Win over Giants saves Bengals' season


Win over Giants saves Bengals' season

CINCINNATI (AP) By drubbing the defending champions, the Bengals have given themselves a second chance.

A 31-13 win over the New York Giants on Sunday moved Cincinnati (4-5) back to the periphery of the playoff chase with a couple of games ahead against struggling teams. The Bengals will get a chance to make it interesting.

The lopsided victory also represented a breakthrough. The Bengals haven't been able to beat a good team the past two seasons, going 0-6 against AFC North rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore. They went 0-8 last season against other teams that reached the playoffs.

This one was notable, even if a lot of their fans missed it.

``Yeah, man, that was huge for us,'' defensive tackle Domata Peko said on Monday. ``We really needed that win. It was important because they're world champions and when you can compete against a team like that, it shows us we can compete against anybody.''

With its season on the line, Cincinnati played its best game of the season by far. Andy Dalton threw a career-high four touchdown passes, the defense sacked Eli Manning a season-high four times and caused four turnovers, and Adam ``Pacman'' Jones returned a punt 68 yards to set up a touchdown.

``We got rolling pretty good,'' safety Chris Crocker said. ``The test for us was when we got up. We were pretty confident we'd come out of the gates really fast. It was just when we got up, how would we respond? That's been our Achilles heel this season.''

The Bengals have gotten pushed around in the second half for most of the season. They blew a 14-3 lead and lost to Pittsburgh at Paul Brown Stadium, then had the Broncos rally in the fourth quarter for a win a week ago.

The back-to-back losses left them with a four-game losing streak and cost them credibility with fans. Cincinnati sold out its first four home games - two more than last season - but couldn't fill Paul Brown Stadium for the Giants game. There were nearly 9,000 empty seats on a sunny, 70-degree afternoon.

``You never know when we're going to have a sellout,'' Crocker said. ``I thought we would have, having the Super Bowl champions coming in here.''

The Bengals' best game of the season was blacked out on local television.

``That stinks,'' left tackle Andrew Whitworth said on Monday. ``It's terrible. None of us wants that for the fans in this area. But it is what it is. And the key for us is we need to keep putting them back to back and get ourselves on a hot streak and the fans will get plenty of chances to see us.''

There's still a chance to win `em back.

The Bengals play at Kansas City - last in the AFC West - then host Oakland, which is 3-6 and coming off a 55-20 loss to the Ravens. They're at San Diego (4-5), home against Dallas (4-5) and at Philadelphia (3-6) before finishing at Pittsburgh and at home against Baltimore.

The tiebreakers aren't in their favor - Cincinnati is 1-3 against the division and 2-5 against the AFC - but the impressive win over the Giants gave them some confidence heading into a favorable stretch of the schedule.

``I think guys realized that there's no reason to keep talking about it,'' coach Marvin Lewis said. ``At the end of the day, you can't talk about it. You've got to do it. Too much has been said.''

NOTES: Lewis said C Kyle Cook will start rehabilitation work on his surgically repaired right ankle this week. Cook hurt the ankle in the final preseason game and went on injured reserve, but could return this season. Lewis said it's too early to judge whether he'll be able to play again. ... LB Ben Jacobs of Fresno State was signed to the practice squad. OT Jeff Adams was released from the squad.


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Redskins' schedule "rest disparity" is very fair in 2018

Redskins' schedule "rest disparity" is very fair in 2018

The NFL started taking into account a new factor when putting together its schedule this year. The concept is called rest disparity. It stems from a complaint made by the Giants last year. And, of course, when the Giants have a cold, the NFL sneezes and immediately does whatever it takes to cure the cold. 

Here is how Peter King laid it out this morning on the MMQB:

Last year, I heard the Giants were not pleased with their schedule because they felt they were too often playing teams more rested than they were. In consecutive October weeks, they played teams coming off byes, for instance. The NFL calculated a figure for every team based on the number of combined days of rest for their foes or for the team, calculating, for instance, in those two weeks, the Giants were a minus-14 (minus-seven for each of the foes, Seattle and Denver, coming off byes). In all, by my math, the Giants were a league-worst minus-22 in “rest disparity.”

