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The Patriots are still the hottest team in the NFL, plus explaining the Peng Shuai situation

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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

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.

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The Patriots are very back.

Honorable mentions:

  • 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

The upsets are causing plenty of shuffling in Gary Parrish’s Top 25 and 1. Last season, the Big Ten dominated the regular season and disappointed in the NCAA Tournament.

This season, it’s not waiting until March.

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Shohei Ohtani, Bryce Harper take home MVP awards ⚾


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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 🏈


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Pete Prisco’s Week 11 picks are here, and with a season record of 90-60-1, he’s worth listening to.

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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 🎾


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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 📺

Friday

🏀Lakers at Celtics (-2), 7:30 p.m. on ESPN | LeBron James could return for the Lakers.

Saturday

🏈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.

Sunday

🏈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.

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Aaron Rodgers to the Jets? Giants' free agency options & Mike McCarthy's future with Cowboys | Ask Jay Glazer

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Jay Glazer discussed whether Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will head to the New York Jets, the New York Giants’ free agency options, and breaks down Mike McCarthy’s future with the Dallas Cowboys.



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Super Bowl LVII: Chiefs and Eagles will meet for title in Arizona

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Patrick Mahomes finally got the best of Joe Burrow. 

All he needed was a little shove.

Harrison Butker made a 45-yard field goal with 3 seconds left — after Cincinnati’s Joseph Ossai was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for shoving Mahomes after he was out of bounds — and the Chiefs beat the Bengals 23-20 in the AFC championship game to make it back to the Super Bowl.

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Kansas City will face the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona. 

The Eagles opened as a 1 1/2-point favourite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

There are no shortage of storylines: Kansas City coach Andy Reid goes against his old team — which he led to Super Bowl 39 — in a game that’s also the first matchup of Black starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl with Mahomes and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts. 

On top of that, there’s a brother-against-brother showdown between Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Philadelphia center Jason Kelce.

“Officially done being a Chiefs fan this season!! ” Jason Kelce tweeted immediately after the Chiefs won.

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The Chiefs have been making deep postseason runs on a regular basis ever since Mahomes came to town as the franchise quarterback. 

This was their fifth straight trip to the AFC title game and will be their third Super Bowl appearance in that span. They beat the 49ers for the NFL title in the 2019 season, but lost to the Bucs the following season.

The Eagles clobbered the Niners 31-7 in the NFC title game earlier Sunday. They’ve looked dominant in the playoffs so far, also beating the New York Giants 38-7 in the divisional round.

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Philadelphia is back in the Super Bowl five years after beating the New England Patriots 41-33 on Feb. 4, 2018. 

Now a mostly new generation of Eagles — led by coach Nick Sirianni and Hurts — will come to Arizona to try and win another title.

The Chiefs-Bengals game looked as if it was going to overtime before Ossai’s ill-advised play. Mahomes — who was playing on a badly sprained ankle — was running to get a first down in the final seconds as Ossai desperately tried to track him down. 

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Mahomes was out of bounds when Ossai gave him a shove, sending both players tumbling to the turf. The ensuing 15-yard penalty was enough to push Butker into field-goal range and the kick split the uprights.

A distraught Ossai sat on the bench with his head in his hands, well after the game was over.

The Bengals and Chiefs were playing for the fourth time in less than 400 days and Cincinnati had won the previous three meetings — all by three points. This one was decided by a field goal, too, and all Burrow could do was watch.

The Bengals lost to the Rams in last year’s Super Bowl and they just missed another chance at returning to the title game.

NO DRAMA IN NFC

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Oddsmakers thought fans were in for some close conference championship games. 

They’ll have to settle for a 50% success rate.

The NFC title game was a blowout. Niners rookie quarterback Brock Purdy was injured in the first quarter when Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick drilled his right arm on a play that was ruled a fumble. The Eagles recovered that fumble and the injury proved to be a game-changer.

With Purdy hurt, San Francisco turned to 36-year-old journeyman Josh Johnson, who couldn’t do much before eventually leaving with a concussion. Purdy came back into the game, but could barely throw, and the Eagles cruised to the win.

The 49ers dealt with quarterback injuries all season, losing Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo before turning to Purdy, a seventh-round draft pick out of Iowa State. Purdy stepped into a starter’s role in December and won his first seven games before Sunday’s injury. 

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Here’s a few things to know about the upcoming Super Bowl:

WHAT’S THE UPCOMING SCHEDULE?

FEB. 5

Pro Bowl flag-football game, 3 p.m. EST, ABC/ESPN

FEB. 12

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Super Bowl LVII, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 6:30 p.m. EST, Fox

RIHANNA AT HALFTIME

Rihanna will take center stage as the headline act for this year’s Super Bowl halftime show.

With sales of more than 250 million records worldwide, Rihanna ranks as one of the best-selling female artists ever. Her most recent album was 2016′s “Anti.” Rihanna last performed publicly at the Grammy Awards in 2018.

The singer said she turned down a similar opportunity for the 2019 Super Bowl that was ultimately headlined by Maroon 5. At the time, many artists voiced support for Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who protested police brutality against Black people and minorities by kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

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Country music star Chris Stapleton will sing the national anthem, while R&B legend Babyface will perform “America the Beautiful.” 

PRO BOWL MAKEOVER

The Pro Bowl is getting a major makeover this year after the NFL eliminated its full-contact all-star game and replaced it with weeklong skills competitions and a flag football game.

The flag football contest is Feb. 5 in Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium, one week before the Super Bowl.

The Pro Bowl debuted in January 1951 in Los Angeles and stayed there for 21 seasons before the game moved to different cities from 1972-80. Hawaii hosted from 1980-2009, and the game has had several homes in the years since, including Miami, Phoenix, Orlando and Las Vegas.

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“The game was kind of silly, I guess,” Saints two-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk said back in September when the news was announced. “Guys weren’t out there playing true football. Hopefully, there’ll be a lot of interactions with the fans and guys will get their opportunity to go out there and show some skills. I could see that being a good change.”

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Ohio State hires James Laurinaitis & Tennessee extends Huepel's contract | Joel Klatt Show

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Joel Klatt discussed Ohio State Buckeyes hiring former linebacker James Laurinaitis as a defensive GA. Joel believes that Laurinaitis can help transform the defense into a powerhouse like the offense is for wide receivers. He then discussed the Tennessee Volunteers giving Josh Huepel a contract extension after their 11-win season.



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