Capitals

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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Capitals deal Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik ahead of the draft

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals deal Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik ahead of the draft

DALLAS—The Capitals have dealt backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer and veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round pick, the team announced shortly before the NHL Draft kicked off Friday at American Airlines Center.

GM Brian MacLellan was widely expected to deal Grubauer, a 26-year-old who wanted the opportunity to be a No. 1. As a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who was also coming off a strong season, Grubauer was due a significant raise.

“We would like to thank Brooks and Philipp for all of their contributions to our organization,” MacLellan said in a statement. “Philipp has been a consummate professional and a great teammate and we wish him all the best.”

Trading Orpik, on the other hand, was a bit unexpected, particularly considering how much 37-year-old’s play and leadership meant to the Caps during their run to the Stanley Cup.

By dealing Orpik, MacLellan shed the 37-year-old’s $5.5 million cap hit for next season—an important development given the Caps’ tight salary cap situation and the number of key players who need new contracts.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Avalanche are expected to help Orpik land or a preferred spot, whether via trade or buyout. By taking on Orpik in the deal, Friedman reported, the Avs only had to give up one pick.

“Brooks,” MacLellan continued, “was a great leader and a tremendous role model for our young players in his four years with our organization. This was a difficult move, but the one we felt we needed to make in order to give some flexibility moving forward.”

Will moving out Grubauer and eliminating Orpik’s cap charge allow MacLellan to sign John Carlson? That’s unclear—even with the ceiling going up to 79.5 million—but it certainly helps the Caps’ cause.

Dealing Orpik also opens up a spot for a young and inexpensive defenseman such as Christian Djoos or Madison Bowey to take on a bigger role in 2018-19.

Without Grubauer, the Caps are likely to turn to Pheonix Copley as their backup next season. And if Copley, who is due to earn the NHL minimum next season, starts the year in Washington, that allows 2015 first round pick Ilya Samsonov to take the reins in Hershey.

The second round pick the Caps received in exchange for Grubauer and Orpik is the 47th overall selection.

MacLellan is expected to speak to reporters following the first round later Friday night. The Caps currently hold the 31st overall pick.

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Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

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USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.

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