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CHICAGO -- While a bunch of teams are fighting for playoff spots all over baseball, the Chicago Cubs are feeling their way through rare territory.The Cubs clinched the NL Central title a full three weeks before their first playoff game, giving the organization plenty of time to rest players and analyze possible postseason opponents, but also making for a tricky stretch when it comes to staying sharp when there isnt as much at stake.After the Cubs dropped three of four against the Brewers last weekend, manager Joe Maddon met with his hitters before Monday nights 5-2 victory over Cincinnati and talked to them about making the most of the final part of the season.Its unusual being in this position like we are right now, Maddon said after the meeting. So youve got two weeks of baseball, major league baseball, left in September, so lets work on some stuff. Lets work on things that we need to work on individually or as a group. Like I said, not unlike a spring training situation, while within the context were just going out there playing the same game, were trying to win this game.The Cubs win over the Reds and the Nationals loss at Miami made it a seven-game lead for Chicago over Washington in the race for home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs. The Mets, Cardinals and Giants are fighting for the two wild cards, making one of them the likely division series opponent for Maddon & Co.I probably will watch Washington more than anything right now, Maddon said. Thats the one that were shooting for, is to have the best record.While the wild cards likely will go down to the final few days of the season, the Cubs will have organizational meetings Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss possible playoff matchups and how they might line up for each series. They have scouts watching each potential postseason opponent.Each team presents its own set of challenges and might have roster implications one way or another, too, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said.The Cubs also are planning for their four-day break between the end of the regular season and their playoff opener on Oct. 7, which Maddon also covered in his meeting with the hitters.Thats a long time, so we have to really get our minds right over the next couple, three weeks to really be prepared properly for that first game, Maddon said, and I wanted it to start today.Epstein said the Cubs are considering having a simulated game during the four-day break before Game 1 of the Division Series, providing a chance for the starters and relievers to get some work in and for the hitters to see live pitching.The 42-year-old Epstein has never been in a situation like this before, with the team clinching so early, but said he likes it compared to the alternative.I think its what you make of it, he said. To me, its a lot better than having to push your guys extra hard and put more innings on guys arms and not giving them enough rest and then maybe waking up and being worn down.Chicago had to wait until Sept. 25 to clinch its 2015 wild card, and then made it all the way to the NL Championship Series before it was swept by New York.The early clinch also allows the Cubs to go as slow as they want with any players with health issues. Maddon said outfielder Jorge Soler, who left Fridays 5-4 victory over the Brewers with tightness on his right side, could be available to pinch hit on Tuesday. Key reliever Pedro Strop, who is coming back from knee and groin injuries, is on track to pitch in a simulated game soon.---Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenapThrowback Redskins Jerseys . Hargreaves began his career in 2008 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and has played with the Edmonton Eskimos and last season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Greg Stroman Stitched Jersey . 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They are the composite power ratings of Bruce Marshalls The Gold Sheet, Phil Steele and ESPNs Football Power Index (FPI).Alabama has been No. 1 every week thus far, and that has not changed. Its lead over Ohio State, which was down to 0.2 points two weeks ago, has since increased to 3.5 points as the Crimson Tide keeps dominating their competition.Note: All futures odds courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.1. Alabama Crimson Tide?(Rating: 64.0; LLast week: No.dddddddddddd 1)Alabamas odds to win the College Football Playoff have improved to 2-1, making the Crimson Tide the outright favorite to win it all. They covered a 13.5-point spread over a top-10 team last week against Tennessee. This week, they are a 17-point favorite over No. 6 Texas A&M, the largest any team has been favored over a top-10 team since 2013 when No. 3 Florida State was a 21.5-point favorite over No. 7 Miami. 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