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Takeaways: An U-G-L-Y showing for the Patriots

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Week 6 in the NFL saw a wild division win in overtime for the Titans on Sunday, a Colts comeback victory after a 21-point deficit, the Giants entering the win column on a final-minute defensive stop of a 2-point conversion and the Steelers staying undefeated by handling the Browns in a 31-point rout. Meanwhile, the Patriots fell below .500 and the Falcons dropped 40 points on Minnesota for their first win of the year.

In the afternoon slate, Miami shut out the Jets, while Tom Brady and the Bucs bested Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

All that and more in Week 6‘s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.

Jump to a matchup:
BAL-PHI | CLE-PIT | HOU-TEN
ATL-MIN | CHI-CAR | DEN-NE
CIN-IND | DET-JAX | WSH-NYG
NYJ-MIA | GB-TB | LAR-SF

Standout performer for LAR-SF: Jimmy Garoppolo, 268 passing yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT

The 49ers aren’t going away just yet. After a blowout loss last week against the Dolphins, the Niners vowed that they wouldn’t let their season snowball out of control. An impressive showing Sunday night against the 4-1 Rams validated that work. “When you get embarrassed like that, you can find out a lot about your team,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I was very impressed with the character of our team.” With the most difficult schedule in the league coming up, it was imperative for the Niners to get back to the things that they have done well over the past year-plus. And while they still have a big mountain to climb to get back in the NFC West race, they don’t intend to give up the crown without a fight. — Nick Wagoner

Next game: at Patriots (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Rams made a sweep of the NFC East appear easy. But on Sunday, the 49ers served a cold reminder about the difficulty of the NFC West in the Rams’ first division game of the season. The Rams fall to 4-2 but remain in second place in the division behind the Seahawks. The Rams have two games and a bye week to address issues exposed by the 49ers before they resume division play in Week 10 against Seattle. — Lindsey Thiry

Next game: vs. Bears (8:15 p.m. ET, Monday)


Standout performer for BAL-PHI: Lamar Jackson, 186 passing yards, 108 rushing yards rushing, 2 total TDs

The Ravens are 5-1 for the first time since their 2012 Super Bowl season, but they have plenty to fix during their bye week. Baltimore’s sloppiness on offense (a season-worst 12 penalties) and struggles to stop big plays on defense (28 points allowed in the second half) nearly cost the Ravens against a one-win Eagles team. “Games can’t be that close if we want to be great,” Baltimore safety DeShon Elliott said. The Ravens know they have to play more disciplined when they face the undefeated Steelers after the bye. — Jamison Hensley

Next game: vs. Steelers (1 p.m. ET, Nov. 1)

The Eagles need to give quarterback Jalen Hurts a bigger role. Philadelphia generated 109 yards on six plays out of two-quarterback looks (18.0 average) as compared to 255 yards on the other 58 snaps (4.4 average). The idea Carson Wentz should be benched in favor of Hurts should be put on ice for now. The Eagles are committed to Wentz financially, and he nearly rallied the team back from a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter. What Wentz needs are some playmakers who will loosen defenses up and make life easier while he operates behind an unrecognizable offensive line with a makeshift supporting cast. Hurts, at the very least, offers that. — Tim McManus

Next game: vs. Giants (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday)


Standout performer for CLE-PIT: Bud Dupree, 2 sacks, 4 tackles, 2 tackles for loss

A week after struggling to get a stop on third down, the Steelers allowed the Browns to convert one of 12 attempts. The Steelers wasted little time emphasizing third-down defense, as safety Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted quarterback Baker Mayfield on third-and-3 during the Browns’ first drive and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown. “It sent a message to them that third down wasn’t going to be easy sledding today,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said afterward. And it wasn’t. No part of the game was easy for the Browns, as the Steelers’ defense dominated with four sacks and two interceptions. — Brooke Pryor

Next game: at Titans (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Mayfield had a nightmare performance. He took several shots to his injured ribs and failed to generate anything against the blitz or on third down. Ailing, he was eventually replaced late in the third quarter by Case Keenum. There’s no QB controversy in Cleveland, but for the Browns to finally end the league’s longest playoff drought, they need Mayfield to get healthy and play better. A lot better. — Jake Trotter

Next game: at Bengals (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Standout performer for HOU-TEN: Derrick Henry, 212 rushing yards, 2 TDs

The explosive plays finally surfaced in the running game. Derrick Henry’s 94-yard touchdown run was the primary example, but he also broke off a 34-yard run, and Jeremy McNichols had a 20-yard run. Before this week, the longest run for the Titans was 16 yards. Now that the rushing attack is rolling, the Titans will be a tough team to stop. Tennessee rolled up 601 yards of total offense — its most in franchise history — and scored 30 or more points for the fourth consecutive week. — Turron Davenport

Next game: vs. Steelers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Texans fell to 1-5, but for the second consecutive week, quarterback Deshaun Watson had an impressive performance. He now has six games with at least four passing touchdowns since his rookie year in 2017. Only Patrick Mahomes (9) and Russell Wilson (8) have more such games during that span. There are a lot of reasons for concerns about this team going forward, but Watson showed once again why his teammates feel they’re rarely out of a game if he’s under center. — Sarah Barshop

Next game: vs. Packers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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1:02

Ryan Tannehill finds A.J. Brown in the end zone with four seconds left to force OT, and Derrick Henry follows up with a game-winning, 5-yard touchdown.

