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Saints just another team to Manning these days

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Saints just another team to Manning these days

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The team Peyton Manning grew up loving is nothing more, or less, than the next team on the quarterback's schedule this week.

And because Manning gave up cheering for the New Orleans Saints long ago, the Broncos quarterback has been spared his share of heartache this season.

As Manning gets ready to play his dad's old team, he looks at the tape and sees what is shaping up as one of the worst defenses in the history of the league. Through six games, New Orleans has allowed 2,793 yards - more than any team since 1950, which is as far back as STATS LLC can search its NFL database.

It's a team that has allowed four of its first six opponents to gain their season-high in yardage, a team that receives a near-daily dose of news about a bounty case that has cost New Orleans its head coach, Sean Payton, for a year and its linebackers and interim head coach, Joe Vitt, for the first six games.

This Sunday marks Vitt's return. How that might help, or hurt, a defense that has given up 182 points during its 2-4 start will be seen when the Saints take on the Broncos (3-3). Manning, not surprisingly, isn't taking the bait about the Saints being vulnerable.

``I know their defense is challenged,'' Manning said. ``People are talking about their defense. But all I see is what I see on tape. I see guys flying around, making plays. I see (Malcolm) Jenkins running their receiver down at the 1-yard line. That was probably the biggest play of that game against Tampa.''

The Jenkins play - his tackle of Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson at the New Orleans 1 after a 95-yard gain - and the goal-line stand that ensued helped preserve the Saints' seven-point lead in a 35-28 win over Tampa Bay last week. Of course, the fact that the Saints' biggest play on defense was holding the other team to a 95-yard gain also says something about a unit giving up 465 yards per game.

Manning, meanwhile, is enjoying what could very well be the best three-game stretch of his career, statistically speaking. He's the first player in NFL history to throw for 300 yards, three touchdowns and complete 70 percent of his passes in three straight games.

``I just marvel when I watch the man play,'' Vitt said.

The Broncos had a bye last week, which they hope hasn't slowed their momentum after a 35-24 win over San Diego on Oct. 15.

As much as focusing on the Saints, they are looking in the mirror, trying to get a grasp on why they continue to start slow. They've been outscored 98-42 this season in the first half, but have outscored teams 79-6 in the fourth quarter, the best margin in the league by 37 points. Against the Chargers, they fell behind 24-0, only to become the first team in history to turn that big a deficit into a double-digit victory.

``We're studying it and trying hard to get off to a better start,'' Manning said. ``This would be a great week to do it. This is not a team you want to fall behind because they have potential to keep scoring, keep extending that lead.''

The over-under on this week's game is 55 1/2 points - a full eight points higher than the next-highest number on the NFL board this week.

A matchup between Manning and Drew Brees is certainly to thank for that. Two weeks ago, Brees set an NFL record, formerly held by Johnny Unitas, by throwing a touchdown pass in his 48th straight game. He extended it to 49 in the win over the Bucs last week.

``Quarterbacks don't put up those numbers unless they have a lot of people around them believing in them, and I think that's a rare quality,'' Vitt said. ``That's what both of those guys have the ability to do.''

It was Brees who got the better in the matchup three seasons ago, when the Saints defeated Manning and the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in the Super Bowl. Manning spent much of the lead-up to that game discussing his roots in New Orleans: What it was like growing up a fan of one of the most bedraggled teams in the leagues, whose quarterback happened to be his father, Archie.

Peyton certainly has a sense of both football history and his roots - he used the bye week to head back to Tennessee, where he played college ball and where they named a street after him. But, he insists, his days of keeping a close eye on the Saints are long behind him.

``Certainly, I have great friends in New Orleans. My family's still there,'' Manning said. ``But I've been with two different NFL teams now. I'm a pretty loyal fan to the team I play for, I'd like to think.''

Notes: The depth chart listed S Mike Adams and LB Keith Brooking as starters. Adams got benched in the second quarter of the San Diego game, while Brooking replaced Joe Mays in the starting lineup and will stay there Sunday. ... CB Tracy Porter, a former Saint, was limited in practice with an undisclosed illness that kept him out of the Chargers game. He said he was feeling better and expected to get his reps in practice this week, but the team wanted to make sure backups Tony Carter and Chris Harris were also well-prepared in case he can't go against the Saints.

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 

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