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Falcons' defense looking for focus vs. Giants

Falcons' defense looking for focus vs. Giants

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) It didn't take long for Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan to get his players' attention after last week's embarrassing loss at Carolina.

In a meeting with his players this week, Nolan began the session with encouragement, pointing out all that's gone right for a defense that ranks fifth in scoring average.

But Nolan then transitioned to the poor tackling and missed assignments that were a big reason Carolina scored 30 points and piled up 195 yards rushing.

The Falcons were negligent in their tackling technique all afternoon against the Panthers. Plays that should've been stopped in the backfield, at the line of scrimmage or short of a first down turned into huge gains.

Atlanta endured an ugly afternoon as the Panthers ran seven plays that gained between 16 and 22 yards and scored three touchdowns that covered 25, 53 and 75 yards.

``We just made some errors, but we also had several at the beginning - third-and-2s, third-and-shorts, third-and-5s - and they broke some tackles on a couple of runs and got `em, and then we missed the slant play,'' Nolan said. ``They out-executed us.''

Nolan's job is to address the deficiencies quickly to ensure they don't become habit-forming, not with the New York Giants (8-5) visiting Atlanta (11-2) on Sunday and the Falcons still trying to earn a top conference seed.

``We don't need to be in a playoff game three or four weeks from now and have those things creep in,'' Nolan said. ``It just shows that they can if you're not on top of your game.''

A big area of concern is improving on third down, particularly after Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Carolina combined to average a 50 percent conversion rate over the last three games.

Atlanta's goal is to hold opponents to 33 percent or less.

``Getting stops on third down is almost as good as turnovers because after a special teams play, we're giving the ball back to our offense,'' free safety Thomas DeCoud said. ``Those are things that can swing game momentum from one side to the other. It happened for them in their favor last Sunday.''

The Falcons hope to get a boost in the secondary if cornerback Asante Samuel can return this week after missing most of the last two weeks with a right shoulder injury.

It's uncertain if Chris Hope will start for the second straight week at strong safety. William Moore, who intercepted New Orleans star Drew Brees twice in Atlanta, was sidelined against Carolina with a sore hamstring.

Moore missed practice again on Thursday, and Samuel was limited.

DeCoud, however, could sense other factors at play last week, too.

Maybe it's because the Falcons were coming off a big win over the Saints to become the first NFC team to earn a playoff spot, but DeCoud believed the team was emotionally flat.

``Yes, you can be close to perfect, but there are going to times where the ball's not going to bounce in your favor,'' DeCoud said. ``I'd say it was a combination of that and us not really having any energy and kind of going through the motions. If we can get that turned around and make sure we have our passion and energy up and in full swing, be sound in our techniques and assignments, I think things will fall in our favor.''

Atlanta's defense struggled on third down all afternoon - a problem that must be corrected against the Giants. Led by quarterback Eli Manning, New York is third in the NFL in points scored.

But Sean Weatherspoon believes Nolan will help the Falcons fix their flaws before they become a problem.

As Weatherspoon says, there's a reason that Atlanta is for fifth in average points.

``We're the same guys that made those plays when we had to,'' Weatherspoon said. ``We're the same guys that got five picks off of Drew Brees, guys that overcame five interceptions to win a game (against Arizona), guys that got four picks in the first quarter off of Peyton Manning. We've got to get back to the things that made us successful.''

NOTES: Coach Mike Smith said WR Roddy White won't test his sore right knee until Sunday. White hasn't practiced this week and is not expected to participate on Friday. White, whose 292 catches since the start of 2010 rank second in the league, has never missed a game in his eight-year career.

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Follow George Henry athttp://www.twitter.com/georgehenryAP

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Redskins vs. Eagles Week 15: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Redskins vs. Eagles Week 15: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

When the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Washington Redskins in Week 1 on the 2019 NFL season, things were a lot different. 

Despite the loss, the Redskins had hopes of contending with veteran quarterback Case Keenum and some offensive talent, while the Eagles and a fully-healthy Carson Wentz were expected to be Super Bowl contenders. Fast forward to Week 15, and that hasn't been the case.

The Redskins struggles have come in bunches. A 3-10 record, Washington has dealt with injuries, off the field problems and the firing of Jay Gruden during the season. Things in Philadelphia haven't gone much better. At 6-7, Philadelphia is still fighting for a playoff spot, but an inconsistent offense has led to an underwhelming year for Wentz and company.

On Sunday, the Eagles will fight to keep their NFC East title hopes alive while the Redskins look to see more growth from rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. The Week 15 matchup may not be what was expected earlier in the season, but it still has implications. Here's everything you need to know about the game.

REDSKINS vs EAGLES WEEK 15

Who: Washington Redskins (3-10) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

What: Week 15 of the 2019 NFL regular season

When: Sunday, Dec. 5, 2019, 1 p.m. ET

Where: FedExField, Landover, MD.

