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Streaking Redskins need 1 more for NFC East title

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Streaking Redskins need 1 more for NFC East title

WASHINGTON (AP) It has something like the feel of 2005, when someone posted a sign that read ``Five in a row or we don't go!'' in the locker room.

The Washington Redskins, 5-6 at the time without much of an offense, then somehow rolled off five straight to claim a wild-card berth.

Or maybe it's more like 2007, when the Redskins dropped to 5-7 following a coaching blunder: Joe Gibbs' decision to call back-to-back timeouts, resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. That allowed the Buffalo Bills to move much closer to kick a winning field goal.

Nevertheless, riding a swell of emotion in the aftermath of the death of safety Sean Taylor, those Redskins took their next four and again claimed a spot in the playoffs - beating the Dallas Cowboys, of all teams, to finish the job.

But, really, 2012 is something else altogether.

These Redskins were 3-6 on Nov. 4. They had just lost what coach Mike Shanahan had proclaimed a ``must win'' against the Carolina Panthers, who entered the game 1-6.

And while Shanahan can massage it all he wants - and he's tried to, in many different ways - he clearly no longer had realistic postseason goals when he spoke after that game.

Shanahan said, among other things: ``You lose a game like that, now you're playing to see who obviously is going to be on your football team for years to come.''

``He was having a moment of frustration,'' defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. ``But I think the whole team knows exactly where he stands, and where we stand is a testament to that.''

Shanahan clarified his remarks two days later, telling the players in the final meeting before the bye-week break that the playoffs remained a possibility. Still, even a veteran like Cofield couldn't envision, say, an NFC East title.

``I thought we needed to win the next game, but I definitely did not look that far in advance,'' Cofield said. ``It was too low of a moment to look and think we could win the division. We wanted to win as many games as possible and hopefully sneak into the playoffs. It was a low point for us. The bye came at a perfect time. We came back and were energized.''

So, as it turned out, that Panthers game wasn't a must win. But every game since then has been.

Six victories later, the Redskins (9-6) are definitely not a team playing ``for years to come,'' as the coach put it that November day. They're playing for this year's division championship, attempting to become the first team since the 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars to rally from 3-6 to the playoffs.

What a sight it will be, therefore, when the Redskins and Cowboys (8-7) meet Sunday night, a game flexed to prime time to mark the end of the NFL's regular season.

The winner takes the NFC East. Dallas will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss. Washington can lose and still get a wild-card spot, but only if the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings lose earlier in the day.

``It is two great franchises playing hard to beat one another, and that is good stuff,'' Redskins tight end Chris Cooley said.

Shanahan said he will tell his players that it will be a game they'll remember for the rest of their lives. The fact they've been playing on the brink for a month and a half should have them well prepared.

``I think they get used to the pressure,'' the coach said Monday. ``Over the last six weeks, they knew every game was do-or-die, and they're used to that scenario.''

The Redskins turned it around by following the leadership of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. His demeanor has lifted the entire franchise and he showed in Sunday's 27-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles he can win even when he's not as much of a running threat because of a sprained right knee.

There's also rookie running back Alfred Morris, whose 1,413 yards puts him within range of Clinton Portis' franchise record of 1,516. And midseason pickup placekicker Kai Forbath, who had a game ball shipped to the Hall of Fame on Monday after breaking the record for most consecutive field goals to start an NFL career.

The Redskins are no longer the most penalized team in the league - they committed only three against the Eagles - and a defense once on pace to break the NFL record for yards allowed through the air is getting sacks and forcing turnovers.

Washington has exorcised several demons this year. It ended an eight-game losing streak against rookie quarterbacks; a 10-game home losing streak on Monday nights; an 0 for 6 futility against the Cowboys in Thanksgiving games; and a four-year hold on last place in the division.

Now they can clinch their first division title since 1999.

``Everything we've been working for comes back to this weekend, taking advantage of what we've done over the last six weeks,'' Shanahan said. ``It really doesn't mean anything unless we take advantage of our game versus Dallas.''

Notes: S DeJon Gomes has a second degree sprain of the MCL in left knee, which could leave the secondary more short-handed than usual for the regular season finale. ... The coaching staff worked extra hours Friday and Saturday nights to get a head start on the Cowboys game plan, allowing the coaches to have Christmas Eve dinner with their families and arrive later for work than usual on Christmas Day.

