Maryland Terps

Texans must find way to score against Patriots

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Texans must find way to score against Patriots

HOUSTON (AP) Another trip to New England awaits the Houston Texans, and coach Gary Kubiak knows what his team has to do to have a chance against the Patriots in the second round of the playoffs.

``We had a rough trip up there last time, but we've earned our right to go back,'' Kubiak said. ``We want to go back and play a heck of a lot better than we did.''

The AFC East champion Patriots trounced the Texans 42-14 at Foxborough on Dec. 10, and Houston gets another shot after beating Cincinnati 19-13 in Saturday's wild-card game.

Houston had lost just one game this season before that loss began a terrible month where the Texans lost three of their last four regular-season games to fall out of the top seed in the AFC.

The Texans did enough to beat the Bengals, but they have to figure out a way to score touchdowns against a New England team that averages 34.8 points per game.

Houston got in the red zone four times on Saturday, and settled for field goals three of those times after the offense stalled.

``Get in the red zone, playing New England, we have to get touchdowns,'' left tackle Duane Brown said. ``You've got to do a better job up front, whatever play is called ... can't settle for field goals. Everyone was pretty disappointed and that was a good thing. We're disappointed we got field goals and that's a sign of a great team, great offense, and we'll look at it and see what corrections need to be made.''

Making his first postseason start, quarterback Matt Schaub threw an interception which was returned for a touchdown before halftime on Saturday. But he shook off the mistake to finish 29 of 38 for 262 yards. Schaub missed last season's playoff run with an injured foot.

He believes the recent trip to New England will help the Texans in this visit. The Texans were 6-0 on the road before the debacle at New England.

``What we learned and the situations we were in a month ago, we can definitely pull from that,'' Schaub said. ``We've been down that road. We know what it takes to win and that's play good road football. We didn't do that last time we played up there.''

Houston had struggled on both sides of the ball on third down recently, but fixed that problem on Saturday. The Texans entered Saturday's game having converted just 15 of 49 third-down attempts in their last four games.

On Saturday, they converted 47 percent of their third down attempts.

The Texans' defense is looking to build on the solid performance it turned in against the Bengals. Houston held the Bengals to 198 yards on Saturday.

``I'm not the biggest believer in momentum in the world, but it definitely feels good to get back in our rhythm, get back to doing what we do,'' defensive end J.J. Watt said. ``We're going to have some good film to watch because if we're going to go up there and beat them we need to play a game like we played (Saturday). Offense holding the ball, defense getting off the field on third down.''

Arian Foster powered Houston's offense on Saturday with a season-high 32 carries for 140 yards. He had just 46 yards rushing in the loss at New England, and is looking forward to proving that this team is much better than the one that showed up the last time in Foxborough.

``They have a great coach and a great quarterback and they have great role players on their team,'' Foster said of the Patriots. ``I have a lot of respect for them, but we can play ball, too. We didn't play our best football up there and we hurt ourselves with penalties and mistakes. Anytime you give them opportunities, they'll take advantage of them. But we'll play our best up there.''

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Maryland loses depth quarterback and former starter to injury for several weeks

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Maryland loses depth quarterback and former starter to injury for several weeks

Maryland quarterback Max Bortenschlager suffered a lower-body stress fracture that is expected to keep him out for eight weeks, head coach Mike Locksley told reporters Saturday.

It is a tough blow for the redshirt junior who has started in nine games in three years during his career with the Terps, and it further cements him behind the top quarterbacks vying for the starting job.

Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson still remains the frontrunner to be named starter competing against Tyrrell Pigrome. That leaves Bortenschlager likely competing just to stay third on the depth chart.

Losing a third-string quarterback for eight weeks is not a major blow for most programs. Maryland, however, is not most programs. The Terps seem to lose quarterbacks the way most people lose socks in the laundry.

In the past five years, Maryland has had seven different quarterbacks throw at least 45 passes in a season.

