This is exactly how Super Bowl 56 will play out

This is how it will go.* (*No, it’s not.)

This is the online version of our daily newsletter, The Morning WinSubscribe to get irreverent and incisive sports stories, delivered to your mailbox every morning. Chris Korman is filling in for Andy Nesbitt.

The thing about sports is that a great number of us spend more time thinking about them than watching them.

We use so many of the precious hours we’ve been given looking at what happened in the past and talking about why it happened the way it do so that we can predict what will happen in the future.

Yet almost always, we are wrong.

The Cincinnati Bengals, after all, are playing in the Super Bowl.

We don’t actually know anything at all, it turns out. Nevertheless we wager our hard-earned cash on how we think things might go, knowing full well that breaking even is, in the long run, about the best you can hope for.

Of course, the uncertainty of it all is also why we watch. There is no plan here. It doesn’t ever need to make sense.

And damn, that’s beautiful.

But sometimes* you get a look ahead* at what’s next and can see exactly* how a game is going to go.*

(*never), (*no such thing as this), (*I can’t even see things that exist now clearly, let alone the future), (*nope nope nope)

So here it is: Your guide to how Super Bowl 56 between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams will play out:

The National Anthem: Mickey Guyton holds the final note of the anthem for 27 seconds (she bet the over) and as a result collapses to one knee as the song fades out. A bunch of people get angry about this, but none of them turn off the game, of course.

Opening kickoff: Did you know there’s a special BetFTW prop bet built around the opening kick? There is! So it would be very unethical for me to reveal to you what’s going to happen here.*

(*because, again, I cannot actually see into the future)

First quarter: Joe Burrow swaggers onto the field, takes a snap, swaggers away from the league’s most swagger-less offensive line, swaggers to his right, looks downfield (his eyes dripping swagger) and sees … well, yes, Jalen Ramsey has lofted Ja’Marr Chase above his head, holding him with one hand while shouting at him.

Chase is undeterred! He kicks out of it, drops down and catches a pass, scooting 49 yards for a score because Eric Weddle, 37,  is actually not playing football but instead setting up a seat near where the halftime show will take place. He wants to be close to see the greatest musicians of his generation. That was his whole plan all along; the entire reason he returned to football this year.

Bengals lead 7-0. 

Second quarter: What’s this? Matthew Stafford has emerged for a new quarter wearing his Detroit Lions jersey! Every American-made car throughout the land spontaneously starts on its own as he hauls back and tosses a pristine 65-yard strike to Odell Beckham Jr., who is holding a flaming Browns jersey as he saunters into the end zone.

Tied 7-7.

On the ensuing drive, Joe Burrow notices that Aaron Donald is Aaron Donald. That rosy glow drains from his face. He’d managed to come this far without letting the world’s one undisputed truth reach him: That Aaron Donald can and will destroy whatever he wants.

Everything has changed.

Burrow takes the snap and runs directly backward. Luckily Donald catches him before he can lose more than 12 yards. Evan McPherson hops up and proceeds to kick a 79-yard field goal with ease.

Bengals lead 10-7.

Halftime: Dr. Dre, Snoop, Mary J. Blige and Eminem put on the greatest show you can imagine, but nobody who remembers their halcyon days is there to see it because we’re asleep (it’s a work night!) (for some reason).

Third quarter: Burrow, overcome by fear, was seen racing through the inside of SoFi Stadium during halftime. But he went past a cloud near Snoop’s dressing room and now he’s completely calm and ready to go.

It shows. The Rams have decided to triple-cover Chase — even Donald is over there trying to contain him — and have discovered that Tee Higgins is also really good. He scores twice and Cincy has an unfathomable 17-point lead.

Bengals lead 24-7.

On the sideline, a vat of Skyline Chili is delivered. They’re going to pour this on Zac Taylor if they win. Will he survive? Don’t be ridiculous, have you tasted that stuff? But this is an elegant way to get rid of a coach who has so often stood in the way of your team’s great success.

Fourth quarter: The Rams are making a furious comeback. Donald shakes off seven blockers and Burrow, a sensible lad when it really comes down to it, hands him the ball. He scores.

Bengals lead 24-14.

Cooper Kupp is doing all the Cooper Kupp things. He takes a four-yard out and zig-zags around the field, eluding a tackle attempt from every Bengals player twice before scoring.

Bengals lead 24-21.

It has all come down to this. Matthew Stafford has one throw to CEMENT HIS LEGACY FOREVER. If he does not complete this toss HIS CHILDREN WILL BANISH HIM.

LA is on the Bengals’ 18-yard-line, three seconds left.

Last play.

The snap.

Stafford drops.

Kupp flashes open over the middle. Stafford unleashes. It’s the most beautifully thrown football of all time. Stafford is worthy. He is real. We are all safe to love him now.

