Redskins

Alabama once again gets a 2nd chance at title shot

201211171118407281950-p2.jpeg

Alabama once again gets a 2nd chance at title shot

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Alabama players don't even have to leave their couches to be one of the big winners in college football's national championship sweepstakes.

The second-ranked Crimson Tide (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) has benefited the past two years from a pair of late-season upsets by other teams, proving that patience is sometimes as important as perfection.

Alabama jumped right back into win-and-in mode with Saturday night's losses by Oregon and Kansas State.

Last year, the one-loss Tide got a reprieve with Iowa State stunning Oklahoma State and Oregon toppling Stanford.

``It's college football,'' Tide safety Robert Lester said. ``Just like last year, crazy things are going to happen. Crazy things are going to happen next year. The only thing we need to worry about right now is to play our football and not worry about what's going on outside Alabama and handle it the way we need to handle it.''

What's going on inside Alabama is that rival Auburn (3-8, 0-7) visits Saturday for the Iron Bowl.

With a win, the Tide would play No. 3 Georgia for the SEC title and a chance at a second straight national championship. Alabama, which spent most of the season ranked No. 1, only needed a week to move back to the front of the line along with top-ranked Notre Dame.

The Tide was coming off a 29-24 loss to No. 9 Texas A&M. Last season, Alabama earned a rematch after losing to LSU partly thanks to the Cowboys and Cardinal finally losing.

Still, coach Nick Saban said he is focused only on the state title, a prize that's still pretty substantial in this heated rivalry.

``I just want to make everybody understands here that we're not in any conversations about anything other than the game that we're playing,'' Saban said Monday. ``Unless we win the next game, we don't have another game. We're trying to work our way into a conversation by how we play. We're not trying to hold a position. We're trying to create one by what we do and how we play.

``Everybody in this organization needs to understand that we're dismissing all talk about anything except playing Auburn.''

Not every Tide player said they were glued to the TV Saturday night hoping for a helping hand or two and celebrating the upsets.

``I think somebody sent a message to me on Facebook,'' linebacker Nico Johnson said. ``Other than that, what came across my mind was, `We've got an opportunity, but we can't look past the team we have this week.' We kind of got ahead of ourselves the Texas A&M game. It showed what happened. Now we understand that. We learned from that lesson. Now we've got to stay focused on us and control what we do and worry about Auburn this week.''

Johnson said defensive end Damion Square reminded the players of that after their run on Sunday that: ``We can't overlook our opponent. Never.''

The reality is, an Auburn win would be a bigger upset than Baylor over Kansas State or Stanford beating Oregon. Alabama is a 31.5-point favorite over the Tigers.

Still, last weekend's upsets took care of two of the teams standing in Alabama's way.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley said the Tide can't lose sight of the other two teams that will actually line up against them before a national championship shot can come.

``I'm glad that it happened, but if we don't win these next two games, all that really doesn't matter,'' Mosley said. ``So we're back in the picture for it, but that's really not what I'm worried about. We've got these two games coming up. They ought to be big for us. We've got a chance to do something good. We've got to make sure we take advantage of it.''

Saban said teams can get ``emotionally stressed out'' when the stakes of the games are so high. He's trying to keep that from happening to the Tide.

``You're worrying emotionally, which affects your ability to focus and you don't play as well,'' Saban said. ``None of these things are bad things. There's nobody taking anybody out and shooting them behind the barn because we've got an opportunity to play in this game. We've got an opportunity to play in this game and maybe another game, that's a good thing. That's something that everybody worked hard to create. You know, be positive. It's what great competitors love to do, go compete and play your best games. Don't get emotionally stressed out or start playing to keep from getting beat and be tentative about your approach to what you're doing.

``I think it did happen to us and it probably happened to some other people. That's what we try to guard against.''

Quick Links

Fantasy Football: Week 3 starts and sits

thomas-usat.png
USA Today

Fantasy Football: Week 3 starts and sits

Here are your start and sit options for Week 3. Also, take a look at the Week 3 position-by-position rankings. Good luck out there.