The loss of Bortenschlager may just be a depth loss...for now. But will that injury loom large into the season?

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Metropolitan Division Outlook 2019-20: The New York Rangers

Metropolitan Division Outlook 2019-20: The New York Rangers

The Capitals enter the 2019-20 season looking for their fifth consecutive Metropolitan Division title.

But this could be the most challenging year yet. The bottom of the division has improved dramatically with offseason moves and the top of the division still has quality teams. It’s hard to figure who will crater and finish last. The winning team might not top 100 points.

For the next two weeks, NBC Sports Washington will take a look at each Metro team and where they stand with training camps opening in less than a month. Today: The New York Rangers.

In February 2018, the Rangers did a very un-Rangers-like thing. The team sent a letter to their fans declaring the plan to rebuild the team. Now just over a year later, it did not take long for New York to make a splash in the offseason again.

The Rangers landed the prize of free agency in Artemi Panarin, added free agent defenseman Jacob Trouba, drafted Kaapo Kakko with the second-overall pick in the draft and traded for prospect defenseman Adam Fox. They also managed to avoid a restricted free agent standoff with Pavel Buchnevich.

All these moves combined put the Rangers among the most improved teams in the league. It did not take long, but New York was able to shift its team from a group of veterans not good enough to compete for a Stanley Cup to a team full of youth and potential.

The future certainly looks brighter for this team in the future than it previously had, but despite all the improvements there are still plenty of questions about the present roster.

While New York certainly got younger, star goalie Henrik Lundqvist did not.

Lundqvist had an up-and-down season last year. His first half of last season was good enough to get him to the All-Star Game. He struggled in the latter half of the season and finished with a save percentage of only .907 and a GAA of 3.07. He is not a goalie who seems to do well taking a backseat, but Alexander Georgiev played well enough to earn more playing time. All of this makes it difficult to determine just what the split between the two netminders is going to be heading into this season.

In front of the crease, the additions of Trouba and Fox look like they will give the Rangers two new top-four defenseman to plug in. That should certainly help a team that ranked 23rd in the NHL last season in goals against per game with 3.26 and could potentially take some of the pressure off Lundqvist.

Mika Zibanejad returns as the team’s top center after what was easily his best season in the NHL with career highs in goals, assists and points. He was seen as a second-line center going into last season, but certainly took advantage of the larger role offered by New York. The concerns over whether he can handle a top-line role may not be as prevalent as last year, but I still seem him as a poor man's No. 1 center.

The offense is also likely to lose some of its depth before the start of the season due to salary cap constraints.

The Rangers sit with just $1 million remaining in projected cap space and still have RFAs Brendan Lemieux and Anthony Deangelo left to sign. When looking into what the team's options are for freeing up space, you have to wonder if players like Chris Kreider and Vladislav Namestnikov -- who are both entering the final year of their contracts -- could both be moved before the summer is over.

Panarin is a great addition and undeniably a superstar, but he cannot carry a team by himself. When he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets and became the offensive focal point of the team, he was only able to lead the Blue Jackets to a single playoff series win in his two seasons there. That was a much deeper team than the Rangers appear to be if they should lose Kreider or Namestnikov.

Money decisions will continue to loom over this team even after a decision is made on those players. The cap situation was dire enough that the Rangers bought out the remaining two years of Kevin Shattenkirk’s contract. While he was underperforming, the combined buyouts of Shattenkirk, Dan Girardi and Ryan Spooner will leave New York with $5,394,444 of dead cap space in 2019-20 and nearly $7.5 million of dead cap space in 2020-21. These are not just bad contracts that can be packaged in a trade and sent away, that is dead cap space that the team is stuck with. That is a massive amount for a team that sure looks like it wants to compete for the playoffs sooner rather than later.

You still have to count the Rangers among the most improved teams this offseason, but the hill they had to climb and still must continue to climb may have been much steeper than many anticipated. There is still a lot of work left to do in Manhattan.

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