2020 NBA Finals - Los Angeles Lakers v Miami Heat
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Happy Thursday, everyone.

Let's get right to it.

Good morning to everyone but especially to...

Cedar Rapids Bunnies v. Davenport Blue Sox
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Minor-league baseball players officially have a union and have joined the MLB Players Association after an arbitrator approved the MiLB players union authorization cards. Here's what you need to know:

  • Some of the major goals of the unionization effort are to increase pay and improve working conditions and housing
  • The union will likely represent over 5,000 minor-league players.
  • The Players Association also indicated it will bargain on behalf of players in the Dominican Summer League.

As part of his statement, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said, "The historic achievement required the right group of Players and the right moment to succeed. Minor Leaguers have courageously seized that moment, and we look forward to improving their terms and conditions of employment through the process of good faith collective bargaining."

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for...


The NBA is coming under fire from several key figures -- including LeBron James -- for its handling of the Robert Sarver investigation. Sarver, the owner of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, was banned from the league for a year and fined $10 million for inappropriate workplace conduct.

We detailed some of the findings -- including Sarver using the N-word on multiple occasions and making "sex-related comments" -- in yesterday's newsletter, and the abhorrent details and relatively light punishment caught the eye of the league's most influential player on Wednesday.

Other players, including the Suns' own Chris Paul have expressed similar thoughts on the punishment not being severe enough.

Not so honorable mentions

NFL expert picks for TNF, Week 2 games include plenty of upsets 🏈


Week 2 of the NFL season gets underway tonight when the Chargers visit the Chiefs in what should be a terrific game. Both teams are off to good starts with the Chargers holding off the division-rival Raiders, 24-19 and the Chiefs dominating the Cardinals, 44-21, in Week 1.

Tonight's game gives both squads an opportunity to not only take an early solo lead in the loaded AFC West but make a statement in the process. These teams split their two meetings last year, and both came down to the wire. Our NFL expert John Breech thinks we'll have another thriller on our hands:

  • Breech: "Since he took over the Chiefs starting QB job in 2018, Mahomes has gone 12-2 in the month of September and he's thrown 49 touchdown passes in those 12 wins... The Chiefs have won six straight home openers and they're 11-2 in their past 13 prime-time games and I think what I'm trying to say is that there's no way I'm picking against the Chiefs. The pick: Chiefs 34-27 over Chargers."

As for the weekend, I have my eye on one of the strangest streaks of late: the Colts haven't won in Jacksonville since 2014, a streak of seven straight road losses to the Jaguars. That includes last year's 26-11 disaster that caused Indianapolis to miss the playoffs. Does that streak end this year? Pete Prisco says...

  • Prisco: "They are also playing consecutive road games, while Jacksonville is playing its home opener. That's a big edge to the Jaguars. The Colts rallied to tie the Texans last week, but this time around they won't rally to win. ... Pick: Jaguars 26, Colts 23"

A tie against the Texans and a loss to the Jaguars would be a less-than-ideal way to begin the Matt Ryan era in Indy, so this is a big one. Here are more picks from:

Pete Prisco | John Breech | Tyler Sullivan

QB Power Rankings: Who improved, who fell after Week 1? 👀


Power Rankings are the best. I love learning about how other people think and why they think that way, and their thoughts inform my thoughts. So when I saw that our NFL expert Cody Benjamin is doing NFL Quarterback Power Rankings throughout the season, I knew I had to get them into the newsletter.

Here's the top five entering Week 2:

  • 1. Patrick Mahomes
  • 2. Tom Brady
  • 3. Aaron Rodgers
  • 4. Josh Allen
  • 5. Justin Herbert

It's the same top five as last week, which is a good reminder not to overreact to Week 1. Remember when Rodgers looked dreadful in Week 1 last year? He did just fine the rest of the way. He did better than just fine. He won his second straight MVP.

That doesn't mean we can't react at all to Week 1, though, and an old face in a new place made the biggest jump.

  • Benjamin: "16. Carson Wentz -- Wentz is enjoying the largest jump of the week after showcasing some of the same early-career magic that sold Philly fans. Yes, he still coughed up the ball multiple times, but his play-making bent was the biggest reason Washington stole an important Week 1 win. (+6)"

After throwing interceptions on consecutive passes, here's how Wentz finished his final two drives of the game (not counting kneel downs): 8 for 11, 134 yards, 2 touchdowns, 12.2 yards per attempt, 153.0 passer rating (out of 153.8). That's pretty good. Here's the entire Power Rankings.

Champions League recap: Erling Haaland scores stunner against old team ⚽


Three things in life are certain: death, taxes and Erling Haaland scoring goals. Manchester City's superstar scored a ridiculous go-ahead goal in the 84th minute as City beat Haaland's former club, Borussia Dortmund, 2-1. Just how good was it? It had soccer writer Roger Gonzalez comparing it to other recent iconic moments across sports.

  • Gonzalez: "That's just out of this world. We are talking Odell Beckham's catch versus the Dallas Cowboys level of iconic, or Kahwi Leonard's game-winner in the playoffs for the Toronto Raptors against the Philadelphia 76ers. It was an incredible, unreplicable feat by a guy who may end up being the most talented forward in the world. It's just jaw-dropping levels of athleticism oozing with class."

Haaland now has 13 goals in nine matches with City, and you can watch this latest one again and again (and again) here. As for everything else around a busy day of Champions League action:

Here are all of our takeaways.

USMNT announces squad for upcoming friendlies 🇺🇸

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The United States men's national soccer team released its roster for its final two tune ups ahead of the 2022 World Cup, and there were plenty of interesting -- well, perhaps controversial is the right word -- selections.

You can see the entire roster here, but here are some major takeaways:

  • Top standouts such as Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna, Yunus Musah, Tyler Adams, Sergiño Dest and Brenden Aaronson are included.
  • Not included are three likely World Cup roster locks: goalkeeper Zack Steffen, defender Antonee Robinson and winger Tim Weah, all of whom are dealing with injuries.
  • The much-discussed striker position includes Jesús Ferreira, Josh Sargent and Ricardo Pepi.

It's that last name -- Pepi -- that raises eyebrows. After a strong World Cup qualifying campaign, he hasn't scored since Oct. 7, 2021, and his inclusion means some strikers who are producing got left out, writes soccer scribe Chuck Booth.

  • Booth: "[USMNT coach] Gregg Berhalter decided not to bring Jordan Pefok whose Union Berlin side are leading the Bundesliga with the help of his contributions. Haji Wright and Brandon Vazquez are the other in form forwards who have been left out of the squad as Berhalter wants to mimic a World Cup squad of 26. While there are tough decisions all around, forward is the biggest question mark on the team so leaving home the most in form options in favor of Pepi is a curious decision indeed."

While this isn't the final World Cup roster, it's likely pretty close to it. Here are the two games this squad plays before the action in Qatar begins:

  • Sept. 23 vs. Japan
  • Sept. 27 vs. Saudi Arabia

Here are more of Chuck's takeaways.

What we're watching Thursday 📺

UEFA Europa League, Noon and 2:50 p.m. on Paramount+
🏈 Chargers at Chiefs, 8:15 p.m. on Prime Video
🏀 Aces at Sun, 9 p.m. on ESPN