Capitals

Playoffs? Rex, surging Jets won't talk postseason

201212091615585499133-p2.jpeg

Playoffs? Rex, surging Jets won't talk postseason

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Those big, bold playoff predictions from Rex Ryan and the New York Jets are a thing of the past.

Ryan's swagger made for plenty of headlines during his first three seasons in New York. Now, it's what the coach doesn't say that raises some eyebrows.

``I'm not going to guarantee a playoff spot,'' a toned-down Ryan said Monday. ``I think part of that is, look, the fact that we're one game under .500, I think you're probably not in the playoff conversation.''

The only thing is, the Jets suddenly very much are. New York (6-7) is a game behind Pittsburgh and Cincinnati - both 7-6 - for the final playoff spot in the AFC with three games remaining. Not that they're talking about it.

``Our next `playoff' game is Tennessee,'' defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson said. ``All we can focus on is the next game. We can't worry about any playoff pictures. We've just got to worry about our next opponent, and that's Tennessee on Monday night.''

The Jets have won two straight since being routed 49-19 by New England on Thanksgiving night, a loss that appeared to have the potential to derail the season and send New York into an offseason of uncertainty.

Instead, things are looking up for the Jets, who have put themselves right in the playoff mix despite having a sluggish offense and a struggling starting quarterback in Mark Sanchez. They must win each of their remaining games, a scenario that isn't so unrealistic, given that Tennessee (4-9), San Diego (5-8) and Buffalo (5-8) all have losing records.

``We just need to keep our head down and keep winning games,'' Ryan said. ``We know the only way we can affect it is to win our games and then we'll see what somebody tells us.''

That's a far cry from the guy who once declared that the Jets would meet President Obama after winning the Super Bowl or writing ``Soon To Be Champs!'' on the outside of an ESPN bus during training camp.

This is the new and maybe more realistic Ryan, who earlier this season acknowledged that his previous declarations put more pressure on his players than he imagined. He's also aware that his team has not looked much like a playoff team in their two most recent victories: pulling out a 7-6 win over Arizona last week after pulling Sanchez in favor of third-stringer Greg McElroy, and then making just enough plays Sunday to beat Jacksonville 17-10 despite the Jaguars being ranked second-to-last in the league in offense and defense.

``We are where we are,'' safety Yeremiah Bell said. ``We're 6-7 and we've still got some work to do. We're not looking ahead at anything. We're just taking it game by game and we'll see what happens at the end.''

That was the running theme in a low-key locker room, once considered one of the league's chattiest.

``The most important game is the one that we can control,'' nose tackle Sione Po'uha said, ``and that's coming up this week.''

``I don't do well when I start thinking ahead,'' defensive end Mike DeVito said. ``The focus is on Tennessee.''

Get the picture?

The Jets don't control their own destiny, either. Even if they win out and finish 9-7, they'll need help elsewhere to get into the postseason. The Steelers are basically two games up because of a 27-10 win in Week 2, which means New York likely needs Pittsburgh to lose two of their last three against Dallas (7-6), Cincinnati (7-6) and Cleveland (5-8). The Bengals have Philadelphia (4-9), the Steelers and Baltimore (9-4) left.

In what would appear to be an unrealistic scenario, New York could also surpass Indianapolis (9-4) for a playoff spot if the Colts lose their last three, including two games against Houston sandwiched around one against Kansas City. The Jets beat the Colts 35-9 earlier this season.

``I have no idea about all that business,'' center Nick Mangold said. ``I just know that we've got Tennessee coming up and it's going to be a tough challenge for us.''

The Jets certainly haven't made it easy on themselves the past two weeks. Despite facing a third-string quarterback in Ryan Lindley on a slumping Cardinals offense last week, the Jets needed McElroy to come in and save the season with the game's only touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

That set off a few days of debates about whether Sanchez should remain on the sideline in favor of McElroy. Ryan, however, decided to stick with Sanchez against Jacksonville.

Sanchez did little to quiet the critics Sunday, going 12 of 19 for 111 yards and losing a fumble. But the Jets went heavy with the run game, as Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell combined for 155 yards rushing. Still, there's no question who the quarterback will be this week.

``I think it's Al Woodall this week,'' Ryan joked, referring to the former Jets quarterback in the early 1970s. ``Nah, we'll go with Mark.''

The defense was also solid for the second straight week, holding the Jaguars to 2 for 16 on third-down opportunities, making opponents 2 for 31 in those situations against the Jets the last two games. After the loss to New England, New York was ranked 19th in overall defense. Two weeks later, the Jets are eighth - just three spots out of the top 5, where they have finished in each of Ryan's first three seasons.

``It's like, `Oh, one loss, it's the end of the world and one win, they're going to win everything,'' DeVito said. ``It's kind of the way the atmosphere is around here. You have to recognize that and realize that the worst thing you can do is when things like that are happening is to pack it in and really believe that either way. You just have to continue each week to be consistent and get better.''

---

NOTES: LB Bryan Thomas has a strained pectoral muscle and is day to day, while an MRI exam revealed that WR Stephen Hill has a sprained lateral collateral ligament in his right knee. The team will know more about his availability later in the week, but it is believed he will not need surgery. Ryan said defensive back Aaron Berry has a hamstring issue. ... Ryan told 98.7 ESPN New York that he would have played Tim Tebow in front of his hometown fans in Jacksonville if the game had been a blowout, but would have had him only hand off the ball. Tebow was active, but didn't play for the third straight game while dealing with two broken ribs. Ryan was also asked if he thought Tebow might be disappointed he came to the Jets given the circumstances. ``That's probably a true statement,'' he said. ``As a competitor, you want to have success, you want to have probably more opportunities and the fact that we're one game below .500, so we haven't had success as a team I'm sure he was anticipating. But, again, I think he's happy to be a Jet. I truly believe that.''

---

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

Quick Links

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

The Stanley Cup is not the only trophy that will be awarded at the end of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. The Conn Smythe will also be given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team during the playoffs.

Who will that player be?

It's not hard to figure out who the frontrunner is right now. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't just been the best goalie in the playoffs, he's been the best player with a dominant postseason in which he has posted a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He has been so dominant, he could win it even if Vegas loses the series.

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

The last player from the losing team to win the Conn Smythe was Jean-Sebastian Giguere from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003.

But what about the Caps?

Alex Ovechkin is the leader of Washington and has been absolutely dominant throughout the postseason. He even scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Surprisingly, however, Ovechkin does not lead the team in points through the playoffs. Evgeny Kuznetsov holds that edge with 24 points to Ovechkin's 22.

Will their offensive dominance propel them to win the Cup and the Conn Smythe? Will a different player emerge as the hero of the series?

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

Quick Links

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

alex_smith_otas_2_ap.png
Associated Press

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details. 

Until now. 

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. 

Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer). 

But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million. 

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now. 

The cap hits on the contract are as follows: 

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022. 

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler