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Gilbride, Giants get fired up for the good teams

Gilbride, Giants get fired up for the good teams

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said he's probably too close to his unit to notice if its collective emotions rise more when facing one of last year's playoff teams.

He does know about the defense's pride, though.

``I'm so immersed in the gameplan that I can't see the forest for the trees,'' he said. ``Outside looking in, you probably could discern those things more easily. But I've certainly been proud the way they've responded.

``There's a lot of pride within the group, so when they look at a team that's regarded as a good football team, they've traditionally responded in a way that's very positive.''

That is especially true this year. The Giants (8-5) on Sunday will face Atlanta (11-2), and have a chance to beat a fourth team that made the postseason last year. Since they don't play the Lions this year, a win vs. the Falcons would make it a clean sweep of the NFC side of last year's bracket. On the AFC side, the Giants lost to Pittsburgh and still have Baltimore remaining on the schedule.

Beating the Falcons won't come without a challenge, though, as the Giants will walk into the Georgia Dome. Atlanta has won 10 straight since last season at home, and will want to atone for a 30-20 loss to Carolina last Sunday. But the Giants have excelled, at times, this year, neutralizing high-powered teams, home or road.

The last eight games are indicative of that. A stretch that started with a 26-3 romp over the 49ers in San Francisco, continued with a 38-10 pounding of Green Bay at MetLife Stadium. Last week, the Giants handled New Orleans, 52-27. Those three wins amounted to a cumulative score of 116-40.

``Big-time games, man, you tend to show up,'' linebacker Michael Boley said. ``But we need to do it all the time, not just for the big-time games. But this one will certainly be a challenge for us. They play well at home.''

The Giants have played well against the Falcons' division, too, going 3-0 in the NFC South against Tampa Bay, Carolina, and New Orleans. The Falcons have already clinched that division title.

``These last few weeks, we've played good football and we've got to continue to do that and keep making strides,'' Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. ``Everybody has the right mindset and great confidence right now. But the mindset is we've got to work on some things. We've got to get better in practice and make sure we're well prepared for every game.''

The Giants have won the last three meetings with the Falcons in Georgia.

``We've played well when we've played there," New York coach Tom Coughlin said. ``I can't analyze it a whole lot further than that. We've prepared and gone up against good teams, so obviously our focus has been good. It's no different now.''

So, the Giants are naturally confident despite a host of injuries that could keep key players, such as running back Ahmad Bradshaw, cornerback Prince Amukamara, and safety Kenny Phillips, out of the lineup. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks is also questionable, given his limited work Thursday with a knee sprain.

But, in times of despair, Coughlin knows he can count on the character - and depth - of a team that won the Super Bowl just 10 months ago.

``We'll call upon all of that," Coughlin said. ``The main thing we need to do is develop consistency in our play and all three levels continuing to support and contribute and not have one of those days where we step back in an area.

``That's what we're trying to emphasize.''

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NOTES: Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said if Amukamara (hamstring) sits out against Atlanta, he is confident rookie Jayron Hosley can do the job at starting right cornerback. ``He's got great ball skills,'' Fewell said. ``He can always tip the ball and intercept it.'' Fewell noted an outstanding practice play Thursday where Hosley broke in on an in-cut and intercepted the ball. ``He was in the end zone before I could turn my head,'' Fewell said. ... The Giants hold a one-game lead over Washington (7-6 ) and Dallas (7-6) in the NFC East.

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For a January game, Wizards vs. Pistons has plenty of playoff implications

For a January game, Wizards vs. Pistons has plenty of playoff implications

Winners of six of their last nine games, the Washington Wizards have breathed new life into their season, now with revitalized hopes of making the playoffs. On Monday, they will get a shot at one of the teams standing in their way.

With a 2 p.m. tip-off on NBC Sports Washington, the Wizards host the Detroit Pistons in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee. The Wizards are 10th in the Eastern Conference and the Pistons are ninth.

With a win over the Pistons, the Wizards would move into a tie for ninth, just one spot out of the playoff picture. Though more than two months remain in the regular season, the Wizards can gain some valuable ground.

Whether that is on their mind going into the match-up depends on whom you ask.

"It's definitely too early to talk about it," head coach Scott Brooks said.

"I think there are some very important games [coming up] where we go head-to-head against the guys who are around us in the standings," guard Tomas Satoransky said, singing a different tune.

Satoransky doesn't just see an opportunity against the Pistons on Monday, he mentioned Friday's game against the Magic as well. Orlando is one spot behind the Wizards in 11th.

The standings are one thing. Even more important for the big picture is head-to-head records, which determine tiebreakers for playoff seeding. The Wizards are 0-1 against the Pistons, having lost in Detroit on Dec. 26. 

A win on Monday would tie the season series with only one meeting left, on Feb. 11. If the Pistons win on Monday, they would lock up the tiebreaker.

The Wizards have reasons to be confident going into this meeting with the Pistons. While they are playing their best basketball of the season, Detroit has been in a tailspin. Going back to Dec. 3, they are 7-18. Only the Cavaliers have more losses during that stretch.

In those 25 games, the Pistons have been 28th in the NBA in offensive rating (103.6) and effective field goal percentage (49.6). They have committed the third-most turnovers per game (15.6).

Injuries haven't been the reason, but the Pistons have a few to report entering Monday's game. All-Star center Andre Drummond missed their last game on Saturday with a concussion and is considered day-to-day. Guard Ish Smith is also day-to-day after missing Saturday's game with a groin injury.

The Wizards have a chance to beat a reeling team and gain some control of their playoff hopes. We'll see if they take advantage.

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That time Antonio Brown and Kyler Murray practiced together

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That time Antonio Brown and Kyler Murray practiced together

Thanks to Antonio Brown, we have the hopes and dreams of a splashy off-season for the Washington Redskins in one tidy four-second video.

Brown, the NFL’s best receiver, is angling for a trade out of Pittsburgh.

Kyler Murray is the reigning Heisman Trophy quarterback and a projected 2019 first round pick.

During the NFC Championship game, the Steelers wide receiver tweeted out a clip of him hauling in a deep pass from the University of Oklahoma product. Yes, that’s going to draw some eyeballs, perhaps especially from fans of a team with quarterback uncertainty and lacking offensive playmakers.

Another OU standout, wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown”, joined his cousin Antonio and Murray for the workout. This isn’t the first time all three shared a field.

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The best rolled thru today, appreciate you @ab 📞

A post shared by Kyler Murray (@kyler1murray) on

Marquise Brown, a true speed threat, could become the first wide receiver selected in the 2019 draft.

There’s no way for the Redskins to land all three. Even two seems highly unlikely considering the two prospects are projected first-round selections and acquiring Brown would cost a No. 1 and plenty more. It’s still cool to dream. Considering the quarterback concerns with Alex Smith, Jamison Crowder entering free agency and the need for more pieces regardless, even landing one of them would work.

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