Capitals

Giants might be on cusp of another late run

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Giants might be on cusp of another late run

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) With a crushing win over the Green Bay Packers, the New York Giants believe this could be the start of another late-season title run.

While no one was ready to predict a third trip to the Super Bowl since the 2007 season, the Giants (7-4) easily played their best game in a month in the 38-10 rout Sunday night that gave them a two-game lead in the NFC East.

``This is when you need to be playing your best ball heading into the cold weather and the playoff atmospheres that we're about to embark on,'' defensive captain Justin Tuck said Monday. ``This is when you want to be playing your best, so that's very important. A lot of times we see teams start hot and end on a cold note. We've been more of the variety of start hot, get cold and then heat up again. So hopefully we can end this season playing our best ball and heading into the playoffs playing our best ball. That's where you want to be.''

The Giants certainly looked a lot like the team that steamrolled opponents in their final six games last season, capturing a second title in five seasons.

However, this also has been an inconsistent team over the past two seasons.

The goal now is stay on a roll, especially with the young and talented Redskins on tap in Washington next Monday night.

A Giants' win almost eliminates Washington (5-6) from the division race. A Redskins' win puts the division up for grabs with a month to go in the regular season.

``It's a five-game schedule,'' fullback Henry Hynoski said. ``We have to keep staying consistent. We can't get complacent and say we just beat up on the Packers so we can beat up on anybody. Every week is big-boy football. We just have to come out and buckle our chinstraps and prepare every week like we did last week. We have to carry that here on out.''

The Giants had all three phases working against the Packers. The slumping offense converted three of four red zone opportunities in the team's second-largest win of the season. The defense sacked Aaron Rodgers five times and forced two turnovers that led to 10 points against one of the league's top offenses. Special teams didn't let Randall Cobb break any big returns.

One thing that has changed since the Giants went into the bye week following losses to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati was the way the players reviewed games. Normally, coaches watch the film and go over any errors. Cornerback Prince Amukamara said the players now hold a players-only meeting every Monday to go over the previous game, with the offense, defense and special teams each taking an hour or so to discuss the game.

Amukamara called it a debriefing akin to what many armed forces do following a mission. He said the players go over their actions on each play and get good feedback from other players.

Amukamara said the players did it last year, and started doing it again after the Cincinnati game.

``What's great about it is that everyone has a voice, from the scout team to a Pro Bowl guy, so anyone can talk,'' Amukamara said, noting the normal meeting with the coach will take place in addition to the debriefing.

Safety Antrel Rolle said beating the Packers the way the Giants did was an awesome feeling. In typical coach-speak, he added to remain consistent the team has to limit its focus to one team each week and not look at the big picture that also included games against New Orleans, Atlanta, Baltimore and Philadelphia.

However, he said Sunday's game was reminiscent of the way the Giants finished last season.

``Honestly, it felt good to go out there and get a win and get that nasty taste out of our mouths,'' Rolle said. ``Just being on the same page with the guys and going around and flying around and having fun while doing that (was good). I think we had a lot of fun in that game yesterday and we beat a very, very good opponent.''

Coach Tom Coughlin said if the team practices the way it did last week, the wins will follow.

``It started out a six-game schedule, now it's five,'' Coughlin said. ``Every game is critical, every game is important. This week, when we get started, our preparation will be for a divisional game, a Monday night game. Every game is of the utmost importance. I think the players will respond.''

Tuck agrees.

``We don't get down on ourselves just because of a few bad games, and we've had our share of bad games this year,'' he said. ``We all know what we are capable of once we tie it all together. Last night was a showcase of that.''

NOTES: The Giants placed halfback Andre Brown on recallable injured reserve with a broken left leg. He must stay on the list eight weeks, which would get him back for the Super Bowl if the Giants make it that far. With only Ahmad Bradshaw and rookie David Wilson on the roster, Coughlin said the team is considering signing a running back. Former Rutgers product Joe Martinek is on the practice squad. The Giants worked out free agents Mewelde Moore, Ryan Torain and Joseph Addai recently. ...There was no update on T David Diehl's stinger but Coughlin was concerned. S Kenny Phillips aggravated the right knee that he hurt in late September on Sunday night.

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Fixing their 'Swiss cheese' defense now a top priority for the Caps

Fixing their 'Swiss cheese' defense now a top priority for the Caps

Heading into the 2017-18 season, defense was a question mark for the Capitals. That question mark grew even bigger with Matt Niskanen on LTIR. Now, in the wake of an 8-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and with Niskanen out until at least early November, Barry Trotz knows the team needs to fix the blue line and they need to do it fast.

