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Yahoo Sports AM: The Kingslayer

January 26th, 2024

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🚨 Headlines

⚽️ Breaking news: Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp will leave the club at the end of the season. “It is that I am, how can I say this, running out of energy,” he said.

🏈 New head coaches: The Falcons are hiring Rams DC Raheem Morris, and the Panthers are hiring Bucs OC Dave Canales. Still vacant: Commanders and Seahawks.

🏀 Still perfect: The South Carolina women improved to 18-0 after Thursday’s win over No. 9 LSU, a 76-70 thriller in Baton Rouge.

🎾 China‘s second finalist: No. 12 Qinwen Zhang beat Dayana Yastremska to join Li Na as China’s only Grand Slam finalists. She’ll play No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka for the title.

⛳️ Dunlap turns pro: Nick Dunlap, the first amateur to win a PGA Tour event in 33 years, is leaving Alabama to join the Tour.

🏈 Gambling arrest: Patriots WR Kayshon Boutte was arrested Thursday for illegal betting while he was at LSU. He allegedly placed 8,900 bets, including six involving his own team.


🎾 Sinner slays the king

(Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

(Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

22-year-old Jannik Sinner beat Novak Djokovic, 6-1, 6-2, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3, to make his first Grand Slam final and snap Djoker’s 33-match winning streak in Melbourne.

  • It’s the first time Djokovic has ever lost in an Australian Open semifinal or final (20-1 record).

  • He beat himself in a way we rarely see (54 unforced errors), calling it one of the worst Grand Slam matches of his career.

Elite company: Players to beat Djokovic in a Grand Slam, Davis Cup and ATP Finals:

What they’re saying: Sinner, the first Italian to make an Australian Open final, is beloved by his fellow competitors. Here’s Chris Eubanks on the broadcast after the match:

“Jannik is one of the most popular guys in the locker room. I think all the players take a sense of pride and happiness to see his success on this stage. He’s a player that gets along with everyone, speaks to everyone … whether it’s the locker room attendants, the other players saying good luck.”

What’s next: Sinner will play Daniil Medvedev — who came back to win the other semifinal after dropping the first two sets to Alexander Zverev — in Sunday’s final.


🏈 AFC Championship preview

(Mallory Bielecki/Yahoo Sports)(Mallory Bielecki/Yahoo Sports)

(Mallory Bielecki/Yahoo Sports)

The AFC Championship is Sunday in Baltimore, where the top-seeded Ravens will host the defending champion Chiefs, who seem to have a standing reservation for this game, Jeff writes.

The one stat you need to know: Baltimore is the fourth team since the 1970 merger to have a first-team All-Pro QB and the No. 1 scoring defense. The previous three all won the Super Bowl (1972 Dolphins, 1978 Steelers, 1996 Packers).

QB matchup: Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are the first former MVPs under 30 to meet in the playoffs, and assuming Jackson wins this year’s award, they’ll have claimed four of the past six. Mahomes leads their all-time series, 3-1, but this will be their first postseason matchup.

  • Mahomes: 4,183 pass yards, 27 TD, 14 INT, 67.2% CMP, 92.6 RTG; 389 rush yards

  • Jackson: 3,678 pass yards, 24 TD, 7 INT, 67.2% CMP, 102.7 RTG; 821 rush yards, 5 TD

Key to the game: Which defense will blink first? While the Ravens are a perennial defensive power, including a historic* first-place ranking this season, Kansas City’s run to six straight AFC title games has been fueled by its offense — until this year.

  • Flipping the script: Through Mahomes’ first five years as a starter, the Chiefs’ offense never ranked worse than sixth and their defense never ranked better than seventh. But this season, they had the second-best defense and 15th-best offense.

  • Sacks could be a difference maker: Baltimore and Kansas City finished 1-2 in sacks, but Mahomes is far better at avoiding sacks (second-best sack rate) than Jackson (23rd).

Coaching matchup: Andy Reid improved to 5-0 in the playoffs against his ex-assistants after last week’s win over Sean McDermott, and he’ll put that record to the test again on Sunday: John Harbaugh spent a decade under Reid in Philly before becoming Baltimore’s head coach in 2008.

Notes:

  • Chasing greatness: Travis Kelce (145 career postseason receptions) needs seven catches to pass Jerry Rice (151) for the most in postseason history.

  • Overachieving underdog: Baltimore is favored (-3.5), but Mahomes is 9-1-1 against the spread as an underdog in his career, and 8-3 straight up, including wins in both such playoff games (last year’s Super Bowl and last week against the Bills).

