Capitals

Colts eager to balance offense with Texans looming

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Colts eager to balance offense with Texans looming

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Indianapolis Colts have gotten a lot of mileage out of Andrew Luck's legs.

Maybe too much.

Shaky protection has forced Luck to scramble all over the field this season and it wasn't pretty again Sunday, with Indy down 20-7 to Tennessee at halftime after rushing for just 12 yards. By the time the game was over, rookie Vick Ballard had a season-high 94 yards rushing and the Colts had done enough to take some pressure off their star quarterback in a 27-23 win.

``Yeah, we struggled in the first half with a couple of matchups,'' Colts interim coach Bruce Arians said after the game. ``Our coaches did a good job of finding some runs that we liked at halftime and Vick did a good job of picking and sliding and coming out of there.''

If only the Colts could run that way all the time. Indy's running game is better than it was last year, but it has been inconsistent. The Colts (9-4) are in position to make the playoffs, but it's unlikely they'll go far unless they improve their ground attack. Indianapolis ranks 22nd in the league in yards rushing per game, and Luck has been sacked 32 times.

For the run game to improve, the offensive line needs to get better and stay healthy.

Left tackle Winston Justice had a head injury two weeks ago against Detroit, then had a biceps injury against Tennessee. Center Samson Satele hurt his ankle against the Titans. Both missed the second half. Left guard Joe Reitz missed the Tennessee game with a head injury. Arians said he won't know where any of those players stand until at least Wednesday.

The hodgepodge left Luck scrambling in the first two quarters against Tennessee. He was sacked three times in the first half on Sunday and was pressured on most of his throws.

``He got hit quite a few times in this ballgame,'' Arians said Monday. ``We've got to keep him cleaner.''

Rushing performances like the one in the second half will help. Ballard, a rookie, leads the Colts with 562 yards rushing. He has stepped in because Donald Brown is out with an ankle injury.

Arians likes what Ballard has brought to the team.

``He's powerful. He's a poor man's Edge (Edgerrin James),'' Arians said. ``He's bowlegged like Edge and he's about the same size and tough to bring down. He's quick, he's elusive, doesn't have the great, great speed but he can make the first guy miss and he's going to make a lot of yards because he makes people miss. He's got a great future.''

Ballard hopes to be a part of the solution.

``Coming into rookie minicamps, I was just focused on trying to learn the plays and learn the offense,'' he said. ``A couple injuries happened to the backs ahead of me and that bumped me up. I just try and take advantage of my opportunities.''

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Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

With their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Capitals' playoff future is starting to come into focus. Washington has only one game remaining and can finish in either third or fourth in the round robin standings. That limits the number of possible playoff opponents for the Caps when the games really start to matter.

First, before talking about who the Caps may play, it is important to remember why. Under the NHL's regular format, a normal year would see teams advance in a bracket, meaning each team knows going in they will be playing the winner of a specific matchup if they advance. This year, the NHL is going back to its old format of re-seeding after each round. This makes determining matchups a bit harder to figure out.

Here's what we know. The Caps are going to finish in the bottom half of the round robin meaning they will play one of the highest two seeded teams coming out of the qualifying round. The Carolina Hurricanes swept their qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. As the No. 6 seed coming in, Carolina is going to be one of the top two qualifying round teams.

RELATED: DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWNS AND MORE FROM CAPS LOSS TO FLYERS

Washington's final seed will be determined by Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. A win in regulation, overtime or a shootout will mean the Caps are No. 3, while a loss in any fashion will bump them down to No. 4.

The simplest scenario for Washington is that If the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are guaranteed to play either Pittsburgh or Carolina as the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. It gets a little trickier if the Penguins lose. If that happens, the Hurricanes become the top qualifying team and will play No. 4. The top team behind them then becomes No. 6 which, as of now, could be the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So a rematch with the Hurricanes is a definite possibility for the Caps, as is a matchup with the rival Penguins.

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Max and Erica Scherzer announce ‘Nats for Masks’ initiative

Max and Erica Scherzer announce ‘Nats for Masks’ initiative

Max Scherzer and his wife, Erica, have announced the formation of a new organization called 'Nats for Masks' that will help provide masks to underprivileged and at-risk populations in DMV area.

As part of the initiative, the Scherzers will auction off some of their personal collection of memorabilia to support COVID-19 relief efforts in the DMV. Some of the auction items available included autographed game-used jerseys, caps, and even Max’s 2019 All-Star Game nameplate.

Giving back to the community is nothing new to the Scherzer family. As animal lovers, back in 2017 during the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Scherzer’s rallied to cover adoption fees for all animals at the Washington-based Humane Rescue Alliance in order to make space for animals brought in from Houston.

Erica is also on the Board of Directors of the Humane Rescue Alliance, and Max has also contributed in the past in a PSA to raise awareness for the shelter.

https://twitter.com/HumaneRescue/status/861982319892193284?s=20

As if we needed another reason to adore the Scherzer family and what they do for our community, just add this to the list.

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