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NFL Playoffs Capsule-Seahawks at Falcons

NFL Playoffs Capsule-Seahawks at Falcons

SEATTLE (12-5) at ATLANTA (13-3)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

OPENING LINE - Falcons by 3

RECORD VS. SPREAD - Seattle 12-5; Atlanta 9-6-1

SERIES RECORD - Seahawks lead 8-5

AP PRO32 RANKING - Seahawks No. 5; Falcons No. 4

LAST MEETING - Falcons beat Seahawks 30-28, Oct. 2, 2011

LAST WEEK - Seahawks beat Redskins 24-14; Falcons had bye.

SEAHAWKS OFFENSE - OVERALL (17), RUSH (3), PASS (27)

SEAHAWKS DEFENSE - OVERALL (4), RUSH (10), PASS (6)

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

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

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES - Teams meeting in playoffs for first time. Falcons have won last three games in regular-season series, including wins in Seattle in 2010 and 2011. ... WR Julio Jones had 11 catches for 127 yards and Michael Turner ran for two touchdowns in win over Seattle last season. ... Seattle coach Pete Carroll is 0-3 against Atlanta. Falcons coach Mike Smith is 2-0 against Seahawks. ... Seahawks have outscored opponents 217-74 in six-game winning streak. ... Seattle overcame 14-point deficit, largest of season, in last week's win at Washington for first road playoff victory since 1983. ... Including last week's win, Seahawks have scored more than 20 points in 10 consecutive games. ... QB Russell Wilson's 27 TD passes, including playoffs, are most by rookie in NFL history. He also has rushed for four TDs, all in last four games. ... Wilson had 100.0 passer rating in regular season, only second rookie to reach that mark. Wilson has seven TD passes and one interception in last four games. ... RB Marshawn Lynch tied franchise record with 132 yards rushing against Redskins. Lynch set career high and ranked third in NFL with 1,590 yards rushing. Lynch has rushed for 100 yards in nine of last 11 games. ...Since November 2011, Lynch leads NFL with 2,663 yards rushing, including playoffs. Lynch was chosen for third Pro Bowl. ... RB Michael Robinson had first career postseason TD last week. ... WRs Sidney Rice and Golden Tate share team lead with seven TD catches. Rice had 52-yard TD catch against Falcons last year. ... Seahawks led NFL with fewest points (245) and TDs (25) allowed in regular season. Seattle allowed 203 net yards - 99 passing and 104 rushing - last week against Redskins. ... CB Richard Sherman tied for second in NFL with eight INTs. ... DE Bruce Irvin led NFL rookies with eight sacks. Irvin to start following injury to DE Chris Clemons. ... Another rookie, LB Bobby Wagner, leads Seattle with 139 tackles. ... S Earl Thomas had first postseason INT against Redskins. ... Falcons 0-4 in playoffs since win over Rams in 2004 divisional round. ... Falcons have reached playoffs in four of five seasons, including three straight for first time in franchise history. Falcons are 0-3 in playoffs with Smith and QB Matt Ryan. ... Ryan's 56 regular-season wins as starter are most by any quarterback in first five seasons. ... Ryan set franchise records with 4,719 yards passing, 32 TD passes, 422 completions, 615 attempts and 68.6 completion percentage. Ryan has career-high 99.1 passer rating. ... Including playoffs, Ryan is 33-6 at Georgia Dome. .... Ryan made every start this season for fourth time in five seasons. His only two missed starts came in 2009. ... Falcons 32-1 when Ryan has QB rating of at least 100. ... Ryan has 71.2 rating with three TD passes, four INTs, in three playoff games. Ryan was under 200 yards passing in each of three playoff losses, twice finishing with 199 yards. ... Falcons' 369.1 net yards per game are second best team history. ... RB Michael Turner led team with 10 TDs rushing, fifth straight season with 10 or more TDs. ... Turner's 800 yards rushing set low mark for his five seasons with Falcons, and his 3.6 yards per carry was career low. ... Turner's 62 TDs rushing since joining Falcons in 2008 are second most in NFL. ... Jones (1,198) and WR Roddy White (1,351) are first Falcons teammates to reach 1,000 yards receiving in same season since 1998. White has reached mark team-record six straight years. White's 585 catches since 2007, including playoffs, lead NFC. ... Jones has 133 catches for 2,157 yards and 18 TDs in first two seasons. ... TE Tony Gonzalez selected to 13th Pro Bowl. Gonzalez joined by teammates Ryan and WR Julio Jones on Pro Bowl roster. ... Gonzalez has fifth season with 90-plus catches, most by TE in NFL history. He has NFL-record 14 consecutive seasons with at least 60 catches. Streak began after he had 59 catches with Kansas City in second NFL season in 1998. ... DE John Abraham leads NFL active players with 126 sacks, including team-high 10 this season. LBs Stephen Nicholas and Sean Weatherspoon share Falcons lead with 95 tackles. ... CB Asante Samuel has INT in three straight games. Samuel holds NFL postseason record with four career interception returns for TDs. Samuel's seven career INTs in playoffs tied for sixth in NFL history and rank second among active players. ... S Thomas DeCoud led Atlanta with six INTs, second most among NFL safeties. DeCoud and William Moore (four) were only duo of safeties to each have at least four INTs.

