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Wizards Making Magic at Verizon

Most Wizards fans will agree that the start to the season which included an abnormally long losing streak of 12 losses, is normal for this franchise regardless of any improvements made during the regular season.  Getting into the postseason has been a rare thing for the franchise as well in recent years.  Even during the playoff runs of the Arenas, Butler, and Jamison era it seemed that those teams were destined for inferiority.  However more recently, the Wizards have been able to string some wins together and are slowly improving and are showing the true promise of a young team.

Sure I might be short-sighted by the 13 wins and 35 losses on their overall record and maybe their way-less-than-stellar 3-21 road record is a huge indicator of how terrible the franchise is currently.  After looking at the roster and coaches one could say this team is where they deserve to be, however, that is the job of the general manager.  Ultimately, the job of the general manager is to ensure the players are performing in a system conducive to create a winner out of young and interchangeable veterans.  Sometimes it seems as if the Wizards are making some progress, this is a long and challenging road in the NBA.

Encouraging are the signs of improved performance at home against elite teams.  The Verizon Center has been home to some terrible Wizards teams over the years and some average at best.  This year’s team has played 24 games at Verizon and while they only have won 10 of those games nothing seems more promising than the improvement the team has made.  With recent wins against the Knicks, Clippers, Thunder, Magic and the Bulls who knows what is in store for the 2014 Wizards.  Even though it is a little bit encouraging it is better than what the fans of this franchise have endured following the Arenas drama of a few years ago.

Who knows maybe next year with a fully healthy offseason of prep for John Wall and Bradley Beal the Wizards could be impressive?  Retaining Randy Wittman could be the key but also for once maybe Ernie Grunfeld’s plan for the Wizards and the future of professional basketball in the District will be validated.

Time will tell.

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National Signing Day

The Lombardi trophy has been hoisted by the Baltimore Ravens and Monday marked the first day of the NFL off season.  There is no time to rest for NFL scouts, coaches, and other team personnel.  This is the time of year where scouts and player personnel groups for the pros are busy mining data, observing college players, and evaluating high school prospects as they take their first step into the national spotlight on National Signing Day.

The country’s top prospect, not a DC high school football prospect, Robert Nkemdiche, will take his talents to Ole Miss.  Ole Miss not only got the top prospect but also the top offensive lineman and defensive back in the country.  Ole Miss has not seen this type of talent for its college program since Eli Manning played their from 2001 to 2004.

Locally, the Virginia Tech Hokies have been one of the top ACC programs selecting some of the top prospects from Maryland, Virginia, and parts of North Carolina.  Most notably the Hokies pulled Kendall Fuller of Good Counsel who is one of the top defensive backs locally.  The Maryland Terrapins also have played a big role today selecting who is arguably the best prospect in the DC area, Yannick Ngakoue.  Both programs should benefit tremendously from the commitments these and many other young men are making today.

DC Sports Guys 2013 Power Rankings

The Redskins season is over and the Nationals season is set to start in just a couple months.  The Capitals just set off on a lockout-shortened season and the Wizards are building momentum for the remainder of the season.  How these teams move forward will help resonate in their overall success.  Now for power rankings of the top 4 teams.

#4 – 

Washington Wizards 

After stumbling out of the gate and mostly due to notable injuries to Nene and John Wall. The Wizards have roared back in the last 7 games and are 9-30 after starting the season out just 4-28.  The Wizards have gained a lot from the improved play of John Wall in his 3rd season as a Wizard.  However, the duration of this winning streak remains to be seen.  The history of a team that has been historically bad is ever present.  Although, with a healthy John Wall and a seemingly positive attitude the Wizards have been unstoppable recently.

#3

Washington Capitals – Even though they have been a robust 0-2 in the early part of this lockout-shortened season have all the talent and competitiveness to rise above their current place in the Southeast Standings.  Unfortunately they have been mired by inconsistent goalie play early in the NHL season as Holtby has given up 11 goals in the Capitals first 2 games.  However, do not expect Oates to keep Neuvirth caged up for too long.  If the Capitals can not out shoot their opponents then we may see a return to Neuvirth for the remainder of the season.

#2 – 

Washington Redskins 

After starting out 3-6 and out of the conversation of the playoff race.  The Redskins willed their way to a 7 game winning streak, the NFC East division title, and their 1st home playoff game since the 1999 season.  The injury caused to Robert Griffin III may be the most critical ingredient for future success of the organization.  Should Robert Griffin III return after a successful surgery and the Redskins get off lucky, fans should hope that the Shanahan’s take a smarter approach to handling Roberts capacities on the field.  If Robert does not return to a healthy form, expect an altered offense to the capacities of Kirk Cousins, the Redskins backup.  It should be noted that this is not Robert’s first go with an ACL injury as he suffered one in 2009 at Baylor.  The bigger question remains can Mike and Kyle successfully orchestrate an offense in the off season tailored to this situation, we will see.

