Baker Mayfield Getty Los Angeles Rams LA
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Happy Friday, everyone!

Let's get right to it.

Good morning to everyone but especially to...

BAKER MAYFIELD AND THE LOS ANGELES RAMS

On Tuesday, one team in the entire NFL wanted Baker Mayfield. On Thursday night, he pulled off one of the most remarkable wins you'll see in a long time for that very team.

Mayfield led two fourth-quarter touchdown drives -- and capped the second one with a touchdown pass to Van Jefferson with 10 seconds left -- to rally the Rams past the Raiders, 17-16.

  • The Rams were the only team to put in a waiver claim for Mayfield -- who was waived by Carolina -- on Tuesday. He arrived in Los Angeles late Tuesday night after starting to study the playbook on the plane ride, though John Wolford started the game.
  • Mayfield took over on the second possession and never looked back. He was playing quite well given the circumstances but then took it to a whole new level on the final two drives.
  • Down 16-3, Mayfield led a 17-play, 75-yard drive that took over nine minutes. Cam Akers capped it off with a one-yard touchdown plunge. Then, down 16-10 with under two minutes left and no timeouts, Mayfield took the Rams 98 yards in eight plays, concluding with the absolutely perfect pass to Jefferson.
  • According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Rams' 98-yard drive was the longest go-ahead touchdown drive that began in the final two minutes over the last 45 seasons.
  • Remember, this is a player who was out of a job three days ago!!!

Every once in a while, we get stories like this in other sports, like the emergency goalie in hockey. But it's hard to find anything comparable for an NFL quarterback, who has to lead an 11-man operation. Many quarterbacks on new teams need months to make things function; it took Mayfield hours.

If someone told you a few months ago -- or even a few days ago -- that Mayfield would snap the reigning Super Bowl-champion Rams' six-game losing streak, you'd be very confused. Even Hollywood couldn't write that script. But the NFL stands for "Not For Long," and while we usually associate that players falling off quickly, in this case, it applies in another sense: a player bouncing back from being waived for the first time in his career with a win he and the Rams won't soon forget.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for...

Daniel Snyder Getty Washington Commanders
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DANIEL SNYDER

More than a year after it began its investigation, the U.S. House of Representatives' Oversight Committee released its findings regarding the Commanders' workplace culture -- and the NFL's handling of it -- with a 79-page report Thursday.

Among the major conclusions were...

  • Team owner Daniel Snyder "permitted and participated in" the toxic workplace environment.
  • Snyder also obstructed the congressional inquiry with several strategies, including testifying that he could not remember answers to basic questions.
  • Former Washington president Bruce Allen alleges the Commanders were behind the leaking of ex-Raiders coach Jon Gruden's emails, which led to Gruden's resignation.
  • Allen also said Snyder sent private investigators to his home and that Snyder discussed doing the same to others, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
  • The report also comes down hard on the NFL for not addressing Snyder's interference in the Beth Wilkinson investigation and burying the findings from that investigation.

The Commanders remain under investigation, and Snyder hired Bank of America for "potential transactions" regarding the team, including selling the franchise. You can see more details from the Oversight Committee's report here.

Not so honorable mentions

NFL Week 14 picks: Purdy faces Brady in first start; Tagovailoa, Herbert duel 🏈

Brock Purdy Getty San Francisco 49ers
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If you want intriguing, high-stakes quarterback matchups, Week 14 is for you. How about Brock Purdy and the 49ers hosting Tom Brady and the Buccaneers? Here are their career numbers:

  • Purdy: 0 starts | 2 passing touchdowns | 276 passing yards
  • Brady: 377 starts | 726 passing touchdowns | 100,901 passing yards

Heck, Purdy was just three and a half months old when Brady was drafted. But Purdy's already been compared to a Hall-of-Famer by a teammate, and another Hall-of-Famer says Purdy can win a Super Bowl... this year. Now, our NFL senior writer Pete Prisco says Mr. Irrelevant can beat Brady.

  • Prisco: "The Bucs had an amazing fourth-quarter comeback Monday night to beat the Saints, but the offense struggled for most of the game. That's never a good thing against the 49ers defense. The 49ers will start Brock Purdy at quarterback, but he will play well. The 49ers take it. Pick: 49ers 26, Bucs 17"

One thing to note: Brady is 6-0 against quarterbacks making their first start. We'll see if Purdy can change that.

As for quarterbacks who came into the league at the same time, two members of the outstanding 2020 quarterback class face off, with Tua Tagovailoa's Dolphins visiting Justin Herbert's Chargers. There are major playoff implications here, with Miami currently the six seed and Los Angeles on the outside looking in at ninth in the AFC. Our NFL guru John Breech expects the Chargers' up-and-down season to continue:

  • Breech: "If I know one thing about the Chargers, it's that they love to tease their fans and a big tease would be beating the Dolphins this week only to lose all that momentum by losing next week, so that's exactly what I'm going to say happens. The pick: Chargers 30-27 over Dolphins"

Here are all of our experts' picks:

Pete PriscoJohn Breech | Tyler Sullivan | Jordan Dajani

Losing Bogaerts shows us not to take Red Sox seriously ⚾

Xander Boegarts Getty Boston Red Sox
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Xander Bogaerts was a homegrown star for the Red Sox...

  • Four-time All-Star
  • Two-time World Series champion
  • Five-time Silver Slugger
  • Top-12 MVP finisher in three of the last four seasons

Now, he's a San Diego Padre thanks to an 11-year, $280-million contract.

Where were the Red Sox during these negotiations? Well, they came in with a six-year deal that our MLB expert Mike Axisa described as "unserious," especially in the light of Aaron Judge's (nine years, $360 million) and Trea Turner's (11 years, $300 million) contracts.

It's not just losing Bogaerts that's made this offseason a failure. While the Red Sox have added Masataka Yoshida and some relievers, they've missed out on several big names, which makes Mike wonder what's going on behind the scenes.

  • Axisa: "Maybe Chaim Bloom & Co. have repeatedly misread the market. Maybe ownership isn't all that committed to winning. Maybe free agents have identified Boston as a place they don't want to play. I don't know what's wrong here, exactly, but it feels like something is out of whack. ... It was only four years ago that the Red Sox won the World Series and had one of the most enviable cores in the sport. Now just about all those core players are wearing other uniforms while Boston tries to climb out of the AL East cellar."

World Cup returns today with Croatia-Brazil, Netherlands-Argentina ⚽

Argentina Netherlands Getty World Cup 2022 Lionel Messi
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After a two-day break, the World Cup is back with quarterfinal matches today and tomorrow. (Here's the schedule.)

All four matches promise plenty of intrigue -- as any World Cup quarterfinal round should -- and today's contests should be terrific. Reigning runner-up Croatia takes on Brazil, the betting favorite to win it all and the team atop our soccer scribe James Benge's World Cup Power Rankings.

  • Benge: "All that was missing from those two possession and territory dominant wins over Serbia and Switzerland to start the tournament was the sort of drubbing on the scoresheet that... sends out a message to their rivals. That came in emphatic form on Neymar's return against South Korea, but whilst he and the frontline stole the headlines, don't overlook a defense that has conceded just 0.38 non-penalty expected goals (npxG) per match."

The second match today should be a sizzler, too, with the Netherlands facing Lionel Messi and Argentina.

As for everything else...

Explaining the long journey of bringing Brittney Griner home

Brittney Griner USATSI Phoenix Mercury
USATSI

As we wrote in Thursday's newsletter, Brittney Griner is finally coming home via a prisoner swap between the United States and Russia. It's important to understand the full context of the difficult journey Griner had to endure -- and the challenges the United States had to overcome in its quest to free her -- and we have a full timeline and explainer right here.

What we're watching this weekend 📺

We're watching the World Cup. Here's the schedule.

Friday

🏀 Lakers at 76ers, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Bucks at Mavericks, 10 p.m. on ESPN

Saturday

🏈 Navy vs. Army, 3 p.m. on CBS
🏀 No. 8 Alabama at No. 1 Houston, 3 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 No. 10 Arizona vs. No. 14 Indiana, 7:30 p.m. on Fox
🏀 Celtics at Warriors, 8:30 p.m. on ABC

Sunday

🏈 Here's the Week 14 NFL schedule.
🏒 Avalanche at Blues, 3 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 No. 6 UConn at No. 20 Maryland, 3 p.m. on ABC
🏀 No. 13 Maryland vs. No. 7 Tennessee, 4:30 p.m. on FS1