They’ll see the Phillies six more times (including the two remaining games of the current series as of this writing), who they apparently can ’t beat. They haven’t met with Tampa this year, so we’ll see how that shakes out, but Washington’s interleague record is 6-10.
It’s hard to say if there’s some actual psychological hindrance for playing at home in front of no fans, but the team has struggled at Nationals Park, being outscored by 20 runs. The schedule doesn’t bode well for the Nat's and I find it hard that they could chart a path where they’re winning as many games necessary to make the playoffs.
It wasn’t the reigning division champion Philadelphia Eagles, nor was it the Dallas Cowboys, who entered the campaign with some Supers Bowl buzz. Instead, it was the Washington Football Team, who overcame plenty of adversity en route to the NFC’s fourth seed.
Washington, under first-year head coach Ron Rivera, changed starting quarterbacks not once, not twice, but three times over the course of the regular season. FT’s current starter, meanwhile, is just over two years removed from sustaining one of the worst injuries the NFL ever has seen.
FT held the opposition to 20 points or fewer in 11 of 16 games, including teams with formidable offenses like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks. He also has a fair amount of postseason experience, which should bode well for a team littered with younger players.
Smith has a sneaky-strong group to work with, highlighted by rookie running back Antonio Gibson, quarterback-turned-tight end Lance Thomas and budding superstar wide receiver Terry Clarín. Can ’t Win Super Bowl Even if Washington’s defense plays at an otherworldly level, it still might not be enough to mask the team’s weak offense.
The Football Team also will face an awfully tough challenge out of the gate Saturday when they host the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay is absolutely rolling entering the playoffs, and it seems as though Tom Brady finally has figured out the best way to utilize all of his weapons.
You don’t need NBC’s Steve Karachi or CNN’s John King to understand how the Washington Football Team can make the playoffs this week. The scenario is pretty straight forward: If the team beats the Carolina Panthers and the New York Giants lose to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, Washington will clinch a postseason spot for the first time since the 2015 season.
But if Washington loses to Carolina, the Giants beat the Ravens or some other variation? The first: If Washington beats the Eagles in Philadelphia, the team will clinch no matter what.
For that to happen, the Giants would need to lose their Week 17 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. But if the Giants beat the Cowboys in Week 17 and Philadelphia wins, then Washington will miss the playoffs.
Because the Eagles have a tie in their record, under this scenario, they could make the playoffs as long they beat Dallas in Week 16. The Giants could make the playoffs at 6-10 if the Eagles lose to the Cowboys on Sunday and if they beat Dallas in Week 17.
Putting that confidence aside, the Los Angeles Rams (9-5) would be the fifth seed if the season ended today. Other teams in the mix for that spot include the Seattle Seahawks (10-4) and even Chicago Bears (7-7).
The Packers have been due for another Super Bowl for quite some time, and they have a lot of factors on their side that could help. It boasts a strong passing and running game that has been a threat all year.
It’s hard to count a team out led by Rodgers, especially when the quarterback has been playing some of his best football and has a slew of weapons to help make the offense a tough one to beat. The red zone defense struggled for most of the year, but appeared to turn a corner in the last few games.
There’s no telling which defense will show up against their opponent (which is to be determined), but will it be able to withstand Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the Cinderella story that is Alex Smith and the Washington Football Team? PHOENIX -- Major League Baseball, fearing that the pandemic could create havoc with their scheduling once again, is proposing the return of seven-inning doubleheaders and extra-inning games beginning with a runner on second base, two persons with knowledge of their discussions told USA TODAY Sports.
The persons were unauthorized to publicly discuss MLB’s plan because of the ongoing negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association, which must approve the rule changes. Yet, the rules that were implemented for the first time in 2020 during the 60-game shortened season, designed primarily to limit the length of games during the pandemic, were widely embraced by the players, with MLB managers advocating for the rules to return.
“Change is abundant now,’’ Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin said last month, “in every walk of life. MLB has proposed implementing a universal DH in exchange for an expanded postseason -- which would generate additional revenue with the extra round of playoffs televised by ESPN -- but the two sides have been at a stalemate.
Most baseball executives still believe there will be a universal DH this season, but unless the union approves an expanded playoff field, it may not happen. MLB is seeking a 14-team playoff field -- two fewer teams than a year ago but four more than their format since 2012.
The truth is that most general managers and executives feel the same way, and even in NL traditional cities like St. Louis and Cincinnati, the DH met little opposition. “Both from a Mets standpoint and from a general baseball standpoint,’’ Mets president Sandy Anderson recently said in a conference call, “having a DH in the National League is a good thing.
“I just think for the overall quality of the game, the excitement level of the DH is the right thing in the National League.” Dodgers teammate Cody Bellinger says he thoroughly enjoyed the expanded postseason last year, but, of course, was biased by the final outcome.
“I feel like I speak for everybody when I say we just want to get back to playing baseball,’’ WashingtonNationals reliever Daniel Hudson said, “and we’ll figure out the small details as we go. First things first: The Nationals are still prioritizing the goal of winning the NL East, as Manager Dave Martinez and his players have emphasized in the last week.
The Nationals trail the division-leading Atlanta Braves by 5½ games, as they have for the better part of three months despite putting together the best 80-game stretch in franchise history (54-26). The Nationals chances of chipping away at the division late aren’t helped by the Braves’ schedule.
Atlanta has the fewest games remaining of the seven teams with a spot still at stake (27) and the third-easiest schedule, according to weighted opponent winning percentage (WOW). Still, the two teams will meet seven more times, three in Washington and four in Atlanta, and it remains possible for the Nationals to overtake the Braves.
The likeliest scenario for the Nationals is to claim one of the two NL wild card spots. Those also are hotly contested among six teams, including the Philadelphia Phillies (two games back of a wild card spot), the Milwaukee Brewers (3½), the New York Mets (4) and the Arizona Diamondbacks (4½).
Right now, the St. Louis Cardinals lead that division at 73-59, and the Chicago Cubs (71-61) occupy the second wild card spot. All six wild card contenders are in series with divisional opponents that, even if they don’t sweep or get swept, could still significantly alter their standing in the playoff race.
Pitchers and catchers are set to report in just under a month, while spring training games begin for the WashingtonNationals on February 27 against the Houston Astros. Eventually, it was clear the bubble method wasn’t going to be feasible in the same way that it was for the NBA and NHL during their respective playoffs.
Now, nearly a year removed from when sports leagues across the country began shuttering, many are optimistic about the prospect of sports returning in earnest, particularly because we’ve been seeing leagues function without a ton of hindrance, even though there have been hiccups. It’s also not been the normal circumstances we’ve come to understand surrounding sporting events.
While it’s unlikely we’ll see normalcy across sports this year, we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it seems. With the Nationals set to open up April 1 against the new-look New York Mets, the country will hopefully be on the heels of a projected spike in COVID-19 cases.
Even with that type of optimism, it’s hard to imagine that the District leaders will be allowing many fans, if any, into games. Situating fans in such a way that keeps them relatively safe seems like a doable proposition, though I suspect reluctance to do so will reign, at least for the first couple months.
But we do have a greater understanding of the virus than we did last year, and help is on the way, so it may be the case that Nationals Park reaches 25 percent capacity (or so) regularly with the proper logistical planning by stadium officials. Because many baseball teams so infrequently have packed houses, allowing for a limited capacity could largely have the effect of normalizing what we’re seeing.