New York Liberty: Three stars from Tuesday’s loss at Minnesota

The Minnesota Lynx shut down the New York Liberty’s illustrious outside attack, dooming them to their eighth loss in the last nine games.

Kayla McBride and Napheesa Collier united for 46 points for the Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday night, with the former’s 25 leading the way in a 74-66 victory over the New York Liberty.

The reeling New Yorkers (11-17) have now lost eight of their last nine as they enter the homestretch of the 2021 WNBA season. Minnesota (16-9) shut down the Liberty’s renowned outside game, holding them to a 21 percent success rate (5-of-24). It was part of a brutal night from the field overall, as the Liberty shot 32 percent (23-of-71) on the evening, their third-worst output of the season.

The Liberty nonetheless leave Target Center as the owners of the WNBA’s eighth and final playoff spot thanks to a Los Angeles loss to Indiana and Washington’s defeat at the hands of Connecticut. New York returns to action on Thursday night against the Seattle Storm (10 p.m. ET, YES/Amazon Prime)

ESM bestows three game balls from this latest defeat…

3rd Star: Kylee Shook

6 points (3-3 FG), 2 rebounds

Shook was the only New Yorker to shoot in the black, hitting some big doubles under the basket to help the Liberty keep pace. The sophomore’s development has remained a priority for the Liberty, even with Natasha Howard coming back and the team trying to wrap up an elusive playoff berth. She capitalized in her 11 minutes of action on Tuesday.

2nd Star: Betnijah Laney 

17 points, 3 rebounds

Obviously, no one in New York would say no to a playoff berth, but a postseason appearance would mean a little bit more to Laney. The Rutgers alumna and the Liberty’s leading scorer has accomplished much over the last two seasons, but the accomplishment of appearing amongst the league’s final eight has remained elusive. She believes that the team will be well-equipped for the final run if they focus on the immediate future.

“I think right now the most important thing for us is really just focusing on taking a game by game, step by step, to not get too far ahead of ourselves, not thinking big picture right now,” Laney has said of the Liberty regaining their focus during the losing streak at the worst possible time. “I think that we really need to just focus on what’s in front of us.”

1st Star: Michaela Onyenwere

11 points, 10 rebounds

Though the WNBA’s Rookie of the Year frontrunner was not immune to the Liberty’s shooting struggles (3-of-12, 2-of-7 from three-point range), she made personal and team history through her first professional double-double. With her performance on the boards, Onyenwere became the ninth rookie in team history to reach double-figures in rebounds in a single game.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Who earned UFC contracts on week one of Dana White’s Contender Series?

UFC, Dana White

Tonight Dana White’s Contender Series was back for the first time in 2021 with eight prospects hoping to win UFC contracts. It was a night full of action and these fighters seemed hungrier than ever to earn themselves a contract.

There were four great fights tonight and ultimately, Dana White ended up handing out a record number of UFC contracts for one night. The boss handed out five contracts and for the first time, there was one fight where the winner and loser were given contracts.

UFC Newcomers

Azamat Murzakanov

In the main event of the evening, we saw a battle of prospective UFC light heavyweights. Undefeated Russian prospect Azamat Murzakanov (9-0) took on Matheaus Scheffel (14-6).

Murzakanov was the biggest betting favorite of the evening. In the first couple of minutes of the fight, both men were just feeling out the range but they were swinging big shots.

You could tell that Murzakanov was just waiting for his opportunity to explode and get on the inside. Well, three minutes into the first round he did just that. He exploded with a huge combination that put Scheffel out cold. There’s a reason why there was a lot of hype around Murzakanov. He earned his UFC contract with an exclamation point.

AJ Fletcher

The first contract came from the very first fight this evening. AJ Fletcher (9-0) took on Leonardo Damiani (10-2-1) in the welterweight division. Both of these guys were being looked at as two highly valued prospects in the eyes of the UFC.

In the opening portion of the first round, Damiani was actually getting the better of the striking. He was the one backing Fletcher up and appeared to him in desperation mode at one point forcing Fletcher to shoot for a double leg takedown.

However, late in the round, everything changed. Fletcher opened up with a spinning back kick that seemed to give him confidence. Seconds later, he blasted Damiani with a flush flying knee that put the Italian out. That performance was enough to earn him a UFC contract.

