The 10x Pro Bowler tells TMZ Sports Cleveland will not only beat Kansas City ... but they’ll advance to the Super Bowl this season.
Of course, Cleveland's no stranger to playing the underdog.
Vegas had them on the wrong side of a 5.5 point spread on Sunday ... before the team thoroughly whooped the Steelers, ending their season.
So sure, Thomas might be a little biased ... but he wholeheartedly believes the Browns will take down Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs when they face-off this weekend.
“I think it’s gonna be a close game,” Joe says.
“The Chiefs have played a close game just about, well I think a one-score game every game the last half of the season, and I think with the Browns rushing attack and the way Baker Mayfield is playing with that killer mentality, I like the Browns in this one.”
FYI, the Chiefs -- a year after winning the Lombardi trophy -- finished the season with the NFL's best record, 14-2.
Bottom line ... Thomas is adamant the lovable loser Browns are long gone -- and this is a team to be reckoned with.
“This is the revival and the resuscitation of the Cleveland Browns franchise. For 17 years, to not go to the playoffs, for a lot longer than that not having won a playoff game and to be able to come back, get that monkey off your back, go to Pittsburgh and beat the Steelers, your hated rival, in a game that nobody gave you a chance in."
"I think it really is the turning of the tides for the Browns franchise and I think it’s a little bit of the turning of tides in the AFC North as well.”
The NFL is on notice.
The NFL coaching legend made the announcement Monday evening ... saying he was initially "flattered" to be offered the award -- but decided to ultimately turn it down after pro-Trump protesters ransacked D.C. last week.
"Recently, I was offered the opportunity to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which I was flattered by out of respect for what the honor represents and admiration for prior recipients," Belichick said.
"Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award."
Belichick continued, "Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation's values, freedom and democracy."
FYI -- the Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor ... with the White House explaining the award is given to those "who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."
Belichick and Trump have had an outstanding relationship over the years ... in fact, in 2018, Trump appointed the New England legend to his Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.
Of course, Belichick also famously wrote Trump a congratulatory letter -- which Donald read onstage at a major event -- right before the 2016 election.
In his statement rejecting the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Monday, Belichick added, "I know I also represent my family and the New England Patriots team. One of the most rewarding things in my professional career took place in 2020 when, through the great leadership within our team, conversations about social justice, equality and human rights moved to the forefront and became actions."
"Continuing those efforts while remaining true to the people, team and country I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award."
2:45 PM PT -- NASCAR tells TMZ Sports Deegan will be required to take sensitivity training before the start of the 2021 racing season.
NASCAR's Hailie Deegan -- a 19-year-old female driver who's a rising superstar in the sport -- was forced to apologize Sunday night after she used the r-word during a virtual race earlier in the day.
Deegan -- who's scheduled to drive full-time in NASCAR's Truck Series in 2021 -- was streaming on Twitch when another driver appeared to nudge her virtual car during the video game race.
"Oh! Hey!" Deegan said during the clip. "Who’s the r***** behind me?! Don’t do that, please."
Video of Deegan's comment quickly went viral -- with critics slamming her for using the offensive word ... and a short time later, the driver issued a lengthy apology on her social media page.
"Earlier tonight I used an insensitive word during an online race being broadcast on twitch," Deegan said. "It was inappropriate slang and a stupid thing to do. I apologize to everyone who was offended by it."
Deegan added, "There's no excuse for it, and I know I have to do better for my sponsors and my fans."
This is not the first time a NASCAR driver has found themselves in hot water over a virtual race ... remember, Kyle Larson used the n-word during a streaming event last April.
Larson was fired by his old team, Chip Ganassi Racing; dropped by major sponsors and suspended by NASCAR over it all. The 28-year-old was ultimately reinstated after hitting a ton of stipulations set on him by NASCAR officials, but he's still essentially on probation until 2023.
Unclear if Deegan will face a similar punishment over her use of the r-word. We've reached out to NASCAR for comment, but so far, no word back yet.
Deegan -- a Ford Racing Development driver who's the daughter of motocross legend, Brian Deegan -- was the ARCA Rookie of the Year in 2020 and has potential to be a massive star in the sport going forward.
Originally Published -- 7:48 AM PT
The Steelers were booted from the playoffs and they're STILL talking smack on the Browns ... with rookie receiver Chase Claypool saying Cleveland will get "clapped" in the next round.
In true Steelers fashion, the 22-year-old star went to none other than TikTok (seriously) to diss his AFC North rival on Monday ... saying, "Bad loss, but the Browns are gonna get clapped next week, so all good."
Worth noting, Claypool is saying this from the comfort of his own home ... which is where one usually goes after being eliminated from the playoffs.
Despite the loss, Claypool is confident the Browns will not come away with the dub next ... especially against the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs.
It's obviously not a hot take ... but given what happened just hours ago, maybe he shoulda kept his comments to himself??
