Bears

American Pharoah’s Triple Crown date with destiny

americanpharoahjockeyslide.png

American Pharoah’s Triple Crown date with destiny

This Saturday looks to be historic as American Pharoah looks to be the first horse to capture the Triple Crown since Affirmed did so in 1978. The $1.5 million Belmont Stakes goes as Race 11 on Saturday at Belmont Park with a 5:50 PM Central post time and will be carried live by NBC.

The entire weekend at Belmont is full of stakes action with strong cards leading up to the Saturday feature, but the Belmont itself didn’t come up overly strong as a field of eight is set to head to the gate. The weather forecast is for a slight chance of morning rain both Friday and Saturday in Elmont, New York.

Last year the world watched as California Chrome looked to capture the elusive Triple Crown. Following his fourth-place effort while never contending, the focus turned to the post-race comments of one of his owners, Steve Coburn as he wasn’t quite so eloquent in that moment of defeat. Will this year be another upset, or will we see a Triple Crown winner?  My prediction is that history will be made. I expect American Pharoah will add his name to the history books on Saturday.

Looking at the field for Saturday’s Belmont, a couple of things jumped off the page at me. Initially was the size, or lack thereof, of the field with only eight entered in the Belmont. More importantly though is that the Belmont Stakes is completely lacking of pace. Both of these should only benefit American Pharoah in his Triple Crown bid.

American Pharoah has been very solid throughout his entire stakes career, never losing in stakes-company. His Kentucky Derby victory was the closest margin of victory he has had, winning by a length, while every other win has been by three of more lengths. 

Experience can only help American Pharoah’s chances in the Belmont as Victor Espinoza is back in the saddle.  Espinoza has been in this situation twice, with War Emblem and California Chrome.  Each time he came of short, but the third time could be the charm. Espinoza clearly is not afraid of the big stage and his decision making ability aboard American Pharoah has been perfect.

With no pace in the Belmont, I am fully expecting that Espinoza and American Pharoah head straight for the lead and look to slow the pace down early. Materiality appears to be the only horse that may sit close while the remainder of the field likely settles back off the pace. While the mile and a half distance of the Belmont is the most taxing of the Triple Crown races, in this case it may not matter as the opening three quarters could be a walk in the park.

My expectations are that Materiality tosses in the towel in the turn while Espinoza opens the lead into the stretch under a hand ride. With the likes of Mubtaahij, Frosted and Madefromlucky to likely be running on late, they may be in a race for place as 90,000 fans onsite at Belmont cheer home a Triple Crown champ.

American Pharoah will meet his destiny on Saturday at Belmont.

Former GM says Matt Nagy will lose his job if Bears don't trade for QB

Former GM says Matt Nagy will lose his job if Bears don't trade for QB

There have been some strong takes on Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky over the last 24 hours, but none have been stronger than former NFL general manager Mike Lombardi's.

Lombardi, who now contributes to The Athletic, has always been a harsh critic of Trubisky. He's never believed in the former North Carolina product's ability to become a franchise quarterback and has taken often taken shots at the Bears' signal-caller.

And while Lombardi's never-ending lamenting of Trubisky sometimes comes across as agenda-driven, it's hard to dismiss his negativity at this point. Trubisky hasn't given Bears fans much ammunition to defend him. Now, with the offense hitting rock bottom against the Saints in Week 7, Lombardi is at it again.

This time, he has coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace in his crosshairs.

"If the Bears don’t make a trade for a quarterback, Nagy will lose his job within a year, and the team will never reach its full potential," Lombardi wrote on Monday. "That is not a mere guess, but a statement that has been backed up by NFL history and the experience of being in the NFL for so long.

"Making a trade might be hard internally because General Manager Ryan Pace has put his career on the line by making the move to bring Trubisky to Chicago. He traded assets to move up one spot in the draft, and it will be hard for him to admit that Trubisky cannot play. But he cannot let his ego get in the way of doing what is right. Teams cannot solve a problem if they don’t admit they have one, and Pace needs to stop lying to himself and others about his evaluation of Trubisky. The time has come." 

Suggesting that the Bears should make a trade for a quarterback before the deadline isn't the worst idea, especially because Chicago's defense is good enough to lead the team to the playoffs if there's a halfway competent quarterback under center. But it's a massive and ridiculous leap to suggest Nagy and Pace's jobs will be lost if they don't make a trade this season. Remember: Nagy was the NFL's Coach of the Year in 2018; he isn't on the hot seat. And while Pace certainly will have egg on his face for missing on Trubisky if the third-year quarterback doesn't develop (quickly), there's no reason to assume he won't get another offseason or two to get it right.

The more likely scenario, if Trubisky does, in fact, bottom out, is that Pace and the Bears will sign one of the veteran free-agent quarterbacks who will hit the open market next offseason. Players like Andy Dalton, Teddy Bridgewater and Marcus Mariota, while not world-beaters, would represent an upgrade at the position. Nagy just needs a guy who can be his Alex Smith; a game-manager who can score enough points to assist the defense. Any one of those three fit that description.

Perhaps the Bears missed on Trubisky. Maybe he'll turn it around. But to suggest Nagy and Pace won't get another swing at the position, together, is nothing more than a fiery hot take.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Zion Williamson's injury is devastating news for NBA fans of every allegiance, but there is a silver lining for Bulls fans

Zion Williamson's injury is devastating news for NBA fans of every allegiance, but there is a silver lining for Bulls fans

Monday afternoon, news broke that Pelicans rookie, awe-inspiring phenom and the subject of numerous long-forgotten basketball prophecies, Zion Williamson, will miss the first 6-8 weeks of the NBA season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn right meniscus. No reaction to this news is complete or legitimate without first acknowledging that this is a devastating development for anyone who loves this league and, of course, for Zion himself (human to human, injuries are brutal and we wish him the best). On a basketball note, Williamson looked every bit as exceptional as advertised this preseason, and the Pelicans are primed to be one of the most fun young teams the NBA has seen in a long while — a League Pass must-watch of the highest caliber.

But, unfortunately, the show will have to go on in New Orleans without their No. 1 overall pick, at least for the time being. In the wake of the initial report, NBA Twitter was ablaze with reactions, as one might expect. Among the highlights…

Historical comparisons were pondered:

 

 

 

Meniscuses (menisci?) were offered up:

 

Odds swung:

 

(Hi, Coby) 

Bandwagons tipped:

 

There is a silver lining for Bulls fans in all of this, though. Right now, barring a highly improbable (to put it lightly) NBA Finals matchup, the Bulls and Pelicans are slated to face off twice in the regular season, the first meeting of which will be on January 8 in New Orleans. According to the reported 6-8 week recovery timetable for Williamson, he should be set to return some time in between late November and mid-December. That means there’s a good chance Williamson will suit up for both games against the Bulls this season — unless, of course, nagging injuries plague his rookie campaign (please no). 

The city of Chicago got a taste of the legend of Zion this preseason, when the Pelicans visited the United Center on October 9. Williamson was exquisite in that contest, tallying 29 points on 12-of-13 shooting in 27 minutes of game action, accumulating a number of highlight-reel plays along the way:

Now, let us all come together and pray to the basketball gods for a speedy recovery and a long and healthy career for the Duke product. No matter your allegiances, there’s no doubt the NBA is better and more exciting league with him in it.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.