27 Mar

Play for prizes, create your own NCAA Tournament game now

The 2024 NCAA Tournament bracket is set for both the men’s and women’s versions, so fans are filling out their March Madness brackets and joining March Madness pools. While rooting for your team to cut down the nets might be the primary reason to follow the madness, cheering on your NCAA Tournament bracket picks adds another layer of excitement. Top overall seed UConn is trying to become the first repeat winner in the men’s bracket since Florida in 2006-07, while South Carolina is trying to cap off a perfect season in the women’s bracket. Picking the correct champion is the starting point of winning any NCAA Tournament pool.

Another key to coming out on top in NCAA Tournament challenges is identifying early-round upsets and March Madness Cinderella teams who could win multiple games. Upsets are generally less common in the women’s bracket, but there are still underrated teams that could help you beat your friends and family in March Madness bracket games. With the action so close, now is the time to set up your 2024 March Madness pool.

If you’re looking for a NCAA Tournament bracket game home, CBS Sports is a great option get set up. You can play Bracket Games on the CBS Sports App for free and you could win big prizes.* Sign up right here.

There are CBS Sports NCAA Bracket Challenges for the men’s and women’s tournaments and there’s a trip to each respective 2025 Final Four on the line in both challenges. It’s easy to qualify for those epic trips. For the Men’s Challenge, simply click this link, click the “Join Now” button and enter.* Fill out your men’s bracket after it is revealed on Sunday, March 17 at 6 p.m. ET, and the winner of the trip to the 2025 Final Four will be chosen from among the entrants.

Anyone who enters both the Men’s CBS Sports Bracket Challenge and Women’s CBS Sports Bracket Challenge will also be entered for a chance to win a brand new Nissan Rogue. The men’s bracket deadline is scheduled for March 21 at noon ET, while the women’s bracket deadline is on March 22 at 11:30 a.m. ET.

To be eligible, simply follow the steps above to join the Men’s Challenge and then join the Women’s Challenge here. All you have to do to be eligible to win the Nissan Rogue is join both, even if your brackets get completely busted.

2024 NCAA Tournament Men’s teams to watch
Now that you know where to play 2024 NCAA Men’s Bracket Games, here are some teams to watch as the 2024 NCAA Tournament approaches:

North Carolina Tar Heels: The Tar Heels rank second in all-time NCAA Tournament wins (131) and win percentage (.728), making 21 trips to the Final Four. They have won six national titles, with their latest championship coming in 2017. Head coach Hubert Davis was named the ACC Coach of the Year, while RJ Davis was the ACC Player of the Year after leading the conference in scoring with 21.4 points per game.

Oregon Ducks: The winners of the final ever Pac 12 Tournament, Oregon enters the 2024 NCAA Tournament at 23-11. This will be the first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2021 for the Ducks and eighth tournament bid since Dana Altman took over the program in 2010-11. Senior big N’Faly Dante went a perfect 12-for-12 from the field in a win over Colorado last Saturday and finished with 25 points and nine rebounds. Dante led the Ducks in scoring average (16.2 points per game) and rebounding (8.8 rebounds per game) this season and he’ll be a handful inside for any team that draws the Ducks in the Big Dance. Join the CBS Sports 2024 NCAA Men’s Bracket Game here.

2024 NCAA Tournament Women’s teams to watch
Now that you know where to play 2024 NCAA Women’s Bracket Games, here are some teams to watch as the 2024 NCAA Tournament approaches:

Iowa Hawkeyes: The Hawkeyes earned their first No. 1 seed in the Women’s NCAA Tournament bracket since 1992 after finishing 29-4 and winning the Big Ten Tournament. They are led by star Caitlin Clark, who has already broken multiple records and is just 56 points shy of setting the record for most points in a single season. She is the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division I history, and Iowa is riding a six-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament.

USC Trojans: USC finished second behind Stanford in the Pac-12 regular-season standings with a 13-5 record in conference play, but it got its revenge with a 74-61 win over Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament title game. The Trojans also picked up wins over Arizona and UCLA during the conference tournament, giving them a five-game winning streak entering the NCAA Tournament. They have already won five games against top-10 teams this season, establishing themselves as legitimate contenders to cut down the nets. Join the 2024 Women’s Bracket Game here.

How to enter 2024 NCAA Men’s & Women’s Bracket Games
Ready to set up your 2024 NCAA Tournament bracket pools? Join the 2024 NCAA Bracket Games right here for a shot at a trip to the 2025 Final Four. Don’t forget to enter the Women’s Bracket Games as well for a chance to win a new Nissan Rogue.

*No purchase necessary. See rules for details.

27 Mar

Ranking today’s best games, plus last-minute bracket advice

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.

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🏀 Good morning to everyone but especially …

With No. 16 Grambling State (over Montana State) and No. 10 Colorado (over Boise State) winning Wednesday to wrap up the First Four, the first round of the men’s NCAA Tournament is officially upon us.

As much fun as filling out your bracket is, watching the madness unfold, no matter who you chose, is awesome. Plain and simple. David Cobb ranked the first-round games 1-32, and the top three are all today.

