National

Yahoo Sports AM: NFC vs. AFC

👋 Good morning! The New York Times sports desk covered the first modern Olympics in 1896. On Monday, 127 years later, it shut down.

— Kendall Baker (email), Jeff Tracy (email)

Let's sports...

HEADLINES

🏈 MNF doubleheader: The Saints beat the Panthers, 20-17, to improve to 2-0. The Steelers beat the Browns, 26-22, in a game that saw Nick Chubb suffer a season-ending injury.

⚾️ 200 wins: Adam Wainwright notched his 200th win on Monday, becoming just the third Cardinal — and fifth active player — to reach that milestone.

⚽️ NWSL to Boston: The NWSL is expanding to Boston, with a new franchise set to begin play in 2026. The former Boston Breakers played in the NWSL from 2013-17.

💵 Mahomes' new deal: Patrick Mahomes has agreed to a restructured contract that will pay him $210.6 million in guaranteed money between 2023 and 2026.

🏒 PWHL draft: The fledgling Professional Women's Hockey League held its 15-round draft on Monday. With the first pick, Minnesota selected Minnesota native Taylor Heise.

See what else is trending on Yahoo Sports.

AFTER TWO WEEKS, THE NFC REIGNS SUPREME

Through the first two weeks of the NFL season, one conference is running circles around the other — and it's not the one most would have expected.

By the numbers: The NFC is currently 6-0 against the AFC, and the NFC East (Cowboys, Eagles, Commanders) and NFC South (Saints, Falcons, Buccaneers) each have more undefeated teams than the entire AFC (Ravens, Dolphins).

For context: The seven 2-0 teams in the NFC (the six listed above plus the 49ers) are the most ever in the eight-division era (since 2002).

Meanwhile, the AFC's two 2-0 teams are tied for the fewest, joining the 2012 AFC, 2018 NFC and 2021 AFC.

Shocking start: One of the biggest storylines entering the season was how much better the AFC looked on paper, with seven of the top 10 teams by preseason Super Bowl odds and seven of the top 10 QBs according to most preseason rankings.

Part of the reason for the AFC's dearth of 2-0 teams is that many of those QBs — Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert — have underperformed.

In fact, after an offseason spent discussing the incredibly wide QB talent gap between the AFC and NFC, it's the NFC that has eight of the top 10 signal-callers by Total QBR.

Between the lines: The NFC's 6-0 interconference record is definitive — they've clearly had the upper hand so far in head-to-head games. But looking at the number of undefeated teams in each conference may not actually tell us what we think it does at first glance.

On one hand, the NFC having seven 2-0 teams compared to just two in the AFC would seem to suggest that the NFC has been the better conference through two weeks.

On the other hand, it could also just mean that the NFC is top-heavy, with more bad teams for its best teams to beat up on, and that the AFC is actually the deeper, better conference with fewer easy wins to come by.

Zoom out… Since the NFL expanded to 32 teams in 2002, the AFC has a slight advantage over the NFC in head-to-head games (705-671-6). The AFC has also won more Super Bowls in that time (12 of 21), though the NFC holds the all-time edge (29 to 28).

THE NERDIEST POWER FOUR CONFERENCES

The latest round of conference realignment was primarily about TV money, but academics also played a role in shaping the new "Power Four" era that will begin in 2024.

The Big Ten, for example, only considered schools from the American Association of Universities, an invite-only organization with 71 members that earn the majority of federal research funding. Newcomers UCLA, USC, Oregon and Washington are all AAU members.

The ACC, like the Big Ten, has long taken pride in classroom performance, so adding Stanford and Cal was very on-brand. As for the SEC and Big 12, they are simply in a different stratosphere academically than the other two power conferences.

By the numbers: On Monday, U.S. News and World Report released its latest college rankings. So we broke them down by the four major conferences that will appear next academic year.

ACC — With Stanford and Cal joining the likes of Duke, UNC, Notre Dame and Virginia, the new-look ACC is officially the nerdiest Power Four conference.

Average ranking: 52.3

Schools in top 50: 10 of 18

Schools in top 100: 17 of 18

Highest ranking: Stanford (3)

Lowest ranking: Louisville (195)

Full list: Stanford (3), Duke (7), Cal (15), Notre Dame (20), UNC (22), Virginia (24), Georgia Tech (33), Boston College (39), Virginia Tech (47), Wake Forest (47), FSU (53), NC State (60), Syracuse (67), Miami (67), Pitt (67), Clemson (86), SMU (89), Louisville (195)

Big Ten — The Big Ten is already known for its major research universities like Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin. The arrival of UCLA, USC and Washington will make it an R&D juggernaut.

