Nationals

Peterson ready to help Vikings chase playoff berth

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Peterson ready to help Vikings chase playoff berth

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) It's all right there for Adrian Peterson now.

One more game in his remarkable comeback season, and the only thing that remains on the line is everything.

A win against the rival Green Bay Packers on Sunday would put his Minnesota Vikings into the playoffs for the first time since the 2009 season. The milestones of 2,000 yards and Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record are there to be had as well, along with a potential MVP award that would cement his standing among the league's great players.

``It's such a big game when you look at everything that can be accomplished,'' Peterson said Wednesday. ``I'm looking forward to it, man. Most importantly, getting into the playoffs, securing that with a win against Green Bay. Having an opportunity to hit 2,000, having an opportunity to break Eric Dickerson's record in the same game, it would be great to accomplish.''

Perhaps the only thing more improbable than the Vikings (9-6) sitting one victory away from a playoff berth is that they have been carried there by Peterson, who tore two ligaments in his left knee just over a year ago. He has already racked up a career-high 1,898 yards rushing this season, leaving him 102 away from becoming the first player to hit 2,000 yards on a reconstructed knee.

His inspiring recovery has galvanized a team that has been teetering on the edge of elimination the last four weeks and has put some of the biggest names to play the position in his corner as he runs toward history. Dickerson is on record as saying he hopes Peterson falls a little shy of his 2,105 yards rushing in 1984, but everyone from Jim Brown to Terrell Davis to Chris Johnson - the last running back to rush for 2,000 yards - have come out in support of his pursuit.

``So impressed by everything (at)AdrianPeterson has done this year,'' Detroit Lions great Barry Sanders tweeted recently. ``Big fan of E.D. But really pulling for AP to break the record. Good luck.''

Peterson needs 208 yards on Sunday to break Dickerson's record, a number that would be considered close to impossible for most running backs in this pass-happy league. But Peterson has topped that twice in the previous four games. He's also rushed for more yards against the Packers than any other team, including 210 yards at Lambeau Field on Dec. 2.

``I wouldn't say I'm rooting for him to get it, but I want him to do the best that he can do,'' said Johnson, who developed a bit of a rivalry with Peterson a few years back when both laid claim to the title of the best running back in the league. ``It's just a nice story from where he got hurt last year. I sent him a text to see how he was doing and stuff like that. I wish him the best and whatever he does, I congratulate him on it and I'll be happy for him.''

Peterson has been humbled by all the support and is understanding of Dickerson's stance, but there is one player he wishes he could sit down with before he plays one of the biggest games of his career - Walter Payton.

``What inspired you to be the best?'' he wishes he could ask the Bears great, who died in 1999. ``How did he deal with success and fame? If he could do anything different, what would it be? What would he have done?''

Peterson speaks to Vikings coach Leslie Frazier about Payton. Frazier was a teammate of Payton's and has routinely said he sees striking similarities between the two, on and off the field.

His name is up there with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in the MVP discussion, and an MVP win for Peterson would break a string of five straight given to quarterbacks. He's certainly showing that an offense can be successful while relying heavily on the running game and validating the Vikings' decision to invest heavily in him with a lucrative contract extension before last season.

``I definitely want to keep the running backs highlighted,'' Peterson said. ``It's started to turn into more of a spread, quarterback-friendly NFL. But just keep letting them know that there are going to be running backs that can do this.

``Just give young guys the inspiration to try to be better than me. Just inspire them to get on top of their game to be better so that running backs continue to prosper in this league and have coaches and organizations respect us so we can continue to not only play the game we love, but take care of our family.''

LaDainian Tomlinson, another running back with Texas roots, won the MVP award in 2006, the last time a non-quarterback has won the award.

``It would definitely be nice to do that,'' Peterson said. ``And I feel like it will happen. I just have the confidence in myself and the guys that surround me who have played such a big part in this the whole season.''

One more game to strengthen his case. One more game to reel in those records and try to extend this magical season for at least another week.

``Coming into the season after going through the rehab process, I just told myself that I wanted to lead my team to a championship and make sure that I contribute and do my part,'' Peterson said. ``I've been doing it. I just ask God to continue to bless me.''

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AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this story.

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Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter:http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Inside Baseball: The Nationals' bullpen is both currently bad and potentially great

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USA TODAY

Inside Baseball: The Nationals' bullpen is both currently bad and potentially great

Welcome to Inside Baseball. Here, we're taking a quick peek at what's going on ... inside ... baseball. 

We're almost a month into the MLB season, and that sweet noise you hear is the sound of sample sizes starting to become reliable! So far, the Red Sox are very good except for the nights they're getting no-hit, Derek Jeter's Marlins and their .227 winning percentage "aren't accepting a losing culture," and Mike Trout is well on his way to another historically-great 3rd place finish in the MVP race. 

AT NATS PARK

As it stands today, the Nationals are sitting in 4th in the NL East. It's early, they haven't been healthy, etc. etc., whatever. It hasn't been great. Their pitching staff features the best rotation in baseball paired alongside one of the worst bullpens in baseball. No bullpen in baseball has a higher homerun/flyball percentage (18%) than the Nationals. Only two teams - the Rockies and the Royals - strand runners on base at a lower clip than the Nationals (64.0 LOB%). If you really want to get into the weeds, their Win Probabilty and Clutch numbers tell a grim story too. 

