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NFL insider notebook: Browns appear stuck with Baker Mayfield for another year, plus Week 18 picks

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Just more than a month ago I wrote in this space about the five options the Cleveland Browns had with Baker Mayfield. You can read the full post here, but the long and short of it was no matter how the season ended, he’d likely be back for 2022 playing under the fifth-year option.

As terrible — and, in fairness, injured — as he looked Monday against the Steelers, I still believe that’s the more likely option.

After speaking with sources around the league about what the Browns could do with Mayfield after he finished his fourth season with zero fourth-quarter comebacks or game-winning drives, a market issue began emerging.

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The Browns would need a veteran QB to want to be traded there. That vet would need to be convinced of his receiving weapons. Cleveland’s receiving weapons are far from convincing and I don’t see how they markedly improve in three months by free agency.

Jarvis Landry just turned 29 and put together his worst career year. Whatever draft capital the Browns have in 2022 would be set away in a trade for said QB. And the free agent market for wide receivers will be bottom heavy. Davante Adams may get franchised. Chris Godwin is coming off an ACL. JuJu Smith-Schuster is coming off a shoulder injury. Michael Gallup just tore his ACL.

Are you really going to attract Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson to Cleveland with this group of receivers, even if you boast a fantastic offensive line and running game? Market forces, plus the sunk cost of Mayfield’s fifth-year option, could make it so the Browns have little choice but to move ahead with the former No. 1 overall pick for another season.

Baalke backlash not swaying Khan

Jaguars owner Shad Khan severely underestimated the fan reaction — nay, revolt — over his intention to retain GM Trent Baalke. But I’m told Khan remains steadfast in his decision to retain Baalke as general manager of the team moving forward.

As I wrote last week, the Jaguars were putting out feelers around the league for a No. 2 to pair with Baalke; a sort of director of player personnel or assistant GM. There’s been a lukewarm reaction. Baalke isn’t trusted or well-liked around the league based off his time in San Francisco, and there is initial discomfort in jumping over to work with him.

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I’m told inside that building Baalke has been great to work with. Last year he kept showing up to the building every day even when there was no clarity on if he still had a job.

If there’s a perception/reality gap, the Jaguars have to handle that in the interview process with candidates. One personnel exec told me the decision to retain Baalke showed Khan not being tapped into the football world.

“It’s all about who your network is,” that executive told me. “If you can’t expand your network into the people you’re trying to hire, how do you know the truth?”

Black Monday could come early

For coaches and GMs on the hot seat, don’t be surprised if Black Monday begins Sunday evening.

Team owners opted against firing their coaches and GMs in the final two weeks of the regular season to get a jump on searches, but the schedule falls so that many of these men on hot seats could be out of a job before “Sunday Night Football” is complete.

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The Vikings and Giants all play at home Sunday. There are no flights back home that have to be taken here. The Vikings especially may decide there’s no need to wait until Monday to do the inevitable with Mike Zimmer.

Jets winners when it comes to trades

The New York Jets have pulled off being so bad across different head coaches and GMs that they were able to convince other NFL teams that their good pieces would be great pieces if they could just get out of New York.

That’s the conclusion I’ve come to after reflecting on the Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold trades, anyway. Their bad was so bad that NFL teams figured they could salvage these players and shine them into the stars worthy of the trade compensation given up.

The Jets won both trades and it’s not even close. For Darnold, the Panthers gave up a 2022 second, 2022 fourth and 2021 sixth. He has seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions for the Panthers this season, and they’ve already picked up his fifth-year option.

The Seahawks got Adams and a 2022 fourth while sending away two firsts, a third and safety Bradley McDougald. Adams has not been the missing piece to returning Seattle’s defense to the Legion of Boom era.

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To pull off such heists, you have to be bad. I mean, really bad. An average team with those players would have never gotten that sort of return. But give credit to GM Joe Douglas: he leveraged the perception of the team against the true value of those player assets and got an inflated return.

Week 18 picks

I went 12-4 last week, though I feel like it should be 13-3. I have no recollection of picking the Panthers to beat the Saints and I can’t believe I did that. Oh well, my overall record is now 173-82-1. Let’s finish out strong here in Week 18, even if we’re not entirely sure who’s playing this week.

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click here)

The Steelers still have a glimmer of hope to reach the playoffs, and that’ll be enough for them.

The pick: Steelers

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Bears at Vikings

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: Fox | Stream: fuboTV (click here)

I’ll take the Vikings starters in this one.

The pick: Vikings

Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: NBC | Stream: fuboTV (click here)

Wouldn’t we all sort of love to see these two teams kneel the clock out? Because the Colts will beat the Jags, we won’t be able to see it. The better team wins here.

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The pick: Chargers

Other games



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Three Stars from Day 3 of WJC: Canada’s McTavish joins elite company – Sportsnet.ca

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Canada and the U.S. dominated in their second game of the tournament while Czechia and Finland went toe-to-toe and needed a shootout to determine a winner on Day 3 of the World Junior Hockey Championship.

The Canadian team rebounded from a sluggish performance with an 11-1 win over Slovakia, a game in which captain Mason McTavish added his name to the country’s record books.

Against Switzerland, the United States took their game to another gear that their opponent could not match as they cruised to a 7-1 victory to improve to 2-0 at the tournament.

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Finland dropped a crucial point as they had to overcome a 2-0 deficit but were able to pick up the shootout win over their rival Czechia.

