Congratulations, friends! We've made it to Friday! There's a football-packed weekend ahead of you followed by a short week and Thanksgiving. I'll be on vacation next week, but before I go, here are my hottest takes on Thanksgiving food:
- Overrated: cranberry sauce
- Underrated: sweet potatoes
- Just plain bad and always will be: green bean casserole
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All right, hopefully you're still reading and not tweeting mean things at me. Let's get to it.
Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (AND THAT DOMINANT DEFENSE)
The Patriots have figured out their winning equation: a hard-nosed, ground-and-pound offense and a strong defense -- the latter of which is truly hitting its stride.
New England churned out 134 rushing yards, Mac Jones threw a touchdown to Nelson Agholor and the defense recorded four interceptions and four sacks en route to a 25-0 win. It's the Patriots' fifth straight win. Here's our Tyler Sullivan on the biggest reason for New England's streak:
- Sullivan: "The Patriots' defense continues to be the backbone of this winning streak and its improved play over the last month-plus has raised the ceiling for this team exponentially. They were able to apply pressure on Ryan early and often, and from every which way ... In all, Ryan was sacked four times on the night and was hit a total of 12 times."
Playing on the road on a short week, the Patriots' defense did not skip a beat. It's the first time since 2005 that New England has held three consecutive opponents within a season to single digits. Up next for Bill Belichick and company? A home date with the AFC-leading Titans next Sunday.
A month ago, that game didn't look like much. Now, assuming Tennessee can beat Houston this weekend (and I know it's dangerous to assume, but still) it will feature the teams with the two longest active winning streaks in the NFL.
The Patriots are very back.
- At this rate, Stephen Curry will be in this section every time he plays. He had 40 points with nine three-pointers Thursday against the Cavaliers. He outscored Cleveland BY HIMSELF 20-8 in the fourth quarter. He is simply absurd.
- Dick Vitale is back! The iconic college basketball broadcaster, who announced in October that he had been diagnosed with lymphoma, will call Tuesday's showdown between No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 UCLA. The 82-year-old is still receiving treatment, but his return will certainly bring a smile to the face of college basketball fans everywhere.
And not such a good morning for...
BIG TEN MEN'S BASKETBALL
Raise your hand if you're a ranked Big Ten team that lost to an unranked non-conference foe in in the last five days. Illini, Wolverines, Terrapins and Buckeyes, we're looking at you!
That's right, the Big Ten had an AP-ranked men's basketball team lose to an unranked non-conference foe four days in a row. It's the first time that's ever happened. The latest occurrence came last night when No. 19 Ohio State fell to unranked Xavier, 71-65.
Earlier in the week, this happened:
- Wednesday: No. 20 Maryland lost to George Mason
- Tuesday: No. 4 Michigan lost to Seton Hall
- Monday: No. 10 Illinois lost to Marquette
This season, it's not waiting until March.
Shohei Ohtani, Bryce Harper take home MVP awards ⚾
The year 1900 marks what's known as the "Modern Era" in baseball. Since then, there have been 2,229 instances of a pitcher recording at least 150 strikeouts in a season. There have been 353 instances of a batter hitting 40 home runs in a season.
There has been ONE -- count 'em, ONE -- instance of a player doing BOTH in a season... and it's not Babe Ruth.
Say hello to your 2021 AL MVP, Shohei Ohtani. The two-way superstar took home all 30 first-place votes and became the fourth Angel to win the award, joining Mike Trout (2019, 2016, 2014), Vladimir Guerrero (2004) and Don Baylor (1979). Ohtani posted a 9-2 record on the mound, and his 46 homers were second in Angels history behind Troy Glaus, who hit 47 in 2000. He truly did it all, writes MLB expert Dayn Perry:
- Perry: "It's common enough to hear about players who 'do it all,' but in Ohtani's case that claim approaches the literal, at least in baseball terms. Add it all up, and Ohtani's combined WAR of 9.1 led not just the AL but all the majors this season and did so by a large margin. Yes, WAR is a bit of a blunt instrument, but it's right in this case when it pegs Ohtani as the best player in the game for 2021."
While it's an incredible win for Ohtani, it's even better for the person who placed $30,000 on Ohtani to win MVP on March 19, 2021. Ohtani had 30/1 odds at that point, meaning Caesars Sportsbook is paying out $900,000 on that bet alone.
On the NL side of things, Phillies slugger Bryce Harper made a little history himself, becoming just the fifth player to win MVP with multiple teams. Harper, who also won as a National in 2015, beat out current National Juan Soto, among others, for the award. He's the sixth Phillies player to win MVP.
Pete Prisco's picks for Week 11 🏈
Pete Prisco's Week 11 picks are here, and with a season record of 90-60-1, he's worth listening to.
Here are his takes on two of the weekend's top games:
- Packers at Vikings: "Minnesota was impressive last week winning on the road against the Chargers. But this Packers team will get the offense back on track again to go with a defense that will slow Cousins in what is a big game. Packers take it. Pick: Packers 24, Vikings 19"
- Cowboys at Chiefs: "This is the game of the week, and it should be an offensive shootout between Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott. This past Sunday night, Mahomes got the offense back to what we expected to see before the season. That will carry over here. The Cowboys will score their points as well since the Chiefs defense still isn't great, so look for a high-scoring game with the Chiefs coming out on top. Pick: Chiefs 34, Cowboys 30"
The latest on the Peng Shuai situation 🎾
Here are some key updates surrounding Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai's disappearance :
- Shuai hasn't been seen for over two weeks since accusing retired Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault in a since-deleted social media post Nov. 2.
- On Nov. 14, Women's Tennis Association (WTA) chief executive Steve Simon called for an investigation.
- On Nov. 17, Shuai allegedly sent Simon an email saying the WTA did not seek her consent or verification before releasing its statement. The email also says, "(t)he news in that release, including the allegation of sexual assault, is not true" and that Shuai is safe. Simon questioned if Shuai was coerced into writing the post.
- On Thursday, Simon doubled down on an earlier threat to pull WTA's business with China.
Several tennis stars, including prominent women's players Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, have shared tweets with the hashtag #whereispengshuai urging that action be taken.
What we're watching this weekend 📺
🏈No. 7 Michigan State at No. 4 Ohio State (-19), Noon on ABC | Two Big Ten teams with playoff aspirations meet in Columbus.
🏀No. 5 Villanova vs No. 17 Tennessee, 1 p.m. on ESPNews | The Wildcats scored 100 last time out (against Howard.)
🏈No. 21 Arkansas at No. 2 Alabama (-20.5), 3:30 p.m. on CBS | The Crimson Tide hope to keep their spot inside the top four of the CFP rankings
🏀No. 18 North Carolina vs No. 6 Purdue, 4 p.m. on ESPNews | Purdue has scored 96, 92 and 96 points in its first three contests this season.
🏈Packers at Vikings (+1.5), 1 p.m. on FOX | A classic NFC North clash with Green Bay and Minnesota battling for playoff positioning.
🏈Colts at Bills (-7), 1 p.m. on CBS and Paramount+ | This would be a statement win for either team.
🏈Cowboys at Chiefs (-2.5), 4:25 p.m. on FOX | I shouldn't have to explain why you should be watching this one.