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Why Astros are taking a chance on Justin Verlander, plus you may recognize the top HS football recruit of 2023

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Week 11 of the NFL season kicks off tonight with the red-hot Patriots (6-4) in Atlanta to face the Falcons (4-5)

*insert your favorite 28-3 joke here*

New England has won six straight against Atlanta, including that infamous Super Bowl LI. Or, to put it another way, the last time the Patriots lost in this matchup was November of 1998, when current Patriots starting quarterback Mac Jones was two months old. And if that doesn’t make you feel old, just wait until you see who the new top high school football recruit in the Class of 2023 is!

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Let’s get to it.

Good morning to everyone but especially to…

JUSTIN VERLANDER

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After a few weeks of suspense, Justin Verlander is staying in Houston. The two-time Cy Young Award winner signed a one-year deal with a player option for a second year to stay with the Astros on Wednesday. He has not pitched since Opening Day of 2020 due to an elbow injury that eventually led to Tommy John surgery.

MLB writer R.J. Anderson ranked Verlander the No. 17 free agent on the market. This new deal is a a significant contract for someone approaching 40 who hasn’t pitched in well over a year, writes our MLB expert Mike Axisa:

  • Axisa: “By all accounts his rehab has gone well and Verlander will be ready to pitch come spring training. The Astros know Verlander’s medicals better than anyone and obviously they felt comfortable re-signing him … Verlander is a future Hall of Famer and could return to that level right away in 2022, though Tommy John surgery comes with risk, especially at age 39.”

Honorable mentions:

  • Speaking of Cy Young Award winners, there were two first-time winners last night: the Brewers’ Corbin Burnes (NL) and the Blue Jays’ Robbie Ray (AL). Burnes just barely beat out the PhilliesZack Wheeler to become Milwaukee’s third-ever Cy Young winner. It wasn’t nearly as close for Ray, who took home 29 of the 30 first-place votes. It’s the fifth time the award has gone to a Blue Jay.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a season-high 47 points on 18-23 shooting as the Bucks beat the Lakers, 109-102. It was just the third time ever a Bucks player has scored at least 45 points on 75% shooting and Giannis is now responsible for two of those three (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is responsible for the other one.)
  • New Jersey sportsbooks set a new United States record, with $1.3 billion (yes, BILLION) of wagers taken in during the month of October. That’s a 62% increase, year-over-year, from October 2020.

And not such a good morning for…


USATSI

MATTHEW STAFFORD AND KELLY STAFFORD

On Monday, Matthew Stafford wasn’t the only Stafford flinging throws wildly at Levi’s Stadium. On a night where the Rams’ quarterback threw two interceptions, his wife, Kelly, threw a pretzel at a 49ers fan.

She has since apologized on Instagram, posting in part, “I’m an idiot!” and, “I knew I was wrong.”

It couldn’t have been easy to watch the 49ers dominate en route to a 31-10 win, but come on! Throwing a pretzel?! And it’s not as if Kelly Stafford hasn’t been subject to some bad football before: Her husband played for the Lions for a dozen years. I’ve been to Levi’s Stadium before, and those pretzels are pretty tasty, too. What a waste of a perfectly good (not to mention an absolute classic) mid-game snack!

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Eventually security stepped in and ushered Mrs. Stafford and her friends to other seats. Luckily for both Staffords, the Rams have a much-needed bye week ahead. Hopefully they both improve their decision making.

The top football recruit of 2023 is … Arch Manning! 🥇


247Sports

Well, 247Sports has updated its 2023 class rankings and a familiar name (or last name, at least) is the top dog. That’s right, Arch Manning — son of Cooper, nephew of Peyton and Eli, grandson of Archie — is officially atop the recruiting rankings.

Arch Manning is a quarterback at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans, the same high school that produced not only Cooper, Peyton and Eli, but also Odell Beckham Jr. His all-around skillset was a big reason for the jump, writes 247Sports recruiting analyst Gabe Brooks:

  • Brooks: Manning owns physical traits that give him a high physical ceiling that accompanies perhaps the highest floor of the quarterback group. … Manning’s awareness and instincts are exceptional, and his singular quarterback pedigree means the best is yet to come for the latest Manning quarterback to arrive on the national scene.”

