Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein rates Cubs prospects


Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein rates Cubs prospects

Here's how the Bears can have the NFC North won by the end of next Sunday

Here's how the Bears can have the NFC North won by the end of next Sunday

With the Bears sitting at 9-4, it's time to acknowledge what everyone's been dancing around for two weeks: the Bears are making the playoffs. 

It's no longer an 'if' situation, but a 'when' and 'how?' 

According to 538, the Bears have >99% odds to make the playoffs and a 92% chance to win the division. A first round bye is less likely, with the odds of that currently sitting at 8%. Cut it down to 4% and you have the Bears' Super Bowl chances. 

So, how is this going to play out? The Bears' quickest path to an NFC North title starts tonight, when the Vikings head into Seattle on Monday Night Football. Should the Vikings lose, the Bears have complete control of their destiny. If the Bears can handle the Packers at Soldier on Sunday, the NFC North Champion tshirts and hats are theirs. 

Even if the Vikings win tonight, a playoff berth is still in the Bears' control. They can still beat the Packers and clinch a berth, even with the NFC North title having to wait. They'd also be guaranteed a berth with a Redskins -- who are probably going to start Josh Jackson-- loss against Jacksonville. 

It'd be the first time the Bears made the playoffs since 2010, when they lost in the NFC Championship game to the Packers. That was also the last year they won the NFC North. 

So all they have to do is just go beat Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to win an NFC North title. No big deal. 

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NBA Power Rankings: MVP race heating up


NBA Power Rankings: MVP race heating up

We are almost 30 games into the 2018-19 NBA regular season and the true contenders have started to seperate themselves from the pack.

The Raptors, Bucks and Sixers have been locked into a three-way race as the likely candidates for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, with the Celtics and Pacers gaining on them.

Out West, the entire conference is jumbled together with improved contenders popping up left and right, but the Warriors juggernaut appears  to be back on track. Strong MVP candidates have shaped the league this season and chief among them is former unanimous MVP Steph Curry. He has only played in 16 of their 27 games but has been absolutely astonishing when he has played.

The Warriors are a great team without Curry and a transcendent one with him. He is averaging 29 PPG, 5 APG and 5 RPG while shooting a career-best 51 percent from the field. Curry turned in a 42-point masterpiece in their recent win over the Cavaliers, and 20 points and 8 assists in a big win over the Bucks in Milwaukee.

The Bucks followed up that loss to the World Champion Warriors with a 5-point win over the Raptors. In the win, Milwaukee’s MVP candidate--Giannis Antetokounmpo--racked up 19 points, 19 rebounds and 6 assists and helped hold Kawhi Leonard to 8-18 shooting.

Even with the loss, Toronto is still in the top spot in the Eastern Conference and the play of Leonard is the driving force behind their league-leading 21 wins. And the other teams closing in on their record that haven’t been mentioned all have legitimate MVP hopefuls, sans the Clippers and Pacers, who have relied on an offense-by committee.

LeBron James—for once in his career—will actually be a dark-horse for MVP should the Lakers continue to sit in the lower half of the playoff race, fighting for seeds No.5 through No. 8. But his season can’t be ignored. James is leading the Lakers in points (28), assists (6), rebounds (7), and steals (1) per game. While Tyson Chandler and Javale McGee have been the key to the Lakers great defense, James has almost single-handedly elevated the Lakers offense to 15th in the league in offensive efficiency.

The Lakers will be a dangerous playoff team should they qualify, and it would be another reminder of the transformative power that James can have on a franchise.

We have big NBA games this week--more so in the West--that will suss out the MVP race a bit more. The Trail Blazers go up against the Grizzlies in Memphis, the Jazz take on the Magic in Mexico City, Nuggets play the Thunder in Denver and there is also a Lakers-Rockets rematch that features two squads that got into a very heated battle the last time they faced off.

The No. 8 seed is 8 games back of 1st place in the East, and a mere 3.5 games back of 1st place in the West, signifying just how tightly contested the 2018-19 season has been. See how the parity-filled league hierarchy shakes out in our latest Power Rankings, right here.