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Bradford leads Rams to 15-12 win over Bills

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Bradford leads Rams to 15-12 win over Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Steven Jackson has been around for enough of the bad times in St. Louis to appreciate what it means to still be in the playoff hunt at this time of year.

Slim as the Rams' hopes might be, Jackson's going to enjoy this as much - and for as long - as he can.

``At this point in December, for us to still have meaningful games, for guys to come collectively together as a team, it means a lot,'' the veteran running back said. ``This team is definitely showing growth and maturity.''

After five consecutive losing seasons, the Rams (6-6-1) took their latest step forward under first-year coach Jeff Fisher with a 15-12 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. A week after rallying St. Louis to a 16-13 overtime win over San Francisco, quarterback Sam Bradford produced his second consecutive fourth-quarter comeback with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Gibson with 48 seconds remaining.

They've now won three straight for the first time since closing the 2006 season with a 3-0 finish. They won on cold, wet day, with temperatures in the high 30s and a light rain falling for much of the second half. And victory came on the road, where the Rams were 1-3-1 this season, and 8-36-1 since 2007.

``I think this team grew up a little more today,'' Bradford said. ``When it mattered, the guys stepped up and made plays.''

The defense did its part by making five sacks and forcing two turnovers, including when linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar ended the Bills' final drive by intercepting Ryan Fitzpatrick pass.

And then there was Bradford, who directed the decisive 14-play, 84-yard drive in which he twice converted on third down, and also hit receiver Austin Pettis while facing fourth-and-1.

``Sam's not a guy who gets flustered,'' Fisher said.

No, that's the M.O. of a Bills team that at 5-8 continues to find ways to lose, and is all but mathematically certain of extending the NFL's longest active playoff drought to 13 years.

``Yeah, we have to develop a killer instinct,'' Fitzpatrick said. ``As an offense, we have to put them away, and we didn't do that today.''

The offense settled for two field goals and running back Fred Jackson's fumble in three drives inside the Rams 25 in the first half.

And the defense unraveled when it mattered by squandering a lead in the final 70 seconds for the second time at home this season. The other time that happened came in 35-34 loss to Tennessee on Oct. 21.

What's worse, safety George Wilson twice had chances to intercept Bradford on the final drive, only to drop the ball each time.

``You have to be a finisher in this league,'' Wilson said. ``Those are the plays you replay over and over in your head, wishing that the ball would've bounced your way.''

Much of the blame is starting to be directed at third-year head coach Chan Gailey, who was once again being second-guessed for his play-calling.

Despite having three timeouts, and the ball on the Rams 34 with 38 seconds left in the second quarter, the Bills mismanaged the clock by getting off only three plays for 10 yards before settling for Rian Lindell's 40-yard field goal.

And questions remained as to why Gailey was overly cautious in limiting the workload of running back C.J. Spiller, the team's most dynamic weapon. Despite leading the NFL in averaging 6.62 yards per carry, Spiller only had three carries for 27 yards in the second half, and finished with seven carries for 37 yards.

Gailey chalked it up to his two-back rotation. And when it came time to run the ball, Jackson happened to be the one on the field.

``Bottom line, we could not make plays,'' Gailey said. ``It is a bitter pill to swallow.''

NOTES: Fitzpatrick finished 25 of 33 for 247 yards with a 2-yard touchdown to Lee Smith, and an interception. ... Bradford finished 19 of 39 for 209 yards, an interception and hit Chris Givens on a 2-point conversion. ... Jackson had 64 yards rushing and scored on a 1-yard plunge, while Gibson made six catch for 100 yards. ... Bills DE Mario Williams had a sack, his sixth in four games to give him a team-leading 10 1/2. ... Bills RB Fred Jackson's status is uncertain after he was carted off from the sideline after hurting his right leg late in the fourth quarter.

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Wizards' 2019 top prospects rankings: Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. lead the way

Wizards' 2019 top prospects rankings: Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr. lead the way

Though the maturation of the G-League has brought the NBA closer in line with MLB and its minor league farm system, there has been one noticeable element missing for those of us who follow the two sports closely. In baseball, multiple media outlets publish top prospect lists both league-wide and team-specific, yet the equivalents are nowhere to be found in basketball.

Prospect rankings are a great window into the future and they are fun to revisit years later to see who was right and who was wrong. But, so far, they haven’t become widespread in basketball.

The reason why may be rooted in semantics. Generally, basketball players are considered prospects before they are drafted. After they join teams, they just become regular players.

Part of that perception is simply because NBA players can impact their teams at a much younger age. While it is very rare to see a 19-year-old in the majors, it is commonplace in the NBA.

The Wizards, though, may be the perfect team to get this started with. They have a collection of players that are now out of college but have yet to establish themselves in the professional ranks. They are essentially prospects by baseball's definition.

So, in the interest of doing something new here, let's rank them...

1. Rui Hachimura, F

Age: 21
Strengths: midrange shooting, offensive versatility
Areas to improve: three-point shooting, passing

The ninth overall pick this past June, Hachimura is the highest draft pick the Wizards have selected since Otto Porter Jr. in 2013. He is 21, but young in basketball years because he didn't pick up the sport until Age 13. Yet, with three years of college under his belt, he comes in with the experience to likely make a difference right away. And with the Wizards' current roster state, he should have a big opportunity for minutes and shot attempts as a rookie.

Hachimura appears to have several NBA-ready skills, particularly on offense. He makes smart decisions with the ball in his hand and can score at all three levels. His outside shooting needs to be more consistent, but he can knock it down enough to be a threat. Defensively is where he will need to grow the most, but the potential seems to be there for him to develop until a versatile player on that end of the floor. 