Here is a look at the top performances from Day 3 of the world juniors.

3rd Star: Luke Hughes, USA

Coming from a great hockey family, Luke Hughes is making most of his opportunity as one of the top defencemen for the U.S. 

The younger brother of Quinn and Jack displayed his mobility and vision against Switzerland with a three-point effort. He now has five points in his first two games of the tournament — more than either of his brothers ever achieved at this event in fewer games.

Hughes leads all defenceman in scoring so far in the tournament and is tied for fourth overall.

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The 18-year-old played 21:18 against the Swiss to lead the U.S. in ice time playing on the top pairing with Brock Faber. His play from this point will be a crucial part of his team’s success given the creativity he displayed, especially on Matt Coronato’s goal in the second period.

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He made another top-notch set up on Thomas Bordeleau’s power-play goal in the third period as he delayed enough to get the defenders to pull towards his side of the ice.

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2nd Star: Carter Mazur, USA

Coming into the tournament, Carter Mazur is looking to build off an impressive season at the University of Denver. 

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While he was in a scoring slump in his first NCAA season, the Detroit Red Wings prospect made a call to his NHL team’s assistant director of player development, Daniel Cleary. After that, he would go on to finish with 14 goals and 38 points in 41 games.

Those tips have now turned Mazur into a scoring machine as he accounted for two of the team’s seven goals and was also named the player of the game as the top line of Mazur, Landon Slaggert, and Thomas Bordeleau had an impressive performance against Switzerland

After a scoreless first period, Mazur wasn’t going to make any mistake on a point-blank chance in front of the net with Mackie Samoskevich making a great pass from behind the net.

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With the Americans looking to add to their lead, Mazur was once again the beneficiary of a great pass from Slaggert as he made no mistake from the front of the net.

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He added another assist on Slaggert’s goal later in the period for his third point of the game. Through his first two games at the world juniors, Mazur has four points and is tied for sixth in scoring.

1st Star: Mason McTavish, Canada

On a night where Canada dominated from start to finish, Mason McTavish joined some elite company with a night he’ll certainly remember for a long time.

The 19-year-old joined Mario Lemieux, Simon Gagné, Brayden Schenn, Taylor Raddysh, Maxime Comtois and teammate Connor Bedard as the only players to score four goals in a single world junior game for Canada. The tournament record for goals in a single game is held by Sweden’s Ola Rosander who had six back in 1987.

With his performance against Slovakia in a dominant win for Canada, McTavish now sits atop the scoring lead with eight points in two games after registering six points in this game.

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McTavish scored his first goal of the game on a breakaway — with Canada already leading 5-0 midway through the second — making no mistake to beat Tomas Bolo, who came into the game after starter Simon Latkoczy was pulled going into the second period.

His second goal came off a great play by Joshua Roy who flipped the puck in the air to Brennan Othmann who then set up McTavish as he finished with a backhander to put Canada up 7-1. McTavish would complete the second-period hat trick, a day after Alexander Blank did the same for Germany, after a selfless pass from Roy on a 2-on-0 break.

Canada would capitalize on a turnover on McTavish’s fourth goal as Othmann set him up alone in front of the net and he made no mistake.

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There was some doubt about whether McTavish would suit up for Canada after playing a fair amount of hockey last season. Making his NHL debut with the Anaheim Ducks, the third overall pick from the 2021 NHL Draft played in a total of 72 games between the NHL, AHL, OHL, Memorial Cup and the Olympics.

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Instead, McTavish decided to join the team in Edmonton and take on the role as captain where he has excelled centring Canada’s top line with Bedard and and a rotation of Roy and Othmann.

Canada will now look forward to a matchup against Czechia with a chance to improve to 3-0.

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Field of Dreams Game 2022: A celebration of baseball memories in an Iowa cornfield

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The Field of Dreams is an opportunity for fans and players alike to reflect on the people and places that taught them to love baseball, Jake Mintz writes.



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Ravens extend NFL record for consecutive postseason wins following Thursday’s victory over the Titans

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USA Today

The No. 21 is now synonymous with the longest winning streaks in NFL regular and preseason history. the 2003-04 Patriots won 21 consecutive games, an NFL record. On Thursday night, the Ravens won their 21st consecutive preseason game after securing a 23-10 decision against the Tennessee Titans

Baltimore has not lost a preseason game since 2016. Joe Flacco was their starting quarterback when the streak began, while Steve Smith Jr., who this past year was eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time, was heading into his final NFL season. Baltimore’s roster also included Terrell Suggs, who was entering his second-to-last season with the franchise. 

Along with not losing preseason games, another constant in Baltimore over the past six years has been kicker Justin Tucker, who is entering his 11th season with the Ravens. Tucker’s field goals of 47, 25 and 47 yards on Thursday night helped Baltimore pull out the win after falling behind midway through the second quarter. 

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The Ravens won Thursday’s game by winning the turnover margin while holding the Titans to 1 of 3 red zone efficiency. One of those turnovers was scooped up by Kyle Hamilton, the Ravens’ first-round pick in this past year’s draft. 

Baltimore won despite the efforts of Malik Willis, the Titans’ rookie quarterback who overcame a slow start to score his first NFL touchdown, a 7-yard run early in the second quarter. Speaking of quarterbacks, the Ravens received a strong night from Tyler Huntley, who completed all but two of his 18 pass attempts that included his game-winning touchdown pass to Shemar Bridges



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