Redskins

Vikings edge Packers to setup playoff rematch

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Vikings edge Packers to setup playoff rematch

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Back and forth they went, Adrian Peterson and Aaron Rodgers going at each other with so much on the line. The emotional pendulum swung wildly in one of the most memorable games of this long and bitter rivalry.

It was a game so good that it deserves a rematch. And that's just what it will get.

Peterson rushed for 199 yards to become the seventh player to surpass 2,000 in a season and scored two touchdowns to help the Minnesota Vikings to a 37-34 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday that sets up a playoff rematch next weekend.

``It won't take a whole lot to get our players fired up to go play in Lambeau,'' Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. ``They'll be fired up to go and play.''

Christian Ponder threw for 234 yards and three touchdowns in the best game of his young career and Blair Walsh kicked a 29-yard field goal as time expired for the Vikings (10-6), who won the last four games of the regular season to squeak in as the final NFC wild card. Peterson finished with 2,097 yards in his remarkable comeback season, just nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season record set back in 1984.

``If it happened, it would have come to me, but I didn't want to focus on it at all,'' said Peterson, who had a career-high 34 carries in a game the Vikings needed to win to qualify for the playoffs. ``I wasn't focused on it. I went out and played my game and accomplished what we wanted to. We're in now. We're in the playoffs. We get to fight another week.''

That fight will take place at Lambeau Field on Saturday night because the Packers (11-5) once again couldn't find a way to stop Peterson. He needed 102 yards to join the 2,000-yard club and 208 to surpass Dickerson coming into the game. After rushing for 210 yards at Lambeau on Dec. 2, Peterson plowed through the Packers again on the one-year anniversary of surgery to repair two torn ligaments in his left knee.

``You can't help but watch him play and just be really impressed,'' said Rodgers, whose Packers missed a chance to lock down the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. ``I think he probably might have won the MVP today, and hopefully we can win the playoff game next week.''

Rodgers completed 28 of 40 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns, overcoming a slow start to bring the Packers roaring back into the game.

The Vikings jumped out to a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter, with Peterson scoring from seven yards out and Walsh kicking a 54-yard field goal and a 37-yarder to get the Metrodome crowd rocking. Peterson went over 2,000 yards with a 20-yard burst in the third quarter, getting serenaded with chants of ``MVP!'' along the way.

But Rodgers isn't ready to give up his crown just yet. He hit Greg Jennings and James Jones for touchdown passes in the third quarter and the shaky Mason Crosby's second field goal of the game tied it at 27 late in the third quarter to set up the wild finish.

Ponder squeezed a 3-yard TD just past Packers safety M.D. Jennings' diving reach to Michael Jenkins in the fourth before Rodgers hooked up with Jordy Nelson for a 2-yard score with 2:54 to play. Peterson took over from there, ripping off a 26-yard run to put Walsh in position for the game winner.

``He's a special player and we've had a special year so far,'' Vikings center John Sullivan said. ``But it's not over. We have a few more games to win.''

Not if the Packers can help it. They may have lost on Sunday. But they're still the NFC North champions. And this time they'll have the Vikings on their turf.

``I think it'll be a great contest,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. ``It's an opponent we're very familiar with, and they're familiar with us. Everybody has confidence going into the playoffs. Most importantly, we'll be at home. We're excited to play these guys again.''

NOTES: Vikings CB Antoine Winfield did not play in the second half after aggravating the right hand he broke last week. He said he plans on playing in the playoff game, but will have to be evaluated throughout the week. ... Packers DE Jerel Worthy was carted off the field in the fourth quarter with a knee injury and WR Jarrett Boykin also left the game with an undisclosed injury. ... The game grew tense in the third quarter when McCarthy was penalized for throwing a challenge flag after the replay process began. However, they were only penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, not prevented from benefiting from the overturned call. Referee Mike Carey said the review was called before the challenge flag was thrown, meaning they could still review the play. ``Emotional decision by me,'' McCarthy said. ``I shouldn't have done it.'' ... Jennings had eight catches for 120 yards and DuJuan Harris rushed for 70 yards on 14 carries for Green Bay.

