Redskins

49ers preparing to face Packers in 2nd round

201301031855681364009-p2.jpeg

49ers preparing to face Packers in 2nd round

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers are preparing for next week's division-round playoff game as if they already know their opponent.

With a first-round bye a trio of San Francisco scout teamers wore the jerseys numbers of key Green Bay Packers during Friday's practice.

They simulated top Green Bay wide receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson along with tight end Jermichael Finley as third-string 49ers quarterback Scott Tolzien tossed passes.

``There's definitely some game planning going on,'' said tight Garrett Celek, who swapped his usual No. 81 jersey for a red No. 88, which is Finley's number.

``Still, we're not sure who we're going to play. But since we have this week, we're taking advantage of it and getting certain things ready for whatever happens next week.''

The Packers, seeded third in the NFC, host No. 6 Minnesota on Saturday night. If Green Bay beats the Vikings, the Packers will play at San Francisco on Jan. 12.

Otherwise the 49ers (11-4-1) will host the winner of Sunday's game between fourth-seeded Washington and No. 5 Seattle.

Among the other 49ers in different uniform numbers: Chad Hall wore No. 18 (Cobb) and Ricardo Lockette dressed in No. 87 (Nelson).

``It's definitely helpful. We've faced those guys before and we have a potential of seeing those guys again,'' Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson said.

Typically, Ed Donatell, who coaches the secondary, and other defensive assistants bring practice squad wide receivers, tight ends and running backs into meetings to teach players tendencies of San Francisco's opponent that week. Offensive assistants will do the same for defensive players tagged for the ``look team.''

Players will take that knowledge onto the practice field against the first-team offense and defense to prepare the starters for the game. If nothing else, it gets players used to seeing the routes and numbers of their upcoming opponent.

The only difference this week is that the 49ers don't actually have an opponent.

``I think it's really important. We have all this time off, so you might as well take advantage of it,'' said Celek, the brother of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek.

``I think to just sit on our butts and do nothing wouldn't be very smart. We've got to get ahead of the curve and I think this is a good way to do it.''

While the 49ers won't practice again until Monday, players will be tuned into this weekend's games.

Players said they'll be watching as casual observers, leaving the scouting for the film coaches to break down when they return to 49ers headquarters.

They also said it doesn't make a difference what team they face, though Washington would be the only possible opponent San Francisco hasn't seen yet.

The 49ers won 30-22 at Green Bay in Week 1. They split both games against the Seahawks, winning 13-6 in Week 7 at San Francisco and falling 42-13 at Seattle in Week 16 - the most lopsided loss of coach Jim Harbaugh's two-year tenure.

``It's all about consistency,'' left tackle Joe Staley said. ``You've got to do it again. What you did last time doesn't mean anything going into next game. We just have to continue to improve. We just got to be consistent and do it again. That's the challenge each and every week is just to build on any successes you had last week and change anything you didn't do well the week before. That's our focus.''

NOTES: DT Justin Smith practiced with a brace over his injured left arm for the second straight day. He is planning to play despite a partially torn triceps muscle that sidelined him for the final two regular-season games. ... David Akers and Billy Cundiff continued their kicking competition. Coach Jim Harbaugh stood behind them as they kicked without an offensive or defensive line during the portion of practice open to reporters. Both looked sharp, but Cundiff appeared to have considerably more pop off his kicks. ... RB Frank Gore watched practice from the sideline. ... LB Aldon Smith wore a black non-contact jersey.

---

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

Quick Links

Redskins fans and players can both be right about FedEx Field frustrations

usatsi_11283858_141983962_lowres.jpg
USA Today Sports

Redskins fans and players can both be right about FedEx Field frustrations

The Redskins moved to 6-3 on Sunday by beating the Buccaneers in Tampa, and now sit two games clear in first place in the NFC East. 

That should be the biggest football story inside the Beltway. But it isn't. 

