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Falcons will play regular season finale to win

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Falcons will play regular season finale to win

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith rewarded his players with three days off after they earned the NFC's top seed.

As Smith sees it, the Falcons need as much rest as possible before they host a divisional round game in three weeks.

``It is a grind through four preseason games and 16 regular season games,'' Smith said on Sunday. ``If you're fortunate enough to play in that second season, you want to be as fresh as you can be.''

When Atlanta (13-2) returns to practice on Wednesday, Smith will begin to determine how much the starters will play when Tampa Bay (6-9) visits the Georgia Dome next Sunday.

Some decisions might not be made until late in the week, but it seems unlikely that quarterback Matt Ryan and other valuable starters will take every snap against the Buccaneers.

Either way, Smith wants to see how focused his players are in practice.

If they prepare as well as they did before blowing out the New York Giants two weeks ago and taking a 31-18 victory Saturday night at Detroit, the Falcons should be able to build a quick lead on Tampa Bay.

But that was hardly the case at Carolina on Dec. 9 when Atlanta played a sloppy game - offensively, defensively and on special teams - for the first time this season.

The Falcons were coming off an emotional home victory over New Orleans the week before to win the NFC South title, but they looked lethargic against the Panthers.

Smith said the team can't afford to waste the Tampa Bay game as an opportunity to improve.

``We're going to play the game to win,'' he said. ``That's how we're going to approach it. All games are important, and in terms of the importance, does it have no bearing? It really does because we want to win every time we go out and play.''

Except for an unproductive third quarter at Detroit, Atlanta essentially dominated the Lions by following a script that's worked well this season - start fast, win the turnover margin, avoid penalties and close with a flourish.

In the first half, Ryan completed 15 of 16 passes for 184 yards, Roddy White outran the coverage on two long touchdown catches and Julio Jones scored the third TD by getting both feet down in the back of the end zone.

Another reason the Falcons led 21-6 at halftime: Fumbles forced by Corey Peters and John Abraham and recovered by Peria Jerry and Robert McClain.

The offense followed each takeaway with a touchdown.

``We had to come out here and win this game,'' Jones said. ``We slipped up against Carolina looking at their record and everything. And this is another team that doesn't have a really good record but I mean it's the NFL. We've got to come out here and play every (time).''

Turnovers weren't the only means for success on defense. Late in the first quarter, cornerback Dunta Robinson stopped Kevin Smith 10 yards short of a first down to force a field goal. Early in the fourth, Peters tackled quarterback Matthew Stafford 2 yards short to force another field goal.

Ryan and the offense used up all but 12 seconds of the next 10-plus minutes - the only Detroit snap ending with Asante Samuel's interception - to take a 15-point lead.

``I thought we did a great job of it on that (second) drive in the fourth quarter,'' Ryan said. ``We converted a couple of third downs, kept it going and were able to punch it in. That was a huge momentum changer.''

If the Falcons can keep their momentum going with sharp focus in practice next week, Smith believes they won't suffer a letdown similar to the one that torpedoed their 2010 season with a blowout loss to Green Bay in the playoffs.

Atlanta had the No. 1 seed then, too, but Smith plans to change the practice routine after the Tampa Bay game. He indicated that players seemed overworked two years ago during the playoff bye week.

``We'll handle it differently with our workload and the days that we're going to work during our bye week and what our schedule will be,'' Smith said. ``We're not going to do anything like we did the last time.''

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The case for - and against - the Redskins signing Colin Kaepernick

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USA Today Sports

The case for - and against - the Redskins signing Colin Kaepernick

Don't look in this space for an argument that the Redskins - who are reportedly signing Mark Sanchez as Colt McCoy's backup - should, or should not, sign Colin Kaepernick.

This space will lay out reasons why the Redskins should, and should not, consider signing Colin Kaepernick. 

It's not a binary decision. In fact, it's just about the opposite. 

Any debate about Kaepernick often gets bogged down in differing political view points. This is not the place for that. Rather, here is an attempt to make the case for or against Kaepernick from a football perspective. 

The case to sign Colin Kaepernick

  • The Redskins need a quarterback. Alex Smith broke his leg and Colt McCoy needs a backup. Of the available free agents out there, Kaepernick has by far the best stats and resume. As Chris Thompson explained of Kaepernick, "He made it to a Super Bowl." When he last played in 2016, Kaepernick had 16 TDs against just four INTs in 12 starts. 
  • Kaepernick has familiarity in the West Coast offense, and once backed up Alex Smith and played with Vernon Davis. 
  • Redskins QB coach and passing game coordinator Kevin O'Connell worked on the 49ers staff with Kaepernick.
  • Multiple Redskins players, including Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson, said that the Nike pitchman deserves another chance in the NFL. 

The case not to sign Colin Kaepernick

  • Kaepernick hasn't played in the NFL for nearly two full seasons. He hasn't practiced in a professional setting for more than a year. The Redskins are competing for the NFC East title. If they have to go to a backup QB, they want somebody that is game ready. It's hard to think Kaepernick fits that bill today. 
  • Earlier this season, Redskins CB Josh Norman had some choice words for Kaepernick after Panthers safety Eric Reid spoke out against the NFL Player's Coalition. Norman is an active particpant and leader on the Player's Coalition, a social rights group that Kaepernick distanced himself from. Putting Norman and Kaepernick in the same locker room might create some friction for a first-place team. 
  • At 6-4, the Redskins are in first place in the NFC East and should still be able to win games with McCoy at quarterback. Regardless how one feels about Kaepernick's activism, it will create a side show for any organization that brings him in. Cable news outlets like CNN, Fox News and MSNBC will descend on the Washington locker room should Kaepernick get signed. 

 

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    Redskins will reportedly sign Mark Sanchez as backup QB

    Redskins will reportedly sign Mark Sanchez as backup QB

    Mark Sanchez is reportedly set to join the Washington Redskins in advance of the Week 12 Thanksgiving day game against the Cowboys, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    A devastating, season-ending injury to Alex Smith in Week 11 pushed Colt McCoy into the starting quarterback position, and without a third quarterback in-house, the Redskins had to sign a late replacement.

    Sanchez, who last played for the Bears during the 2017 season,  spent four seasons with the Jets after the team selected him out of Southern Cal with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

    Sanchez led the Jets to two AFC Championship games, but will ultimately be remembered for the "butt fumble" in a 2012 Thanksgiving day blowout loss to the New England Patriots. Sanchez's first game with the Redskins will take place exactly six years after the infamous moment.

    Sanchez has appeared in 77 games in seven seasons, starting 72. He's thrown for over 15,000 yards and has tossed 86 touchdown passes, while also throwing 86 interceptions.

    McCoy will start for the Redskins on Thursday in Dallas and is expected to be the starting quarterback for the rest of the season, with Sanchez serving as his backup and safety net.

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