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Barkley and Daboll have raised high hopes for the Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - After five straight losing seasons, it's hard to say... (Author: Gardener)

BarkleyNew York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) celebrates after a touchdown run against the Tennessee Titans during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) celebrates after the Giants defeated Tennessee Titans 21-20 in an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs for a first down in the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants Sunday, Sept. Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons ( 98) forces New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) to fumble during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. New York Giants wide receiver Kenny Golladay (19) makes a catch on the Tennessee Titans defense during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. Tennessee Titans running back Dontr ell Hilliard (40) catches a pass as he gets hit by New York Giants cornerback Adoree' Jackson (22) during the ers th half of an NFL football game on Sunday, September. New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) runs off the field after The Giants defeated the Tennessee Titans 9:20 in an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. J. (AP) -- After five straight losses, it's hard to put into perspective the New York Giants' 21-20 win over the Tennessee Titans on Brian Daboll's debut as head coach. After a 4-13 season, the Giants beat the two-time defending AFC South champion on the road, recovering from a 13-0 halftime deficit after a great performance from a rejuvenated Saquon Barkley. It was a game few expected to win, let alone be competitive. And they won by going for a 2-point conversion with 66 seconds left when the conventional wisdom was to play for a tie and go into overtime. The result has also resulted in a 180-degree change in expectations. Suddenly, many see the Giants as a contender. That's probably why Daboll stood in the middle of the locker room after the game and reminded his team that this was just one game, the first of 17 in the NFL regular season. Things can change quickly, starting this Sunday when the Giants open at home to the Carolina Panthers, who are suffering a heartbreaking late loss to Cleveland. "Do not get me wrong. I'm glad we won but it's a game. So if it was the other way around, it's a game," Daboll said on Monday. "We have to prepare for next week. We have a long way to go. There are many fixes that need to be addressed.” In other words, there is a possibility that Carolina can spoil the good feelings that exist towards this team. Don't forget that Tennessee's Rudy Bullock missed a 47-yard field goal attempt at the end to salvage the win. The hopes of Giants fans were quickly raised and dashed. It's been a vicious cycle since Tom Coughlin led New York to their fourth Super Bowl title in February 2012. The only year the Giants have made the playoffs since was 2016, and fans were once again dejected. The excitement of the postseason was dashed by an ill-timed and much-criticized day trip by boat to Florida by Odell Beckham and co. What followed was an embarrassing loss to the Packers in Green Bay. So if you're a Giants fan, enjoy the season-opening win, but don't make too much of it, at least for now. Old Saquon Barkley showed up for the 2022 season, and he looked a lot like the running back who won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2018. Barkley ran 164 yards for 18 carries (an average of 9.1 yards) and caught six passes for 30 yards. He ran for a touchdown and caught a game-winning 2-point conversion. That's 194 all-purpose yards, an excellent start for a player who many believed was on the decline after suffering a serious knee injury to start the 2020 season and underperforming 21 season. WHAT NEEDS HELP Both of the Titans' touchdowns came on passes from Ryan Tannehill to Dontrell Hilliard, who came in from the backfield against a linebacker. He was wide open on both and a 31-yard catch-and-run in the first game of the second quarter to set up a field goal. That's 17 points. The Giants need linebackers who can cover a running back or change the scheme and assign a defensive back to the job. Wink Martindale's defense kept the Giants in the game. Although New York was without outside linebackers Azeez Ojulari, their leader in sacks last season, and Kayvon Thibodeaux, No. 5 draft pick Kayvon Thibodeaux, New York limited Tennessee to two touchdowns and two field goals. The first touchdown was set up by a long punt return and the second field goal followed a stripsack that the Titans recovered at the New York 42. Derrick Henry gained 82 yards on 21 carries and the Titans were held on 93 yards rushing. It's difficult to criticize the offensive line after New York rushed for 238 yards. Daniel Jones has been sacked five times and slapped eight times. One of the sacks resulted in a fumble that gave Tennessee the ball at the Giants 42 and set up a field goal. Rookie wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson (knee) and cornerback Nick McCloud (hamstring) left the game. Daboll said Robinson was day to day. 2016 - The last time the Giants opened the season with a win. That was under then-new coach Ben McAdoo, and it was the last time New York made the playoffs. The Giants need to avoid disappointment in their home opener against the Carolina Panthers. The schedule suddenly favors the Giants with games against the Young Bears and the ailing Cowboys, who will be without injured QB Dak Prescott for the coming weeks.

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The Packers didn't have a plan for Justin Jefferson, and it showed

The Packers let Viking receiver Justin Jefferson destroy their defense. Here's proof that Jefferson had no plan at all. (Author: Gardener)

Justin JeffersonJaire Alexander is the Green Bay Packers' best cornerback. As a result, Alexander missed both Packers games against their NFC North opponent, the Minnesota Vikings. So maybe the Packers defenseman forgot that Alexander was available in Week 1 of the 2022 season to cover for Justin Jefferson, one of the league's top receivers? It certainly looked like that. He caught nine passes on eleven targets for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Incidentally, those 184 yards were just 11 yards short of the 195 passing yards Aaron Rodgers had in that entire game. Back to the Packers' defense and the plan, as it was, to cover Jefferson. After the game, head coach Matt LaFleur was asked why Alexander didn't follow Jefferson down the field. "Yeah, it doesn't necessarily always work that way in terms of - if you just commit to playing man coverage all game, sure you can do it. But they do a good job of putting them in different positions, whether it's the slot or it's moving. They've placed him in prime spots and attacked our coverage well and certainly we've had a few pompous coverages too where we cut him loose and if there's anyone you don't want to let go of it's No. 18. We're going go back and watch the tape. The Packers' plan was to split it up a lot and have different defensemen on Jefferson. This was certainly a pleasant surprise for Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. "I'd be a little surprised, yes," Cousins ​​said when asked if he expected Jefferson to get better and more condensed coverage. “Whenever he has a game of that magnitude, it's not because of him, but you expect him to be taken a little bit and sometimes he is. So it's going to be kind of a conversation that we've had a lot over the last season and we're going to be talking about how he's being defended every week this season. It wasn't a pleasant surprise for Alexander. Based on my chart, Alexander wasn't Jefferson's closest defender on any of his 11 goals. New Vikings head coach and offensive play designer Kevin O'Connell, who has just completed his two-year tenure as Sean McVay's offensive line coordinator with the Rams, masterfully managed to line Jefferson up and move away from Green Bay's most formidable pass defender. Here's how Jefferson's spread Sunday: Safety Darnell Savage, Jr.: Three goals, two catches, 57 yards, one touchdown. Cornerback Eric Stokes: Two goals, two catches, 25 yards, one touchdown. Edge rusher Preston Smith: One goal, one catch, five yards. So when you have a rookie linebacker in Walker and a veteran edge rusher in Smith covering the other team's alpha dog receiver more than Alexander does, that seems far from an ideal plan. Also, the strategy of playing some zones against Jefferson really didn't work because O'Connell again did some great stuff to beat it. Cousins ​​broke Jefferson's 64-yard catch with a 5:54 left in the first half where cornerback Rasul Douglas (No. 29) was Jefferson's next target, and then Douglas released Jefferson for Green Bay's two-deep look. Jefferson ran through like an open gate, allowing Cousins ​​to throw the deep throw without any pressure. "I think I came out of the fake and felt like I had to slide," Cousins ​​said. You don't really know what's going on. You know the route hasn't been explained yet, so think I got a shot, there's grass, we'll see what the safety and the curve do as I move. The Packers had more than their fair share of misalignments and rules errors against Jefferson. Aside from the lack of Alexander to help specifically, that's what killed her in general. Jefferson's 36-yard touchdown catch with 45 seconds left in the first half had Jefferson and receiver Adam Thielen (No. 19) challenging the defense on deep crossers against what looked like cover-3s until it dissipated after the snap . (No. 26) was the closest defender here, with Alexander over the top on that side, and if there was one instance where Alexander should have been able to carry Jefferson over the middle, it was this one. Part of the reason O'Connell used so much movement and various pre-snap bets with Jefferson was to get the Packers into coverage rules that were completely unfavorable. That's something I think Kyle Shanahan does better than anyone - movement and position to disrupt and create ideal matchups - and O'Connell had it on guard to an embarrassing degree for the pack. Jefferson's second catch of the day came at 11:35 in the first quarter, and rookie linebacker Quay Walker (No. 7) took on Jefferson on the fast out route, with cornerback Eric Stokes (No. 21) and safety Adrian Amos (No. 31 ) covered Thielen deep on this side. This was another failed double look that didn't do Walker any favors. You can't trust Jefferson with a linebacker without help. That five-yard reception at 11:23 in the third quarter could have been a lot worse than it was. The Packers have edge rusher Preston Smith (yes, I know) on the left slot with no immediate help, and Alexander and Savage up side. But that wasn't an ideal look. It's easy enough to sit on your ass and criticize Joe Barry and his associates for a weird plan that didn't work; If we really want to analyze the situation, it's better to look at what would have been more effective. Looking at the tape of that game after reading the LaFleur and Alexander quotes, I wondered why the plan wasn't to play more man and match coverage - in man it would have been possible for Alexander to follow Jefferson, no matter what O'Connell called, and if you want to play more zone...well, at least match Jefferson down with help up to give your guys half a chance. A friend suggested Cover-57, a combo coverage where defenders are aligned through offensive formation. There are man-and-match rules, and it's pretty adaptable to anything an offense does. It's another man-match series of concepts that adapts to the formation and depth of the routes. There is defensive movement to counter offensive movement, and the idea is to create numbers advantages while also using specific defenders in a man-on-demand situation. Above all, the idea is to have over-the-top help incident coverage in many different ways. The Packers could have used more of that than they put on the field yesterday. Whether you put Jaire Alexander on Justin Jefferson, no matter what or not, the Packers had better have a better plan if they have to face Jefferson again in Week 17.