Victor Altamirano and Carlos Candelario

One of the more anticipated matchups of the evening was the flyweight contest between Victor Altamirano (9-1) and Carlos Candelario (8-0). The UFC is always looking for flyweight talent and this matchup promised to be fireworks.

Candelario briefly retired after his first contender series appearance a few years ago, but his fire is back and he was looking for a contract. In the first round, both men came out extremely fast and both had success on the feet. Candelario stole the round with good takedowns and ground and pound.

In the second round, Candelario started out strong with his boxing. However, he looked a little tired and started going for takedowns. Altamirano defended takedowns well initially and was landing big shots of his own. Candelario was able to land takedowns late in the round and it proved to be a very close round.

In the third round, Altamirano really looked a lot better and took over. Candelario was slowing down and Altamirano started doing work to the body. Candelario had a good first two round, but Candelario hit a wall and Altamirano dominated the majority of the round.

The fight was razor close and Altamirano won a split decision. Because the fight was so close and both men brought it, Dana White gave both of them UFC contracts.

Joanderson Brito

The co-main event was a battle between Diego Lopes (19-3) and Joanderson Brito (11-2-1).This matchup between prospective UFC featherweights was a ton of fun. I was a little surprised by the start. Brito is known for his aggressive striking style, but he shocked everyone by coming out with a takedown attempt.

Lopes almost locked in an armbar halfway through the round and that forced Brito to stand up. From there, the two men spent the rest of the round just exchanging massive power shots. In the second round, we saw a lot of the same.

Brito ended up shooting for a takedown again in the second and Lopes almost got guillotine choke. Lopes came close a number of time on submissions, but Brito powered through. In the second, Brito landed some of the nastiest ground and pound I’ve ever seen and heard.

The final round started with both men embracing. However, the action didn’t last long. Lopes was accidentally poked in the eye by Brito and the fight was called off.

Brito was docked a point and they went to the scorecards. Ultimately, Brito got the decision win and because of the exciting action throughout, Dana White gave Brito a UFC contract.

Mets Make It Four Consecutive Wins With 3-1 Victory Over Marlins

mets, tijuana walker

The New York Mets have quickly turned those thumbs upside down with a doubleheader sweep of the Miami Marlins. For the first time in a while, they played with a lead and never relinquished it for a 3-1 win and their fourth consecutive victory.

Trevor Williams earned the spot start in the seven-inning game and gave the Mets more than they could have asked. Williams pitched 4.1 innings allowing just one unearned run with four strikeouts. Things got dicey for the Mets in the fifth when Jesus Aguilar‘s RBI double made it a 3-1 game with runners on second and third.

Working Around Danger

Aaron Loup relieved Williams and gave up a walk to load the bases with one out. Like Loup has done all season, he pulled a rabbit out of his hat to get out of the jam unscathed. In the sixth, Seth Lugo danced around danger, striking out two to get out of a first and second, no-out situation. Edwin Diaz continued his dominance with a light, 1-2-3 ninth inning to seal the deal.

The Mets offense saved all their scoring for the third inning against MLB The Show legend Edward Cabrera. Michael Conforto followed up his walk-off hit with a two-run homer which flew into the Coca-Cola Corner. Jeff McNeil drove in the third run with a double, scoring Javier Baez all the way from first base just like he did to win game one.

Throughout all of the drama and the fans B.S. from the last 48 hours, the Mets have a four-game winning streak. If the Atlanta Braves lose, they will be 5.5 games out of first place as the calendar flips to September. It may not be an easy deficit to overcome, but it looks way more doable than where they were last week. Wednesday’s game has already been postponed, and both teams will play a single-admission doubleheader on Thursday.

New York Giants: Evan Engram’s status unclear going into opener

The end of the preseason came with not just a loss for the New York Giants, but also a couple more injuries to add to the team’s already high tally.

This time the injured player is another receiving target, tight end Evan Engram. Engram is out right now with a calf injury and his status for week 1 of the regular season is looking uncertain because of that. With only a short break between the team’s final preseason game and the start of the regular season, Joe Judge couldn’t confirm that the Giants will have Engram available when they take on Denver.

In terms of Evan, he’s still going to see a doctor, they’re going to look at some things and kind of measure the severity of whatever it may be,” Judge told reporters on Monday.

“Obviously, (we’re) two weeks out. It leaves a little bit of a different window than it normally would be in the preseason track as far as getting ready for the opener, so we’ll have to see where he’s at in terms of how we manage him.”

