Redskins

No surprise here: Fox says Manning is his MVP

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No surprise here: Fox says Manning is his MVP

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Rarely one to talk publicly about the big picture or much beyond winning the next game, Denver coach John Fox weighed in on the interesting race for Most Valuable Player.

That race could come down to Peyton Manning of the Broncos vs. old rival Tom Brady of the Patriots and Adrian Peterson of the Vikings.

``Obviously, I'm going to be a little biased,'' Fox said Monday.

His vote, of course, would go to Manning, not so much for the numbers he's put up as for the obstacles he's overcome - namely, a season off, four neck surgeries and the task of becoming the Broncos quarterback after spending his entire career with the Colts.

``With all due respect for everyone involved, what's unique about Peyton ... he's done it in a new city with a new team at that position,'' Fox said. ``In my own personal opinion, that's what separates him from the field.''

Of course, getting the nod from the Broncos coach is one thing. The decision from the real voters won't be handed down until Super Bowl week.

The way things are going for the Broncos, Manning might be on hand to collect it personally if he wins.

Denver (12-3) is on a 10-game winning streak and positioned for a first-round bye in the playoffs and possibly even the top seed. Manning has 4,355 yards, 203 away from the second most in his 14 seasons. His 34 touchdowns are ranked second over a career in which he has already won a record four MVP awards.

In his postgame news conference after Denver's 34-12 win over Cleveland on Sunday, Manning said he hasn't thought about his chances of winning No. 5.

``It has been such a unique season for me personally, I really feel fortunate to be playing,'' he said. ``I really have had an interesting year and a half and so I'm proud our team is in the mix. Anything that comes along the way individually, in my past, I have accepted those on behalf of the teams I have been on. They're individual awards, but in my opinion they have always been team awards. That's kind of how I continue to approach things.''

Fox, who has been coaching for nearly 35 years and needs one more victory to reach 100 as an NFL head coach, said he still learns from Manning.

Manning has come to Denver and changed the culture in the locker room, essentially by demanding his teammates become students of the game off the field in addition to working as hard as he does on it.

``I see how hard he works,'' Fox said. ``He has it down to a science as far as time management in an NFL season. I saw him in the cool tub watching his iPad. Someone asked me if I was worried about the iPad. I said, no, I don't care about the iPad, I care about him. Don't want him to get electrocuted. But it's remarkable how hard he works.''

He said Manning also sets the tone by never taking his foot off the gas. During their winning streak, the Broncos have won by an average score of 31-17. They have taken double-digit leads in every game but one, and nobody has played them closer than seven points.

``We talk about that a lot, not coasting, pedal downhill,'' Fox said. ``I appreciate him. I think that's a big reason why he's accomplished what he's accomplished, whether it's here or in Indianapolis. He's a tremendous competitor, doesn't let up. I think that's how you need to be to be successful.''

Peterson is also coming off a major injury, a torn-up knee that knocked him out in December of last season, meaning he and Manning are also prime contenders for Comeback Player of the Year.

Brady, meanwhile, would be considered the third major candidate in the MVP voting.

In that case, voters would be choosing between:

-Peterson, a running back who made a remarkably fast comeback and, at present, has rushed for 1,898 yards and led a 3-13 team in 2011 to the verge of the playoffs in 2012.

-Brady, a quarterback who has more yards (4,543) but fewer touchdowns (32) than Manning and who also has a victory over Manning: New England's 31-21 win in October that marks the last time Denver lost.

-And, of course, Manning, who has engineered the league's longest winning streak and is turning a good team into a potentially great one.

Fox knows how he'd vote. But he said he's not in the business of lobbying.

``I was asked what I thought,'' he said, ``and I told you.''

Notes: Fox reported two injuries: KR Trindon Holliday (ankle) and CB Tracy Porter (concussion). ... Fox gave the Broncos a rare ``Victory Monday'' - the day off after a win. The team reports back to work Wednesday. ... With 65 yards receiving, WR Eric Decker joined Demaryius Thomas in the 1,000-yard club. The Broncos have their first 1,000-yard receiving duo since 2004. ... Denver moved up to fourth in overall offense and third in overall defense and, with a week left, remains the only team ranked in the top five in both categories.

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

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Not everyone thinks the Redskins need to invest more at wide receiver

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Not everyone thinks the Redskins need to invest more at wide receiver

While the rumors about the Redskins potentially trading for Marvin Jones from over the weekend were total nonsense, a reason they resonated so much with fans is because many believe Washington needs major help at wide receiver.

But during a segment of Monday's Redskins 100 show, analyst Trevor Matich assessed the position group and actually thinks that, as a whole, the team should be relatively pleased with the talent it has outside.

"I like it better than I have in recent years, especially if Paul Richardson stays healthy," Matich said.

His "especially" qualifier is a common one, and that's because Richardson is the most established wideout currently on the roster — and he still has just 1,564 career receiving yards to his name. However, a healthy Richardson (which the 'Skins never really saw in his first year, considering he got injured early in training camp and was never the same) provides Jay Gruden the field stretcher he loves to have.

Richardson isn't the only player Matich is anxious to see, though.

"Terry McLaurin, their draft choice from Ohio State, is legitimately a 4.3 guy," he said. "He gets deep down the field and catches the ball in space."

One of the biggest issues for the 2018 Redskins was a lack of speed at every single spot. In Richardson and McLaurin, the Burgundy and Gold now have a pair of pass catchers who can fly past corners, do damage 30-plus yards down the sideline and open things up for other targets as well.

Overall, in reacting to the Jones storyline, Matich really doesn't see a huge need for the organization to make any additions to that collection of pieces. 

"I think that when you take a look at all the other guys, Trey Quinn in the slot, things like that, this receiving corps is fine," he said. "It's not desperate. They don't need to invest resources to bring extra people in."

Now, is "fine" and "not desperate" the level the front office and coaches want their receivers to be? Of course not. But Matich's stance is intriguing, because he's content with who'll be lining up there while plenty of others absolutely don't see it that way and feel a trade would be prudent.

If you're in that second group, recent history indicates this is the dead zone for NFL deals. So try not to waste your time refreshing Twitter over and over and over.

Perhaps Washington gets to Richmond and, after a few weeks of practices and a couple of exhibition contests, realizes their depth chart could use another name. Or maybe an injury happens and forces their hand. But according to Matich, as of now, the offense can function with the parts it has in place.

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Free Agency Bracket: Brett Connolly vs. Devante Smith-Pelly

Free Agency Bracket: Brett Connolly vs. Devante Smith-Pelly

It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin, and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!

Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!

Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!

Check out today’s quarterfinal matchup:

Region: Capitals free agents

Brett Connolly vs. Devante Smith-Pelly
 
2018-19 stats

Brett Connolly (27 years old): 81 games played with the Capitals, 22 goals, 24 assists, 46 points, 13:20 TOI
 
Playoffs: 7 games played with the Capitals, 2 goals, 0 assists, 4 points, 13:50 TOI

Devante Smith-Pelly (27 years old): 54 games played with the Capitals, 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points, 10:51 TOI

Playoffs: 3 games played with the Caps, no goals, no assists, no points, 9:47 TOI

 
Hockey-Graph contract projections

Brett Connolly: 3 years, $3,536,091 cap hit
 
Devante Smith-Pelly: 2 years, $1,149,369

The case for Brett Connolly

The Capitals have already re-signed one of their third-line free agents with Carl Hagelin’s new deal. Is there room left for Connolly? Connolly has made himself comfortable in Washington. He tied his career highs in goals twice (15) and then broke through with a career-best 22. And he is one of the league’s most productive players given his limited ice time. 
 
There are just too many big names in front of Connolly to get him much power-play time. Those 22 goals wouldn’t be easy to replace and GM Brian MacLellan said scoring depth is a concern this offseason. If he is again willing to sacrifice role for a bump in pay and some security then maybe Connolly returns to a place he re-ignited his career. The talent is certainly there as the No. 6 overall pick in the 2010 draft and Connolly is headed into his age-27 season so a three or four-year deal takes care of his prime years. 
 
But the argument ultimately rests on the salary cap, which at $81.5 million is problematic. It might be out of Washington’s hands anyway. Even if the Capitals want to keep him, other teams could use money AND ice time to entice Connolly. But can they strike gold again with another cheap third-line winger as they did with Connolly? That’s not easy to replicate. They could simply sign Connolly and take care of it, but the salary cap is tight.

The case for Smith-Pelly

There is no question that Smith-Pelly can be inconsistent, but he always seems to bring it in the playoffs. Before his seven-goal performance in the 2018 Cup run, Smith-Pelly was brilliant with the Anaheim Ducks scoring five goals in 12 games back in 2014.

With Carl Hagelin re-signed and players like Jakub Vrana, Christian Djoos and other depth pieces still on the horizon, affordability is pretty much the biggest asset for any free agent available to Washington and it won’t get much more affordable than Smith-Pelly.

Hockey-Graphs can be spot on with some of its projections and outright wrong for others and this case is definitely the latter. Smith-Pelly’s contract for the 2018-19 season was a one-year deal with a cap hit of $1 million. After scoring just eight points and getting demoted to the AHL, there is no way he walks into next season with a two-year deal and a raise. The cap hit is going to be low for Smith-Pelly and that makes him a very attractive choice for the Caps – if both sides can put last year’s awkwardness behind them. 

Who’s your pick? Vote here. 

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