Standout performer for ATL-MIN: Julio Jones, 137 receiving yards, 2 TDs

The firing of coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff initiated an organizational overhaul focused on the long-term future. But Sunday’s victory — albeit over the 1-5 Vikings — suggested the Falcons might still be competitive in 2020. We knew the Falcons’ offense could score, especially after the return of wide receiver Julio Jones. But the Falcons’ defense was strong in the debut of interim coach Raheem Morris, and its three first-half interceptions of Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins set the tone for the entire game. — Kevin Seifert

Next game: vs. Lions (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Vikings are the NFL’s biggest version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A week ago, they took undefeated Seattle down to the wire in a one-point loss. Then they turn around and allow a terrible Atlanta team to build a 23-point lead and get its first win of the season. “It’s just strange,” coach Mike Zimmer said of how poorly his team played. The Vikings’ season is all but lost, and they’ll have to focus on where they go from here after a 1-5 start that brings into question more than a handful of moves they made in the offseason (extensions for Zimmer, GM Rick Spielman, Cousins and running back Dalvin Cook) and whether those are coming back to haunt them. — Courtney Cronin

Next game: at Packers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Nov. 1)


Standout performer for CHI-CAR: Roquan Smith, 12 tackles

The Bears need to be taken seriously. Without question, Chicago has flaws — plenty of them — and the overall offense is not good enough. But what cannot be disputed is the club’s record after six games. The Bears are 5-1 for the first time since former head coach Lovie Smith’s final season in 2012. Entering this year, there were 102 teams that started 5-1 since the NFL went to 12 playoff teams in 1990 and 85 went on to make the playoffs (83.3%), according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The NFL expanded the playoff field to 14 teams for 2020. Add it all up and the Bears are in prime position to challenge for their second playoff bid in three years under coach Matt Nagy. — Jeff Dickerson

Next game: at Rams (8:15 p.m. ET, Oct. 26)

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was sacked four times and had to scramble a season-high eight times for 48 yards against the league’s No. 1 red zone defense. Perhaps that pressure is why, with a chance to pull even in the closing minutes, Bridgewater missed a wide-open DJ Moore at the Chicago 20-yard line with nobody between him and the goal line. Carolina (2-2) needs to fix its pass protection to remain a factor in the NFC playoff race. — David Newton

Next game: at Saints (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Standout performer for DEN-NE: Brandon McManus, 6-for-6 FGs

After a 17-day layoff, the Broncos forced three turnovers, got four sacks and saw a 100-yard rushing day from Phillip Lindsay in their win over the Patriots. It was their first three-turnover game of the season on defense and Lindsay’s first 100-yard effort after he missed three games because of a toe injury. Coach Vic Fangio has taken more chances in the pass rush with Von Miller and Jurrell Casey out for the season, including more five- and six-man pressures, and it paid dividends in wins over the Jets and Patriots. — Jeff Legwold

Next game: vs. Chiefs (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Patriots hardly practiced over the past two weeks, and it showed in Sunday’s loss to the visiting Broncos. This was U-G-L-Y, one of their worst home offensive performances of Bill Belichick’s 21-year coaching tenure. Maybe injuries and having five players placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list caught up to them. But after watching how the Titans handled a similar situation last week and still trounced the Bills, it wasn’t a stretch to expect more from New England. One thing that stood out: the Broncos devoting extra resources to take away the running game and forcing Cam Newton and the Patriots to win through the air. — Mike Reiss

Next game: vs. 49ers (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Standout performer for CIN-IND: Philip Rivers, 371 passing yards, 3 TDs

The Colts head into their bye with a 4-2 record by beating teams with a combined record of 12-22-1 and coming from 21 points down to trip the Bengals in Week 6. But the schedule will get tougher for the Colts, who play six of their final 10 games against teams with winning records, including four teams that went into Sunday undefeated. — Mike Wells

Next game: at Lions (1 p.m. ET, Nov. 1)

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0:19

Philip Rivers’ pass is on the money to Zach Pascal, who makes a sensational catch for a 17-yard touchdown.