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

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Service pup named after Orioles legend Brooks Robinson

Service pup named after Orioles legend Brooks Robinson

Baltimore television station WBAL's Puppy with a Purpose from America's Vet Dogs will be named after Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson, 18-time All-Star that spent his entire 23-year career with Birdland.

WBAL opened up the pup's naming rights to the public online, and the final choices were between Brooks or Tucker, referring to the most accurate kicker in NFL history, Baltimore Raven Justin Tucker. 

Name ideas also included Domino, after the sugar factory based in Locust Point, and Marshall, specifically for Thurgood Marshall, Baltimore-born and first Black Supreme Court justice.

The Orioles lobbied hard on social media, and enthusiastically brought puppy Brooks to Oriole Park at Camden Yards to meet and play with real-life Brooks in celebration.

Presented without comment, perhaps the cutest thread that's ever existed: 

WBAL will help socialize and train Brooks before he commences a career of helping veterans and first responders. 

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Capitals Mailbag Part 2: What more does Travis Boyd need to show?

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Capitals Mailbag Part 2: What more does Travis Boyd need to show?

It’s time for a new Capitals Mailbag! You can read Wednesday’s Part 1 here.

Check out Part 2 below.

Have a Caps question you want answered in the next mailbag? You can submit your questions here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

Jack Concanon writes: Why did Todd Reirden seperate the Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie - Nicklas Backstrom - Jakub Vrana lines? They clearly dominated in the 2018 cup run and we saw last year's playoffs that the Ovi-Backstrom pairing doesn't really balance the scoring enough.

Early struggles prompted Reirden to switch up the lines. A lot of coaches go to the line blender during the season whenever the team starts to struggle. It really is no surprise to see different combinations throughout the season. So long as the team keeps winning, the lines don't really matter until the playoffs. That's where you see the "real" combinations.

I am surprised we did not see more of Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Wilson and Vrana-Backstrom-Oshie last year given their success in the postseason, but I am not too worried about what the lines look like right now.

Micah Reed: Why is the coaching staff so stubborn about certain players? Dmitri Jaskin is the last that comes to mind. Travis Boyd is the new one. What are they seeing that we (the fans) can't?

A lot of coaches fall into this trap. It certainly is not limited to Reirden. Joel Quenneville is one of the best NHL coaches in history and ranks second in wins all-time. When he was the head coach in Chicago he had Michal Kempny on the roster. A Blackhawks team always desperate for defense could not find room for Kempny in their lineup and Kempny was largely a No. 7 for them. Clearly, Quenneville got that one wrong.

I try not to judge coaches too harshly on this because the coaches see the players more than we do and presumably know more about what they can bring. Having said that, coaches are frequently proven wrong on certain players. Sometimes it is a question of fitting into a coach's system, sometimes personalities can clash.

This also goes the other way when coaches rely too much on a player who is clearly struggling. In those cases, there sometimes can be a locker room dynamic at play where a certain player is considered a leader by his teammates and a coach knows it won't sit well to bench him.

