Nationals

Underachieving Bills to host resurgent Dolphins

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Underachieving Bills to host resurgent Dolphins

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The Miami Dolphins were the team featured on ``Hard Knocks'' last summer. Funny, the Buffalo Bills haven't needed a TV series title to define their past 12 seasons.

This year in Buffalo so far has been no different. Defying the high preseason expectations, the Bills have bumbled their way into an all-too-familiar position of challenging to be the AFC East's least for a fifth consecutive season.

That's right, it's the same spot supposedly reserved for the Dolphins after their shortcomings were exposed to HBO's national cable audience.

Bills linebacker Nick Barnett wasn't paying attention then. And he couldn't care less about the projections now.

``I don't make money judging expectations and things like that,'' Barnett said, before turning his attention to the state of the Bills. ``I think in this locker room, we would definitely not have foreseen us being in this predicament and the record we have.''

The Bills (3-6), with the offseason addition of high-priced defensive end Mario Williams, weren't supposed to be this bad. And the Dolphins (4-5), with rookie coach Joe Philbin, rookie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill and many holes to fill, weren't supposed to be this good.

Jim Kelly versus Dan Marino this is not. But on Thursday night, the prime-time lights will once again shine on these two longtime division rivals in a game that will determine who stays in the postseason picture for at least another week.

The Bills haven't given up hope, despite a 1-5 stretch that's put them in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs for a 13th consecutive season, the longest current streak in the NFL.

``It only takes a spark to start a fire, and that spark is winning one football game,'' defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. ``If we win one, I think guys feel good about making a run here at the end of the year.''

The Dolphins understand what's at stake, too, and are eager to rebound from a two-game skid that included last weekend's sloppy 37-3 loss to Tennessee.

``I don't think by any means are we ready to shut this thing down,'' Tannehill said. ``Our guys are resilient. We're realists. We know we didn't play well. We know we didn't perform like we're capable of. But we're ready to move forward.''

Moving forward is key for Tannehill, whose development suddenly regressed Sunday after throwing three interceptions to match his worst outing he had three picks in a season-opening loss at Houston.

Tannehill bounced back from that game; Miami win four of the next six, although Matt Moore was behind center for most of the victory over the Jets when Tannehill was hurt early on. The Dolphins are confident the No. 8 draft pick out of Texas A&M can get them back on track.

``Ryan is very poised,'' running back Reggie Bush said. ``I told him these types of games build character. These games are going to come and go, make us stronger in the long run.''

Bush needs to rebound, too. He was benched after losing a fumble six minutes in against the Titans.

``I think we're all a little happy to have this game on Thursday, because it gives a chance to erase this last game and get back to football very quickly,'' Bush said. ``I know that I've bounced back before. I'll bounce back again, and we'll be OK.''

It might help Bush's outlook knowing he had a career-best 203 yards rushing and scored on a 76-yard run in a 30-23 win at Buffalo last December.

The Bills' defense isn't much better this season despite the addition of Williams, who signed a six-year, $100 million contract in free agency. Buffalo has allowed 285 points, fewer only than Tennessee - no one is giving up more than the Bills' 36.6 points per game - and 1,473 yards rushing, while Williams has hardly made a dent in improving the pass rush. Williams has 4 1/2 of the Bills' 20 sacks, which is five ahead of where they were at this point last season.

``The biggest thing for us is to make a stand,'' Williams said. ``Definitely, it's got to start some time. We've got seven games, but if you don't start it sooner than later, then we're basically just spinning our wheels.''

The Bills have spent plenty of time stuck in neutral. And it's become difficult to keep count the number of times they've been asked how important it is to win the next game.

``As we continue to lose, people keep asking that question. I feel like we had to have them all,'' quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. ``We're disappointed. We're not where we want to be. But we've got to start winning at some point, and this is a great week to do it.''

The Bills are coming off a 37-31 loss at New England, which once again exposed their inability to compete against division rivals. Buffalo's lost eight straight against AFC East opponents, and is 4-23 in division games since 2008.

``Our backs are against the wall,'' Barnett said. ``We have to win every game, I feel. And it starts with this game.''

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How to entice Bryce Harper in to re-signing with the Nationals? With food, of course!

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How to entice Bryce Harper in to re-signing with the Nationals? With food, of course!

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach… and if that leads us to Bryce Harper’s potential landing spot, then I present to you the yummiest reasons he should stay with the Washington Nationals.

