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NFC wild card is NFL's version of Groundhog Day

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NFC wild card is NFL's version of Groundhog Day

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) It's not just wild-card weekend in Minnesota and Green Bay.

It's Groundhog Day.

Six days after facing off in the regular-season finale, and five weeks after their first meeting of the season, the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers are at it again Saturday night. This is no yawner of a sequel, though, not when the stakes are win or winter vacation.

``Like I tell the team, it doesn't matter who comes out of that tunnel, I don't care what color they have on,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. ``It's about fundamentals, matchups, and that's what we're focused on. We're playing at home, it's going to be a great environment. ... The Vikings obviously have done a great job to get into the tournament, and we respect that, but this is a different deal.

``This is what everybody's been fighting for, and this is what we're excited about.''

Minnesota (10-6) and Green Bay (11-5) split their first two meetings, with the Vikings' victory last Sunday in Minneapolis giving them the last wild-card spot. It also dropped the Packers from the No. 2 to the No. 3 seed, and forced the NFC North champs to work a weekend they were hoping to have off.

At least neither team had to scramble to dig up film or scouting reports.

As division rivals, the Packers and Vikings already know plenty about each other. After playing twice in December, they know each other so well they could probably call each other's plays. There won't be any big surprises, no new wrinkles to the offense or defense that the other hasn't already seen.

``So much familiarity with the team that we are playing because of the number of times we have played them in the last month and a half,'' Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. ``So not a whole lot that needs to be discussed as far as getting motivated to play this game.''

The Vikings game plan will be simple: Give the ball to Adrian Peterson and get out of the way.

That's the plan pretty much every week, but particularly against Green Bay. He's rushed for 409 yards in their two games, more than some running backs manage in 16, and is averaging a whopping 7.4 yards per carry. He had the longest run of his career, 82 yards for a touchdown, in the Dec. 2 game, and a career-high 34 carries on Sunday.

Peterson has gained more yards against Green Bay (1,442 in 12 games) than any other team, and he chews up the Lambeau Field grass as easily as the Metrodome turf.

``It's just the rivalry,'' he said. ``There's more emphasis on that game because we know that's a team that we have to beat in order to accomplish our goals we've set forth.''

Yeah, but the Packers had a goal last weekend, too, and that didn't help against Peterson.

``We had the right calls, we just need to be a little smarter as far as where we fit and then a little more accountable and reliable as far as what we do,'' Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. ``There were a couple of times where, perhaps playing somebody else, we could fall inside somebody else's gap. With this team, they'll make you pay and that's exactly what happened.

``It was a good test and obviously we'll come back here ready.''

Now, having the Vikings come to Lambeau for the playoffs would seem an advantage for the Packers. Minnesota hasn't won in Green Bay since 2009, the last year the Vikings made the playoffs, and the Packers have won 20 of their last 22 games at home.

But the Packers have lost their last two home playoff games, including last year to the Giants when they were the NFC's No. 1 seed.

``It's not something we've thought about or really talked about since probably April,'' Aaron Rodgers said. ``We want to be playing the right way obviously. We had a good stretch there. We won nine out of 11 games and played a lot of really good opponents, tough opponents, tough games on the road.

``I like the way we're playing,'' he added. ``I think we have the right mindset, a good group of leaders in this locker room and a lot of guys who've won a lot of regular season, a lot of postseason games. We're excited about our team and excited about our opportunity in front of us.''

Especially since Green Bay's high-powered offense is finally at full strength.

The Packers' top four receivers - Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb - have played less than three full games together this season, with Jennings (torn groin muscle), Nelson (hamstring) and Cobb (ankle) missing a total of 13 games. But all are healthy now, and the Vikings got an idea of how tough it will be to contain them last week, when the Packers piled up 405 yards of offense and scored 34 points.

Expect this week to bring more of the same.

``We'll tweak our offense, they'll tweak their defense. Each team's going to look at what transpired on Sunday and try to make some adjustments to make sure they're better than they were on Sunday,'' Green Bay offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. ``Playing outside, it can be a different type of game depending on what the weather's like. But it's still going to be a battle. They're a good defense, we're a good offense. They run the ball on offense, we've got to play on defense.

``It's the same type of game. Just different location.''

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Charlotte Hornets agree to trade Dwight Howard to Brooklyn Nets, per report

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USA TODAY Sports

Charlotte Hornets agree to trade Dwight Howard to Brooklyn Nets, per report

Let the trades begin.

The Charlotte Hornets are trading Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for center Timofey Mozgov, cash and two future second-round picks, according to league sources of ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowksi

One of the two future second-round picks will take place in Thursday's NBA Draft, the other in 2021. 

Howard, who is entering his 15th season in the league, had a $23.8 million expiring contract. He is changing teams for the third time in three years. 

Mozgov, who did not see a lot of playing time in Brooklyn during the 2017-'18 season, had two years, $32.7 million left on his contract. The trade will save the Nets close to $17 million during the 2019-'20 season, opening up two max salary slots for free agency in 2019. 

The deal can not become official until July 6th when the moratorium period ends. 

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Wizards will play against Knicks in London in 2018-19 regular season game

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Wizards will play against Knicks in London in 2018-19 regular season game

The Wizards will be heading across the pond next year to play a regular season game in London, England against the New York Knicks, the NBA announced on Wednesday.

The game is set for January 17 at the O2 arena in southeast London. It is usually used for concerts, but has become a popular location for NBA international showcase games. Last season, the Sixers and Celtics played there, also in January.

This will be the ninth NBA game played in England and the first for the Wizards. Washington point guard John Wall shared his reaction in the press release.

“It will be an honor to represent the Washington Wizards organization as we play our first game in the UK,” Wall said. “I look forward to connecting with our fans in London and using the experience to further bond as a team.”

The Wizards have several international players on their roster including Marcin Gortat (Poland), Ian Mahinmi (France) and Tomas Satoransky (Czech Republic).

The Wizards last played overseas in 2013 when they had a preseason game in Brazil. This is the first international regular season game in franchise history.

Majority owner Ted Leonsis also reacted to the news via the team's website.

“We are excited about the opportunity to play our first overseas regular season game in London next year,” said Leonsis. “The Wizards have a long tradition of playing international exhibition games and we love the chance to be global ambassadors for the game. We’re looking forward to getting the chance to play in front of fans in the UK.”

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