Oh, dear. Jessie Bates III arrives at the same time as the ball, delivering a crushing blow.

The football is aloft. It is floating back toward the line of scrimmage. Everyone everywhere gasps. It falls into the most powerful hands on the field. They grip it for a second.

Then 40-year-old Andrew Whitworth, the Rams left tackle who is also a Bengals legend, tucks the ball and barrels 12 yards into the end zone for the winning score.

Final: Rams 27, Bengals 24

Joe Burrow pulls out a diamond encrusted Cuban cigar and lights it. Life is too short, and he is too rich, to let this get him down. He’s just lost the best football game ever played. So what? The future is all ahead of him. And even if it’s not, we’re here now. You have to live.

High above the stadium, intrepid For The Win reporter Andy Nesbitt is pounding on the door to the most luxurious luxury box in the world’s most luxurious stadium.

“Roger,” he is screaming, “will you please move the Super Bowl to Saturday?!”

Roger Goodell looks his way, but only for a second.

“No,” he says, and we’re on to the next NFL season.

Quick hits: Best Super Bowl bets … PUPPIES! … Gold for Team USA’s mixed snowboarding team! … and more.

Portraits for Puppy Bowl XIV

— Here are the 12 best Super Bowl prop bets and how to bet them, plus nine fun props that have nothing to do with the actual game.

— Hey, the Puppy Bowl is this weekend! Our Caroline Darney interviewed the “Ruffaree” and here are the lineups for both Team Ruff and Team Fluff.

— What a finish for mixed snowboarding team Lindsey Jacobellis and Nick Baumgartner at the Olympics.

There’s been an unusual calm before the Super Bowl this year and that’s … perfectly fine

No hype, no problem.

This is the online version of our daily newsletter, The Morning WinSubscribe to get irreverent and incisive sports stories, delivered to your mailbox every morning. Chris Korman is filling in for Andy Nesbitt.

It has been a completely un-eventful pre-Super Bowl week and that’s … awesome.

Perhaps this is just one person’s perspective, but the week leading into the biggest single sporting event our country knows feels as though it has been right-sized. It had become, over the years, somehow, too much.

There’s still been a ridiculous amount of in-depth coverage produced, like these pieces from our Christian D’Andrea looking at what the Rams and Bengals need to do, strategically, to win on Sunday.

There’s also still hilarious content that lets NFL personalities show a lighter side, much of it produced by the usual writer of this newsletter. Here’s Andy Nesbitt challenging an NFL player’s cheesesteak take, joking about Tom Brady’s special balls with one of the receivers who handles them, unearthing a good Jim Harbaugh story and chopping it up with ERIC DICKERSON(!)

What’s lacking this year, at least to one observer, is the staged hoopla of it all. It feels less forced. The game is back in LA, after being gone too long, and it has found, finally, the disaffected ease that every would-be actor hopes to show in even the most career-changing audition.

That could just be because there are still COVID protocols in place that have limited how much time coaches and players from the participating teams spend in front of cameras.

Or maybe it’s because we had other things to gawk at, like the Olympics and Twitter as NBA trade scoops flew.

Either way, it’s been nice. There’s been more focus on football and the players who’ve managed to make it this far, and on how the coaches will try to handle a night they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. We can be honest here — the Morning Win is the safest of safe spaces — and admit that these aren’t subjects that get talked about with much depth in a press-conference setting — especially if that setting involves thousands of reporters hoping to ask a million different questions.

These guys know how to answer questions without answering them.

So instead of having a focus this week on strained quotes from those preparing to play in the freakin’ Super Bowl, the void has been filled by insight from former players who’ve been here before and from analysts smart enough to look at the film and the stats and draw their own conclusions.

As a journalist, I would never advocate for less access. That doesn’t make sense. But in the wake of Naomi Osaka’s thoughtful critique of the media, and the ongoing discussion of the way we tend to elevate an athlete — like, say, Mikaela Shiffrin — only to probe their pain for viewership or readers when they fall … well, it seems necessary for us to give some thought to how and when we do our reporting.

This year, there’s been a lull before the Super Bowl and that’s perfectly fine. We don’t need to manufacture hype heading into the championship game for the National Football League! It’s already there. A whole season has built to this, and on Sunday we’ll all be watching.

When it’s over, I’ll be craving every bit of behind-the-scenes, here’s-how-it-really-happened, tell-all coverage you’ve got. That work is essential … in due time.

Quick hits: NBA trade deadline madness … An Olympic snowboarding rant from a broadcaster … and more.

Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

— Whew, what a trade deadline in the NBA. Here are the winners and losers, and we graded some of the deals, including the James Harden and Ben Simmons blockbuster, the four-teamer that involved Marvin Bagley III.