And the #1 team…

Washington Nationals 

Even though we are just still weeks away from having pitchers and catchers report for MLB Spring Training, the Nationals go into the season with a healthy roster and come off an NL East dominating season.  Even though the Nats traded Michael Morse, a huge ingredient for the Nationals offensive successes in each of the last 4 seasons  the Nationals were able to bring in 2 pitching prospects as part of the deal to send him back to Seattle.  The other part of the Nationals off season story was the signing of Rafael Soriano, re-signing of Adam LaRoche and the trade that landed Denard Span in the Nationals outfield.  All of these ingredients will be essential to the success for the Nationals in 2013.

Recap

Wizards – While it is still fathomable that the Wizards could make a playoff run it is quite possible to remain skeptical about the future.  Ernie Grunfeld as a GM is still part of the Wizards franchise and they have yet to see a pay-off for it besides the current successes that the team has produced.  Grunfeld’s record as a GM is now a paltry 293-468.

Capitals – The season is still young, but Oates may have to make a change quicker than anticipated if Holtby continues to give up goals like an undeveloped youth soccer player.  It should also be noted the Capitals have been out shot 73-64 in these 2 losses.  The Capitals have the potential to play much better and notably so after beating the Rangers in the NHL playoffs last year.  They must return to their standard season dominating form in order to make a real push for the Stanley Cup.

Redskins – An NFC East title, a home playoff game, and an incredibly talented and gifted pair of rookie quarterback and running back and Redskins have not felt such euphoria since 2005 when the Redskins ended the season with a six game winning streak and beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

Nationals – Nationals are thinking big as they won the NL East for the first time and made Nationals Park the place to be in October.  They also spent the entire off season revamping the roster and tweaking it to help Davey Johnson go out on a high note after this season.  With a healthy Strasburg and Harper set to play in their first full seasons, expect the Nationals to be the number one franchise in D.C. for years to come.

Expectations often super cede actual results but DC was a sports Meccah in 2012.  Will 2013 bring the same?

The Beginning of an Oat(es) Era

With the beginning of a new era, for professional head coaches for DC sports franchises set to take place tonight in Tampa Bay against the Lightning, Adam Oates is the man with the key to the city.  The same day that Oates was given the key to the city of the town’s most successful franchise of recent years; was the same day that Oates was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.  So now Capitals fans are hoping of the same successes off the ice as Oates had on the ice.  Symbolically, it is an era of a player that was so dominant on the ice and now he will be able to put his coaching efforts to the test and maybe one day be included as a Hockey Hall of Fame Head Coach.

In the meantime, the Capitals will take on the Tampa Bay Lightning to start the NHL 2013 lockout-shortened season.  The Capitals have been instrumental in their offeseson preparations and as their General Manager George McPhee has alluded to the team is looking forward to having a complete team ready to make a Stanley Cup run.  The key to the season though is how the players and their coach engage each other to win on the ice to make that trip to the playoffs and, hopefully for Capitals fans, to the Stanley Cup.

The team is once again stacked with budding stars and role players alike.  The return of Ovechkin in a more prominent role and a healthy Backstrom makes a formidable 1-2 punch for the Caps.  Role players like Mike Green, Brooks Laich, Troy Brouwer, Tom Poti, and Mike Ribiero, and the goal tending tandem of Neuvirth and Holtby should bring some excitement for Capitals fans once again this year.

The excitement of the game and the importance of the league in the North American professional sports landscape returns tonight.  The Capitals start a new era with a familiar face at head coach, one head coach that is set to begin a Hall Of Fame era in coaching as he did as a player.

NFL Off-Season Observations Part I

So if you are a fan for a team not named the Ravens, 49ers, Patriots, or Falcons you may be more interested in the remaining NFL playoff games.  However for most NFL fans the observation that it is going to be another long NFL offseason may be true for  most of the NFL fans that use the internet for NFL-information seeking knowledge.

So far it has been an interesting one per ESPN.com it has just been reported that Chip Kelly is to become the new head coach in Philadelphia, while the former Eagles coach, Andy Reid, was hired last week by the Kansas City Chiefs.  So far this off-season there has been 8 head coach firings and 6 hirings.  It should also be noted that in 2013 to this point there has been 6 with offensive head coaching background.  So should fans expect more offensive teams in the next year?  Fans can expect this to be of the many NFL story lines heading into the 2013 NFL season.

