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Bengals back to familiar place: the deep slump

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Bengals back to familiar place: the deep slump

CINCINNATI (AP) The Bengals are back on oh-so-familiar ground, caught in the deep slump that threatens their season at the midpoint.

Happens a lot in Cincinnati.

A 31-23 loss to Denver on Sunday left the Bengals (3-5) with a four-game losing streak. They've had a losing streak of at least four games in 16 of their last 22 seasons. Twice, they lost 10 in a row.

In five of those seasons, they've had a pair of losing streaks that went on for at least four games. Overall, it's their 21st losing streak of four games or more during those 22 seasons.

After going to the playoffs last season as a 9-7 wild card team, they're going to be hard-pressed to get back. They play the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants (6-3) on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

The Bengals knew their season could come down to how they did during a stretch of home games against the Steelers, Broncos and Giants. After blowing an early lead and losing 24-17 to Pittsburgh, they needed to beat the Broncos to keep up in the AFC.

They wasted that chance, too. Now, a loss to the Giants will make them a long shot for another wild card berth.

``It was urgent last week,'' safety Chris Crocker said on Monday. ``It was urgent the week before that. There's really no heightened sense of urgency. We're a very urgent team.''

The division race is fast slipping away. The Bengals are 1-3 against the rest of the AFC North, trailing first-place Baltimore by three games and Pittsburgh by two at the season's midpoint. The wild card tiebreakers also are against them - a 2-5 mark against the AFC overall.

The last two games have stung the most.

They blew a 14-3 first-half lead over Pittsburgh, which pulled it out despite missing its top two running backs and two offensive linemen to injury. They led the Broncos 20-17 early in the fourth quarter on Sunday, then fell apart.

Peyton Manning went 6 for 6 for 69 yards and a pair of touchdowns the rest of the way. The Broncos held Andy Dalton to 6-of-11 passing for 48 yards with a sack and an interception. And the offense had its worst moments with the game on the line.

Trailing 24-20 with 11:47 to go, the Bengals got the ball at their 27-yard line. A pair of holding penalties and a false start wiped out a third-down completion and left the Bengals with a third-and-25 at their 18-yard line.

Dalton was hit as he threw toward a covered A.J. Green, resulting in an underthrown pass that was intercepted by Champ Bailey. The Broncos went in for their final touchdown.

The Bengals also had a pass-interference penalty on cornerback Adam ``Pacman'' Jones that set up the Broncos' go-ahead touchdown. Jones grabbed the front of Demaryius Thomas' jersey while breaking up a pass in the end zone, resulting in a 29-yard penalty that put the ball at the 1-yard line.

In large measure, they did it to themselves.

``The penalties in the fourth quarter ended up being very significant,'' coach Marvin Lewis said. ``We had four penalties in fourth quarter that really made an impact, for sure.''

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NOTES: The Bengals signed LB J.K. Schaffer to their practice squad. Schaffer grew up in Cincinnati and played for the University of Cincinnati. Schaffer signed with Jacksonville as an undrafted rookie, played in all four preseason games and was waived. He also spent time on Tampa Bay's practice squad. ... The Bengals will become the second team to host back-to-back games against Peyton and Eli Manning. The Titans did it in 2006 and won both games.

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

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Follow Joe Kay on Twitter:http://twitter.com/apjoekay

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Jeff Green hopes recent playoff success can rub off on Wizards

Jeff Green hopes recent playoff success can rub off on Wizards

Jeff Green's basketball résumé got a significant boost this spring and summer as his Cleveland Cavaliers marched all the way to the NBA Finals before they were swept by the Golden State Warriors. It was Green's first time going past the second round of the playoffs and the experience, he says, was invaluable.

Green has come about as close to winning a championship without actually winning one and he certainly hopes to get back in that position. Green believes his new team, the Washington Wizards, have the tools to make a deep playoff run and it's one of the reasons why he signed a free agent deal to join them.

"Being there last year myself with Cleveland, I know it takes a lot. It takes a lot of pieces. I feel like this team has them," he said. "We can get back to that point. When I got the call, I felt like it was the best opportunity for myself to get there."

