Wake up and breathe it in, my friend. You smell that? That's the aroma of a beautiful fall sports weekend on the horizon. Fall always tends to be an awesome sports season but it's even more incredible this year. Need proof?
The Stanley Cup Final is set and will begin Saturday. We've got both NBA Conference Finals series in action over the next couple of days. College football and the NFL are back and humming. MLB is winding down its season with playoff spots in the balance. And, on top of all that, we've also got major championship golf, some EPL, UFC and WNBA.
Pretty unreal, isn't it?
Immediately after we're done here this morning, I plan on slipping into a pair of sweatpants, finding a spot on the couch and sitting in front of the TV with a drink in my hand for the next 72 hours or so. Don't worry, I'll find some time to shower before we meet again on Monday.
Until then, let's close out this week strong and go over what is happening.
📰 What you need to know
1. Bengals lose but Joe Burrow shines on TNF 🏈
Normally, a Browns-Bengals game in primetime may seem like a punishment to football fans outside of Ohio, but not in 2020. We just had, like, four months without sports and this NFL season is still very fresh so it feels like we should just be grateful for anything we can get at this point. Plus, there were a few interesting storylines heading into this one: A battle of first-overall picks and Heisman winners at quarterback with Baker Mayfield and Joe Burrow, the later of whom was playing in primetime for the first time as an NFL QB. And, of course, there's the Ohio/AFC North rivalry at play, too.
And wouldn't you know it, it actually turned out to be a pretty fun game. Ultimately the Browns managed to hold off the Bengals, 35-30, but Burrow had quite the night. He threw the ball 61 times and picked up over 300 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw 60+ passes in a game and have zero interceptions and just the 10th quarterback ever to accomplish that feat.
Our NFL crew breaks it down for you:
- Why the Browns won: Mayfield looked good (though not perfect) and got the job done when he needed to, but the Browns' running game (and the Bengals' inability to stop it) was the big story here. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for over 200 yards rushing and four total touchdowns in the win
- Why the Bengals lost: Not because of Burrow! The rookie QB looked really good once again this week but his offense left points on the board (Tyler Boyd dropped a sure touchdown in the third quarter) and the defense couldn't get stops when they needed to
After the game, Burrow sounded a bit dejected about starting off his NFL career 0-2:
- Burrow: "Losing isn't very fun. This might be the only time I've lost two games in a row. It doesn't feel very good... Losing is unacceptable to me... That's just not something that's in my mindset... We'll never adjust to losing. We'll never accept losing. We just have to get it right."
Ahhh, yes... the harsh reality of being welcomed to life in the NFL. Burrow is being looked at as the "savior" in Cincinnati and the kid certainly looks like the real deal so far. He saying and doing the right things, but let's be honest here... the Bengals aren't exactly known for "getting it right." Burrow's probably gonna have to get used to this losing thing whether he likes it or not, at least until they can put some more help around him and stop letting teams like the Browns -- also not really known for "getting it right" -- run all over them.
2. Heat disarm Celtics, piss off Marcus Smart in Game 2 🏀
It's been a nightmare start to the Eastern Conference Finals for the Boston Celtics. After letting Game 1 slip out of their grasp earlier this week, the Celtics also lost Game 2 to the Heat in incredibly frustrating fashion on Thursday night. Here's what went down:
- Boston looked strong in the first half against Miami, scoring 60 points through the first two quarters
- The Heat switched to zone defense for much of the second half and that simple adjustment seemed to leave the Celtics completely perplexed
- As Miami crowded the paint, Boston scored just 41 points over the final two quarters and lost 106-101 (Boston scored 32 points in the paint in the first half, but only 14 in the second)
- The Heat overcame a 17-point deficit in the win
Thanks to that very basic defensive adjustment (and excellent execution) by the Heat, they now lead the series 2-0 while the Celtics might be on the verge of imploding. With frustrations running high after Game 2, Marcus Smart reportedly snapped and erupted on some of his teammates in the locker room.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens downplayed the postgame incident, saying it happens and that his guys "were emotional after a hard game, hard loss." Some of Smart's teammates also came to his defense after the reported locker room explosion:
- Jaylen Brown: "He plays with passion, he's full of fire, and that's what I love about him most, to be honest. He has that desire and that will, and we need him to continue to have that. There are ups and downs with families all the time, but we embrace each other for who we are, and who Marcus is, I love him for it."
- Enes Kanter: "Too many bulls--t rumors out there, this group of guys is one of the best I've been around. No one can split our family up. Keep fighting & grinding."