— Speaking of which, BetFTW covered how that huge trade changed both the Sixers’ and Nets’ odds, along with how bettors should approach both the Nets and 76ers.

— Matt Hamilton’s shoe game is so good at the Olympics.

— Japanese halfpipe snowboarder Ayumu Hirano wins gold after NBC broadcasters rant over baffling score.

Matthew Stafford’s ‘legacy’ will be fine whether he wins or loses in Super Bowl 56

One game, even if it’s the Super Bowl, does not a legacy make.

This is the online version of our daily newsletter, The Morning WinSubscribe to get irreverent and incisive sports stories, delivered to your mailbox every morning. Chris Korman is filling in for Andy Nesbitt.

Yesterday, as I scrolled ESPN’s headlines to find news from what has been a rather tame Super Bowl week, one phrase jumped out.

“Stephen A.: Matthew Stafford can’t afford loss to Burrow”

Mostly what I thought at first was that Stafford could probably afford it just fine, as he has made close to $250 million in football alone. But then I realized that this was a debate about Matthew Stafford’s ~*~legacy~*~.

The rant that followed, after I reluctantly pressed play on the video, was typical Stephen A.: “The bottom line is this … ” And then a brief recitation of Stafford’s 12 years in Detroit, including a tossing aside of the idea that we should give him a break because, well, he played in Detroit, and then a breakdown of Stafford’s performances relative to opposing QBs in these playoffs.

The closing thought: That somehow Stafford is under extreme pressure because he’s got to face Joe Burrow, who is “a bad brother … something special.”


If Burrow and the Bengals hadn’t made it here, Stafford would have faced the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes. If not the Chiefs, then perhaps the Bills and Josh Allen. There’s a dimension out there in which the Ravens don’t suffer 127 injuries this season and they make it to this game and Stafford faces Lamar Jackson.

Chances are, Stafford was going to face a really good QB either way.

And, chance are, that how we think about Matthew Stafford — who has already thrown 6,825 regular-season passes — won’t change all that much based on what happens Sunday.

Think about Nick Foles.

You just thought about an extremely limited backup QB prone to hot streaks, one of which coincided with a Super Bowl against Tom Brady, which was won in part by a cool trick play.

You did not think to yourself: Ahhh, yes, Nick Foles, ultimate competitor. Makes every throw. Warrior. Leader. Legend of the game!

(Unless you are from Philly, and then you just walk around thinking that all the time.)

It is interesting to think about Stafford and Burrow because of their similar career trajectories: Both No. 1 draft picks who paired with star receivers to help resuscitate broken franchises.

Like Burrow, Stafford dealt with injury as a rookie. But he also missed most of his second season before helping the Lions to a 10-6 record in his third year. That team lost in the Wild Card round to Drew Brees and the Saints, despite Stafford connecting with Calvin Johnson for 12 catches and 211 yards.

The Lions, who haven’t won a playoff game since the 1991 season, went back to irrelevancy and only made the playoffs twice more with Stafford. You could argue he didn’t do enough to elevate those teams but you could also take the time to go look at those rosters and realize how putrid they were.

Burrow is in the Super Bowl in his second year, and it’s been a magical run but nothing is guaranteed in the NFL. If he can continue to drag a Bengals team with no offensive line and a remarkably average defense to deep playoff runs year after year then we’re talking about one of the better QBs ever.

Even if that doesn’t happen we’re still going to remember the moxie from these last few months, the pinpoint throws that don’t look like they’ll get to where they need to go but do, the smoldering confidence. And we’ll evaluate him against whatever backdrop the Bengals give him, because it’s a team sport.

Stafford has been a really, really good player in the NFL for a long time, one that was clearly skilled enough to win a Super Bowl even when he was mired in the Detroit mess. Burrow has what it takes, too. But they can only win as many games as their situation — which is impacted by teammates, coaches, dumb luck, officials, etc. — allows them to.

One game, even if it’s the Super Bowl, does not a legacy make.

Unless, of course, you are the GOAT, Nick Foles.

Quick hits: Chloe Kim! … Nathan Chen! … Super Bowl 56 betting advice … and more.

Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

— Chloe Kim won gold with an absurd halfpipe run, and the photos from it are so good.

— Nathan Chen put 2018 behind him and won gold in men’s figure skating.

— Aidan Hutchinson told us his best Jim Harbaugh story and it’s so Jim Harbaugh.

— Our Super Bowl previews continue with Christian D’Andrea breaking down five smart decisions that got the Rams to the big game, and the same for the Bengals.

— It’s NBA trade deadline day! Here are seven trades we’d like to see from Bryan Kalbrosky.

— Here are nine prop bets with “yes” or “no” answers and how to bet them from Prince Grimes.

