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Playoff race makes odd allies of Packers, Seahawks

Playoff race makes odd allies of Packers, Seahawks

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Pay up, Seahawks.

The Green Bay Packers have put the Inaccurate Reception behind them, and they've done their best not to begrudge Seattle the win that really wasn't. But karma has a way of coming back around, and the Seahawks have a chance to put things right this weekend.

``Without looking in the past, we have to root for a team we fell short to,'' Clay Matthews said Thursday. ``So that's how it goes. We'll control our own destiny by winning these out and hopefully we can get some help along the way.''

See, San Francisco (10-3-1) is a game ahead of Green Bay (10-4) for the NFC's No. 2 seed and Seattle plays the 49ers on Sunday night. Beat the Niners and the Seahawks can essentially get the Packers back to where they would have been had replacement referees not blown that call back in September.

Which means that, providing they beat Tennessee on Sunday afternoon, the Packers will find themselves rooting for the Seahawks.

``Yeah, but we'd love to have that bye, be sitting there at the 1 or 2 seed,'' Aaron Rodgers said. ``So at this point, we're trying to have a short memory, kind of rooting for the teams that you need to win.''

The Inaccurate Reception, alternately known as the Fail Mary, was arguably the worst call of the NFL season. Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings appeared to intercept a last-ditch pass to Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate in the end zone only to have replacement referees rule it a touchdown, giving Seattle a 14-12 win. While the NFL said the next day that the reception call was right, it conceded that Tate should have been called for interference on the play, which would have given Green Bay the win.

The outrage was immediate, and came from every corner of the country. Fans were already fed up after several other questionable calls, and they were incensed one had actually affected the outcome of a game. By the end of the week, the league and its union referees had a new deal.

But many feared the game would cost Green Bay, and wondered what the league would do if it did. Turns out, all that angst was for nothing. The Packers have won eight of nine - only Denver has been better during the span - and last week clinched their second straight NFC North title.

``That's one thing you worried about at the time, if we're sitting here the last week of the season and have to win to get in, or maybe win and get some help. That would have been probably talked about more,'' Rodgers said. ``It's going to probably affect (Seattle) more. They're in a position right now to, I believe, clinch a berth with a win this week. It's not on our minds anymore.''

Yes, but if the Packers had that extra win, they, not San Francisco, would be sitting in the No. 2 spot right now.

``There's a lot of what-ifs,'' Rodgers said. ``Nothing we can do about it.''

No, but Seattle can.

The Seahawks are 6-0 at CenturyLink Field this year, joining Atlanta as the NFL's only teams with perfect home records. After winning three straight and five of their last six, Seattle can secure at least a wild-card berth with a victory Sunday.

``I don't know if they owe us anything - not them, in particular,'' Matthews said.

But if the Seahawks would like to wipe the karmic slate clean, who are the Packers to argue?

``We want home field,'' James Jones said, ``so hopefully they get it done.''

NOTES: With the winter's first big storm dumping more than a half-foot of snow on Green Bay by midday, coach Mike McCarthy cut practice short early Thursday. ``I feel it's important to get our players home today before it gets dark,'' McCarthy said. ``The bulk of the storm is coming between noon and 6 p.m. is my understanding. We do have a couple guys who haven't driven in snow before, so this is a little bit of an exciting introduction to say the least.'' ... Despite the weather, McCarthy said all of the players made it to practice on time. ... McCarthy is optimistic OL T.J. Lang (concussion) will be cleared for Sunday's game. Lang wasn't able to go through the concussion evaluation Thursday because he's got the flu. ... C Jeff Saturday (neck/shoulder) and G Greg Van Roten (back) also missed practice Thursday, but McCarthy expects they'll play Sunday.

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10 changes that would make the NHL better

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10 changes that would make the NHL better

Hockey is one of the most incredible, compelling sports in the world. As fun as it is to watch on TV, it is even more compelling in person and fans in North America are treated to the best hockey in the world as played in the NHL.

But the NHL's not perfect.

SEE THE 10 CHANGES THAT WOULD MAKE THE NHL BETTER HERE

Just like every sports league, the NHL is always adjusting and making changes to the game in order to improve it through things like rule changes, expansion, playoff formats, etc.

No sport is perfect and hockey is not without its flaws, but there are a number of clear changes that could be made that would improve both the game and the league.

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Nats put Scherzer-Strasburg scuffle aside to split Braves series

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Nats put Scherzer-Strasburg scuffle aside to split Braves series

Bryce Harper homered, Max Scherzer struck out seven in six innings and the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 6-2 on Sunday.

Anthony Rendon also had two hits and drove in two runs for Washington, extending his hitting streak to 10 games and helping the Nationals earn a split of the series after Saturday's game was rained out. Adam Eaton and Juan Soto each had three hits.

Two days after a heated exchange with teammate Stephen Strasburg during Friday's 8-5 loss, Scherzer (13-5) allowed two runs and eight hits in his third straight win. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has pitched six or more innings in his last 19 starts.

Kelvin Herrera got five outs for his first save with Washington.

The start of the game was delayed 1 hour, 55 minutes by rain, and another downpour stopped play for almost 100 minutes between the sixth and seventh innings.

Atlanta's Mike Foltynewicz (7-6) gave up four runs and nine hits over 5 2/3 innings.

Harper singled in Eaton to give Washington a 4-2 lead in the sixth. Matt Adams added another RBI single in the seventh, and Harper added a solo drive in the eighth for his 24th homer.

Scherzer was staked to an early 3-0 lead and then got some help from his defense.

Atlanta rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. led off the third with a drive off the wall in center, but he was thrown out by Harper while trying for a double. With a runner on first in the fifth, Freddie Freeman's blast to right was chased down by Eaton on the warning track.

Then in the seventh, Michael A. Taylor made a leaping catch at the wall in center to rob Dansby Swanson of extra bases with one runner on.

Washington got off to a fast start with three runs in the first. Rendon drove in Eaton and Harper with a triple down the right-field line, and then scored on Soto's groundout.

Swanson drove in Atlanta's runs with a groundout in the second and a single in the fourth.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Braves: All-Star 2B Ozzie Albies, who left Friday's game with right hamstring tightness, got the day off.

Nationals: RHP Sean Doolittle (left toe inflammation) experienced extended soreness after throwing off the mound Friday. An MRI Saturday revealed a stress reaction, comparable to a bone bruise, in the bridge of his foot and he is wearing a walking boot. ... RHP Koda Glover (right shoulder tendinitis) was reinstated from the 60-day DL and optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.

UP NEXT

Braves: LHP Sean Newcomb (8-5, 3.51 ERA) pitches the opener of a two-game series in Miami on Monday. He already has beaten the Marlins twice this season, allowing one run in 12 innings.

Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (6-6, 3.72 ERA) opens a three-game series in Milwaukee on Monday night. He is 2-4 with a 4.93 ERA in nine career starts versus the Brewers.