The story has become that two of the most high-profile members of the Washington defense said that they prefer playing road games to being in their home stadium. Why? Because on the road they can hear better and focus more since they don't have fans booing them. 

Seriously. 

"Home games, that’s some of the worst things I’ve seen. I’ve played on four different teams, never seen it that bad, with other team’s jerseys in the stands, the boos, whatever it may be," Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger said during an appearance on 106.7 the Fan's Grant and Danny program on Monday. 

"I’ve never been a part of nothing like that."

This freight train started moving on Sunday, when after the win in Tampa, Josh Norman said he likes playing on the road. Why? Because there aren't any boos.

"We go into the homestands, and it’s like an open bubble,” Norman said. “Like the other team’s turf or something. You hear more of them than you do us. Then if something bad happens, they suck. They sit back in their seat, and they boo."

There's a lot to unpack here. 

Norman and Swearinger are right. There are always a lot of visiting fans at FedEx Field. Some of that might be that Washington is a transient city, but some of it is also because other fans have determined that it's easy to get tickets at FedEx Field. 

Why is it easy for visiting fans to get tickets? Well, there's not much sizzle at FedEx Field.

The area doesn't have shopping or restaurants around it like many newer NFL stadiums. The traffic, like much of life in the D.C. area, is awful. The stadium itself is underwhelming; old and lacking character. 

The Redskins are working hard to overhaul the game day experience, and some of the efforts are alrady working. But the problem is some fans have soured on the idea of spending the day at FedEx Field, and that will take time to fix. Probably years. 

One obvious fix? A new stadium, preferably back in downtown D.C. That is a long way off though. 

Plenty of fans are bothered by Swearinger and Norman's comments, and they have reason for that, too. 

To start with, there are tens of thousands of fans at every home game, cheering on their club. Lifelong, loyal fans that pay good money to watch the Burgundy and Gold. 

Do some boo? Certainly. But they only boo when the team is bad. Play good, no boos. It's fairly simple.

And the boos aren't only about a specific game, or even a specific season. Many Redskins fans are just frustrated with the franchise in general for a litany of reasons. Things have been stable under Jay Gruden, but for a long time, they weren't. 

What isn't fair for Norman and Swearinger is they played zero part in the multi-decade erosion of the Redskins fan base. And some would argue the fan base hasn't actually eroded, just that fewer fans want to make the trek to the stadium and commit to the full day that is attending an NFL game.

For 20 years, Washington has played plenty of bad football at home. During that time, some fans simply decided they'd rather watch on television, or go for a walk, or do yard work, or hang with their family. 

The toughest part is that both Norman and Swearinger can be right, but the fans that are upset with the comments can be right as well. 

Are there good fans? Absolutely. Are there lots of visiting fans? Yep. 

It won't be fixed overnight. Winning is the best cure, however, as old fans will return and new fans will be created. 

Play well and there won't be any booing. Keep winning games and there won't be anything but burgundy in the stands. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS

Virginia, Virginia Tech each moved one spot in new top-25 poll but in opposite directions

virginia_hoops_usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Virginia, Virginia Tech each moved one spot in new top-25 poll but in opposite directions

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Duke changed everything about who AP Top 25 voters considered to be the nation's best team with a single dominating performance against a marquee opponent.

It also gave the Blue Devils yet another milestone under Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski: a record number of appearances at No. 1.

The Blue Devils jumped from fourth to first Monday in the first regular-season poll, leapfrogging Kansas at the top after a blowout win against then-No. 2 Kentucky last week. That allowed Duke to set a record with its 135th week at No. 1, breaking a tie with UCLA for the most top rankings in poll history.

The 34-point win against the Wildcats in the Champions Classic to open the season marked the program's most lopsided win against a top-5 opponent. Duke was practically flawless behind star freshmen RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish, and that created a buzz about the team's already lofty potential being somehow even higher than anyone anticipated.

