Nationals

Broncos to finish season in style

Broncos to finish season in style

The difference Peyton Manning has made in Denver actually is measurable.

Try from 8-8, which the Broncos were a year ago in winning the AFC West, to 12-3. Try losing their final three games of 2011 and sneaking into the back door of the playoffs to winning their last 11 and moving into the postseason as the NFL's best team.

Those are the numbers, along with Denver (No. 1 in the AP Pro32) being a 16-point favorite over Kansas City (No. 32, AP Pro32), which is 2-13.

What Manning has brought to the Broncos in swagger, confidence and performance that has been impressive even by the four-time league MVP's standards.

Don't look for any temporary respite in any of those areas against the weak Chiefs.

``We talk about that a lot, not coasting, pedal downhill,'' coach John Fox said. ``I appreciate him. I think that's a big reason why he's accomplished what he's accomplished, whether it's here or in Indianapolis. He's a tremendous competitor, doesn't let up. I think that's how you need to be to be successful.''

Few teams have been more successful this season than the Broncos. Kansas City has no chance Sunday.

BRONCOS, 37-6

No. 20 Carolina (plus 4) at No. 16 New Orleans

After this, Saints will be unburdened from bounties that damaged season.

BEST BET: SAINTS, 40-27

No. 31 Jacksonville (plus 5 1/2 ) at No. 26 Tennessee

As bad as Jaguars might be, Titans look worse right now.

UPSET SPECIAL: JAGUARS, 17-13

No. 14 Dallas (plus 3 1/2 ) at No. 9 Washington

NBC and NFL get their wish: tight game between archrivals to win division.

REDSKINS, 29-27

No. 7 Houston (minus 6 1/2 ) at No. 10 Indianapolis

Texans never have won at Indy. They won't start now.

COLTS, 27-24

No. 19 Miami (plus 11) at No. 4 New England

Patriots playing for a bye, just might get it.

PATRIOTS, 30-17

No. 3 Green Bay (minus 3) at No. 12 Minnesota

Shouldn't be playing hunches so late in season. But ...

VIKINGS, 24-23

No. 27 Arizona (plus 15) at No. 6 San Francisco

Minnesota's win gives 49ers shot at a bye.

49ERS, 30-9

No. 18 St. Louis (plus 10) at No. 5 Seattle

Our ears still are ringing from the noise level at CenturyLink.

SEAHAWKS, 31-20

No. 8 Baltimore (plus 3) at No. 11 Cincinnati

These teams could meet in wild-card round next week.

RAVENS, 20-19

No. 29 Philadelphia (plus 9 1/2 ) at No. 15 New York Giants

Big last stand for Michael Vick and Andy Reid? Nah.

GIANTS, 24-13

No. 13 Chicago (minus 3) at No. 28 Detroit

Reeling Bears still have playoff shot. Lions have packed it in.

BEARS, 27-17

No. 24 New York Jets (plus 3) at No. 25 Buffalo

Go with the losing team with less turmoil.

BILLS, 24-16

No. 23 Cleveland (OFF) at No. 17 Pittsburgh

Strange not seeing Steelers in contention. Not strange with Browns.

STEELERS, 17-13

No. 22 Tampa Bay (OFF) at No. 2 Atlanta

Falcons won't have meaningful game for two more weeks.

FALCONS, 27-23

No. 30 Oakland (OFF) at No. 21 San Diego

Norv Turner could be leaving with a two-game winning streak.

CHARGERS, 30-10

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2012 RECORD:

Against spread: 12-4 (105-118-7). Straight up: 13-3 (147-88-1)

Best Bet: 7-7-2 against spread, 11-5 straight up.

Upset special: 11-5 against spread, 9-7 straight up.

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

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Carter Kieboom’s early defensive struggles at third base aren’t a major concern--yet

Carter Kieboom’s early defensive struggles at third base aren’t a major concern--yet

Carter Kieboom is getting his chance.

The 22-year-old infield prospect is competing for the Nationals’ starting job at third base this spring following the departure of Anthony Rendon in free agency. A natural shortstop, Kieboom has started just nine games at third in his professional career but is shifting across the infield because that’s where the Nationals need him.

