hours or so. The conversation the last few weeks centered around their inability to get qualified candidates to interview for their president of baseball operations job. Now we're all talking about a huge free agent spending spree that added Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, and Starling Marte to the lineup, and paired Jacob deGrom with Max Scherzer."
  • Winner: Fans: "Speaking as a fan, the last few days were the most exciting, most energizing free agent period in quite some time. There was a notable signing seemingly every hour... It wasn't the usual suspects buying up all the top players. It was teams trying to get over the hump and be more competitive."
  • Loser: The Yankees: "Anyone awake in the Bronx? They don't have a shortstop, don't have a No. 2 starter, and have questions at catcher and in center field. Yet the Yankees sat on the sidelines and not only watched most of the top free agents come off the board, but also watched the crosstown rival Mets make most of the headlines."
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NFL playoff picture -- and fantasy advice -- heading into Week 13 🏈

It's December, which means crunch time for your favorite NFL team and, maybe more importantly, your fantasy squad. Ahead of the Cowboys and Saints kicking off tonight, let's take a look at the playoff projections first.

Stephen Oh of SportsLine crunched the numbers, and there's a new projected No. 1 in the AFC:

  • Oh: "The computer likes the Ravens, but it still isn't convinced that Baltimore is going to win the AFC North. Following their 16-10 win over the Browns on Sunday, the Ravens are being given a 63.3 chance of taking home the division crown. Although that doesn't make them a lock, it is more than double the next closest team. (The Bengals are being given a 30.3% chance.)"

As for fantasy suggestions, Jamey Eisenberg has Sit 'Em, Start 'Em advice for every position, and I love his Start of the Week:

  • Eisenberg: Start of the Week: Elijah Mitchell: "Minnesota had injury concerns along its defensive line, and Mitchell dominated in the game with 27 carries for 133 yards and a touchdown, along with five catches for 35 yards on six targets. ... He should have the chance for a solid encore, and I like him as a top-five Fantasy running back in all leagues. With Deebo Samuel (groin) out, you might get more scoring chances for Mitchell, which would be awesome."

WTA suspends tournaments in China over concerns about Peng Shuai's safety 🎾

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Women's Tennis Association CEO Steve Simon announced Wednesday that the WTA will not hold any tournaments in China in response to Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai's sexual assault allegations and subsequent disappearance.

Here are two parts of Simon's statement:

  • Simon:  "I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation. ... As a result, and with the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong. In good conscience, I don't see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault."

This comes one day after the European Union requested "verifiable proof" of Shuai's safety.

Shuai has only been seen publicly once since Nov. 2, which was the date she accused former Communist Party leader Zhang Gaoli of pressuring her into sex in a since-deleted post on the social media site Weibo.

What we're watching Thursday 📺

🏀Bulls at Knicks (+2), 7:30 on NBA.TV | This will be the third meeting between these teams already this season. They split the first two, both in Chicago.
🏈Cowboys at Saints (+4.5), 8:20 on FOX/NFL Network | The Cowboys welcome back Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb while the Saints potentially turn to Taysom Hill at QB.