Despite the top ranking, Manning has not committed to where he is going to play college football yet.

Make sure you’re 100% ready for Week 11 🏈

It’s the last week of a normal NFL schedule before we hit Thanksgiving week, and we’ve got you covered with everything you could possible want to know — and more.

First, let’s take a look at the playoff picture. SportsLine’s Stephen Oh crunched the numbers, and the computer projects the Titans and the Packers to earn the 1 seed in the AFC and NFC, respectively.

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It’s who’s projected to sneak in as the seventh seed in the NFC that’s a big surprise, writes NFL expert John Breech:

  • Breech: “Wild Card 3: 49ers: The biggest winner of Week 10 was definitely the 49ers. Last week, they were projected to finish in the ninth spot in the NFC, but after their upset win over the Rams, the computer now likes them to steal the final playoff spot in the conference. San Francisco’s playoff chances are sitting at just 42.2% and although that’s not incredibly high, it’s still higher than the other contenders for this spot, including the Vikings (35.8%), Eagles (23.9%) and Panthers (21.7%).”

The playoff race isn’t the only race that’s really close through 10 weeks. How about MVP? It seems like each week a frontrunner or two falls flat: take Tom Brady and Lamar Jackson last week and Josh Allen the week before that. Our team of NFL experts did their own voting, and here’s how they see it:

  • 1. Tom Brady
  • 2. Kyler Murray
  • T-3. Dak Prescott and Lamar Jackson

And lastly, no more pulling your hair out while setting your fantasy lineups: we have Start ‘Em & Sit ‘Em for every position up and down your roster. As for fantasy expert Jamey Eisenberg’s Start of the Week, turn your eyes to a guy who hasn’t even started since Week 8:

  • Eisenberg: “I’m buying that (Tua) Tagovailoa will have a big game against the Jets. We’ve already seen him thrive in favorable matchups this season against the Jaguars in Week 6 and the Falcons in Week 7, and he scored at least 25 Fantasy points in each outing.”

What we’re watching Thursday 📺

🏈Patriots at Falcons (+6.5), 8:20 p.m. on FOX/NFL Network | Mac Jones looks to lead New England to its fifth straight win.
🏀76ers at Nuggets (-7.5), 9 p.m. on NBA TV | Nikola Jokic is off to a great start this season, and he’ll get a 76ers team that doesn’t have Joel Embiid (COVID-19).





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College football rankings: Ohio State, TCU have earned spots in final four

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Michigan and Georgia are clear playoff teams. We’ll soon find out who the CFP Selection Committee thinks deserves a spot beside them.



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No. 11 Utah Utes take down the No. 4 USC Trojans for the PAC 12 Championship | Number One CFB Show

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RJ Young reacts to the No. 11 Utah Utes taking down the No. 4 USC Trojans for the PAC 12 Championship.



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Canucks’ Luke Schenn passes Brooks Orpik for most hits by an NHL defenceman

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Luke Schenn of the Vancouver Canucks, after a six-hit night, has been crowned the hit king amongst NHL defencemen, passing Brooks Orpik for most hits since the stat has been recorded.

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Some 2,947 hits later, the journeyman hasn’t stopped doing what he does best and is now able to say he stands at the peak of his craft. He hit the mark in 888 games.

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A couple of days ago Schenn told Sportsnet that he “didn’t really think too much of it,” and that he “doesn’t really care too much about the number,” however as he broke the record, the fans in attendance made sure to let him know how much they cared.

Chants of “LUKE! LUKE!” broke out at Rogers Arena in Vancouver for the new leader in the category.

The 33-year-old has played for seven teams throughout his career and won two Stanley Cups during his time with the Tampa Bay Lightning. On every team he’s been on, he’s done what he does best. Hit.

Five forwards still remain above him on the hits leaderboard: Milan Lucic, Alex Ovechkin, Matt Martin, Dustin Brown, and the recently coronated Cal Clutterbuck sits atop the rankings with 3,647.

It was a celebratory day for the Schenn family, as brother Brayden played in his 800th NHL game across the country as his St. Louis Blues took on the Pittsburgh Penguins. But Brayden still has a ways to go if he wants to catch up to Luke’s physical domination, as the centre only has 1,700 hits to his name.

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