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Jefferson, Vikings beat Packers 23-7 for O'Connell's 1st win

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- After boldly stating his goal ahead of the season to be the best... (Author: Gardener)

JeffersonMinnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) catches a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Sept. Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson, left, celebrates with head coach Kevin O'Connell after catching a 36-yard touchdown pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, September Reception during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, September. Sept. Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates after catching a pass for a first down in the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. Green Bay Pa. ckers quarterback Aaron Rodgers ( 12) reacts after a defensive stop by the fourth-court Minnesota Vikings in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, September. Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za'Darius Smith (55) and cornerback Cameron Dantzler (3) celebrate after a defensive stop during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Sept. MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - After Minnesota's Justin Jefferson Having bravely articulated his pre-season goal of becoming the league's top receiver, he may already be laying claim to that subjective but coveted status. Aaron Rodgers can only wish Jefferson was on his side. Jefferson slammed rivals Green Bay for 184 yards and two touchdowns in a record-breaking first half, giving new Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell a 23-7 win in his first game on Sunday -- and the team's largest lead to the win about the Packers with Rodgers as quarterback. "I live for these kinds of big games," Jefferson said. After piling up the most yards (3,016) in a player's first two years in the NFL, Jefferson set an all-time record with the Vikings with 158 yards in the first half. Kirk Cousins ​​completed 23 of 32 passes for 277 yards without a turnover, aimed more than a third of his throws at Jefferson, and kept the Packers hot on his heels for most of the afternoon Los Angeles Rams last season had Jefferson roaming the entire formation to keep him away from Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander. Certainly we also had a lot of inflated covers where we let him go," Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. "If there's anyone you don't want to let go, it's number 18." Rodgers' first game without Davante Adams was fuller Frustration, and three-time NFC North defending champions the Packers fell flat in the opener for the second straight season, playing most of the second half with three substitutes. "Whoever's in there, they expect to play well. I don't take anything away from their defense, but we've hurt each other a lot, including me," he told Rodgers, whose most recent loss by more than a goal was to the Vikings in a game he started and finished, a 38-26 home loss on November 1, 2009. Rodgers returned with a fresh haircut after a summer of personal makeover with an offensive lineup that needs a lot of work — running back duo Aaron Jones and A. Rodgers went 22 for 34 for 195 yards, and LaFleur blamed himself for Jones hitting just five carries and three catches after the Packer traded with the Vikings for the No. 34 pick, cheering past 12-year veteran Patrick Peterson and leaving on the first snap for the Packers slipping a 75-yard touchdown pass through his hands. Rodgers had even stopped his NFL-record streak against division opponents of 38 touchdown passes without an interception late in the second quarter when Harrison Smith picked up his See What Happens lever. Jefferson rewarded O'Connell for his first critical decision of the game by catching a 4-yard touchdown pass to fourth-and-1 on first possession. As Adam Thielen ran an incline, cornerback Eric Stokes and safety Adrian Amos both turned inside - leaving Jefferson wide open in the flat after he waved over. "I've never been part of an offensive that just attacked and attacked and attacked," said Thielen. "The score didn't matter. The situation didn't matter.” Jefferson had a 36-yard touchdown reception in the final minute of the first half to give the Vikings a 17-0 lead. He also came close to a third touchdown on the previous drive, but his diving catch on the edge of the end zone was just too far for him to fall both feet down. That drive produced the first of two field goals from Greg Joseph - who went on to hit a career-long 56-yarder - and was set up to set the lift by a 64-yard gain from Jefferson in a breakout between Amos and his safety mate Darnell Savage pack of cousins. The "MVP" chants from the enthusiastic Minnesota crowd soon followed for Jefferson. "I'm going to be a little surprised, yes, whenever he has a game of that magnitude," Cousins ​​said. "Not because of him, but we expect him to be taken a little bit." This Hawaii Tour was voted #1 Best Things to Do in the... This Mini Target Shopping Cart Is So Popular It's Selling... Roundtrip flights from Oakland to Hawaii are less than $250, Za'Darius Smith, released by the Packers in a cost-cutting move, had one of Minnesota's four sacks and stopped Dillon in the second quarter with no win on the fourth and Tor on the 1. "He came out of there with fire and you saw what happened,” said teammate Danielle Hunter. Packers: LT David Bakhtiari and RT Elgton Jenkins were inactive, and WR Allen Lazard was also held back. LG Jon Runyan (concussion) left the team in the third quarter and was replaced by rookie Zach Tom. Rookie LB Quay Walker (shoulder) and backup CB Keisean Nixon (shoulder) left the team in the fourth quarter. Backup LB Krys Barnes (ankle) left on a cart. Vikings: Rookie CB Andrew Booth Jr. (quads) left the team in the second quarter.