The Browns had the last laugh ... mocking JuJu's love for TikTok dances after securing the epic 48-37 win.
See you next year??
Mark Cuban is sinking more than half a mil into a fantasy football trophies company called TrophySmack, and one of TMZ's former staffers is reaping the benefits!
Dax Holt was back with us for "TMZ Live" Monday to explain how he and his TrophySmack partner, Matt Walsh, managed to hook Cuban on the most recent episode of "Shark Tank."
He tells us the trophy market was coming up short in terms of creative trophies to satisfy the smack-talking demands of modern-day fantasy football fans ... so they stepped up.
Dax and Matt decided to go on "Shark Tank" in hopes of landing enough financial backing to expand beyond fantasy sports ... and ol' frosty tips (as he was known on "TMZ on TV") says they caught the perfect fish.
Cuban didn't make it easy on them -- putting all the pressure on the TrophySmack founders to make a VERY quick decision on his offer to invest. From Dax's perspective ... it wasn't too hard of a call to opt for Mark and his $600k investment.
As for the fact, they were backed into dissing Lori Greiner ... Dax says that's more on Cuban than them.
Either way, Dax and Matt might want to whip up a custom trophy for Cuban right away that says welcome aboard ... something like "TrophySmack's #1 Stakeholder."
Alabama players could be channeling their inner Liam Neeson when they take the field Monday ... 'cause the whole team got a private screening of the Hollywood badass' newest flick the night before the big game!!
TMZ Sports has learned ... Nick Saban and his #1-ranked Crimson Tide got in some team bonding before taking on Ohio State in the College Football Playoff national championship ... hitting up a Miami theater to catch a viewing of "The Marksman."
Now, the film isn't due in theaters until Jan. 15 -- but when you're playing for a title, you can pull some strings.
We're told Tide players are actually HUGE Neeson fans ... and even watched his 2020 movie "Honest Thief" together earlier this season.
This time around, the Tide got to check out Neeson's character fight off cartel assassins as he helps a young boy escape to safety in America. Sounds intense, right??
No word on if the boys indulged in some buttery popcorn and candy ... after all, they got a huge game ahead of them!!
1:02 PM PT -- In a statement to TMZ Sports, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson explained Jacobs was not hit with a DUI charge because, "The police investigation in the Josh Jacobs’ case revealed that Mr. Jacobs’ blood alcohol level was below the legal limit and therefore DUI charges are not being filed against him."
Wolfson added, "However, based on Mr. Jacobs’ driving behavior, my office has filed a Criminal Complaint for one misdemeanor count of Duty of Driver to Decrease Speed Under Certain Circumstances."
Las Vegas Raiders star Josh Jacobs is breathing easier today ... he won’t be hit with a DUI charge stemming from his car crash in Las Vegas last week -- according to his attorneys.
David Z. Chesnoff and Richard A. Schonfeld, who are repping Jacobs in the case, say the 22-year-old running back was only charged with failure to exercise due care by the district attorney on Monday.
"Josh appreciates the district attorney's thorough and complete review of the accident," Jacobs' attorneys said, "and we would like to thank the EMS and law enforcement at the scene."
FYI, failure to exercise due care is generally regarded as a minor offense ... usually punished with fines and community service.
It's obviously great news for Jacobs and his attorneys -- they clearly were effective in convincing the DA not to charge Josh with DUI after he wrecked his car near the airport at around 4:42 AM in Vegas on Jan. 4.
As we previously reported, cops say they had suspected Jacobs of drinking before getting behind the wheel ... claiming the NFL star smelled like alcohol when they questioned him shortly after the crash.
Jacobs and his attorneys, though, were adamant Josh did NOT drink and drive, saying at the time, "there are no blood test results to support a suggestion of impairment."
As for the injuries Jacobs suffered in the crash, his mug shot showed he suffered a huge gash on his forehead ... but it appears the running back will be fine going forward.
Originally Published -- 12:46 PM PT
11:47 AM PT -- Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie just explained the decision, saying, "I have spent the last few weeks evaluating everything from this past year and looking ahead."
"We are all very disappointed with the way our season went and eager to turn things around, not just for next season but also for the future of the franchise."
Lurie continued, "Coach Pederson and I had the opportunity to sit down and discuss what that collective vision would look like moving forward. After taking some time to reflect on these conversations, I believe it is in both of our best interests to part ways."
Surprising news out of Philadelphia ... Doug Pederson is now OUT as head coach -- this just 3 years after he won the franchise its first-ever Super Bowl.
The Eagles made the move Monday, according to multiple reports ... after Pederson's squad turned in a disappointing 4-11-1 record in the 2020 season.
Some had picked Philly to win the NFC East before the year began ... but poor play from the offense and injuries doomed them -- and the Birds ended up finishing in dead last in the worst division in football.