“(5) Gonzaga vs. (12) McNeese — Gonzaga is seeking to reach a ninth straight Sweet 16. McNeese, coached by the once-disgraced Will Wade, is seeking its first-ever NCAA Tournament victory. These Zags have less zip than usual, and the Cowboys have the talent and path needed to win more than once in this tournament.”
“(4) Kansas vs. (13) Samford — The Jayhawks are perilously light on depth and must face a Samford team that is the deepest in the tournament and determined to press on every possession.”
“(3) Kentucky vs. (14) Oakland — Oakland upset Xavier on the road and played competitive games with Ohio State and Illinois. Considering Kentucky lost to UNC Wilmington at home this season, the Wildcats aren’t 100% trustworthy against a team of this caliber.”
If you’re still debating who to pick, our experts have picked all of today’s games, and of course we have our expert brackets and my 63 picks in 63 sentences.

If there’s one more thing you cannot miss, it’s Matt Norlander’s annual collection of numbers and stats to know. Here are a couple of my favorites.

Norlander: “0: Infamously, no team has lost its first conference tournament game and then won a national title. This year, you should be suspicious of Alabama, Creighton, Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Duke. … 10-15: Pick at least one double-digit seed to reach the Sweet 16, because it has happened all but two years since ’85 (1995, 2007). And 16 times there have been at least three double-digit seeds that made it to the regional semifinals.”
Here’s the best of the rest of our most recent content:

Full preview of today’s action
Guards win in March. Here are 10 of the very best.
Speaking of guards, Braden Smith is the key to Purdue’s redemption.
Every team has flaws … even the No. 1 seeds.
I handed out superlatives among the tournament teams.
And if you’ve missed anything or want to read anything — really, anything, because we have covered it all — here’s all of the outstanding work our college basketball writers have put in. Enjoy the madness!

👍 Honorable mentions
Kevin Durant passes Shaquille O’Neal for eighth in the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
Caitlin Clark leads the way in the women’s AP All-America team.
The (16) Presbyterian and (12) Vanderbilt women won their first First Four games.
Caleb Williams had a (likely) future teammate at his pro day: Keenan Allen.
Jon Rahm’s Masters Champions Dinner menu looks delicious.
Mitchell Robinson practiced fully for the first time since December.
The Browns signed D’Onta Foreman.
Alex Rodriguez found funding for the final payment of his purchase of the Timberwolves.
The USMNT faces Jamaica in a Concacaf Nations League semifinal on Paramount+. Here’s our preview.
Here are the Olympic soccer draws for the USMNT and the USWNT.
😳 And not such a good morning for …
Getty Images

Shohei Ohtani’s season is off to one of the strangest and scariest starts we’ve ever seen away from the diamond. One day after being the target of a bomb threat ahead of the season opener, Ohtani has allegedly been the victim of “massive theft” in the range of millions of dollars, his attorneys say. The alleged thief is none other than his longtime interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, whom the Dodgers fired Wednesday in light of the allegations. Mizuhara had been by Ohtani’s side, literally, since Ohtani joined the Angels in 2017.

That’s just the start.

Ohtani and his representatives say Mizuhara stole funds from Ohtani in order to place bets with an illegal bookmaker. That bookmaker, Mathew Bowyer, is the target of a federal investigation. The Los Angeles Times had been investigating the matter, and when Ohtani’s name came up, Ohtani’s lawyers looked into things and discovered the alleged theft.
Bowyer’s lawyer said Bowyer has never met with or talked to Ohtani. Ohtani is not facing any sort of discipline.
Mizuhara, however, had a different explanation. He said he asked Ohtani to cover more than $4.5 million in gambling debts, and Ohtani did so. Mizuhara added he thought bets placed through Bowyer were legal and Ohtani had no involvement with the betting.
Mizuhara then changed his story, saying that Ohtani didn’t know about Mizuhara’s gambling and that Ohtani never transferred money to Bowyer’s associate. Mizuhara then added he never betted on baseball, which is prohibited for MLB team employees by the league.
👎 Not so honorable mentions
Draymond Green was involved in another scuffle.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto got shelled in his Dodgers debut
Ausar Thompson’s season is over due to a blood clot.
Matt McLain (shoulder) is likely out for Opening Day.
Asa Lacy (Tommy John surgery) is out for the year.
Did James Harden really try to block an in-game shot attempt by Kawhi Leonard?
🏀 The 15 NBA teams that can win a title, broken down into tiers
Getty Images
I know college basketball is all the rage right now, but the NBA playoffs are less than a month away. Bill Reiter says 15 teams belong in the title conversation, and he broke those 15 down into six tiers. The Celtics and Nuggets are in a tier by themselves, and rightfully so. I think the tier that intrigues me most is …

Reiter: “Tier 4: They have a shot despite real question marks — The New York Knicks. The Cleveland Cavaliers. The Los Angeles Clippers. The New Orleans Pelicans. … The Pelicans have been sneaky great. They’re also in the top 10 in offensive and defensive rating, Zion Williamson has been healthy and in great shape, and .. have won seven of their past eight. … Zion, and the Pelicans, have felt like fool’s gold the past few years, but there’s belief in New Orleans they may be close to cashing as a team they’ve always believed could be, contenders if only their superstar could stay on the floor.”
🏈 NFL rule proposals: Changes to tackles, kickoffs coming?
Wednesday, the NFL submitted proposals for multiple rule changes for the 2024 season.

The first regards making “hip-drop tackles” 15-yard penalties. Here are the details, via Cody Benjamin.

Benjamin: “The proposed definition of an infraction is as follows: When a player ‘grabs the runner with both hands or wraps the runner with both arms’ and ‘unweights himself by swiveling and dropping his hips and/or lower body, landing on and trapping the runner’s legs at or below the knee.’ The penalty would also grant the opposing team an automatic first down.”
Sources told our Jonathan Jones that NFL officials believe they can call it correctly, but the NFLPA isn’t so sure. It’s already so hard to tackle correctly. I don’t love this one.