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Report: NBA likely to use new All-Star format again, will discuss using it in G-League

Report: NBA likely to use new All-Star format again, will discuss using it in G-League

If you were a fan of the NBA's new format for the All-Star game, which featured a target score to decide the winner instead of a clock, you might be in luck. 

According to Zach Lowe of ESPN, the NBA is likely to use the target score format again in next year's All-Star game. The NBA's president of league operations Byron Spruell told Lowe it's a 'good assumption' we see this format again. 

In its maiden voyage, the target score was a smashing success. The NBA has struggled to make the All-Star game entertaining and intense enough for the best players in the world to try. By adding 24 points onto the leading team's score at the end of the third and saying, "First one to this number wins," it sparked the competitive fire in the league's biggest stars and made for an unforgettable basketball moment. 

The target score is very similar to the "Elam Ending," created by Ball State University professor Nick Elam. The Basketball Tournament, a winner-take-all event held over the summer, has used the Elam Ending for the last two years.

Chris Paul suggested using the format in the All-Star game to commissioner Adam Silver, and now the target score ending has a chance at making it to the G-League. 

Lowe also includes in the story that the NBA will discuss using the target score system in the G-League, the league's developmental league. However, concerns about making G-League play too different from play in the NBA make it unlikely for a full adaptation of the target score system. 

Spruell did say a possible first step would be using the system at the annual G-League Showcase, which usually takes place in December. 

To go even further down the rabbit hole of hypothetical changes to NBA games, the NBA will also reportedly discuss using target scores in the elimination rounds of a midseason tournament. In late December, the NBA propose massive schedule changes to the league's owners including shortening the regular season to 78 games and introducing a midseason tournament. 

The owners still have to approve the changes before any target scoring system can be implemented. 

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A house for mom, dinner for his linemen and a custom Bentley: How Dwayne Haskins spent his first million

A house for mom, dinner for his linemen and a custom Bentley: How Dwayne Haskins spent his first million

Dwayne Haskins learned a lot in his first go-round in the NFL, including just how much work is required to be a successful starting QB and how intense a typical season with the Redskins can be.

He also was exposed to the dark reality of taxes for the first time, which are far scarier than even the most devastating opposing pass rush.

In a video for GQ Sports and their "My First Million" series, Haskins discussed how he, well, spent his first million dollars as a pro. It's an epic tale, one filled with wild stories and useful lessons — including the following relatable take.

"Taxes are no joke, bro," he said.

The biggest choice the first-rounder made for himself was to pick out a custom-made Bentley that cost him $250,000. He loves it and calls it "my baby" and the "Batmobile." He's also now out of the vehicle-purchasing game for a while because of it.

"I'm not buying no more cars," Haskins said. "Not a very great investment to buy cars."

Next up for the passer was to take care of his mom, so he paid for a house that totaled about $750,000. 

"Being able to just, 'Hey mom, I've got a surprise for you, here's a house,'" Haskins recalled. "Definitely made those 14-plus years of hard work worth it."

So, that's all, right? Those two items add up to a million, so we're done here? 

Well, the house isn't technically for Haskins, so therefore, it doesn't take up room on his ledger. So the story continued.

The 22-year-old committed about $70,000 to jewelry and has about $5,000 to $7,000 set aside for a vacation to the Bahamas he's got planned for next month. He also has an estimated $10,000 in murals at his place and spent about $40,000 on clothes, including some suits to wear on game day and to events.

Then, there was a rookie dinner, where he had to treat his offensive linemen to a meal. Those guys didn't go the salad route, either.

"Of course they ordered all the appetizers, all the steaks they can get," he said. "They do not want to go to Applebee's. They want to go to the best steak place they can find... I'll do it again if I have to."

For a guy who didn't have to pay for much in college aside from a car note and maybe some bills at the library, it was quite a transition into adulthood and moneyhood. He's taken steps to hire a financial adviser and put his earnings into "different buckets," though, and seems confident he'll be in good shape for a long time.

Plus, if he excels in the coming seasons, there'll be plenty more millions coming his way. And by then, he won't be surprised when a lot of that goes to taxes.

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