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Giants frustrated but hopeful after 9-7 mark

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Giants frustrated but hopeful after 9-7 mark

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) There is an obvious reason why the New York Giants went from a Super Bowl champion to a frustrated team that missed the playoffs.

It's consistency. Tom Coughlin's team lacked it in 2012 despite finishing with the same 9-7 record as a year ago when a late rush took them to their second title in five seasons.

This year there was no late rush. Just two bad games against Atlanta and Baltimore that cost the Giants control of their playoff destiny and ultimately left them cleaning out their lockers on Monday despite a season-ending 42-7 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

It was a far cry from a year ago when the Giants cleaned out their lockers and then boarded buses for a trip down the Canyon of Heroes in New York City.

``Emotionally it's not an easy day under any circumstances,'' said the 66-year-old Coughlin, who clearly is looking forward to returning next season. ``To not be in the playoffs is not what we expected when the season began.''

It certainly wasn't what the Giants expected after opening the first half of the year with a 6-2 record.

However, the second half was much different. New York started it by blowing a double-digit, fourth-quarter lead against Pittsburgh. They were embarrassed by Cincinnati the following week and later threw in consecutive no-show efforts in a 34-0 loss to Atlanta and a 33-14 debacle in Baltimore.

The team had two very different personalities.

When they played like a Super Bowl contender, the Giants were awesome. They beat San Francisco 26-3 and had wins over Green Bay 38-10, New Orleans 52-27 and Philadelphia 42-7 in the second half, too.

``The bar is set very high here,'' general manager Jerry Reese said. ``We didn't get the job done. I wish I had something clever to give you guys but that's the soup and nuts. We didn't get the job done.''

The Giants have some work to do in the offseason. They have almost two dozen restricted or unrestricted free agents, including several starters on both sides of the ball - tackle Will Beatty, guard Kevin Boothe, tight end Martellus Bennett, receiver Victor Cruz (restricted), linebacker Chase Blackburn, safety Stevie Brown (restricted), safety Kenny Phillips and kicker Lawrence Tynes.

Players said the front office doesn't need to tweak too much, especially with quarterback Eli Manning coming back. He is the lynchpin of an offense that scored 429 points, the second most in franchise history. The offensive line kept Manning clean much of the year and paved the way for Ahmad Bradshaw to have his second 1,000-yard rushing season. Cruz had another big year with 86 catches for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns

The defense seemingly needs more help after finishing near the bottom of the league in the regular season. The pass rush that carried New York last season wasn't there all the time and the run defense was pathetic at times, allowing an average of 129.1 yards.

There are several players who could be on the bubble. Offensive tackle David Diehl could become a salary cap casualty and there is no guarantee that Bradshaw will be back after rookie David Wilson played so well late. New York also has to hope that receiver Hakeem Nicks finally gets over the foot and knee problems that limited him all season, taking away one of Manning's favorite targets.

``Anytime we don't win the Super Bowl it's a disappointing year, so this is a disappointing year,'' defensive captain Justin Tuck said. ``So was the year before the Super Bowl. The thing I understand about the game is you play to win Super Bowls. You don't play the game to get playoffs berths. Yes, we would love to be in the playoffs, don't get me wrong but that's not the end goal. I would rather not make the playoffs than make the Super Bowl final and lose it.''

Tuck, who said he had a bad year, insists the Giants aren't in the same boat as teams that won two games this past season.

``We still have a quality football team, a team that I feel very confident that if we would have gotten in the playoffs, we would have made a run,'' he said. ``It's funny. We got on a run late year and played well those last six games. It seems to me, playing well against a division foe (the Eagles) yesterday, we started a little too late. Hopefully that will be something we can build on in this offseason.''

Manning looked upon the season as a wasted opportunity.

``We had a three-game lead at one point in the division, and down the stretch, we couldn't hold onto it,'' he said. ``It was up to us. We had to win. We had to play our best football, and we couldn't do it. There's no one to blame, or no one to look at except ourselves. That's disappointing.''

And that sums up the season.

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!

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Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

On a roll

The Wizards have some serious momentum going right now. With an impressive win over the Cavs on Thursday, they have now won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. They had a week off due to the All-Star break, but didn't show any rust at all in their first game back.

The Wizards are now 34-24, 10 games above the .500 mark. They are fourth in the East and could move into third on Friday if they win and the Cavaliers lose. Even with Wall out, things continue to look up for Washington.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Hornets have had their number

The Wizards haven't done so well against the Hornets so far this season. Charlotte has taken both meetings and that includes a 24-point win on Jan. 17. That game featured Dwight Howard taunting the Wizards late in the fourth quarter.

Howard has killed the Wizards through two games with averages of 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb (20.0 ppg vs. Wizards) has been a big factor as well as All-Star Kemba Walker (21.5 ppg vs. Wizards).

The last time these teams played about a month ago frustrations boiled over in an incident that got Tim Frazier ejected. Michael Carter-Williams picked a fight with Jason Smith and Frazier went off:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Hornets coming in hot

The Hornets are outside the playoff picture at the moment at eight games below .500, but they have won two straight games and Walker and Howard are coming off huge games. In a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Walker dropped 31 points and Howard grabbed 24 rebounds.

Those guys will be riding a high coming into Washington on Friday. But it should be noted that Howard complained after the game how tired he is at this point in the season. That exhausion could affect him more in the second game of a back-to-back.

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