Hurts, Jefferson, Mahomes among AP NFL MVP finalists

Jalen Hurts, Justin Jefferson and Patrick Mahomes are finalists for The Associated Press 2022 NFL Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year awards. The winners will be announced at NFL Honors on Feb. 9. A nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league completed voting before the start of the playoffs. Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Bengals QB Joe Burrow also are finalists for MVP. San Francisco 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa, Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones and Dallas Cowboys edge rusher Micah Parsons are the finalists for AP Defensive Player of the Year.

Chiefs' Mahomes to practice as usual on sprained ankle

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes went through a morning walkthrough Wednesday and intends to practice as usual, raising expectations that the All-Pro quarterback will not be slowed by his sprained right ankle in this weekend’s AFC title game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Mahomes said the injury is similar to one he played through early in the 2019 season, when he came back the following week to throw four touchdown passes in a win over the Raiders. The only difference is it’s the opposite ankle. The Chiefs and Bengals play Sunday night for a spot in the Super Bowl.

Hurts puts MVP talk behind him, focuses on NFC title game

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is humbled by being a finalist for the NFL Most Valuable Player Award. But Hurts is keeping his focus on leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl. The Eagles will host the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. No Eagle has won MVP since QB Norm Van Brocklin in 1960. Hurts continues to brush off concerns he's still bothered by his sprained right shoulder. He says: “I’ve felt better, but it doesn’t really matter.” Hurts says, “I’ve got to get it done.”

Purdy goes from 'Mr. Irrelevant' to brink of Super Bowl

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Brock Purdy’s NFL career started with the moniker of “Mr. Irrelevant” and the weeklong trip to Newport Beach to celebrate the player picked last in the draft. With one more win, Purdy’s rookie season in the NFL will end on the brightest stage of all as a starting quarterback in the Super Bowl for the San Francisco 49ers. It’s been an improbable nine-month journey from the trip to Disneyland, golf tournament, and a roast where he received the Lowsman Trophy as the last draft pick to the NFC title game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Purdy will try to become the first rookie quarterback ever to reach the Super Bowl.

IOC seeks pathway to let Russians compete at Paris Olympics

GENEVA (AP) — The IOC has made clear it wants Russians to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics as neutral athletes. That's in defiance of Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call to exclude Russians entirely in Paris in 18 months' time. The International Olympic Committee cites its “unifying mission” during a time of war that no athlete should face discrimination based on just their passport. The IOC said in a statement after a board meeting that “a pathway for athletes’ participation in competition under strict conditions should therefore be further explored.”

Shiffrin adds to record total with 84th win in another GS

SAN VIGILIO DI MAREBBE, Italy (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin didn’t wait long to add to her record total of World Cup wins. Shiffrin added her 84th win in another giant slalom on the same course a day after securing record victory No. 83. Shiffrin again led from start to finish by dominating the first run down the steep Erta course and then adding to her advantage in the second run. Shiffrin finished a massive 0.82 seconds ahead of two-time Olympic silver medalist Ragnhild Mowinckel and 1.19 ahead of Olympic champion Sara Hector. She's now within two wins of the overall record of 86 wins held by Ingemar Stenmark.

Rahm struggles to 1-over 73 in 1st round at Torrey Pines

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Jon Rahm struggled to a 1-over 73 at Torrey Pines South while Sam Ryder, Aaron Rai and Brent Grant all shot 8-under 64 on the more forgiving North Course to tie for the first-round lead at the Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm is ranked No. 3 in the world and trying for his third win in as many starts. He made a double bogey on the par-4 seventh hole and was continually left frustrated on the harder South Course. Rahm earned his first PGA Tour victory at Torrey Pines in 2017 and then won the U.S. Open on the South Course in 2021.

Conference title games are most evenly matched in 25 years

It’s been 25 years since both NFL conference championship games were this evenly matched from an oddsmakers standpoint. The San Francisco 49ers are 2 1/2-point underdogs against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in the NFC championship game, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. In the AFC title game, the Cincinnati Bengals are 1 1/2-point favorites on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs. The previous time both conference championship games featured spreads under 3 points was 1998. The Packers were 2 1/2-point favorites at San Francisco in the NFC game. The Broncos were 2 1/2-point favorites at Pittsburgh in the AFC matchup. Both road teams won.

Beltré, Mauer eligible for Baseball Hall of Fame next year

Scott Rolen is headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Next year, make way for another star third baseman. Adrián Beltré highlights the first-time eligibles for 2024. Rolen’s election Tuesday capped an impressive six-year rise in his vote total. But Beltré has a good chance to go in on the first ballot. He finished his career with 3,166 hits, 477 home runs and five Gold Gloves. Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, David Wright, José Bautista and Matt Holliday are also expected to make their debuts on the ballot next year. Mauer is the only catcher to win three batting titles and was the American League MVP in 2009.

Self assessment: Skidding No. 9 Kansas has little margin

Bill Self knows this isn't the same Kansas team that won the national championship last season. But the coach hasn't had to go through many stretches like this in his 20 seasons with the Jayhawks. Kansas has lost three games in a row for only the fourth time under Self. All of those losses were to ranked Big 12 opponents, with two on the road. The 16-4 Jayhawks play their SEC/Big 12 Challenge game Saturday at struggling Kentucky, which beat them 80-62 last year. They will be trying to avoid their first four-game losing streak since 1988-89. That was their first season under coach Roy Williams.

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