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Falcons wrap up NFC South when Bucs lose at Denver

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Falcons wrap up NFC South when Bucs lose at Denver

ATLANTA (AP) The Atlanta Falcons were low key about clinching the fifth division title in franchise history.

The Falcons (11-1) wrapped up the NFC South on Sunday when Tampa Bay lost at Denver 31-23, handing Atlanta its second division championship in three years. But this team won't be satisfied unless it reaches the Super Bowl.

``Just the first step in a long journey,'' center Todd McClure, the team's senior player, wrote on Twitter. ``We still have a lot of work to do.''

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, a rookie on Atlanta's last division-winning team, expressed a similar sentiment.

``The last time we won the division I was too amp!'' he tweeted. ``This time it's just like... OK, now lets accomplish the (next) goal!''

The Falcons will now turn their attention to securing home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. After San Francisco and Chicago both lost on Sunday, Atlanta merely needs to win two of its last four games to ensure it won't have to go on the road before the Super Bowl.

The division title has been an afterthought the past few weeks as the Falcons steadily pulled away from Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Carolina. They all but locked up the championship last Thursday night with a 23-13 win over New Orleans.

Atlanta also won the NFC South in 2004, and captured NFC West crowns in 1980 and 1998.

``We don't worry about it,'' quarterback Matt Ryan said. ``We try not to think that far ahead. One of the things I've learned in my five years is that if you're worrying about what you're going to do in January in September, October, November and December, you're wasting your time.''

The Falcons can use December to tune up for the playoffs and get some players healthy, most notably cornerback Asante Samuel, who has been slowed by a shoulder injury.

Also, Atlanta is eager to turn around their recent history of flopping in the postseason. The team was one-and-done in its last three playoff appearances dating back to 2008, Ryan's rookie year.

``I've tried to keep that week-to-week focus,'' the quarterback said, ``but at the same time, we've had some sour tastes in our mouths at the end of the last couple of seasons. So hopefully we'll have an opportunity to change that.''

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Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

You know what’s fun? Winning Metropolitan Division titles. 

No, it’s not as good as the big prize. The Capitals will never top their 2018 Stanley Cup championship. But winning a competitive division against their biggest rivals five years in a row? Pretty, pretty good. 

Washington took its fifth in a row officially on Tuesday when the NHL announced that the regular season had concluded thanks to the ongoing coronavirus. The Capitals just outlasted the Philadelphia Flyers with 90 standings points to 89. The difference over 69 games? One extra Caps game going into overtime for a single point. 

Credit to the Flyers for making a late run. No one was playing better in the NHL than Philadelphia just before the season was halted. Whether that carries over into the Stanley Cup Playoffs remains to be seen. 

But the Capitals should take pride in that streak. It’s hard to do in an age of parity. They play in a division where the Pittsburgh Penguins won two Stanley Cups in the previous four seasons. The two teams slugged it out three times in the second round. That’s the luck of the draw, and so four straight division titles -- and two Presidents’ Trophies -- meant just one Cup for Washington. 

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It’s also rare to dominate a division the way the Capitals have for five years. The Anaheim Ducks won the Pacific Division title every year from 2013 to 2017. Prior to that, the Detroit Red Wings won the Central Division an astounding eight times from 2001 to 2009. It doesn’t get you a championship -- Washington won the expired Southeast Division from 2008 to 2011 -- but it does mean you played great hockey year after year.

And to do it in the reconstituted Patrick Division, where long-time rivals like the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, Islanders and Devils joined with newer rivals Carolina and Columbus, makes it even sweeter. Add another banner to the rafters at Capital One Arena. The Caps are the class of the Metropolitan Division yet again. 

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Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

The Washington Nationals decided to use “partial furloughs” to keep their baseball and business employees at work through the end of their contracts or the calendar year.

The road map works like this:

All full-time business and baseball employees will receive a reduction in pay and hours ranging from 10 to 30 percent. If the employee’s contract runs to the end of baseball season -- typically Oct. 31 -- then these parameters apply from now until then. If the employee is not on contract, these reductions persist until Dec. 31.

No full-time employee is being laid off because of the economic impact from coronavirus.

An example: If a person works a 40-hour week, and has the 10 percent reduction in pay and hours, they are down to a 36-hour week at 10 percent pay cut.

The reduction scale slides. The highest-paid employees, like Mike Rizzo, are taking the largest reduction in pay. Then on down the line.

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The Nationals deciding to do this now allows their staff to know what the future holds as opposed to wondering month-to-month what decision the organization will make in regard to their job status.

Major League Baseball organizations remain uneasy about their financial future in 2020 since the season has stalled. The league and its team owners are in the midst of negotiations with the MLBPA while attempting to find a safe, revenue-satisfactory path back to the field.

Meanwhile, teams across the league are assessing their non-player finances, and the approach varies. For instance, the Anaheim Angels decided last week to furlough some non-playing employees.

In Washington, no full-time employee will be laid off because of this salary adjustment.

USA Today was first to report the Nationals’ overall decision.

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