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Many Patriots self-inflicted wounds in season-opening loss to Dolphins

The Patriots didn't do themselves any favors during their Week 1 loss in Miami. (Author: Gardener)

PatriotsBOSTON - The 2022 season did not get off to a good start for the New England Patriots. The Miami Dolphins continue to have their number one pick, as evidenced by a 20-7 opening loss for the Pats in South Florida. The Patriots did themselves no favors during the Week 1 loss and captain David Andrews made it clear that the team beat themselves on Sunday. The offensive line is a big topic. Revenue from crime is a big issue. Defense giving up big games is a big problem. In short, the Patriots have a lot of problems right now. There were a few things that went well for the Patriots, but as mentioned, a lot more that didn't. Here are the highs and lows from Sunday's loss to the Dolphins, starting with the "highs" as it won't last very long. He remains Mac Jones' favorite target and finished the game with four receptions from six goals for 55 yards. He had the game of the game for the Patriots, an incredible catchup on the touchline for 27 yards in the second quarter. But those four receptions and 55 yards paved the way for the New England offense that won't make it. We had a feeling Kyle Dugger was headed for a breakout season, and he made several big games for the Patriots secondary on Sunday. The third-year safety made some nice open-field tackles on Tyreek Hill in the first half and blasted a Chase Edmonds run in the backfield for a 7-yard loss on a second-and-4 that resulted in a Miami punt led a few games later. Dugger finished the day with a total of six tackles, losing two of them. He looks like one of those safety/linebacker hybrids the Patriots need this season. The Patriots offense looked pretty solid on their first drive of the second half, marching 92 yards down the field in 15 games to score their first touchdown of the season. The Pats killed the Dolphins with papercut plays, and Parker was able to illegally contact Xavien Howard in the end zone on a deep ball from Mac Jones to keep the drive alive. Jones hit Ty Montgomery on the flat on a third and six, and Montgomery rolled into the end zone for the first touchdown of the season, putting the Patriots within 10 at that point. That was all the Patriots offense would accomplish. The chances of a comeback were slim but they went out the window when Nelson fumbled Agholor after making a catch in the middle of the field with five minutes left. He was crushed by Kader Kohou, and Jaelan Phillips bounced back at the Miami 37 to end any threat of a New England result and comeback. The Patriots turned over the ball three times Sunday, and it was very clear they don't have the offense (only 271 yards in total and only 4-for-9 in third) to survive a three-turnover day. The first drive looked great for the Patriots. Mac Jones was in full control of the offense and was in a comfort zone throughout the drive. Facing a first-and-10 at the Miami 22, Jones dialed in a deep bid for former Dolphin DeVante Parker in the end zone. To make the game even more frustrating for the Patriots, Howard got away with a pretty clear hold as he had a handful of Parker's shoulder pads in play. No flag was thrown and the Dolphins scored a field goal on the ensuing drive. It could have been a very different game if the Patriots had scored some points on that opening drive. His next turnover was worse, resulting in a touchdown in Miami. Midway through the second quarter, the line fell apart and Mac was exposed by Brandon Jones at the New England 6-yard line. Trent Brown was the culprit and gave Jones free access to Mac. We've already touched on the third and final sale, so let's just keep going. Mac Jones' protectors didn't look so hot on Sunday. The offensive line was the biggest question mark early in the season and that hasn't changed after one game. There was the streak sack mentioned above, and he was also sacked on New England's second possession for a seven-yard loss. That came after Agholor had a nice 17-yard reception on a third and eleventh. Jones was hit just three times in total, but he was under constant pressure and unwell for most of the day. Facing a 4th and 1 in midfield on their first possession, Miami lined up to try and sideline the Patriots' defense. Yet Carl Davis Jr. did just that, and his neutral zone violation kept Miami Drive alive. The Dolphins went for a field goal when they shouldn't have scored from the drive. Based on how they played throughout the game, the Patriots would have had trouble overcoming either one. The offense went away early in the fourth quarter with a fourth and three in midfield. After Jones called a time-out on line, they followed up with a deep bid for Hunter Henry. Going deep in 4th and 3rd place was an interesting play call from the offense-by-committee coaching staff. Kendrick Bourne was easily one of the team's best offensive players last season. Bourne didn't play his first snap until the last six minutes of the game. The Pats went with many two tight end sets, but if they had three receivers out there, it was Parker, Meyers and Agholor. Of course, he made a big play on his second snap and grabbed a 41-yard reception on the touchline. Whatever is going on between the receiver and the head coach, the Patriots should figure it out and get the kid on the field. He does plays, and the Patriots need people who do plays.

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Is Khamzat Chimaev now the most hated UFC?

UFC 279's biggest takeaways include Khamzat Chimaev becoming an enemy of the MMA world, Nate Diaz's next move and more. (Author: Gardener)

UFCAfter a memorable run of early prelims earlier in the night, most of us were just hoping to fast-forward to the important things on the main map. Barnett (23-8 MMA, 2-2 UFC) grabbed some of the limelight from a top-heavy lineup as he recovered from a first-round beatdown for a TKO finish over a badly exhausted Collier. After Barnett repeated the front flip-to-butt-drop celebration he did after his first UFC win, Barnett delivered the post-fight interview of a lifetime to Joe Rogan that got the crowd going. He then danced his way to the back, taking whatever beer the crowd handed him. At 36 and most of his career behind him, moments like this will likely be the pinnacle of Barnett's UFC career. Irene Aldana saved herself from a potential loss to Macy Chiasson when she landed one of the luckiest kicks in UFC history to finish on target in the third round of the catchweight bout. After the first round win, Aldana (14-6 MMA, 7-4 UFC) was controlled by Chiasson in the second and third rounds, just minutes from losing a decision. I don't want to call it luck or coincidence - that's why I said luck - but when you're Chiasson it's hard to shake that one feeling like you're definitely the worse fighter. You just got caught doing something absolutely crazy. Still, Aldana is moving forward and she might just shoot a women's bantamweight title against Amanda Nunes since there are no other options in the division. Khamzat Chimaev embraces the hatred and I find it difficult to blame him for it. It's just crazy because it wasn't that long ago that he was the darling of the MMA world. However, you can't expect the fans to stay with you forever, especially if you lack the weight that many believed was a main event layup booking against Nate Diaz. Chimaev (12-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) botched his weight loss so badly, then didn't apologize, laughed at fans, verbally abused them and more until he is now arguably one of the most hated characters in MMA. Unfortunately, you can't hate Chimaev's talent. His effortless, flawless dominance of Kevin Holland en route to a first-round submission was as easy as it looked. Also, it was the fourth time in six UFC fights that Chimaev has never been hit. We can argue about what's next for Chimaev until we're blue in the face. We can argue about who he should fight and which division he should fight in. What we can't argue with is the depth of his talent. If Chimaev can piece together everything that led to this gong show of a week of fighting for him, anyone who steps into that eight-sided cage is in big, big trouble. We don't have to be too hard on Tony Ferguson today. Yes, the five straight losses look very bad on paper, but if you put the state of Ferguson's career in context, it's not as bad as it looks. While he didn't look the sharpest, fastest, or most dangerous in a fourth-round submission loss to Diaz, anyone with a brain in their skull understands how difficult it would be for the old "El Cucuy" to emerge under those circumstances. Ferguson (25-8 MMA, 15-6 UFC) originally picked up a three-round bout against Li Jingliang for this map with three weeks' notice. After the event exploded when Chimaev missed the weight, he entered a five-round bout with Diaz, which he obviously hadn't trained for. Still, Diaz, Michael Chandler, Beneil Dariush, Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje are a grueling bunch of people to fight and lose. That aside, it's apparent the 38-year-old is a scaled-down version of himself and no longer in his prime. Ferguson takes a serious approach to the sport by trying to improve himself and his training situation. He deserves another chance with a full training camp and an opponent worthy of his current skill level and career position. I try my best to be just that in all sorts of situations, but even I can't lie and say it wasn't heartwarming one bit to see Nate Diaz complete his UFC contract with his assist from Ferguson in the most glorious and fitting way see . Let's face it: the Chimaev fight would have been an execution, and only a handful of people wanted to end their Saturday night witnessing it. The rest of us would have been sad to see it, but as we got into fight week we also realized that this had to be done if Diaz (21-13 MMA, 16-11 UFC) fulfilled his contractual obligations to the organization wanted to fulfill and meet free agency. Luckily, Chimaev shot himself in the foot due to lack of weight. He had the map reworked and Diaz became the biggest winner of the entire fiasco. It's just a remarkable turn of events. It wasn't exactly a pretty fight and if Ferguson hadn't been shot and choked for a sloppy takedown who knows how the rest of the fight would have gone had he stayed on his feet. However, Diaz had his moment to end it and now he must decide what the future holds for him. However, it seems pretty clear to me what will happen at this point. Diaz is aiming for a cash fight boxing match with Jake Paul — win or lose to Anderson Silva on Oct. 29 — then he'll come back looking for a title fight, a Conor McGregor trilogy, or the biggest option available in the UFC welterweight division. We're hoping Diaz can maximize every opportunity on the horizon as he's certainly taken the past of greatest resistance to get here. Visit MMA Junkie's event hub for UFC 279 for more information on the card.

