Capitals

Texans need win over Colts to clinch AFC South

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Texans need win over Colts to clinch AFC South

HOUSTON (AP) Houston's blowout loss at New England exposed a variety of flaws, leaving the Texans with plenty to work on before they host Indianapolis on Sunday in a suddenly critical AFC South game.

With a win, the Texans (11-2) can clinch their second straight division title.

``We've got issues,'' coach Gary Kubiak said Tuesday, a day after the 42-14 drubbing by the Patriots. ``We've got to stop people better, we've got to move the ball better, and we've got to get rid of penalties on special teams ... we've got to play better than we've played.''

Cracks in Houston's once dominant defense have surfaced in the last month. The Texans defense looked good last week in handling the struggling Titans in a 24-10 win. But Houston has given up a combined 1,402 yards and 110 points in its three other games this month, which also included overtime wins against the Jaguars and Lions.

They expected to get a boost Monday with the return of top cornerback Johnathan Joseph , who returned after missing two games with a hamstring injury. Instead, the secondary allowed Tom Brady to dominate the game by throwing for 296 yards and four scores.

The Texans hope Monday night's game will help them in the future.

``It's a teaching moment,'' rookie linebacker Whitney Mercilus said. ``This is a good team and we can't slack off. Too many penalties and things like that, beating ourselves. We've got to be able to ... get to the passer and help out our secondary. We can't get gashed in the run. We've just got to get better.''

Kubiak agreed and noted that the major difference in Monday's game was that New England took advantage of all of its opportunities for big plays, and Houston failed at almost all of its chances.

``It's part of the learning curve, I guess,'' he said. ``It was a tough lesson to learn last night.''

Kubiak didn't like the way his offense played in the second half last week against Tennessee, and was disappointed that the unit continued to struggle Monday night. Houston finished with 323 yards against the Patriots, but had trouble finishing drives.

``My biggest disappointment right now offensively is our inability to stay on the field on third down,'' he said after his team was just 4 of 14 on third down tries Monday. ``You have to step up and make those plays, regardless of whether it's a catch, a throw, a run, whatever it is, to stay out there.''

Houston has played three straight road games and is looking forward to playing at home for the first time since Nov. 18.

Instead of hanging their heads after their most lopsided loss, the Texans, who still have the AFC's best record, are looking forward to their next challenge in facing talented rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts.

``We're 11-2 and we still control our destiny,'' defensive end J.J. Watt said. ``We control everything. We are going to go back and focus on winning the division and locking that up. Everything is still in front of us.''

Kubiak is confident his team will bounce back this week because of everything that is at stake. Houston responded with a resounding 43-13 win over the Ravens a week after their only other loss - a 42-24 defeat by the Packers.

``Fortunately, we've only had this trouble twice this year, where we've had to turn around and go back after getting beat,'' he said. ``That's a good thing ... we've got a great opportunity ahead of us and we need to stay focused on that.''

NOTES: Tight end Garrett Graham, who missed Monday's game with a concussion, should return this week. ... Kubiak said that OT Derek Newton, out for the last two games with a knee injury, is doing well, but he isn't sure if he'll be ready to play on Sunday.

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Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

With their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Capitals' playoff future is starting to come into focus. Washington has only one game remaining and can finish in either third or fourth in the round robin standings. That limits the number of possible playoff opponents for the Caps when the games really start to matter.

First, before talking about who the Caps may play, it is important to remember why. Under the NHL's regular format, a normal year would see teams advance in a bracket, meaning each team knows going in they will be playing the winner of a specific matchup if they advance. This year, the NHL is going back to its old format of re-seeding after each round. This makes determining matchups a bit harder to figure out.

Here's what we know. The Caps are going to finish in the bottom half of the round robin meaning they will play one of the highest two seeded teams coming out of the qualifying round. The Carolina Hurricanes swept their qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. As the No. 6 seed coming in, Carolina is going to be one of the top two qualifying round teams.

RELATED: DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWNS AND MORE FROM CAPS LOSS TO FLYERS

Washington's final seed will be determined by Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. A win in regulation, overtime or a shootout will mean the Caps are No. 3, while a loss in any fashion will bump them down to No. 4.

The simplest scenario for Washington is that If the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are guaranteed to play either Pittsburgh or Carolina as the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. It gets a little trickier if the Penguins lose. If that happens, the Hurricanes become the top qualifying team and will play No. 4. The top team behind them then becomes No. 6 which, as of now, could be the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So a rematch with the Hurricanes is a definite possibility for the Caps, as is a matchup with the rival Penguins.

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Max and Erica Scherzer announce ‘Nats for Masks’ initiative

Max and Erica Scherzer announce ‘Nats for Masks’ initiative

Max Scherzer and his wife, Erica, have announced the formation of a new organization called 'Nats for Masks' that will help provide masks to underprivileged and at-risk populations in DMV area.

As part of the initiative, the Scherzers will auction off some of their personal collection of memorabilia to support COVID-19 relief efforts in the DMV. Some of the auction items available included autographed game-used jerseys, caps, and even Max’s 2019 All-Star Game nameplate.

Giving back to the community is nothing new to the Scherzer family. As animal lovers, back in 2017 during the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Scherzer’s rallied to cover adoption fees for all animals at the Washington-based Humane Rescue Alliance in order to make space for animals brought in from Houston.

Erica is also on the Board of Directors of the Humane Rescue Alliance, and Max has also contributed in the past in a PSA to raise awareness for the shelter.

https://twitter.com/HumaneRescue/status/861982319892193284?s=20

As if we needed another reason to adore the Scherzer family and what they do for our community, just add this to the list.

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