Granted, it was one game. And Duke (2-0) didn't look nearly so dazzling Sunday at home against Army. But that one performance caused a major voting shift, even with now-No. 2 Kansas earning a quality win of its own against then-No. 10 Michigan State in the first game of the Champions Classic.

Kansas was a solid preseason No. 1 by earning 37 of 65 first-place votes, followed by 19 for Kentucky and four for Duke. But Duke now has 48 first-place votes, claiming the top spot for all 19 voters who had Kentucky as preseason No. 1 while also causing 23 voters to switch from Kansas in the preseason Duke this week.

Duke also prompted switches from the lone voters who had Gonzaga and Villanova at No. 1 in the preseason.

The hype probably won't slow anytime soon, either. The Blue Devils have everyone's attention.

"Part of becoming good is keeping the noise out of your locker room," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the Army win. "And when something good happens and you have the start of the season ... there's a lot of noise. And for us, it's not always good noise, but in this case, it was exceptional noise. Exceptional noise.

"When you have four freshmen and we don't have veterans, you have to be more mature about listening to that."

COMPLETE MEN'S BASKETBALL TOP-25 RANKINGS WEEK 2

1. Duke 2-0 (48 votes, No. 4 last week)

2. Kansas 1-0 (14 votes, No. 1 last week)

3. Gonzaga 2-0 (No. 3 last week)

4. Virginia 2-0 (2 votes, No. 5 last week)

5. Tennessee 2-0 (1 vote, No. 6 last week)

6. Nevada 2-0 (No. 7 last week)

7. North Carolina 2-0 (No. 8 last week)

8. Villanova 2-0 (No. 9 last week)

9. Auburn 2-0 (No. 11 last week)

10. Kentucky 1-1 (No. 2 last week)

11. Michigan State (No. 10 last week)

12. Kansas State 1-0 (No. 12 last week)

13. Oregon 2-0 (No. 14 last week)

14. Florida State 2-0 (No. 17 last week)

15. Syracuse 2-0 (No. 16 last week)

16. Virginia Tech 1-0 (No. 15 last week)

17. Mississippi State 2-0 (No. 18 last week)

18. Michigan 2-0 (No. 19 last week)

19. Clemson 2-0 (No. 22 last week)

20. UCLA 2-0 (No. 21 last week)

21. TCU 2-0 (No. 20 last week)

22. LSU 2-0 (No. 23 last week)

23. Purdue 2-0 (No. 24 last week)

24. Marquette 2-0 (Not ranked last week)

25. Buffalo 2-0 (Not ranked last week)

AT THE TOP

Gonzaga stayed at No. 3, followed by Virginia and Tennessee each climbing a spot to round out the top 5. Nevada, North Carolina, reigning national champion Villanova and Auburn were next, while Kentucky slid eight spots to No. 10.

TOP RISERS

There weren't any dramatic climbs beyond the Duke-Kansas change at the top. In all, 16 teams moved up this week poll, with No. 14 Florida State and No. 19 Clemson matching Duke's three-spot jump for the biggest of the week.

Twelve of the gains were merely one spot.

LONGEST SLIDES

Kentucky's fall was the biggest for any team that stayed in the poll. The others were all modest, with four teams -- Kansas, No. 11 Michigan State, No. 16 Virginia Tech and No. 21 TCU -- falling one spot each.

NEWCOMERS

There were two new teams in the poll with No. 24 Marquette and No. 25 Buffalo.

It's the first appearance for Marquette in nearly five years since last appearing at No. 25 in November 2013.

As for Buffalo, it's the first AP Top 25 appearance in program history. It comes after the Bulls got 43 points and 14 rebounds from CJ Massinburg to beat then-No. 13 West Virginia on the road -- another marquee upset for a team that beat Arizona and eventual No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Deandre Ayton in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament.

SLIDING OUT

The Mountaineers slid all the way out after losing to the Bulls, which marked their first loss in a home opener since November 2003. Washington fell out from No. 25 after a loss to Auburn.

MORE NCAA NEWS