As for the local DC hometown team many observers of the Redskins can say that at the least after a typical 3-6 start to the season the 10-6 end to the season may have been the best thing to happen to DC football since the return of Joe Gibbs in 2004.  Mike Shanahan and his son Kyle, the teams offensive coordinator were able to bring relevant December football, an NFC East title, and playoff football back to Fedex Field.

For all of the great that they accomplished the final rankings for the Redskins offense for 2012 was best represented as the number one rushing offense with a dominating rushing performance by the rookies including quarterback Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris.  The Redskins finished 5th in yards per game (383.2), 4th in points (436), and 3rd in TO differential (+17).

With 2 head coaching vacancies remaining and plethora of great head coaches left to be selected there will no doubt be a monstrosity of drama left to be uncovered. Of course NFL fans still get the Pro Bowl in January, Super Bowl in New Orleans and the Under Armour Senior Bowl and Combine during February, Pro Days in March, the NFL draft in April, OTA’s in May, mini camps in June, training camps in July, and preseason in August and September.  Nevertheless, there will be much to do as normal for NFL fans until the regular season resumes.

NFC Wild Card Preview: Seahawks Preview

Usually this blog devotes its space to promoting the stats for local D.C. sports teams.  This weekend’s playoff matchup pairs 2 staunch NFC playoff rivals that have not met since 2007 following the Sean Taylor tragedy and 35-14 Redskins defeat in the Wild Card round.  This page will effectively communicate the strengths of the Redskins opponent for this weekend’s NFC Wild Card playoff matchup, the Seattle Seahawks.  There have been Redskins fans and DC media outlets already crowning the Redskins the victors for this critical Wild Card matchup.  However, the DCSportsGuy would like to inform you of who the Seattle Seahawks are and what they bring.  Without further adieu…

Who Are They?

The Seahawks are an defensive juggernaut but their offense has produced good results for them continually every game this may be best exampled by the play of their rookie quarterback sensation Russell Wilson.  RW3 as he is referred to has had an outstanding rookie campaign he has passed for 3,118 yards with a 64.1 completion percentage, 26 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and has a overall QB rating of 100.0.  Some would say he should definitely be in the argument for rookies of the year.  In one season, Wilson has been able to turn the quarterback-less Seahawks of a year ago into a NFC playoff contender.  Not only have one of the best rookie quarterbacks of the season in Russell Wilson they also have one of the leagues leading rushers in Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch.  Lynch has been able to compile 315 rushes this season during 16 games and nearly 1,600 yards with 11 eleven touchdowns and 9-20+ yard runs.  The wide receivers have played big time this year as Golden Tate and Sidney Rice have been catching everything from Wilson they have combined for 95 catches, 1468 yards, and 14 touchdowns.  Tight end Zac Miller who you may remember as an Oakland Raider has been a reliable target for Wilson as well.  It does not where you seek to isolate the Seahawks offense it is about stopping them before they can roll up points on you.

On defense everyone has been talking about the play of the secondary.  The secondary may be one of the most important units to the ‘Hawks that is because both corners are anchored by corners that are 6’3″ and above Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner while being subjected to some disciplinary action during the regular season the two are expected to return to counter a potent Redskins offensive attack.  The safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are also a dual threat for the ‘Hawks.  The defensive line is one of the best in the NFL including names like Red Bryant, Alan Branch, Brandon Mebane, and Chris Clemons.  Leroy Hill is a veteran linebacker who Redskins fans should expect to stay on his feet against a mobile Griffin III and Morris.

Pete Carroll is the brain behind the operations as an NFL head coach he has coached the Seahawks to the divisional round once before in his coaching career with Seattle.  The coach has a career 2-3 record in the postseason and is 58-54 in the regular season.  Carroll is expected to also be in the conversation of coach of the year at the end of the NFL postseason.

By the Numbers

The Seahawks (11-5) have been better than advertised during the NFL regular season.  Don’t tell that to any Seahawks fan because not only have the Seahawks been winning they have been winning BIG.  In the final 4 weeks of the regular season the team has amassed 170 points and only given up 40 points.  These are not your father’s Seahawks this team seems to play with a chip on its shoulder.  In doing so, the Seahawks have been able to climb the NFL rankings.  Currently, the Seahawks rank 3rd in rushing yards per game, 9th in points per game and total points, 12th in 3rd down percentage, and 4th in time of possession.  Not bad for the NFC West runner-up.

