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Superhero Brees looks to save Saints season

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Superhero Brees looks to save Saints season

METAIRIE, La. (AP) Drew Brees dressed as Iron Man for Halloween.

He may have to play like a superhero to save the season for New Orleans.

With the Saints (2-5) hindered by a historically poor defense and nonexistent running game, all eyes are on Brees to find some way to turn things around, beginning with Monday night's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

``I have high standards and expectations for myself,'' Brees said. ``To me, it's about what can I do to make the plays to win the game, lead my guys, (and) instill confidence in them. That's my job.''

A year ago, Brees set an NFL record for yards passing (5,476) and guided the Saints to a 13-3 mark, tying the franchise record for wins. After some contentious negotiations, he agreed to a five-year, $100-million contract that provided the largest amount of guaranteed money ($60 million) in NFL history.

Brees is certainly earning his money, ranking second in yards passing (2,310) with 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. But he's essentially been a one-man show, carrying a franchise rocked by a bounty scandal that led to a one-year suspension for coach Sean Payton and the banishment of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Without Williams making the calls, the New Orleans defense has become the first since at least 1950 to give up more than 400 yards in seven straight games and is on pace to surrender an NFL-record total. Without Payton guiding the offense, the running game ranks last in the league.

Last week, the Saints got a striking reminder of just how much they've come to rely on Brees.

Having bounded back from an 0-4 start with two straight wins, New Orleans traveled to Denver to face Peyton Manning and the Broncos in a prime-time showdown. Brees completed just 22 of 42 for 213 yards - his lowest total since the final game of the 2010 season - and the Saints were blown out, 34-14.

Naturally, Brees must resist the urge to do more than he can.

``I'm sure that along the way we've all done a little bit of that,'' he said. ``It's human nature. It's natural to feel like there is a piece missing or certain pieces missing that you would need to do more or extra. That might add pressure.''

But Brees' teammates insist they've noticed no change in his routine, which has provided a level of comfort during the tough times.

``His consistency is his most impressive attribute,'' offensive tackle Zach Strief said. ``The consistency in his preparation and the way he prepares, in his schedule every week, is identical. That is the same in good times and bad times. That is very comforting to an offensive player to know a guy that is leading the group doesn't have hills and valleys. That's very important.''

In fact, Strief said it's hard to tell much difference in Brees from one season to the next.

``It would been very easy for him last year,'' the lineman said, ``to say, `Ah, I know it now. I'm good.' He's not that guy in those times. He's not that guy in these times. He's got a schedule he believes in and a consistency about him. A lot of guys feed off that, because you know what you're going to get out of him.''

Brees is a near-mythical figure in the Big Easy, where he will always be revered for signing with the Saints just a few months after Hurricane Katrina, for putting down roots in the battered city, for guiding New Orleans to its first Super Bowl championship during the 2009 season.

He's been accepted by the locals as one of their own, and Brees reciprocates through his extensive charitable work and willingness to open up about his personal life. On Halloween, he tweeted a picture wearing his Iron Man costume before he went out trick-or-treating with his young son Baylen and wife Brittany (who was dressed as a princess).

``First of all, I do not pick my Halloween costumes,'' Brees said with a smile. ``Baylen is old enough now that he can tell me what I'm going to wear for Halloween, so he was going as little Iron Man and I was going to be daddy Iron Man.''

So, why was Baylen wearing pajamas in the picture?

``Unfortunately, at the last second, he did not want to put on his Iron Man costume,'' Brees said. ``He decided to go with pajamas instead, so he rolled in pajamas and bare feet with his Koala bear stuffed animal, trick-or-treating until he ate the first or second piece of candy, got on a quick sugar high, and then we couldn't keep up with him.''

Now, Brees must pull off a pretty slick trick of his own: Save the Saints.

``It's really one of those weeks that says, `How are you going to respond?''' he said. ``Last week was extremely disappointing, the result of the game and our overall performance as a team. We just did not play up to our standard, certainly with the hype going into that game. We were all hurt by it.

``But,'' he added, ``it also lights a fire within all of us that we don't want that to be the lasting memory that people have of our team. We're better than that and we need to show them on Monday night.''

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

The Stanley Cup is not the only trophy that will be awarded at the end of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. The Conn Smythe will also be given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team during the playoffs.

Who will that player be?

It's not hard to figure out who the frontrunner is right now. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't just been the best goalie in the playoffs, he's been the best player with a dominant postseason in which he has posted a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He has been so dominant, he could win it even if Vegas loses the series.

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

The last player from the losing team to win the Conn Smythe was Jean-Sebastian Giguere from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003.

But what about the Caps?

Alex Ovechkin is the leader of Washington and has been absolutely dominant throughout the postseason. He even scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Surprisingly, however, Ovechkin does not lead the team in points through the playoffs. Evgeny Kuznetsov holds that edge with 24 points to Ovechkin's 22.

Will their offensive dominance propel them to win the Cup and the Conn Smythe? Will a different player emerge as the hero of the series?

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

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Associated Press

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details. 

Until now. 

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. 

Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer). 

But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million. 

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now. 

The cap hits on the contract are as follows: 

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022. 

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler