The Lions’ near-perfect start, plus a thrilling U.S. Open semifinal

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Good morning! I am simply asking Joe Burrow to give me $5.

While You Were Sleeping: Time to pencil in a Lions Super Bowl

The hype finally descended from the clouds last night — and stuck. It’s hard to draw too much from a Week 1 game, but man, the Lions have to feel good. 

Detroit upended the defending-champion Chiefs, 21-20 in Kansas City, to open the season. Prepare for more buzz this week for Detroit, plus subsequent weeks after that. It’s deserved: 

  • The Lions offense wasn’t just good enough, it scared the Chiefs into a fourth-and-25 attempt with more than two minutes left. Maybe Kansas City missed Chris Jones too much to trust its defense, but the turn was massive.
  • The Chiefs probably should’ve still won this game. Kansas City’s wide receiver corps felt more … anonymous than normal. Kadarius Toney gifted Brian Branch a pick-six with this drop:

“I didn’t learn anything. I got verification of what I already knew,” said Lions head coach Dan Campbell. Detroit is here, and confident. Fun start. 

For deeper analysis, I highly recommend Robert Mays and Nate Tice’s live show after the game. I always learn something when those guys talk:

Tennis-ing: We were so close to an all-American final

Tennis can be such a grueling sport. It was never more evident than late last night, at nearly 1 a.m. ET, as Madison Keys and Aryna Sabalenka traded clutch shots in a match tiebreak. 

Update on a stunning semifinal round: 

  • Coco Gauff advanced first with a win in straight sets over No. 10 seed Karolina Muchova. The 19-year-old Gauff has cruised so far. The most notable moment of this match came during a 49-minute delay, caused by climate activists.
  • Gauff will play the No. 2 seed Sabalenka, who outlasted Keys despite losing the first set 6-0. Just an insane match, one that left both crying afterward. 

Gauff can become the first American since Sloane Stephens in 2017 (when she defeated Keys) to win the Open title. Her final Open test? The best player in the world.

The final is tomorrow at 4 p.m. ET.

News to Know

Burrow gets the bag
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is, for the time being, the highest-paid player in NFL history after agreeing to a five-year, $275 million deal yesterday. The biggest number: $219 million of that is guaranteed, far outpacing the franchise’s previous record for guaranteed money ($31 million for Orlando Brown Jr. this offseason). This has been a long time coming, but it nonetheless represents a major leap for the organization.

Mack blasts NCAA
North Carolina head coach Mack Brown said he doesn’t know if he’s “ever been more disappointed in a person, a group of people or an institution” than he is with the NCAA, which denied transfer receiver Tez Walker’s eligibility yesterday. UNC’s athletic director and chancellor also unloaded, and it’s hard to blame them. Read the full backstory here.

More news

Explainers: The Nats cry poor

Two weeks ago, we wrote about Stephen Strasburg — arguably the most beloved National in post-Montreal franchise history — retiring. We feted him, and everything was great. 

Yesterday brought a most curious update: Strasburg won’t officially retire just yet, and the cause appears to be … money. A couple of layers here: 

  • After winning World Series MVP in 2019, Strasburg signed a fully guaranteed seven-year, $245 million contract extension. It was well-deserved. Crucially, as our Brittany Ghiroli reported, the Nats had no medical insurance claim on the deal. 
  • Strasburg has made just eight starts since, due to injuries and neurogenic issues. These things happen in pro sports.
  • According to our reporting, the franchise approached Strasburg about retiring earlier this summer. The team wants to change the terms of Strasburg’s contract and reach a settlement. While Strasburg hasn’t said anything publicly, the retirement backtrack is enough evidence to suggest this is a sticking point. 

Strasburg has $105 million left on his contract after this year. This also comes at a strange time for the Nats, who gutted their scouting department yesterday and have a general manager unsigned beyond this season. The Lerner family, which owns the franchise, is worth billions, but the Nats have just a $49 million payroll this year, 25th in MLB. What gives? 

Expect the two sides to hammer out a deal soon enough, but man, this feels embarrassing. Especially when it’s a figure as beloved as Strasburg. 

Ken Rosenthal has more on the brewing tension in D.C. Stay tuned.

The Good Bets: Texas is almost back

Feels good to have a full football slate to bet. After a woofy 1-2 effort last weekend, we’re getting back in shape here: 


  • Texas (+7) at Alabama
    I was torn on this. Part of me thinks this is some classic-Alabama, rub-your-nose-in-the-dirt game, a 28-13 clunker that sends the Longhorns back to Austin whimpering. But this game was close last year, and the Crimson Tide don’t have Bryce Young. I think Alabama wins but Texas covers. 
  • Nebraska (+3) at Colorado
    The warmth of this take will power my home for months. All week, we have rightfully fawned over what Deion Sanders and Colorado have done in one offseason. But what if TCU was just … bad? Austin Mock’s model favors the Cornhuskers by five points, an entire eight-point difference from what BetMGM has. Either way, go back two years and tell my 2021 self that Colorado-Nebraska will be must-see football

Read more: Best bets | Projection model


  • Vikings (-6) vs. Buccaneers
    This feels way too low, but maybe I’m simply unimpressed with Tampa Bay’s offseason. Minnesota had a nice summer, and I expect them to blossom even more under Kevin O’Connell in Year 2. Smash. 
  • Cardinals and Commanders UNDER 38
    I winced at the number, but I just don’t see Arizona scoring much this weekend. Sam Howell could go bonkers in his season debut, and I’d still take the under. Feels like 24-10 here. 

Read more: Best bets | Expert picks

Pulse record overall: 3-2

Pulse Picks

The Mariners were baseball’s darlings for two months. Now comes the hard part. Cody Stavenhagen digs in with the Ms as September looms. Worth your time today. 

Kirk Cousins can, by his own admission, be a little obsessive when it comes to mistakes. Alec Lewis takes us inside the mind of a guy who still talks about failing a quiz in high school. Kirk is just trying to chill out, man. 

I also loved this: How the 2003 Tigers stared down infamy and won. No one wants to be the worst ever. 

Jayson Stark impresses with another Weird and Wild — all about the first immaculate non-immaculate inning in baseball history. It’s officially a thing. 

Which team won the NHL offseason? Eric Duhatschek looks at the moves that did (and didn’t happen).

Tim Cato has an incisive column on Luke Dončić, whose referee antics are once again harming him and his team, this time at the World Cup.

We have a brand-new episode of The Official Visit, which takes us to Ann Arbor, Michigan. I would like to have a beer and a sandwich there now: 

(Photo: Jamie Squire/ Getty Images)

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