As for Boyd, he is in danger of falling in this category as a player the coach just got wrong. A team with serious cap issues cannot afford to keep sending a player with an $800,000 cap hit with six points in nine games down to Hershey. I am not sure what else he needs to show the coaches at this point.

Joe Blumenauer writes: John Carlson has been the biggest surprise for the Caps this year, well on his way to a career year so far. What's been the key to his success? Is there a noticeably different style of play for him personally, simply a more aggressive defensive strategy, or is he getting some extra luck bounces this year?

There are two reasons I credit to Carlson's incredible early-season production. First, the Caps are playing more aggressively on defense. The defensemen are expected to jump into the offensive play when they have room. Carlson has taken more advantage of this than anyone as the best offensive defenseman on the roster. The second reason is that Carlson is using more misdirection in his game than previously. He is better at faking shots/passes and looking off opponents to open up passing and shooting lanes.

A good example of this was Carlson's assist on Jakub Vrana's goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 16. Carlson had the puck in the offensive zone with no open lane to distribute the puck. He looked off John Tavares to free up a passing lane then passed cross-ice to Vrana who fired a one-timer for the goal.

Julia Keller writes: Do you think the Caps are playing a shell game with the salary cap by rotating players on and off the injured reserve list?

Yes and it's not sustainable. When Richard Panik returned from LTIR, the Caps trimmed the roster to 12 healthy forwards and six healthy defensemen. It took less than a week for problems to arise from this when injuries to Carl Hagelin and Nic Dowd forced the team to recall Tyler Lewington and play seven defensemen against the Montreal Canadiens. Washington had to send Ilya Samsonov down to Hershey the following day to clear up enough room to recall Boyd. Now Garnet Hathway is suspended for spitting, Nicklas Backstrom has an upper-body injury and Brian MacLellan has to do even more roster gymnastics.

And all of this happened on a stretch in which the Caps are on the East coast. They can't do this when December rolls around and they head to California or when they have other road trips that will take them off the coast. Injuries happen, but when you are this close to the cap you are playing with fire.

To make matters worse, the team also is not banking any space which means things are not going to get better anytime soon. A lot of trade deadline deals are made possible by banking cap space which is how teams are able to trade for players they could not afford under the cap when the season began. Washington will not be in a position to do that if things continue the way they are and they are a team with at least one hole to fill on its roster. But we'll get to that.

Nicholas Kabatsky writes: If Travis Boyd continues to play well, what is the likeliness that he will stay in the big club?

Benjamin Cross writes: Travis Boyd seems to be playing very well, but with Carl Hagelin and Nic Dowd coming back and Richard Panik starting to show some flashes, is he going to be sent back down?

The injuries will keep Boyd in the NHL for the time being. When everyone gets healthy though if Boyd continues to play this well, I don't know how you can justify sending him back down to the AHL. The salary cap is so tight the team literally skated seven defensemen in a game because that was all they could afford. Here is a player who is producing points in limited minutes with an $800,000 cap hit. I don't care if he doesn't play on the penalty kill, this is a guy who should stick around.

One other thing to consider is that, given all the team's injuries and the Hathaway suspension,  Boyd is going to stick around past the 10-game, 30-day limit for players who pass through waivers meaning he would have to go through waivers again to go to Hershey. No one ever gets claimed off waivers and I'm not saying Boyd would get claimed, but the fact is that there are other players on the Caps' team who would be more likely to pass through waivers unclaimed than Boyd at this point.

The only caveat is that Boyd probably would not be an everyday player when the team is 100-percent healthy. Can he be productive coming in and out of the lineup which is something he struggled with last year or is his production due to getting consistent playing time between Washington and Hershey?

Jason Woodside writes: When are we gonna move Richard Panik? It’s not even about giving him enough time to adjust at this point. Being this close to the cap is not sustainable.

Kaitlyn Carter writes: Now that Panik has his first goal and points as a Washington Capital how will that change his game moving forward?

I still maintain this is too early to sell on Panik, but you asked so let's work through this.

