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Good morning! Do a backflip today.
While You Were Sleeping: A big win and a big injury
The Ravens won a huge AFC North matchup over the Bengals last night, 34-20, in a game that could reverberate beyond the final score or division standings. Quickly:
- Baltimore advances to 8-3 and holds a 1.5-game lead in one of the NFL’s best divisions. Lamar Jackson was good, and so was Odell Beckham Jr., who had four catches for 116 yards.
- The bigger story was Joe Burrow’s injury. Bengals coach Zac Taylor said the QB sprained his wrist on his throwing arm. It’s unclear how much time he could miss, if any. Cincy is now 5-5, hampered by losses from Burrow’s time dealing with a calf injury, and as Paul Dehner Jr. writes, “The realistic championship hopes of a season with perhaps the highest expectations in franchise history might have just disappeared.”
The game was littered with other injuries, too. Ravens tight end Mark Andrews is expected to miss the season after a tough ankle injury. Beckham and Ravens center Tyler Linderbaum are also banged up. Jackson missed a few plays, too. The good news for Baltimore: They get a bye after next weekend.
What a weird start to Week 11. Don’t miss The Athletic Football show crew reacting live:
Good Grades: How rule changes saved baseball
It is funny to look back to last winter, a time when baseball’s stingiest fans worried the sport’s big, bad new rules would ruin the game. How dare we outlaw the shift? How dare we make steals easier? And the pitch clock! Horrors. Imagine a playoff game being decided by a clock violation!
None of that happened, of course. And a year in, as Jayson Stark detailed in a great story today, the new game is a smashing success. Stark is not exaggerating when he says the changes saved baseball — and more are on the way.
Before I get to the future, some choice tidbits about how the sport changed this year:
- The average game time dipped from 3:04 in 2022 to 2:40 in 2023. There are plenty of staggering stats about time differences in the full story, but it’s incredible that the rule changes simply killed the four-hour game. We had just six this season, with all of them going 12 or more innings.
- The shift ban worked as expected. The game didn’t drastically change, but it did become much more watchable. And left-handed hitters enjoyed much more success on hard-hit balls through the right side.
- Steals were way, way up. We talked plenty about it during the season, but it’s particularly illuminating to see 51 players stole 20 or more bases last year, the most since 1989. Also, five teams stole 150 bases this year, the first time that’s happened in this century.
Read the full story for more insights on how baseball can evolve from here. We’re going to see more pitch clock tweaks, a la yesterday’s news and, as Ken Rosenthal reported yesterday, more new rule-change proposals are coming, several of them about further whittling game time.
News to Know
A’s officially moving
Yesterday, MLB owners unanimously approved plans for the Oakland Athletics to move to Las Vegas, ending a months-long procession. The A’s aren’t scheduled to finish a brand-new stadium in Vegas until 2028, and it’s unclear where the team will play beyond next season, after which the lease is up at the Oakland Coliseum. Understandably, hard feelings remain about the move, though Oakland’s officials and residents aren’t giving up their fight to keep the team. I highly recommend reading Evan Drellich’s Q&A with A’s president Dave Kaval from yesterday, just after the vote went through.
Harbaugh accepts suspension
There will be no court battle: Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will serve the remainder of his three-game suspension, the school and the Big Ten announced yesterday. It ends a week of speculation in which many — including Harbaugh himself — thought that the coach would get a chance to plead his case in a court hearing.
- Ronald Acuña Jr. and Shohei Ohtani are unanimous MVPs in their respective leagues.
- Speaking of the Braves: Atlanta will host the 2025 MLB All-Star Game, four years after the league pulled the game over voting laws in Georgia.
- The Hornets are “comfortable” with Miles Bridges’ return after a 30-game suspension, even while he faces a court date for allegedly violating a protective order.
- F1’s much-hyped Las Vegas race weekend got off to a bad start last night, as the first practice lasted just eight minutes due to a loose drain cover. Fans booed.
Things You Need to See: Jedi go flip
Last night, USMNT played Trinidad and Tobago for 82 scoreless minutes before exploding for three goals in the final few, none more impressive than Antonee “Jedi” Robinson’s golazo:
— U.S. Soccer Men’s National Team (@USMNT) November 17, 2023
The backflips were exquisite, and the American performance ended up encouraging after all. Don’t forget that Jedi has all kinds of skills, too.
The Good Bets: Go ‘Eers
My record is teetering after a 1-2-1 week. That’s what I get for doubting Josh Dobbs. We move on.
As always, odds via our friends at BetMGM:
- Georgia (-10.5) at Tennessee
Big line, but I don’t care. The Bulldogs look as scary as ever, and the Vols are vaporware. Georgia wins by multiple touchdowns. (Picking against Dobbs’ alma mater doesn’t count as doubting him, right?)
- West Virginia (-6.5) vs. Cincinnati
This was in Austin Mock’s best bets this week, and I’m jumping aboard. The data favors the Mountaineers, and the Bearcats are 3-7 just two years after making the College Football Playoff.
Read more: Expert picks | Full projection model
- Eagles and Chiefs OVER 45.5
This lines up a little too well. Kansas City’s defense has been good, yes, but the Eagles offense is a wagon and still hasn’t played its best game yet. Meanwhile, Philly’s secondary has been an issue. Points points points.
- Vikings (+2.5) at Broncos
Sorry, I just do not trust Denver, despite the recent uptick. Denver’s defense is good, but I think Russell Wilson regresses back to last year’s version a bit here. Plus, Minnesota has been great against the spread this year.
Read more: Expert picks | Best bets
Pulse record overall: 20-22-2
Watch This Game
NBA: Kings at Spurs
7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Sure, tune in for Victor Wembanyama, but the 6-4 Kings have been fun again this season.
NCAAF: Colorado at Washington State
10:30 p.m. ET on FS1
Deion Sanders against one of the two remaining Pac-12 teams. Yes.
FOX Sports and Amazon Prime TV personality Charissa Thompson pulled the fire alarm in the media world yesterday by admitting she used to make up sideline reports. I thought Richard Deitsch explained the context of the entire situation really well in his column here.
Joseph Person asked six NFL insiders to rank the league’s rookie quarterbacks. You know No. 1, but it gets interesting from there.
I really enjoyed Mo Dakhil’s story debut for us, breaking down a great niche in the NBA: why “corner crashing” for rebounds is so back.
College esports aren’t the fad some thought they’d be. Instead, more colleges than ever are welcoming scholarships. Daniel Brown has a poignant story on the current state of esports.
I thought this was interesting: What NHL stars want the next World Cup of Hockey to look like. There’s interest in the event, but it’s unclear if it can reach the pantheon of a Stanley Cup or Olympic gold.
Meg Linehan takes Gotham FC to task for fumbling the team’s opportunity to celebrate a monumental championship.
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(Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)