Rested off bye, Dolphins look toward Jets


Rested off bye, Dolphins look toward Jets

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) Just about every member of the Miami Dolphins had a different bye-week itinerary.

Richie Incognito went to the beach and did little else. Brian Hartline watched Ohio State. Paul Soliai walked in a 5-kilometer race for breast cancer awareness and tried to avoid even thinking about football. Lamar Miller tailgated at the Miami-Florida State game. Cameron Wake attempted, somewhat unsuccessfully, to ignore his alarm clock.

``Then you start getting that itch,'' Wake said.

And there's nothing like a matchup with the New York Jets to snap the Dolphins out of vacation mode.

Three days off was enough for the Dolphins, who returned to work on Monday officially mediocre in terms of record yet with the knowledge that if the season was now complete, they would be in the AFC playoffs. Granted, there's still a ton of football left to play, but for a team that didn't exactly deal with the highest of preseason expectations, there's reason for moods to be pleasant these days.

``One thing I said to the team today, part one of the statement was, `Progress has been made. There's no doubt about it,''' Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. ``Part two of the statement was, `There's a heck of a lot of work still left to be done.' I see us playing better football than we were earlier in the season, no question. But we're still not where we need to be.''

The Dolphins (3-3) visit the Jets (3-4) on Sunday.

``Looking forward to going to their stadium and being a different team than we were three or four weeks ago,'' Hartline said.

Of the 16 teams in the AFC, nine are either 3-3 or 3-4 - New England, at a surprising-for-the-Patriots 4-3, not only leads the AFC East but has the third-best record in the conference. One win can help a team escape the pack right now, one loss can send a team spiraling toward the bottom of the pack, and division games seem even more important than usual with so many teams off to similar starts.

``We can't predict what's going to happen later on down the road,'' Soliai said. ``We've just got to focus on this game.''

That doesn't figure to be a problem - especially with it being Jets Week.

The Jets have already won in Miami this season, a 23-20 overtime victory on Sept. 23 in a game where Dan Carpenter missed two field goals and the Dolphins lost both a 10-0 lead and running back Reggie Bush.

If Miami had won that game, the Dolphins would be 4-2 and currently atop the division.

``We've got to do something this week, you know, that we haven't done since I've been here and that's sweep Miami,'' Jets coach Rex Ryan said Monday. ``So that's got to be it. That's the only thing that's got to be on our mind.''

One clear advantage of having the bye week: The Dolphins got to look ahead on Monday, while the Jets certainly spent at least some of the day looking back and lamenting their 29-26 overtime loss at New England on Sunday.

``It does feel good to get away from it,'' Wake said. ``But at the same time, it's such a great feeling being back. And of course, you couldn't ask for more than Jets Week.''

Miami spent a few days last week working on some parts of the Jets game plan, then took a long weekend and practiced again Monday with the Jets in mind.

The Dolphins will be off Tuesday, the NFL's traditional rest day, before resuming game week per usual on Wednesday.

``Sometimes, historically, off a bye week your volume of your game plan is too big because you think, `Well, we've got an extra practice day and extra time to study these guys,''' Philbin said. ``Sometimes that's not always the best recipe. So we've been keeping a lid on it. We don't want to have our volume go way up in any phase, even though we may have, quote, an extra practice. I don't think the game's going to be won by brilliance in the coaching room.''

Notes: Rookie running back Jonas Gray returned to practice, but remains on the Dolphins' reserve/non-football-injury list. ``We've got a 21-day window to look at him and see what he does,'' Philbin said. ... Each of Miami's last four games have been decided by four points or less.


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Nationals will face juggernaut Houston Astros in the World Series

Nationals will face juggernaut Houston Astros in the World Series

Finally, an opponent.

The Washington Nationals will travel to Houston on Monday morning to open the 115th World Series on Tuesday against the American League champion Astros in Minute Maid Park.

The Nationals swept St. Louis to send themselves to the organization’s first World Series and a six-day break between games. 

Houston beat the New York Yankees, 6-4, Saturday night to capture its second American League title in three years thanks to a walk-off homer by Jose Altuve. The Astros won the 2017 World Series and lost in the ALCS to eventual World Series champion Boston last season. 

The Astros are deep, versatile and targeted. They won the American League title via a Game 6 bullpen showdown. Outside of starting Brad Peacock in the reliever-laden clincher, Houston also dispatches Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke, a trio which rivals -- if not bests -- the Nationals’ top three. As a group, Houston commanded the strike zone like no other team during the regular season. It led the league in strikeouts from its pitchers and its hitters struck out the least. 