Average ranking: 52.8

Schools in top 50: 11 of 18

Schools in top 100: 17 of 18

Highest ranking: Northwestern (9)

Lowest ranking: Nebraska (159)

Full list: Northwestern (9), UCLA (15), Michigan (21), USC (28), Illinois (35), Wisconsin (35), Rutgers (40), Washington (40), Ohio State (43), Purdue (43), Maryland (46), Minnesota (53), Michigan State (60), Penn State (60), Indiana (73), Iowa (93), Oregon (98), Nebraska (159)

SEC — The addition of Texas gives the SEC a fifth top-50 school and two of the three highest-ranked universities in the state of Texas, with the Longhorns and Aggies trailing only Rice.

Average ranking: 113.3

Schools in top 50: Five of 16

Schools in top 100: Six of 16

Highest ranking: Vanderbilt (18)

Lowest ranking: Mississippi State (216)

Full list: Vanderbilt (18), Florida (28), Texas (32), Texas A&M (47), Georgia (47), Auburn (93), Tennessee (105), Missouri (124), Oklahoma (124), South Carolina (124), Kentucky (159), Ole Miss (163), Alabama (170), Arkansas (178), LSU (185), Mississippi State (216)

Big 12 — To give a sense of the academic gap between the best and worst power conferences, the Big 12's top-ranked school (Baylor) would be the ACC's second-lowest ranked school.

Average ranking: 137

Schools in top 50: Zero of 16

Schools in top 100: Two of 16

Highest ranking: Baylor (93)

Lowest ranking: Texas Tech, West Virginia (216)

Full list: Baylor (93), TCU (98), Colorado (105), Arizona State (105), Arizona (115), BYU (115), Utah (115), Iowa State (115), UCF (124), Houston (133), Cincinnati (142), Kansas (151), Kansas State (170), Oklahoma State (185), Texas Tech (216), West Virginia (216)

Reader shoutout: Thanks to Yahoo Sports AM reader Richard Rothschild for giving me the idea for this story. It's unbelievably cool that we have such knowledgable and engaged readers constantly pitching stuff and helping out. Thanks, Richard!!!

REPORT: THE RAYS ARE STAYING PUT

After years of relocation rumors and half-baked plans to share the team between two cities, the Rays appear to be staying put, Jeff writes.

Details: The team is expected to announce today that it has finalized a deal to build a new stadium in downtown St. Petersburg near its current home, Tropicana Field, as first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

The venue will seat around 30,000 people and cost roughly $1.2 billion, paid for by a combination of the team, the city and the county.

The plan is to open the ballpark in 2028, after the Trop's 30-year lease expires in 2027.

A stadium worthy of its club: Part of baseball's charm is the uniqueness of each ballpark, but there's not much charming about the Trop, which opened in 1990 and has always ranked among MLB's worst stadiums. With a capacity of just 25,000, it's also the smallest.

The Rays' new home is expected to yield increased revenues thanks to higher attendance and more sponsorship deals, which should theoretically lead to a higher payroll.

The Rays have consistently churned out winning seasons on a shoestring budget. What will this franchise look like once those shackles are released, or at least loosened?

Looking ahead: Back in July, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he planned to explore expansion once the Rays and A's resolved their stadium situations. With Tampa getting new digs and Oakland likely headed to Las Vegas, the race could be on for Nashville, Salt Lake City, Portland and other expansion candidates to make their case for a new team.

RIP, NYT

The New York Times officially closed its sports desk on Monday, shuttering a department that's been around for well over a century.

Dozens of staffers and New York Times Guild members marched through the offices and rallied outside on Monday, accompanied by a brass band, per WashPost's Ben Strauss ($).

The Athletic, which the Times bought for $550 million last year, will produce the majority of the paper's sports coverage starting today, both in print and online.

A final sendoff: "This has been a wretched summer for New York teams," columnist George Vecsey wrote in a farewell edition created by the Guild. "The Yankees stink. The Mets' ownership quit on the team and its fans. And the New York Times is shutting down its sports department."

