Capitals

Bills limp into 'home' stretch of schedule

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Bills limp into 'home' stretch of schedule

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Bills are finally home after spending much of the first 10 weeks of the season playing on the road. And center Eric Wood wonders if anyone will bother showing up unless they start playing better.

``I've said it before, I don't blame them,'' Wood said, noting that money's tight and winter's coming.

``It's tough on people to put their hard-earned money out there, and we realize that. And to sit in the cold is not fun. So we really need to take care of business these next few games, hopefully get back to .500 here and make these last games interesting where we do make it our advantage.''

If they intend to make any type of a run and re-energize their fan base, it has to begin Thursday night, when Buffalo (3-6) hosts AFC East rival Miami (4-5).

It's a game that kicks off a closing stretch in which Buffalo will play five of its final seven at home - including the team's annual ``home'' game at Toronto, where the Bills will face Seattle on Dec. 16.

How much support the Bills get remains a concern.

The game against Miami is a sellout. But there are questions whether they can sell out their three remaining games at Ralph Wilson Stadium

The team announced this week it still has more than 15,000 tickets unsold for its game against Jacksonville on Dec. 2. And there are still more than 10,000 tickets available for its games against St. Louis on Dec. 9 and season finale against the New York Jets.

The Bills' record will play a factor, as will recent history.

Whether they're winning or losing, the Bills have had difficulty selling out home games in December since Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly was leading the team to four consecutive AFC titles in the early 1990s.

Buffalo sold out only about 55 percent of its games in the 1990s. And the figures haven't been much better since. That was indicative last year, when the Bills final three homes games - all in December - were blacked out on local television because they failed to sell out.

The bitter cold and harsh conditions have been blamed for the poor turnouts.

It's a concern that's led the Bills and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer to question why the NFL would continue scheduling so many games in Buffalo this late in the season.

``It's not been optimal. It's a proven fact that in December in Buffalo, it's difficult to attain sellout status at our facility,'' Bills CEO Russ Brandon said. ``December games are a challenge. But competitively, there's no place we'd rather play meaningful games than at home in front of our fans.''

Schumer also has expressed concerns.

``Sometimes NFL schedules help football teams, and sometimes they hurt them,'' Schumer spokeswoman Meredith Kelly said in an email to The Associated Press. ``Hopefully, the home games in December will help the Bills win more games in the second half of the season. But in any case, Senator Schumer would like to minimize the number of blackouts. And he will work with the Bills to do that.''

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said it's difficult creating a schedule to satisfy every request made by every team.

``We are aware of the Bills' preferences for limiting late-season home games,'' McCarthy said. ``We know we are not able to make every team happy every year. But we strive to design schedules that are equitable for all 32 teams.''

The Bills schedule this season has been what even coach Chan Gailey has described as being ``unusual.''

Buffalo's played just once at home since September. They've played four of five on the road, a stretch that included consecutive games at San Francisco and Arizona, during which the Bills elected to spend the week in Phoenix rather than travel home.

Coming off a 37-31 loss to New England on Sunday, the Bills ended a string of four straight road games in which they played teams either coming off bye weeks (Patriots and Houston) or had a 10-day break after playing on a Thursday (San Francisco and Arizona).

According to STATS LLC, only the Philadelphia Eagles, with six, and Seattle Seahawks, five, play more games against opponents coming off extended breaks this season.

Safety George Wilson called it ``odd'' but refused to make any excuses.

``It's easy to sit back and criticize the scheduling after how the first nine games have gone for us,'' Wilson said. ``But if the record was turned the other way around, we'd be feeling pretty good about the position we're in.''

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

The Stanley Cup is not the only trophy that will be awarded at the end of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. The Conn Smythe will also be given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team during the playoffs.

Who will that player be?

It's not hard to figure out who the frontrunner is right now. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't just been the best goalie in the playoffs, he's been the best player with a dominant postseason in which he has posted a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He has been so dominant, he could win it even if Vegas loses the series.

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

The last player from the losing team to win the Conn Smythe was Jean-Sebastian Giguere from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003.

But what about the Caps?

Alex Ovechkin is the leader of Washington and has been absolutely dominant throughout the postseason. He even scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Surprisingly, however, Ovechkin does not lead the team in points through the playoffs. Evgeny Kuznetsov holds that edge with 24 points to Ovechkin's 22.

Will their offensive dominance propel them to win the Cup and the Conn Smythe? Will a different player emerge as the hero of the series?

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

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Associated Press

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details. 

Until now. 

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. 

Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer). 

But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million. 

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now. 

The cap hits on the contract are as follows: 

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022. 

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five. 

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