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Texas and the Sun Belt roiled the CFB hierarchy in a weekend that turned the sport on its head

The Longhorns came this close to taking down the Crimson Tide No. 1, and the Sun Belt disrupted everything we thought we knew about college football. (Author: Gardener)

the Sun BeltBut for 59 minutes against Alabama, Texas seemed amazingly close to turning the page of a decade of heartbreak, embarrassment and jokes before falling 20-19 into the tide. As it turned out, it was a fitting appetizer for a day of utter chaos - much of it was supplied from the Sunbelt. Appalachian States stuns Texas A&M. Georgia Southern may have delivered the last dagger to Scott Frost in Nebraska. It was such an impressive performance by the Sun Belt that Kevin Warren has already expressed interest in adding six of his teams. Then there was Kentucky, which ended Anthony Richardson's Heisman Trophy campaign before Florida even had a chance to print a series of promotional jorts. Washington State took to the streets and beat Wisconsin, and USC's offense looked just as dangerous as the best of Lincoln Riley's Oklahoma teams. For much of the 12 years since Texas last played Alabama -- another game in which it lost its starting quarterback -- the Longhorns have served as the national punchline with "Texas is back!" the simplest joke in college football. (However, credit is due to Texas for providing numerous other materials, from "OK, cool. It's been a wild decade.") And yet, Saturday's Texas was no joke. It was a worthy competitor for a team many expect to win the national title. It was a team that could have pulled the miracle with Ewers - or perhaps a more correctly called end zone safe in the third quarter - but it did was still a loss, the seventh in the past nine games for Texas. But the feeling afterwards isn't the familiar aura of uneasiness. No, as Gen Z kids would say, Saturday felt like a real mood swing. Texas might have won with Ewers leaving the game with a shoulder injury in the first half (or maybe because he only had enough quarters to feed the yard by halftime.) Texas might have won if it just wasn't Texas hadn't the team that had been on the won for so long on the wrong side of things that the universe just couldn't allow such a massive disruption to occur so early in the season if it had Bryce Young, who once again proved he's the best player in college football (and spared that weatherman a very embarrassing apology during Sunday's weather report). Young notched 68 yards on Alabama's 11-play touchdown drive with 8:29 left, a merciless shredding of a hitherto dominant Texas defense. Then, after the Longhorns took a two-point lead by 1:29, Young delivered again, a Houdini-like escape from a sack that turned into a 20-yard gain that set up the game-winning field goal. "When his best was needed," said Saban after the game, "he was really good." Young has done this time and time again in his brilliant career, saving Alabama against Florida, LSU and Auburn last year, and again on Saturday, with one unflappable late drive after another. As much as we should turn our attention elsewhere, he is arguably college football's greatest player. How good is Texas? Ewers shredded Alabama's secondary before suffering a shoulder injury in the first half, and Longhorns fans will be wondering for the next few days -- heck, maybe the next few years -- what would have happened if the former five-star recruit had stayed in the game. The Texas defense dominated at the scrimmage line, inhaling Alabama blockers and tormenting Young throughout, while the DBs gave the Tide virtually nothing in downfield. Young remains a superstar, and Will Anderson Jr. delivered with a game-saving sack when it was needed most. But a good chunk of the state of Texas already knew that Bill O'Brien wasn't exactly a Hall of Famer inductee. Alabama's receivers offered little help, and the O-line was hardly the wall we've grown accustomed to from Saban's teams over the years. Has Saban's NIL money from all those Aflac commercials become a distraction for the team? (Note: Why hasn't this been a message board topic yet?) It's easy to dismiss a setback in Alabama because previous predictions of Saban's demise have resulted in utter embarrassment for all the dime store Miss Cleos who predicted it. And yet we've seen this version of Alabama more often over the past year -- often against weaker teams -- than we've seen during most of Saban's elite career. The fact that a red-headed kicker named Bert Auburn nearly sealed a Texas win over The Tide would have us believe it was us. That's actually fitting, because over the last 12 years the only case that could be made for Texas' return to national importance required a little theoretical physics and a healthy imagination. No, Texas isn't back, but even a win on Saturday wouldn't have proved the Longhorns had reached a long-awaited pinnacle. And what Saturday was, despite the final score, was a necessary and emphatic step in the right direction. Fifteen years ago, it was an earth-shattering moment when the Appalachian state shut down a traditional power. Slight surprise perhaps as the Mountaineers deliver their latest madness on Saturday. Check out App State's recent story against the Power 5: Just a week ago, the Mountaineers traded body punches with North Carolina in a 63-61 loss. In 2021 only a late field goal saved Miami, who won 25:23. In 2019, App State won on the road in North Carolina and South Carolina. In 2017 it lost just one point to Wake Forestby. Add another overtime loss to Tennessee in 2016, and App was tied or ahead in eight of their last 10 against the Power 5 in the fourth quarter. That was kind enough to exceed his fans' expectations in Week 2 instead of waiting until October to do so. The Aggies totaled just 186 yards and one offensive touchdown. A&M paid App State $1.5 million to come to College Station. Add that to the $9 million paid Jimbo Fisher not to develop a quarterback and that's a lot of money without much return on investment. Regarded as a quarterback whisperer for years, Fisher put three straight into the first round of the NFL draft during his tenure in Florida. No Fisher QB in that span completed 60% of their passes and threw more than 20 TDs in a season. After a loss to Ohio State in the opening game, Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman insisted there was a silver lining: The Irish clearly had their QB in Tyler Buchner. Buchner's line in Saturday's 26-21 loss to Marshall: 21-of-38 for 221 yards and two picks, including one for a TD, that all but sealed the Thundering Herd's overwhelming surprise late in the fourth quarter. The Irish are 2-0 in a season for the first time since 2011. Florida State Transfer player Khalan Laborn ran 163 yards for Marshall, the longest distance the Irish have allowed for a back since 2016. Or maybe it's the AP voters' fault for over-rating Notre Dame (again). According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Irish are the first team to start 2-0 and rank in the AP top 10 in both games since the Ohio State Buckeyes in 1986. The Irish finished as a 20.5-point favorite, making this Notre Dame's third biggest upset in 45 years -- and biggest since the team fell to the Air Force in 1996. The Sun Belt delivered shocking victories over Texas A&M and Notre Dame on Saturday, and some might suspect there was a third big upset as well. But these people haven't seen Nebraska football under Scott Frost. Yes, Georgia Southern was a 22.5-point underdog. And yes, the Eagles were less than a minute to play and four back. It ended the same way in 11 straight single-digit games for Nebraska. Scott Frost is Charlie Brown and the universe is Lucy. He keeps trying to play football. Georgia Southern engineered an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to take a 45-42 lead, and Nebraska missed a final 52-yard field goal attempt. All 11 losses are less than 10 points. He won a national championship in 2017, and nobody — we mean nobody — messes with Nick Saban and gets away with it. Just look at what happened to Jimbo Fisher on Saturday. Point 1: Saturday's win was Washington State's first win over a non-conference opponent since it beat Colorado -- back when Colorado was in the Big 12 -- in 2003. It's also the first win over a conference opponent of every Pac-12 team since Oregon led Ohio State in Week 2 last year. Overall, the Pac-12 is only 4-13 in these playoff-era situations, including the Cougars' win on Saturday. Point 2: Saturday was only the second time in Braelon Allen's last 11 games that he did not go for 100 yards on the ground. Point 1: Tennessee had 16 QB pressure, four sacks and nine tackles for the loss. Point 2: In Hendon Hooker's last nine games -- five of which have been played against ranked opponents -- he completes 67% of his passes for an average of 9.4 yards per attempt and has 26 touchdowns with just two interceptions. Point 1: Joey Maguire makes the Red Raiders look good for two weeks, and a date with NC Stateis is on the horizon. Texas Tech has 99 points so far this season. Last year in Western