Let’s laugh about the time we were alarmed Ja’Marr Chase couldn’t catch a football

Remember that?

This is the online version of our daily newsletter, The Morning WinSubscribe to get irreverent and incisive sports stories, delivered to your mailbox every morning. Chris Korman is filling in for Andy Nesbitt.

Do you remember, back in early September, back when the thought of the Cincinnati Bengals playing in Super Bowl 56 would have made you chuckle, that we were spending a not-insignificant amount of time debating whether Ja’Marr Chase, the fifth-overall pick in the NFL draft, could catch an NFL football?

Really. This was a thing. Heading into the Bengal’s season-opener, Chase, who sat out the 2020 college season due to the pandemic after winning a title with LSU in 2019, had dropped the last four passes to come his way in pre-season action.

Chase actually only appeared in 18 plays in the preseason. Only three of them with starting QB  — and college pal — Joe Burrow. That’s a stupidly small sample size. Yet it was time to worry.

The rookie wide-out  handled a barrage of questions, speaking as honestly as he could about why he might not be absolutely 100 percent yet. Looking back, it was pretty thoughtful stuff. A player taking us on his journey as he tries to figure this problem out:

  • “I would just say it’s a lack of concentration. That’s all it was. If you look back at it, I jumped in the air when the ball got to me. My eyes weren’t concentrating on the ball. I didn’t keep still, so that makes my eye adjustment for the ball move around and now my eyes get lazy where the balls coming in from.”
  • “I don’t want to blame it on me sitting on my butt the whole year, but it probably had something to do with it, of course.”
  • “The ball is different because it is bigger. It doesn’t have the white stripes on the side so you can’t see the ball coming from the tip point so you actually have to look for the strings on the ball at the top, which is hard to see because whole ball is brown and you have the six strings that are white. But for the most part, just have to get used to it and find out what I am comfortable with catching.”

All of these quotes, with the benefit of hindsight, seem completely reasonable. Chase found his concentration level, adjusted to the different football and … had the best rookie season from a wide receiver in the history of the sport. He broke Justin Jefferson’s record for most yards and didn’t need the 17th game to do it. He caught 13 touchdown passes, too.

But back in September, as we waited for the season to begin, this was all VERY DIRE. You could hear the whispers: Is he going to be a bust? Was it the wrong pick?

(To be very clear and up front: I was one of the people worrying about this.)

But it turns out that if you just give a talented player whose just gone through missing an entire season due to a pandemic some time to acclimate, he will.

And now we get to watch Chase help Burrow try to get the Bengals past a defense with three legends in Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Von Miller.

It’s not yet clear whether Ramsey will shadow Chase, but he’d like to. And I’d like him to, because it’d be an epic battle between two guys who love to bully the player across from them (For The Win alum Steven Ruiz had a good story on this recently at The Ringer.)

Football’s a complicated game, though, and the Rams could decide it’s best just to erase Tee Higgins with Ramsey and show Chase different looks. Who knows? That’s why this game is so fun.

One thing we know, by now, is that Chase is every bit as sure-handed as his draft slot would indicate. I’d say we could learn a lesson from our pre-season freakout over this, but I don’t believe that, because we’ve built a media machine that must constantly be fed and leaves only a little bit of time for nuance and not nearly enough space for humans to go through human things.

Quick hits: The sports world rallies around Mikaela Shiffrin … BetFTW’s own Super Bowl prop! … A Q&A with Jimmy Butler … and more.

(AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Everyone rallied around Mikaela Shiffrin after a missed gate to start her slalom run.

— BetFTW has its own Super Bowl prop through Tipico: The “Run it Back!” special, in which you can bet on the first kickoff of Super Bowl LVI being run back.

— Bryan Kalbrosky spoke to Jimmy Butler about his Super Bowl commercial and his amazing bowling skills.

— Check out every Super Bowl ring design dating back to 1967.

That was a spectacularly uninspiring round of NFL coaching hires


This is the online version of our daily newsletter, The Morning WinSubscribe to get irreverent and incisive sports stories, delivered to your mailbox every morning. Chris Korman is filling in for Andy Nesbitt.

Nine NFL teams replaced their head coach during the offseason, and if I were to grade the hires I’m not sure any of them deserve better than a solid B. And the teams earning that grade — the Jaguars and Saints — didn’t exactly use a pristine process to get where they got.

Jacksonville interviewed Doug Pederson early, then a bunch of other guys and appeared close to a deal with Byron Leftwich before it fell apart and they reverted to Pederson. (This a year after the Jaguars gave total control to a former college coach who everyone predicted would flame out of the league if given total control; he did.)

The Saints promoted defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, which was a good call, but also the Saints do not have a QB, their star running back was just arrested and their best wide receiver doesn’t seem to want to play for the team. They’re probably sticking a loyal assistant with a difficult rebuild.

