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Signs of progress, no playoffs for Dolphins

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Signs of progress, no playoffs for Dolphins

MIAMI (AP) Consecutive December victories give the Miami Dolphins reason to hope they'll be playing for higher stakes at this time next year.

The Dolphins began preparations Monday for a mostly meaningless season finale disappointed they'll again sit out the playoffs but buoyed by recent signs of progress. Miami (7-8) beat Buffalo 24-10 Sunday, then was eliminated from the postseason race minutes later when Cincinnati claimed the final AFC playoff berth by beating Pittsburgh.

``We're building a foundation that is going to deliver excellent football teams here in the future,'' first-year coach Joe Philbin said. ``And it takes time.''

The Dolphins will be playoff spectators for the 10th time in 11 years. Other negative streaks will also continue - 39 years without a Super Bowl title, 28 years without a Super Bowl berth, and 20 years since Miami last played in the AFC championship game.

The best the Dolphins can hope for in 2012 is to avoid a fourth consecutive losing season by winning Sunday at New England.

``That's not good enough,'' defensive end Cameron Wake said. ``There are no moral victories in football. You're either first or you're last. We didn't do well enough this season to be where we want to be, and almost doing it is just not good enough.''

Even so, the outlook is much brighter than in the past couple of Decembers.

The Dolphins have won their past two games in convincing fashion. And while the opponents - Jacksonville and Buffalo - were woeful, Miami had trouble with such teams earlier this year, losing four games to opponents that will finish under .500.

Miami lost the first time it played the Jets and Bills, then beat both division rivals in the rematch, and the same could happen against the Patriots. That reflects steady improvement under Philbin.

Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill is finishing the season strong, meaning the Dolphins will head into the offseason set at a position that has perennially been otherwise.

Over the past four games, Tannehill has thrown five touchdown passes with no interceptions.

``I think I've grown a lot,'' Tannehill said. ``I think I've learned something from every game and grown. Hopefully, I can continue that.''

The running game has thrived of late, with Miami averaging 149 yards over the past five games. Blocking was solid Sunday with the new combination of rookie Jonathan Martin at left tackle and Nate Garner at right tackle. Rookie Lamar Miller ran for a season-high 73 yards in 10 carries.

``He's going to be a great player in this league,'' teammate Reggie Bush said.

There are also encouraging signs on defense, the Dolphins' strong suit all season. They came up with four takeaways, three by emerging star Reshad Jones, to end a two-month drought. Veteran cornerback Dimitri Patterson, acquired off waivers a week ago, played well and might be part of the long-term outlook.

``Dimitri did a really nice job,'' Philbin said. ``We were happy with the contribution he made.''

But significant roster turnover is a certainty this offseason, with the Dolphins well positioned to upgrade in the draft even though they might lose several starters via free agency. They have considerable flexibility thanks to more than $40 million in cap space, along with five picks in the first three rounds of the draft.

Martin's steady play means injury-plagued tackle Jake Long, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2008, is likely to be deemed expendable and allowed to depart as a free agent. Bush, receiver Brian Hartline, tight end Anthony Fasano, defensive tackle Randy Starks, cornerback Sean Smith and safety Chris Clemons can also become free agents.

The Dolphins may try to re-sign Bush, who is their best playmaker and helped his market value in recent weeks. He scored three touchdowns Sunday and needs only 40 yards rushing to reach the 1,000 mark for the second year in a row.

``Our offense is really getting into a rhythm,'' Bush said. ``We hit a low point midway through the season where we were kind of struggling to run that ball, and I think that really hurt us. I feel like now we've kind of hit that stride where everybody is on the same page, our chemistry is good, our defense is playing well, and it feels good.''

NFL parity makes it easy to play what-if. The Dolphins lost five games by a touchdown or less, including two in overtime. Looking back, which defeat stings the most?

``All of them. All of them. All of them,'' linebacker Karlos Dansby said. ``Every last one of them.''

Such frustration will linger as the Dolphins look to a better future.

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

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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.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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Need to Know: The most overrated Redskins events of 2017

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Usa Today Sports Images

Need to Know: The most overrated Redskins events of 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, February 23, 19 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The overrated Redskin moments of 2017

Originally published 12/30/17

Sometimes in the NFL, something happens that grabs headlines and appears to be a momentous event that has ripple effects that will last all season and perhaps beyond. Other times something that is greeted with a yawn by fans and the media turns out to be something with lasting impact. Yesterday we looked at three events that were underrated at the time they happened. Here, in no particular order, are three overrated events from 2017.

Beating the Raiders—At the time, the Raiders were 2-0 and they still had the status of being one of the favorites to get to the Super Bowl. The Redskins whipped them 27-10 and the prevailing view was that the Redskins were on their way to a special year. But that loss started a four-game losing streak for the Raiders. They are currently riding a three-game skid and at 6-9 they are contenders for a top-10 draft pick, not for the Super Bowl. The win became less impressive for the Redskins as the year went on.

Signing Terrelle Pryor—There was plenty of excitement when the Redskins signed the Browns wide receiver, who had 1,000 receiving yards catching passes from a sub-mediocre group of quarterbacks in Cleveland. Imagine what he could do with a quality QB and a good offense around him. The hype grew when a fan captured him making this catch in training camp:

But the production was not there. In nine games before going on injured reserve with an ankle injury Pryor caught 20 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown.

Su’a Cravens departure—There was a lot of concern about issues both on and off the field when Cravens abruptly let it be known to teammates that he intended to retire just after the Redskins finalized their 53-man roster on September 2. All offseason Cravens’ name had been written at the top of the depth chart at strong safety in Sharpie. When he walked away and was put on the Exempt/Left Squad list (and eventually on the Reserve/Left Squad list, ending his season), there was plenty of speculation about whether the organization botched the situation and, of more immediate importance, what would happen at safety without Cravens. We’re still not sure about what happened but Montae Nicholson and Deshazor Everett did a respectable job at safety.

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

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 6
—NFL Draft (4/26) 62
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 198