Kentucky, Kittley's offense only had a 94. Point 2: So who's the favorite to become a team outside of the Power 5 with realistic playoff hopes after Houston loses? It's a shame Appalachian State North Carolina couldn't close last week as the Mountaineers would have a terribly compelling resume. Point 1: Jaren Hall is perhaps the most underrated QB in college football. Against Baylor's barbaric defense and without his two top receivers, Hall still delivered an electric performance, completing 23 of 39 for 269 yards and then rushing for 28 more - including some big scrambles down the stretch - while also catching a TD pass. In his last six games, Hall has played nearly 2,000 yards of offense with 17 touchdowns and only three picks. Oh, and BYU is 6-0 in these games. Point 2: Dave Aranda made the bold call at the end of spring to name Blake Shapen his starting quarterback, ousting last year's starter Gerry Bohannon. However, for most of Saturday's game, Baylor showed minimal confidence in Shapen's ability to deliver when it mattered. Despite averaging just 2.9 yards per carry, Baylor ran the ball 52 times. Add 14 penalties - including two false starts in a goal-to-go situation in Double OT, and it was a game Baylor will likely see himself throwing himself in for a while. Two weeks into the season, Syracuse, Kansas, UCLA, North Carolina and Duke are all undefeated. Mark Stoops has clearly turned this into a football school. The Wildcats' defense dominated Florida Saturday, turning a pick six into a 26-16 win -- No. 61 in Stoop's career at Lexington, surpassing Paul "Bear" Bryant for most wins in school history. The win also marked the first time Kentucky had defeated Florida in consecutive years since 1976-77. The former Jimbo Fisher assistant has even had two more wins than his old boss (40) since 2017 (42). Kentucky's star running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. missed a second straight game, but it wasn't a problem for the Wildcats, who simply added a couple of shots from Kavosiey Smoke, who broke for 80 yards on 14 carries to speed up the offense. So when Kentucky's crew plane lands in Lexington, let's hope Calipari will be there to carry Stoops' luggage. That's how it works in football schools. Anthony Richardson made the case for the Heisman hype last week. Nonetheless, Richardson's conference mates retain the top two spots as we wrap up Week 2. As impressive as Young has been since taking charge of the Alabama offense last season, he hadn't shown much interest in leading the ball. But last week he rushed for 100 against Utah State, and his 20-yard scramble on Saturday was key in setting up the game-winning field goal against Texas. Because if there's one thing SEC opponents needed, it was for Young to become more versatile. Bennett continued his stellar opener against Oregon by searing an FCS opponent, throwing for 300 yards and scoring two touchdowns. He also learned this week that he is now, in fact, third in line to the British throne. Stroud threw for 351 yards and threw four TDs in a 45-12 win over Arkansas State on Saturday. In three career starts, Maye has thrown 74% of his throws for 930 yards with 11 TDs and only one pick, and he has a 3-0 UNC. Even more impressive is that a majority of those stats came up against App State, which Texas A&M will be the first to say is no easy feat. There were just three punts, almost 1,000 yards, 18 third-down conversions and four game-changing touchdowns in general. Oh, and Army threw 300 yards in a game for the first time in 15 years. The Black Knights led 28-14 after scoring early in the second half, but UTSA responded with three straight TD drives to take a 35-28 lead. The Army responded with a game-changing TD to play 1:03, but UTSA wasn't done yet. The Roadrunners streaked 53 yards in nine games to set up a game-winning 41-yard field goal try... Instead, it was Frank Harris who delivered the final dagger in overtime, tying with JT Clark for a touchdown and a 41-38 met victory. Harris threw 359 yards in the game, which defeated the Army trio of passers, who rallied 304 yards through the air. The last time Army hit that mark was on November 17, 2007 against Tulsa when Carson Williams shot for 340 - on 38 passes. East Kentucky's Jayden Higgins made his stretch-armstrong impression by catching the one-handed grip in the second quarter against Bowling Green. Of course, Higgins wasn't the last highlight of this game. His catch put Bowling Green at 10-7, but EKU would eventually charge back to take a 31-17 lead midway through the third quarter. Not to be outdone, the Falcons scored the next three touchdowns to take a 38-31 lead before Higgins caught a 3-yard TD pass after time was up to send the game into overtime. The two teams traded points in seven overtime periods before EKU walked away with a 59-57 win. Across the country, fans were left without access to digital tickets Saturday afternoon, including the good folks in Iowa. However, Iowa's offensive affliction keeps returning a "Error 404: Page Not Found." After Iowa eluded South Dakota State in Week 1 with a 7-3 win (a field goal and two safeties that made up all of Iowa's points), Iowa lost the CyHawk Trophy to Iowa State 10-7 on Saturday . According to Elias, this is the first time since 1979 that an FBS or Division I-A team has scored 10 points or fewer and allowed 10 or fewer in each of their first two games. One wonders how long Kirk Ferentz can allow his son to call when Iowa has 14 points and kicked 16 punts after two games this season. Is it too early to talk about Mike Elko as Coach of the Year nominee? With Elko winning just five games combined over the previous two seasons, Duke is 2-0 after beating Northwestern 31-23. Jordan Waters scored two goals on the floor and Duke caught up a fumble in the end zone with just seconds on the clock to secure the win. One look ahead at the Blue Devils schedule -- FCS North Carolina A&T, Kansas, Virginia and Georgia Tech await next -- and there's a real chance the ACC's worst team will bowl at the top in Elko's first year. Or maybe it's a little bit of Duke's patented preseason success. Since 2017, the Blue Devils have gone 7-1 in August and September in Power 5 non-conference games -- the most such wins of any Power 5 team. Their only loss came to Alabama in 2019. Five of those wins came as underdogs. After the season's opening month, however, things didn't go quite so well. Power 5 teams in October, November and December on this route. Betting on Alabama to cover the spread in the first half was one of the safest bets in the sport. As of 2020, Saban's team is 21-7 against the spread in the first half of games (and 11-4 ATS overall in non-conference play). The line opened with Alabama as the 11.5-point favorite, but that number rose to 14 as 95% of tickets support the tide. Instead, The Tide went into halftime with Texas at 10 - a reminder that even Bryce Young can't overtake Vegas. Northwestern was on course for a potentially level TD - and a cover for bettors taking the over from 57 - when Evan Hull rumbled towards the end zone with just seconds left on the clock. But Hull fumbled at the 1, and Duke rallied in the end zone to secure the 31-23 win - and the Under, painfully. So how much would a $100 bet have paid out for these two teams? According to ESPN's David Purdum, a Caesars bettor in New Jersey cashed in an even more unlikely combination - winning all three legs of an in-game bet on Marshall (+1050), Washington State (+650) and App State (+). 700). On Saturday, Kansas was an underdog in a Big 12 game for the 110th consecutive year, a streak that dates back to 2009 -- three years before West Virginia joined the league. In fact, Saturday's 14-point spread was the lowest for Kansas in a conference game since 2009. The Jayhawks won outright, defeating West Virginia 55-42 in overtime. Kansas added a pick of six in OT to become the rare two-point winner outside of regulation.) Kansas has now gone four straight as Big 12 underdogs, including two overall wins -- on Saturday and last season against Texas. (Sorry, Texas. We didn't have to rub salt on your wounds, but it's just so funny.) They're the first team to win at 13 in OT since Central Michigan beat Eastern Michigan 36-23 in 1998. The Sun Belt spent Saturday doing magic. The Sunbelt spent Saturday doing magic. First it was Marshall (+950) who knocked off Notre Dame No. 8. First it was Marshall (+950) who knocked off Notre Dame No. 8. Then it was Appalachian State (+750) that toppled No. 6 Texas A&M. Then it was Appalachian State (+750) that toppled No. 6 Texas A&M. Then it was Georgia Southern (+1,250) who toppled Nebraska. Add in Washington State (+650) and upset Wisconsin, and it was the first time since the FBS and FCS split in 1978 that four teams favored by 17.5 points or more all lost. According to ESPN's David Purdum, a New Jersey bettor conceded three of them in a live bet, hitting Marshall, App State and Washington State in the process - turning a $50 bet into a $34,450 payout. If you bet all four at kickoff, you would have won $850,400 on a $100 bet. That would bring Scott Frost's buyout a big step closer.

