Monday, September 26

Conference Championship Week kicks into full gear | Will we get an Aaron Rodgers decision today?


Happy Tuesday folks!

Let’s get right to it.

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Good morning to everyone but especially to…

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL FANS EVERYWHERE

It’s here, everyone: Conference Championship Week. We’ve already had five teams clinching their automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament — including both Chattanooga (on a must-see buzzer-beater) and Georgia State last night — and between now and Sunday afternoon, we’ll see 27 more. Then the 36 at-large teams will join them during the Selection Show on CBS.

There’s lots to be won (and lost) between now and then. Top teams will look to polish off their resume with a conference title while bubble teams will hope a quality win or two can push them into the field.

Listen, nothing can compare to the NCAA Tournament, but to me, Champ Week comes pretty darn close. We’ll see teams try to win five games in five days. We’ll see rivals meet with trophies on the line. We’ll see buzzer-beaters and 12-hour days of wall-to-wall action. This week can — and often does — springboard NCAA Tournament runs.

The most wide-open of the major tournaments is the Big Ten. Our six-expert panel featured four different champion picks:

Here’s how our David Cobb broke it down:

  • Cobb: “If the final Sunday of regular season action in the Big Ten was any indication, the league tournament may be downright nutty. Wisconsin lost out on an outright league title by losing at home to last-place Nebraskawhich allowed Illinois to secure the No. 1 seed after a dramatic win over Iowa. With Michigan and rutgers among Palm’s “Last Four In” and Indiana among the “First Four Out” entering the week, there is a ton at stake. Fittingly, the No. 9 seed Hoosiers and No. 8 seed Wolverines square off in a second round game on Thursday with massive implications.”

Speaking of Jerry Palm, our resident Bracketologist laid out what every bubble team needs to do this week to help their cause. You can keep up with all of Palm’s updates here.

Here are previews and brackets for all of the major conference tournaments this week:

honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…

CALVIN RIDLEY

Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers were expected to be the centers of the drama this offseason. They were until Monday.

falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley has been suspended indefinitely — and at least through the 2022 season — for betting on NFL games last season. Here are the key details:

  • ridley stepped away from football in late October to focus on his mental well-being. He did not return to the team.
  • In late November, Ridley placed several bets from his phone, specifically parlays that included the Falcons. He only bet in favor of Atlanta, never against.
  • In a statement, the NFL said there was “no evidence indicating any inside information was used or that any game was compromised in any way” and that no one in the Falcons organization knew about Ridley’s betting.
  • as part of a string of tweetsRidley said he bet a total of $1,500 and added “I don’t have a gambling problem.”
  • ridley cannot apply for reinstatement until Feb. 15, 2023.

It’s a shocking development but not without precedent. Ridley is the fifth player to be suspended by the NFL for gambling. All received one-year suspensions.

  • alex karras (1963)
  • Paul Hornung (1963)
  • art schlichter (1983)
  • Josh Shaw (2019)

Ridley’s contract will “toll” (not count) this season, meaning the fifth and final year of his contract will come 2023. That is, of course, if the Falcons keep him on their roster. From an on-field perspective, this is a major loss. Atlanta’s wide receivers finished with an NFL-low 1,736 receiving yards last seasonand Ridley’s prolonged absence was a major reason why. Atlanta’s offseason to-do list just got longer in a fashion no one could have expected.

Not so honorable mentions

Packers offer Aaron Rodgers market-altering contract as decision looms 💰

In late January, Aaron Rodgers indicated he would announce his plans for the future by March 8. Well, here we are on March 8, and we haven’t heard anything from the back-to-back reigning MVP.

According to reports, the Packers made Rodgers a “significant long-term contract offer” that would “alter the quarterback market.” While few other details are available, here are the largest contracts — on an average annual value basis — currently:

  • Patrick Mahomes: 10 years, $450 million ($45 million AAV)
  • Josh Allen: 6 years, $258 million ($43 million AAV)
  • Dak Prescott: 4 years, $160 million ($40 million AAV)

interestingly enough, giving Rodgers an extension could actually help the Packers financiallywrites our NFL expert John Breech:

  • Breech: Under his current deal, Rodgers has a cap hit of nearly $47 million for the upcoming season, but if he gets a new contract, the Packers could probably shave $20 million to $25 million (or more) off that cap hit.The Packers are currently $26.4 million over the projected 2022 salary capwhich means a new deal with Rodgers might be enough to get them salary cap compliant without making any other moves.”

Rodgers has also indicated that the status of top target Dave Adams would impact his decision, hence his March 8 target date. Green Bay has until 4 pm today to franchise tag Adams — a move that would cost $18.4 million.

Recent reports have said Rodgers is “truly torn” about where he wants to play in 2022but if Rodgers holds true to his word, we’ll have a decision today. If it turns out that Rodgers does want out, here are some potential trade destinations.

Three key players receive franchise tag as deadline approaches 🏈

USATSI

As I mentioned above, today at 4 pm is the franchise tag deadline, and yesterday three players got tagged:

As the deadline approaches, there’s been plenty of noise around who may and may not get the tag:

  • Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin appears likely to be tagged.
  • the cowboys are “seriously considering” tagging tight end Dalton Schultz.
  • patriots star cornerback J C Jackson doesn’t look like he’ll be tagged.

We’ll have constant updates for you available here throughout the day.

Previewing today’s UEFA Champions League action ⚽

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the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 resumes today with a couple of second legs:

  • Liverpool vs. Inter-Milan (Liverpool leads 2-0) | Preview here
  • Bayern Munich vs. RB Salzburg (Tied 1-1) | Preview here

Both games are available to stream on paramount+.

While it’ll be a tough task for Inter to overcome a two-goal deficit, there’s everything to play for between Bayern and Salzburg after the two drew in the first leg in Austria. Our friend Tom Fornelli you have made his best bet for today’s second leg in Germany:

  • Fornelli: “Bayern have kept only one clean sheet in their past seven matches and have not been nearly as dominant as many of the Bayern teams we’re used to seeing. I think Bayern will move on to the quarterfinals… But I don’t think they’ll do so while keeping a clean sheet against Salzburg or anybody remaining in this tournament, frankly. Pick: Both Teams to Score (-125)”

As for everything else you need to know, we have bold predictions from soccer reporter James Benge and picks for all four matches this week from our entire team of soccer experts.

What we’re watching Tuesday 📺

UEFA Champions League: Liverpool v Inter Milan3 p.m. on CBS and Paramount+
UEFA Champions League: Bayern Munich vs RB Salzburg3 p.m. on Paramount+
🏀 Pelicans at Grizzlies7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 WCC Tournament Final: Gonzaga vs Saint Mary’s9 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Clippers at Warriors10 p.m. on TNT




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