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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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'My whole house is going to be jersey'd out': Redskins players explain why they swap jerseys

'My whole house is going to be jersey'd out': Redskins players explain why they swap jerseys

Tress Way wants an office. Does he need an office? No, and he admitted as much this week at Redskins Park. Regardless, the punter wants one and he has a vision for it, too.

That vision doesn't include a computer or a chair with solid back support or a fancy stapler, either. Instead, it's all about what will be hanging on the walls.

NFL jerseys. Lots and lots of NFL jerseys.

Way, like many of his teammates and many other players around the league, has been swapping jerseys with opponents following games for a handful of years now. Between the uniforms he has hanging in his locker at the organization's Ashburn practice facility and the collection he's developed in past seasons, he's now picked up more than enough to decorate that future office.

He loves the thought of it as much as he hates the thought of a touchback. 

"That'd be awesome," he said. 

Honestly, it's hard not to notice the other, non-Burgundy and Gold colors that dot the walls of the Redskins' locker room. About half of the players feature jerseys from other teams among their other belongings, if not more.

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So, who do they target?

The most common answer is guys that they suited up with before the NFL. Way, for example, boasts one from his college long snapper. Quinton Dunbar looks for fellow Florida Gators, while Tim Settle hunts for other Virginia Tech Hokies. 

There are other reasons to make an exchange, however. Paul Richardson aims to acquire them from anyone who grew up in Los Angeles, like he did. Dunbar, meanwhile, will search for stars he's looked up to. After matching up with the 49ers, for example, he hopes to scoop Richard Sherman's uniform.

"I'm going to hit him up on Instagram," Dunbar said.

Some swaps are prearranged, such as the one Dunbar wants to orchestrate, while others are totally unplanned. Settle explained he doesn't go into games thinking about it, but if he takes a picture with someone, he'll offer to make a trade on the spot. 

Though the defensive tackle doesn't plan them out, he does have a specific idea for what he'll eventually do with the threads.

"My whole house is going to be jersey'd out," he said. "It's something that you get to work on, you're building something. It's every man's dream to have a nice, little decked-out man cave."

There is one especially prized piece currently on display in Ashburn, and judging by the amount of interest in it, it may need its own surveillance crew. That is the Tom Brady jersey that's dangling in Adrian Peterson's locker, a gift from one Hall of Famer to another.

Settle, who sacked Brady in Week 5, has long idolized the QB. So, please forgive the jealousy that creeps into his voice as he talks about the fact that Peterson was the one to receive Brady's No. 12. He understands it, but he's not thrilled about it.

"They've been in the league, they're dinosaurs," he said. "Two dinosaurs in the league."

Way, meanwhile, also considered approaching Brady after the Washington-New England contest. Ultimately, he decided against it for fear of being shut down.

"I'm terrified of that, that's why I never asked Tom Brady to switch," Way said, grinning. "I thought about asking Tom, 'Tom, I know you look up to my game, I look up to your game.' I was afraid of that rejection. Same with Brees that day that he broke the record against us [in 2018]. 'I know you look up to me, I look up to you. Maybe we could switch.'"

Settle and Way may have missed out on landing Brady's, but they have other names on their lists they intend to track down. And while the jerseys will one day be framed and mounted in offices or man caves, they will also represent something more than a sweet accessory to a room.

"They're part of memories, too," Settle said. "This is a dream. Trading jerseys with somebody you grew up with or played with or you look up to or that you want to meet, I'm all for it." 

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After Patrick Mahomes' injury, could Case Keenum or Colt McCoy be on the move?

After Patrick Mahomes' injury, could Case Keenum or Colt McCoy be on the move?

Patrick Mahomes hurt his knee Thursday night, and while the severity is unknown, Kansas City's Super Bowl plans just got dealt a major hurdle. 

The truth is if Mahomes needs knee surgery then the Chiefs might need to recalibrate their hopes for January and beyond. If Mahomes only needs rest, however, then the Redskins might actually be able to help. 

It's no secret Washington and Kansas City know how to make a trade. January 2018 the two teams worked out a blockbuster when quarterback Alex Smith came to the Redskins and cornerback Kendall Fuller along with a third-round pick went to the Chiefs. The same power brokers are in charge now that pulled off that trade: Andy Reid in KC and Bruce Allen in DC.

And oddly enough the Redskins have a bit of a surplus in veteran quarterbacks. Neither Case Keenum or Colt McCoy can replace Mahomes, the 2018 NFL MVP, but either signal caller might be able to keep the Chiefs afloat for a few weeks.

The trade deadline is approaching fast, coming October 29th. The Redskins are currently 1-5 and there is no reason to keep both Keenum and McCoy on the roster the rest of the year. 

Washington drafted Dwayne Haskins with the 15th overall pick, and eventually, the Ohio State star will start for the Redskins. Beyond that, both Keenum and McCoy have contracts that expire after this season. Neither player figures in the long-term plans for the Burgundy and Gold, and certainly the future is to eventually go to Haskins.

Want one more mitigating factor? Even after his devestating injury last season, Alex Smith is due more than $20 million guaranteed next year. He has been at practice and games for weeks, and appears to be close with Washington upper management. It's not crazy to think that in some role Smith will be around in 2020 along with Haskins. That makes Keenum or McCoy that much more expendable down the stretch. 

If Kansas City needs somebody to run their offense for a few weeks, the Redskins should dangle McCoy or Keenum. Or both. 

It's unclear that either player would entice much of an offer, but keep in mind, McCoy is widely respected around the league and Keenum had the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game just two seasons ago. The return for Washington might not be much, but something is always more thank nothing. 

Most deals get made around necessity, and Kansas City might have a big need. 

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