NFC East: What you need to know

NFC East: What you need to know

New York Giants (9-7, 394 Points For, won Super Bowl): Eli Manning's pass attempts have risen for three straight years and he's coming off an 8.4 YPA, best of his career. Forget balance in New York, this is Manning's team now, a pass-first scheme. Hakeem Nicks is recovering quickly from his foot injury - don't worry about picking him in the Top 3-4 rounds - and Victor Cruz looks capable of playing outside the formation as well as he does in the slot. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw is one of the toughest backs in the league, but the laundry list of injuries will take a tax eventually. The Giants selected RB David Wilson in the first round, looking to give Bradshaw a caddy. Holdover D.J. Ware has some skills, too. Bottom line, when you look at Big Blue for fantasy purposes, focus on the passing game. Manning, Nicks and Cruz have been surprisingly affordable in most standard leagues this month.

Philadelphia Eagles (8-8, 396 PF): The Eagles looked like a sneaky breakout pick a couple of months ago, given that they won their last four games last year and don't have gigantic public pressure entering 2012. But if Michael Vick's thumb and rib injuries aren't fully healed by opening day, all bets are off. Vick only scored one rushing touchdown last year after nine the previous campaign; split the difference and you still get a nice fantasy kickback. But expecting a full season from him is a fool's errand; he's done it once in nine pro seasons. LeSean McCoy is an elite running back and worthy of a Top 3 overall pick, though his best game comes as a counter-punch to Vick (scrambling quarterbacks create wide defenses and rushing lanes). Jeremy Maclin is the receiver you want in Philly, more reliable than explosive-but-combustible DeSean Jackson.

Dallas Cowboys (8-8, 369 PF): Under most circumstances we'd be on board with Tony Romo, but everything on this offense seems to be crumbling around him. Jason Witten has a spleen injury (push him out of the Top 10 at tight end), Miles Austin's hamstrings are barking, and Dez Bryant has been a high-maintenance act his entire career. The Dallas offensive line also looks like a hot mess, which limits the buzz for second-year back DeMarco Murray. The Pokes have finally moved on from Felix Jones; he's a secondary piece at most, and isn't even guaranteed to make the team. The Cowboys fantasy defense has some sleeper value, given the presence of sack-master DeMarco Ware.

Washington Redskins (5-11, 288 PF): Ah, the poor Redskins. Even when they do something right, it turns into a rocky road. Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin certainly appears ready to play right away, though Kirk Cousins is also showing a strong camp and has his supporters as well. The money invested in Griffin will secure him the gig, and it's the right choice; don't look for a Cam Newton breakout, but he can be a Top 12-15 fantasy QB right away. The receiving group is surprisingly deep, with Pierre Garcon coming over to team with experienced Santana Moss and intriguing Leonard Hankerson. Tight end Fred Davis is an intermediate threat as well. But forget the backfield, where Mike Shanahan can't be trusted (and several options loom). Roy Helu still looks like the best talent of the lot, but the club seems taken by Evan Royster right now, and Alfred Morris and Tim Hightower complicate the situation.

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Nationals clinch home field advantage vs. Dodgers in NL Division Series

Nationals clinch home field advantage vs. Dodgers in NL Division Series

The Nationals will begin their 2016 playoff run at home with the Los Angeles Dodgers coming to town for Game 1 on Friday, Oct. 7. That's thanks to a Dodgers loss to the Giants on Saturday, ensuring they cannot finish with the same record as the Nats, and therefore earn home field by way of their regular season head-to-head series tiebreaker.

The Nationals will host the Dodgers with quite the pitching matchup in store for Game 1. Former Cy Young winners Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw will kick things off. The starting time for Game 1 has not been released.

Home field advantage also means the Dodgers will have to return to Washington for a Game 5, if the series goes that far. 