A plethora of injuries on offense

Engram isn’t the only player that was injured in the loss. Wide receiver Darius Slayton is dealing with an ankle injury, and Judge left his status open ended while revealing that the trainers have yet to evaluate the player.

Both injuries are another blow to a Giants offense that is already missing its first round draft pick as well as its highest profile free agent addition. Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney are both expected back for week 1, but after not seeing them all preseason, it’s unknown how rusty their skills will be.

In the case of Engram, his injury isn’t a particularly big deal in isolation. However, it will bring back bad memories for some due to his injury prone history from 2018 and 2019.

Many have questioned if Engram can stay on the field for long enough to reach his full potential, and with his status unclear for an important week 1 game, those questions will almost certainly come up again in fan discussions.

BREAKING: New York Jets trade TE Chris Herndon to Minnesota (Report)

Herndon’s once-promising New York Jets career has reportedly come to an end, as a deal has been reached with the Minnesota Vikings.

Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the New York Jets have traded tight Chris Herndon to the Minnesota Vikings for an undetermined draft pick compensation. Minnesota recently lost primary tight end Irv Smith Jr. for the season due to a meniscus injury.

Thus ends Herndon’s New York Jets career, which began with such promise in 2018. He was chosen in the fourth round out of Miami (107th overall) and developed a strong connection with fellow rookie and camp roommate Sam Darnold. Herndon ranked second on the Jets and led all rookie tight ends with 502 yards on 39 receptions, four of which went for scores.

However, Herndon was never able to replicate his freshman success. His sophomore season was a lost cause thanks to a four-game suspension for a violation of the NFL substance abuse policy and a rib injury that limited his participation to a mere 18 snaps. He regained the Jets’ primary tight end role last season but earned only 287 yards on 31 receptions, dropping four passes in that span. This summer, Herndon lost the primary training camp snaps to veteran newcomer Tyler Kroft, making him expendable as league rosters trickle down to 53 players. His preseason participation was mostly limited to second half reps, earning a pair of receptions good for 14 yards.

Upon Herndon’s departure, only two of six players (Nathan Shepherd, Foley Fatukasi) remains from the Jets’ 2018 draft class. Herndon was also called upon to model the Jets’ new uniforms during the ensuing offseason after his breakout rookie campaign, joining Darnold, Jamal Adams, Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, and Leonard Williams in a reveal party hosted by Curb Your Enthusiasm star J.B. Smoove. None of those veterans remain with the team.

The Jets open their regular season in Charlotte on Sept. 12 against the Carolina Panthers (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

[[[UPDATE: 7:00 p.m. ET]]]: In officially announcing the trade, the Jets will also send over their sixth round pick in the upcoming draft to Minnesota in exchange for a fourth-round choice in the same selections.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

NASCAR: JTG Daugherty Racing will return to one-car team in 2022

Brad Daugherty, co-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing, said in an NBC talent media availability on Tuesday that his team will not pursue another charter in 2022 and will return to a one-car operation in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“We’re not going to pursue another,” Daugherty said. “I had a good buddy that told me about 10 years ago that if you have one bad race team, why have two? It just makes it more difficult, and that [person] was Dale Jarrett.

“We got into this second race car because we’ve been very fortunate with our sponsorship model. We’ve been able to have an excess of sponsorship dollars that we had to put somewhere, and we were asked to put it into a second race team.

“We really want to be a strong, one-car race company, and that’s what we are going to go back to next season. We can’t wait. We really think we’re going to surprise people with our performance”.

While JTG Daugherty is downsizing to one car in 2021, it isn’t clear who will drive it. Both Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Preece have uncertainty for next season; however, Stenhouse Jr. seems the more likely candidate to stay with JTG Daugherty. The team signed the two-time Cup Series winner to a “multi-year deal” prior to the 2020 season, but it isn’t clear when the contract expires.

Stenhouse Jr. is driving a chartered car for JTG Daugherty, while Ryan Preece is not. Preece lacked sponsorship to secure a 2021 charter but has found enough results and funding to race the entire 2021 schedule.

Both drivers have recorded one top-5 in 2021 and have missed the Cup Series playoffs.

New York Giants trade for OL Ben Bredeson from Baltimore, what does he bring?

new york giants, ben bredeson

The New York Giants understand they need more offensive line support, especially after cutting Kenny Wiggins, Jackson Barton, Jonotthan Harrison, and Brett Heggie before the deadline at 4 PM on Tuesday. Instead, they sought out a trade, connecting with the Baltimore Ravens for Michigan lineman Ben Bredeson.