If there is a ding against Houston, which won a franchise-record 107 games this season, it would be the ALCS work with runners in scoring position. It entered Game 6 just 4-for-27 with runners in scoring position. Yuli Gurriel’s three-run, first-inning homer helped counter that slog Saturday night and push Houston into another shot at a title. 

Winning behind a bullpen game is a huge benefit for Houston, It can now pitch ace Cole in Game 1 on extra rest and Verlander in Game 2 on regular rest, if it chooses. 

The Nationals are yet to announce their rotation plans. They have options. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg could pitch the first two games. Or, Washington could throw Aníbal Sánchez in the opener to push Scherzer to Games 2 and 6 and Strasburg to Games 3 and 7. 

Scherzer and Sánchez dealt with a few of the keys to the Astros’ lineup in the past. Michael Brantley, who joined the Astros following a strong career in Cleveland, is 15-for-44 career against Scherzer (a 1.004 OPS). Jose Altuve is 2 for 11 in a much smaller sample. Josh Reddick is 5 for 11. Many of the major names in the Houston lineup have not faced Scherzer previously. 

Altuve (4 for 11) is more successful against Sánchez. Brantley less so (.667 OPS in 30 at-bats).

They will all face each other again starting Tuesday night at 8:08.


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Report shows Bruce Allen won't trade Trent Williams now, but could that change?

Report shows Bruce Allen won't trade Trent Williams now, but could that change?

No practices. No games. No voluntary workouts. No mandatory workouts. No training camp. Trent Williams hasn't attended a single Redskins team event in 2019. Not one. And still he remains on the team.

NFL Network reported on Saturday morning that while the Redskins have gotten plenty of calls about the seven-time Pro Bowler Williams, Washington team president Bruce Allen has no intention to trade the left tackle.

Browns GM John Dorsey publicly admitted this week that he's been calling the Redskins about possibly trading for Williams but that it "takes two to tango." The implication being Allen isn't taking serious part in trade talks, and that coincides with the NFL Network report. 

If Allen is intent on waiting until January to trade Williams, the Redskins boss retains that power. Allen makes trades, unilaterally, and whether or not it should be the case, it remains that case. DeAngelo Hall explained on his podcast last month that he didn't expect Williams to be traded until the offseason either. Hall explained that Allen wanted to trade Williams on his own terms, and that won't happen in season. 

There could be strategic advantages to holding on to Williams this year too. If Williams doesn't play, and the Redskins trade him in January, that will leave two years on his contract. If Washington traded him now, he would have only the remainder of this season plus the 2020 season to entice bidders. There also are salary cap rollovers available if Williams doesn't play this year and the team moves on in the offseason.

It also seems kind of crazy not to trade Williams now. 

If a team needs a tackle, Williams' value won't be as high in January as it is right now. Period. The trade deadline comes on October 29th, and Williams could likely command a large asking price. Dorsey is openly talking about wanting Williams. He wouldn't do that if he didn't mean that. 

Allen has made it clear that moving on from Williams now isn't in the cards, but one source inside the Redskins Park headquarters still said he wouldn't be surprised if something happens before the deadline. But what makes that happen?

The offers might need to change. 

Think about things in the context of Allen's approach: If the Redskins are close, then players help more than draft picks. If Washington is going to give up one of their best players, or arguably their best player, then Allen might want a star player back in a trade. 

Does that offer exist? Is Allen even interested? Those answers aren't clear. 

What is clear, however, is that the Redskins made a shift towards accountability. At least that's what's been said.

The team fired Jay Gruden two weeks and moved to interim head coach Bill Callahan. Much of Callahan's message has been about increasing physicality on the field and responsibility off it. For that message to work, how can the team continue to let the Williams situation linger?

Throughout Williams' holdout, Redskins leadership has dismissed the idea of trading Williams. During training camp the word was Williams would not be traded, at all. In fact, Allen said he expected Williams to rejoin the team before the regular season started. Seven games later, no sign of Williams. 

After firing Jay Gruden two weeks ago, Allen held a press conference. Asked about trading Williams, Allen replied, "No, not at this time."

Well, last week for the first time Callahan got asked about trading Williams. It's not Callahan's call to make the trade, but the answer sounded different.

"I think you’re always looking to improve your roster by any means," the interim coach said. "Whether you’re acquiring by trade or acquiring it through free agency or obviously guys off the waiver wire, we’re always looking."

Callahan says the Redskins are always looking to improve. That means the question is what justifies improvement to Allen. 

Maybe it's not picks. Maybe it's players. The deadline comes in about nine days. Questions will be answered.