Nationals

Humbled Packers still in playoff hunt

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Humbled Packers still in playoff hunt

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers' playoff hopes remained mostly intact following Sunday's blowout loss at the New York Giants.

``Everything we want to accomplish is still in front of us and that'll be our focus,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said following the 38-10 loss. I believe in what we're about as a football team.''

In a departure from normal protocol, McCarthy did not conduct his customary day-after-the-game news conference Monday.

As ugly as the performance might have been against the same team that ended its 15-1 season with an NFC Divisional Playoff victory at Lambeau Field last Jan. 15, the Packers still have ample opportunity to win the NFC North title and set themselves up for a playoff run. They might not land a first-round playoff bye like they did last year. Then again, that didn't do them much good anyway.

The Packers (7-4) fell one game behind the Chicago Bears (8-3) in the division. They're tied with the Giants (7-4) for the fourth-best record in the NFC, behind Atlanta (10-1), San Francisco (8-2-1) and the Bears. If the season ended today, the Packers would be the NFC's No. 5 seed and would return to MetLife Stadium to face the Giants, who have a two-game lead in the NFC East.

While the loss ended the Packers' five-game winning streak, four of the Packers' final five games are against division opponents, including home games next Sunday against Minnesota and Dec. 9 against Detroit and a road game at Chicago on Dec. 16. The Packers enter that three-game stretch at 2-0 in division play, thanks to their 24-20 victory at Detroit on Nov. 18 and their 23-10 victory over the Bears at Lambeau Field on Sept. 13.

``When you look at the last two games, we played two good opponents on the road. You want to win every game, but to be able to split those two, we put ourselves in position,'' said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who finished the night having completed 14 of 25 passes for 219 yards, with one touchdown, one interception, five sacks, one lost fumble and an 81.9 quarterback rating.

``In December, we have five games and we've got to make the most of them. We have three of them at home, four (in the) division. It all lays out right in front of us. This team is going to stick together. We're going to regroup and go back home and hopefully get some home cooking.''

The Packers certainly have things to correct. The offensive line allowed Rodgers to be sacked five times and did little to create holes for the running game. The defense surrendered 390 yards, including 147 on the ground, and managed just one sack of Eli Manning.

``You have to stop the run, you have to pressure the quarterback,'' linebacker A.J. Hawk said. ``A guy like Eli, you've got to get in his face and try to get some turnovers. We didn't get any. It's tough to win when you don't do that.''

The loss was the Packers' most lopsided defeat since a 35-7 loss at Chicago on Dec. 23, 2007. It was the worst loss the Packers have absorbed since Rodgers' ascension to the starting quarterback job, surpassing a 51-29 loss at New Orleans on Nov. 24, 2008. It also tied for the second-largest losing margin of the McCarthy era, behind a 35-0 whitewashing by New England on Nov. 19, 2006 - McCarthy's first season.

``Maybe it's a good reminder of what happens when you don't come to play,'' veteran defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. ``I'm telling you, we're going to take this as a positive. We didn't have enough energy. They played harder than us. That's not going to happen again. If we lose, it's not going to be because a team played harder than us.

``That's just not going to happen. It's not acceptable around here. It definitely won't happen again. This will be motivation for us the rest of the year.''

The Packers also have key players who are getting healthy. Two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Greg Jennings, who missed his seventh straight game with a lower abdominal muscle injury that required Nov. 1 surgery, should be back Sunday against the Vikings; outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury, should be back this week or next; and safety Charles Woodson (broken collarbone), cornerback Sam Shields (ankle) and running back Cedric Benson (Lisfranc foot sprain) should return sometime in December.

``It's one game,'' Rodgers said. ``When you win five in a row, everybody's happy but, like I said last year during the (undefeated) run, there's things that kind of go under the radar that need to be handled. Sometimes it takes a loss to handle those things.

``Hopefully, we'll remember this feeling and not let this kind of embarrassment to happen again. We're better than this. We're going to regroup.''

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Strasburg, Scherzer get in heated conversation after ugly inning

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Strasburg, Scherzer get in heated conversation after ugly inning

The Washington Nationals have had a less than ideal season thus far.