The Wizards' franchise has not been past the second round of the playoffs since 1979, when they were known as the Bullets. That was before anyone on their roster was born.

But Green pointed to the open Eastern Conference and the talent on the roster as reasons to believe they can accomplish some things that they haven't in decades. They may be capable, but putting it all together is easier said than done.

Green hopes to be one of the glue guys necessary for the Wizards to reach their potential, in part by sharing the lessons he learned.

"Never take it for granted. There are a lot of greats that have never been there," he said. "Getting to the Finals and being part of that was beyond amazing. With the experience and seeing what it took, I can bring that here and get everybody on the same page of knowing what it takes and the sacrifices that you have to do to get to that point."

Green over and over mentioned how it takes a collective effort to go to the conference finals and beyond, but he did show some self-awareness and a sense of humor about his own experience in Cleveland. All teams are different and the one he just left was a unique situation.

"You can’t get there individually. I mean, you can, we did last year. I mean, LeBron [James] carried us all the way there," he joked. "But there’s only one LeBron, but to get there you have to have team unity. You all have to be on the same page and sacrifice to make sure you’re doing what it takes to get the team there. I think that’s the biggest key. It’s not an individual thing… unless you’re LeBron."

If the Wizards are to reach their goals and go to the conference finals or the NBA Finals, they will have to do it differently than the Cavaliers did. They do not have a player on the level of James who can do much of it by himself. But Green said the process of imparting his wisdom has already started.

"I talked to John [Wall]," Green said. "Knowing that he wants to get to the Finals, I was just picking his brain and what he thinks is needed to get there. And me sharing my experience of getting to the Finals and what it takes."

The Wizards have reached a point as an organization where they have urgency to reach new heights. Green believes he can help them get there.

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Need to Know: The best pass rushers the Redskins will face in 2018

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Need to Know: The best pass rushers the Redskins will face in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, July 19, seven days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The five best pass rushers the Redskins will face in 2018

This week we’ll be looking at the best of what the Redskins will face during the 2018 season. Today the pass rushers are up. They are roughly ranked by Pro Football Focus’ pass rush productivity metric, although I did some juggling based on offseason moves and other factors. Prior to this we looked at the best teamsreceivers,running backs, and quarterbacks

1. Calais Campbell, Jaguars—If he gets a sack against the Redskins in Week 15, many fans will once again rue draft day in 2008 when the Redskins took both WR Devin Thomas and TE Fred Davis in the second round while Campbell was still on the board. He has been a consistent pass rusher since coming into the league, averaging eight sacks a season. Campbell is coming off of a career-high 14.5. 

2. Demarcus Lawrence, Cowboys—He had nine career sacks going into last year and then he broke out in a big way with 14.5. He got three sacks against the Redskins last year and has five in six career games. He actually ranked ahead of Campbell in the PFF pass rush metric, but I put Campbell ahead of him because we’re not sure if Lawrence is a great pass rusher or if he just peaked in his contract year. 

3. Chandler Jones, Cardinals—He posted double-digit sacks in four of the last five years including a league-leading 17 last season. His 2017 performance earned him first-team All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. Jones does more than get sacks. He has 16 career forced fumbles; only five players have forced more since he came into the league in 2012.

4. J.J. Watt, Texans—Injuries have limited him to eight games over the past two seasons. Even if the missed time has him beneath his peak years of 2012-2015, when he was first-team All-Pro every year and defensive player of the year three times, he will be difficult to deal with. 

5. Brian Orakpo, Titans—His career with the Redskins was a mixed bag, with two Pro Bowls and two seasons with double-digit sacks. After Orakpo missed 23 games from 2012-2015, the Redskins didn’t make him a competitive contract offer and he left to sign with the Titans. He hasn’t missed a game in three seasons in Tennessee and has averaged eight sacks per season. 

Best of the rest: Yannick Ngakoue, Jaguars; Clay Matthews, Packers; Vic Beasley, Falcons; Jason Pierre-Paul, Buccaneers; Cam Jordan, Saints

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  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline 

Redskins six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams was born on this date in 1988.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 7
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 21
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 44

The Redskins last played a game 200 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 52 days. 

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