Countdown to Kickoff

August 30, 2021

By: Carlos Alvarez

Welcome Back 

Seasons are changing before our eyes. The NFL preseason is over, and that means the focus shifts to Week 1. The Little League World Series has a winner. Plus, simultaneous golf and tennis tournaments are in full swing while one of soccer’s most iconic names returns to where it all started. All that and more in today’s Sportsletter.

Letter Rip!



The Countdown to Kickoff

Photo: Tom Pennington / Getty Images

Goodbye Preseason. Ten Days to Week 1. The NFL’s Countdown to Kickoff is On!


The final preseason games are in the books, and the NFL is officially gearing up for Week 1. In today’s top section, we’ll recap all the action from Week 3 of the preseason before starting the 10-day countdown to kickoff. Here are the top stories and highlights from around the NFL.


NFL Storylines


Dak Prescott Ready for Week 1

After a year of rehabbing a broken ankle and an offseason of shoulder concerns, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones confirmed that QB Dak Prescott is “good to go” for Week 1. With Prescott under center, Dallas is the favorite to win the NFC East.


Ravens Lose RB J.K. Dobbins

Baltimore Ravens RB J.K. Dobbins suffered a torn ACL in the first quarter of the team’s final preseason game on Saturday. He was the Ravens’ starting running back after letting Mark Ingram leave for Houston this offseason. Gus Edwards will likely be the feature back.


Trevor Lawrence Shines in Final Tune-Up

There wasn’t much to get excited about in Trevor Lawrence’s first two preseason games with the Jaguars, but the No. 1 overall pick looked nearly perfect in Week 3. Lawrence went 11-of-12 for 139 yards and 2 TDs in the team’s 34-14 win over the Cowboys. He’s already been named the starter in Week 1 after the team traded QB Gardner Minshew to the Eagles.


Patriots QB Battle Still Open

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick still hasn’t named his starting quarterback for Week 1. He likely won’t until gameday, but rumors suggest Pats fans could see an interchanging quarterback scenario until either Cam Newton or rookie Mac Jones prove they’re worthy of the starting job.


Other Preseason Highlights (Week 3)

Ravens QB Tyler Huntley Scores 5 TDs

Tom Brady Shines in Bucs Preseason Tune-Up

Baker Mayfield Leads Browns TD Drive

Josh Allen Looks Nearly Perfect in Bills Shutout


NFL Season-Opener

Cowboys at Bucs (Thurs. Sept. 9, 8:20 pm ET)


Additional Storylines

ESPN: Final 53-Man Roster Projections for All 32 Teams

USA Today: Jets Acquire Edge Rusher Shaq Lawson in Trade With Texans

NFL: Vikings Sign Safety Harrison Smith to 4-Year, $64 Million Extension



Cantlay Captures Epic BMW Playoff

Photo: Cliff Hawkins / Getty Images

Patrick Cantlay Outlasts Bryson DeChambeau in Stunning 6-Hole Playoff at BMW Championship


It looked like no one would catch Bryson DeChambeau after his earth-shattering 12-under (60) in Round 2 of the BMW Championship on Friday, but Patrick Cantlay had other plans. Cantlay and DeChambeau finished Sunday’s round at a staggering 27-under — more than four strokes ahead of the field — before entering a sudden-death playoff. Both players made par on four straight holes before a pair of dueling birdies on the fifth go-around. After a birdie by Cantlay on the sixth playoff hole, DeChambeau’s birdie putt missed a cup-length to the right. Cantlay, victorious after 78 holes of golf, now leads the FedEx Cup Playoff standings with one event left.


Watch: Cantlay Beats DeChambeau in 6-Hole Playoff to Win BMW Championship


Final Leaderboard

P. Cantlay (-27)

B. DeChambeau (-27)

S. Im (-23)

R. McIlroy (-22)

E. Van Rooyen (-21)


Notable Scorecards: D. Johnson (-20), S. Garcia (-20), S. Burns (-19), J. Rahm (-18), A. Ancer (-18), T. Finau (-16), C. Conners (-14), J. Thomas (-14), S. Scheffler (-14), B. Koepka (-14), J. Spieth (-11) | Full Leaderboard


FedEx Cup Playoff Standings

1. P. Cantlay (4,302 points)

2. T. Finau (3,564 points)

3. B. DeChambeau (3,189 points)

4. J. Rahm (3,063 points)

5. C. Smith (2,821 points)

Full FedEx Cup Standings


Final Event: The Tour Championship (Thurs. Sept. 2)


Additional Storylines

Golf Channel: Patrick Cantlay Wins BMW Championship With Red-Hot Putter & Ice-Cold Veins

