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The 49ers are one scary team right now

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The 49ers are one scary team right now

From Comcast SportsNetSAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The San Francisco 49ers stymied 2011 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers in Week 1, then record-setting Matthew Stafford in Week 2.This stingy, opportunistic defense is again making its mark as one of the league's best facing the top offenses and most prolific passers -- and that you can shake on.The Niners denied Stafford another milestone, Vernon Davis caught touchdown passes of 21 and 23 yards from Alex Smith, and San Francisco beat the Detroit Lions 27-19 on Sunday night in a September showdown of NFC powers that hardly lived up to its hype.Smith completed 20 of 31 throws for 226 yards and extended his franchise-record streak of passes without an interception to 216. He led the reigning NFC West champion Niners (2-0) to their ninth straight win in the series since the Lions' last victory on Sept. 25, 1995. Smith took a hard hand to the helmet from John Wendling late and bloodied his nose.The 49ers ran their home winning streak against the Lions to 12 games since Detroit's last victory at Candlestick Park on Nov. 2, 1975.And no heated greeting after this one. Coaches Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz met each other with a friendly hello and handshake during pregame warmups, then an uneventful shake and half-hug when time expired.Frank Gore carried 17 times for 89 yards and a 1-yard touchdown, just missing his fifth 100-yard game in as many career meetings with the Lions.Calvin Johnson caught eight passes for 94 yards, but that was hardly enough as the Lions (1-1) never got closer than the 20 until their final drive on a cool, windy night by the bay. San Francisco's secondary kept Megatron from catching a touchdown pass for the second straight matchup, forcing Stafford to rely heavily on the running game.Another impressive outing by a defense that shut down Rodgers in a 30-22 win over the Packers last week at Lambeau Field.Stafford finished 19 for 32 with 230 yards, one touchdown and an interception, missing a chance to become the first player in NFL history to throw for 350 yards in five straight games. Drew Brees of the Saints also did so in four consecutive games last season.Stafford threw for 355 yards in last week's 27-23 win over St. Louis at home but also had three interceptions before halftime for the first time -- and said he couldn't do that again for the Lions to win. He never got in sync.The 49ers dominated on both sides of the ball 11 months to the day after rallying for a 25-19 win at Ford Field to hand Detroit its first defeat following a 5-0 start. It ended with excitable Harbaugh's firm handshake and backslap that ignited Lions coach Schwartz -- and they had to be separated leaving the field.There were some hot tempers Sunday, too. After Davis and Delanie Walker drove Cliff Avril to the sideline while blocking on a running play, Avril kicked Walker in the helmet. Lions right tackle Gosder Cherilus and 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown pushed and shoved after a big hit by Patrick Willis on Johnson in the first quarter.Smith exploited Detroit's depleted, frustrated secondary at every opportunity. On his TD, Davis easily beat Wendling, starting as regular safety Louis Delmas recovers from knee surgery.Smith hit Michael Crabtree on the left sideline for a 17-yard gain, then Davis scored on the next play. The Lions were without rookie cornerback Bill Bentley because of a concussion sustained last week and cornerback Chris Houston with an ankle injury.David Akers kicked field goals from 36 and 48 yards for San Francisco a week after connecting from 63 yards to tie an NFL record.Jason Hanson finished with field goals of 38, 41, 40 and 48 yards. He also missed one off the right upright on a 40-yard attempt late in the second quarter. The Lions scored their lone touchdown on Stafford's 9-yard TD pass to Brandon Pettigrew with 1:29 remaining.The 49ers ended their streak of 26 quarters spanning six straight regular-season games without a turnover, and 36 consecutive quarters without a lost fumble since Davis lost one Nov. 6 last year at Washington. San Francisco was trying to match the 2010 Patriots for the NFL record of seven games without a turnover.After Hanson's first field goal, Kendall Hunter fumbled the kickoff return after being stripped by Tahir Whitehead and Kassim Osgood recovered. It marked the first career lost fumble in 18 games for the second-year halfback.But Ahmad Brooks batted down a pass on third down in the ensuing series as the Lions had to settle for another field goal.San Francisco's defense delivered again on Detroit's next series. On third-and-6 from the 20, Stafford threw down the middle of the field with nobody even close and safety Dashon Goldson jumped in for an interception.A special teams blunder hurt the Lions late in the first quarter when Drayton Florence, another fill-in cornerback, was flagged for running into Akers. That gave the Niners first down at the 12, and Gore scored three plays later 3 seconds into the second quarter.San Francisco's defense kept Detroit out of the end zone on the Lions' first drive despite a big penalty. Chris Culliver received a debated pass interference from the replacement officials when he tipped a pass intended for Titus Young for a 33-yard penalty.

