Tuesday, February 27 2024

This is an article version of the CBS Sports HQ AM Newsletter, the ultimate guide to every day in sports. You can sign up to get it in your inbox every weekday morning here.

🏈 Good morning to everyone but especially …

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When the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson to the Broncos, they were expected to rebuild. They didn’t get the message. Seattle, coming off an unlikely playoff trip last year, improved to 3-1 on the season with a 24-3 thrashing of the Giants.

How did the Seahawks do it? Geno Smith has been better than anyone could have expected, but terrific drafting can’t be overlooked.

  • Devon Witherspoon, taken fifth overall this year with a pick acquired in the Wilson deal, had a game-breaking 97-yard pick six and two of Seattle’s franchise record-tying 11 (!) sacks. The last rookie with a pick six and two sacks in a game was Andy Katzenmoyer in 1999. 
  • The 2022 draft class was even more loaded: Second-round running back Kenneth Walker III (79 yards, one touchdown) and fifth-round cornerback Riq Woolen (seven tackles, one pass defense) both finished in the top three of their respective Rookie of the Year races last season. Tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas look like cornerstones (and neither even played Monday).

Add in some solid signings — Uchenna Nwosa and Bobby Wagner both had two sacks — and some outstanding holdover talent — DK Metcalf (34 yards, one touchdown) and Tyler Lockett (54 yards) are a criminally underrated receiver duo — and you get a team that is simultaneously talented and young. Seattle put that impressive combination on full display Monday.

😁 Honorable mentions

😦 And not such a good morning for …

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Last year, Brian Daboll and Daniel Jones were one of the league’s true feel-good stories. This year, they’re throwing tablets in disgust and getting booed off the field. The Giants arrived early last season. They won close games, avoided mistakes and got some bounces en route to the postseason. Those qualities are nowhere to be found in 2023.

  • Last year, the Giants kept things close, allowing them to stick to their game plan and capitalize on opponents’ mistakes. This year, they’ve been outscored by 68 points in the first half, tied for the worst by any team through four games since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
  • Last year, the Giants were 11th in turnover margin. This year, they’re tied for 30th.
  • Last year, Saquon Barkley — the Giants’ only above-average weapon — missed just one game (resting in Week 18) and recorded 1,650 yards from scrimmage, seventh in the league. This year, he has already missed two games — including Monday night — and is 108th in yards from scrimmage. He’s still the team’s only above-average offensive weapon.

Another thing that hasn’t changed? Jones remains historically awful in primetime. He was pretty terrible — Witherspoon took a not-so-subtle jab — but his supporting cast and especially his banged-up offensive line were even worse.

The NFL is a game of tiny margins … until you start making Giant (pun intended) mistakes. The Giants are finding out this year is not last year. Not even close.

😕 Not so honorable mentions


⚾ MLB playoffs begin today!

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Buckle up, sports fans: Postseason baseball is here.

All four Wild Card Series begin today, and we have previews for each game.

If you’re a Twins fan, the phrase “postseason baseball is here” may make you shudder. Minnesota has lost eighteen consecutive playoff games — the longest postseason losing streak in the history of the four major North American pro sports leagues — stretching all the way back to 2004.

As part of his bold predictions, Mike Axisa says that streak will end today.

The Twins haven’t won a playoff series since 2002, and Mike has them ending that streak, too … and then some. You can see all of our experts’ predictions here.

Dayn Perry, meanwhile, ranked the top 30 players in this year’s playoffs.

  1. Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves RF: “Acuña this season has proffered a historic combination of power and speed, and he’s a very worthy choice as National League MVP, which he’ll likely wind up winning.”
  2. Mookie Betts, Dodgers RF: “In terms of overall value in 2023, he’s right there with Acuña.”
  3. Corey Seager, Rangers SS: “If he’d managed to be healthier, he might be in line for AL MVP honors this season even though he shares a plane of existence with Shohei Ohtani.”
  4. Matt Olson, Braves 1B: “Olson has, by a substantial margin, been the most abundant source of power in all of baseball this season.”
  5. Freddie Freeman, Dodgers 1B: “In this, his age-33 season he threatened 60 doubles (!) and posted an OBP of more than .400.”

Milwaukee’s Brandon Woodruff missed out on the top 30 and might miss out on much more: He’s out for the Wild Card Series — and perhaps the entire postseason — with a shoulder injury.

🏀 NBA Media Days: Lillard in Milwaukee, no Harden in Philly, 2024 Paris Olympics talk

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The NBA is often more dramatic off the court than it is on it, and Monday’s media days proved to be no exception.

James Harden is no stranger to drama, and he caused plenty of it: The 76ers‘ star guard skipped media days as his trade request remains unheeded. However, his absence came with a twist. Per reports, Philadelphia expects Harden to show up at some point and then make the situation “painful” for the organization.

As a refresher, Harden opted into his player option with the goal of being dealt to the Clippers. Philadelphia and L.A. had on-and-off talks, but no deal appears imminent. Now there’s a mess, and Joel Embiid doesn’t seem amused.

As for a trade that actually happened, Damian Lillard is on the Bucks, and he spoke about his excitement for his new home. Jack Maloney also has a terrific breakdown of how Lillard transforms Milwaukee’s offense.

Elsewhere …

Though the season is still a few weeks away, players are also looking toward the 2024 Paris Olympics. James, Leonard, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry all sounded like they’re in. The next domino to fall could be Embiid, who is choosing between Team USA, France and Cameroon.

⚽ UEFA Champions League Matchday 2 previews and picks

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The Champions League rolls on with Matchday 2 starting today. Here’s the entire slate, which you can stream on Paramount+.

Right away, Napoli-Real Madrid draws my attention. Both teams won their opener and enter off deep runs in this competition (Napoli to the quarterfinal, Read Madrid to the semifinal). Add in two talented squads and the return of Los Blancos manager Carlo Ancelotti, who coached Napoli from 2018-19, and it’s an intriguing one.

Our experts are split in their predictions, and Francesco Porzio says …

  • Porzio: One matchup to watch: Kvicha Kvaratskhelia vs. Dani Carvajal – This is going to be a crucial matchup as Napoli’s attacking play comes mostly from the left side with Kvaratskhelia. Napoli’s performances depend a lot on him … Match prediction: Napoli 2, Real Madrid 2 – Of course, Real Madrid are expected to be the favorites before the game but Napoli improved a lot in the last two games and the stadium will also be a factor as the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona is one of the most difficult to play against.”

You can see our experts’ picks here and James Benge’s players to watch here.

📺 What we’re watching Tuesday

UEFA Champions League on Paramount+
Rangers at Rays, 3 p.m. on ABC
⚾ Blue Jays at Twins, 4:30 p.m. on ESPN
Diamondbacks at Brewers, 7 p.m. on ESPN2
Marlins at Phillies, 8 p.m. on ESPN

Source: CBSSports.com


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