ESPN: Nothing About the Bryson DeChambeau Experience is Easy These Days



Michigan Wins Little League World Series

Photo: Hunter Martin / Getty Images

Michigan Beats Ohio to Earn State’s First LLWS Championship Since 1959


The boys from Taylor North are your 2021 Little League World Series champions! Sunday’s LLWS final saw Michigan defeat Ohio (5-2) in an all-Midwest showdown. Jackson Surma tallied four of Michigan’s five RBIs, smacking two big hits with runners in scoring position. Ohio still had their share of scoring opportunities. They loaded the bases in three different innings, but came away with only two runs to show for it. Michigan pitcher Ethan Van Belle finished the championship game with eight strikeouts. It’s the state of Michigan’s first LLWS title since 1959 when the team from Hamtramck National won it all.


Watch: Michigan Beats Ohio for LLWS Championship


Congrats to the boys from Taylor North!


Additional Storylines

Detroit News: Attaboys! Taylor North Brings Home Michigan’s 2nd LLWS Championship

Sporting News: Jackson Surma’s Big Hits Lead Michigan Over Ohio in 2021 LLWS Final



Ronaldo’s Return

Photo: Matthew Peters / Getty Images

Manchester United Make Surprise Signing of Cristiano Ronaldo Despite Manchester City’s Efforts


Back to where it all began… Manchester United stunned the soccer universe on Friday when the club landed its former prodigy, Cristiano Ronaldo. The futbol legend was also in talks with rival Manchester City before opting to sign with his former team and return to the Red Devils for the late stages of his career. Ronaldo, 36, played six seasons with Man-U from 2003 to 2009 where he first began his ascent into soccer royalty. He scored 118 goals in 292 matches with Man-U before a decade at Real Madrid and the past three seasons with Juventus.


Fun Fact: Manchester United’s post announcing the return of Ronaldo garnered a record-setting 12.7 million likes (and counting) on Instagram — the most in the history of the social media platform.


How the Deal Got Done

United swung the Juventus attacker for a fee of only €20 million, plus “add-ons” that don’t include Ronaldo’s wages. He did agree to a €6 million pay cut, making his annual salary €23 million per year.


The transfer window closes tomorrow night, but one of the world’s greatest playes is heading back to where it all began.


Additional Storylines

ESPN: Here’s Why Ronaldo’s Return to Manchester United Shocked the Soccer World

SI: Cristiano Ronaldo’s Man United Return is Nostalgic, But Lacks Football Sense



⚾️ MLB: Wander Franco’s On-Base Streak to 29

Rays 20-year-old shortstop Wander Franco reached base for the 29th consecutive game on Sunday against the Orioles, joining Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle, Mel Ott, Arky Caughan and Frank Robinson as the only players to accomplish that feat under the age of 21.


🏈 CFB: Illinois Tops Nebraska in CFB Opener

College football’s season-opener took place in the Big Ten on Saturday with Illinois holding off Nebraska (30-22) in the first game under new head coach Bret Bielema. Illinois backup QB Artur Sitkowski delivered 124 yards and 2 TDs. The true Week 1 of the college football season begins this Saturday.


⚽️ SOCCER: Lionel Messi Makes PSG Debut

Paris Saint-Germain were 2-0 winners over Stade Reims on Sunday thanks to a brace from Kylian Mbappe, but the big story was the debut of newly acquired Lionel Messi. Messi subbed into the match for Neymar in the 66th minute to an overwhelming ovation from the PSG faithful. He didn’t score, but a new era in Paris has begun.


🏎️ NASCAR: Blaney Takes Daytona 400, Playoffs Set

Ryan Blaney was the last man on top after a dramatic overtime finish in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. The race included 45 lead changes before Blaney’s second straight Cup Series victory. Bubba Wallace and Ryan Newman finished second and third, respectively. The playoff field of 16 is now set.


🥊 BOXING: Paul Defeats Woodley by Split Decision

The latest chapter in the Jake Paul celebrity boxing saga got an interesting boost Sunday night in Cleveland. Paul defeated professional MMA fighter and former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley in a split decision (77-75, 75-77, 78-74). The internet sensation is now 4-0 in his young career.




RAFFLE: $500 Dick’s Sporting Goods Gift Card & ESPN+ Subscription


We’re giving away more prizes! For every 2 friends you refer to The Sportsletter, you’ll get 1 raffle entry for a chance to win a $500 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift card and a 1-year subscription to ESPN+. Raffle ends Aug. 31


Simply share The Sportsletter with family and friends using your unique Team ID. You’ll also get rewarded with team gear as you rack up points and climb the ranks.


Support The Sportsletter