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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.

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.

Mahomes the old man among 4 NFL conference title game QBs

Patrick Mahomes will be the old man among the starting quarterbacks in the NFL conference title games. The 27-year-old All-Pro for Kansas City is the oldest member of one of the youngest groups of starting quarterbacks to make it to this round. The other three scheduled starting QBs on Sunday are 26-year-old Joe Burrow for Cincinnati, 24-year-old Jalen Hurts for Philadelphia and 23-year-old rookie Brock Purdy for San Francisco. The only other time all four starting QBs in the conference title game hadn’t yet turned 28 came in 1996 when Brett Favre, Mark Brunell, Drew Bledsoe and Kerry Collins got there.

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.

Scott Rolen elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

NEW YORK (AP) — Slick-fielding third baseman Scott Rolen has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame with five votes to spare above the 75% needed. The seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove winner appeared on 297 of 389 ballots cast by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for 76.3%. He becomes the 18th third baseman elected to the Hall, the fewest of any position. First baseman Todd Helton was second with 281 votes for 72.2%, falling 11 votes short, and reliever Billy Wagner third with 265 for 68.1%. Rolen had a .281 batting average with 316 homers and 1,287 RBIs with the Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Reds from 1996-2012.

McIlroy snubs Reed, in no mood for reconciliation in Dubai

Rory McIlroy was one of the most vocal critics of the LIV Golf breakaway league last year. It left him feeling mentally drained so he decided to put his clubs away for a few weeks around Christmas. Now he’s back and appears to be as fiery as ever as he prepares to play the Dubai Desert Classic. McIlroy was on the driving range Tuesday when he was approached by Patrick Reed. Reed is one of the high-profile players to have joined the exodus to LIV. McIlroy says he was busy practicing and didn’t feel the need to acknowledge Reed. It’s clear McIlroy is in no mood for reconciliation.

EXPLAINER: Novak Djokovic’s successful return to Australia

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic is playing about as well as can be at the Australian Open. He is into the semifinals after taking his past 11 sets and dropping a total of 27 games in that span. His winning streak at Melbourne Park heading into Friday’s matchup against 25-year-old American Tommy Paul is 26 matches. That ties Andre Agassi for the longest unbeaten run by a man in the tournament since 1968. There was a pause during Djokovic’s streak though. He did not play in last year’s Australian Open. Djokovic is seeking 10th championship in Australia and 22nd Grand Slam title overall. The other men’s semifinal is Stefanos Tsitsipas against Karen Khachanov.

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.”