Welcome back, friend! We've got a brand new week on our hands and we're coming up on the last days of September. I'm kind of battling a "Sunday Scaries" sort of feeling with sports right now... the Stanley Cup playoffs will come to an end this week (perhaps tonight?) while the NBA Finals will conclude shortly after. Baseball's heading into its postseason, which will be exciting, but soon enough football is going to be the only major sport left on the calendar. And beyond that? Well, a lot's still up in the air.
I'm not saying this to be a downer, but more to provide a reminder that we should make sure to enjoy what we've got while it's still around because we're being quite spoiled right now. With that in mind, let's have ourselves a chat about all the action we've got on our plate at the moment.
📰 What you need to know
1. NFL Week 3 grades 🏈
I feel like the most normalcy we've had since March has come via NFL Sundays over the past couple weekends. The weather getting crisper, leaves changing colors and football on when it's supposed to be on... and actually looking like normal football. What a blessing.
And while you were busy enjoying your lazy Sunday on the couch yesterday, our football crew was hard at work dissecting all the action of Week 3 across the NFL. There was plenty to chew on from the day's slate, so let's get some grades from the day:
- Bears (A+) mount latest comeback over Falcons (F): Is there anything that the Falcons love more than collapsing and choking away games in the most embarrassing fashion possible? We all know the answer to that one. The Falcons blew a 15-point lead for the second straight week after Nick Foles -- who took over for an ineffective Mitch Trubisky -- led a fourth-quarter comeback for Chicago
- Eagles (F) end in a tie with Bengals (C): A disastrous start to the season for the Eagles continued into this weekend. A tie against a rebuilding Bengals team is essentially a moral loss, especially because they gave themselves a shot to win the game at the end and blew it with poor discipline. Doug Pederson deserves plenty of blame for this one too
- Seahawks (A) continue rolling against Cowboys (C+): All aboard the Russell Wilson MVP train, which isn't slowing down heading into Week 4. Against Dallas, Wilson threw for five touchdowns in his second consecutive game and had zero interceptions
Let's give a big shoutout to the Cleveland Browns, who are above .500 for the first time since December 2014 after beating the Football Team. (Still laughing at that in Week 3? You bet I am.) We all know the Browns are hilarious and depressing but it's still easy to be stunned by a stat like that.
Also of note is that the Aaron Rodgers' revenge tour continued this weekend as he picked apart the Saints' defense in primetime. It's been a tough few weeks for that New Orleans defense, but they can take solace in the fact that a petty Rodgers is almost unbeatable.
You can find all your other Week 3 grades right here.
2. Heat punch ticket to NBA Finals 🏀
The 2020 NBA Finals matchup is officially set and it's time to get ready for Lakers-Heat. The Celtics met the end of their road last night in Game 6 against Miami, as the Heat won the East with a 125-113 victory. It was a close, entertaining tilt for a while and we saw some back-and-forth swings, but the Celtics ultimately fell apart down the stretch as the Heat plunged the dagger deeper and deeper.
Our James Herbert came through with some takeaways from the clincher:
- Miami didn't even need Dragic down the stretch: Goran Dragic has been one of the Heat's biggest contributors in the bubble so far but he remained on the bench for the last nine-ish minutes of this game. Miami closed out with Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Andre Iguodala and Bam Adebayo on the court as they erased a six-point Celtics lead and ran away with it late
- Hot hot Heat: It sounds rather simple, but a big key to success for the Heat was hitting shots at the right time. They caught fire in Game 6 from inside and outside, shooting 13-for-27 from 3-point range (including 5-for-7 from Robinson and a couple massive treys from Iguodala late). It also helps that the Celtics struggled, going 15-for-46 from deep
- Boston's bright spots: The Celtics played a strong game for most of the night but part of the problem in this series was that they only played well most of the time. They could have won the series if they played more consistent basketball
As a Celtics fan myself, it was pretty painful to watch some of these games toward the end. They seemed to lack the killer instinct of a championship team.