The Texans, who hired Lovie Smith Monday evening, made a complete mockery of the process. They shocked everyone a year ago by hiring David Culley, a 45-year coaching veteran who had never been a head coach. He shocked us by making Houston into something resembling a real NFL team and then … he got fired … so he could be replaced … by his (spectacularly bearded) defensive coordinator?

This happened, almost everyone believes, because the Texans had actually wanted to hire Josh McCown, the 42-year-old former journeyman QB with no college or pro coaching experience. But that would have been a little on the nose for a team that was also, at one point, considering hiring Brian Flores, the former Miami Dolphins coach who is suing the league, alleging discrimination against three teams.

Right. All of that happened during this cycle, too.

Smith becomes the second man of color hired this time around; new Dolphin’s coach Mike McDaniel’s father is Black.

That’s simply not good enough in a league where 70 percent of the players are Black.

And yes, it’s fair to be excited about McDaniel, a Kyle Shanahan protege, but the Dolphins sure look more dysfunctional than ever coming out of the Flores mess; he also accused team owner Stephen Ross of trying to pay him off to lose games in order to get a higher draft pick.

So here’s the full final list of coaches hired:

Bears: Matt Eberflus
Broncos: Nathaniel Hackett
Giants: Brian Daboll
Raiders: Josh McDaniels
Vikings: Kevin O’Connell
Jaguars: Doug Pederson
Dolphins: Mike McDaniel
Texans: Lovie Smith
Saints: Dennis Allen


It’s hard to hire the right NFL coach, of course. Back in 2016 when Doug Pederson was selected to coach the Eagles he was widely seen as the worst hire out of that class; the other men hired that year were Mike Mularkey, Adam Gase, Dirk Koetter, Hue Jackson, Ben McAdoo and Chip Kelly. Those guys went a combined 80-140 in those jobs, Pederson brought Philly a Lombardi Trophy.

More failure than success is the most likely outcome for every one of the coaches hired in this cycle, and in many cases they’ll have only a minor impact on how many games their teams win or lose.

But the NFL keeps turning up the same names — or picking from the same coaching trees.


Quick hits: What’s up with Kyler Murray’s Instagram? … WOW Eileen Gu! … Julius Randle, hitting a laptop … And more.

 (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

— Kyler Murray deleted all Cardinals-related content from his Instagram. Hmm.

— Eileen Gu nailed a 1620 (!) in women’s freestyle big air to win gold in Beijing.

— Julius Randle swatted a Knicks staffer’s laptop in a heated courtside exchange.

— Here’s our Super Bowl 56 betting cheat sheet with all our tips, tricks and guides on Rams-Bengals.

Hey, Roger Goodell: It’s not too late to push back against NFL owners and give us one thing to remember you by

This needs to happen.

This is the online version of our daily newsletter, The Morning WinSubscribe to get irreverent and incisive sports stories, delivered to your mailbox every morning. Chris Korman is filling in for Andy Nesbitt.

Roger Goodell has been the commissioner of the NFL since 2006. He’s worked for the league (or one of its teams, briefly) since he had an internship in 1982. He’ll turn 63 the Saturday after the Super Bowl. His family is wealthy beyond comprehension and will be for generations; he made $128 million for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons alone, according to the New York Times.

All of which means one thing: It is time for him to stand up to the owners, his bosses, and wrest control of the league from men who’ve grown so disconnectedly rich that they threaten to ruin the game that gives them so much.

Just last week we heard accusations from former Dolphins coach Brian Flores that he’d been discriminated against by his former team, as well as the Giants (who appeared to interview him after deciding to hire another coach, meaning the Flores meeting was just a way to fulfill the Rooney Rule obligations) and the Broncos. Of course, anyone paying attention to basic NFL news already knew the league doesn’t give Black coaches a fair shot, as our Mike D. Sykes wrote.

Then, Congress — Congress! — held hearings to explore the toxic workplace conditions within the Washington, uhh, Commanders organization and new, somehow more awful allegations made it out into the world. That’s the same workplace the NFL thoroughly investigated and then … relied on a verbally delivered report (gee, is not being able to even write anything down a red flag?) that led to unfathomably lame “punishments” for team owner Daniel Snyder. (Also, it turns out the NFL might not be able to share what it found in the investigation unless … wait for it … *Daniel Snyder,* the person they “investigated,” allows it to.)

You would have hardly known last week that the NFL is nearing its triumphant crescendo, the Super Bowl.

Now, I’m not naive enough to think that Roger Goodell sleeps poorly at night because he’s let racism fester on his watch. Or that he’s actually bothered by how rancid the once-proud Washington franchise has become. He’s proven over and over that he works for the owners and is here to wrench as much money as possible out of broadcast partners for them and then do everything he can to ensure they have to turn over as little of it as possible to their employees, the players.