I like the potential change to kickoffs much more. Let’s set the stage:

Teams kick off from the same spot — their own 35. The 10 players on the coverage team, though, line up at the receiving team’s 40, and nine players on the return team would line up in the “setup zone” between the 35- and 30-yard line. Neither unit can move until the kick hits the ground or a returner.
The returning team has up to two returners in the “return zone,” which stretches from the goal line to the 20-yard line.
There are no fair catches.
As for the kick itself …

If the kick fails to reach the return zone, the returning team gets the ball at its own 40.
If the kick goes through the end zone or is downed inside the end zone on the fly, the returning team gets the ball at its own 35.
If the kick lands in the return zone and then travels into the end zone and is downed in the end zone, the returning team gets the ball at its own 20.
If the ball is fielded in the return zone, it must be returned.
Here it is in picture form.

Basically, we’d get way more action, it would be safer, and there’d be a lot more strategy involved. It would be a fun new element. I’m in favor.

📺 What we’re watching Thursday
🏀 We’re watching the men’s NCAA Tournament … All. Day. Long. Here’s how to do it.
⚽ USMNT vs. Jamaica, 7 p.m. on Paramount+
🏀 Pelicans at Magic, 7 p.m. on NBA TV
🏀 No. 11 Arizona vs. No. 11 Auburn (W), 7 p.m. on ESPN2
🏀 No. 16 Holy Cross vs. No. 16 UT Martin (W), 9 p.m. on ESPN2
🏀 Hawks at Suns, 10:30 p.m. on NBA TV
🏒 Kraken at Golden Knights, 10:30 p.m. on ESPN

27 Mar

Model hands out surprising March Madness 2024 tournament picks

No. 11 seed New Mexico is back in the NCAA Tournament bracket for the first time since 2014, running the table at the Mountain West Tournament last week to earn an automatic bid to the 2024 March Madness bracket. The Lobos knocked off Boise State, Colorado State and San Diego State during their impressive run and are a trendy upset pick for Friday’s game against No. 6 seed Clemson. They play at the eighth-fastest pace in college basketball, and their offense ranks in the top 20 nationally in scoring (82.6 points per game). Clemson prefers to play at a slower pace, creating an intriguing matchup that is a difficult decision for 2024 March Madness picks.

Picking first-round 2024 March Madness upsets is one part of building a winning 2024 March Madness strategy, but Final Four picks are much more important. Which teams should you have advancing to Phoenix in your 2024 NCAA Tournament bracket? Before making any 2024 March Madness bracket predictions, be sure to check out the 2024 NCAA Tournament bracket picks from the proven computer model at SportsLine.

Their proven projection model has simulated every game in the tournament 10,000 times. It has absolutely crushed its March Madness picks recently, beating over 92 percent of all CBS Sports brackets three of the past five tournaments. In an upset-laden 2023 NCAA Tournament, the model was all over UConn’s shocking Final Four run as a 4-seed. It went an amazing 23-9 in the first round, including an astounding 12-4 in the Midwest and West regions.

It knows how to spot an upset as well. The same model has produced brackets that have nailed 20 first-round upsets by double-digit seeds since its inception in 2016. There’s simply no reason to rely on luck when there’s proven technology to help you dominate your 2024 March Madness picks.

Now, with the 2024 NCAA bracket revealed, the model is simulating the matchups and its results are in. You can only see it over at SportsLine.

Three 2024 March Madness bracket games to watch
One of the most intriguing 2024 March Madness matchups to watch: No. 5 San Diego State versus No. 12 UAB. The Aztecs are getting set for their fourth straight tournament appearance following their run to the national title game last season, the first in program history. They were a No. 5 seed last year as well, and all three of the 2023 Final Four teams in the 2024 NCAA Tournament field are in the same half of the East Region. This is the first meeting between UAB and San Diego State since 1989, when the Blazers cruised to a 91-46 victory in the championship game of the UAB Classic.

Another 2024 March Madness matchup to keep an eye on is No. 8 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 9 Northwestern in the East Region. These programs are trying to build on their recent unprecedented success when they meet in the Round of 64 on Friday afternoon. Florida Atlantic made a historic run to the Final Four last season, coming up just short against San Diego State on a buzzer-beater, and it returned all five of its starters from that team. Northwestern snapped a 77-year NCAA Tournament drought by making its first appearance in 2017, and it returned last spring when it lost to UCLA in the second round.

Another 2024 March Madness matchup to watch out for: No. 4 seed Auburn will battle No. 13 seed Yale in the East Region. The Bulldogs are seeking their second win in the NCAA Tournament after beating Brown in the Ivy League Tournament title game. They are led by All-Ivy League First Team selection Danny Wolf, who is averaging 14.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He will go head-to-head with Auburn’s Johni Broome, an All-SEC First Team performer who posted 13 double-doubles this season. You can see the model’s 2024 NCAA bracket picks here.

How to make 2024 NCAA bracket predictions
Who wins every tournament-defining matchup? And which teams will make surprising runs through the 2024 NCAA Tournament bracket? With the model’s track record of calling bracket-busting upsets, you’ll want to see which stunners it’s calling this year before locking in any 2024 NCAA bracket picks.

20 Mar

How to watch, live stream, TV channel, time, date, full weekend schedule, picks, predictions

The XFL is gearing up for Week 3 of the 2023 season as the calendar turns to March. This week’s slate of games has several compelling storylines that includes one matchup that will likely generate the most interest.