Don't smash that panic button yet, though (maybe just lightly rest your hand on it). There are a few reasons to believe that maybe the bullpen isn't actually as bad as they've been the first month.  They're striking out hitters at an elite level so far - only the Brewers and the Yankees have better K/9 and K% numbers than the Nats.  If you take take a look back at which bullpens led the league in strikeout numbers over the last handful of years, you'll see a *lot* of playoff teams. In the three-true-outcome era, having a bullpen that gets swings-and-misses is inarguably valuable. The Nats have that. 

Taking a look at their individual numbers, it's clear there's an excellent backend hidden somewhere in the bullpen right now. Sammy Solis' ERA is almost four runs higher than his FIP (fielding-independent pitching), a clear sign that Solis has pitched well but been a victim of the Nats' shoddy defense. The same goes for Ryan Madson, whose ERA sits at almost seven despite an FIP under three. Assuming that bullpen roles become more established once the data catches up, the Nats' bullpen could look a lot better in a month or two. 

AROUND BASEBALL

What you should know: Manny Machado's half-season showcase is going swimmingly so far. He's slashing .360/.447/.708 with eight homers so far. He's posted a 208 wRC+ so far, which is a fancy way of saying he's been 108 percent better than league average at the plate so far. He's been the most valuable hitter this season and the second-most valuable player overall. Meanwhile, the Orioles are 6-17 and already 12 games out of first place in the AL East. It hasn't even been a month yet. Is this the year the the MLB trade deadline is exciting?!

What you should watch: Angels @ Astros (4/24-4/25)

Shohei Ohtani is pitching on Tuesday night, so that's reason enough. But, if you need more, there's also Mike Trout, the defending World Series champs, and Justin Verlander pitching on Wednesday. It also happens to be a battle between the best two teams in the AL West, separated by half a game for first place. If there's such a thing as exciting April baseball, it looks like this. 

Player of the week: I know we already talked about him, but no one's been better than Manny Machado over the last seven days. He's hitting .500/.586/1.208 with five homers during that span. After being bit by historically bad luck during the first half of last season, Machado has been putting up monster numbers ever since:

Random baseball gif: 

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When is the NFL Draft 2018? TIme, TV Channel, Online Stream, Draft Order

When is the NFL Draft 2018? TIme, TV Channel, Online Stream, Draft Order

Draft week is finally here. The predictions and projections, mock drafts and prospect rankings can be put to the side.

On Thursday, April 26, the top college football players will hear their names called and find out their first destination in their professional football careers as the 2018 NFL Draft takes place.

More than 250 players will join the league this weekend, starting with the Cleveland Browns and the No. 1 overall pick.

The 2018 NFL Draft will be televised on six television channels: NFL Network, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and ABC. The first round will starts at 8:00 p.m. ET on Thursday and will air on NFL Network, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.

Round 2 and Round 3 start at 7:00 p.m. ET on Friday and will air on four networks: NFL Network, Fox, ESPN and ESPN2.

The final day of the 2018 NFL Draft (Round 4 through Round 7), will air on NFL Network and ESPN, with ESPN's coverage simulcasted on ABC for the first time ever.

All seven round of the 2018 NFL Draft will be broadcast on national television for the first time ever.

When is the 2018 NFL Draft?

The 2018 NFL Draft starts Thursday, April 26, and ends Saturday, April 28. The first round will take place at 8 p.m. Thursday night, with the second and third rounds happening Friday night.

The final five rounds will be on Saturday.

This year's draft is being held at the Cowboys' home, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

2018 NFL Draft Schedule

  • Round 1: Thursday, April 26, 8 p.m. ET
  • Rounds 2-3: Friday, April 27, 7 p.m. ET
  • Rounds 4-7: Saturday, April 28, 12 p.m. ET
     

How to watch or stream the 2018 NFL Draft:

Live coverage of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft starts at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 26. The draft continues at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 27 for the second and third rounds, and then again at noon on Saturday, April 28 for the final rounds.

This year's draft will be broadcast by Fox and ABC, along with ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, NFL Network.

For the first time, all seven rounds of the three-day event will air live on broadcast TV.

On Thursday, April 26 at 8 p.m. the draft will air on five channels: NFL Network, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. 

You can also stream the draft on the WatchESPN app or the NFL Mobile app (or ESPN.com or NFL.com), along with Fox Sports Go. 

When do the Redskins pick in the 2018 NFL Draft?

As of now, these are when the Redskins will pick in the 2018 NFL Draft:

  • First Round, Pick No. 13
  • Second Round, Pick No. 44
  • Fourth Round, Pick No. 109
  • Fifth Round, Pick No. 142
  • Fifth Round, Pick No. 163
  • Sixth Round, Pick No. 188
  • Seventh Round, Pick No. 231
  • Seven Round, Pick No. 241
     

2018 NFL Draft Order:

1. Cleveland Browns
2. New York Giants
3. New York jets (via Colts)
4. Cleveland Browns (via Texans)
5. Denver Broncos
6. Indianapolis Colts (via Jets)
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8. Chicago Bears
9. San Francisco 49ers
10. Oakland Raiders
11.  Miami Dolphins
12. Buffalo Bills (via Bengals)
13. Washington Redskins
14. Green Bay Packers
15. Arizona Cardinals
16. Baltimore Ravens
17. Los Angeles Chargers
18. Seattle Seahawks
19. Dallas Cowboys
20. Detroit Lions
21. Cincinnati Bengals (via Bills)
22. Buffalo Bills (via Chiefs)
23. New England Patriots (via Rams)
24. Carolina Panthers
25. Tennessee Titans
26. Atlanta Falcons
27. New Orleans Saints
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
30. Minnesota Vikings
31. New England Patriots
32. Philadelphia Eagles