That’s his job and he’s quite proficient at it.

His response to most controversies is to launch PR campaigns, or fund “independent experts” to investigate issues. He was part of the league’s refusal to admit how much damage concussions and other blows to the head cause, and is a part of its continued negligence when it comes to providing help for those who were left broken. Colin Kaepernick got blackballed on his watch.

His legacy, at this point, won’t be changed.

But I’m also not cynical enough to believe that there’s not some part of Roger Goodell, who famously wrote to all then-28 teams and the league office seeking employment as a college student, who doesn’t want his tenure to mean more. Who doesn’t, at the very least, want to waltz away (his predecessors, Paul Tagliabue and Pete Rozelle before him, left the job at age 66 and 63, respectively) having used guile or savvy or something to leave his own mark beyond “grew revenue.”

Maybe that’s why he took the interesting step of sending — on Saturday morning — a memo to teams that said, basically, “Well, you know, Brian Flores has a point.” This probably didn’t go over so well with men who are accustomed to winning or settling lawsuits by staying quiet, having the best-paid lawyers and standing firm that they have, of course, done nothing wrong.

But it was the right message from the commissioner. We’ll see if it continues.

Quick hits: Olympic history was made … Pro Bowl “highlights” … Joel Embiid, MVP? … and more.

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) 

— Kamila Valieva made some Olympic history with a quad jump to help ROC win gold in team figure skating.

— There wasn’t much tackling at the Pro Bowl. But we did get to see Stefon Diggs play defense against his brother Trevon!

— Is Joel Embiid heading toward winning MVP? Robert Zeglinski explores that idea.

— Check out the awesome photos from NASCAR’s Clash at the L.A. Coliseum.

The Bengals will bring their old-school ‘mic cart’ to the Super Bowl, should now be favorites


This is the online version of our daily newsletter, The Morning WinSubscribe to get irreverent and incisive sports stories, delivered to your mailbox every morning. Charles Curtis is filling in for Andy Nesbitt.

The Super Bowl, as you may know, is a spectacle. And sometimes, that means the silliest of things become a HUGE DEAL.

And that’s why I’ve decided to devote an entire newsletter to a mic cart.

Oh, this is not any ordinary cart. If you don’t know, I’ll explain.

Back in the regular season, the Cincinnati Bengals brought out a three-tiered cart — one you might see a TV and VCR on in your school when you were younger (yes, I’m old, maybe it was a DVD player in your childhood!) — to use for media availability.

The mic cart quickly became a viral sensation. I had this grand plan to come in Friday and make a case for why it should come to L.A. For Super Bowl LVI — a good luck charm or something.

But I discovered that the Bengals were way ahead of me. On Thursday, the team announced the mic cart is going to the big game.

Does this make the Bengals favorites over the Los Angeles Rams? Absolutely. That’s my betting tip of the day.

Long live the Mic Cart!

Quick hits: The Olympics are here! … NBA All-Star Game snubs … We spoke to Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir … and more.

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

— The 2022 Winter Olympics are here! We have so much content — we ranked the new events, check out the beautiful photos of some venues, and we wrote some profiles of 15 of Team USA’s best athletes.

— The 2022 NBA All-Star Game roster is complete, and Cole Huff has three players who were snubbed.

— Our Michelle Martinelli spoke with NBC’s Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir. Did you know they have 17 suitcases as they get set to call figure skating (even though they’re broadcasting from Connecticut)?

— Shaq said an angry Ben Simmons DM’d him in response to his Inside the NBA rant.

Stephen Ross needs to be banned from the NFL if tanking allegations prove to be true

The NFL needs to come down hard on Ross if this proves to be true.

This is the online version of our daily newsletter, The Morning WinSubscribe to get irreverent and incisive sports stories, delivered to your mailbox every morning.

By now we’ve all learned about the class-action lawsuit field by Brian Flores against the NFL, Dolphins, Giants and Broncos over alleged discriminatory hiring processes within the league.

Another allegation that came out of that lawsuit was that Flores claims Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered to pay him $100,000 per loss in the 2019 season, which was Flores’ first year in charge of the team, in hopes that the team would tank and secure a really good draft pick.

If that proves to be true then Ross needs to be banned from football. He needs to be forced to sell his team. He needs to be gone from the NFL

The NFL, especially under Roger Goodell’s empty run as the boss, has long gone out of its way to punish teams if they even come close to tarnishing the integrity of the game. Remember what they did to Tom Brady because they thought he let some air out of some balls? Or what they did to the Falcons for piping in some fake crowd noises?

Those two things were pretty silly but the NFL came down really hard.