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The Redskins aren't big on analytics but the numbers are likely to influence their top draft pick

The Redskins aren't big on analytics but the numbers are likely to influence their top draft pick

There are always surprises in the NFL draft, but the 2018 edition may be the most unpredictable in years. There are a few factors at play here and they will affect who is available to the Redskins in the first round and who they end up drafting there. 

One factor is analytics. Not all teams have a big analytics department but all 32 are aware of the trends in the game. One is that teams no longer emphasize establishing the run early in games. Teams pass in the first quarter on about 57 percent of the snaps. That run-pass ratio is about the same as it is during the other three quarters. It’s still a passing league from the opening kickoff until the clock hits 0:00. 

So why, then, is Vita Vea, a pure nose tackle who likely will be of limited help against the pass, a possible top-10 pick who the Redskins reportedly would like to take at 13? 

The way it looks now, Vea is going to be one of the best available players with a significant drop off to any players associated with the passing game except quarterbacks—wide receiver, left tackle, edge rusher, and outside cornerback. 

The Redskins might rate Vea as more valuable than other teams because of how weak their rushing defense is. Teams ran at them on 47 percent of first-quarter plays, taking advantage of the weakness. This kept up through all four quarters; teams ran against the Redskins on 46 percent of the plays compared to 42 percent of all plays league-wide. Washington’s vulnerability against the rush may push Vea and probably Da’Ron Payne up on their draft boards even if they are of limited utility in the nickel defense. 

Here is one more example of the numbers and talent affecting this draft. Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick played a variety of positions in Alabama’s secondary. The consensus opinion is that his best NFL fit is slot corner. Traditionally, that is not a first-round position because it’s has been a role, a part-time position. 

But the view is shifting. Offenses take 62.6 percent of their snaps with three or more wide receivers on the field. That number only counts true wide receivers, so you can add a percentage point or two in for when a running back or tight end lines up out wide. As you would expect, a comparable number of defensive snaps (65.3%) are with five or more defensive backs on the field. The Redskins were in line with this. Slot corner Kendall Fuller played nearly 66 percent of the snaps last year. 

Since you will utilize your slot corner on nearly two-thirds of your plays, if you can get a good one with the 13th pick you shouldn’t hesitate just because of the old view of the position. When you add in the fact that Fitzpatrick can play safety and outside corner as well the Redskins could well pull the trigger if he’s still there. 

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

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Penguins will be without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin for Game 1

Penguins will be without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin for Game 1

As the Capitals and Penguins prepare to open their second-round series, significant injury news came out of Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Head coach Mike Sullivan informed the media that both Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin would not play in Game 1 due to injuries.

The fact that Hagelin would not be traveling with the team suggests that he will miss Game 2 as well, but that has not been confirmed. That also means that Malkin is at least a possibility for Game 2.

Malkin did not play in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers after getting injured in a collision with Jakub Voracek in Game 5. Hagelin was injured in Game 6 on a big hit from Claude Giroux.

So when the series against Washington begins, Pittsburgh will be playing without two-thirds of its second line.

Malkin made a real push for the Hart Trophy this season with 42 goals and 98 points. He was a major factor in last season's Cup run with 28 points in 26 games and was gearing up for another big postseason with five points in his first five games.

But don't celebrate too much, Caps fans. It is not as if either loss will be crippling to Pittsburgh's offense.

Despite not having Malkin for the entire Game 6 and losing Hagelin midway through the second period, the Penguins still managed to put up eight goals on the Flyers in the series-clinching win.

Still, with scoring depth being such a strength for Pittsburgh, the Capitals need to take advantage. The Penguins will be without one of the best players in the NHL and that makes Game 1 crucial. Washington has gone down 0-2 in each of their past two playoff series including last year against Pittsburgh. They lost that series in seven games. They need to have a better start this year and with no Malkin or Hagelin for Game 1, this may be a must-win for the Caps.

Riley Sheahan and Dominik Simon skated with Phil Kessel on the second line at practice on Wednesday and it is a good bet that is how the second line will remain for Game 1. That way, Pittsburgh can keep its third line of Conor Sheary, Derick Brassard and Bryan Rust line together which has been very effective.

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