“We've got to be better,” Trotz told reporters after Tuesday’s morning skate. “But there’s areas of our game that we can be better. We can be better in our own zone. We can take care of business defensively. That’s got to be our security blanket. We had too many holes in our d-zone. It was like Swiss cheese.”

RELATED: TROTZ HAS SHUFFLED THE DEFENSIVE PAIRS. WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE NOW?

The team’s first response to Niskanen’s injury was to recall Madison Bowey, a player who impressed in training camp and who likely would have started the season on the team if not for a salary cap crunch and his waiver exempt status.

Bowey’s first game did not go well with the lasting memory being a highlight reel deke Jakub Voracek delivered to turn Bowey around before setting up another Philadelphia goal.

Trotz took ownership of Saturday’s game saying the team did not “insulate” Bowey very well in his NHL debut.

The problem is that it will difficult to insulate him or anyone on the Caps’ defense given how thin the blue line currently is. Washington’s defense currently features two rookies in Bowey and Christian Djoos and Bowey is only one of three right-handed shots. Plus, both Bowey and Djoos are likely better options than either Taylor Chorney or Aaron Ness so it will be tough to take either rookie out of the lineup.

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Given Washington’s salary cap constraints as they are right back up against the cap when Niskanen returns from injury and his salary is back on the books, it will be difficult for the Caps to make any sort of trade to bring in outside help. Many may point to goalie Philipp Grubauer as a trade chip, but his salary cap hit is only $1.5 million and you can subtract $650,000 from that as the team would have to recall Pheonix Copley to serve as backup. What kind of help can you really get with less than $1 million to play with?

If the team is going to turn things around and shore up its defense, it will mean improving from within.

Said Trotz, “We're in this for the long haul with our defense.”

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

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

John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards battle Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday 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. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7:00 p.m.
TV: ESPN (coverage begins at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington)
Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Three things to watch...

It all begins

The long, crazy, unprecedented NBA offseason is officially over. It's time to watch some Wizards basketball. This year Washington enters the season with the highest expectations they have had in a while. Coming off their best season since the 1970s, a year in which they won 49 games, their division and reached the second round of the playoffs, the goal is to go further. They want to win more than 50 games and reach the Eastern Conference Finals or beyond.

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris are all coming off the best seasons of their careers and will hope to take another step. Marcin Gortat will look to continue being a double-double machine. Ian Mahinmi will hope for better health. Kelly Oubre, Jr. will seek a breakout season. And their new-look bench will try to improve on last year's group. The Wizards have the tools to be one of the best teams in the NBA, but they have to stay healthy and prove it now that the rest of the NBA knows what they are capable of.

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A different Wall?

Wall made All-NBA for the first time last season, but there are many reasons to believe the best is yet to come. Wall earned that honor despite sitting out much of last offseason following two knee surgeries. This summer he was healthy and benefitted because of it. He was able to focus on his conditioning like never before and reported in fantastic shape. Now he has his sights on the MVP award and first team All-Defense. We get to see the new version of him on Wednesday night.

Wall, of course, is still finding motivation in the littlest of things. He took issue this summer with ESPN not ranking him in the top 10 among NBA players. And on Tuesday he tweeted what seemed to be a gripe with ESPN not including him in their tweet welcoming back the NBA. Wall, again, appears to be on a mission and the rest of the league should watch out, perhaps especially if you're a rookie point guard getting a lot of hype. While we're on the subject...

[RELATED: HOW MAHINMI LOST WEIGHT, WHY HE LOVES D.C.]

High profile NBA debuts

The Sixers will have two, not one, but two No. 1 overall picks making their NBA debuts on Wednesday night. It's not often you see that and it's a big reason why this one is slated for a national TV audience, that and because big things are expected of Joel Embiid. Markelle Fultz was the top selection in 2017 and will be playing his first game in his own backyard. He grew up in nearby Upper Marlboro, Md. and went to DeMatha Catholic. He won't start, but this is a huge night for him. He is playing his first game on ESPN at home and against Wall, one of the game's best point guards. No pressure, kid.

The other No. 1 pick is Ben Simmons, whom the Sixers took in the 2016 draft. He missed all of last year with a foot injury but is back and ready to remind us of why he went first overall. Simmons had a tremendous preseason and showed off his rare talents as a 6-foot-10 guy who can run the floor with anyone and pass like a point guard. He is going to make an impact in this league, but we don't know exactly what type of player he will be. Watching his debut should be fascinating.

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