In a video from TMZ, a paparazzi follows Harper to baggage claim and implores him for any hints toward where he is signing this offseason. The only true answer he got was that Harper likes a place called Steak 48 in Chicago. This surf-and-turf hot spot in the River North neighborhood of downtown Chicago has the audacity to serve “Maryland STYLE lump crab cakes.” Really, Bryce? Will the real thing convince you?!

On that note, let’s start off with the seafood we have to offer. This is the Mid-Atlantic, after all.

How can you work here April-September without eating local crabs in some form? I think that’s impossible. You can choose from hard shell or soft shell, but no shame in either game.

Live Chesapeake blue crabs can be bought at Captain White’s Seafood and other vendors on The Wharf off Maine Avenue. Otherwise, you can sit down and have them steamed for you at Quarterdeck, Ivy City Smokehouse, Bethesda Crab House or Captain Pell’s.

If Harper is more of a soft shell guy, all of those places also serve out-of-the-park crab cakes, but you can’t go wrong with Hank’s Oyster Bar, Old Ebbitt Grill, Chris’ Marketplace, or Clyde’s.

If the star really wants to dive in to local taste, he should eat Chesapeake Bay oysters from the largest estuary in America. My personal favorite selection is at Whaley’s (seafood tower on me, Bryce), but Rapphanock Oyster Bar, The Dabney, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and Black’s Bar & Kitchen can’t be beat.

I find it hard to believe the team hasn't had an outing at The Salt Line, the lively seafood spot just a short throw from Nats Park where teammate Ryan Zimmerman is an investor and co-owner.

Now that we’ve satisfied Harper’s iron intake, let’s break down his protein. In order to keep the superstar here, I want to make sure he knows that D.C. cares about providing a well-rounded diet.

Barbecued meats in general around here are delectable. Sitting in juxtaposition between the north and south, D.C. restaurants bring a mash-up of styles of smoked and sauced meats. Favorites are Federalist Pig, Hill Country, Fat Pete’s and Hardy’s BBQ truck.

However, if Bryce Harper show he’s as invested in authentic Nationals fans as our season tickets are in him, he should really pick up a half-smoke, the district’s original recipe for a spicy, thicker pork and beef dog that’s aggressively seasoned and sometimes served with chili sauce.

Could you imagine Harper making his announcement to stay over a half-smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl? I think even the panda statue would cry tears of joy.

Another hyper-local taste is mumbo sauce. While proven not originally from here, D.C. natives are enthusiastic about the special sauce. Yum’s is pretty well-known for carrying it.

Time for dessert! I think we can all agree that in the past 10 years, cupcakes have become iconic in the district with Georgetown Cupcakes, Baked & Wired and Sprinkles all having a home in Georgetown. To settle the debate, Baked & Wired is best. They are ranked #1 on Yelp if you don’t believe my own palette.

But what if it’s game night, you ask? D.C. has it’s hearty share of restaurants that are open even after extra innings. The Diner, Kramerbooks, Mandu, New Big Wong, Old Ebbitt Grill, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Amsterdam Falafelshop and Jumbo Slice are all here to keep you warm at night no matter what you’re craving post-victory. Need I go on?

Bryce reassured Nats fans and TMZ that he is “still a National right now.” Better eat these while you can, Bryce, or you’ll be sorry you didn't sign in one of the best food cities in the MLB.

Do you have any local food or restaurants you think will convince Bryce Harper to stay with the Washington Nationals this offseason? Send them to @NBCNationals or @rmhopmayer. Maybe we can throw together a friends-giving or holiday dinner for those that want him to stay our beloved Guest of Honor.

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Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman caused quite a stir with his comments Sunday about the atmosphere at FedEx Field, and the Redskins cornerback made it clear he plans to do his part in making sure the stadium is packed for Sunday's game against the Texans. 

Norman told reporters Thursday he's going to be giving away "40 or 50" free tickets for the Houston game, online and perhaps even in person.

"Yes, I will be giving out free tickets," he said. "I'll be doing it on my socials as well, I think I'll probably post tonight or something about it."

"Who knows, you may see me coming out and being an early Santa somewhere in the mall or something, just handing out tickets."

And if you are one of the lucky fans who gets a ticket from "Santa Norman," he has specific instructions on how you should behave at Sunday's game:

"Whoever get(s) them, we want them loud and just obnoxious. Just really obnoxious."

Norman joins several Redskins players who have promised to give away tickets to the Texans game.

It may be November, but the Christmas spirit is alive and well at Redskins Park. 

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