Niners-Seahawks a late-season classic


Niners-Seahawks a late-season classic

Under normal circumstances, Seattle's CenturyLink Field rocks from the noise of the 12th Man.

Imagine how far across Puget Sound the crowd's cheers will reverberate when the Seahawks host the 49ers on Sunday night.

The NFL flexed this one to prime time, and it was a wise choice. Although the 49ers (10-3-1) still can win the NFC West even if they fall to Seattle - a win in the finale against Arizona would do it - there's no way they'll take Pete Carroll's Seahawks lightly.

Niners coach Jim Harbaugh and Carroll had a bit of a feud going when they were college coaches, Harbaugh at Stanford and Carroll at Southern Cal. That hasn't diminished much in the pros.

``It's a big division finish for us and we'll see how it goes,'' said Carroll, whose team is 6-0 at home and hosts St. Louis in its last game. ``All we can do is focus on this game right here. We'll have no trouble focusing. They're a great team, and coming home and all that it will be exciting to get ready.''

Seattle (No. 7 in the AP Pro32) is on quite a roll, winning three in a row and five of six. Its defense has allowed 219 points, second only to the 218 yielded by the 49ers (No. 2, AP Pro32). And all the offense has done is put up 58 and 50 points the last two weeks. Seattle (9-5) is the first team since 1950 to score 50 or more points in consecutive weeks, impressing the oddsmakers enough to make the Seahawks 2 1/2-point favorites.

But the 49ers also have done something rare, going into New England and, after blowing a 28-point lead, beating the Patriots 41-34. They have lost only one of their last eight games.

``I think the thing that the players were feeling and probably anybody that was watching it was feeling was that there were two teams - two very good teams, two hard-hitting teams, two teams that have a lot of pride in how they play - really came out to see who's better,'' Harbaugh said of the Patriots game. ``And wanted to be better and wanted to win that game, and it showed.

``This game will be the same, I really believe that.''

So do we, but without the scoreboard being overworked.



No. 25 Tennessee (plus 10 1/2 ) at No. 6 Green Bay

Packers have NFC North clinched, probably won't find way to No. 1 seed. Still ...


No. 17 New Orleans (plus 3) at No. 12 Dallas

Saints damage Cowboys' playoff hopes with high-scoring win.

UPSET SPECIAL: Saints, 31-30

No. 4 Atlanta (minus 3) at No. 28 Detroit, Saturday night

Falcons can grab NFC home-field advantage with a win. Consider it grabbed.

FALCONS, 30-16

No. 13 Cincinnati (plus 5) at No. 15 Pittsburgh

One of these teams will be in playoffs. Shockingly, it will be Cincinnati.

BENGALS, 17-16

No. 3 New England (minus 14) at No. 31 Jacksonville

Patriots are an angry bunch, will take it out on weak Jaguars.


No. 11 Indianapolis (minus 6) at No. 32 Kansas City

Colts secure wild-card spot against NFL's worst team.

COLTS 27-10

No. 8 Washington (minus 4) at No. 29 Philadelphia

Redskins have come too far to stumble here.


No. 18 St. Louis (plus 3) at No. 20 Tampa Bay

A pair of teams to perhaps watch in 2013. As for right now ...


No. 9 (tie) New York Giants (minus 1) at No. 9 (tie) Baltimore

Tough to explain Giants' and Ravens' inconsistencies.

GIANTS, 24-17

No. 14 Minnesota (plus 7) at No. 5 Houston

Adrian Peterson's pursuit of rushing record could get stymied here.

TEXANS, 24-14

No. 23 Cleveland (plus 12) at No. 1 Denver

Broncos are looking at 11-game win streak to finish season.

BRONCOS, 28-13

No. 16 Chicago (minus 5 1/2 ) at No. 27 Arizona

Injury-ravaged Bears have enough left to stay alive in wild-card chase.

BEARS, 19-13

No. 30 Oakland (plus 8) at No. 21 Carolina

Panthers might have saved Ron Rivera's coaching job with recent spurt.


No. 26 Buffalo (plus 5) at No. 19 Miami

Who cares, Part I?


No. 24 San Diego (plus 3) at No. 22 New York Jets

Who cares, Part II?



2012 RECORD:

Against spread: 7-8 (93-114-7). Straight up: 8-8 (134-85-1)

Best Bet: 6-7-2 against spread, 10-5 straight up.

Upset special: 10-5 against spread, 8-7 straight up.


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Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game


Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game

You thought the Caps had a goalie rotation before, but now they have added a third netminder in the mix.

Pheonix Copley has been recalled from the Hershey Bears and will backup Philipp Grubauer for Washington's game in Detroit, the team announced Thursday.

The move comes in response to an injury concern for Braden Holtby.


Dallas Stars forward Remi Elie collided with Holtby midway through the third period on Tuesday as Holtby was extending to make a save. Holtby reacted awkwardly to the collision and could be seen skating and flexing his leg during the next stoppage.

With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Holtby's injury is a major concern. Given his recent struggles, the final few weeks of the season offered a chance for Holtby to get his game back to form. Just where his game will be when he is 100-percent healthy again is certainly a storyline to watch.


The good news for Washington, however, is that Grubauer is perhaps more ready this season to lead the team than he ever has been and confidence in him around the team should be high.

Since Thanksgiving, Grubauer has played in 22 games with a 17-11-4 record, a .939 save percentage, 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. No goalie who has played in 20 games or more has registered a better save percentage or GAA. He will certainly be looked upon to carry the load until Holtby returns. Whether this means he now has the inside track on starting in the playoffs, however, remains to be seen. That will depend largely on just when Holtby is ready to return and how Grubauer plays down the stretch.

Copley, 26, has gone 14-16-6 with two shutouts, a .898 save percentage and 2.86 GAA in 38 games in Hershey this season. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Washington in 2014. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the Caps T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired by Washington in Feb. 2017 in a trade deadline deal that included Kevin Shattenkirk.

At the time, it was believed Copley would be the team's backup for the 2017-18 season with Grubauer likely headed to Vegas in the expansion draft. Vegas, however, took Nate Schmidt instead which led to Copley spending the season in Hershey. The Caps now will be happy for the extra goalie depth for as long as Holtby's health remains a concern.

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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Washington Wizards

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


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