Quarterbacks

Start – Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Steelers. The Fitzmagic cast spells on opposing defenses in the opening two games as the journeyman passers set an impressive bar for all fantasy football players. The spotlight goes next level with a Monday night matchup against a Pittsburgh squad (0-1-1) seeking its first win. The Steelers enter Week 3 allowing the second-most fantasy points to  quarterbacks. There’s certainly a chance Fitzpatrick turns back into a pumpkin – or at least the average QB he’s largely been during his career – but momentum and matchup makes for a good opportunity.

Sit – Dak Prescott at Seahawks. Carson Wentz making his return to the field for the first time since last season’s ACL injury is the obvious don’t use call, but let’s go down the PSA route. Even you blind-homer Dallas fans realize your guy should be glued to the bench, right? Actually, considering Prescott has one touchdown, 330 passing yards total through two games and limited receiver options, it’s conceivable if not likely there are better options (Ryan Tannehill? Blake Bortles?) on the waiver wire. Don’t expect an uptick in production this seek as Dallas plays guest in Seattle’s first game home game of the season.

Running backs

Start – Giovani Bernard at Panthers. Here comes a workload rise for Bernard with Joe Mixon (knee) sidelined. Though a downgrade for the Bengals’, fantasy owners shouldn’t expect a noticeable drop. Bernard produced throughout his career when receiving ample touches, a scenario that happens Sunday. With at least 15 touches in Cincinnati’s final five games last season, the dual threat had 11, 19, 13, 29 and 13 fantasy points in PPR formats. Even though Carolina is stout against the run, Bernard ranks a borderline RB1 in Week 3.

Sit –Chris Carson vs. Cowboys. There’s a backfield split with rookie Raashad Penny occurring, a scenario frustrating for Carson owners who bought into the preseason hype. There’s facing a Dallas defense that held Saquon Barkley to 28 yards on 11 carries last week (The rookie also had 14 receptions, of course). It might not be conceivable to bench Carson depending on other options. Just don’t get hyped for this matchup.

Wide receivers

Start – Dante Pettis at Chiefs. This deep cut depends on whether Marquise Goodwin missed a second consecutive game. The 49ers face a Chiefs defense giving up gobs of aerial production through two games, including four touchdowns to wide receivers and a league-worst 40 receptions. Only three receptions on the season and just a 1-for-35 line last week, but Pettis scored a TD in the opener. If Goodwin plays and Pettis’ snaps drop yet you still seek a long shot play, consider Josh Doctson a hold-your-nose flyer. Washington is dealing with injuries at receiver. Tight end Jordan Reed only played half the snaps during the first two weeks. Green Bay is allowing the fourth-most wide receiver production in PPR formats. 

Sit – Demaryius Thomas at Ravens. Until proven otherwise Thomas’ reputation trumps reality. Emmanuel Sanders is the Denver receiver putting up quality numbers (14 receptions for 231 yards vs. 11 and 81 for Thomas). As Rotoworld’s Evan Silva notes, receivers are torching Baltimore’s slot corner Tavon Young. The slot is where Sanders lines up often and where Broncos quarterback Case Keenum will look.

Tight ends

Start – O.J. Howard vs. Steelers. Either tight end in this matchup works for owners in need, but Howard’s potential easily trumps Jesse James. Five receptions for 150 yards and a touchdown in two games more than works, but is particularly impressive considering six total targets. The lack of balls thrown his way is a bit concerning, but the Steelers allowed the fifth most points to fantasy tight ends through two weeks. Good chance Tampa Bay gets Howard more involved.

Sit – Austin Seferian-Jenkins vs. Titans. Despite dealing with a core muscle injury, Seferian-Jenkins wasn’t listed on Friday’s injury report. That means he’s available to face a Tennessee defense that allowed opposing tight ends four receptions for 51 yards over its first two games. There’s always hope for a touchdown, but between ASJ’s limited production (averaging 3 for 24) and the Titans’ solid work, look elsewhere if possible.