Bredeson was drafted last year out of Michigan in the fourth round. He made five appearances, with three of them coming in the latter portion of the 2020 season. All of his snaps came as an in-line tight end, so he didn’t get any legitimate work as a traditional lineman. However, he is composed of solid tangible traits, with solid size and discipline. He stands at 6’5″ and 320-pounds.

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com dropped this scouring overview back in 2020 before he was drafted by Baltimore in the 4th round:

Four-year starter who will get dinged for some athletic limitations, but possesses the body type, leadership and toughness necessary to play in the league. Bredeson is best-suited firing out in a power-based rushing attacking where his disadvantages in space can be mitigated. There are correctable elements in his game that should forge continued improvement, but there will be some bumpy roads against interior quickness. He should become an average starter.

While Bredeson has short arms and athletic limitations, he is a fundamentalist that will fit Jason Garrett’s mold. He can operate in the power gap scheme and offer depth behind Shane Lemieux and Will Hernandez to start the season, a position the Giants desperately needed support in. However, he’s also capable of playing outside of tackle, giving Big Blue even more versatility.
Overall, this was a good move for a Giants team that saw their depth in the trenches struggle during the preseason and training camp. Considering Baltimore has such a strong offensive line, Ben is a good pick-up. The Giants gave up a 2022 4th round pick for Bredeson, a 2022 5th-rounder and 2023 7th rounder pick.

After falling short at UFC Vegas 35, what’s next for Edson Barboza?

Edson Barboza

This past Saturday in the headliner of UFC Vegas 35, we saw a fight that was a dream matchup on paper. Two of the very best strikers in the world battled it out as Edson Barboza (22-10) took on Giga Chikadze (14-2).

Heading into UFC Vegas 35, I actually was picking Barboza. I really liked the way Barboza looked in his fight with Shane Burgos, and I’ve seen Chikadze be susceptible to getting hit in the boxing range.

While Chikadze might’ve had the advantage in pure kicking technique, I liked the total package of Barboza. Well, I was proven to be very wrong on Saturday night. Barboza has always been someone who enjoyed a speed advantage in his striking.

He didn’t have a speed advantage over Chikadze at UFC Vegas 35. For the first couple of rounds, Chikadze’s flawless technique and speed kept Barboza off-balance. Barboza had his moments and the rounds were competitive, but Chikadze was staying a step ahead.

In the third round, Chikadze really turned up the pressure. Barboza was hurt badly and Chikadze was relentless. Ultimately, Barboza succumbed to the pressure of Chikadze and suffered a TKO loss.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 35?

Saturday night was a big setback for Barboza. Barboza had spent his career in the UFC’s lightweight division and took on the best of the best. While he had some success, he could never quite reach the top of the division.

When he moved down to 145, he looked like he was capable of doing that. He lost his first fight to Dan Ige by decision, although the majority of the MMA community believes that he won that. He then won two straight to setup this fight with Chikadze.

Now, it’s back to the drawing board after UFC Vegas 35. With that, who should the promotion pair him against. Well, I think there’s a perfect opponent that is just two spots behind him in the rankings.

I think the UFC should pair up Barboza and “Super” Sodiq Yusuff (11-2). These two were originally supposed to fight back in October but Yusuff had to pull out. Yusuff started his UFC career 4-0 prior to losing his first fight to Arnold Allen back in April.

With both men in a similar spot in the division and both coming off losses, it’s the perfect fight. It’s an exciting fight from a stylistic standpoint and it would tell us a lot about where each man stands in the UFC’s featherweight division.

New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Atlanta Falcons

London’s calling the New York Jets, who will battle the Atlanta Falcons overseas in an interconference matchup in Week 5.

The Opponent: Atlanta Falcons
The Date: Week 5, 9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network (@ London, England)
The Series: Atlanta leads 7-5 (last meeting: 2017, 25-20 ATL)

American soil hasn’t been too kind to the New York Jets. Perhaps a semester abroad can do them some good.

The Jets play on a different continent for the first time since 2015, as they’ll battle the Atlanta Falcons in a British-based interconference matchup. New York won in their lone appearance in the NFL’s International Series, topping the Miami Dolphins at the rebooted Wembley Stadium.

Previous international business trips for the Jets include a visit up north to play the Buffalo Bills in Toronto back in 2009 and preseason contests in Montreal (1988) and Tokyo (2003). Atlanta, coming off a garish four-win campaign, hasn’t played overseas since 2014, when they dropped a 22-21 heartbreaker to Detroit, also at Wembley.

The Skinny On the Falcons

A new era has dawned in Atlanta. Matt Ryan is back for his 14th season as the Falcons’ franchise quarterback (the Jets have started 13 different throwers in that span) but franchise staple Julio Jones has moved on to Nashville. Atlanta also dismissed general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn, each of whom was only four years removed from a Super Bowl appearance.

There’s a lot of things new in Atlanta (more on that in a minute). Several franchise faces that made that Super Bowl run have vanished, but Ryan has remained eternal. Having turned 36 in May, his contract dictates that he has at least two more years left as the Falcons’ man under center. Atlanta drove that point home by refusing to name an heir apparent. The role of Ryan’s understudy is down to a competition between undrafted Felipe Franks and NFL nomad Josh Rosen.

“We studied every drop-back pass, every play-action pass, everything that Matt did this past year,” new Falcons quarterbacks coach Charles London said after the team passed (pun intended) on several high-profile throwers at the 2021 draft, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We thought as a staff that he was still performing at a high level. He could still do everything that was needed to do to run this offense…He’s been doing it in this league for a long time at a high level. We expect that to continue this year.”

With Jones dealt away to the Titans, Ryan has found a new favorite target in Calvin Ridley, who established himself as one of the most prominent deep-ball threats for years to come with a career-best 1,374 yards. Russell Gage quietly set new personal highs in the slot and will take on full No. 2 receiver duties in Jones’ absence.

New York Giants, Kyle Pitts
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New In Atlanta?

In the apparent name of building one last Super Bowl map for Ryan, the Falcons retooled this offseason. Arthur Smith takes over as head coach after turning the Titans’ offense into a juggernaut while former New Orleans rival Terry Fontenot was named the general manager. Granted their highest first-round pick since they chose Ryan third overall in 2008, the Falcons defined the concept of taking the “best player available” through the selection of tight end Kyle Pitts. The Florida alum’s other-worldly size (i.e. a jaw-dropping 83-3/8 inch wingspan) allowed the Falcons to feel comfortable in biding their time in finding Ryan’s successor.

Atlanta also underwent extensive renovations to their run game. The team bid farewell to 1,411 yards of production in the form of the Todd Gurley/Brian Hill/Ito Smith group and signed ex-division rival Mike Davis, who rose to the occasion after the Christian McCaffrey nightmare in Charlotte. In terms of protection, cap reasons forced the Falcons to let offensive line staple Alex Mack go. Matt Hennessy (brother of Jets long snapper Thomas) appears poised to take over the role, having beat out fourth-round selection Drew Dalman.

Provided Ryan remains reliable and Pitts fulfills expectations, the Falcons’ biggest issues lie on defense (which was overseen by new Jets defensive boss Jeff Ulbrich after Quinn’s firing). Atlanta also completely overhauled their safeties room (a group that included current Jet Sharrod Neasman) with free agent newcomers Duron Harmon and Erik Harris the favorites to take over. Succeeding Ulbrich is Smith’s former Nashville comrade Dean Pees, who brings two Super Bowl rings with him.

How to Beat Them

-Deploy the Royal Air Force

The Falcons’ defensive revolution was necessitated by a garish effort in the secondary, as they surrendered an NFL-worst 293 yards through the air last season. They allowed at least 300 yards in nine games, going 2-7 in such contests…five of those losses were single possession games. Their attempts to shore things up when beyond Harmon and Harris: Atlanta used second (Richie Grant) and fourth-round (San Diego State blitzer Darren Hall) picks on secondary help and also added sizable man-to-man veteran Fabian Moreau after four seasons in Washington.

Harmon, a Rutgers alum who came over from Detroit, acknowledged that while there’s a positive outlook at the Falcons’ defensive future, it’s going to take some time to develop chemistry.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to take reps,” Harmon said in another report from Ledbetter. “Not just reps on the practice field, but reps in the film room. Reps at walk-throughs. Reps with us just getting together and talking ball. It’s going to take time.”