The reigning N.L. East champs entered the All-Star Break 5.5 games back of first place, have a new manager that has gotten his fair share of criticism, are riddled with injuries contributing to a lengthy disabled list and seem to be frustrated to no end on the baseball field.

In his first game back following a right shoulder injury that landed him on the DL for over a month, Stephen Strasburg started Friday night's game in Washington against the Braves, one of tewo teams above the Nats in the East standings.

Following a poor outing in the fifth inning in which Davey Martinez decided to pull Strasburg, fellow ace Max Scherzer attempted to greet the starter. Strasburg brushed Scherzer off as he sat down on the bench and the two got into what seemed like a very heated exchange.

The Nationals never recovered from Strasburg's start and fell to the Braves 8-5 in Washington.

The frustration was evident as Martinez met with Scherzer and Strasburg to hash out the argument, delaying postgame clubhouse access to the media while their meeting was going on.

The meeting was kept under lock by Martinez, Scherzer, and Strasburg, who chalked it up to just being a part of the "family."

According to Martinez, the dugout conversation was hashed out and he immediately brushed it off when pressed for questions.

The Nationals look to even up the series against The Braves in Washington tonight.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

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10 Questions in 10 Days: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

10 Questions in 10 Days: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

No. 5: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

No rookie draft pick excited the Redskins fan base like Derrius Guice since Robert Griffin III came to Washington back in 2012. That's a fact. 

Guice slipped during the draft to near the end of the second round, a position much too late for a player with his talent. Rumors emerged that he had character issues, but in the months since April's selection, they seem unfounded. In quick time, Guice has emerged as a Redskins fan favorite and has performed plenty of charitable acts.

So, moving past the erroneous off-field questions, it's time to manage expectations for what Guice can do on the field. 

DJ Swearinger recently said he expects Guice to make the Pro Bowl and rush for more than 1,000 yards. As a rookie. (Listen here)

That's not unheard of, last year rookie Kareem Hunt led the NFL in rush yards. In 2016, Ezekiel Elliott did the same thing. Rookie running backs can step in and produce right away in the NFL, unlike some positions that usually bring more of a learning curve. 

Can Guice do that?

The first and most important questions will be health and durability. Guice dealt with lingering knee injuries last year at LSU, and the Redskins will need him fully healthy. A 1,000-yard season is not unrealistic if Guice plays a full 16-game season. It would require rushing for about 65 yards-per-game. 

The bigger key is opportunities. 

How many carries will Guice log in 2018? Early on in the season, Guice might still be learning pass protection in the Redskins scheme, and Jay Gruden will not tolerate missed assignments that result in big hits on QB Alex Smith.

If Guice can lock in on blitz pickup, 200 carries seems reasonable. Remember that Chris Thompson will still be a featured part of the Redskins offense, and Rob Kelley will get chances too. 

Last season, Samaje Perine led all rushers with 175 carries. He didn't do much with the chances, averaging just 3.4 yards-per-carry. Kelley had 62 carries before injuries shut his season down after parts of seven games. 

Combine Perine and Kelley's carries, and then things start to get interesting. With 230 carries, at an average of 4 yards a pop, Guice starts to approach 1,000 yards.

One problem with extrapolating too much data from last season is the crazy amount of variables. Late in the year, with Perine largely ineffective and a very beat up offensive line, the Redskins simply couldn't produce on the ground. In their last five games of 2017, the Redskins never rushed for more than 100 yards. They averaged just 60 yards-per-game on the ground during that stretch, including a season low 31 rush yards against Arizona in December. 

The line can't be that beat up again, right?

Guice has to be able to deliver more than Perine, right?

If the answers to those questions are yes, then a 1,000-yard season seems possible for Guice in 2018. 

One misnomer from the Redskins 2017 campaign emerged that Washington simply did not run the ball well or enough. In fact, early in the year when the Redskins looked like a possible playoff team, they ran the ball quite well. In three of the first four games, Washington went over 100 yards on the ground, including 229 rush yards in a Week 2 win over the Rams. 

Guice might get to 1,000 yards in 2018. It's no sure thing, and there are plenty of variables, but it's possible. That hasn't happened in Washington since Alfred Morris, and would be a very welcome sight. 

The rookie runner has invigorated the Redskins faithful, and that's before he even steps on the field. If Guice can produce, the fans will go crazy.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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