  • Injury report: Chiefs All-Pro G Joe Thuney (pec) is unlikely to play; Ravens TE Mark Andrews (ankle) is expected to return for the first time since Week 11; Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey (calf), Chiefs CB L’Jarius Sneed (calf) and Chiefs RB Isaiah Pacheco (ankle/toe) are questionable.

*Baltimore’s historic defense: The Ravens became the first team in NFL history to lead the league in points allowed (16.5 per game), sacks (60) and takeaways (31).


🏈 NFC Championship preview

(Mallory Bielecki/Yahoo Sports)(Mallory Bielecki/Yahoo Sports)

(Mallory Bielecki/Yahoo Sports)

The NFC Championship is Sunday in San Francisco, where the Super Bowl favorite 49ers will host the Lions, the underdog darling of these playoffs, Jeff writes.

The one stat you need to know: Detroit is on an NFL-record 11-game road losing streak in the playoffs, with its last such victory coming in 1957. That win came against none other than the 49ers, and a week later the Lions won the NFL Championship. Could history repeat itself?

QB matchup: No. 1 pick Jared Goff defeated fellow No. 1 picks Matthew Stafford and Baker Mayfield to captain the Lions to their first NFC title game in over 30 years. His next challenge? Defeating Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy, the last pick in the 2022 draft.

  • Goff: 4,575 pass yards, 30 TD, 12 INT, 67.3% CMP, 97.9 RTG; 21 rush yards, 2 TD

  • Purdy: 4,280 pass yards, 31 TD, 11 INT, 69.4% CMP, 113.0 RTG; 144 rush yards, 2 TD

Key to the game: Detroit’s best shot at pulling off the upset is sticking to the run, utilizing its best strength against San Francisco’s only real weakness.

  • Running wild: The Lions have the fourth-most efficient rushing offense by DVOA*, while the 49ers’ rushing defense is ranked 15th. Detroit also has the No. 1 rushing defense, which could help contain Christian McCaffrey and San Francisco’s No. 2 rushing offense.

  • Thunder and lightning: Detroit was the only team in the league with two players who scored at least 10 rushing TDs in battering ram David Montgomery (13) and speed demon Jahmyr Gibbs (10).

Coaching matchup: Dan Campbell is acing his playoff debut, while Kyle Shanahan has a chance to pass a legend: With a win, he’ll improve to 8-3 in the playoffs (.727), eclipsing Hall of Famer Bill Walsh’s mark (.714; 10-4) for the best postseason winning percentage in 49ers franchise history.

Notes:

  • Dome warriors: The Lions have played outside just once in their past 12 games, with all home games and four of five road contests played in a dome (or under a retractable roof). They lost that one game (at Chicago); how will they fare outside on Sunday?

  • Title droughts: This is the 49ers’ seventh NFC Championship appearance since 2012, but they’re still seeking their first Super Bowl title since 1995. The Lions, meanwhile, have never won a Super Bowl.

  • Injury report: 49ers star WR Deebo Samuel (shoulder) is back at practice but questionable; Lions Pro-Bowl C Frank Ragnow (ankle, toe, knee, back) is expected to play through injuries.

*DVOA: Defense-adjusted Value Over Average measures a team’s efficiency in each facet of the game by comparing every play to a league-average based on situation and opponent.


🏀 NBA All-Star starters

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

LeBron James was named to his 20th All-Star team on Thursday night, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most selections in NBA history.

West starters:

  • James (Lakers): 24.8 pts (52/40/74), 7.1 reb, 7.5 ast, 1.9 stl/blk … 20th selection

  • Kevin Durant (Suns): 29.1 pts (53/46/87), 6.4 reb, 5.7 ast, 2.1 stl/blk … 14th

  • Luka Dončić (Mavericks): 33.6 pts (48/37/77), 8.5 reb, 9.3 ast, 2.0 stl/blk … 5th

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Thunder): 31.1 pts (55/33/89), 5.6 reb, 6.4 ast, 3.1 stl/blk … 2nd

  • Nikola Jokić (Nuggets): 26.3 pts (59/37/83), 11.9 reb, 9.0 ast, 2.0 stl/blk … 6th

East starters:

  • Joel Embiid (76ers): 36.0 pts (54/37/88), 11.4 reb, 5.8 ast, 2.9 stl/blk … 7th

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks): 31.3 pts (61/24/67), 11.7 reb, 6.2 ast, 2.4 stl/blk … 8th

  • Jayson Tatum (Celtics): 27.0 pts (47/36/81), 8.4 reb, 4.4 ast, 1.5 stl/blk … 5th

  • Tyrese Haliburton (Pacers): 23.6 pts (50/40/86), 4.1 reb, 12.6 ast, 1.7 stl/blk … 2nd

  • Damian Lillard (Bucks): 25.3 pts (43/35/92), 4.3 reb, 6.8 ast, 1.2 stl/blk … 8th

How did Yahoo Sports senior NBA writer Dan Devine vote? Here’s his ballot.


📆 Jan. 26, 2020: RIP, Kobe and Gigi

(Harry How/Getty Images)(Harry How/Getty Images)

(Harry How/Getty Images)

Four years ago today, Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash on their way to a youth girls basketball game, Jeff writes.

Rest in peace: It didn’t feel real then; it still doesn’t feel real now.

  • Kobe Bryant, 41

  • Gianna Bryant, 13

  • Alyssa Altobelli, 14

  • John Altobelli, 56

  • Keri Altobelli, 46

  • Payton Chester, 13

  • Sarah Chester, 45

  • Christina Mauser, 38

  • Ara Zobayan, 50

More on this day:

  • 🏀 1960: A 17-year-old senior in West Virginia scored a high school record 135 points (53-70 FG, 29-41 FT). His name, I kid you not, was Danny Heater.

  • 🏈 1997: The Packers beat the Patriots, 35-21, in Super Bowl XXXI behind Desmond Howard’s 99-yard kickoff return TD and Super Bowl-record 90 punt return yards. He remains the only special teamer to win Super Bowl MVP*.

*More rare territory: Howard is the fourth and most recent Heisman winner (1991) to be named Super Bowl MVP, joining Roger Staubach (1963 Heisman, 1972 Super Bowl MVP), Jim Plunkett (1970, 1981) and Marcus Allen (1981, 1984).


📺 Watchlist: Who will make the Super Bowl?

(Yahoo Sports)(Yahoo Sports)

(Yahoo Sports)

Sunday marks the last day until September that we get multiple NFL games. Enjoy it!

  • Chiefs at Ravens (3pm ET, CBS): BAL -3.5 | O/U 44.5 | BAL -200, KC +165

  • Lions at 49ers (6:30pm, Fox): SF -7 | O/U 51.5 | SF -350, DET +275

More to watch:

  • 🎾 Australian Open Finals: No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka vs. No. 12 Qinwen Zheng (Sat. 3:30am, ESPN); No. 4 Jannik Sinner vs. No. 3 Daniil Medvedev (Sun. TBD, ESPN)

  • 🏀 NBA: Heat at Knicks (Sat. 3pm, ABC); 76ers at Nuggets* (Sat. 5:30pm, ABC); Lakers at Warriors (Sat. 8:30pm, ABC)

  • 🏀 NCAAM: Kansas State at No. 4 Houston (Sat. 12pm, ESPN); No. 7 Kansas at No. 23 Iowa State (Sat. 1:30pm, CBS); No. 9 Arizona at Oregon (Sat. 5:30pm, Fox)

  • 🏀 NCAAW: No. 3 Colorado at No. 25 Oregon State (Fri. 10pm, Pac-12); No. 15 Notre Dame at No. 8 UConn (Sat. 8pm, Fox)

  • 🏒 NHL: Golden Knights at Rangers (Fri. 7pm, ESPN); Bruins at Flyers (Sat. 12:30pm, NHL)

  • ⛳️ PGA: Farmers Insurance Open (Fri-Sat, ESPN+/Golf/CBS)

*MVP battle: For the second time in two weeks, we get to watch Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokić square off. And the two former MVPs have been absolutely scorching in their four games since then, with Embiid averaging 43-11-4 and Jokić averaging 35-12-8.


⚾️ MLB trivia

(Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports)(Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports)

(Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports)

With Adrián Beltré’s election, there are now just six presenters of the 3,000-hit club who are not in the Hall of Fame.

Answer at the bottom.


🏈 The Super Bowl logo conspiracy

(Bruno Rouby/Yahoo Sports)(Bruno Rouby/Yahoo Sports)

(Bruno Rouby/Yahoo Sports)

The hot conspiracy theory in NFL land is that the Super Bowl is scripted and the logo shows which teams will participate.

  • Two years ago, the Super Bowl LVI logo had yellow (Rams) and orange (Bengals).

  • Last year, the Super Bowl LVII logo had green (Eagles) and red (Chiefs).

Which brings us to this year… Do the purple and red represent the Ravens and 49ers?

Aaron Rodgers, as you can imagine, is all over this. What would we do without him?


Trivia answer: Pete Rose, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Ichiro Suzuki, Rafael Palmeiro

We hope you enjoyed this edition of Yahoo Sports AM, our daily newsletter that keeps you up to date on all things sports. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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