Lastly, let's give a shoutout to Old Man Iggy real quick, as he is making his sixth straight trip to the Finals this year. That's a pretty incredible accomplishment for a veteran role player, especially one who had the adventure that he did over the course of this year. And also a shoutout for Jimmy Butler, who's getting the last laugh yet again.
3. Welcome to playoff baseball ⚾
It's almost October and that means playoff baseball, even in this screwed up COVID timeline we're living in. MLB's abbreviated regular season is officially in the books and we've got our expanded 16-team playoff bracket set and ready to go. Wild Card Series action will begin on Tuesday (AL) and Wednesday (NL). Here are the matchups you can look forward to:
- No. 1 Rays vs. No. 8 Blue Jays
- No. 2 Athletics vs. No. 7 White Sox
- No. 3 Twins vs. No. 6 Astros
- No. 4 Cleveland vs. No. 5 Yankees
- No. 1 Dodgers vs. No. 8 Brewers
- No. 2 Braves vs. No. 7 Reds
- No. 3 Cubs vs. No. 6 Marlins
- No. 4 Padres vs. No. 5 Cardinals
So, if your favorite team is out of the picture or you just want to see the most entertaining World Series possible, who should you be rooting for? Our Mike Axisa ranked the top 10 most exciting potential World Series matchups and here are his best options:
5: White Sox vs. Cubs
4: Yankees vs. Dodgers
3: Indians vs. Padres
2: Athletics vs. Dodgers
1: White Sox vs. Padres
I'm going to have to agree with Axisa here. I said a couple weeks ago I was rooting for a Sox-Padres World Series and I'm standing by that. The youth and personality injection that that matchup would bring might be the best thing for baseball right now.
4. Latest college football overreactions 🏈
Have we really not talked about college football yet today? Sheesh, let's change that.
Obviously, it was a big weekend for CFB as we saw the return of the SEC and were treated to some pretty intriguing matchups throughout the day on Saturday. Being a Texas fan, I really ran the gamut of overreactions during an absurd game against Texas Tech but there were plenty more overreactions a college football fan could have after that weekend. Ben Kercheval takes us through a few:
- LSU is in for a major rebuild after all: How quickly things can change in college football. The reigning champs struggled in a 44-34 loss to Mississippi State, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Mike Leach's system shredded the Tigers, as quarterback K.J. Costello threw the ball 60 times and racked up over 600 yards
- The Big 12 doesn't have a single great team: Oklahoma had a stunning collapse against Kansas State, Texas made an adventure out of beating Texas Tech, and it looks like there's not one great team in the Big 12 right now. The conference could be a little bit more wide open than we expected
- Florida's offense is going to be a problem: Kyle Trask? He's nasty and he might lead the SEC in passing this year. The Gators QB threw for 416 yards and six touchdowns in a 51-35 win over Ole Miss and it was a ton of fun to watch. He's gonna face better defenses coming up but there's plenty of reason to buy in
📝 Odds & Ends
Joe Montana stopped a home intruder from kidnapping his baby grandchild over the weekend
The Broncos filled their stadium with the entire 'South Park' town cast during Sunday's game in Denver
Jason La Canfora published his latest insider notebook from NFL Week 3
📺 What to watch tonight
🏒 Lightning vs. Stars, 8 p.m. | DAL +150 | TV: NBC
🏈 Chiefs vs. Ravens, 8:15 p.m. | BAL -3.5 | TV: ESPN
📝 Top scores from last night
Bam Adebayo had 32 points and 14 rebounds as the Heat clinched a spot in the NBA Finals
💵 Winning wagers: MIA +129, Over (216)
Tom Brady threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns as the Bucs improved to 2-1.
💵 Winning wagers: TB -6, Under (42.5)
Harrison Bader tripled and homered to help the Cardinals clinch a postseason berth on the final day of the regular season, but the Brewers also managed to clinch a playoff spot despite the loss.
💵 Winning wagers: STL -109, Under (8)