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Raiders uncertain of their starting QB in finale

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Raiders uncertain of their starting QB in finale

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen isn't ready to select a starting quarterback for Sunday's game in San Diego and said it's possible that both Matt Leinart and Terrelle Pryor could play.

Leinart and Pryor shared reps in practice with Oakland's first-team offense during practice, three days after starter Carson Palmer went out with cracked ribs and a bruised lung after being hit from behind by Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy.

Allen said Wednesday that Leinart and Pryor split the workload during practice, but Pryor later said Leinart took the majority of reps.

``Both of them looked pretty good,'' Allen said. ``They had a good day out there and both of them got reps with the (starting offense). We'll continue to monitor it and we'll make a decision at the end of the week which way we're going to go.''

Both played in last week's loss to Carolina after Palmer was hurt, though Pryor was in for only a handful of plays. Leinart completed 16 of 32 for 115 yards. He also threw a momentum-shifting interception just before halftime.

Palmer had started 24 consecutive games for Oakland after being acquired in a midseason trade with Cincinnati in 2011, and his absence leaves a void at quarterback.

Leinart has started just two games since 2007 while Pryor has never started in his two NFL seasons.

While Leinart - the 10th overall pick in 2006 - has more experience than Pryor, Allen noted the Raiders offense would be limited in some capacity no matter who starts.

``I don't think you're going to be the same with either quarterback as you would with Carson because Carson's been getting all the reps and he has the full command of the offense,'' Allen said. ``So yeah, I would think we'd be scaled back a little bit with either one of those quarterbacks that would play.''

Allen said after the loss to Carolina that Leinart would remain ahead of Pryor on the depth chart, but changed his mind after reviewing film when he decided to keep the competition open.

``We got a chance to see what Matt could do and we might need to see a little bit more of Terrelle,'' Allen said. ``They're two totally different quarterbacks. Terrelle obviously is an athletic quarterback that can really do some things on the move. Matt's a little bit more your prototypical pocket passer. So when you look at those guys you've got to take into account those skill sets and what they do well.''

Leinart was unavailable for comment and a team spokesman said the former Heisman Trophy winner won't talk until Friday.

Pryor, a third-round pick in the 2011 supplemental draft, was just thankful for the extra work in practice after running the scout team for most of the season.

``That two or three snaps I get, I'm happy with it because it's way more than I was getting,'' Pryor said. ``Today I thought I did a fairly decent job. I commend Coach Allen and Coach (Greg) Knapp. They knew I wasn't ready. Still may not be. I'm just trying to work hard. I feel like I'm close.''

Palmer, who will not accompany the team on its flight to San Diego because of his bruised lung, finishes with the second-most yards passing by a Raiders quarterback in a single season.

Notes: The Raiders (4-11) didn't have a player voted to the Pro Bowl. K Sebastian Janikowski and FB Marcel Reece were selected as alternates. Janikowski has made 31 of 34 attempts, going 25-for-25 on kicks of less than 50 yards. ... RG Mike Brisiel (concussion/ankle) was held out of practice. Rookie Tony Bergstrom, a third-round pick, has been practicing in Brisiel's absence. ... S Tyvon Branch (neck/ankle), DT Richard Seymour (knee, hamstring) and CB Phillip Adams (groin) also did not practice.

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

The defensive performance on display by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a 21-0 shutout win was flat out historic. So historic that it's earned linebacker Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

A franchise-record 11 sacks were laid on quarterback Marcus Mariota during the Week 6 matchup, with Smith leading the way with three of them.   

So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. As someone who is in the final year of his rookie NFL contract, he's certainly proving he is worthy of getting paid this offseason. 

"It feels great, man. It's big," Smith said of the honor during media availability Wednesday. "I know when I first found out I called my mom and she was already looking at it. But I called her and she was trying to congratulate me and was like 'who would've ever thought the guy that played one year of high school football would be where he at now and making so many goals.'"

But earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week isn't the only goal Smith has in mind. His performance through the first six weeks and assisting the No. 1 ranked scoring defense is just a stepping stone to the ultimate honor.

"I was telling her, 'Ma you know this is a good self-goal but my main goal is to get us to the Super Bowl.'" 

The road to the Super Bowl for Smith and the Ravens continues this Sunday vs. Drew Brees and the Saints. 

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4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

The Caps return to action Wednesday as they host the New York Rangers (7 p.m., NBCSN) in a Metropolitan Division clash.

Here are four things you should be watching for in this game.

The schedule finally gives the Caps a break

The early season schedule for Washington has been bizarre to say the least. Finally, they will be catching a break on Wednesday as the Rangers will be playing in the second leg of a back-to-back.

That certainly does not guarantee a victory, but it is something the Caps are very aware of and they hope to take advantage.

“I think speed is a big part of the game and for them to be fatigued off the back-to-back is definitely going to help us whether we move the puck a little quicker than we would in other games just kind of knowing they are coming off that back-to-back,” Nathan Walker said.

“We've got to make them skate, we've got to make their D go back for pucks,” T.J. Oshie said. “I don't feel like they're going to look tired at the start of the game, usually that comes towards the end of the game, second half, and so you've got to work to drain them down a little bit and we've got to take advantage of that opportunity tonight.”

Top-line Stephenson

Stephenson was added to the top line on Saturday with no practice other than the morning skate that day. A few days between games has given him a chance to practice with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov and it should pay dividends on Wednesday.

This game also should be a good opportunity for Stephenson who was added to the top for his speed. Playing a tired Rangers team is something he will need to take advantage of.

“It's always tough to play back-to-back and with the travel and stuff like that,” Stephenson said. “For the most part, I think that that's going to be important and just to play a full 60, that's something that we want to get consistent with and we haven't been so far … But for the most part, I think the start will really help us tonight.”

Nathan Walker returns

The Caps made a change to the lineup for Wednesday’s game as Nathan Walker will be in for Dmitrij Jaskin on the fourth line.

When asked why he made the change, Reirden said, “Just a different look. A team that's on a back-to-back, we wanted to really come at them with some speed, tenacity and intensity that we know we always get from Nathan so thought it was a good add into tonight's lineup.

The Caps have got to get more offense from their bottom six and adding the speedy Walker to the bottom six could provide a boost. He has had trouble playing within the system in the past and his play has been more frenzied than controlled at times, but with Tom Wilson still suspended, there’s definitely an opportunity for Walker to earn more playing time depending on how he plays Wednesday.

King Henry remains on his throne

In addition to a tired Rangers team, the Caps are also expected to face a tired goalie.

Henrik Lundqvist started New York’s game on Tuesday and is expected to start again on Wednesday against Washington. That is not confirmed as the Rangers did not have a morning skate because of the back-to-back, but it is believed Lundqvist will play again.

There was a time when Lundqvist was considered the best netminder in the NHL and he is off to a phenomenal start this season with a 1.99 GAA and .939 save percentage in five games thus far.

But how will the 36-year-old goalie handle a back-to-back?

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