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NFL games keep coming down to final seconds

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NFL games keep coming down to final seconds

NEW YORK (AP) If it seems as though nearly every NFL game this season has come down to the final seconds, that's not your imagination.

Through nine weeks, there have been 31 matchups with the winning score made in the last two minutes of regulation or overtime - nearly one quarter of all games. That's the most since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

In each of the last four seasons, no more than 24 games had been decided that late through Week 9.

And many of these teams have been celebrating their wins very, very late this year. Of the 31 such games, 21 had the decisive points scored in OT or the final 10 seconds of regulation.

The Carolina Panthers have lost twice on last-second field goals in a season when all but one of their games were decided by a touchdown or less.

``If this doesn't show how close the margin is, it's sickening,'' coach Ron Rivera said.

As with many NFL trends, parity is a popular explanation. Teams are certainly bunched up in the standings: Nineteen had a record between 3-5 and 5-3 through nine weeks, up from 15 a year ago.

A knack for pulling out victories in the final seconds would seem to separate the winners from the losers, but that hasn't been the case in 2012. The Philadelphia Eagles have played a league-high five such games, and they're 3-2 in them. That accounts for all their victories, though - and at 3-5, coach Andy Reid's job is in jeopardy.

Similarly, among teams taking part in four such games, the Lions and Titans have each gone 3-1; Detroit is 4-4 overall and Tennessee 3-6. Only the Colts, led by rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, can say they've gotten a big boost from these heart-stopping endings. They're also 3-1 in those games and now are 6-3 after a lopsided Thursday night win in Week 10.

Only six teams have not had a game with a winning score in the last two minutes of regulation or overtime, and they're all over the standings: the Texans, 49ers, Broncos, Chargers, Bengals and Cowboys. That list may be a bit surprising considering Peyton Manning's comeback ability in Denver and Dallas' penchant for close losses.

The last-second victories also likely reflect a league full of high-flying passing offenses, where the no-huddle is the norm for many teams. In a one-possession game, which is more likely to succeed: the defense protecting the lead or the offense comfortable throwing the ball on every down?

Week 9 was the first this season that didn't feature a game with the winning score in the final two minutes or overtime; there were at least two every previous week.

``When it comes down to it, nobody really knows what's going to happen,'' Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said, ``and everybody looks dumb one week and smart the next.''

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AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this story.

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Ted Leonsis maintains optimism amid harsh reality of John Wall injury

Ted Leonsis maintains optimism amid harsh reality of John Wall injury

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- It might be quite a while before we see John Wall on the court playing for the Wizards again.

It was already well-known Wall will miss extended time as he recovers from a ruptured Achilles tendon, a rehab that usually takes at least 11 months. But it is starting to sound more and more like he won't play in the 2019-20 season at all.

Wizards managing partner Ted Leonsis shared that harsh reality on Monday during a press conference at Capital One Arena.

"Our highest-paid player, our five-time All-Star, may not play at all next year. He probably won't play at all next year," Leonsis said.

If Wall follows the general timeline for the surgery, he could come back sometime early in 2020. A 12-month recovery would have him return in early February.

If Wall missed all of next season, he would return to start the 2020-21 campaign after a 20-month recovery. That would be nearly double the rehab time many players have taken for the same injury over the years. He would be 30 years old by then.

But Wall and the Wizards have reason to be extra patient. He is entering the first season of a four-year, $170 million supermax contract. Punting the first year, even if he is making $38 million, could be worth it in the long run if it means he returns to his All-Star form.

The Wizards are also likely to have a gap year of sorts anyways. They retooled their roster with young, inexperienced players. The odds they make the playoffs this season are lower than they have been in years. The Wizards are taking the long view and they know getting Wall's rehab right is paramount.

Leonsis and team officials currently get daily reports on Wall's progress. After making the supermax investment, they are taking extra measures to ensure he is holding up his end of the bargain. The Wizards closely monitor his weight and have a rotation of physical therapists working with him every day.

If it were up to Wall, he would be more likely to return next season. The team is the side taking extra caution.

"Trust me, nobody wants to get back to the court more than John Wall," GM Tommy Sheppard told NBC Sports Washington. 

"But I've tried to manage this with him and say there is no calendar or clock that is going to tell you to come back. You're going to come back when you're 100 percent healthy. Anybody who has watched him in the playoffs play with broken hands and all of the aches and pains he's had over the years and he still showed up and played at a high, high level. You know you need to monitor him a little more than most. That's the kind of player that is going to try to sneak back on the court any time he can."

What Leonsis said publicly has been the belief behind the scenes in the Wizards organization for quite some time. They are preparing for next season as if he won't play, 

"We have to see if John Wall comes back and how he looks and how he plays," Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington. "If John Wall can come back at 80 percent the year after [in 2020-21], I would be really happy because then we would have a great, great backcourt."

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Redskins365 Episode 1: The Future Starts Now

Redskins365 Episode 1: The Future Starts Now

Over the 2019 offseason, the Washington Redskins periodically released episodes to a new series called "Redskins 365". Here, viewers can get an all-access look into all the important moments leading up to the 2019-20 season. In episode 1 titled "The Future Starts Now" the Redskins begin their journey toward improvement following the conclusion of the 2018-19 campaign.

The episode begins immediately following the disappointing end to Washington's season as players participated in locker cleanout day. A somewhat somber atmosphere, the likes of Shaun Dion Hamilton, Adrian Peterson, Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Williams reflect on the season and look ahead to 2019.

Following that, it's on to the additions and changes on the coaching staff. Head coach Jay Gruden gives his thoughts on new defensive staff hirings Ray Horton and Rob Ryan as well as Kevin O'Connell's jump to offensive coordinator. Ryan and O'Connell also explain their excitement for next season in their respective roles.

With the coaching staff puzzle becoming clear, the episode transitions to the NFL Combine. Gruden along with Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams, President Bruce Allen and Director of College Scouting Kyle Smith take you through the Combine process. Discussions about the interview process and what the Redskins are looking for in players give insight into how evaluations are done. 

The Combine portion has a heavy focus on players Kyler Murray, D.K. Metcalf and Montez Sweat among others. Released on March 20, one can see and hear from Sweat before the idea of him becoming a Redskin came to fruition and listen to Metcalf's thoughts on Jay Gruden.

Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Chad Englehart also makes an appearance, discussing his viral moment with Ed Oliver at the combine and the fraternity-type bond conditioning coaches in the NFL share.

Washington's journey toward success in 2019 began the moment the clock ran out on the 2018 season. Episode 1 of "Redskins365" picks up right in that preliminary stage.

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