Whether or not you want to read into the locker room thing, the Celtics are going to clean things up if they don't want to let this series get away from them quickly. Through the first couple of games they've gotten sloppy and lazy at points and it has plagued them. Aimlessly dribbling and passing around the arc before tossing up a low-percentage look as the shot clock expires just isn't going to get the job done.
3. Justin Thomas atop stacked U.S. Open leaderboard 🏌
Major championship season officially kicked off yesterday as the 120th U.S. Open got underway at Winged Foot and, surprisingly, the course wasn't as unforgiving as many expected heading into Day 1. Most of us expected to see some real tough scores all week but, as it turns out, 20 golfers are under par after 18 holes.
Justin Thomas currently leads the field at 5-under par heading into today, and he's just one of the big names that our Kyle Boone & Kyle Porter discussed yesterday:
- Thomas (-5): He showed great control and hit some big putts when he needed to. He went on a birdie-birdie-birdie run from holes 9-11 and finished with a 3 under 32 on the back
- Patrick Reed (-4): Reed sits second on the leaderboard despite recording a double-bogey on the 5th hole. He finished clean from there, playing the final 13 holes without a bogey -- including a hole-in-one on the 7th
- Tiger Woods & Dustin Johnson (+3): Tiger had a pretty promising start to his day but things came unhinged on the back nine. DJ was up and down throughout the day but rebounded from a double-bogey on No. 4 to play his final 14 at 1 over
We're just getting started at Winged Foot and there's an absolutely loaded leaderboard with some big names hanging out around the top so this could be a very fun next three days. Giddy up.
4. Friday Gambling Corner 💰
With Friday upon us and the weekend tantalizingly close, it's time for us to revisit our weekly tradition of going over what we've got to bet on over the next couple of days. You'll be getting your daily picks from Tom Fornelli a little bit later today (thanks to Tom for nailing his Bengals +6 pick yesterday) but here's some of options on the gambling slate this weekend, powered by our friends at SportsLine:
- College football: SportsLine's projection model has been on fire to start the season. It's 9-0 on A-rated picks to start the season, and that's great news considering there are four A-rated picks on tomorrow's slate, including Boston College-Duke, Syracuse-Pitt and Houston-Baylor
- NFL: Of course we've got to keep our eyes and wallets focused on the NFL, too. The SportsLine projection model is also crushing it on the pro side, starting 4-0 in the NFL to this point. Additionally, SportsLine's group of experts collectively went 43-14 against the spread in Week 1 (a 75 percent cash rate). There's three A-rated picks for Sunday, including Buffalo-Miami, Vikings-Colts and Ravens-Texans
- UFC: There's a UFC Fight Night event this weekend and SportsLine's Kyle Marley has hit 19 of his last 23 main-event picks. He's here to break down Colby Covington (-340) vs. Tyron Woodley, a matchup of welterweight contenders going down in Vegas, and he's delivered picks for all the rest of the fights on the card as well
As always, may the odds be ever in your favor. Come back to me richer next week.
📝 Odds & Ends
- Josh Donaldson was ejected from yesterday's Twins game after he hit a home run and kicked dirt on the plate following his run around the bases. Donaldson was upset with a strike call from the home plate umpire earlier in the at-bat
- A fan rediscovered a Michael Jordan autographed baseball bat after it sat in the trunk of his car for 26 years
- Pac-12 football return to play discussions are still in the early stages but they could be looking at October 31 as a target start date
📺 What to watch this weekend
🏀 Nuggets vs. Lakers, 9 p.m. | LAL -7 | TV: TNT
🏈 No. 17 Miami vs. No. 18 Louisville, 7:30 p.m. | LVILLE -2.5 | TV: ABC
🏒 Stars vs. Lightning, 7:30 p.m. | TBL -160 | TV: NBC
🏀 Celtics vs. Heat, 8:30 p.m. | MIA +3 | TV: ESPN
🏌 Final round of U.S. Open
🏈 Falcons vs. Cowboys, 1 p.m. | DAL -4.5 | TV: FOX
🏀 Nuggets vs. Lakers, 7:30 p.m. | TV: TNT
🏈 Patriots vs. Seahawks, 8:25 p.m. | SEA -4 | TV: NBC
📝 Top scores from last night
Anthony Cirelli scored in overtime to clinch the series for the Lightning in Game 6, punching their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final to face the Dallas Stars.
💵 Winning wagers: Lightning -177, Under (5)
The Yankees won their eighth straight and tied a record in the process last night, hitting five home runs in an inning. The Bombers also set a major league record for most home runs in a three-game span with 19.
💵 Winning wagers: NYY -248