The tanking allegations against Ross, however, are much more serious. Imagine being a first-year coach in the NFL and suddenly your boss is offering you money to lose. Coaches only get brief stints if things aren’t going well and they want to rack up as many wins as possible to help them in their current jobs and help them with any future jobs they might be up for later on in their careers. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to hear your boss telling you to lose on purpose. That would be awful.

Then imagine what it must be like for players on tanking teams. These are human beings who will more than likely have brief NFL careers and to have one of those years ruined by an owner who is allegedly telling his coach to tank is just disgusting and sad.

This ban should go to any owner who practices this stuff. Former Browns coach Hue Jackson made similar allegations against Cleveland’s Jimmy Haslam last night on SportsCenter. If those prove to be true then Haslam needs to be gone, too.

Ross, meanwhile, denied the allegations in his first words since Flores’ suit was filed, saying in a statement last night:

“With regards to the allegations being made by Brian Flores, I am a man of honor and integrity and cannot let them stand without responding. I take great personal exception to these malicious attacks, and the truth must be known. His allegations are false, malicious and defamatory. We understand there are media reports stating that the NFL intends to investigate his claims, and we will cooperate fully. I welcome that investigation and I am eager to defend my personal integrity, and the integrity and values of the entire Miami Dolphins organization, from these baseless, unfair and disparaging claims.”

Flores had this to say yesterday about the tanking allegations:

“That was a conversation about not doing as much as we needed to do in order to win football games,” he said Wednesday morning on ESPN. “Take a flight, go on vacation, I’ll give you $100,000 per loss — those were his exact words. I deal in truth, I tell the players this, as well. I’m gonna give you good news, bad news – but it’s going to be honest.”

Flores, as we all know, was fired by the Dolphins last month after leading them to back-to-back winning seasons. They started off the 2021 season 1-7 and could have quit on themselves but they fought back to finish the year 9-8. That says a lot about their coach and his mindset and who he is as a person.

It also says a lot about Ross, who was OK firing such a coach who actually had success with a franchise which is not used to that.

If Flores’ tanking allegations are proven to be true, the NFL should then do the right thing and get rid of the guy who allegedly wanted his guys to lose.

Quick hits: Tom Brady’s heartfelt message to Bill Belichick… Mahomes mic’d up on crucial play… Super Bowl squares how to… and more. 

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

– Bill Belichick released a classy, and accurate, statement about Tom Brady and the QB had a heartfelt reply to it.

– This mic’d up video of Patrick Mahomes on a key play before halftime last Sundays shows the QB telling Andy Reid that he’s “got it.” Narrator: He didn’t have it.

– Christian D’Andrea explains how to run and play in a Super Bowl squares pool.

– Get ready for the Olympics with all of our great coverage right here.

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Bill Belichick definitely (maybe) sent those texts to Brian Flores on purpose

Did Bill Belichick pull a Larry David?

This is the online version of our daily newsletter, The Morning WinSubscribe to get irreverent and incisive sports stories, delivered to your mailbox every morning.

A bombshell hit the NFL yesterday as former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores sued the NFL and three teams – the Dolphins, Broncos, and Giants – over alleged discrimination during the his interview process with Denver and New York and his firing by the Dolphins.

This is a historic case that could change the NFL (for the better) forever, as it alleges some pretty horrible stuff by people in charge of a few NFL teams and calls into the question the way Black candidates are interviewed for head coaching jobs.

And it all came to light thanks to some mistaken texts sent by Bill Belichick, because of course. The Patriots coach sent a congratulatory text to Flores thinking Flores had gotten the Giants job. But Flores’ interview was still coming up and Belichick realized he sent the text to the wrong Brian – it was meant to go to former Bills OC and new Giants coach Brian Daboll.

If Belichick sent the text to the right Brian this case would have never come to light. Let that sink in for a second. Belichick’s texting miscue has now put the NFL and three teams in a very bad light and the impact this could have on them going forward could be huge.

A lot of people yesterday started tossing around the idea that Belichick sent those mistaken texts on purpose, like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm. The accidental text!

I usually stay far away from conspiracy theories but I would love for this one to be true.

And why couldn’t it be?

Belichick and Flores have a relationship that dates back for years. He was an assistant under Belichick from 2008-2018 and the two defensive-minded coaches seemed to be very close during those years.

So let’s just say Belichick heard what was allegedly going on with the Giants (that they were hiring Daboll and Flores’ interview was the sham that Flores alleges it was) and decided to alert his pal, knowing that it could possibly lead to what it has led to – the league being correctly called out for discriminatory hiring processes.

If you look at the texts between Belichick and Flores you’ll see a few things that stand out. First, Belichick wrote “Giants?!?!?!” in response to Flores asking “Do you know something I don’t know?” There’s no way Belichick is a “?!?!?!” guy. SIX QUESTION MARKS AND EXCLAMATION MARKS? Not possible. Belichick did that to set the tone for the accidental text. It’s genius.

