A bad game’s NFL Draft butterfly effects, plus Caitlin Clark’s big night

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Good morning! Betting is hard, OK?

While You Were Sleeping: A TNF twofer

Let’s be upfront about one thing: Last night’s 16-13 Bears win over the Panthers was a bad football game. We saw five field goals, 12 punts, a combined 57 percent of passes completed, just one offensive touchdown and a missed 59-yard field goal at the end for good luck. Barf. 

But! The result does have intriguing butterfly effects: 

  • Chicago’s win puts Carolina at 1-8, tied with Arizona for the worst record in the league. Remember: These same Bears own Carolina’s 2024 first-round pick, which could end up being No. 1 overall. Having the worst record and missing out on a top pick is a brutal exercise.
  • Even worse: Is it too early to wonder if Bryce Young, the 2023 No. 1 pick for whom Carolina gave up all those assets, was worth it? He’s nine games into his career and playing for a bad team, but oof. I don’t think anyone expected it to look this rough. He’s 31st in QBR right now. It’s hard not to compare Young and C.J. Stroud, picked one spot later by Houston and already looking like a superstar. (More on that below.)

The good news: The Bears are happy, and so is our Robert Mays, who reacted live with Nate Tice to last night’s game here. Worth a watch.

The Good Bets: We’re into over/unders this week

The picks? Aging like a bad wine left open on your countertop for two days. They look nice from afar, but take a sip and you’ll want to take a shower. I still can’t believe Indiana beat Wisconsin. 

The good thing about a shower is you feel brand new after, forgetting you just dipped under .500 for the year. Surely 4-0 awaits: 


  • No. 3 Michigan and No. 10 Penn State UNDER 45.5
    The thing about Michigan, despite all the off-field turmoil, is: I think they’re the best team in the country. I’m not ballsy enough to take the Wolverines -4.5 in Happy Valley, but I do think points are a premium here. Watch this one for the atmosphere alone.
  • Miami and No. 4 Florida State OVER 49.5
    This is one of Austin Mock’s best bets for this week, and I’m all in. The Seminoles will score plenty, and the Hurricanes will pick up whatever slack is left on the road to 50. Smash. 

If you feel bold, Iowa once again is part of a modern totals record low: 28.5 against Rutgers this weekend. Absurd, and it still feels like the under is a lock. 

Read more: Expert picks | Full projection model


  • Saints and Vikings UNDER 41
    Maybe my personal experience as a Saints fan plays in here, but outside of two games, the New Orleans offense has been largely abysmal despite having talent. The Vikings are still starting a backup, no matter how good the story. Both defenses are good.
  • Lions (-3) at Chargers
    Sure, the Chargers blew out the Jets on Monday, but anyone who watched the game knows L.A. should still be worried. On the other hand, Detroit is just good and coming off a bye. Lions by a touchdown. 

Read more: Expert picks | Best bets

Pulse record overall: 19-21-1

News to Know

NWSL announces major media rights package
The NWSL agreed to four-year broadcast contracts with ESPN, CBS Sports, Prime Video and Scripps Sports worth a total of $60 million per year. It’s a huge leap in viewership, with 20 regular season games aired on each of the four partners, while maintaining flexibility for the league to negotiate a new deal in just a few years. See all the details here.

NC State’s starting QB redshirts
Wolfpack quarterback MJ Morris won’t play the rest of the year, coach Dave Doeren confirmed yesterday, expressing surprise toward his current starting QB bailing on the season to preserve a year of eligibility. Morris, a sophomore, has only played the last four weeks, but is 3-1 with wins over Clemson and Miami. Read more about the questions surrounding this decision here.

More news

  • Connor Bedard recorded the first four-point game of his career in a 5-3 win last night over the Lightning. He’s the youngest player since 1944 to tally four points in a night.
  • Three former New Mexico State men’s basketball players were charged with felony sex crimes yesterday, in connection with hazing incidents.
  • Andre Iguodala was named acting executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, the organization announced yesterday. The recent retiree is staying heavily involved in the game, adding these duties to his broadcast job at ESPN.
  • Rest easy, USMNT fans: Christian Pulisic avoided serious injury after leaving AC Milan’s Champions League match against Paris Saint-Germain.

Real Hoopers: The Midwest thrives

Two results I found intriguing last night:

  • We mentioned it in yesterday’s Watch This Game segment, and the Pacers came through with a 126-124 win over the Bucks last night. Damian Lillard didn’t play for Milwaukee, but that shouldn’t diminish a huge win for the early-season darlings in Indy, especially because they withstood a 54-point outburst from Giannis Antetokounmpo and still won.
  • Caitlin Clark has the game of the year so far in women’s college basketball, pouring in 44 points during No. 3 Iowa’s 80-76 win over No. 8 Virginia Tech last night. As long as Clark is there, Iowa can beat anyone.

Watch This Game

NBA: Lakers at Suns
10 p.m. ET on ESPN
Both of these star-laden teams are underperforming. This one will give us some ripe early overreactions. 

College football: Wyoming at UNLV
10:45 p.m. ET on FS1
A little Friday nightcap between two good Mountain West teams? It’s a nice treat.

Pulse Picks

There is a striking depth to C.J. Stroud, the 22-year-old who might already be a top-10 quarterback in the NFL. As Zak Keefer writes today in a beautiful story, Stroud is not afraid to speak his mind, whether it’s about the S2 Cognition test or how our country treats prisoners, including his father. Make some time for this one today. 

Much lighter fare, in a great way: Chris Vannini tracked down the missing Civil Conflict trophy, which was briefly given to the winner of a rivalry no one ever cared about. Real sickos will love this. 

Ken Rosenthal has a notebook full of offseason rumors. Front and center: Why the Brewers, this year’s NL Central champions by nine games, could tear it all down. 

Also fun: Mike Prada talked to The Athletic’s in-house design experts about the, um, unique court designs for the NBA’s In-Season Tournament. The efforts were appreciated but … mostly panned

What’s the TGL anyway? Brody Miller helped explain the PGA’s newest gambit. Sounds fun to me. 

Remember the Wakeyleaks scandal? Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson certainly does, and he can’t help but wonder where the NCAA support was for him in 2014 as he watches Michigan get judged in real time today.

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(Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

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