The D.C. Defenders, who have commanded the top spot in each of our XFL Power Rankings this season, are one of three teams who enter the weekend with perfect records. D.C. will put its 2-0 record on the line Sunday against the BattleHawks, who are also 2-0 after winning both of their games after trailing by a dozen points.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the XFL’s first game of the weekend between the Sea Dragons and Vipers, whose combined record is 0-4. The Orlando Guardians, the perennial last-place team in our Power Rankings, have their work cut out for them Sunday against a Renegades team that is looking to avenge last week’s loss to Houston.

Here’s a complete look at this weekend’s games along with our predictions for each contest.

Seattle Sea Dragons (0-2) at Vegas Vipers (0-2)
Date: Saturday, March 4 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Cashman Field (Las Vegas)
TV: FX, ESPN+ | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

Seattle played well enough to win its first two games, but failed to make enough critical plays down the stretch. Conversely, the Vipers were extremely sluggish in last week’s loss to Houston. Despite this, Las Vegas’ defense, as they showed in Week 1, is capable of taking over a game by itself. The Vipers also have some offensive potential in the form of Brett Hundley, who replaced Luis Perez during last Sunday’s loss.

Vegas could be primed for an upset, but until its offense shows it can move the ball consistently, I’m not going to give the Viper the benefit of the doubt. Prediction: Sea Dragons over Vipers

St. Louis BattleHawks (2-0) at D.C. Defenders (2-0)
Date: Sunday, March 5 | Time: 1 p.m. ET
Location: Audi Field (Washington, D.C.)
TV: FX, ESPN+ | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

St. Louis has the league’s best quarterback in A.J. McCarron, who was the main component in both of the BattleHawks’ comeback wins. But the Defenders have a tough defense and a dominant rushing attack, led by former Baylor standout Abram Smith. St. Louis will hang tough, but the Defenders will be 3-0 when all is said and done. Prediction: Defenders over BattleHawks

Orlando Guardians (0-2) at Arlington Renegades (1-1)
Date: Sunday, March 5 | Time: 4 p.m. ET
Location: Choctaw Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
TV: FX, ESPN+ | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

Arlington has major issues on offense, but Orlando is a mess from top to bottom, especially at quarterback. This should be a breakout game for Arlington quarterback Drew Plitt, who threw as many touchdowns as interceptions during the season’s first two games. Don’t be surprised if Arlington’s defense scores as many points as its offense in this one. Prediction: Renegades over Guardians

San Antonio Brahmas (1-1) at Houston Roughnecks (2-0)
Date: Sunday, March 5 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: TDECU Stadium (Houston, Texas)
TV: ESPN2/ESPN+ | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

Bridesmaids in our most recent Power Rankings, Houston may very well be the league’s best team. It has a tough defense and arguably the league’s best receiving corps. The Brahmas also have a solid defense and quarterback in Jack Coan, who last week became the XFL’s first quarterback to throw three touchdowns in a game. This should be a good contest between two teams that are trending upwards. Prediction: Roughnecks over Brahmas

20 Mar

Three players ejected during Defenders-BattleHawks showdown in final minute of game

It was the highest-scoring game of the XFL season so far, a clash of unbeaten teams filled with defensive takeaways, impressive returns and eventually, some fighting. The St. Louis BattleHawks and D.C. Defenders faced off on Sunday and things escalated in the final minutes with three ejections representing both sides.

The back-and-forth game saw the Defenders up 34-28 in the final ticks. The BattleHawks had the opportunity to attempt a fourth-and-15 rather than attempt an onside kick to maintain possession after a fumble recovery they had capitalized on and turned into eight points.

Things then took a turn as players from both sides went after each other, fists flying. Coaches got involved, attempting to bring their players onto the sideline.

The officials announced No. 43 on D.C., linebacker Francis Bernard, No. 73 on D.C., offensive lineman Rod Taylor and No. 23 on St. Louis, running back Brian Hill were all ejected over their participating in the brawl.

Here is a look at what went down:

St. Louis Battlehawks and D.C. Defenders fight at the end of their #XFL game. #KaKaw pic.twitter.com/2mSmVPLVsP

— STL Sports (@Cards_Blues) March 5, 2023
St. Louis quarterback A.J. McCarron was sacked by Dalvin Bellamy on the fourth down attempt for a loss of seven yards, sealing the win for D.C.

On the following play, the Defenders had the ball and it was clear both sides still had high emotions as they continue to spat. The time then ran down and the Defenders were given the win, improving to 3-0. The BattleHawks fell to 2-1.

These two teams had an exciting battle and are set to see each other again in Week 5, on March 18 at 7 p.m. Mark your calendars because if this first matchup is any indication, that game will be a riveting one.

20 Mar

Roughnecks remain unbeaten, but Defenders still cream of the crop

In many ways, the XFL’s third weekend was a who’s who game as the league’s regular season moved past the quarter pole. While the outcomes were somewhat predictable (we went a perfect 4-0 in our Week 3 picks), last week’s results reinforced which teams are contenders versus pretenders.

Only two teams remain undefeated through three weeks: the D.C. Defenders and the Houston Roughnecks. The Defenders were No. 1 in each of our previous Power Rankings, while the Roughnecks started in the middle of the pack before quickly moving up into the No. 2 spot. Both teams justified their spots in our Power Rankings by again taking care of business this past weekend.