If you aren’t impressed by those numbers you should see the numbers made by their defense and special teams.  The Seahawks are ranked 1st in total points per game (15.3) and total points (245), 4th in total yards per game (306.2), and 3rd in time on field (28:38).  There is no doubt about the special teams either the kicker, Steven Hauschka, is 23/23 from 49 and Red Bryant who has been tenacious at blocking kicks throughout his career blocked another kick last week against the Rams.

What to Expect

The Seattle Seahawks have had a sub-par road record during the season finishing 3-5.  However, most NFL fans would say you can throw the regular season records out of the book.  Now that the Seahawks and Redskins are playing in a one game season you can expect anything to happen.  After reviewing the film, expect Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch be tough to stop and Sidney Rice and his size to attempt to torch the Redskins corner backs.  This 11-5 Seahawks team has one mission in mind and that is to return to the Super Bowl and finally bring a Lombardi back to upper northwest of the country.  Expect a punishing defensive performance and special teams that could end up blocking a few kicks.   Do not expect these Seahawks to leave Fedex Sunday without imposing its will.  Expect the unexpected.

Stats:  NFL.com Team page

NFL Week 13: Giants @ Redskins: MNF Edition

One team has spent the last few December’s getting ready for the playoffs and the other team spends it getting ready to prepare for another long off-season.  One team normally continues play into February and the other team spends time watching the other team playing into February.  While both teams are seemingly stuck in the same trends it should be noted that this might be one of the best games on Monday night all season long.  Both teams are preparing their respective push towards the NFL playoffs or not.

One thing that Giants and Redskins fans can both attest to is the importance of this one game on the outcomes of their respective seasons.  The Giants come in to Fedex Field on Monday night with a (7-4) record and the opportunity to take Washington out of the divisional race.  The Redskins  have a (5-6) record and are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007, the Redskins would love to win this game to remain in the NFC East divisional race.

History:

The Redskins and Giants have a head-to-head matchup that goes all the way back to 1932, the Giants own the series lead at 93-64-4.  The Redskins and Giants will play their 162nd game in the rivalry and as noted by the Redskins Blog, this will be the 160th regular season match-up.  The following 3 areas should be of most concern for Redskins and Giants fans.

Keys to the Game:

RGIII v. Giants Secondary-

After coming off a career passing day against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, Robert Griffin III needs to have a repeat performance on Monday Night Football in order to maintain the dominance he has exhibited in the last two weeks against divisional opponents.  It should also be noted that in these two divisional games Robert has been 33 of 42 for 504 yards with a comp. percentage of 81.2% and 8 passing TD’s.  The Giants secondary limited Aaron Rodgers to 14 of 25 for 219 yards with only 1 passing TD and an interception.  There is no doubt that Akumara, Webster, Phillips, and Rolle will be trying to shut down RGIII and Washington’s pass game.  The Giant’s defensive unit is ranked 25th overall in yards allowed per game giving up 252.6 yards per game.  Expect the Redskins to keep the Giants defense off-balance with their multi-faceted offensive attack with RGIII.

Eli v. Redskins Secondary –

Eli has been at times brilliant as he was in the Redskins and Giants week 7 match up.  Coming through in the final two minutes with a bomb to Victor Cruz in the waning moments of the game.  Eli is all too familiar with how to beat the Redskins defense and exhibited in that week 7 match up.  Since then Eli has completed 70 of 129 passes for 681 yards with a comp. percentage of 52.4% and 3 passing TD’s. The Redskins secondary ranked 31st in the league against the pass will need to find a way to play 60 minutes to shut down Eli, Nicks, Cruz, and Bennett as Eli has carved up the Redskins defense in the pass.

Forcing Turnovers and Penalties –

Washington has been abysmal this season when it comes to going “unflagged”.  With 93 penalties this year, the Redskins are 31st in the league in penalties and need improvement to keep up with the Giants who are 2nd in the league with only 48 penalties.  Forcing turnovers is always the big question the Redskins have a +12 turnover differential and the Giants have +13.  Needless, to say the team that forces the most turnovers on Monday could be a deciding factor in the game.

Final Thoughts –

After further analysis this game will clearly decide the paths for both teams moving forward in the 2012 season.  Expect an electric atmosphere at Fedex Field for Monday night if you are going.  Take my advice and get there early if you are attending, because it is going to be a show between these two franchises.  The game starts at 8:30 PM and will be shown on ESPN.