Why the rest of the NFL should be scared of the Chiefs, plus the Lightning get redemption

Create: 2020-09-29
Update: 2020-09-29
Score: 5
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Tuesday, September 29, 2020
*sigh* Good morning, friend. The sadness you see in my eyes this morning is due to hockey officially being over and me losing my entire sense of purpose. Seriously, after three months of non-stop playoff hockey, what am I supposed to do now? This sucks. And the worst part of all? We don't know exactly when it'll be back or what it will look like (though it seems a full-season bubble is completely out of the question). 
Luckily, I can try to drown my sorrows in the abundance of other action still going on, including playoff baseball -- which starts today -- and the NBA Finals -- which start tomorrow. And of course we have football, too. So I guess I should stop sulking and just hunker down to focus on getting to chat with you every morning. I'm going to miss hockey a lot, but life could certainly be worse. You know what they say: Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened despite an ongoing national pandemic.
📰 What you need to know
1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs cruise to win over Ravens 🏈
We had one heck of a marquee Monday Night Football matchup as two of the AFC's top teams and most exciting quarterbacks went head-to-head. Or at least that's what we thought we were getting with the Chiefs-Ravens matchup last night, but it wasn't quite the shootout that most expected. 
Instead, the night totally belonged to Patrick Mahomes as the Chiefs rolled to a 34-20 win against Lamar Jackson's Ravens.
  • Mahomes became the fastest QB to reach 10,000 yards passing for a career, needing only 34 games to do it (lol come on... that's insane)
  • The Chiefs quarterback threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns, and he added another on the ground for good measure
  • Kansas City's defense kept a lid on Jackson, who was virtually a non-factor through the air. He had just 97 passing yards and one touchdown, though he did add 83 yards on the ground
The reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs entered the night as underdogs and I sure hope you joined me in jumping on the value there. I say you're a fool if you don't take KC at plus-money whenever you can get it. Don't you know better than to bet against Mahomes at this point?
This game felt like a real slice of humble pie for the Ravens and a huge statement for the Chiefs, who aren't quite ready to give up that AFC throne just yet. Kansas City is gonna have to have a quick turnaround this week, as they've got another tough matchup against the Patriots on Sunday. The Ravens will have a Sunday date against the Washington Football Team, so hopefully they use the unofficial bye week to get their bearings set after this tough loss.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning get ultimate redemption, win 2020 Stanley Cup 🏒
As we creep toward October, this is normally the time we'd be gearing up for the start of hockey season. Instead, with the wonky COVID-19 timeline that's been cast upon us, the NHL season actually just came to an end last night -- a whole 363 days after the season started. The Tampa Bay Lightning are the lone survivors in the NHL bubble and your 2020 Stanley Cup champions.
  • The Lightning beat the Stars, 2-0, in Game 6, winning the series 4-2
  • It's their second Stanley Cup in franchise history (also won in 2004) 
  • Tampa Bay becomes the third team to win the Stanley Cup after getting swept in the first round the previous year.  
  • Defenseman Victor Hedman (10 goals, 12 assists) won the Conn Smythe as MVP of the playoffs
It's been a long, strange road for the Lightning to get to this point. They'd basically become a league punching bag due to constantly coming up short in the postseason of late, so this is quite the redemption story. That's especially true after Tampa had a historically great regular season last year only to choke it away and get swept in the first round by a No. 8 seed. 
As strange as it might seem, the University of Virginia gets some credit for this Cup win:
  • Kevin Shattenkirk: "We looked at the University of Virginia men's basketball team and what happened to them and used that as a source of inspiration."
Hey, why not?!
And for as strange as the timing and circumstances were, the win in the bubble was no fluke and there's no asterisk necessary for this Cup win. It's very hard to argue against the Lightning being the best team in the league, and it's almost impossible to argue against them being the best team in the bubble.  In a Stanley Cup tournament that was far from ordinary, we can find some comfort and normalcy in the idea that the best team got to hoist the Cup to finally close out the season. 
Also, a big shoutout to the NHL for pulling this thing off as smoothly as they did. Three months in the bubble and not a single positive coronavirus test. That's pretty incredible.
