Rest up, Packers, you're going to need it

Rest up, Packers, you're going to need it

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Good thing the Green Bay Packers are off this week.

They're going to need it.

Five of Green Bay's last seven games will be against NFC North opponents, a stretch that could prove every bit as tough for the banged-up Packers as the challenges they faced in the first half.

``To do what we want to do, you have to win your division games,'' defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Monday. ``When you have five of seven, we're going to get a heavy dose of guys who know a lot about us and we know a lot about them. That's always a challenge. You've got to put extra effort in the preparation. There's always a little more intensity that comes with division games. It'll start right as soon as we get back.''

Though the Packers (6-3) were on a roll with four straight wins, they desperately needed their bye. Their injured list was already cramped, with top receiver Greg Jennings, perennial Pro Bowl defensive back Charles Woodson and workhorse running back Cedric Benson among the headliners.

Three more starters - Clay Matthews, Jordy Nelson and Bryan Bulaga - were hurt in Sunday's 31-17 victory over Arizona, and Bulaga's hip injury appears serious enough to keep him out for an extended period of time. Matthews doesn't feel his hamstring is as bad as it's been in the past, coach Mike McCarthy said, but it still could sideline him for ``a couple weeks.''

``We need the physical rest, get our bodies back,'' Ryan Pickett said. ``We've got two weeks to get them right, get them closer to playing. And guys that have been hurt before that, we have a chance to get them back. So this bye is at the perfect time, the ideal time for us.

``We've got a lot of fighters - guys going down, guys stepping up, it shows a lot of character. (But) we can't wait to get all our players back,'' Pickett added. ``It's huge that we won these four games, but Chicago is out there a pretty good ways. We have to keep winning. I don't see them losing anytime soon. We just have to keep building off each win that we have, keep getting better.''

The Packers got off to a rocky start, thanks to the Inaccurate Reception and blowing an 18-point lead against the Colts. But players responded to McCarthy's challenge after the Indianapolis loss, and their recent winning streak has put them back in position to contend for the NFC North title. They are 1 1/2 games behind Chicago, and have one game left against the Bears.

Green Bay is the only team to beat Chicago this year. Did it badly, too, a 23-10 drubbing at Lambeau Field that was even more lopsided than the score indicated.

Even if the Packers can't catch Chicago, they're in good position to make the playoffs as one of the NFC wild cards. Green Bay has the best record of any second-place team, with Seattle and Minnesota, both 5-4, the only other NFC teams with winning records.

``I like where we're at,'' Aaron Rodgers said. ``We've had some adversity early in the season, we've come together, we've taken some heat and it's brought us closer together. We went on the kind of run we need to go on with four big wins in a row to get to the bye week, and now we can get healthy, and hopefully we can get some of our guys back.

``We've got a lot of guys who, if we can have back in the mix, we can really take off.''

But division games can be tricky. There is little these teams don't know about each other, and coaches usually spend a good part of the offseason trying to find some kind of edge.

``We take one week per division team as a staff, looking at everything they did the prior year,'' McCarthy said.

Now add to that what the Bears, Vikings and Tigers have done this season, and you know how the Packers coaches will be spending their ``break.''

``It's definitely a different challenge,'' McCarthy said. ``Having the bye week will definitely help us be ready.''

The players are doing their part by resting, both mentally and physically. McCarthy gave the Packers the entire week off, saying he wanted to make sure they were fresh for the final grind of the regular season, and he got no argument from his players.

``We're going to rest and recover this next week,'' Randall Cobb said, ``and then it's back to work.''


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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

It may be the 18th of March but today could be like Christmas for five Redskins players.

The Redskins decided to use today, four days after the start of the league year, for some contract triggers. In this case, the triggers are all 2018 salary guarantees (some teams will pay out roster bonuses on trigger dates, but the Redskins rarely use that type of structure).

Here are the players whose have guarantees that kick in today 4 p.m. All data is via Over the Cap.


CB Josh Norman, base salary of $13.5 million becomes fully guaranteed—This was a window for the Redskins to move on from Norman if they were not happy with his performance after two seasons. He is 31 and he had no interceptions last season, leaving some to wonder if the Redskins might think about releasing him. But it never was a consideration.

TE Jordan Reed, $8 million of his $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed—No, I’m not sure why they are leaving that $250,000 out there non-guaranteed. Fans thought that the Redskins might move on from Reed due to his injury issues. But, as with Norman, it never was a consideration.

S D.J. Swearinger, $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—This is a mere technicality, Swearinger wasn’t going anywhere after helping to solidify the safety position.


RB Chris Thompson, $1.996 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—His rehab is going well and after last year Thompson’s two-year, $7 million contract extension signed last September looks like a good deal for the team.

DE Terrell McClain, $3.25 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—If the Redskins sign a top free agent D-lineman or draft on early in the draft they could be in a numbers crunch. That new acquisition would be guaranteed a roster spot along with Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee, and Anthony Lanier. That makes five and the Redskins kept six last year. Ziggy Hood is a favorite of the coaching staff but he has no guaranteed money left on his contract. That could tip the sixth spot in favor of McClain if he is on the roster at the close of business today. If they release McClain after today, they would take a cap charge of over $2 million. It seems unlikely that anything will happen but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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