Under coach Zac Taylor, the Bengals are 1-11-1 in one-score games, which is easily the worst record in the NFL during that span. The lone win was a Week 4 victory against the Jaguars earlier this season, in which a late Jacksonville field goal cut Cincinnati’s winning margin to 33-25. Sunday’s loss to the Colts was perhaps the most troubling of the one-score lapses. The Bengals led 21-0 early in the second quarter and were on the verge of picking up Taylor’s first win in Cincinnati against a team with a winning record. If Cincinnati wants to get out of this rebuilding phase, it must find ways to win close games. “Everybody could have done one more thing to help us get this win,” Taylor said. “That’s all of us. That’s the coaches and the players. Everyone has gotta be accountable to that.” — Ben Baby

Next game: vs. Browns (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Standout performer for DET-JAX: D’Andre Swift, 116 receiving yards, 2 TDs

The Lions badly needed a win in Jacksonville and to find something with their defense. By bringing more pressure than they had in any of the first four games, they made Gardner Minshew uncomfortable with four quarterback hits and enough chaos to force him into mistakes. It’s just one game against one of the worst rosters in the NFL, but it’s something Detroit can build on after holding Jacksonville to 2.4 yards per carry and Minshew to 56.8% completions. — Michael Rothstein

Next game: at Falcons (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Jaguars are bad — bad enough they are legitimately in contention for the first overall draft pick next spring. Sunday’s loss to the Lions was their fifth in a row, and they have given up 30 or more points in each of those defeats. They’re also the first team in NFL history to lose three consecutive games to winless teams (excluding season openers). — Mike DiRocco

Next game: at Chargers (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Standout performer for WSH-NYG: Tae Crowder, 43-yard fumble return for game-winning TD, 10 tackles

Joe Judge got his first head-coaching win, and the Giants can now say they are one win behind the NFC East leader heading into Monday night, no matter how gargantuan their struggles have been. This win was desperately needed. Several Giants players said last week it was time to produce. Enough talking about making progress. The win also allows Judge some validation to his program. It would have been difficult to continue asking so much of his players without a victory. Now, they finally have one. — Jordan Raanan

Next game: at Eagles (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday)

Washington needs to do more than show resolve in games. It has to quit allowing big plays on defense. It has to limit turnovers on offense, which now have cost them two games. Quarterback Kyle Allen showed a lot of good and bad against the Giants, but Washington has now lost five consecutive games. At 1-5, Washington needs to start winning. It was in position to do so, but costly mistakes haunt this franchise, and that’ll be the story until the team stops making them. — John Keim

Next game: vs. Cowboys (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Standout performer for NYJ-MIA: Emmanuel Ogbah, two sacks (including a 28-yarder), six pressures

The Dolphins’ rebuild under coach Brian Flores is finally bearing some early fruit. Miami’s turnaround is flourishing, while Adam Gase — the coach the Dolphins fired and the Jets immediately hired — is watching his team crumble and his job security loosen more every week. The Dolphins (3-3) won back-to-back games by double digits for the first time since 2015, and even without playing their best football, they beat down their wounded division rival. That’s what good teams do, and for the first time in the Flores era, it’s time to start asking: Are the Dolphins … good? — Cameron Wolfe

Next game: vs. Rams (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Nov. 1)

After another sorry performance, the kind that gets coaches fired, the Jets stand alone as the NFL’s only winless team. They got help from the Giants and Falcons, both of whom picked up victories. This means the Jets control their own destiny for the No. 1 pick in the draft — the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. Current New York quarterback Sam Darnold, who has missed two games with a sprained shoulder, will get the second half of the season to right himself and perhaps enhance his trade value. — Rich Cimini

Next game: vs. Bills (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

play

0:50

Ryan Fitzpatrick throws for 191 yards and three touchdowns as the Dolphins shut out the Jets 24-0.

Standout performer for GB-TB: Ronald Jones II, 113 rushing yards, 2 TDs

It took six games, but the Bucs put forth their best outing of the season against arguably one of the best teams in the league. Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes, running back Ronald Jones II rushed for two more and tight end Rob Gronkowski finally found the end zone. The defense also did its job, intercepting Aaron Rodgers twice — including a pick-six from Jamel Dean — and getting five sacks to give the Bucs their first signature win in 2020. “As a team, I don’t think we had any penalties, I don’t think we had any sacks [given up], and if we don’t have any turnovers, we’re gonna be hard to beat,” coach Bruce Arians said. “We kind of set a new standard for ourselves in that regard against a quality opponent.” — Jenna Laine

Next game: at Raiders (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)

All the momentum the Packers had before their bye week and on the way to a 4-0 start disappeared — and it started in the days before Sunday’s loss at Tampa Bay. It began in practice. Both Rodgers and coach Matt LaFleur said the week of preparation was not what it had been the first month. “You practice like crap, you go out and play like crap,” said LaFleur, who took his share of the blame too, saying the Packers got outcoached. The Pack haven’t lost much under LaFleur (five times in 23 games, including the postseason), but four of the five have been by at least 15 points. Rodgers said he thinks the team “needed kind of a kick in the ass a little bit, as a little bit of a wake-up to stop feeling ourselves so much and get back to the things that got us to this position.” — Rob Demovsky

Next game: at Texans (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home

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On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

Stream FC Daily on ESPN+
– 2020 MLS Playoffs: Who’s in, schedule and more
– MLS on ESPN+: Stream LIVE games and replays (U.S. only)

Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”

play

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Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.

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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment

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The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.

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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls

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With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast

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