There are two obstacles to moving on from Panik. The first is his contract. He is in the first year of a four-year deal in which he has been injured and scored one goal in 14 games. Teams are not going to be lining up to take that contract off the Caps' hands. I am doubtful that MacLellan would be able to trade Panik and walk away from that deal with another third-line forward who can produce. You're not going to get close to equal value for him. If the only real asset the Caps can get back for Panik is more cap space, is that worth a trade?

The second obstacle is that you still need someone to be a productive third-line winger. If there is no one who can fill that role then you have sacrificed depth just to get rid of a player for little in return. Perhaps the team would be more open to moving on from Panik with how Boyd is playing, but considering how Boyd struggles to stay in the NHL I am doubtful Todd Reirden has him penciled in as a possible replacement for Panik.

There is no question Panik has to produce more. One point in 14 games is not enough. Having said that, he has been noticeably better since returning from injury. Given where the Caps sit in the standings, I think they can afford to be patient and see if his improved play leads to more production before any decision is made on him. But if the Caps do move on, they will be selling really low so don't expect them to get much in return for a trade.

Bill Bridges writes: Now that Nick Jensen has been permanently moved to the third pairing, it seems clear he's not the player the Caps thought they were getting. Do you think Brian MacLellan would consider trading him in-season and bringing up one of the kids from Hershey like Martin Fehervary or Alex Alexeyev who have been playing so well with the Bears?

First, MacLellan is not going to replace Jensen with Fehervary or Alexeyev because Jensen is a right-shot defenseman and both Fehervary and Alexeyev are lefties. Promoting those players to the NHL full-time to play their off-side just to get rid of Jensen is not a realistic scenario. Perhaps the team could move Jonas Siegenthaler to the right, but that does not solve the real problem and that is that this team does not have a right defenseman for the second pair.

I also do not think $2.5 million is outrageous for a third-pair defenseman. There is no question though that Jensen has not been the top-four guy they were hoping for and that he has never really looked comfortable in Washington. Trading him is a much more realistic scenario to me then Panik because teams always need a right-shot defenseman and his cap hit is not too bad. We know he can be a top-four defenseman in the right system, it just looks like that system is not Washington's.

The problem is that you have to replace him. As I touched on above, the Caps need a top-four right defenseman and I don't think that replacement is currently within the Caps' organization.

Bailey Dennis writes: What will be the key for the Caps in getting past the second round again this year, since everyone expects that now?

Health and luck are a given since every championship run requires a bit of both. The Caps should be in a better position to advance in the playoffs this year given there will not be as much fatigue as there was last year. Washington just flat out ran out of gas last year and still came within one goal of advancing to the second round. Depth scoring was also a weakness last year as the team relied far too much on Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom for all of its offense. Continuing to get the type of offensive production from the defense will be a huge factor.

The team must also improve in its own zone. There are still a few too many defensive zone breakdowns and bad breakout turnovers that the team continues to struggle with. That's not just on the defense, but finding that top-four righty would certainly help.

Matthew Tobin writes: What are the chances of Alex Ovechkin passing Wayne Gretzky for most goals all-time?

Joe Blumenauer writes: How likely do you think it is that Alex Ovechkin eventually catches Wayne Gretzky?

A few years ago I scoffed at this very notion. People would ask and I would immediately dismiss it as fantasy. But Ovechkin just will not slow down and now at he very least it seems...possible.

First, let's make sure we understand the enormity of what Ovechkin still has to do to get there. He still needs 222 goals to pass Gretzky's record of 894. Even if Ovechkin scores 50 goals this season (he currently has 15) he would still need another 187. If he plays another five seasons, he would have to average 38 goals per year to get there.

The fact that Ovechkin has made this seem even remotely possible at all is incredible, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.

It's possible, but still not probable that he beats Gretzky.

John Flemming writes: Is it true that, back in the day, Craig Laughlin wrote "PIG FARMER" on Dale Hunter's sticks?

I asked Locker about this and he denies it. He told me it was probably Craig Berube, but that it wasn't him.

Thanks for all your questions! If you have a question you want to be answered in the next mailbag, you can submit it here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.

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