Did Houston do enough to surpass D.C.? We have that answer and the rest of our updated Power Rankings below ahead of the XFL’s fourth weekend.

  1. D.C. Defenders (3-0)
    Last week: No. 1
    After two wins in low-scoring games, the Defenders proved last weekend they can win a shootout. D.C. posted a 34-28 win over a BattleHawks team that came into the game with an unblemished mark. As has been the case all year, the Defenders’ defense played an integral role in the game by forcing four turnovers that included Michael Turner’s pick-six of St. Louis quarterback A.J. McCarron.

On offense, the Defenders continued to roll on the ground with 136 yards and a touchdown. But the really encouraging part of this game for D.C. was the play of quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, who enjoyed his best game to date after throwing for 196 yards and a touchdown.

  1. Houston Roughnecks (3-0)
    Last week: No. 2
    Houston appeared on its way to taking the No. 1 spot after playing a near-perfect first half last Sunday night against San Antonio. The Roughnecks led 22-7 at halftime after receiving a brilliant first half from quarterback Brandon Silvers, who completed 15 of his first 20 pass attempts for 225 yards and three touchdowns.

It was a different story in the second half, however, as Houston was outscored 6-0 in an eventual 22-13 win. The Roughnecks’ defense came up with several big stops, but their offense came up empty with two drives that ended in punts, two on missed fourth-down attempts and another via an interception.

Along with Silvers and Jontre Kirklin’s two touchdown catches, one positive regarding Houston’s offense on Sunday was running back Max Borghi, whose 74 yards on 15 carries helped Houston win time of possession while running 20 more plays than the Brahmas.

  1. St. Louis BattleHawks (2-1)
    Last week: No. 3
    St. Louis’ first loss was impressive in the fact that the BattleHawks stood toe-to-toe with arguably the league’s best team. You could argue that St. Louis was the better team on Sunday but cost itself a win by committing four turnovers that led to nine D.C. points. Conversely, St. Louis converted just one of its three forced turnovers into points.

Interceptions aside, McCarron otherwise had a solid game after throwing for a season-high 262 yards and four touchdowns. McCarron’s top target, Hakeem Butler, pulled down nine passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. St. Louis struggled to run the ball, however, picking up just 56 yards on 17 carries.

  1. Arlington Renegades (2-1)
    Last week: No. 5
    Bob Stoops’ team continues to occupy the middle of our Power Rankings after being No. 2 in our preseason rankings. The Renegades jumped up one spot this week after winning an ugly game against the league’s worst team. But a win is a win, and by beating Orlando, the Renegades are one of four XFL teams with a winning record.

Kyle Sloter was highly efficient in his first game for Arlington. The former NFL journeyman quarterback went 18 of 23 for 124 yards and a touchdown. He also didn’t turn the ball over while his defense forced a pair of turnovers in Arlington’s 10-9 win.

  1. Seattle Sea Dragons (1-2)
    Last week: No. 6
    Seattle was finally on the right side of a close score in Week 3. The Sea Dragons won a high scoring, highly entertaining game against Vegas after Ben DiNucci hit Josh Gordon for a 65-yard, game-winning score. DiNucci led two scoring drives late in the game as the Sea Dragons got their first win of the season.

DiNucci put it all together last week after showing flashes during the season’s first two weeks. He went 29 of 37 for 377 yards and four touchdowns and one pick. He received a breakout game from Gordon (who caught six passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns) and running back Morgan Ellison, who ran for 103 yards on 17 carries.

  1. San Antonio Brahmas (1-2)
    Last week: No. 4
    The Brahmas outplayed the Roughriders in the second half, but they were unable to make enough big plays on the offensive side of the ball while not taking advantage of a herculean effort by their defense. A week after throwing three touchdowns, Brahmas quarterback Jack Coan threw for just 64 yards against Houston’s stout defense. San Antonio’s running game didn’t fare much better as the trio of Coan, Kalen Ballage and Jack Coan combined to average just 3.6 yards per carry.

Through three games, it’s clear that San Antonio has one of the league’s better defenses. But the Brahmas won’t be among the league’s elite until they get more consistent play from their offense.

  1. Las Vegas Vipers (0-3)
    Last week: No. 7
    Vegas had its best game of the season to date in a losing effort against Seattle. Brett Hundley made a big step forward as he threw two touchdowns while picking up 66 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Hundley connected on several big plays that included a 56-yard throw to Jeff Badet and a 50-yard scoring strike to John Lovett.

Surprisingly, it was the Vipers’ defense that dropped the ball against the Sea Dragons. It’ll be interesting to see if this game was a mulligan or the start of a bad trend for Rod Woodson’s defense.

  1. Orlando Guardians (0-3)
    Last week: No. 8
    They’re still the league’s worst team, but the Guardians showed growth while playing a competitive game against Arlington. Orlando’s defense played winning football, while the offense received a solid game by Paxton Lynch, who ran for a score while throwing for 219 yards and not turning the ball over.

Pass protection continues to be a major issue for Orlando. Lynch was sacked four times against Arlington and was pressured several other times.

20 Mar

Battlehawks cover vs. Renegades, while Defenders remain perfect

Week 3 of the XFL was pretty fun. We started off hot on Saturday night, as Josh Gordon caught a game-winning, 65-yard catch with under one minute remaining to get the Seattle Sea Dragons into the win column for the first time this year. The 30-26 win over the Vegas Vipers was the highest-scoring XFL game of the year — that is, until the St. Louis Battlehawks and D.C. Defenders took the field the very next day.