Passing is another area he can improve. He didn't record many assists at all in college or in the Summer League. 

2. Troy Brown Jr., G/F

Age: 19
Strengths: rebounding, passing
Areas to improve: outside shooting, turnovers

Though Brown was drafted one year before Hachimura, he is still a year-and-a-half younger. He also didn't crack the Wizards' rotation until late in his rookie season. That makes him still very much a prospect as he enters his Age 20 campaign looking to make a much bigger impact in his second season than he did in his first.

The good news for Brown is that the minutes should be there. At this point he looks like at-worst the second small forward behind C.J. Miles and he should have a chance to battle for the starting job in training camp. With Isaiah Thomas' checkered injury history (he only played 12 games last year), there is a good chance Brown sees time at point guard as well, maybe even some starts there. We'll see.

Brown's passing and rebounding are up-to-speed for his size and position, but he needs to cut down on the turnovers and improve his three-point shot. Though he dominated in his brief time in the Summer League, he still only shot 40.6 percent from the field. Also, the Wizards could really use a leap from him on defense because he has a relatively high ceiling on that end of the floor and most of their players do not.

3. Moe Wagner, C

Age: 22
Strengths: outside shooting, free throw shooting
Areas to improve: defense, rebounding

The path to minutes isn't quite as clear for Wagner, who is probably going to be stuck behind Hachimura, Davis Bertans and Thomas Bryant in the frontcourt. But the way he can crack the rotation is by hitting his threes, something he was not able to do as a rookie for the Lakers last season or in the 2019 Summer League for the Wizards.

Wagner presents intriguing long-term upside because of his shooting and his knack for getting to the rim off pump-fakes. But he needs to learn how to affect more shots around the rim, even if he can't block shots. And his rebounding could use some improvement, as his 9.8 rebounding percentage last season wouldn't even stand out for a wing player, much less a seven-footer.

4. Admiral Schofield, F

Age: 22
Strengths: outside shooting, team defense
Areas to improve: defense against taller players, ball-handling

The expectations should be low for Schofield in his rookie season, despite the fact he played four years in college and has an NBA-ready frame. Most second round picks don't make much of an impact early on and he is slotted to be on the outside of the rotation looking in.

Schofield's fastest way to NBA playing time is through his defense and three-point shooting, the two biggest reasons the Wizards drafted him. If he can provide toughness and an edge in the midrange, it will give the Wizards something they have lacked in recent years. And he shot at both a high percentage and for volume from three at Tennessee, and you can't have enough perimeter shooting these days.

5. Justin Robinson, G

Age: 23
Strengths: outside shooting, passing
Areas to improve: finishing around rim, turnovers

Like Schofield, Robinson is probably going to spend a good deal of his time with the Capital City Go-Go this season. But working in his favor is the team's lack of depth at point guard. They have Thomas, who again has some injury concerns. And they have Ish Smith, but there appears to be an opening at the third point guard spot.

Brown could fill the void and so could Jordan McRae. The Wizards could even give Bradley Beal more of an extended look running the offense. But the door seems to be open for Robinson to make an impact and early. He needs to focus on taking care of the ball, playing physical defense and making his open threes. The Wizards don't need Robinson to be a big-time scorer, but he can add spacing if he shoots from three as he did in college.

Honorable mention: Garrison Mathews, Isaac Bonga

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Orioles Roundup: O's fall to Nationals in opening game of Beltway Series

Orioles Roundup: O's fall to Nationals in opening game of Beltway Series

Another night, another loss for the Baltimore Orioles. Tuesday night featured a one-sided affair, as the Nationals beat the O's 8-1 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles fell to 28-66 on this season, while the Natoinals continued their climb to 50-43.

Here are the latest news and notes:

Player Updates:

SP Asher Wojciechowski gave up three earned runs over 5 1/3 innings in Tuesday night's loss. The righty gave up two home runs, with Matt Adams and Juan Soto hitting one deep ball each, while managing to strikeout seven batter and issue no walks on the night. He has now whiffed 21 batters in 15 2/3 innings since joining the Orioles, but also holds a 5.74 ERA.

2B Hanser Alberto was the only offense to speak of for the Orioles on Tuesday night. The utility player had two of the team's four hits and scored their only run after blasting a home run off Austin Voth in the second inning. Alberto has been a breath of fresh air for a struggling O's team, sporting a .306/.325/.402 batting line.

Before first pitch on Tuesday, the Orioles released INF/OF Jace Peterson. The versatile player had a July 15 opt-out in his minor league contract that he decided to exercise in order to find a better opportunity. Through 86 games this season in Triple-A Norfolk, Peterson boasted a .309/.394/.505 battling line with nine home runs, 44  RBI, 12 stolen bases and 55 runs scored.

Also before first pitch on Tuesday, it was announced that DH Mark Trumbo (knee) has resumed baseball activities. Though there is no timetable for his return to the team, the Orioles are optimistic that he will be able to contribute before the end of the season. He has missed the whole season so far due to complications following right knee surgery.

Injuries:

SP Dylan Bundy: Knee, 10-day Injured List

RP Josh Rogers: Elbow, 10-day Injured List

OF DJ Stewart: Ankle, 10-day Injured List

SP Alex Cobb: Back, 60-day Injured List

SP Nate Karns: Arm, 60-day Injured List

DH Mark Trumbo: Knee, 60-day Injured List

Coming Up:

Wednesday 7/17: Orioles vs. Nationals, 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Friday 7/19: Orioles vs. Red Sox, 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Saturday 7/20: Orioles vs. Red Sox, 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Source: Rotoworld

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