Holiday Hardware 


By: Jeff Yoder

Happy Friday 

A weekend of trophy ceremonies prefaces the upcoming holiday season. The MLS Cup Final gets things started Saturday afternoon. Tomorrow night, the Heisman Trophy gets awarded in New York while the NBA Cup Final goes down in Las Vegas. It’s a weekend full of trophies, and it ends with Eagles-Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. Sign me up.

Speaking of signing up… Do us a favor and share The Sportsletter with friends or family members who love sports. They’ll thank you, and so will we.

Letter Rip!


Vegas Vibes: Lakers & Pacers Shine

Photo: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Pacers Outrun Bucks (128-119), Lakers Demolish Pelicans (133-89) to Set Up NBA Cup Final of Speed vs. Experience

And then there were two! The final of the first-ever NBA In-Season Tournament is set, and it’s the youth movement from Indiana against the King and Los Angeles. The Pacers out-paced the Bucks in Thursday’s first semi-final clash thanks to another breakout performance from Tyrese Halburton. But the nightcap was more one-sided as LeBron James (30-8-5) led an all-out assault against the Pelicans. It’ll be youth and speed against experience and wisdom in the NBA Cup finale. Let’s do some semi-final recaps:

East: Pacers def. Bucks (128-119)

The early game on Thursday in Vegas featured the East favorites from Milwaukee and those pesky, fast-paced Indiana guys. Tyrese Haliburton (27 points, 15 assists, 7 rebounds and ZERO turnovers) led the Pacers to their sixth straight win in the In-Season Tournament (6-0). It’s the second-straight game with a double-double and no turnovers for Haliburton. He’s quickly becoming a bonafide star in the IST. Indiana weathered a 37-point night from Giannis Antetokounmpo and 24 from Damian Lillard. The Bucks led by 1 entering the 4th quarter, but the Pacers outscored the Bucks by a dozen in the final frame to advance.

West: Lakers def. Pelicans (133-89)

LeBron James is about to turn 39 and he’s still as dominant as ever. James (30 points, 8 assist, 5 rebounds) led a second-quarter surge that helped L.A. pull away by double figures. The lead ballooned in the 3rd quarter with the Lakers outscoring the Pels by 26 (43-17). The Pelicans simply had no offensive rhythm. LeBron nearly outscored their Big 3 on his own — Zion Williamson (13 points), Brandon Ingram (9 points) and C.J. McCollum (9 points).

Set a reminder. It’s Lakers vs. Pacers tomorrow night for the first-ever NBA Cup!

NBA In-Season Tournament Final

Lakers vs. Pacers (Sat. 8:30 pm ET, ABC)

Read More

ESPN: LeBron Lights Up Pels as Lakers Cruise Into Tournament Final

Athletic: Tyrese Haliburton, Pacers ‘Shocking the World’ After Ousting Bucks in NBA In-Season Tournament



LIV Stunner: Rahm Goes Rogue

Photo: Andrew Redington / Getty Images

2023 Masters Champion Jon Rahm Shocks Golf World With Move to LIV Golf

Another twist in the PGA-LIV golf saga came Thursday when Masters champion Jon Rahm agreed to leave the PGA Tour for the Saudi Arabian-financed LIV Golf league. The deal is reportedly for three years and more than $300 million for the current No. 3 player in the World Golf Rankings. Rahm had previously been adamant about sticking with the PGA Tour, so what changed?

Rahm Goes Rogue: The announcement comes during a window of secrecy between both leagues. The PGA and LIV previously announced an agreement, and they’re currently drawing the framework of a contract to co-exist as financial partners. How that all looks remains a mystery. The Spanish golf star has earned his future major bids and exemptions by winning the 2023 Masters. He can move to LIV and still be assured a spot competing in golf’s biggest events.

Quote Review: Rahm was one of the most vocal PGA Tour players who stood against LIV over the past two years. He once said: “Shotgun three days is not a golf tournament…Would my lifestyle change if I got $400 million? Not one bit.” Rahm was also expected to be part of the TGL — the league spearheaded by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy — until he dropped out in November.

Rahm’s new deal also includes an ownership stake in a new LIV team. The Saudi PIF (public investment fund) continues to shift the sport’s overall ecosystem by purchasing some of the biggest names in soccer and golf. Rahm joins an LIV roster of captains that includes Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Bubba Watson, and Hendrik Stenson.

*The PGA and LIV have a tentative deadline of Dec. 31 to work out the details of their new deal.