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Love and Donner, 'literally nothing matters

When Taika Waititi's Marvel adventure comes to Disney Plus, is it... too funny? (Author: Gardener)

DonnerFollowing the hilarious and action-packed Thor: Ragnarok, Thor: Love and Thunder was one of the most anticipated films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Nothing that happens in this film counts. I love director Taika Waititi's comedic style in Our Flag Means Death, What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. And I'm very excited about Chris Hemsworth's increasing opportunities to showcase his comic talents. So initially I had a lot of fun watching Love and Thunder and laughed a lot. But with every gag that flew by, I grew increasingly frustrated with a movie that just doesn't seem to care. Right after seeing Love and Thunder, I re-watched Ragnarok and was surprised that the earlier film wasn't as funny as I remembered it being. Let me put it another way: It's funny as hell, but compared to the new film it's actually not as mercilessly full of gags. Love and Thunder goes all out every time. For example, the plot hinges on Asgard's children being kidnapped. This is a horrific situation and something that Asgardian heroes are likely to urgently want to deal with. Except once the kids are gone, Thor and Jane start more "awkward ex" banter. They're then able to communicate with the kids locked in a terrifying spider-like cage by a nightmarish, possessed child thief who horrifyingly emerges from the shadows, and somehow that becomes a gag-fest too. I understand that this is a family film, deliberately designed as a comedy (in the way Doctor Strange approaches the horror genre, or the Captain America films nod to spy thrillers). But while Waititi's irreverence felt like a breath of fresh air for the MCU in Ragnarok, here it tipped into overly eel slickness. The shot that encapsulates this unrelenting gag-blasting approach comes early. Chris Pratt's Star-Lord turns to his fellow Guardians of the Galaxy as he talks about looking those you love in the eye only for Thor to stick his head in the frame. It's funny right now. But the whole film is like this: Whenever real emotions arise, a gag forces itself into view. The other big issue, to be fair, is actually a long-held criticism of the MCU. The folks at Marvel are constantly having their cake and eating it, wreaking havoc on fans with big emotional moments by killing well-loved characters—only to then bring those well-loved (and lucrative) characters back to life so we can adventure more with them . Love and Thunder highlights this issue. In the opening voiceover, Korg explains that Thor has become vulnerable and conflicted from losing so many people close to him. But the same scene makes a joke of the many times Loki has died, come back, died again (and repeats). By making a gag out of it, the film undermines the point. So it's hard to invest in Thor's fear. One way to balance that would be to throw in some real consequences and actually hurt some of the lovable supporting characters. Balancing humor and sadness is one of Waititi's greatest skills in films like Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and JoJo Rabbit. And indeed Love and Thunder does just that as Korg, Zeus and Jane all die. Korg's gruesome death is barely noticed as he is instantly knocked over. Thor's furious murder of Zeus is another shocking moment as the god of thunder gives in to the hotheaded violence he's said to have outgrown. It's a chilling moment that should draw parallels between our hero and villain Gorr the God butcher. Except that Zeus isn't dead, as shown in a post-credits scene. And then the post-credits scenes of Love and Thunder undo a major death. The biggest sad moment is the loss of Jane Foster. She became the mighty Thor who saves her from cancer, but her human body is worn down by the powers bestowed on her. Considering the film makes such a fuss about showing a woman who can be as powerful as any edgy male superhero, it's odd that her story hinges on her not being strong enough to handle it . The worst part about Jane's death, however, is - you guessed it - it doesn't stick. Her death in Thor's arms is the big emotional culmination of Love and Thunder, and yet she stays dead about as long as it takes you to put on your cloak. In the post-credits scene, the not-so-late Jane is welcomed into Valhalla by Idris Elbas Heimdall, another character who was "shockingly" killed (in Avengers: Infinity War). Why should we be sad? I want to like Love and Thunder and it's a superficially entertaining comedy. But - and no one is more amazed than me - of the two Marvel films this year, I liked Doctor Strange better than Taika Waititi. Love and Thunder is just too reckless. Why should we feel anything when clearly none of it matters?

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How the Premier League stalled as the nation around Queen Elizabeth II

When two footmen on the railings outside Buckingham Palace announced the Queen's death, a decision had to be made as to whether sport would continue. (Author: Gardener)