Defenses

Start – Cowboys at Seahawks. Russell Wilson has been sacked 12 times on the season and thrown three interceptions. Even if Seattle pulls off its first win of the season, Dallas’ defense should post solid fantasy numbers.

Sit – Chargers at Rams. One of these Los Angeles teams is allowing opposing defenses a mere 2.5 fantasy points. That team has Jared Goff at quarterback. The Chargers teed off on Buffalo last week. Things won’t come nearly as easily against the NFC West favorite.

Quick Links

Wizards' 2018-19 storyline No. 2: Can the core players of Wall, Beal, Porter and Oubre reach another level?

beal-wall-sat.png
USA Today Sports

Wizards' 2018-19 storyline No. 2: Can the core players of Wall, Beal, Porter and Oubre reach another level?

With Wizards training camp set to begin next week, we at NBC Sports Washington are counting down the five biggest storylines for the team as they start a new season. Today, at No. 2, a look at the Wizards' young core and how those players can make another leap...


In signing Dwight Howard and Jeff Green, trading for Austin Rivers and drafting Troy Brown, Jr., the Wizards arguably added more talent to their roster this summer than they did in any recent offseason. Yet, the ceiling for this team will once again be determined mostly by a familiar dynamic. The best and most likely way for the Wizards to significantly change their fortune as a team is for one or several of their young, core players to make a big leap in their development.


Those core players would be John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Jr. and Kelly Oubre, Jr., four first round picks drafted between 2010 and 2015 who have served as the nucleus of their recent success. 


Wall, Beal and Porter in particular are the straws that stir the drink. Oubre is worth including because of his pedigree and potential and because this, a contract year, is such an important season for him.


There are reasons to believe that all four of the Wizards core players can get better, despite what they have already shown at the NBA level.


Wall, at 28 and entering his ninth NBA season, is probably looking for more incremental improvement at this point in his career. He has already made five All-Star teams and earned All-NBA honors. As long as he's healthy, which wasn't the case last season, the Wizards know what they are going to get.


That said, it may be unreasonable to expect Wall to make another major leap in his career. It's possible he has already entered his prime and his peak as a basketball player. If there is another level for him to reach, he will likely need to get there soon, as he's two years away from turning 30.


When healthy, Wall is one of the 10 or so best players on the planet. More consistent defense and more efficient scoring are the ways he can move up the ladder. Also, simply going further in the playoffs would change a lot about how he is perceived among NBA superstars.


At 25, Beal is young enough to have a lot of room to grow. Last year was his first All-Star season. If he has another gear, the logical next step would be All-NBA honors and perhaps going from a guy who scores 22-23 points per game to one of the elite scorers in the league.


Porter is also 25 and therefore may still not be in his prime. He has emerged as one of the most efficient players in the entire NBA and is as reliable as anyone on the Wizards. But to become an All-Star or an All-NBA candidate, Porter will need to have volume numbers to buoy his high shooting percentages. 


Bad players in the NBA have neither volume or efficiency, good players have one or the other, while true stars have both. Porter may take his game to the next level simply by taking more shots and expanding his role from a usage perspective. If he can maintain his efficiency while adding a few points per game to his scoring average, Porter will enter another echelon as a player.


Oubre has more room to develop than the other three because he is younger and less accomplished. He is 22 and entering the final year of his rookie scale contract.  


The Wizards have kept Oubre around, hoping for a breakout year much like they saw from Beal and Porter at this point in their careers. Those guys did not get contract extensions from Washington before their rookie deals were up, but ended up with max money. If Oubre can follow a similar track, the Wizards will be significantly better.


Wall, Beal, Porter and Oubre are all at different points in their careers and have a wide range in their room to grow. Their continued development will be the most important indicator for the Wizards' success this year and beyond.

 

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: