The Jaguars enter the NFL contender discussion, plus Michigan’s sign-stealing allegations

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Good morning! Hey, don’t steal my signs.

While You Were Sleeping: Hello, contending Jags

Despite allowing a listless Saints offense two touchdowns in the final period — and nearly a third — the Jaguars still come out of Thursday Night Football smelling wonderful. Partly because they were on the road and partly because we don’t really know what to do with the 3-4 Saints. We’ll let that fourth-quarter near-choke slide. 

Records are what matter, and after a wild 31-24 win last night, the Jaguars are 5-2 and easily the best team in the AFC South. Two things:

  • Jacksonville is in great shape with Trevor Lawrence at QB. Who else in the division has an established quarterback under center? The closest is Houston’s C.J. Stroud, who, while impressive this year, is still a rookie.
  • The Jags have won three games in 11 days, including a London game against the Bills. They could’ve played the Panthers all three weeks, and it would’ve still been impressive from a logistical standpoint. They get a nice (deserved) break until next Sunday. 

We also had two intense MLB playoff matchups last night. Quickly: 

  • The Diamondbacks narrowed their NLCS deficit to 2-1 with a harrowing 2-1 walk-off over the Phillies. Jury is still out on this series getting tight, but this was easily a game Arizona could’ve let slip. Props for that. Jayson Stark has a fun Weird and Wild column from the game, too. 
  • Houston, meanwhile, feels inevitable again. A 10-3 win in Arlington ties this series 2-2, and every ounce of hope the Rangers had earlier this week is endangered. Don’t be surprised if the Astros romp their way to the World Series from here. They also got one of the funniest outs of the night:

If there’s no batting glove sticking out of the back pocket, that’s a safe call. Anyway. Tonight: 

  • Astros at Rangers, Game 5
    5 p.m. ET on FS1
  • Phillies at Diamondbacks, Game 4
    8 p.m. ET on TBS

Explainers: Michigan, the NCAA and sign stealing

What a bizarre year for Michigan, right? On the field, the Wolverines might be the best team in football. They’re at least the most consistently excellent, 7-0 with a 29-point average margin of victory. 

Maybe there’s a reason for that, on top of a loaded roster: The Wolverines allegedly are very good at stealing opponents’ signs, and per a Yahoo report yesterday, Michigan coaches might’ve broken NCAA rules in the process. 

A few layers here: 

  • The legality of stealing signs is murky. If you can watch an opposing coach and deduce the call, go for it. Intercepting in-game communications is against the rules, though. Also illegal: In-person scouting of future opponents, which is specifically mentioned here. The Athletic’s Brendan Quinn reports, “Michigan is being accused of using a ‘vast network’ to steal opposing teams’ signs.”
  • Despite the Big Ten claiming it knows about “credible evidence” of wrongdoing, per Brendan, no material has been presented to Michigan yet.
  • This comes weeks after head coach Jim Harbaugh served a three-game suspension for allegedly lying to NCAA officials. He has denied having any “awareness” of any cheating here, too. This is Michigan! Paragon of morality! And we have two NCAA scandals through seven games. Fun.

Where do we go from here? Extremely unclear. I can see this being nothing or becoming a massive scandal. This isn’t a nefarious payment to recruit a player; this is on-field cheating. Allegedly.

This all comes two days before Michigan visits Michigan State, a nasty rivalry that featured an ugly brawl last year. Spartans officials initially told the NCAA they were considering not playing this weekend’s game this weekend after hearing of the report. Now they’ll play. 

Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC. A must-watch game for multiple reasons now. Until Saturday, our college football newsletter, will have more on the whole situation later this morning. 

P.S. One idea: Why are we not using NFL-style mics in these helmets yet? Especially at the Power 5 level. All this goes away if so. But if you read this Chris Vannini story from 2022, some schools would rather be good at sign stealing than implement new tech. Sigh.

News to Know

Strife in Milwaukee
Milwaukee Bucks assistant Terry Stotts is leaving the team, a source told The Athletic, after Stotts and head coach Adrian Griffin’s “tenuous” relationship became untenable. It’s a minor surprise, as many assumed Stotts would be a key figure for Damian Lillard, the newest Buck, who played under Stotts for nine seasons in Portland. Read the full report here.

Buying Mickey Mantle’s house?
Rally, a collectible investments company, is offering 47,000 shares of Mickey Mantle’s childhood home for $7 apiece. Investors will get to make proposals and vote on the future of the property, which could include a museum. It frankly sounds weird to me, but it’s interesting at least. See all the details here.

More news

The Good Bets: Sorry, Tigers

Last week, we had our first push of the year, a fitting one: Washington beat Oregon by exactly three points in a banger of a game. No regrets. 

We have another stacked week of football ahead. Picks, with odds via our friends at BetMGM: 


  • Penn State (+155) over Ohio State
    The Nittany Lions are one of our most underhyped top-10 teams, and I think they make a statement here. The Buckeyes have looked sluggish in big games this year. It catches up to them this weekend.
  • Army (+32.5) vs. LSU
    Gasp. Yes, I’m picking “against” my Tigers, but only because logic deems it so. It is a massive line, even for arguably the country’s best offense, because Army is such a run-heavy team. Austin Mock agreed in his best bets column, too. If you want a homer take from me: Jayden Daniels should be the Heisman front-runner right now. 

Read more: Expert picks | Full projection model


  • Buccaneers (-2.5) over Falcons
    The NFC South is a muddled mess, but I feel pretty confident in this one. Tampa Bay has been a nice surprise this year, and I’m picking Baker Mayfield at home over Desmond Ridder. Smash.
  • Eagles (-2.5) over Dolphins
    Here’s your game of the weekend. The winner of this goes to 6-1 and likely gets top spot in next week’s Power Rankings. The thing I can’t shake: Miami got dragged by the one legit team they’ve played this year, Buffalo. Philly is super legit and coming off a weird loss to the Jets. Give me the Birds by a touchdown. 

Read more: Best bets | Expert picks

Pulse record overall: 16-12-1

Pulse Picks

Jesse Palmer is everywhere. The former quarterback maintains a schedule that could make you “sh— yourself,” serving as an ESPN analyst, “Bachelor” host, commercial pitchman and more. Justin Williams shadowed Palmer for a few days and came away with a great story. Worth your time today. 

Eno Sarris takes an interesting crack at old-school beliefs like the clutch gene and the hot hand. The answers might surprise you

David Aldridge has 24 questions about the NBA season, which I thought was particularly entertaining. David spends three questions wondering if he’s drunk for wondering if Victor Wembanyama isn’t a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year. 

Austin Mock and Jason Starrett are also tabulating a stat they’re calling QB Reliability Index, which is similar to baseball’s WAR. See the rankings through Week 6 here

We have fantasy football trade targets here. Save your sinking season already.

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(Photo: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

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