Read More

CNBC: PGA Tour Star Jon Rahm Gearing Up to Join Saudi-Backed LIV Golf

Golfweek: Everything Jon Rahm Has Said About LIV Golf & the PGA Tour Over the Last 2 Years

USA Today: Jon Rahm’s Jump to LIV Makes Him a Hypocrite and a Sellout



TNF: Pats On the Back(ups)

Photo: Joe Sargent / Getty Images

Patriots Shock Steelers on Thursday Night Football (21-18) In Battle of Backup QBs

An injured Kenny Pickett (Steelers) and a benched Mac Jones (Patriots) meant fans were treated to the Baily Zappe vs. Mitch Trubisky game on Thursday Night Football. Seems accurate in going with this year’s theme of horrendous TNF matchups. But there was little to scoff at when it came to Zappe’s first half. The Patriots had been abysmal on offense this season — averaging a league-worst 12.3 ppg — but Zappe was delightful. The 24-year-old threw as many touchdowns in the first half (3) as the Patriots did in their first seven road games combined (3). RB Ezekiel Elliot was also a pleasant surprise for New England. He racked up 140 yards and touched the ball nearly 30 times. Unfortunately, that was where the scoring stopped for the Pats.

New England held a 21-3 lead as the boos reigned down on Trubisky through most of a cold night in Pittsburgh. The Steelers eventually engineered a comeback attempt in the 4th quarter to get within three, but suspect playcalling down the stretch led them astray. A 4th-and-2 with the game on the line became a hail-mary heave down the sideline that fell incomplete. The Steelers have now lost back-to-back games against two-win teams (Cardinals & Patriots). Their playoff chances are fading fast.

Fun Fact: The Steelers are the only team with a winning record (7-6) and a negative point-differential (-40) this season. Pittsburgh actually ranks 23rd (out of 32) in PD.

QB Comparison

B. Zappe (NE): 19/28, 253 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT

M. Trubisky (PIT): 22/35, 220 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT

Other Top Performers

RB E. Elliot (NE): 29 touches, 140 yards, 1 TD

WR J. Smith-Schuster (NE): 4 catches, 90 yards

LB J. Tavai (NE): 15 total tackles

Records: Steelers (7-6) / Patriots (3-10)

Watch: Pats Upset Steelers on TNF (21-18) Behind Zappe & Elliot

Read More

Sporting News: Bailey Zappe’s 1st-Half Flourish Propels New England to Upset Win

USA Today: Patriots Damage Steelers’ Playoff Hopes With TNF Upset



 NBA Rookie Rankings

Jaime Jaquez Jr. is heating up in Miami. Keyonte George is dropping dimes in Utah. And the Mavericks’ Dereck Lively II is a pick-and-roll nightmare for defenders. (CBS Sports)

 Week 14 NFL Picks Against the Spread

Can the Cowboys get revenge against the Eagles and cut into Philadelphia’s lead in the NFC East? Here are the picks for every game on the Week 14 slate. (The Ringer)

 The Ohtani Free Agency Domino

Shohei Ohtani is expected to sign a contract in the range of $500-600 million. His announcement will be the first domino to fall that will ignite free agency. (ESPN)





The Weekend Must-Watch List

 College Football

Army at Navy (Sat. 3:00 pm, CBS)

 Heisman Trophy Ceremony (Sat. 8:00 pm, ESPN)

 MLS Cup Final

🏆 Columbus Crew vs. LAFC (Sat. 4:00 pm, AppleTV)

 NBA Cup Final (In-Season Tournament)

 Pacers vs. Lakers (Sat. 8:30 pm, ABC)

Full NBA Schedule

  NFL (Week 14)

Rams at Ravens (Sun. 1:00 pm ET)

Jaguars at Browns (Sun. 1:00 pm ET)

Seahawks at 49ers (Sun. 4:05 pm ET)

Bills at Chiefs (Sun. 4:25 pm ET)

Eagles at Cowboys (Sun. 8:20 pm ET)

Full NFL Week 14 Schedule


Golden Knights at Stars (Sat. 4:00 pm, ESPN+)

Rangers at Capitals (Sat. 7:00 pm, ESPN+)

Hurricanes at Canucks (Sat. 10:00 pm, ESPN+)

Full NHL Schedule

 NCAA Basketball

M: #20 Illinois at #17 Tennessee (Sat. Noon, CBS)

M: Alabama at #4 Purdue (Sat. 1:30 pm, FOX)

M: #23 Wisconsin at #1 Arizona (Sat. 3:15 pm, ESPN)

M: Missouri at #2 Kansas (Sat. 5:15 pm, ESPN)

M: Notre Dame at #8 Marquette (Sat. 9:00 pm, FOX)

W: #2 UCLA at #20 Florida State (Sun. Noon, ESPN2)

W: #25 Penn State at #12 Ohio State (Sun. 1:00 pm, TBD)

W: #11 Utah at #1 South Carolina (Sun. 2:30 pm, ESPN)

W: #4 Iowa at Wisconsin (Sun. 2:30 pm, BTN)

W: #24 North Carolina at #17 UConn (Sun. 5:00 pm, ESPN)

*All Times ET

Download The Sportsletter’s Must-Watch Calendar