The Defenders remained undefeated with a 34-28 win over the Battlehawks, where things got testy late. After that matchup, the Arlington Renegades struggled with the Orlando Guardians before eventually pulling out a 10-9 win, and then the Houston Roughnecks built on their argument for best team in the league with a 22-13 win over the San Antonio Brahmas. It was a solid week.

As for our gambling picks, we went 3-1 ATS and 4-0 SU. Personally, I am of course playing spreads in the XFL, but moneyline parlays have worked out beautifully too.

ATS record: 8-4
Straight up record: 9-3
XFL Favorites ATS: 7-5

All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook

Arlington Renegades at St. Louis Battlehawks (-4)
Sunday, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN 2) | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

As we discussed earlier in this piece, the Renegades struggled with the winless Guardians. I believe that says more about Arlington. If you’ve followed along with my picks this year, you know I’m very hesitant to pick the Battlehawks. A.J. McCarron has been up and down, but they’ve pulled off some close wins. With the game being in St. Louis, I actually think this line may be too low. I’ll lay four points against a team I’m starting to question.

The pick: Battlehawks -4
Projected score: Battlehawks 25-15

Vegas Vipers at D.C. Defenders (-6)
Sunday, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN 2) | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

Audi Field is going to be rocking. If you are unaware, the Defenders have the best home-field advantage in the XFL, and it doesn’t matter that this game will be played on a Sunday night. You will still see plenty of shirtless grown men attempting to build the world’s largest beer snake with zero regard for work in the morning. And that’s why we love the XFL.

Gregg Williams’ unit is aggressive, but Brett Hundley is definitely an upgrade at quarterback over Luis Perez. Six points is a good amount, but I don’t want to bet against D.C. at home. The Defenders defeated the Vipers in Vegas by 12 points just a couple weeks ago, and are 3-0 ATS.

20 Mar

How to watch, live stream, TV channel, time, date, full weekend schedule, picks, predictions

The XFL is halfway through Week 4 as the league’s regular season is approaching the midway point. Only two teams remain undefeated entering the weekend. The D.C. Defenders enter the week at 3-0 behind a stout running game, talented receiving corps and a solid defense. The Houston Roughnecks and their top-flight defense improved to 4-0 on Saturday night. Houston also has arguably the XFL’s best receiving corps that is only rivaled by the group in St. Louis.

Here’s a complete look at this weekend’s games along with our predictions for each contest.

Arlington Renegades (2-1) at St. Louis BattleHawks (2-1)
Date: Sunday, March 12 | Time: 4 p.m. ET
Location: The Dome at America’s Center (St. Louis, Missouri)
TV: ESPN2 | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

Another game that should go down to the wire. Arlington is coming off a 10-9 win over Orlando, while St. Louis is hoping to bounce back after losing a 34-28 decision last weekend to the Defenders. The BattleHawks will finally get a chance to play in front of their home fans after spending the first three weeks on the road.

Prediction: BattleHawks over Renegades

Vegas Vipers (0-3) at D.C. Defenders (3-0)
Date: Sunday, March 12 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Audi Field (Washington, D.C.)
TV: ESPN2 | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

The Defenders won a shootout last week after winning moderately low-scoring games the season’s first two weeks. Vegas, who has struggled on offense all year, will have to stop the Defenders’ formidable running game while giving their offense favorable situations in order to have a shot at pulling off an upset.

20 Mar

Abram Smith runs for 217 yards, 3 TDs as D.C. goes 5-0; Sea Dragons stun Roughnecks

There was a whole lot to keep track of in the NFL this week, so you’re excused if you didn’t keep an eye on everything that went down in the XFL as it reached the midway point the regular season. We’ve got you covered if you missed anything, as Week 5 saw some of the most interesting outcomes of the season.

The week began with a stunner Thursday night as the Houston Roughnecks suffered their first loss in two XFL reboots. Then on Saturday, the D.C. Defenders showed they’re the team to beat by going 5-0 in a win over the St. Louis BattleHawks — behind an unreal performance by D.C. running back Abram Smith. In the other Saturday game, the Vegas Vipers and Orlando Guardians got in a shootout (67 total points) to see which would be left as the league’s only winless team.

Here’s a look at the scores, followed by takeaways below.

Seattle Sea Dragons 21, Houston Roughnecks 14

D.C. Defenders 28, St. Louis BattleHawks 20
Vegas Vipers 35, Orlando Guardians 32

Orlando Renegades 12, San Antonio Brahmas 10

Saturday’s games
Defenders 5-0 as Abram Smith runs wild in St. Louis
If there’s any question that St. Louis misses pro football, it broke the XFL attendance record for the second straight week as 35,868 were at The Dome at America’s Center to watch the BattleHawks. The home team kept it close, as A.J. McCarron’s 50-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter made it a one-score game.

However, the star of the day was D.C. Defenders running back Abram Smith, who ran for three touchdowns — including a 62-yarder in the second quarter and a 70-yarder in the fourth quarter — finishing with 217 yards rushing.

Abram Smith is on fire tonight 🔥

He has 164 rushing yards on 12 attempts, with 3 TDs.


— XFL Stats (@XFL_Stats) March 19, 2023
Despite Smith’s effort’s, St. Louis had a chance to tie it late after McCarron completed two short passes following his 50-yarder. But the BattleHawks’ comeback attempt was squashed when Defenders defensive back Michael Joseph picked off McCarron — Joseph’s fourth interception of the season.

