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How big of a motivating factor is getting the top seed in the AFC

Gronkowski: He’s a great player and a great player to have on the team. I’m not sure, that’s up to our defensive coordinator to scheme up. I’m on the offensive side of the ball, so I’m just worried about what’s going on on the offense and what I can do to help out.

Gronkowski: It’s a big game. To get that, we have to put a lot of work in. So we know it’s going to be a good game come Sunday, we have to put the work in, we have to keep preparing hard, and we have to be ready.

After UCF’s win over Auburn, outgoing coach Scott Frost said his team deserved a shot at the top four and said it took a conscious effort from the 13-member selection committee to keep the undefeated Knights out of its final top 10, which was released on Dec. 3.

It wasn’t right, said Frost, who is leaving UCF to be the coach at Nebraska, his alma mater. I was watching [the selection show] every week, the committee sitting in a room and deciding that this two-loss team must be better than UCF because UCF is in the American, or this three-loss team must be better than UCF.

It looked like a conscious effort to me to make sure that they didn’t have a problem if they put us too high and a couple teams ahead of us lost. And oh no, now we have to put them in a playoff? But we just beat [Auburn], that beat two playoff teams and lost to another one by six points, and we beat them by seven.

The Ravens clinch one of the AFC’s wild cards with a win or a tie against Cincinnati. They’re also in the playoffs if either Bills (at Miami) or Titans (vs. Jacksonville) lose or tie. The Chargers’ game (vs. Oakland), too, has a domino effect in the AFC, and since that game is on the West Coast, it has to be played in the later window. The NFL wants games like this played at the same time and that makes perfect sense.

Harbaugh, though, is concerned the new game time may result in less fans showing up at M&T Bank Stadium, largely because it may conflict with their plans to ring in the New Year.

And Gruden still has an affinity for coaching. As successful as he has been as an ESPN analyst, providing color commentary for Monday Night Football and helping create Gruden’s QB Camp annual specials, many around the league believed it was only a matter of time before he returned to coaching. More and more, it looks as if this is it.

Gruden recently has been calling assistant coaches around the league, trying to piece together a staff, though he has made calls in other years and never acted upon any of the opportunities that have come his way.

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NHL playoffs 2017: Capitals can’t shake curse as Penguins prevail in Game 7

There will be no redemption for the cursed Capitals.

In the seventh game, Washington was done in again by the scripture it came so desperately close to debunking. Marc-Andre Fleury’s 29 saves and myriad missed opportunities led to a 2-0 Penguins victory, the defending champs reaching the Eastern Conference finals for a second consecutive year after advancing through the nation’s capital.

After scoring a total of three goals through the first three games of the series, the Penguins offense, behind Sidney Crosby, netted three in two periods Friday. Crosby scored his sixth goal of the postseason and assisted on an another.

While the Penguins bucked their dismal scoring trends, the Senators’ scoreless play on power plays continued. Ottawa went 0 for 4 with a man-advantage Friday and is now 0 for 25 on the power play dating back to Game 2 against the Rangers.

Yet, it wasn’t all smiles for Pittsburgh, as its already thin roster saw another injury when defenseman Chad Ruhwedel exited late in the first period and never returned after taking elbow to the face on a controversial hit from Senators winger Bobby Ryan. Ruhwedel remained down on the ice in pain while a scrum ensued along the boards.

Western Conference finals: Predators at Ducks, Game 5, 7:15 p.m. ET, NBC (Series tied 2-2) Nashville center Ryan Johansen will miss the rest of the Stanley Cup playoffs after undergoing surgery on a left thigh injury, leaving the Preds without their leading scorer when they visit the Ducks needing two wins to make their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

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The goalie found himself under extreme pressure in the third period and overtime

That set up Perry’s heroics in overtime. Anaheim outshot the Predators 6-3 in the extra period. Had the Ducks blown this game and gone down 3-1, the series would be all but over. Instead, with Game 5 in Anaheim, and Game 7 there if necessary, the Ducks hold the advantage.

3. Filip Forsberg, Predators The center continued his postseason heroics. After scoring the game-tying goal in Game 3, he did it again in Game 4, tying the score at 2 with 36 seconds remaining in regulation. He also shrewdly screened Ducks’ goalie John Gibson on P.K. Subban’s goal a few minutes earlier. He now has seven goals and 12 points in the playoffs.

2. John Gibson, Ducks The goalie found himself under extreme pressure in the third period and overtime at one time facing a long 5-on-3 power play but he stepped up to the challenge, with 32 saves.

1. Corey Perry, Ducks His game-winning shot came from an odd angle, and deflected off P.K. Subban’s stick, but it counts just like a long-range slapshot. Perry now has three game-winning overtime goals in the playoffs.

Markov said he initially sought a two-year contract, but was open to signing a one-year deal, too. The Canadiens, though, did not share Markov’s strong desire to maintain the working relationship.

I’ve always been treated well here, I’m proud to have been a Canadian for 16 years, offered Markov, who grappled with his emotions during his conversation with the media Thursday. I’m sad…but I respect their decision and now I move forward.

Markov, who is sitting on 990 games played in his sturdy career, recorded 30 or more points in each of the past five seasons, and 11 times overall with the Canadiens. He notched 50 points in 2014-15 and reached a career-high 64 in 2008-09.

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