TV Channel: FOX

Live Stream: Stream on FuboTV, Pregame and postgame coverage streaming on NBCSportsWashington.com

Radio: Redskins Radio Network

Spread: Eagles, -4.5

Over/Under: 38.5

Weather: 48 degrees, mostly cloudy

REDSKINS at PACKERS TV SCHEDULE:

8:30 a.m.: Pro Football Weekly

9:00 a.m.: Redskins Talk: Week 15

10:00 a.m.: Inside the Redskins

11:00 a.m.: Redskins Coaches Show

11:30 a.m.: Redskins Nation

12:00 p.m.: Redskins Kickoff Live

4:00 p.m.: Redskins Postgame Live 

REDSKINS 2019 SEASON SCHEDULE:

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, Redskins at Eagles (L, 32-27)

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, Cowboys at Redskins, (L, 31-21)

Week 3: Monday, Sept. 23, Bears at Redskins, (L, 31-15)

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, Redskins at Giants, (L, 24-3)

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, Patriots at Redskins, (L, 33-7)

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, Redskins at Dolphins, (W, 17-16)

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, 49ers at Redskins, 1 p.m. (L, 9-0)

Week 8: Thursday, Oct. 24, Redskins at Vikings, 8:20 p.m. (L, 19-9)

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, Redskins at Bills, 1 p.m. (L, 24-9)

Week 10: BYE

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, Jets at Redskins, 1 p.m. (L, 34-17)

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, Lions at Redskins, 1 p.m. (W, 19-16)

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, Redskins at Panthers, 1 p.m. (W, 29-21)

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, Redskins at Packers, 1 p.m. (L, 20-15)

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, Eagles at Redskins, 1 p.m.

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, Giants at Redskins, 1 p.m.

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Redskins at Cowboys, 1 p.m.

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Which team is closer to contention: the Wizards or Grizzlies?

Which team is closer to contention: the Wizards or Grizzlies?

While watching the Wizards take on another rebuilding team, as they did on Saturday night in their loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, it's only natural to compare the stages of those respective rebuilds and wonder which team is closer. That may be an even more interesting question with a game like Saturday's that matched the Wizards against a team doing things a decidedly different way.

In a sense, the Wizards are where the Grizzlies were last season. Memphis had unexpectedly bottomed out the year before, enough to land Jaren Jackson Jr. in the draft. And, like the Wizards this year, they were holding onto their core veterans, in their case Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol.

But the Grizzlies didn't bounce back into playoff contention like they had hoped and ended up trading both Gasol and Conley, and arguably too late. The Wizards wish to avoid that fate with Bradley Beal and John Wall.

Neither the Wizards (7-17) or Grizzlies (9-17) are a good team right now and both would like to be back in the playoff mix sooner than later, maybe even next year. So, who is closer?

The Grizzlies have the more impressive young core with Jackson and Ja Morant. Both are just 20 years old and they each look like future All-Stars, if not All-NBA talents.

Jackson is averaging 17.6 points and 1.2 blocks while shooting 40 percent from three on six attempts per game. He's a two-way unicorn who can make plays like a guard and has potential to become an elite rim protector.

Morant is the early favorite for rookie of the year, averaging 18.7 points and 6.4 assists while shooting 42.6 percent from long range. He has future star written all over him with a game reminiscent of a young Wall or Russell Westbrook.

The Grizzlies appear to have hit on their high draft picks, but have also nailed later ones, the type of moves that separate the best front offices. Brandon Clarke, the 21st pick this past June, looks like a steal. And Dillon Brooks, a second round pick in 2017, is a solid young player.

But the Wizards also have an emerging young core with Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura and Moe Wagner. None of them are as good as Jackson or Morant, but they are good players on the rise. And, most importantly, the Wizards have Beal.

While Jackson and Morant could someday be stars, Beal already is one and he's signed long-term. Potential is a commodity in the NBA, but nothing is guaranteed for young teams and young players. Just look at the Bulls and Hawks this season.

Now, the Grizzlies do have something the Wizards would absolutely love to have and that is real financial flexibility. They have close to $70 million in salary coming off the books this summer and have the second-lowest payroll committed for next season of any team in the NBA, second only to Atlanta.

The Wizards, meanwhile, are strapped with Wall's supermax contract which, depending on how he returns from a torn Achilles, could be an albatross for years to come. Though cap space doesn't mean the Grizzlies will be able to lure free agents, as Memphis has never been mistaken for a prime destination, but it's a preferable spot to be in. Wall's deal may prevent the Wizards from keeping players they would otherwise re-sign, when Memphis should have no such problem.

So, so far we have the Grizzlies with a better young nucleus and a much better salary cap situation. The Wizards, though, have the proven star and may have two if Wall returns to form.

But here's what may give the Wizards the edge, or at least secure a push. The Grizzlies have to give one of their next two first round picks to Boston by way of a 2015 trade. It is top-6 protected this year and unprotected in 2021 if it doesn't convey this June. That could be a major problem for a team trying to build through the draft.

Also, the Wizards are lucky to be in the Eastern Conference. Though the Grizzlies geographically should be in the East, they remain in the West which has been the superior conference basically since Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls.

There is, of course, no definitive answer to the root question of this analysis. The easiest way to settle it would be to say the Grizzlies have a higher ceiling at this point because of Morant and Jackson, but the Wizards probably have the more likely path to the playoffs next season, given they play in the East and have two guys with a track record of getting there.

But as we compare the teams, keep in mind what Memphis wanted to do and what they ended up doing in terms of trading their veteran stars. The Wizards don't want to take their rebuild that far, but sometimes things don't go according to plan. Just ask the Grizzlies.

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