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Good morning! Chris Jones just sacked you.
Proclamations: Wait, is Baker Mayfield good again?
We went into last night’s Miami-New England game expecting A Takeaway. Something grand. Instead we got a decent game that, honestly, tells us little about each team.
The Dolphins never really pulled away, but won 24-17. The Patriots — 0-2 for the first time since 2001 — devised a new field goal block design that is sure to sweep across the league in the coming weeks. And Bill Belichick gave you a gift to use in your group chats going forward:
Bill Belichick threw the challenge flag right in front of the ref 😂
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) September 18, 2023
But we did learn much elsewhere. Three realities:
- Quarterbacks are in the Upside Down: Baker Mayfield, Tua Tagovailoa, Desmond Ridder and Sam Howell are 2-0. Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert are 0-2, and it’s still jarring to see Russell Wilson there. I don’t fully believe my eyes when I see Mayfield and the Buccaneers cooking, just like I can’t believe it when I watch the Bengals looking lost early in the season for a second straight year.
- The Cowboys are easily No. 1 in my power rankings. They are 2-0 by a combined 70-10 score after thrashing the Jets — who are already imploding, by the way — by 20 yesterday. Sure, San Francisco has been impressive, but it still feels like Dallas and everyone else right now.
- Chris Jones is worth every penny. During Kansas City’s white-knuckler in Jacksonville, he saved the Chiefs from going 0-2. He ended three drives himself and recorded 1.5 sacks on the day. Let’s not forget that this guy missed all of training camp and Week 1. Might as well start negotiations for that long-term extension now.
Miss your team? You can also see all the Week 1 takeaways here. Also, reminder that we get two games tonight:
Why are there two games? Full explanation here. We’re part of an experiment.
And don’t miss The Athletic Football Show guys doing a live recap of Week 1 last night. Again, a must-watch every week:
News to Know
Orioles, Rays clinch
The top two teams in the AL East secured playoff spots yesterday, a foregone conclusion. The real race happens now — Baltimore sits two games ahead of Tampa Bay in the division, with the winner earning advantageous playoff positioning. It was a big moment for the Orioles, though, the latest milestone in what has been an emphatic turnaround.
A’ja’s big day
Aces star A’ja Wilson scored 38 points yesterday to finish off a sweep of the Chicago Sky in the WNBA playoffs, setting two records: the Aces’ mark for most points in a playoff game and the league distinction of being the first player to ever post a 35/15/3/3 line in a postseason contest. The juggernaut moves on.
- Bartolo Colón officially retired from baseball yesterday, five years after he last played. It’s wild to see a 50-year-old file retirement papers.
- Some mild drama in Los Angeles: Cam Akers was a healthy scratch yesterday, and a separation of some sort — whether by release or trade — seems likely for the running back.
- Georgia is still No. 1 in the AP poll, but Alabama fell out of the top 10 for the first time since 2015. It was the second-longest top-10 streak in college football history.
Serious Matters: Calamity in Columbus
Blue Jackets head coach Mike Babcock — officially hired on July 1 — resigned yesterday, two and a half months after his intro presser and before he had coached a single game. Quick recap on a wild week:
- Allegations surfaced last Tuesday that Babcock, in introductory meetings with the team, demanded to scour players’ cell phones. He allegedly even put photos from each player’s phone on his TV. Outcry soon followed.
- Babcock denied any inappropriateness, saying he was merely trying to get to know his players. He told The Athletic that players were allowed to choose the pictures. Through the team, multiple players backed Babcock. A photo album perusal, not an interrogation, right?
- Wrong, apparently. The NHLPA investigated the matter and came away with a much different impression. From its statement yesterday: “Our players deserve to be treated with respect in the workplace. Unfortunately, that was not the case in Columbus.”
It’s a stunning offseason story for a team long mired in bad hockey. I turned to Sean Gentille, resident Pulse hockey expert, for more:
What was your favorite moment from the Mike Babcock era in Columbus?
Sean: Personally, I liked it when he resigned.
In all seriousness: It seems like a complete mess. What was his reputation around the league when he was hired?
Sean: Babcock’s rep as a primetime Hockey Man, outside of a select group of aged Canadians, had already taken a downturn before a messy exit from Toronto. The Leafs, it seemed, were paying him more than $6 million to lose in the first round and alienate his players. In fairness to the man, he was great at both — but the stories that either came out or were rehashed after Toronto cut bait were horrendous. Johan Franzen, for example, called him “the worst person I’ve ever met.” Franzen, mind you, won a Stanley Cup playing for the guy in Detroit.
Was I surprised that he got another NHL job the moment his buyout was paid in full? Not at all. It’s still an ass-backwards league, filled with people who identify with him and his ilk enough to excuse, deflect and forget how things devolved. Winning Cups and gold medals goes a long way.
There are multiple layers of badness here. Who comes away looking worse: Babcock or the Blue Jackets?
Sean: The Blue Jackets. Babcock’s a weirdo with severe boundary issues, at minimum, and that’s based solely on public record. But the man didn’t hire himself — that came courtesy of a sweaty front office desperate to play relevant games. The narrative that he’d spent the last few years changing in a meaningful way was tempting. It was also false. Now, the Blue Jackets are paying the price.
For more, Aaron Portzline has a must-read column on the dark questions this scandal raised about the entire organization. He’s as plugged-in as anyone in Columbus.
Rising NHL superstar Tim Stützle was always in a hurry. Now, at 21, he’s arrived.
Diante Lee rates NFL QB prospects from the weekend’s college games. Come join me on Jayden Daniels Heisman island.
Jeff Gluck has a lovely tribute to Sherry Pollex, the longtime partner of NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr., who died yesterday morning at 44. Pollex was given a small chance of survival when diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014 — she lived nine more years.
Cycling news! Sepp Kuss became the first American to win one of cycling’s Grand Tours in a decade when he engineered a Jumbo-Visma sweep at the 2023 Vuelta a España. Torrey Hart breaks down the historic ride.
Speaking of MLB playoff races: Kaitlyn McGrath sorts through a wacky AL Wild Card race after a surprising week. Less than 15 games left.
(Photo: Mike Ehrmann/ Getty Images)