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Proud Patriots push forward as schedule lightens

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Proud Patriots push forward as schedule lightens

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars are a very competitive team. Really.

At least that's what the New England Patriots say.

Just because the Jaguars are tied for the worst record in the NFL doesn't make Sunday's matchup a breather for the AFC East-champion Patriots after consecutive games against two of the best.

``If you give the other team a chance, they're going to take it,'' Patriots wide receiver Brandon Lloyd said Wednesday. ``They're going to make you look bad, too, while they're doing it. So you have to prepare the same way for every opponent.''

Coach Bill Belichick spends the days leading up to games praising the upcoming opponent, no matter how weak it may be, in front of his players and the media. He even found plenty of good things to say about the Jaguars (2-12):

- ``Offensively, they have real good firepower,'' Belichick said.

The Jaguars' 219 points are the second fewest in the NFL.

- ``They're a very good, competitive football team,'' Belichick added.

Five of their six home losses were by 17 points or more.

But recent games don't always indicate how the next one will go.

The one between the Texans and the Patriots on Dec. 10 was expected to be close. After all, Houston came in with the NFL's best record at 11-1, while the Patriots were 9-3. But New England cruised to a 42-14 win for its seventh straight victory.

So the Patriots rolled into their next game, against San Francisco, an inspired team in their own right that was 9-3-1 at the time. The latter won out, as the 49ers charged into a 31-3 lead and hung on for a 41-34 victory over the Patriots (10-4).

``I don't think you can really look at records in this league,'' safety Devin McCourty said. ``Teams have talent across the board, so on any given Sunday, they can beat you. So we've just got to focus on fixing things that we messed up. ... We have to come out and play a better game than we played last week.''

They'd probably win in Jacksonville even if they played worse, especially with Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew likely to miss his ninth game with a sprained left foot.

But the Patriots, who had won seven in a row before the 49ers game, want to storm into the playoffs. And an all-around effort in Florida would help that theory.

Barring a bunch of upsets, they'll be seeded no better than third in the AFC behind Houston (12-2) and Denver (11-3) and have to play on the postseason's first weekend.

To snag one of the top two spots, New England would have to win its remaining games against Jacksonville and Miami and hope Houston loses to Minnesota and Indianapolis.

The Broncos would have to lose one of their last two regular-season games against Cleveland or Kansas City - an unlikely prospect - for the Patriots to have a chance to overtake them.

``I'm not smart enough to understand the 80 different things that can happen,'' Belichick said. ``I don't really care. There's nothing we can do about any of them. I think what we need to worry about is the New England Patriots.''

With the league's highest-scoring offense (36.1 points per game), they have a very good chance of moving the ball well. The Jaguars have allowed the NFL's fourth-most points (27.4 per game).

Tom Brady said he probably remembers all his losses. He certainly doesn't want to add the Jaguars to that group.

``There are important games like this that you see how tough you are, to put things behind you and to move forward,'' said the Patriots quarterback, who threw two interceptions against the 49ers. ``We had a pretty good streak there going of wins and it feels pretty good when you're on those winning streaks. And then when you lose, it feels like you haven't won a game in three years.''

The Jaguars have won just once in three months.

They did push the Texans into overtime before losing, 43-37, Nov. 18, then beat Tennessee, 24-19. They've lost all three games since then, but Brady doesn't see any quit in the Jaguars, and doesn't expect to see that this week, either.

Either way, the game is shaping up to be an effective elixir for New England after a tough two-game homestand that didn't end the way it began.

``As any competitor, you hate when you lose, no matter when it is,'' McCourty said. ``This team hates losing, so guys are anxious to get back out there and that's the only thing that kind of fixes it, is when you get back out on the field and you get to play again.''

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NOTES: Brady, who threw a career-high 65 passes against the 49ers, sat out practice on Wednesday to rest his right shoulder. LB Mike Rivera missed practice because of an ankle injury, while 18 other players participated on a limited basis. ... McCourty's interception against the 49ers was his team-leading fifth of the season and third in the end zone.

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One analyst explains why Redskins' financial value won't decrease with name change

One analyst explains why Redskins' financial value won't decrease with name change

As it stands now, the Washington Redskins are one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world. According to Forbes, the team is worth a whopping $2.2 million -- the 14th most-valuable franchise in all of sports, and the fifth most valuable team in the NFL.

With the team currently conducting an internal review of the moniker, it's worth wondering if a new name would hurt the value of the team. According to Randy Vataha -- the president of Game Plan LLC., which helps the service of helping people buy and sell sports franchises -- it shouldn't.

"I don't think it will really hurt the team's value ultimately," Vataha said to NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay.

Vataha explained that each franchise's actual name has little to do with its value.

"We're big believers and have a lot of data that indicates that yes, branding is important, yes, names are important in a lot of ways, but what's really important is the size and the demographics of the market," Vataha said.

The analyst gave the example of New York sports franchises, such as the Knicks and Rangers, and how they are consistently two of the most valuable teams in all of sports. Why? Because they play in New York City.

"The New York teams are all the top teams in every league," Vataha said. "The NFL is a little different because of how they share revenue, but the New York teams are always at the top, not because of the names of the teams. It's because of the marketplace.

"You'll have a lot of people, you'll have a lot of social media, you'll have a lot of political commentary back and forth," Vataha continued. "But at the end of the day, the core value is decided by the size of the market and the demographics of the market."

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This past week, a report surfaced from the Washington Post that the Redskins three minority owners were looking to sell their stake in the team, citing that they were "not happy being a partner" with Redskins majority owner Dan Snyder. The three minority owners -- Fred Smith, Dwight Schar and Robert Rothman -- make up approximately 40 percent of the team's ownership group.

Vataha said he understands both sides of the argument surrounding the team. Additionally, he said that the safest financial decision for the team would be to keep the name, despite all the public backlash they've received over the past couple of weeks.

RELATED: VATAHA DOESN'T BELIEVE SNYDER WILL BE FORCED OUT

However, immediately after, Vataha emphasized once more that he doesn't envision the name change truly making a big difference value-wise.

"I understand the arguments on both sides pretty well," Vataha said. "But I think from the financial standpoint, the safest thing is never change it. But, on the other hand, I don't think it'll be a big hit to value any way at all."

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Ish Smith says the food hasn't been bad in the NBA bubble

Ish Smith says the food hasn't been bad in the NBA bubble

Much has been made about the food provided to players so far in the NBA bubble, particularly during the first phase of arrival where they each quarantined for 36 hours. What has been dubbed as 'bubble grub' doesn't look all that appetizing, or at least like the food millionaires are used to.

For Wizards point guard Ish Smith, though, it's no big deal at all. He was asked about the food and gave the type of humble, down-to-earth answer you would expect from him.

"I'm okay. I'm low maintenance and I'm thankful for anything and everything. You're asking the wrong person. You might have to ask somebody else who lives a little bit more of a high maintenance life," he said. "For me, I'm thankful, I'm blessed. They bring us food, we eat it. I have no problems."

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Smith, 32, has played 10 seasons in the NBA, but you wouldn't know it when talking to him. He seems to have no ego, which might be the result of going undrafted and never being guaranteed anything throughout his career.

Smith doesn't seem to be fazed by any of the elements in Orlando that are making other players uncomfortable. He happens to really, really like going to Disney World, so maybe that helps.

He also just seems to be taking a very patient approach to the NBA's restart, knowing the league is doing what they can to make it all work.

"Obviously, we're in a situation where it's unfamiliar that we're not used to. But we've gotta adjust and kind of roll with the punches. It hasn't been bad. I've got no complaints," he said.

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