Here is how the schedule will break down for the NL Division Series:

Fri., Oct. 7 - Game 1 - Washington, D.C. (Scherzer vs. Kershaw)
Sat., Oct. 8 - Game 2 - Washington, D.C. (TBA vs. Hill)
Mon., Oct. 10 - Game 3 - Los Angeles, CA (TBA vs. Maeda)
Tue., Oct. 11 - Game 4 - Los Angeles, CA* (TBA vs. TBA)
Thu., Oct. 13 - Game 5 - Washington, D.C.* (TBA vs. TBA)


[RELATED: Dusty Baker already preparing Nats rookies for pressure of playoffs]


Virginia forces 6 turnovers in 34-20 win over Duke

Virginia forces 6 turnovers in 34-20 win over Duke

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- Virginia has much less in the playbook -- and is doing so much more.

With a defensive game plan that first-year coach Bronco Mendenhall called "the simplest plan we had yet," the Cavaliers intercepted five passes and forced six turnovers in a 34-20 victory over Duke on Saturday.

The five interceptions tied the program record, last accomplished against Miami in 2010.

"The execution, it matches the current level of our players' understanding of the playbook," Mendenhall said. "I'm still getting to learn them. They're still getting to know me."

Kurt Benkert threw for 336 yards and three touchdowns, finishing 23 of 41 with touchdowns covering 28 yards to David Eldridge, 12 yards to Olamide Zaccheaus and 3 yards to Richard Burney.

Albert Reid also had a short TD run to help the Cavaliers (2-3, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) snap their 17-game road losing streak.

"The execution appears, I think, to all of us to be improving, and the culture as we all know, was the emphasis to begin," Mendenhall said. "It's starting. ... But it's fun to see the players happy. It's fun to see the players see that it's coming."

Joseph Ajeigbe's 4-yard touchdown run with 11:34 left pulled Duke to 27-20, and the Blue Devils had the ball inside Virginia territory twice after that but were stopped on downs both times.

Daniel Jones threw five interceptions for Duke (2-3, 0-2), and fumbled in his own end zone with 4:24 left after a hard hit from Jordan Mack. Eli Hamback recovered for the touchdown that put the Cavaliers back up by two touchdowns.


Virginia: These Cavaliers looked nothing like the crew that was routed by Richmond in the opener, made Mendenhall a winner in his first ACC game and earned their first road win since a 2012 rout at North Carolina State.

"Richmond doesn't even feel like this year," Mendenhall said.

This time, they did it with defense. After failing to force a turnover in its first two games, Virginia now has nine takeaways in the last three weeks. Juan Thornhill and Bryce Hall had two interceptions apiece.

Duke: The Blue Devils pretty much squandered whatever goodwill they generated by beating Notre Dame last week, largely because they couldn't take care of the ball. Jones, who threw three interceptions in his first four games, surpassed that total by throwing four of them in 20 minutes of the first half.

Coach David Cutcliffe bristled at a reporter who asked if he'd considered replacing Jones with backup Parker Boehme, saying that "if I would have considered it, I would have done it, OK?"

With this loss, it's fair to wonder if Duke -- which still faces road games at No. 3 Louisville, No. 14 Miami and Pittsburgh -- will find the four more wins it needs to qualify for its fifth straight bowl game.


Duke trailed by a touchdown with 98 yards to go and less than 5 minutes to play. It set up a possible Joe Montana-type moment for Jones, who was looking to atone for the four interceptions he'd thrown at that point. Scanning to his left for a receiver, he never saw Mack flying in from the right side. Mack leveled him and knocked the ball free, and Hamback pounced on it for the touchdown that sealed it, and Jones threw his fifth interception on the Duke possession that followed.


Benkert has thrown for 757 yards and eight touchdowns in his last two games. The East Carolina transfer set the program record with 421 yards against Central Michigan , and was on pace to break that mark before the Cavaliers slowed things down in the fourth quarter. "He's a throw-first guy," Mendenhall said, "and I think he's good at it."


Virginia: It's all ACC opponents remaining for the Cavaliers, who have an idle weekend before playing host to Pittsburgh on Oct. 15.

Duke: The Blue Devils step back out of league play to host Army, but then they have only six days to get ready for a Friday night visit to Louisville on Oct. 14.