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Ravens vs. Buccaneers Week 15: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Ravens vs. Buccaneers Week 15: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

The Baltimore Ravens (7-6) get set to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8) Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium with the postseason in sight.

The Ravens are 3-2 all time against the Bucs with a 1-1 record when playing in Baltimore. The last time these two teams met was back in 2014 when the Ravens handed Tampa Bay a 48-17 loss, marking the most points ever scored by the Ravens on the road.

Here's everything you need to know ahead of the Week 15 matchup.

New Era

Incase you've been living in a hole the last two days, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh announced that rookie Lamar Jackson will be starting Sunday and Joe Flacco would be the backup in what appears to be a new era in Baltimore. 

Both Flacco and Jackson handled the news with class as the decision wasn't that big of surprise considering Jackson has led the team to three wins in their last four matchups. Harbaugh wouldn't divulge if and how they would utilize Flacco's talents, but alternating between the two throughout the matchup could trip up a lot of defenders. On top of that, the Buccaneers' defense is bottom of the barrel ranking 30th in the league in points (29.5), 27th in yards (387.9), 27th in passing yards (268.5) and 20th in rushing yards (119.4). 

Another Defensive Challenge

While their 5-8 record may not show it, the Buccaneers' offense could present a challenge for the Ravens' No. 1 scoring defense. Heading into Week 15, Tampa Bay is ranked 10th in the league in points (25.5), second in yards (430.1), first in passing yards (331.4), but 27th in rushing yards (98.7). Their 4,308 passing yards are the third-most through the first 13 games in NFL history and their 5,591 total yards are the eighth-most through the first 13 games in NFL history.

Wide receiver Mike Evans is currently tied for sixth in the league in receiving touchdowns over the last two seasons at 22, while Cameron Brate is tied for third in the league in receiving touchdowns among tight ends in 2018 at six. The Bucs also have seven different players to score at least five touchdowns so far this season making them just the fifth team to accomplish that .

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson has missed the last two games as he deals with a left thumb injury sustained in the season opener and re-injured against the New York Giants in Week 11. The injury has left him unable to squeeze a football with that hand, so don't expect D-Jack on the field Sunday. 

Postseason In Sight

The Ravens have found themselves in this situation many times before. With three games to play, the Ravens sit in the sixth and final AFC playoff spot and half a game back of the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC North title.

In typical fashion, it's going to come down to the wire. The Ravens are in a four-way race with the Colts, Titans and Dolphins for the final playoff spot. A win Sunday against the Buccaneers is a must as they head to Los Angeles in Week 16 to face the Chargers, who just handed the Kansas City Chiefs a rare loss on Thursday Night Football and the Cleveland Browns in Week 17. 

Claiming the division and playing January football for the first time in three seasons is on the horizon, and with two quarterbacks to use at their disposal the Ravens are truly in control of writing their own ending. 

Click here to see the Ravens-Bucs injury report. 

Ravens vs. Buccaneers Week 15 How to Watch:

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What: Week 15 regular season

When: Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, 1:00 p.m. ET

Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md

TV Channel: FOX

Live Stream: Watch Now with fuboTV - Try free trial

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090 and 98Rock

Weather: 47 degrees, mostly cloudy with some rain

Ravens 2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Week 1: Sun., 9/9. Ravens vs. Bills. Win, 47-3 (1-0)

Week 2: Thur., 9/13 Ravens at Bengals. Loss, 34-23 (1-1)

Week 3: Sun., 9/23 Ravens vs. Broncos. Win, 27-14 (2-1)

Week 4: Sun., 9/30 Ravens at Steelers. Win, 26-14 (3-1)

Week 5: Sun., 10/7 Ravens at Browns. Loss, 12-9 (3-2)

Week 6: Sun., 10/14 Ravens at Titans. Win, 21-0 (4-2)

Week 7: Sun., 10/21 vs. Saints, 4:05 p.m. Loss, 24-23 (4-3)

Week 8: Sun., 10/28 @ Panthers, 1:00 p.m. Loss 36-21 (4-4)

Week 9: Sun., 11/4 vs. Steelers, 1:00 p.m. Loss 23-16 (4-5)

Week 10:  BYE week

Week 11: Sun., 11/18 vs. Bengals, 1:00 p.m. Win 24-21 (5-5)

Week 12: Sun., 11/25 vs. Raiders, 1:00 p.m. Win 34-17 (6-5)

Week 13: Sun., 12/2 @ Falcons, 1:00 p.m. Win 26-16 (7-5)

Week 14: Sun., 12/9 @ Chiefs, 1:00 p.m. Loss 27-24 (7-6)

Week 15: Sun., 12/16 vs. Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: Sat., 12/22 @ Chargers, 8:20 p.m. ET

Week 17: Sun., 12/30 vs. Browns, 1:00 p.m.