D.C. sits alone atop the league at 5-0, but will host arguably the XFL’s second best team next week in the Houston Roughnecks.

Winless teams collide, Vipers earn victory
No matter what happened in this one there could be only one winless team left sitting, as the XFL’s two 0-4 squads were in a battle of the resistible force vs. the movable object. There were plenty of points scored, 67 in all, but ultimately it came down to the final ticks after Orlando cut the Vegas lead to three with less than two minutes remaining in the game.

Orlando QB Quintin Dormandy hit Cody Latimer for a 45-yard TD, but the Guardians couldn’t convert on the extra point. They attempted to convert on 4th-and-15 rather than go for an onside kick, but the Vegas defense held. It wasn’t quite over, but even after getting the ball back, Orlando couldn’t do anything with it.

Dormandy had come in for Paxton Lynch who, other than an impressive opening drive, continued to struggle. Lynch was benched in each of Orlando’s first two games.

Thursday’s game
Roughnecks suffer first loss in 10 XFL games
Through two XFL reboots — first in 2020 and again in 2023 — the Houston Roughnecks had not lost a single game no matter who was wearing their uniform. That streak finally ended on Thursday night at the hands of the Seattle Sea Dragons, but not before a wild ending.

The Roughnecks had scored the most points in the XFL entering the Week 5 matchup, but the Sea Dragons held them scoreless through three quarters in Seattle, thanks in part to two blocked punts, the first leading to the game’s first touchdown.

In fact, the Sea Dragons led 21-6 with a little under two minutes left in the game — it could’ve been worse had Seattle quarterback Ben DiNucci not been picked off in the end zone twice — but that’s when things went off the rails.

Roughnecks quarterback Brandon Silvers hit Justin Smith for a 47-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left, and a two-point conversion made it 21-14. In the XFL, rules allow teams to try to convert a 4th-and-15 to retain possession, rather than attempt an onside kick, and Houston did just that, as Deontay Burnett caught a 17-yard pass to keep the Roughnecks’ hopes alive.

And they had a chance. A pass interference penalty put the ball on the Sea Dragons’ 27-yard line for one final play. But a Seattle hit on Silvers caused the ball to float and get picked off by the Sea Dragons’ Niko Lalos:

WILD FINISH IN SEATTLE. The @XFL2023 after dark is crazy!

Niko Lalos with the game winning turnover, on the forced fumble by Elijah Ponder for the @XFLSeaDragons. What a game. #XFL pic.twitter.com/oiR3NB1L0Y

— James Larsen (@JamesLarsenPFN) March 17, 2023
The Roughnecks had started 5-0 in the 2020 version of the XFL before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and had started 4-0 this season. Houston’s loss leaves the D.C. Defenders as the league’s last remaining unbeaten. The Sea Dragons improved to 3-2 on the season (you can check out the standings here, along with all the scores and 2023 season schedule).

25 Feb

Celtics, Timberwolves lead new Power Rankings as NBA returns; Predicting expanded CFP field

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🏀 Good morning to everyone but especially …
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After a week away for the All-Star break, the NBA returns tonight, and Colin Ward-Henninger has new Power Rankings, complete with one reason for hope or concern. Here’s his top five:

Celtics (previous: 1) — “Reason for concern: The Celtics are obviously an excellent basketball team, but if the goal is a championship it’s time to nitpick. Boston simply doesn’t get to the rim.”
Timberwolves (2) — “Reason for hope: Minnesota has the best record in the NBA (23-11) against teams above .500.”
Thunder (9) — “Reason for concern: OKC’s offense has been downright bad without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the floor. They score a ridiculous 122 points per 100 possessions with him on the court, but that falls to 111 with him on the bench.”
Clippers (5) — “Reason for hope: When Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are on the floor the Clippers are virtually unstoppable. They score 122 points per 100 possessions in Leonard and George’s minutes, while allowing just 108.”
Cavaliers (3) — “Reason for concern: The Cavs have been the league’s hottest team since Jan. 1, rattling off an 18-3 record. But, if you look closely, you’ll see a lot of wins are over the NBA’s bottom-dwellers.”
As for five storylines to watch … here are mine:

Where do the Lakers and Warriors end up? They’re currently ninth and 10th in the Western Conference — the final two spots in the play-in — and a postseason without LeBron James and/or Stephen Curry would be odd. But the play (and emotional status) of Draymond Green may ultimately be the determining factor.
When does Joel Embiid return, if at all? The 76ers are fifth in the East but haven’t had Embiid since late January due to a meniscus injury. They’re 26-8 when he plays and 6-14 when he doesn’t.
Who wins the West? The Celtics are running away with the East, but in the West, the Timberwolves are up just 1.5 games on the Thunder, two games on the Clippers and three games on the defending champion Nuggets.
What’s up with the Bucks? They’re the elephant in the room. They fired Adrian Griffin despite a 30-13 start. Successor Doc Rivers is just 3-7. But, hey, at least he has the support of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Who wins MVP and the other individual honors? Remember, the 65-game minimum has already ruled out several potential candidates.
With under two months left in the regular season, buckle up and enjoy the ride.

😁 Honorable mentions
Five-star 2024 center Derik Queen committed to Maryland.
Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant and Luc Longley announced a “No Bull” tour. Michael Jordan will surely be a big talking point.
Jonny Brodzinski and the Rangers agreed to a two-year extension.
Eric Hosmer called it a career.
Speaking of former Royals, Kelvin Herrera was elected mayor of his hometown.
⚽ And not such a good morning for …
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Arsenal came into Wednesday’s match against Porto riding high, and rightfully so. The Gunners had won five straight Premier League matches, outscoring opponents 21-2 over the span. Surely that would carry over to the Champions League against a susceptible defense, right?