Flores then told Belichick that he wasn’t interviewing until Thursday, to which Belichick said “Got it – I hear from Buffalo and NYG that you are their guy. Hope it works out if you want it to!”

By bringing up Buffalo he could be speaking a little code and tipping off Flores that this might be an accidental text. Also, Belichick pays attention to everything and had to have known that Flores hadn’t interviewed with the Giants yet. Another Also – I just don’t buy that someone as detail-oriented as Belichick would send a text to a wrong guy, especially when it’s about such a big topic as this one. He’d make sure he was texting the right guy.

Flores then asks Belichick if he knows he’s talking to Flores, not Daboll to which Belichick admitted his mistake, saying he “expletive’d it up” and read the text wrong. He then apologizes and closes the texts by signing it with a “BB” at the end.

And just like that, this whole thing was started. Again, I’m not a conspiracy guy but this one just has all the feels of Belichick trying to do the right thing for a friend while also exposing the league for its despicable hiring practices, and painting a few other franchises in a very bad light.

There’s also a strong chance he did just get confused and sent the wrong text, because conspiracy theories are almost always completely wrong.

Either way, we’re Team Flores over here and hopefully this can all lead to some serious changes in a league that really needs it.

Quick hits: Mahomes classy message to Burrows… 9 Team USA champs looking to defend gold medals… Best value bets for MVP of Super Bowl 56… And more. 

– This mic’d up video of Patrick Mahomes’ classy message to Joe Burrow right after the AFC Championship is really good.

– Chris Korman looks at 9 Team USA Olympic champions looking to defend their gold medals at the Beijing Winter Games, which start this week.

–  Prince Grimes has the best value bets for who will be MVP Super Bowl 56.

– Get ready for the Olympics with all of our great coverage right here.

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The legend of Joe Burrow can reach a ridiculous level with win one more win

The young QB is on an absolute heater.

This is the online version of our daily newsletter, The Morning WinSubscribe to get irreverent and incisive sports stories, delivered to your mailbox every morning.

The legend of Joe Burrow has grown at a remarkable pace this year – from his wardrobe choices before games to what he’s done for the franchise that used the No. 1 pick in the 2020, it’s been an incredible rise for a young dude who has grown used to winning and making it look cool in the process.

Now he’s just 60 minutes away from a life-changing moment as a win over the Rams in Super Bowl 56 a week from Sunday in Los Angeles would put the 25-year-old QB at a level of fame that is only reached by a select few NFL players.

Think about what Burrow has done so far in Cincinnati. He was the top pick of the draft, which comes with a wild amount of pressure for a QB. Then he tore his ACL in Week 11 of his rookie season and watched as his team finished 4-11-1, which is the type of losing record that Bengals fans had grown used to.

Burrow was lucky enough to just be able to play at the start of the 2021 season but nobody was picking he and the Bengals to do much this year, let alone make it to the gosh darn Super Bowl.

But here they are, thanks to Burrow, and Ja’Marr Chase, who has quickly become a star in the league, and a defense that absolutely shut down Patrick Mahomes in the second half and OT of Sunday’s win.

Burrow spoke after Sunday’s win about how surreal it has been to see LeBron James tweeting about him and getting a phone call from rapper Kid Cudi before last week’s win. Burrow said the football stuff has been nothing out of the ordinary for him but the social stuff has been pretty wild, which is totally understandable. He’s 25 and was in college two years ago!

What an incredible ride it has been for this young QB and all the guys on the team who have stepped up with him. And it’s about to get ramped up even more.

The Bengals hadn’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season before Burrow and Co. beat the Raiders in the Wild-Card round.

Then they went to Tennessee and beat the top-seeded Titans.

Then they went to Kansas City and stopped the Chiefs from going to their third straight Super Bowl.

Burrow and the Bengals now have another road game as they’ll play the Rams at their home stadium.

A win there would finish off one of the most impressive postseason runs in NFL history.

And it would make Burrow even more of a legend.

Quick hits: 5 things that could happen in the Super Bowl… Best value bets for MVP of Super Bowl 56… Everything we know about WFT’s name… And more. 

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

– Charles McDonald has 5 predictions for how Super Bowl 56 will play out, including Aaron Donald and Von Miller making life difficult for Burrow.

– Prince Grimes has the best value bets for who will be MVP Super Bowl 56.

– Here’s everything we know about the Washington Football Team’s new name, which is set to be announced tomorrow but might have already been leaked.

– Bengals cornerback Eli Apple offered to buy Super Bowl tickets for two Chiefs wide receivers, which is hilarious.

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