It's all pretty shocking, considering Pederson had started his career in Philadelphia with a bang.
In just his second season with the team back in 2017, he went 13-3 and ended up beating Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII.
But, key coaching departures, failed draft picks and deteriorating play from Carson Wentz all helped lead to Pederson's firing Monday.
Pederson shouldn't be jobless for long, though ... in fact, some have speculated because of his ties to Jets general manager Joe Douglas, he could be a strong candidate for New York's head coaching vacancy.
Originally published -- 11:24 AM PT
"I'm going to try to be unbiased as possible," Jones says, "but I'm going to pick Trevor."
As for why, the ex-OSU QB says it's pretty simple -- he believes Lawrence has played at a higher level for longer than Fields -- this despite Justin beating the Clemson superstar in last week's College Football Playoff semifinal.
"I think he's the safest bet," Jones said of Lawrence, "because he has more of a sample size -- a 3-year starter and some of the things he has done."
Don't get it twisted though ... Cardale still LOVES Justin -- and says if the Jaguars take Lawrence at #1 in April's draft, he expects whoever ends up with Fields to be just as happy.
"I predict both guys will have an opportunity to play at a young, young stage in their careers and have a tremendous effect on whatever organization drafts them," Jones says.
As for how Fields will fare in his (almost certainly) final college football game ever on Monday night ... Jones is backing the Buckeye there -- saying he's got OSU upsetting Bama for the natty.
"I got 38-28 Buckeyes," Jones tells us, "and we finding some way to stop that extremely high-powered Alabama offense."
By the way, speaking of Buckeyes national titles, Cardale tells us the last head coach to win a 'ship with OSU could have huge success in the NFL ... explaining Urban Meyer could be a great fit in Jacksonville.
And, Cardale tells us if Meyer is hired there ... he wants a spot on that roster ASAP, saying, "His ass better sign me!"
The NBA season is stumbling out of the gates ... with multiple games being postponed due to COVID-19.
The league has been hit hard with the virus over the past week ... as the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks and more have been struggling to put enough men on the court due to the NBA's Health and Safety protocols.
Fresh off the Heat's matchup with the Celtics being postponed Sunday, the Association has now pushed back 2 more games -- Mavs vs. New Orleans Pelicans and Celtics vs. the Chicago Bulls.
Of course, the league requires an 8-man roster in order to compete ... and the Heat and Mavs have been unable to fit that requirement as they conduct contact tracing following positive or inconclusive tests within their organizations.
The Philadelphia 76ers have also dealt with COVID-related issues after Seth Curry tested positive last week.
Despite the mess, the league officials say they will NOT postpone the season ... as they anticipated some hiccups along the way.
Could a return to the Orlando bubble be on the horizon??
The Chiefs superstar's fiancee -- who's several months pregnant with the couple's baby daughter -- revealed Mahomes gave her the ride for breakfast on Monday morning.
"Nothing like waking up at 8am to a new car on Monday," Matthews said. "@PatrickMahomes YOU THE BEST #momcar🔥."
24-year-old Brittany posted a video from inside the ride with a friend and Patrick's brother, Jackson ... and the whip looks fancy as hell.
Unclear exactly what the make and model is ... but the interior resembles the Lamborghini SUV -- which is a set of wheels that can cost well over $200,000!!!
"We got a new car!!!" a super happy Brittany said in the clip of the ride. "Heyyyyy!!!!"
Matthews added the caption, "Mom car" with a set of heart-eye emojis.
Brittany and Patrick have been dating since high school ... and got engaged in 2020. They announced their pregnancy in September.
The Cleveland Browns celebrated their first playoff win since 1994 the only way they knew how -- by epically roasting JuJu Smith-Schuster with a locker room celebration for the ages!!
Of course, the Steelers WR had some words for the AFC North rivals leading up to their Wild Card matchup ... calling Cleveland the "same old Browns" and claiming he was unfazed by the new-look team.
Baker Mayfield and Co. clearly had JuJu on their minds after taking care of business Sunday night ... trolling the TikTok-loving star with a taste of his own medicine.
Kareem Hunt, Jarvis Landry and more led the Browns' insane locker room celly following their 48-37 win over Pittsburgh ... blaring Pop Hunna and Lil Uzi Vert's "Adderall (Corvette Corvette)" and having some choice words for the receiver.
Remember, JuJu was infamous for his pregame ritual -- which included dancing to the same song while standing on opposing team logos prior to kickoff.
Landry mocked JuJu with some moves of his own ... while several Browns players recited the receiver's bulletin board material.
"The Browns gon' be the Browns!!!" Hunt said on IG Live ... with guard Wyatt Teller adding, "Same old Browns, huh?!"
It's a huge moment for the Browns ... who now have to prepare for the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs next week.
So yeah, celebrate while ya can!!
