Wizards

NFL Playoffs Capsule: 49ers at Falcons

NFL Playoffs Capsule: 49ers at Falcons

SAN FRANCISCO (12-4-1) at ATLANTA (14-3)

Sunday, 3 p.m., Fox

OPENING LINE - 49ers by 3

RECORD VS. SPREAD - San Francisco 10-7; Atlanta 9-7-1

SERIES RECORD - 49ers lead 44-29-1

AP PRO32 RANKING - 49ers No. 3; Falcons No. 4

LAST MEETING - Falcons beat 49ers 16-14 on Oct. 3, 2010.

LAST WEEK - 49ers beat Packers 45-31; Falcons beat Seahawks 30-28

49ERS OFFENSE - OVERALL (11), RUSH (4), PASS (23)

49ERS DEFENSE - OVERALL (3), RUSH (4), PASS (4)

FALCONS OFFENSE - OVERALL (8), RUSH (29), PASS (6)

FALCONS DEFENSE - OVERALL (24), RUSH (21), PASS (23)

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES - Falcons have won last four games in series since 49ers took two OT wins in 2001. ... Teams meeting in playoffs for second time. Super Bowl-bound Falcons beat 49ers 20-18 on Jan. 9, 1999 in divisional playoffs as Jamal Anderson rushed for 113 yards and two TDs. Falcons defense had 3 INTs, including two by S William White. ... 49ers have won NFL-best 16 division titles since 1980. ... Jim Harbaugh is only eighth coach since 1970 to win division titles in each of first two seasons. ... In divisional playoffs win over Packers last week, 49ers set franchise postseason records with 579 total net yards and 323 yards rushing. ... QB Colin Kaepernick has passed for 12 TD with four INTs and rushed for four TDs while posting 6-2 record as starter. In first career playoff start last week, Kaepernick had 263 yards passing with two TDs. He set NFL record for QB in any game with 181 yards rushing with two TDs. Otto Graham (twice) and Jay Cutler only other QBs with at least two passing TDs and two rushing TDs in postseason game. ... RB Frank Gore had 1,213 yards rushing for team-record sixth season with at least 1,000 yards rushing. ... Gore had 119 yards rushing with TD last week. ... WR Michael Crabtree had nine catches for 119 yards, two TDs against Packers last week. ... TE Vernon Davis has 11 catches for 336 yards and four TDs in three career playoff games. ... WR Randy Moss has 10 TD catches in postseason, tied for third in NFL history. Moss needs two TD catches to tie John Stallworth (12) for second place. ... Moss has 24 catches for 331 yards, two TDs, in last three games against Falcons. ... LB Aldon Smith's 33 1/2 sacks are high total for player in first two seasons. Smith led NFC with team-record 19 1/2 sacks this season. ... Falcons set NFL records for 16-game schedule with 55 penalties for 415 yards. Giants had second-fewest penalties with 72 this season. Falcons one of two teams to rank among top seven in NFL in scoring offense (26.2) and scoring defense (16.7). Denver was other team. ... Atlanta hosting first NFC championship game. Falcons played on road splitting NFC championship games in 1998 and 2004 seasons. ... Falcons' win over Seattle was team's first playoff win in five seasons with coach Mike Smith and QB Matt Ryan. ... Ryan's 56 regular-season wins are most by starting quarterback in first five seasons. ... Including playoffs, Ryan 34-6 at Georgia Dome. .... WR Roddy White (1,351) and WR Julio Jones (1,198) are first Atlanta duo to each top 1,000 yards receiving since 1998. White reached 1,000 yards receiving for team-record sixth consecutive season. Including playoffs, White has NFC-leading 590 catches since 2007. ... White had 47-yard TD catch last week. ... Jones closed win over Seattle with INT to become first player since Keyshawn Johnson on Jan. 10, 1999 with at least five catches and INT in postseason game. ... TE Tony Gonzalez, named to 13th Pro Bowl this season, earned first postseason win last week. ... DE John Abraham led Falcons with 10 sacks, giving him 126 for career, most for any active NFL player. ... CB Asante Samuel has seven career postseason INTs, second-most for active player. Samuel holds NFL postseason record with four career TD returns on INTs. ... Thomas DeCoud (6) and William Moore were only NFL duo at safety to each have at least four INTs.

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Enormity of the Wizards’ offseason and long-term future will hinge on the May 14 Draft Lottery

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USA TODAY SPORTS

Enormity of the Wizards’ offseason and long-term future will hinge on the May 14 Draft Lottery

With the 2018-19 season in the rearview for the Washington Wizards, we at NBC Sports Washington are analyzing the five biggest questions of what should be the most consequential offseason they have had in years...

NO. 5: WILL THE WIZARDS GET LUCKY IN THE DRAFT LOTTERY ON MAY 14?

Though the Washington Wizards made some poor decisions to create the mess their next general manager will need to clean up, they have also been struck with a good deal of bad luck. John Wall falling in his home and rupturing his Achilles tendon certainly qualifies. Dwight Howard suffering a relapse with his back and requiring surgery to repair a herniated disc was out of their control. And if Bradley Beal makes All-NBA and qualifies for a supermax this summer, the timing would not be ideal as far as their finances are concerned.

The Wizards have long been one of the most snakebitten franchises in sports and even stand out in a city where curses are often blamed for sports misery. They could use some luck for a change and especially on the night of May 14.