10-WAR SEASONS THIS CENTURY

Shohei Ohtani's season is officially over, closing the curtains on a two-way campaign for the ages that should earn him his second AL MVP award, Jeff writes.

By the numbers: Despite missing the entire final month with a torn UCL and strained oblique, Ohtani will finish with 10.1 wins above replacement*. It's just the 14th time this century that a player has finished with over 10 WAR (using Baseball Reference's calculation).‌

Barry Bonds (2001): 11.9 WAR

Bonds (2002): 11.7

Pedro Martínez (2000): 11.7

Mookie Betts (2018): 10.7

Randy Johnson (2002): 10.7

Bonds (2004): 10.6

Aaron Judge (2022): 10.6

Mike Trout (2012): 10.5

Trout (2016): 10.5

Alex Rodriguez (2000): 10.4

Zack Greinke (2009): 10.4

Sammy Sosa (2001): 10.3

Johnson (2001): 10.1

Ohtani (2023): 10.1

*WAR, explained: Wins above replacement measures a player's value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he's worth than a replacement-level player at his same position (e.g., a Minor League replacement or a readily available fill-in free agent).

SEPT. 19, 1947: JACKIE WINS ROY

76 years ago today, Jackie Robinson won MLB's inaugural Rookie of the Year award after batting .297 with an .810 OPS and stealing a league-best 29 bases. He was the first of 18 Dodgers* to win the award, twice as many as any other team (Yankees, nine).

A lasting impact: As talented as he was on the field, Robinson's greatest legacy was, of course, breaking baseball's color barrier. "Jackie Robinson made my success possible," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1968. "Without him, I would never have been able to do what I did."

More on this day:

🥎 2000: The USA softball team stranded a staggering 20 baserunners in a 2-1 loss to Japan at the Sydney Olympics, ending their 112-game winning streak.

🏈 2004: Jerry Rice's NFL record streak of 274 straight games with a catch finally ended. The streak started in his 14th carer game and ended 19 years later in his final season.

*The other 17 Dodgers to win ROY: Don Newcombe (1949), Joe Black (1952), Jim Gilliam (1953), Frank Howard (1960), Jim Lefebvre (1965), Ted Sizemore (1969), Rick Sutcliffe (1979), Steve Howe (1980), Fernando Valenzuela (1981), Steve Sax (1982), Eric Karros (1992), Mike Piazza (1993), Raul Mondesí (1994), Hideo Nomo (1995), Todd Hollandsworth (1996), Corey Seager (2016), Cody Bellinger (2017).

WATCHLIST: DAY 1

The Champions League group stage kicks off today, with 16 teams taking the field to commence the final year of the 32-team format*. All games will stream on Paramount+, and one (noted below) will also air on linear TV.

Early window (12:45pm ET): AC Milan vs. Newcastle; Young Boys vs. Leipzig

Late window (3pm): Feyenoord vs. Celtic; Lazio vs. Atlético Madrid (CBSSN); PSG vs. Dortmund; Man City vs. Crvena Zvezda; Barcelona vs. Antwerp; Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Porto

More to watch:

🏀 WNBA playoffs: Mystics (down 1-0) at Liberty (7pm, ESPN); Dream (down 1-0) at Wings (9pm, ESPN) … The Mystics and Dream face elimination on the road.

⚾️ MLB: Phillies at Braves (7:20pm, TBS)

*Looking ahead: The Champions League group stage will expand to 36 teams next year, with teams forming one big league table rather than being split into groups.

NFL TRIVIA

Nick Chubb, who will miss the rest of the season after suffering a brutal knee injury on Monday, was the third-highest drafted RB in Yahoo Fantasy leagues this year.

Question: Who were the only two RBs with a higher average draft position?

Hint: They play on the same coast.

Answer at the bottom.

A PITTSBURGH TRADITION

Sidney Crosby and 13 other Penguins players hand-delivered season tickets to fans on Monday, continuing a tradition that began in 2007.

What a day: Crosby's first stop was at the home of the Radocaj family, season ticket holders since 1979. A later stop coincided with a fan's 14th birthday.

My humble opinion: Every team should do this.

—-

Trivia answer: Christian McCaffrey (49ers) and Austin Ekeler (Chargers)

Thanks for reading today's edition! Email me with questions or comments. Subscribe for free here.

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