It’s Big Blue X2 as we recap Tuesday. Not only did the Giants (“Big Blue”) circumnavigate losing Daniel Jones or Saquon Barkley, but Chelsea (the other Blues) scored two goals in a Champions League stunner.
Plus, eight more teams are dancing after punching their tickets to the NCAA Tournament last night. Champ week reaches second gear today with 16 games across the power-six conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12 & SEC). You can smell the madness…
Giants Win Tag Deadline
Giants Reach Deal With QB Daniel Jones, Tag RB Saquon Barkley; Ravens Tag QB Lamar Jackson
The NFL Franchise Tag deadline came to pass on Tuesday, and a number of the league’s best players will be playing on one-year deals in 2023. There are three versions of the tag that teams can use, including the exclusive, non-exclusive, and transition tag. The non-exclusive allows a player to negotiate with other teams while the team who retains the player can match offers. And after the dust settled on Tuesday, six players got the non-exclusive tag for 2023.
Giants Keep Backfield: The New York Giants had a lot on the line yesterday before the deadline with both QB Daniel Jones and RB Saquon Barkley needing new contracts. The Giants gave Jones a 4-year, $160 million extension while tagging Barkley for $11.3 million in 2023.
Ravens Tag Lamar Jackson: The final piece of tag deadline drama came in the final hour when the Ravens placed the non-exclusive tag on QB Lamar Jackson. The two sides were reportedly far apart on a contract extension, and other teams can now offer the former MVP a long-term deal, but the Ravens have the ability to match it. The LJ sweepstakes is officially open.
Franchise Tagged Players
QB Lamar Jackson (Ravens)
RB Saquon Barkley (Giants)
RB Josh Jacobs (Raiders)
RB Tony Pollard (Cowboys)
TE Evan Engram (Jaguars)
DT Daron Payne (Commanders)
Key Players on Trade Block
QB Aaron Rodgers
RB Derrick Henry (Titans)
CB Jalen Ramsey (Rams)
WR DeAndre Hopkins (Cardinals)
NFL Free Agency: Opens Wednesday, March 15
The Bounce-Back Blues
Chelsea & Benfica Punch Tickets to Champions League Quarterfinals
Another chapter in the UEFA Champions League saga unfolded Tuesday when two clubs advanced to the UCL quarterfinals after victories in Leg 2 of the Round of 16. Chelsea and Benfica are moving on by eliminating Dortmund and Club Brugge, respectively. The Blues are heading back to the quarterfinals for the third straight season after winning it all in 2021. Benfica is making their second consecutive trip to the Round of 8, but the club has never reached the UCL semifinals. Here’s how yesterday’s matches were won:
Chelsea def. Dortmund (2-0) | 2-1 Aggregate
Still kicking! Chelsea entered Leg 2 on Tuesday trailing Borussia Dortmund by one goal, but Raheem Sterling (43’) tied the aggregate score just before halftime. Kai Havertz hit the post on a Chelsea penalty kick early in the second half, but Dortmund was called for entering the box early. Havertz didn’t miss the second attempt, and Chelsea put a lid on the match to advance.
Benfica def. Club Brugge (5-1) | 7-1 Aggregate
The club from Lisbon has done it again! One year after reaching the UCL quarterfinals, Benfica are heading back to Europe’s top-8 with a smashing blowout against Club Brugge. They held a two-goal lead in aggregate scoring entering Leg 2, but five goals in 40 minutes blew the doors off Brugge. Goncalo Ramos scored twice to bookend the half, and Benfica dances on.
Today’s Schedule (Round of 16: Leg 2)
Bayern vs. PSG (3:00 pm ET) | Bayern Leads 1-0
Tottenham vs. Milan (3:00 pm ET) | Milan Leads 1-0
Grab Your Dancing Shoes
#9 Gonzaga Among 8 Teams (Men & Women) to Secure Automatic Bids on Tuesday Night
Everybody knew Gonzaga was going dancing, but the Zags and senior Drew Timme made it official last night. America’s favorite underdog has been in the shadows through the 2022-23 season. There will not be a 1-seed next to Gonzaga’s name in the bracket, and they had to overcome an ugly start to the season. On Tuesday, they were one of four teams celebrating their NCAA Tournament bids.
WCC Final: #9 Gonzaga def. #16 Saint Mary’s (77-51)
Gonzaga pummeled Saint Mary’s to win their 21st conference title on Tuesday night. Senior Drew Timme led the way with 18 points to become the program’s all-time leading scorer, and the Zags are heading into March Madness winners of nine in a row.
Men’s NCAA Tournament Automatic Bids (11)
Four more teams punched their ticket to the Big Dance on Tuesday night to bring the total automatic bid tracker to eight. Charleston (CAA), Oral Roberts (Summit), Northern Kentucky (Horizon) and Gonzaga (WCC) are the newest auto bids. They join Kennesaw State (ASUN), UNC Asheville (Big South), Drake (Missouri Valley), Fairleigh Dickinson (Northeast), Southeast Missouri State (Ohio Valley), Furman (Southern), and Louisiana (Sun Belt). Four more tickets will be claimed tonight, but the power conference tournaments are just tipping off.
Men’s Conference Tournaments
Women’s NCAA Tournament Automatic Bids (13)
Virginia Tech, South Carolina, UConn, Iowa, Washington State, James Madison, Tennessee Tech, Chattanooga, Saint Louis, Cleveland State, South Dakota State, Gardner-Webb, Portland
The Knicks were one game away from their first 10-game win streak in more than a decade when they hosted the Hornets Tuesday night, but a blown 16-point lead in the second half saw New York’s streak come to an end. The Hornets won (112-105) behind 75 combined points from Gordon Hayward (23), Terry Rozier (25), and Kelly Oubre Jr. (27).
With ten NHL games on Tuesday and six decided by just one goal, it was hard to pick one highlight. The Penguins got the nod after overcoming a 4-0 deficit against the Blue Jackets for an overtime win (5-4, OT). Jason Zucker scored two in the regulation comeback before Sidney Crosby netted the OT winner for Pittsburgh.
One of the most exciting NFL combine experiences ever took place this past weekend. Everywhere you looked, another positional record fell. It’s easy to get caught up in physical testing, though, and overlook the big picture aspect of evaluations. (Bleacher Report)
The 2023 Players Championship marks the culmination of an incredible five-week stretch for the PGA Tour. Now, the Tour presents its crown jewel with several top players playing their best golf and a thousand talking points to hit as the week unfolds. (CBS Sports)
Here at Bubble Watch, we love Champ Week. Conference tournaments bring the entire season-long selection process to a suspenseful and reliably chaotic crescendo. On Thursday, we’ll see bubble repercussions in every major conference tournament. (ESPN+)