That's when the 2019 NBA draft lottery will take place in Chicago, Ill. ESPN will broadcast the event live at 8:30 p.m. as the ping-pong balls fly through the air, determining the order for the June 20 draft and therefore the future of the league.

The Wizards will for the first time since 2013 have high stakes in the lottery. They had finished with at least a .500 record for five straight seasons before bottoming out in 2018-19. But their 32-50 record this past season gave them the sixth-best lottery odds and, in the first year under new lottery rules, that has left them in excellent shape ahead of May 14.

The Wizards lottery odds will break down pick-by-pick like this:

1st - 9.0%

2nd - 9.2%

3rd - 9.4%

4th - 9.6%

5th - N/A

6th - 8.6%

7th - 29.6%

8th - 20.6%

9th - 3.8%

10th - 0.2%

The two most important numbers to consider are nine and 37.2. They have a nine percent chance at the first overall pick and a 37.2 percent shot at selecting in the top four.

The Wizards' nine percent odds at No. 1 are only five ticks lower than the top teams in lottery odds, the Knicks, Cavs and Suns who are tied at 14 percent. Though their chances are still less than one-in-ten, that means they will be very much in the mix to land the ultimate prize, Duke forward Zion Williamson.

Williamson would change everything for the team that drafts him, but perhaps especially for the Wizards, considering the alternative direction their franchise could go. They already fired their general manager and have an uncertain future with their head coach Scott Brooks and arguably with their best player, Beal, as well. They appear to be teetering on the brink of a rebuild and Williamson could jumpstart them into the other direction.

No draft prospect, maybe with the exception of LeBron James in 2003, offers guarantees. Williamson could top out as a good, but not great player. But few who have dominated college basketball quite like he did have then failed to live up to the hype. Consider the fact he is only the third freshman ever to win the Naismith award for NCAA's best player. The other two were Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant.

One NBA front office executive told NBC Sports Washington he believes Williamson will be an All-Star as a rookie and not just because of fan voting. He has superstar potential, both from a production and marketing standpoint. Williamson would likely step right in as at least the Wizards' second-best healthy player and as the face of their franchise, the player most associate them with.

Landing the top pick is not the only way May 14 can result in a success for the Wizards. Jumping into the top four would be a major victory, especially in this year's draft which appears to be top-heavy. That could mean a chance to draft Ja Morant of Murray State or R.J. Barrett, Williamson's teammate at Duke. 

Barrett would be a nice fit alongside Beal and Wall when he returns from injury. He complements them positionally and has All-Star potential.

If Morant is the best player on the board, the Wizards should take him. But doing so would create a brand new storyline of how he would co-exist with Wall, who plays the same position. That dynamic would be hard to ignore for as long as they are together in the organization.

Though the Wizards have a better than one-in-three shot at the top four, their two most likely landing spots are No. 7 and 8 overall. If the Wizards did not make a major jump in the lottery, they may be wise to trade back and acquire more picks. They do not have a second round pick this year and not until 2023. They also have roster spots to fill and could use more young (and cheap) players.

The Wizards may not have to trade back very far to stock their cupboard with more picks. Last June, the Hawks got a lightly-protected first round pick from the Mavericks for going back from No. 3 to No. 5. The Sixers traded back from 10th to 16th with the Suns and scooped the Miami Heat's unprotected 2021 first round pick.

In a draft that most consider to not be deep outside of the top four or five picks, the Wizards may not see a huge difference in the eight pick and, say, selecting 12th. And that could be the key to getting another first or a collection of second round picks.

There are so many scenarios for the Wizards that all depend on their luck on May 14. Who they choose to send as their representative will be interesting. Will it be Beal, who right now is their biggest star? How about Wall, who was the first overall pick in 2010 and would be able to impact the franchise in an indirect way despite his long-term injury absence? It could also be whomever they hire as their new GM, or someone in the ownership group.

The Wizards, like the 13 other teams in the lottery, will be hoping for a blessing from the basketball gods.

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Capitals defensive prospect Aaron Ness stable after scary injury in Hershey playoff game

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Capitals defensive prospect Aaron Ness stable after scary injury in Hershey playoff game

In their first game against the Bridgeport Tigers to kick off the 2019 Calder Cup playoffs, the Hershey Bears lost blueliner Aaron Ness to a serious injury in the third period.

After Travis St. Denis put pressure on Ness from behind, Ness lost an edge and slid into the goal post and then crashed head-first into the boards, where he was seemingly knocked unconscious. He laid motionless for a few moments as he received attention from medical personnel.

The 28-year-old was stretchered off the ice and transported to Bridgeport Hospital, where he underwent further evaluation. Bears play-by-play announcer Zack Fisch later reported through Dan "Beaker" Stuck that Ness was awake and alert at the hospital and getting x-rays, according to Chocolate Hockey.

The Bears posted an update on Twitter Saturday in regards to his status, saying that he is in stable condition and is expected to be released. It's unclear when he will return to action, but it likely won't be anytime soon.

Ness, one of Hershey's six alternate captains, had 50 assists and 55 points in 71 games with the Bears in the regular season. He has three points in 18 games up in the NHL with Washington.

After the Sound Tigers tied the game following the Ness injury to force OT, Kieffer Bellows scored in double overtime to lift Bridgeport to a 3-2 win to take Game 1 of the series. St. Denis has been suspended one game for the hit, according to NHL.com's Tom Gulitti.

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