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Fitzpatrick directs Bills' 34-18 win over Jaguars

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Fitzpatrick directs Bills' 34-18 win over Jaguars

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Save the what-ifs for later. So long as Mario Williams and the Buffalo Bills are still mathematically in the playoff hunt, they're focused only on what's ahead and not on whatever opportunities they've squandered.

``What happened before is in the past, and we just have to keep pushing,'' the high-priced defensive end said. ``We are still there. Even though nobody else thinks of it that way, we do.''

Slim as their chances might be, the Bills (5-7) have hope for at least one more week after a 34-18 win over the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) on Sunday.

``We still have games left,'' Williams said. ``Anything can happen.''

Everything went right for the Bills, who won for only the third time in nine games, while delivering a near-complete team victory.

Williams had one of Buffalo's four sacks, in which he forced Chad Henne's fumble, in helping key a defense that allowed 236 yards while stopping the Jaguars on three fourth-down chances.

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes and scored another rushing while directing five consecutive scoring drives. Fred Jackson had 109 yards rushing and C.J. Spiller scored on a 44-yard run.

And special teams contributed, as well, with Marcus Easley and Brad Smith combining for 93 yards on two kickoff returns, both of which set up touchdowns.

``We have a lot of belief in our locker room, and we are not in the most ideal situation. But we lose today's game, and we know we're out of it,'' Fitzpatrick said. ``We felt like this was one we should win, and needed to win.''

At 5-7, the Bills are tied with Miami and the New York Jets in chasing Indianapolis (8-4), Pittsburgh (7-5) and Cincinnati (7-5) for the AFC's two wild card playoff spots.

It's an altogether different story for the Jaguars (2-10), who are tied with Kansas City with the NFL's worst record.

A combination of familiar problems - injuries, a sputtering offense and porous defense - contributed to seal their latest loss. And they all cropped up a week after Jacksonville snapped a seven-game skid with a 24-19 win over Tennessee.

``We came up very short,'' said Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny, who spent his first four NFL seasons in Buffalo. ``If we would've fought as hard as we could and played our best ball and lost, that's one thing. But that was not the case.''

Henne went 18 of 41 for 208 yards with a lost fumble and interception in his worst outing in two-plus games since taking over for injured starter Blaine Gabbert.

The Jaguars defense, which entered the game ranked 31st in the NFL, surrendered 344 yards offense, including 232 rushing. And the injury count continues to rise after running back Rashad Jennings, who is starting in place of Maurice Jones-Drew and Jalen Parmele, and leading receiver Cecil Shorts III both sustained concussions.

This was not the homecoming Jaguars first-year head coach Mike Mularkey had in mind in facing his former team for the first time since he abruptly resigned in Buffalo in January 2006.

``I don't think we gave ourselves a chance to make it a game,'' Mularkey said. ``I thought after the last two weeks, we were really making progress.''

The Jaguars unraveled after Henne scored on a 1-yard run to put them ahead 10-7.

The Bills responded by scoring 27 points - three touchdowns and two field goals - on five consecutive possessions. The run began with Fitzpatrick's 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Scott Chandler with 1:56 left in the second quarter. And it ended with Spiller's touchdown run 1:31 into the fourth quarter.

In between, Fitzpatrick hit Stevie Johnson on a 13-yard touchdown pass, while Rian Lindell hit field goals from 29 and 50 yards.

The Bills showed resilience by overcoming a rash of injuries of their own. Johnson (left hamstring), center Eric Wood (left knee), right tackle Chris Hairston (right ankle) and cornerback/return specialist Leodis McKelvin (back) failed to finish the game.

``Chan challenged us during the week,'' Fitzpatrick said of coach Chan Gailey. ``He said we needed a team win. We needed all 11 guys. ... And I thought that's what we did today.''

NOTES: Fitzpatrick and Johnson have combined for 22 touchdowns, moving into a tie for fourth on the team list in joining Jim Kelly and Pete Metzelaars. ... Chandler's touchdown was his sixth of the season, matching the team's single-season record for tight ends shared by himself (2011), Metzelaars (1992) and Jay Riemersma (1998). ... The Jaguars squandered a chance to score 20 points in three straight games for the first time since a four-game streak in 2010.

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

The Stanley Cup is not the only trophy that will be awarded at the end of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. The Conn Smythe will also be given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team during the playoffs.

Who will that player be?

It's not hard to figure out who the frontrunner is right now. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't just been the best goalie in the playoffs, he's been the best player with a dominant postseason in which he has posted a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He has been so dominant, he could win it even if Vegas loses the series.

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

The last player from the losing team to win the Conn Smythe was Jean-Sebastian Giguere from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003.

But what about the Caps?

Alex Ovechkin is the leader of Washington and has been absolutely dominant throughout the postseason. He even scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Surprisingly, however, Ovechkin does not lead the team in points through the playoffs. Evgeny Kuznetsov holds that edge with 24 points to Ovechkin's 22.

Will their offensive dominance propel them to win the Cup and the Conn Smythe? Will a different player emerge as the hero of the series?

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

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Associated Press

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details. 

Until now. 

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. 

Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer). 

But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million. 

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now. 

The cap hits on the contract are as follows: 

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022. 

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler