Happy Thursday, all!

Let's get right to it.

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Good morning to everyone but especially to...

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The last few weeks have been eventful to say the least for the Los Angeles Rams.

And then, on Wednesday, there was the championship parade, and there was McVay leading a "run it back" chant with Donald responding, "We built a super team. We can bring a super team back! Why not run it back? We could be world champions again."

Now listen, most everyone has said something they later regret after several hours of drinking -- and drink the Rams did -- but it's hard to see this as anything but a positive for the reigning champs. There's still a lot to do in order to repeat, but it certainly will be much easier if McVay and Donald return.

P.S. -- Also a good morning to Rams GM Les Snead and his hilarious shirt.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for...

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When it comes to the Knicks this season, there is seemingly no lead too big to blow. The latest? A 28-point lead wasted in an eventual 111-106 loss to the very shorthanded Nets last night. It's...

  • Their third loss after leading by 20+ in February alone. (only team in at least the last 25 years to blow three 20-point leads in a single month).
  • Their largest blown lead since ... 1987!

The Knicks are now 3-13 in their last 16 games and 25-34 overall, which puts them 12th in the Eastern Conference. This comes just a season after they broke through and made the playoffs for the first time since 2013. 

It all comes back to one common denominator: head coach Tom Thibodeau, pens our NBA columnist Bill Reiter:

  • Reiter: "He has not evolved. He has not learned. He has not taken his foot off the pedal. Typewriters must give way to computers, horse and buggies to cars, the old ways to the new. And Thibodeau -- stuck in the past -- has fallen into his own predictable pattern. The Knicks are bad, and their head coach does not have a plan or solution for anything other than full, futile steam ahead."

Not so honorable mentions

Placing NBA championship contenders into tiers 🏀

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We are under two months from the NBA regular season ending, and title contenders have started to emerge. Spoiler alert: There are plenty of them.

No team has title odds shorter than +450, and 12 teams are at +3000 or shorter at Caesars Sportsbook. So, how can we divide up the field? Our NBA expert Brad Botkin placed the contenders into four tiers. Here are the top two:

Tier 1: The Favorites

Tier 2: Knocking on the Door

Interestingly not in those two tiers? The Brooklyn Nets, who fell into the third tier: "Wild Cards." Here's why:

  • Botkin: "Brooklyn is the wildest wild card in the bunch. ... Maybe New York will lift its vaccine mandate, thus allowing Kyrie Irving back full-time by the playoffs. If it all works, Brooklyn becomes a Tier 1 contender. But there's a flip side to this coin. New York doesn't lift the mandate, Irving isn't back full-time, and now Kevin Durant is without a wingman scorer half the time. Ben Simmons doesn't find his full rhythm and, even with better spacing, screws up the half-court flow. Durant winds up having to do too much and the Nets, again, fall a foot short against one of the Eastern Conference's many worthy foes."

To me, Brooklyn could be in its own tier, simply because there are so many unknowns. And that's just one reason why these final weeks of the regular season -- and then the playoffs -- will be so fun.

Teams set to take a step back in 2022 🏈


Yesterday we reviewed teams that could make "the jump" in 2022. Now for the other side of the coin. Our NFL reporter Jeff Kerr looked at teams that could fall back next season.

There are plenty of candidates, but one stands out to me: the Raiders.

  • Kerr: "In comes Josh McDaniels as head coach and Patrick Graham at defensive coordinator, meaning the Raiders have to install a new offensive and defensive scheme for 2022. ... Graham runs a much different defense than Bradley, so expect roster turnover on that side of the ball. ... Las Vegas will also need to add wide receivers and reshape the interior of the defensive line this offseason as a result of the new scheme."

The Raiders overcame a ton of bad events in 2021. Jon Gruden resigned after leaked emails, and Henry Ruggs III was released after causing a fatal car accident. Still, Las Vegas won its final four games to make the playoffs. The team deserves a ton of credit.

But the coaching turnover is no small matter, and it's also unlikely the Raiders repeat their close-game performance. It reminds me of their 2016-17 stretch:

  • 2016: 12-4 record, 9-2 in one-score games | 2017: 6-10 record, 4-3 in one-score games
  • 2021: 10-7 record, 7-2 in one-score games | 2022: TBD

Champions League: Bayern Munich grabs late equalizer, Liverpool rolls ⚽

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Two more Champions League Round-of-16 matchups opened on Wednesday, with Bayern Munich rescuing a 1-1 draw late at RB Salzburg and Liverpool picking up a 2-0 win at Inter Milan.

In order for Bayern to break the deadlock in the second leg, it needs to get its biggest superstar more involved, writes our soccer expert Chuck Booth:

  • Booth: "It's not often that Robert Lewandowski goes quiet but Bayern took 22 shots and he had zero of them. ... With only 31 touches during the match, he was effectively marked out of the game. For Bayern to move on to the final eight, that can't happen in the second leg. Rating: 4"

As for the Reds, it was a world-class defensive display from one of the world's best defenders, writes soccer scribe James Benge:

  • Benge: "Thanks to Inter, we at least got to see that pre-injury, peak-of-his-powers Virgil Van Dijk once more. This is a center back for whom it all comes much too easily, one that probably has not had to break into a sweat since he made the move to Anfield. A well-organized, inventive and energetic Inter Milan threw everything they could at Van Dijk. They barely left a mark."

You can see ratings for Liverpool and Inter here.

What we're watching Thursday 📺

🏀 No. 18 Ohio State at No. 13 Maryland, 8 p.m. on BTN
🏀 No. 19 Notre Dame at No. 16 Georgia Tech, 8 p.m. on ACC Network
🏀 76ers at Bucks, 8:30 p.m. on TNT