Another big loss for Donald Trump ... the PGA says it's now pulling a major golf event from one of the president's courses, explaining playing there "would be detrimental" to the brand.
The golf org. made the announcement Sunday -- formally shredding its plans to play the 2022 PGA Championship at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey in the wake of the riots at the U.S. Capitol.
"It has become clear that conducting the PGA. Championship at Trump Bedminster would be detrimental to the P.G.A. of America brand," PGA president Jim Richerson said in a video statement, "and would put at risk the PGA’s ability to deliver our many programs, and sustain the longevity of our mission."
Seth Waugh, the CEO of the PGA, further explained the decision to pull the event Sunday night ... telling the Associated Press it's all related to Trump's role in the unrest at the Capitol.
"Our feeling was given the tragic events of Wednesday that we could no longer hold it at Bedminster," Waugh said. "The damage could have been irreparable. The only real course of action was to leave.”
For Trump's part, POTUS' org. said in a statement it's "incredibly disappointed" with the PGA's decision ... adding, "This is a breach of a binding contract, and they have no right to terminate the agreement.”
FYI, the PGA Championship is one of golf's four biggest events every year. It was held at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco this year and won by Collin Morikawa.
It's unclear what course will now host the '22 event.
By the way, this is not the first time the PGA has pulled an event from a Trump course ... back in 2015, it terminated the PGA Grand Slam of Golf at Trump National in L.A. over disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants made by Donald.
Listen up Pokémon fans, you've got a clear path to feel like Togekiss -- the happiest Pokémon ever -- 'cause a 1999 Pokémon first edition complete set's about to hit the auction block.
The folks over at Goldin Auctions will soon auction off this 103-Pokémon card set that's in mint condition and expected to fetch upwards of $750,000. The collection includes the highly sought-after Charizard card.
Each card is gemstone certified. Goldin says while the cards have rounded corners, the Professional Sports Authenticator has given it a Gem Mint 10 grading ... meaning they're virtually perfect cards.
The fact that the set expected to earn three-quarters of a mil is pretty impressive ... since nearly 30 billion Pokémon cards have been traded since the craze started.
Some of the other cards in the set include Alakazam, the cute Blastoise, Chansey, Mewtwo and Poliwrath. That might sound like gibberish to some of you, but trust us ... that's badass.
BTW, it also has 72 Devolution Spray cards! 😲
Logan Paul also recently bought a Charizard card for $150k ... in cash.
TMZ Sports spoke with the former Pittsburgh DB this week ... and when he was explaining Smith-Schuster's "nameless, gray faces" comments, Taylor said JuJu wasn't exactly wrong!
"Well, first of all, there is no rivalry," Taylor said of the Browns vs. Steelers. "You know, the only rivalry when it comes down to Pittsburgh is the Baltimore Ravens. That's the only rivalry we look at."
"We never looked at Cleveland, we never looked at Cincinnati as no rivalry. That's just how it was."
Don't get it twisted, Taylor still has a ton of respect for Cleveland -- he praised Baker Mayfield for his progress -- but he says there's definitely a big brother little brother relationship between the Steelers and Browns.
"It's not in a disrespectful way," Taylor tells us. "It's just if you're a Pittsburgh Steeler, that's how you look at other teams."
If you missed it, Smith-Schuster spoke with reporters on Thursday and said he doesn't look at the Browns any differently this season compared to years' past when they were awful.
"The Browns is the Browns," JuJu said.
Kickoff for the playoff game is 5:15 p.m. PT in Pittsburgh. Getcha popcorn ready!
The Pats are rumored to be poking around the idea of possibly re-acquiring Garoppolo from San Francisco this offseason ... after the QB has had an up-and-down 4 seasons in the Bay Area.
And, because of Garoppolo's familiarity with NE (Bill Belichick drafted him in 2014) ... some think it'd be a great move for the Pats!!
But, when we spoke with Wiggins this week ... he told us he'd search elsewhere for a franchise signal-caller -- explaining Garoppolo is just injured too damn much.
"Nah, man, we don't want Garoppolo, man," Wiggins says. "He can't get on the field -- he's always hurt. When you look at him, the problem with him is he can't stay healthy. He's always hurt."
"I don't want a quarterback that's only going to play 6, 7, 8, 9 games for the year. So, nah, Jimmy G can stay on the left coast."
Wiggins does have a point -- Garoppolo has played in 6 or fewer games for the 49ers in three of his four seasons in the red and gold while battling various injuries.
So, who would Jermaine prefer? The tight end says he sure wouldn't mind if the Pats made a run at trading for Deshaun Watson (even if he thinks it's a pipe dream).
There's more, we also spoke with Wiggins about Belichick's decision to let TB12 walk this past offseason ... and, yup, you guessed it -- Jermaine believes that was a BIG mistake.