Galeno curled in a stunning effort in the 94th minute to beat the Gunners, 1-0. Arguably even more stunning? Arsenal put exactly zero shots on goal, a far, far cry from the attack that was running rampant recently. You can blame Gabriel Martinelli, who gave the ball away late, blame the attackers and blame manager Mikel Arteta. But at the end of the day, inexperience was a deciding factor, James Benge writes.

Benge: “This was Arsenal’s junior moment, a young side, many of whom were playing in their first Champions League knockout game, failing to appreciate that it was only halftime in the tie, as the old cliche goes. Better to preserve parity before you get them back on your ground.”
Chuck Booth dropped the Gunners from third to eighth in his Champions League Power Rankings. Here’s the top five:

Manchester City (previous: 1)
Real Madrid (2)
Inter (5)
PSG (8)
Lazio (14)
Meanwhile, Napoli and Barcelona drew, 1-1, with star strikers Robert Lewandowski and Victor Osimhen trading second-half goals.

😕 Not so honorable mentions
The Mavericks missed out on keeping Jalen Brunson for cheap … twice.
Sorry, Expos fans: Netflix is making a documentary about the team’s downfall.
🏈 Predicting the 12-team 2024 College Football Playoff
Now that the 5+7 model is official, it’s prediction time. Chip Patterson made his early prediction on the 2024 playoff field.

The first thing that caught my eye? In an even more loaded SEC, there’s a familiar name at No. 1.

Patterson: “1. Georgia (SEC champion): Pre-spring practice ratings of the top teams in college football have Georgia at No. 1, and then there’s a gap before you get to the more interesting discussions about teams Nos. 2-4. Quarterback Carson Beck returns after leading the Bulldogs offense to stellar and often overlooked results in 2023, and after missing the playoff due in part to some rough injury luck, there will be no motivational issues in the 2024 season.”
The SEC and Big Ten both put four teams in Chip’s predicted field.

Oh, and by the way, now that we’re finally expanding to 12 … the CFP Management Committee is exploring expanding to 14.

🏈 Pete Prisco’s Top 100 NFL free agents, ranked
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We’re officially inside of three weeks until the start of NFL free agency, and that means lots of big names potentially hitting the market. Pete Prisco has graciously ranked the top 100 players who could be available, and here’s his top six:

Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings
Chris Jones, DE, Chiefs
Josh Allen, LB, Jaguars
Justin Madubuike, DT, Ravens
Danielle Hunter, DE, Vikings
L’Jarius Sneed, CB, Chiefs
You’ll notice I included six instead of my normal five, and that’s because Sneed is too good to not get a mention here. Plus, how Kansas City manages Jones’ and Sneed’s free agencies could play a major role in the Chiefs’ quest to be the first NFL team to achieve the elusive three-peat.

As for some other good players you should know who didn’t make the top six …

  1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants — His position didn’t help his ranking, but I’m convinced Barkley can have a Christian McCaffrey-esque impact on the right team. Imagine him surrounded by a legit passing attack and a legit offensive line.
  2. Bryce Huff, DE, Jets and 83. Josh Uche, LB, Patriots — Pass-rush specialists are always helpful. Neither Huff nor Uche play a ton of snaps, but they make them count: Only Micah Parsons had a better pressure rate than Huff last year (min. 200 pass-rush snaps), and Uche led the category in 2022.
    Here’s our free agency primer for all 32 teams.

⚾ Five MLB teams that could make the playoffs in 2024 after missing out in 2023
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Believe it or not, there is baseball on TV today. The Dodgers and Padres open spring training game action, and while Shohei Ohtani won’t play, it’s a welcome reminder that Opening Day isn’t far away — and Ohtani is on track to be back by then.

Hope springs eternal — no pun intended — and Mike Axisa is feeling the good vibes with five teams that could make the 2024 playoffs after missing the postseason last year, including …

Axisa: “1. Yankees: That 82-80 finish prompted the Yankees to attack their weaknesses in a meaningful way. Juan Soto was the best hitter to change teams this offseason, and New York also added Alex Verdugo to improve an outfield that was very weak in the two non-Aaron Judge spots last year. Also, they are two high-contact lefty bats, something the Yankees sorely lacked. Marcus Stroman provides stability in the middle of the rotation and the ability to keep the ball in the park at homer-happy Yankee Stadium.”
Mike also mentions that the Yankees should be much healthier this year, and one of those players returning is among Mike’s 10 players whose return from injury could impact the playoff race.

R.J. Anderson, meanwhile, has teams that could miss the postseason after making it in 2023.

📺 What we’re watching Thursday
⚾ Dodgers vs. Padres, 3:10 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Rutgers at No. 3 Purdue (M), 7 p.m. on FS1
🏀 Alabama at No. 1 South Carolina (W), 7 p.m. on SEC Network
🏒 Capitals at Lightning, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Suns at Mavericks, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 No. 4 Iowa at No. 14 Indiana (W), 8 p.m. on Peacock
🏀 No. 6 NC State at North Carolina (W), 8 p.m. on ACC Network
🏀 No. 18 Utah at No. 12 UCLA (W), 9:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Lakers at Warriors, 10 p.m. on TNT
🏀 No. 21 Washington State at No. 4 Arizona (M), 11 p.m. on FS1