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After reaching the playoffs every year from 2012 to 2016 - which included three NFC West division titles Trent Murphy Jersey Bills , two NFC Championship banners and a Super Bowl 48 victory - the Seattle Seahawks saw a changing of the guard in 2017.While the Seahawks limped to a 9-7 finish to miss the playoffs for the first time in six years, they saw the divisional rival Los Angeles Rams win 11 games and capture the NFC West crown.The Seahawks have since undergone massive changes to the roster, which hints that GM John Schneider is looking at a rebuild. Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman, star pass-rusher Michael Bennett, elite tight end Jimmy Graham and corner Jeremy Lane are all gone.In an interview with Cameron DaSilva of Rams Wire, L.A. running back Todd Gurley explained how much the Rams have enjoyed watching the Seahawks decimate their roster, as the next great NFC West power continues to build."Hey, you know we鈥檙e happy about it," said. :We have to take advantage of the situation while we can. Those guys have been beating up on us for a while now."While the Seahawks cut loose many of their key players, the Rams loaded up on more superstar talent in the offseason. They landed one of the league's premier wide receivers in Brandin Cooks, via a trade with the New England Patriots. L.A. also signed Pro Bowl defensive end Ndamukong Suh and traded for star cornerbacks, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. "It鈥檚 definitely time for us to come in and try to take over this division and try to be back-to-back champs. It鈥檚 not going to be easy. Everyone in your division knows you as well as you do, so we have to just come and try to take over that division."The Rams snapped a 13-year playoff drought this year, finally ending years of misery. It was only icing on the cake when their perennial division foes crumbled Authentic Jalyn Holmes Jersey , miss the playoffs and decided to restart.Barring any major surprises in 2018, the Rams should once again take home the NFC West crown - all while watching the perennial bullies, the Seahawks, try to rebuild after a letdown 2017 season.
TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors have spent a season creating franchise history, including a team-record 59 wins, in finishing first in the Eastern Conference for the first time.

They will be trying to overcome some of their history Saturday as they open their first-round playoff series with the Washington Wizards at the Air Canada Centre.

The Raptors are 1-12 all-time in the first game of a playoff series. Their only Game 1 victory came May 6, 2001, in in the Eastern Conference semi-finals at Philadelphia.

This will be the eighth time the Raptors have homecourt advantage to start a playoff series.

Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan is aware of that, but also said his team has been particularly good at home this season. At 34-7 at the ACC this season, the Raptors tied the Houston Rockets with the best home record in the league.

“We’ve been great at home all year,” DeRozan said. “It’s definitely something we took more pride in than ever and I think it showed. With that, we’ve got that confidence this time around more than ever. Like I said, it’s one of those moments to where we feel like when we are on our home floor, anything’s possible Sam Hubbard Color Rush Jersey , and our swag is at an all-time high.”

The Wizards (43-39) and the Raptors (59-23) split four games this season, but Washington guard John Wall missed all four meetings between the teams because of knee surgery.

In three regular-season games against the Raptors in 2016-17, Wall averaged 25 points, 10.3 assists and 5.7 rebounds.

“We haven’t played with John against them,” said Wizards guard Tomas Satoransky. “We’re not scared. We respect them. There’s some positive aspects from this season.”

“We’ve got John back,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal said. “There’s no excuse for us not to go out there and get the job done.”

“They’re a good team,” Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas said. “We’re not underestimating them, and we know it’s going to be hard playing against them. We know they are tough, physical playing team. We’re ready, we know how we’re going to play and we’re going to play well, play hard.”

The Wizards lost five of six games to end the regular season, including their finale against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. Although they struggled all season with under .500 teams, like the Magic, they defeated nine playoff-bound teams after the All-Star break.

“I’m more than excited Leighton Vander Esch Jersey Cowboys ,” Beal said. “This is where players are made and everybody’s trying to fight for the same goal. It’s always fun and it gets very interesting this time of the year.”

Wizards center Jason Smith suggested it might be better to face Toronto in the first round than the Philadelphia 76ers, who ended the regular season on a 16-game winning streak.

“We are looking forward to the matchup with Toronto,” Smith said. “I, personally, am a little relieved to not have to go against the hottest team in the league, Philly. That’s not a team we want to see. We don’t match up well with them. We might have split the season series, but they are the hottest team right now and they don’t have Joel Embiid and that’s a little scary.”

The Wizards swept the Raptors in four straight games in the playoffs in 2015.

“The guys that were here three years ago know what it was like to get swept,” DeRozan said. “It wasn’t a great feeling at all. You learn from your mistakes, you understand how to be better. To have another opportunity to compete with these guys again, it’s definitely going to be fun. It’s always one of those scrappy, competitive games, and it’s (the kind of) games you want to be part of. To have the opportunity against a great team in the Wizards, it should be fun.”

The Wizards finished eighth in the East, 16 games behind the Raptors.

“Just because they’re an eighth seed http://www.billsauthorizedshops.com/...johnson-jersey , we are not going to look at them like they’re an eighth seed, because we understand what this team is capable of,” DeRozan said. “That’s a great challenge, and for us, it’s a challenge that we are definitely looking forward to.”

Toronto has had one of the better benches in the NBA this season, but one of the keys to the reserves, guard Fred VanVleet, injured his shoulder in the loss to the Miami Heat Wednesday and likely will be a game-time decision.

Raptors guard Lorenzo Brown, who was on a two-way contract, has been signed to a standard NBA contract and is eligible to play in the playoffs.

Wizards forwards Otto Porter Jr. (mild calf strain) and Mike Scott (concussion protocol) are questionable for Game 1.

Wizards guard Jodie Meeks is out for the playoffs despite indications that he will appeal a 25-game suspension for violating the league anti-drug program.

Free-agent guard Ty Lawson has been signed by the Wizards and will be eligible for the postseason.
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