So far, the early returns have been—well, not great. On Sunday, Kieboom dropped a line drive off the bat of Miami Marlins slugger Jesús Aguilar then sailed the throw over the head off first baseman Eric Thames for his first error of the spring. He picked up his second miscue against the New York Yankees on Tuesday, when he charged a groundball and missed his target while throwing on the run.

The plays aren’t pretty, but that’s what spring training is for.

Competitions are held, young players get their shot, everyone has something they’re working to improve. Kieboom is trying to earn a job at a position he hasn’t played regularly since he was a kid. Mistakes shouldn’t be reasons for alarm, they should be expected.

That being said, Kieboom will only be granted the it’s-still-early grace period for so long. Opening Day is less than a month away, meaning manager Davey Martinez is going to have to make a decision in the next few weeks about what he’s going to do with Kieboom.

If these errors continue, then he won’t be forced into playing Kieboom in the majors. The Nationals have a backup plan in Asdrúbal Cabrera ready to assume the position should Kieboom need more time in the minors to work at the position. Washington is already faced with few clear opportunities for Howie Kendrick to get at-bats, so sending Kieboom down makes it easier for him to make regular starts.

But for now, there’s no reason to panic over Kieboom’s first few errors. As NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes pointed out on the Nationals Talk podcast, the Nationals’ spring training leader in errors was none other than Victor Robles (he had three). You know, the Victor Robles who was a Gold Glove finalist in center field?

Kieboom is getting his chance. It’s just a question of how many the Nationals are going to give him.

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Pass catchers take on the Combine Thursday, so here are 4 reasonable targets for the Redskins

Pass catchers take on the Combine Thursday, so here are 4 reasonable targets for the Redskins

Thursday at the NFL Combine is when the quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends work out for pro scouts in Indy.

So, Pete Hailey and Ethan Cadeaux came up with a list of four pass catchers that could be options for the Redskins on late Friday or early Saturday of the 2020 NFL Draft. Those later selections will likely be where Washington nabs more targets, since they don't have a second-rounder and almost surely won't use their top pick on one.

Hailey found two wideouts, while Cadeaux identified two tight ends. Here's their list.

Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame

In Terry McLaurin, the Redskins already have a guy who can get by DBs with his wiggle. Claypool, meanwhile, would be more of a bully, wreaking havoc on jump balls and shoving smaller corners aside for key grabs.

As a senior for the Irish, Claypool went over 1,000 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. He's also a capable blocker, bringing a toughness that Ron Rivera would no doubt like on the edge.

Claypool may be too much of a riser for the Redskins once draft season wraps up, but if he's there for them on Day 2, he'll be hard to ignore. Dwayne Haskins would surely approve of his arrival.

Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC

Like Claypool, Pittman Jr. will rely more on his physicality than his speed to stand out in the NFL. The former Trojan is coming off a senior year where he tallied 101 catches for 1,275 yards  and 11 six-pointers. That's a nasty stat line.

The son of a longtime pro running back, Pittman Jr. clearly learned a thing or two from his pops about getting defenders off of him. Some franchises may overlook him because he doesn't have top-line burst, but he's another prospect who could fit nicely alongside McLaurin. 

Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington

Bryant is a perfect "move" tight end for today's modern NFL.

A junior from the University of Washington, Bryant thrived in his first full season as a starter. With Georgia transfer quarterback Jacob Eason at the helm, Bryant recorded 52 receptions for more than 800 yards and three touchdowns.

Bryant has an expanded route tree and thrives over the middle. He has a quick first step and the speed to break away from linebackers, similar to former Redskins tight end Jordan Reed.

The Redskins scooped Reed in the third round of the 2013 draft, and if Bryant is still on the board by the time the Redskins pick at No. 66, he would certainly be a worthwhile selection.

Jared Pinkney, TE, Vanderbilt

Pinkney saw his production decline his senior season, but he was one of the most dangerous at the position in 2018 when he caught 50 passes for nearly 800 yards and seven touchdowns.

At 6-foot-4, 250 lbs., Pinkey has a solid frame and solid hands. While he's not necessarily a matchup problem with his agility in the passing game, he's willing to make contested catches between the numbers.

No, Pinkney doesn't have the quickness Bryant does. The trade-off, though, is that he's a strong blocker and not afraid to put his hand in the dirt. He will likely be available when the Redskins select at the beginning of the third round, and he could stick around as an early Day 3 target as well.

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