Queen Elizabeth II"London Bridge is down." These are believed to be the code words used by officials to spread the news of Queen Elizabeth II's death, first to the Prime Minister and members of the British government and then to other countries where she was a head of state or figurehead . Thursday's confirmation of the Queen's death at the age of 96 came as both a shock to an unbelieving nation and an event that had been planned for years. Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen's private secretary for a decade until 2017, was a former diplomat who was knighted for a second time in 2014, partly for organizing her succession. Elements of "Operation London Bridge," the master plan detailing the mechanics of guiding a country through a period of mourning and transition to a new monarch (now King Charles III), had previously leaked, giving us all a clue as to what would come . Very little was left to chance, but among the unknowns - until the moment actually came - was how the formalities would fit into pre-existing events and long-standing commitments. Sport occupies a significant place within this gray area - especially football, as it is the national sport. And so, when two lackeys posted a notice of the Queen's death on the railing outside Buckingham Palace just after 6.30pm. On Thursday, the immediate response was to stop, just as the country had ground to a halt given the gravity of the moment. Evening horse races at Chelmsford and Southwell were canceled halfway through the map, while all Friday races were canceled as were two of the day's English Football League games - Burnley v Norwich City in the Championship and Tranmere Rovers v Stockport County in the second tier. The Europa League games at Manchester United (who lost to Real Sociedad) and West Ham United (who beat FCSB) were allowed to take place at 8 p.m. Kickoffs made it unsafe to give them up at such a late date, but that initial discussion usually led to what would happen next. Sources have told ESPN that various governing bodies including the English Football Association (FA), Premier League and EFL were considering what to do with the weekend's games before deciding against a sudden ruling. And it was that sentiment that prompted those in charge of the game not to make a rushed decision on Thursday night when the outburst of emotions began. People began to gather outside Buckingham Palace, flowers were laid at Balmoral - the Queen's residence in Scotland where she died with her family around her - while all five major terrestrial television networks broadcast either live news or pre-recorded programs telling her documented lives. A document entitled "The Death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II: National Guidance on Bereavement" was circulated a few hours after her death. It addressed the issue of sport: "There is no obligation to cancel or reschedule events and sporting events or to close entertainment venues during the national mourning period." As a mark of respect, organizations may wish to consider canceling or postponing events or closing locations on the day of the national mourning state funeral. “If sporting events or events are planned for the day of the state funeral, organizations may wish to adjust event times so that they do not conflict with the times of the funeral service and associated processions. As a mark of respect and in keeping with the tone of national mourning, organizers may wish to observe a period of silence and/or play the national anthem at the start of events or sporting events, and players may wish to wear black armbands. The Premier League then assembled its board and representatives from all 20 clubs at 11am to discuss their next move. Queen Elizabeth II's remarkable longevity makes historical precedent so remote as to minimize its relevance, but when King George VI. died on February 6, 1952, there was a whole series of football league games three days later. However, games were suspended when Princess Diana died in August 1997 and, in another context, football resumed at the first opportunity following the outbreak of COVID-19, partly on the basis of the morale boost that a nation's competitive sport consistently far widespread would give pain. Football prides itself on showing respect in difficult social moments and here an unfortunate opportunity had arisen. Also, while the Premier League meeting was taking place, it was confirmed that rugby union would resume, while word quickly spread that cricket and golf were likely to continue. Rugby league later stated publicly that it would continue. However, sources have told ESPN that the Premier League have decided not to continue their games following a board decision then supported by clubs. At typical gatherings, clubs vote, requiring 14 of the 20 teams to submit a motion, but this situation was different. Sources say talks were taking place between the Premier League, EFL and Women's Super League to coordinate their response after the DCMS meeting, resulting in the postponement of all this weekend's games, including Monday night's Premier League game between Leeds United and Nottingham Forest. Tottenham Hotspur boss Antonio Conte has already called the schedule "insane", while others, including Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, have expressed fears of player burnout given the sheer volume of games. A source suggested that had the Queen died on a Friday or Saturday the decision would have been a formality, but this weekend comes amid the initial wave of shock at the announcement and the likely wave of mourning at the funeral date to be confirmed, but is speculated to be Sunday September. The governance regarding the funeral is clearer. "As a mark of respect, organizations may wish to consider canceling or postponing events or closing venues on the day of the state funeral," the document reads. If the funeral takes place in September, it will be Britain's first state funeral since the death of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, and people will travel to London from all corners of the world. The police operation will begin at the weekend regardless of the actual date of the funeral, so the prospect of a possible disruption to a second week of play is clear. Discussions on how to deal with this situation will continue in the coming days. More directly, sources have told ESPN that UEFA is in talks with relevant stakeholders over whether to host next week's Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League matches involving English clubs. Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, West Ham and Manchester United will all be in action, as will Scottish clubs Rangers, Celtic and Hearts. The Queen's grandson, Prince William, is President of the FA and she was a patron of the organization herself. According to football governing bodies, the logistical difficulties are being eclipsed by a desire to pause to acknowledge a milestone in a nation's history and the end of an era. There will never be another Queen Elizabeth II.

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With the departure of Rafael Nadal, the men's US Open title is suddenly on the brink

The "Big Four" of tennis will be played in the final three rounds of the U.S. Open completely absent after Rafael Nadal was upset by Frances Tiafoe. (Author: Gardener)

Rafael NadalNEW YORK - Contrary to popular belief, the top four players in the current era of men's tennis have not won every Grand Slam title since 2003. But almost without exception, the presence of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray have defined the hunt for trophies for almost two decades. S. Open titles like Marin Cilic in 2014. Or if you were Stan Wawrinka you could beat two of them in Australia 2014 and France 2015, feats that have aged like an old Burgundy since the Grand Slam of Nadal ( 22) counts. , Djokovic (21) and Federer (20) rose to absurd heights and made them seem more inevitable than ever. Nick Kyrgios' quest for his first Grand Slam championship advanced to the quarterfinals after beating Daniil Medvedev. Men's tennis hasn't had a truly wide-open Grand Slam in a long, long time. Again in 2020, when Djokovic was disqualified for smacking a ball in anger that hit a lineswoman in the throat, it turned out to be a long-awaited crowning glory for Dominic Thiem, who was by far the best non-major player for a couple of years . From NFL games to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day. But now that both Nadal and defending champion Daniil Medvedev are out of the draw, this is everyone's tournament. And for a group of players who have spent most of their careers in the second division and are banging their heads against the Big Four wall, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. "I'm sure everyone is licking their lips about that," said Frances Tiafoe, who defeated Nadal on Monday. MORE: Frances Tiafoe stuns No. 2 Rafael Nadal at US Open, a milestone for American men's tennis OPINION: As Serena Williams leaves the US Open, Coco Gauff arrives - and looks poised to win all the boys at the business end of a grand - Slam finals lurking have been a psychological hurdle for some generations of men's tennis players. In recent years it has been clearer than ever that players like Tomas Berdych, Milos Raonic and David Ferrer ending their slam-less careers wasn't so much a blow to their game as more of a fluke that they were born at the same time as tennis aliens who were mostly only vulnerable to each other. This era has not yet fully ended, but it has reached sunset. S. Open is so fascinating that by next weekend we will find out who can handle the pressure of losing something. "I just take it day by day," Tiafoe said. On Wednesday it will be a fun ride next Sunday should be whoever holds the trophy in his hand. It's a different Kyrgios since Wimbledon, where he played competitively against Djokovic in his first Grand Slam final. After years of pretending not to care about his unfulfilled potential, he's now outspoken Kyrgios at the age of 27 spoke about the yearning for big titles. But at Wimbledon, Kyrgios was a major outsider who knew he shouldn't beat Djokovic on Center Court. Now, after playing what might be the best Grand Slam match of his career to beat Medvedev in the fourth round, it's unclear how he'll handle the role of favourite: "I just mentally have the first six, seven years of my career like that fought," said Kyrgios, I just didn't know how to deal with it. I honestly don't know how to deal with it. I hit myself way too hard. Now I feel like I know the process it takes to get to the final at a Grand Slam. Not to win yet, but to get into the final. I know the process. SIGN UP FOR OUR SPORTS NEWSLETTER: All the sports news you need to know, delivered straight to you! If doubts and deviations have ruled Kyrgios' path, 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz has enjoyed a stunning rise over the past 12 months. He showed some of his electric talent here last year when he reached the quarter-finals, but really started to pull it all together when he won major titles in Miami and Madrid this spring. There is no doubt that Alcaraz will win Grand Slams, and maybe many of them. But there has been more uncertainty and vacillation in his game since the French Open and he has lost twice since then to Jannik Sinner, the 21-year-old Italian prodigy he will meet again in the quarters. Sinner feels like he's on the verge of winning one of those things. At Wimbledon, he was two sets clear of Djokovic in the quarterfinals, only to find he didn't have enough to finish the job. After beating Nadal on Monday, Tiafoe will now enter a world with very different expectations. Although his game has become more steady and refined over the past year and a half by working with longtime top 20 player Wayne Ferreira, he has still only won one ATP title. S. Open as the best legitimate American hope since Andy Roddick will be a life changing experience. Tiafoe will find solace in the quarterfinals against Andrey Rublev, whom he beat in the third round of last year's U.S. defeated Open. But the hard-hitting Rublev can rightly call himself a favorite, having already played in five Grand Slam quarterfinals with 11 ATP titles. "I hope I'm a better player now, but you never know with me," Rublev said before knowing his opponent in the quarterfinals. Of course it won't be Rafa. In a way, it was mentally liberating to play against Nadal and know what a colossal obstacle he was to dozens of top players at the biggest tournaments. Another layer on top of that, with Nadal losing, the race for No. 1 in the rankings is wide open. If Alcaraz wins the tournament, he will become the youngest No. 1 player in ATP Tour history. Casper Ruud, who reached this year's French Open final only to be blown away by Nadal, could also become No. 1 if he wins the title. He meets Matteo Berrettini on Tuesday, who lost the Wimbledon final to Djokovic last year. "I'm not really paying attention because I'm not," Rublev said, laughing. But the truth is that with Federer still trying to come back from knee surgery one last time, Djokovic can't enter the US because he refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine and Nadal is now out of the draw , every remaining player will be tight a certain level from here on out. This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: US Open men's title suddenly on the line with Rafael Nadal's departure | opinion

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Katrina Kaif looks gorgeous as she shares a glimpse of her 'Sunday spirit'

Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif took a glimpse of her weekend mood on social media on Sunday. The 'Ek Tha Tiger' actor shared this on Instagram (Author: Gardener)

Katrina KaifSee Image: Sonam Kapoor and Anand Ahuja dedicate a special artwork to their newborn baby Katrina Kaif looks adorable as she shares a glimpse of her 'Sunday spirit'. BHU) Varanasi has reached another milestone in supply chain overhaul via data analyticsKartik Aaryan's 'Freddy' may opt for direct OTT release, makers in talks for whopping deal We're serving personalized stories based on city chosenOKEnglishTim Roth admits that he's Emil Blonsky changed a lot in 'She-Hulk'Harry Styles reportedly spits at Chris Pine, kisses Nick Kroll on the lips at the 'Don't Worry Darling' premiere - Watch viral videoHarry Styles talks acting and music at the Don't Worry Darling Press Conference; but Chris Pine's meme-worthy utterances are WINNING the internetTamilPonniyin Selvan Audio Launch: This is my dream role says Chiyaan VikramFilmmaker Anand to create the Tamil dialogues for Sivakarthikeyan's "Prince" as Rajini and Kamal won us over with their public display of friendship Telugu "Captain" is the first creature film in Indian cinema; Arya-Exclusive "Getting the partnership with Sudhakar Reddy means we're giving a successful movie". Captain will bring you a unique cinematic experience - Actor Arya at the pre-release event, Hyderabad is RRR director SS. Rajamouli also participates in distribution of Brahmastra? The creators of 'Brahmastra' have an exclusive fan screening a day before the official release starring Alia-Ranbir Epic Historical DramaMalayalamDhyan and Divya Pillai as a married couple in a thriller film, IDIndrans and Sharafudeen come together in a family story directed by Shafi Hat a well-known director said “don't act” in his debut film? Kalidas Jayaram writes a heartfelt wish for parents Jayaram and Parvathy on their 30th wedding anniversary. Darling KrishnaExclusive: Vijay Raghavendra shares screen space with Bhavana Menon and Kushee RaviExclusive: The title of Shivarajkumar and Prabhudeva's next foray into the panchatantraExclusive: A After Cannes, Shivamma headed to BusanBengaliKolkata fans to erect Ranbir Kapoor's huge cleavage to Celebrate the Release of "Brahmastra" Stop Improving Indian CinemaBling it on! Mimi Chakraborty turns heads in shimmering party attire. Punjabi'Maa Da Ladla Trailer: Neeru Bajwa and Tarsem Jassar Reunite for Fun Family Drama #HappyTeachersDay - Himanshi Khurana: “A life lesson I've learned is that it doesn't matter what life throws at you, you you're stronger than you think.” - Exclusive Shehnaaz Gill is trolled for her 'beard tweet'; Netizen says 'ask your grandfather to shave first' Sargun Mehta writes cutest note for Akshay Kumar, calls him 'a superstar in every sense' Sargun Mehta heaps praise on Akshay Kumar, says he gives free rein to Marathi Sai Tamhankar to explore and experiment Prasad Oak; Marathi celebrities visiting Lalbaugcha Raja to invoke Bappa's blessings; See PicturesBhojpuri's Romantic Song "Karihaiyan Mein Raja" By Arvind Akela Kallu And Zoya Khan Is Out! After MMS went viral, Trisha Kar Madhu returns to her glamor mode. Watch VideoRaunaq Kamdar Reveals Motion Poster Of His Next 'Chabutro'Hemang Dave On 'Medal': I Will Break My Comedy Image With This Movie - Exclusive!Alisha Prajapati Wishes Fans Ganesh Chaturthi See Image » » » » Katrina Kaif Sees gorgeous as she shares a glimpse of her 'Sunday Vibes'. Taking to Instagram, the 'Ek Tha Tiger' actress shared an adorable video titled 'Sunday Vibes'. In the video, Katrina was seen on her balcony flaunting her sweet smile in a casual outfit. Fans can't stop raving about Katrina's super cute video and have flooded the comments section with red heart emoticons. Meanwhile, on the labor frontline, Katrina is next set to star in an upcoming horror comedy film, Phone Booth, opposite Siddhant Chaturvedi and Ishaan Khatter, which is set for release on November 4, 2022. The film faces a major Bollywood conflict with Arjun Kapoor's dark comedy Kuttey. She also has an action thriller film 'Tiger 3' opposite Salman Khan which is slated to hit theaters on April 23, 2023 and will share the screen with Tamil superstar Vijay Setupathi for her long awaited film 'Merry Christmas' . . Also readPriyanka Chopra shares unseen throwback photo with her late father as she remembers him on his birthday: 'We miss you. Then she is also part of Farhan Akhtar's Jee Le Zaraa alongside Alia Bhatt and Priyanka Chopra. As per recent updates, Katrina will soon be coming to Karan Johar's chat show 'Koffee with Karan' along with her 'Phone Bhoot' stars Siddhant and Ishaan to promote her film. Right ArrowOnam 2022: Best Photoshoots of this Festive Season10 Rarest Moments Caught LIVE on Camera: Ranbir on the Failing of 'Shamshera' Southern Stars Who Didn't Make It in B'WoodPrakash: When a Movie Like Dangal Is Boycotted...Rashami Desai's style game is always on point Kat Kristian's holiday snaps prove her love for travel! The best red carpet looks of the 67. the film amassed around Rs 60 crores at the box office00:57Urfi Javed grooves to 'Kala Chashma' in new Instagram reel; Troll writes: "Sunny Leone banna hai kya tujhe". a man who died02:28When Don Abu Salem from the underworld called Shah Rukh Khan and said: 'Abhi police ki zaroorat nahin tereko. Main nahin maroonga'01:12Watch: Sara Ali Khan's "after and before coffee" dance video with her hairdresser; Fans call it 'hilariously cute'01:18Rashmika rushes to catch her flight, says 'I'll miss it...'00:53Politician and actress Nusrat gets trolled for her bold pics00:55The problem with Bengaluru?

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