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Why the Redskins sat Montae Nicholson and whether it's time HaHa Clinton-Dix loses some workload

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USA Today Sports

Why the Redskins sat Montae Nicholson and whether it's time HaHa Clinton-Dix loses some workload

The Redskins defense clicked earlier this season when the team seemed playoff-bound. This same group with scant personnel changes then started getting clocked starting with a Week 9 loss against the Falcons.

Everyone began wondering why. 

The most notable switch, HaHa Clinton-Dix replacing Montae Nicholson at safety, received additional scrutiny in the loss against the Giants on Sunday. 

Through seven games, Washington won five of seven games and allowed 322 yards per game. The Redskins have since lost five of six including four in a row while surrendering an average of 426 yards. The primary struggles exist on the ground, though the Redskins allowed seven touchdown passes over the last three games.

The start of the current six-game stretch coincided with the addition of Clinton-Dix. Washington traded a 2019 fourth-round pick to Green Bay on Oct. 30 for the one-time Pro Bowl safety. Clinton-Dix, 25, played 100 percent of the defensive snaps over the last five games. Despite the heavy workload, an adjustment period remains.

"I think he's finding his way, really,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said this week of Clinton-Dix.

His arrival sent Nicholson to the bench. Last May Gruden praised the 2017 fourth-round selection turned starter during his rookie season. “Montae I think is really an important piece,” Gruden said at the NFL Combine. “Very similar to the way Jordan Reed is on [offense], Montae is on defense.”

After playing all but 440 of 445 defensive snaps during the initial seven games this season, the second-year safety played on 26 snaps after Clinton-Dix’s arrival. He hasn’t taken the field defensively for the last three games.

NBC Sports Washington sought an explanation for the safety swap from NFL analytics website Pro Football Focus.

“HaHa has actually been a reliable tackler when he actually makes contact,” PFF analyst Trey Cunningham said via email. “He's saved several [touchdowns] with tackles where others were beat. Of course, the most notable gaffes for him have come when he's taken bad angles as the last line of defense and not even been able to attempt a tackle."

Cunningham cited both Amari Cooper's long catch-and-runs touchdowns in the Cowboys Week 12 win over the Redskins and Giants running back Saquon Barkley's 78 yard TD run last week as examples. Clinton-Dix was blocked during two touchdowns against Atlanta and knocked down on Darren Sproles’ touchdown run in Week 13 against the Eagles, according to Cunningham. 

Tackling concerns and "average" speed were considered issues during Clinton-Dix's time with the Packers, though PFF rated him among the top safeties in coverage at the time of the trade.

Yet Cunningham noted Clinton-Dix provided pop with a forced fumble against Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins. He also reasons why the Redskins may have felt compelled to seek safety help in the first place.

“Aside from health concerns with Montae Nicholson, his biggest flaw when he was starting was missed tackles - nine in the first four games including an astonishing five in the (win over the) Packers,” Cunningham said. “His primary coverage numbers weren't great either. Allowed 13 of 17 targets to be complete for 192 yards and a TD.”

Nicholson’s struggles continued after Clinton-Dix’s arrival. Cunningham recalled the safety taking a bad angle as the last line of defense on Falcons’ receiver Calvin Ridley's long catch-and-run touchdown in Week 9 among his errors.

While Clinton-Dix hasn’t wowed, perhaps the Redskins appreciate him limiting the mistakes.

“I would personally say Clinton-Dix has been an upgrade on Nicholson,” Cunningham said, “but that upgrade didn't come with any game-changing plays.”

Gruden hinted this week at a possible Nicholson return especially as the regular season winds down. Clinton-Dix enters free agency in 2019.

"Yeah, we have to look at Montae again,” Gruden said. “I think nobody gave up on Montae, we traded for a good player, a Pro-Bowl type player in HaHa and we wanted to give him every opportunity to come in and play. It wasn’t that we were down on Montae at all, we just needed depth at that position, got him in here and we liked what we saw, so we put him out there early.

“But, Montae does have a chance to play in the next three weeks quite a bit if we choose to that route because he is a good player with great speed."

The Redskins have perhaps three more weeks to determine how good Nicholson is or enter the offseason wondering if a new safety plan must emerge.

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