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Lions WR Johnson has chance to break a Rice record

Lions WR Johnson has chance to break a Rice record

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) The slumping Detroit Lions are rallying around Calvin Johnson, hoping he breaks Jerry Rice's NFL record for yards receiving in a season.

``It's definitely something that I take joy in that my teammates are right behind me on this thing,'' Johnson said Thursday after catching footballs from a machine in a post-practice drill. ``They want me to get it as much as I want to get it.''

Maybe more.

The Lions (4-9) don't have much else to root for this year, entering Sunday's game at Arizona (4-9) in a matchup of teams tied for the worst record in the NFC. Detroit has dropped five straight and will finish the season with a losing record one year after winning 10 games and breaking the team's 11-year postseason drought.

That leave Johnson's shot to make history a potential source of pride for the Lions.

``We have to hang our hat on something this year,'' Lions center Dominic Raiola said. ``I think it would be awesome for him to do it. I'd love to be able to say I was on the team and helped him do it.''

Despite often facing double- and triple-coverage and losing the other top three players at his position on the team, Johnson has a league-high 1,546 yards receiving. With three games left, he is 303 yards from breaking Rice's single-season mark of 1,848 yards receiving set in 1995 with the San Francisco 49ers.

``If it happens, that would be fantastic,'' Johnson said. ``It's definitely something I'd love to have.''

And, his teammates want him to have it.

Johnson's talents and humble ways helped him get a $132 million, eight-year contract in the offseason, entering the last season of the deal he got when Detroit drafted him out of Georgia Tech with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He is easy to root for.

``He's so down to earth,'' said tight end Tony Scheffler, one of several Lions to describe him in the exact same way this week. ``It doesn't matter if you're the janitor or Jim Schwartz, he says hi and bye when you enter and leave the room.

``I've seen him before and after he got paid, and nothing has changed. He's just a great human being and I think he's the best player in the NFL, which is a pretty remarkable combination.''

Johnson combines size, strength, speed, hands and relentless work ethic in a way few can. The 6-foot-5, 236-pound receiver dubbed Megatron has run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, has done a 45-inch vertical leap and works out constantly, as if his job is in jeopardy.

Cardinals star receiver Larry Fitzgerald has arguably been the best at his position over the last several years, but he wouldn't make that argument. Fitzgerald called Johnson ``the best in the business,'' and explained why he heaped that kind of praise on an opponent.

``He's very consistent, does it week in and week out against the most exotic defensive coverages the league has seen,'' Fitzgerald said. ``He's the most dynamic player, receiver, since Randy Moss. He really has no physical weaknesses. He does it all.''

This season, he's had to.

Receivers Nate Burleson, Titus Young and Ryan Broyles have all been put on injured reserve. Kris Durham got his first NFL start in last Sunday's game at Green Bay and the other lackluster options were Mike Thomas, Brian Robiskie, Lance Long and Kassim Osgood.

``Calvin has picked up a lot of slack,'' Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. ``We've played him at a lot of different positions and I don't think he gets credit for how versatile he is. He plays probably three or four positions. It's even real common for him to do that even within a drive.''

Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson doesn't sound worried. Peterson said he hopes to cover Johnson one on one as much as possible in a challenge he's been looking forward to since the NFL schedule was released.

``It's definitely going to be a fun matchup and a matchup I've been waiting for pretty much all year,'' Peterson said. ``I want to see how I match up against one of the top guys in the league.''

Peterson ranked Johnson as the second-best receiver in the NFL, behind Fitzgerald, and boasted that he's the best cornerback in the NFL.

``Me and Calvin, we're the same caliber players, just he's a receiver and I'm a DB,'' he said. ``He likes the physical aspect of the game and, you know, that's something I like to do as well. I'm going to challenge him at the line.''

NOTES: Lions DT Nick Fairley (shoulder) and TE Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) didn't practice Thursday after both were injured against the Packers. ... CB Louis Delmas (knee), CB Chris Houston (hamstring) and CB Jacob Lacey (foot) were limited in practice after being held out of Wednesday's workout because of injuries.

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AP Sports Writer Bob Baum in Tempe, Ariz., contributed to this report.

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow Larry Lage on Twitter:http://twitter.com/larrylage

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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 📞

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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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