So the schedule makers worked to minimize the rest disparity this year. According to King, the worst rest disparity in the league this year is minus-11. The Giants are minus-eight. 

The question that Redskins fans will have immediately here is if the Giants’ rest disparity was reduced at the expense of the team in burgundy and gold. The answer that will surprise many is no. 

The Redskins rest disparity in 2018 will be either minus-one or zero. The variance is due to the possibility that their Week 16 game in Tennessee will be flexed to a Saturday game (see details here). If the game stays on Sunday, they will be at minus-one in rest disparity. If it gets moved, they will have had exactly as much rest over the course of the season as did their opponents, in aggregate. 

If you're interested in the nitty-gritty, here is how it breaks down. In eight or nine of their games, they will have had the same amount of rest as their opponents. They play one game coming off of their bye, a Monday night game in New Orleans. The Saints play the previous Sunday, giving Washington a plus-seven in days of rest. That is canceled out when they play the Falcons in Week 9 after Atlanta’s bye. 

Due to their Thanksgiving game, they get three extra days off going into their Week 13 Monday night game in Philadelphia. Two weeks later the Jaguars will have those three extra days of rest when they host the Redskins, having played on Thursday in Week 14.

They lose a day relative to their opponents coming off of those Monday night games against the Saints and Eagles. The Redskins get an extra day prior to visiting the Giants in Week 8 as New York has a Monday night game in Week 7. 

So far, that comes to minus-one in rest disparity. That will remain in place if they play the Titans on Sunday, December 23. If the game is flexed to Saturday, they will gain a day of rest on the Eagles in Week 17, zeroing out the rest disparity for the season. 

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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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Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

There's a saying in sports that goes, "A series doesn't start until a team loses at home." For the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets, their series won't start until someone wins at home.

Four games into the series, the road team has won every game. Columbus took Game 1 and Game 2 from Capital One Arena and the Caps answered back by winning Game 3 and Game 4 in Ohio.

"We came [to Columbus] to try to get the first one," Barry Trotz said after Thursday's win. "Did that. We came here to get the second one. Did that. All we've done is just got on even terms."

Now the series is a best of three with two of those final three games in Washington, but how much of an advantage does that really give the Caps?

"We've got to make sure that we're ready to go," Trotz said. "I think we have been since we got here. We've just got to do it at home."

The various playoff struggles the Caps have suffered in the Alex Ovechkin era have been well-documented to this point. One particularly maddening issue is the team's struggles to win at home. Since 2008, the first year the Ovechkin-led Caps made the playoffs, the team is just 28-25 in home playoff games. Since 2015, Trotz's first season as head coach, the Caps are 12-10 in Washington.

Part of that is just the nature of hockey. Upsets are prevalent in the playoffs in the NHL and home-ice advantage does not mean as much as it does in other sports. But it should mean more than 28-25.

Besides having the crowd on your side, home ice also provides matchup advantages. The home team gets the second line change at home, meaning during a stoppage in play the home coach gets the opportunity to see who the opponent puts on the ice before making his own change. For the Caps, this means getting Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the ice against Artemi Panarin.

Trotz has matched his top shutdown pair against Columbus' top line all series long. According to Natural Stat Trick, when Niskanen was on the ice in Game 4 he held Panarin's Corsi For percentage to 36.36. When Niskanen was not on the ice, Panarin's percentage shot up to 71.43. 

Theoretically, it should be much easier for Trotz to get those favorable matchups at home. Now all the Caps have to do is take advantage.

"Our home record hasn't been really great in the last little stretch at the end of the season here and obviously the first two games of the playoffs," Trotz said. "We owe it to our fans, we owe it to ourselves to take advantage of that."