Zach Wilson thus has an early opportunity to air the ball out against a fledgling unit on a stage that all eyes of the football-loving nation(s) will be watching. If the Jets can take advantage of this opportunity, it can help Wilson and their own developing offense generate some early momentum in a nationally televised game.

-Melt Matty

It becomes a bit more difficult with the loss of Carl Lawson, but the Jets should oblige Ryan’s request to prove he still has enough in the tank. Despite several question marks surrounding the Dirty Birds, they’re capable of putting up big numbers of both the fantasy and physical scoreboards at a moment’s notice with the offensive firepower in tow.

With the Jets’ secondary likewise set to go through their own transitional period…especially with matchups against the weaponry of Carolina, Tennessee, and Atlanta on the docket in the early going…upping the pressure against a 36-year-old quarterback will be more important than ever. Over the past two seasons, Atlanta is 2-9 when Ryan is blitzed at least 15 times.

As anyone who attended that heartbreaker against Las Vegas can attest to, the Jets had no issues blitzing under Gregg Williams’ watch (ranking sixth in blitz rate). Even with Lawson done for the year, they have the personnel to raise the heat this time around. 2020 breakouts Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, and John Franklin-Myers are a year older and they’ll also have Sheldon Rankins and Shaq Lawson in tow as well.

Robert Saleh is used to making the most of a makeshift pass rush, posting respectable results when the dominant forces of the San Francisco front seven were obliterated by the injury bug. Making the aging Ryan uncomfortable will be vital if the Jets hope to bring a victorious souvenir back from London.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The Islanders seem like the team to bet on this year based on their odds

With the month of September beginning tomorrow, hockey season is getting closer and closer. That means it’s also time for those in the betting community to start making their decisions on which teams are worthy of wagering on.

Looking at the updated odds, it’s clear the Islanders are one of those squads that could be a very solid bet in regards to where the oddsmakers see them in their own division, conference, and the league.

According to vegasinsider.comthe Isles are +2000 to win the Stanley Cup in 2022. Not a bad bet.

Note*: the list of odds was updated on August 29th and are subject to change.

It’s surprising that those odds aren’t lowered after the team’s back-to-back appearances in the third round, and that they are getting back a healthy Anders Lee and have the arguably the best goaltending duo in the league. Even more questionable is the few clubs in front of them — the Penguins, Panthers and Maple Leafs (shocking right) — have all failed to establish anything outside of regular season success.

In reality, the bookmakers — just like the rest of the hockey world — still might be waiting to see what other moves g.m. Lou Lamoriello has up his sleeve before the season begins. That would certainly warrant the Isles moving up a spot or two.

Lamoriello has only announced the signing of d-man Adam Pelech, which was now a month ago. They are still other deals to be announced. Plus the Isles are still believed to be in the mix for Blues’ forward Vladimir Tarasenko from a recent report from The Athletic.

As things pertain to the Eastern Conference, bettors have them at +1000 to win it. Again, a reasonable handicap, but one that leaves much to be desired.

The +1000 for them to win the East could be seen as an insult to some after they defeated the Bruins — given the second best odds — and Pens (4th best odds) in the playoffs in the first two rounds last summer. But that’s just another motive to put down a big bet on them. The Isles have truly established themselves as one of a consistent threat over the last few years and don’t seem to be looking at a serious drop off anytime soon.

Now we get to probably the best odds for the Isles: the Metro.

The Islanders are considered a +425 to win their division. Only ahead of them are Carolina and the Penguins.

I’m not sure what the love affair is with Vegas and Sidney Crosby and Co., but the Islanders are definitely better going into this year in all three phases (offense, defense, goaltending) than their Pennslyvania counterparts. And sure the Pens are considered the division champs — they were the top dog in the MassMutual East Division — but only six point separated first place to fourth. And who was that fourth place team? the Isles.

The Hurricanes on the other hand are inching closer and closer to being a legit Cup contender, and they and the Islanders are kind of a mirror image of each other. They won their division during the realigned format. Head coach Rod Brind’Amour’s group also might be the most talented team in the class of the Metro, seeing they are considered the favorite.

So, the Metro is really their’s to lose. The Islanders feel like the club that could challenge them for it. And remember this: the Isles have been in first place in said division — last year too — at several points during the year. In the end though, they always conceeded it.

If there was ever a change in that trend, it’s this year.

The odds might be in the Islanders favor for 2021-22. Throwing down some money on them seems like a smart thing to do.