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Rams focus on Bills and not slim playoff hopes

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Rams focus on Bills and not slim playoff hopes

ST. LOUIS (AP) The word ``playoffs'' isn't being mentioned often around the St. Louis Rams' training facility unless asked by an outsider.

``This team is focused on Buffalo. It's our next opponent,'' coach Jeff Fisher said Monday at his weekly media gathering at Rams Park. ``There's too much that could happen right now. I don't even know what the record is of some teams in the division. So, we just go play.''

The Rams have made themselves into a playoff contender - albeit an outside one - with two consecutive divisional victories. Their 16-13 overtime win against San Francisco on Sunday comes a week after winning at Arizona and leaves them as the only NFC West squad undefeated against division opponents with one game to go.

St. Louis (5-6-1, 4-0-1) would need to leapfrog four teams to make the postseason, including the Seattle Seahawks, who host the Rams the final weekend of the regular season. This newfound hope of extending the season comes on the heels of a five-game stretch during which St. Louis went 0-4-1 and fell to 3-6-1.

``Regardless of whether we've won or lost the week before, our focus has gone on to the next week and that's exactly what we're going to continue to do,'' said quarterback Sam Bradford, who completed 26 of 39 passes for 221 yards against San Francisco. ``Our focus now is going to Buffalo and getting another win.''

Fisher said that despite the positive results the past two weeks it matters little if his team doesn't get a victory at Buffalo. The Rams have won just one road game and they followed up a 24-24 tie at San Francisco with a lackluster 27-13 home loss to the New York Jets.

The lack of consistency is one reason the Rams aren't talking about making the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

It's been a long road since. They went 29-83 without a winning season from 2005-2011, with their best finish coming in 2006 at 8-8 when the won their final three games. A victory Sunday will give St. Louis a non-losing record this late in the regular season for the first time since then.

``It feels pretty good,'' running back Steven Jackson said. ``We have a lot of room to grow, but the one thing about this team that we learned about the personality of it that guys are going to continue to fight. Guys are going to continue to bring their `A' game despite what it looks like, despite what people may think. This group of men believe that we can compete at a high level.''

Fisher said he likes the growth of his young team, but would like to see more from his offense in the final three games of the season.

The offense has struggled scoring this season and the Rams needed two defensive scores - a fumble returned for a touchdown and a safety - and two field goals from beyond 50 yards to get past the 49ers. Fisher gave credit to San Francisco's defense, ranked second in the NFL for total defense. He also readily offered up the need for the offense to provide some breathing room for the defense.

``We'd like to think we'd end up with balance in the game. We'll score points and play good defense. That was a situation (Sunday) where we found a way to win a game against a good team under difficult circumstances,'' he said. ``But offensively, we need to pick things up here. We made plays in the passing game. Sam played very well against a difficult defense but we need more balance and more chunks and more scoring.''

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Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

You know what’s fun? Winning Metropolitan Division titles. 

No, it’s not as good as the big prize. The Capitals will never top their 2018 Stanley Cup championship. But winning a competitive division against their biggest rivals five years in a row? Pretty, pretty good. 

Washington took its fifth in a row officially on Tuesday when the NHL announced that the regular season had concluded thanks to the ongoing coronavirus. The Capitals just outlasted the Philadelphia Flyers with 90 standings points to 89. The difference over 69 games? One extra Caps game going into overtime for a single point. 

Credit to the Flyers for making a late run. No one was playing better in the NHL than Philadelphia just before the season was halted. Whether that carries over into the Stanley Cup Playoffs remains to be seen. 

But the Capitals should take pride in that streak. It’s hard to do in an age of parity. They play in a division where the Pittsburgh Penguins won two Stanley Cups in the previous four seasons. The two teams slugged it out three times in the second round. That’s the luck of the draw, and so four straight division titles -- and two Presidents’ Trophies -- meant just one Cup for Washington. 

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It’s also rare to dominate a division the way the Capitals have for five years. The Anaheim Ducks won the Pacific Division title every year from 2013 to 2017. Prior to that, the Detroit Red Wings won the Central Division an astounding eight times from 2001 to 2009. It doesn’t get you a championship -- Washington won the expired Southeast Division from 2008 to 2011 -- but it does mean you played great hockey year after year.

And to do it in the reconstituted Patrick Division, where long-time rivals like the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, Islanders and Devils joined with newer rivals Carolina and Columbus, makes it even sweeter. Add another banner to the rafters at Capital One Arena. The Caps are the class of the Metropolitan Division yet again. 

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Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

The Washington Nationals decided to use “partial furloughs” to keep their baseball and business employees at work through the end of their contracts or the calendar year.

The road map works like this:

All full-time business and baseball employees will receive a reduction in pay and hours ranging from 10 to 30 percent. If the employee’s contract runs to the end of baseball season -- typically Oct. 31 -- then these parameters apply from now until then. If the employee is not on contract, these reductions persist until Dec. 31.

No full-time employee is being laid off because of the economic impact from coronavirus.

An example: If a person works a 40-hour week, and has the 10 percent reduction in pay and hours, they are down to a 36-hour week at 10 percent pay cut.

The reduction scale slides. The highest-paid employees, like Mike Rizzo, are taking the largest reduction in pay. Then on down the line.

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The Nationals deciding to do this now allows their staff to know what the future holds as opposed to wondering month-to-month what decision the organization will make in regard to their job status.

Major League Baseball organizations remain uneasy about their financial future in 2020 since the season has stalled. The league and its team owners are in the midst of negotiations with the MLBPA while attempting to find a safe, revenue-satisfactory path back to the field.

Meanwhile, teams across the league are assessing their non-player finances, and the approach varies. For instance, the Anaheim Angels decided last week to furlough some non-playing employees.

In Washington, no full-time employee will be laid off because of this salary adjustment.

USA Today was first to report the Nationals’ overall decision.

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