The Pulse: The mysterious Vikings, red-hot Nets and more MLB free-agency moves


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Good morning! Grab a cup of yerba mate and settle in.

While You Were Sleeping

Rivalry reset

Devin Booker scored 58 points last night to lift the Suns out of a 24-point hole against the Pelicans and win 118-114. Booker went 21-of-35 from the field, including 6-of-12 from 3; it was his second 50-point game of the season and fifth of his career.

New Orleans and Phoenix, the NBA’s newest rivalry, have now split their season series at two games each. The Pelicans beat the Suns twice earlier this month, including the game in which Zion Williamson jammed home a windmill dunk as the clock expired.

The Pelicans sit at No. 2 in the West and the Suns at No. 4, but Phoenix is only half a game behind New Orleans and 1 1/2 out of first place.

Fool’s Gold

The 11-3 mystery

On one hand, completing the largest comeback in NFL history — turning a 33-0 deficit into a 39-36 win, as the Vikings did against the Colts on Saturday — is a sign a team is capable of anything.

On the other: The Vikings continue to leave us questioning whether they’re actually good.

Minnesota entered Saturday with a negative point differential, despite its 10-3 record. It left with the NFC North title and its seventh fourth-quarter comeback of the season. That’s impressive and alarming; it means the Vikings have trailed in the fourth in 10 of 14 games.

  • The 33-point comeback broke a record set by the 1992 Bills, who overcame a 32-point deficit to defeat the Oilers 41-38 in an AFC wild-card game.
  • At halftime, Kirk Cousins was 6-of-12 for 43 yards. He proceeded to complete 28 of 42 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns in the second half and overtime. (Roller coaster for fantasy managers.)
  • The Colts dropped to 1-4 under interim coach Jeff Saturday and have been outscored 69-9 in the second halves of their last two games combined. Yikes.

One more stat to melt your brain, via Yahoo: Since 1930, teams were 1,548-1-1 when leading by 30-plus. Truly a work of art.

Elsewhere, Josh Allen looked like an MVP as the Bills clinched a playoff spot. And the Browns won a snoozer over the Ravens.

Here’s the full state of the playoff picture entering Sunday’s games.

Pulse Check

(Photo: Mark Blinch / Getty Images)

And just like that, the Nets are fourth in the Eastern Conference, just four games back from the No. 1 seed.

Next up is lottery-bound Detroit today (6 p.m. ET) and Golden State on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET) — but Brooklyn’s real tests will come at the end of this week and early next, Alex Schiffer writes. It’ll be Milwaukee on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET) and Cleveland on Monday (7 p.m. ET). Win those? Then we’re cooking with contender-level gas. Stay tuned.

World Cupdate

It’s final(ly) here

The juggernaut World Cup final between France and Argentina will kick off later this morning. We went over Friday how there’s little separation between the two sides. Staff predictions are split.

While you make coffee and wait, get ready with some of the best of The Athletic’s lead-up coverage:

Floodgates Open

More MLB free agents off the board

It’s been a big couple days in MLB free agency since we last spoke. Two moves, Andrew Benintendi signing with the White Sox (!?) and Dansby Swanson going to the Cubs, will trigger significant ripple effects.

Where do we stand now? Jurickson Profar is the top-ranked free agent on the market based on Law’s initial 50, followed by Gary Sánchez and Michael Brantley. We’ll keep you posted.

You Have To See This

Caution: This will make you feel old.

Frank Gore Jr., the son of the longtime NFL running back, wrote himself into college football history last night, rushing for a bowl-record 329 yards — on just 21 carries — and leading Southern Miss to a 38-24 win over Rice in the LendingTree bowl. Oh, and he also threw for a touchdown.

The younger Gore finished his third collegiate season with 1,382 yards. He has our attention.


Griner plans to play this season

Brittney Griner intends to play for the Mercury in the upcoming WNBA season after being detained in Russia for nearly nine months. “I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going,” Griner wrote in an Instagram post Friday. “I also want to make one thing very clear: I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season, and in doing so, I look forward to being able to say ‘thank you’ to those of you who advocated, wrote, and posted for me in person soon.”

Latest on Reyna

Veteran Tim Ream became the first member of the U.S. World Cup team to publicly comment on the Gio Reyna Situation, calling the controversy a “non-story.” “We dealt with it in camp, things moved on, we moved past it and that’s where we are. The players, there was no vote (on whether to send Reyna home). So we can put that to bed,” Ream said on a podcast, which also featured Christian Pulisic (who did not comment). Remember, even though it was supposed to be off the record, coach Gregg Berhalter did publicly bring up the situation. Is the case truly closed?

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(Top photo: Matt Krohn / USA Today)


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