3. Clippers fire Doc Rivers, but does that solve their playoff problems? 🏀
The NBA Finals will get underway tomorrow and you know who won't be involved? The Los Angeles Clippers. That's because the Clippers choked away a 3-1 series lead against the Denver Nuggets in the second round this year, in case you forgot.
As it turns out, that disappointing fate for the Clips has cost Doc Rivers his job. The team announced yesterday that they'd fired Rivers, parting ways with the coach who has been on their sidelines since 2013. 
  • Rivers: "When I took this job, my goals were to make this a winning basketball program, a free agent destination, and bring a championship to this organization. While I was able to accomplish most of my goals, I won't be able to see them all through. Though it was a disappointing ending to our season, you are right there and I know what this team is capable of accomplishing with your support."   
There's no question that this Clippers season turned out to be a disappointment and that Rivers had a role in that: this is the third time one of his teams has blown a 3-1 series lead. But this begs the question: will firing him help solve the team's postseason woes? Our James Herbert doesn't seem to think so.
  • Herbert: "Maybe they would have won the title in normal circumstances. I suspect, though, that they made errors in roster construction, undervaluing passing and underestimating how difficult it would be to cover for weak defenders. Either way, Rivers is losing his job partially because of factors beyond his control, a year after his presence helped the team lure [Kawhi] Leonard and [Paul] George."
What we do know for sure at this point is that the Clippers are now in the market for a new head coach to help carry this thing through, and Ty Lue and Jeff Van Gundy are reportedly at the top of the list of candidates. We also know that Rivers is now a free agent and he's unlikely to be out of work long if he wants to continue coaching. There are a few teams that have reportedly already reached out to Doc, and our Sam Quinn has put together a list of the best potential destinations for the veteran coach. 
In addition to being a highly respected coach, Rivers also has one of the best personalities in the game, so it actually wouldn't be the worst or most surprising thing if he decided to take a year off and do some work as an analyst before jumping back into the coaching waters.
4. Our expert MLB Wild Card picks ⚾
Happy playoff baseball season, my friend. MLB's Wild Card round gets underway today and we've got a whole lot of action on our plate this week. The expanded postseason picture means we've got more games to enjoy; there are four AL games in action today but things will get really spicy tomorrow with a full slate of EIGHT games. The start times for those eight games are Noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.
I mean, come on! Holy moly that's gonna be fun.  
But before we officially usher in playoff baseball later today, let's get some picks from our baseball staff. Our MLB crew made selections for each of the eight series (which will all be best-of-three) and here are a couple of notable takeaways:
  • The Rays, Twins, Dodgers and Padres were all unanimous picks to win their series
  • Mike Axisa wasn't afraid to go against the grain: He has the Indians beating the Yankees, the A's over the White Sox and the Marlins over the Cubs
You know 2020 is a weird year when everyone is believing in the Twins in the playoffs. That's the same Twins that have lost 16 straight playoff games, with their last playoff win coming all the way back in 2004. Then again, maybe this whole baseball season is bizarre enough to make the Twins legit. 
Hey, I mean the Lightning just won the Stanley Cup to break their own postseason failure streak right? And the last time they'd won anything was in 2004, too! There's your inspiration, Minnesota!
📝 Odds & Ends
  • Cam Newton hasn't moved his family to Boston yet, because, as he described it, being on the Patriots is 'a business trip for me'
  • The turf controversy at MetLife Stadium is continuing as the 49ers' Jordan Reed was diagnosed with a sprained MCL after San Fran's win over Giants
  • Our Will Brinson would like to apologize for not buying into Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense before the season started
📺 What to watch tonight
Astros vs. Twins, 2 p.m. | MIN -160 | TV: ABC
 White Sox vs. Athletics, 3 p.m. | OAK +110 | TV: ESPN
Blue Jays vs. Rays, 5 p.m. | TB -190 | TV: TBS
Yankees vs. Indians, 7 p.m. | O/U 6.5 | ESPN
📝 Top scores from last night
🏈 Chiefs 34, Ravens 20
Patrick Mahomes went 31-for-42 and threw for 385 yards while racking up five touchdowns in the win as the Chiefs improved to 3-0.💵 Winning wagers: KC +155, Under (55)
🏒 Lightning 2, Stars 0
Brayden Point set a new franchise record with his 14th goal of the postseason and it proved to be the Stanley Cup-clinching goal. 
💵 Winning wagers: TBL -173, Under (5)
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