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For over 25 years, Bob Matthews has held the title of Rochester's most popular sports writer/commentator. For over 20 years, Bob has hosted WHAM's nightly sports talk program...consistently ranked at the top of his time slot!
From 1978 to 2012, Bob Matthews was a sports columnist for the Times-Union and Democrat and Chronicle and a regular "As the Sports World Turns" contributor to the Gannett News Service. He is the only person to be selected Press-Radio Club Sportswriter of the Year (five times) and Sportscaster of the Year, and was a pioneer inductee into the Frontier Field Walk of Fame.
A Rochester native, Bob graduated from Brighton High School where he played varsity baseball, basketball and served as student council V-P. Bob is also a veteran, serving his country in Vietnam.
Always opinionated and outspoken, Bob's proudest accomplishment is advocating for Frontier Field. His all-time favorite athlete...former Red Wing Luke Easter. One of his sports regrets……not being around for the glory year of the Rochester Royals.
“BEST BET” BENGALS (-7) HAVE MORE AMMO THAN BROWNS
YANKEES VS. ORIOLES AN EPIC BATTLE
The NFL’s “Battle of Ohio” has been lopsided lately, with Cincinnati winning 12 of the last 15 games against Cleveland, including 6 of the last 7. The Bengals are 7-1 against the Las Vegas point spread (ATS) in the last eight home games in the series.
The Browns have a respectable defense but Cincinnati has a big edge on offense. Cleveland rookies quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson almost have to perform better on Sunday than they did in last week’s 17-16 home loss to Philadelphia, but not well enough to outscore the Bengals.
This week’s “Best Bet: CINCINNATI (-7) 27, Cleveland 10.
Sunday’s other games
(home teams in CAPS)
Kansas City 33, BUFFALO (-3) 24 – Both teams are coming off embarrassing Week 1 losses. I believe the Chief have slightly more talent overall and have the revenge factor in their favor after losing 41-7 at home to the Bills in last year’s opening game.
NEW YORK GIANTS (-7 1/2) 28, Tampa Bay 17 – The Giants figure to be ready to play coming off a season-opening 24-17 home loss to visiting Dallas. The Buccaneers upset Carolina last week but aren’t likely to start the season 2-0….WARNING: The Giants are 3-5-1 ATS in their last 9 home games.
NEW ENGLAND (-13 ½) 38, Arizona New Orleans 14 – That’s a lot of points to spot in Week 2 of a season. But the Patriots are a lot of football team. Kevin Kolb rescued the Cardinals last week in a home win over Seattle. When was the last time Kolb was a hero two games in a row?
CAROLINA (+2 ½) 27 – This figures to be an entertaining air show. The Saints have won the last four meetings by a combined 125-61 and I can’t see Drew Brees starting the season 0-2…New Orleans is 17-8 straight up in its last 25 road games. The Panthers are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 home games against the Saints.
Minnesota 24, INDIANAPOLIS (+1 ½) 17 – I’m taking the team with veteran star running back (Adrian Peterson) over the team with the rookie future superstar quarterback (Andrew Luck)…WARNING: The Vikings are 4-16 straight up in their last 20 road games.
Baltimore 27, PHILADELPHIA 18 (-2 ½) – The Eagles will put up some awesome offensive numbers many times this season, but they aren’t likely to light up the rugged Ravens. Philadelphia is 3-6 ATS in its last 9 home games and 1-4-1 ATS in the last 6 games against Baltimore.
Oakland 24, MIAMI (+2 ½) 17 – The Raiders aren’t very good but the Dolphins are worse. Oakland QB Carson Palmer might be fading but he’s better than rookie Ryan Tannehill at this stage of their careers...WARNING: Miami has a history of playing well against the Raiders: 11-3 in the last 14 meetings since 1992, including 2-0 by a combined 67-31 in the past two seasons.
Houston 35, JACKSONVILLE (+7) 13 – The Texans are loaded and a legitimate Super Bowl threat. The Jaguars have Maurice Jones-Drew and might win four games this season.
Dallas 27, SEATTLE (+3) 17 – If the Cowboys really have significantly improved, they won’t come off their impressive season-opening road victory over the Giants and lose a game they should win. A loss to the Seahawks would suggest that Dallas fans could be in for another disappointing season.
ST. LOUIS (+3) 28, Washington 24 – Quarterback Sam Bradford and his Rams are improving and the Redskins and rookie QB Robert Griffin III could be ripe for a letdown after last week’s surprising road win in New Orleans…WARNING: Washington is 13-6 straight up in the last 19 meetings.
PITTSBURGH (-5 ½) 23, New York Jets 20 – The Steelers figure to win their home opener coming off a loss in Denver but the Jets can hang in there all the way. Pittsburgh is 11-1 in its last 12 home games.
SAN DIEGO (-6) 27, Tennessee 14 – The Chargers have a golden chance to start a season 2-0 for a change. One of these weeks, Titans running back Chris Johnson is going to return to form with a 200-yard rushing game. “Best Bets” hopes it won’t happen on Sunday…San Diego has won the last 8 meetings by a combined 182-96 and is 16-6 straight up in its last 22 home games.
SAN FRANCISCO (-6 ½) 30, Detroit 13 – The 49ers have the pass rush to frustrate QB Matthew Stafford and enough offense to hang up 30 on the defensively-challenged Lions. ..The 49ers are 9-2-2 ATS in the last 13 meetings.
Monday night’s game
ATLANTA (-3) 27, Denver 20 – The Falcons are a sorry 9-24 on Monday Night Football but that won’t mean anything in this matchup. Atlanta has one of the NFL’s most dynamic offenses and figures to show it off in the Georgia Dome in their home opener.
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 9-7 picking winning teams outright…7-9 picking winners against the point spreads…The “Best Bet,” Buffalo getting 3 points from the host New York Jets, lost 48-28, and it could’ve been worse.
TERRIFIC BATTLE FOR AMERICAN LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Who do you like for American League MVP?
Detroit’s Justin Verlander – the 2011 AL MVP – isn’t a candidate this year. No pitchers are. Thank goodness. They have their own award – the Cy Young. And Verlander won’t win that one, either.
Here are the four leading candidates with around 20 games left to play.
This race is much too close to call:
MIKE TROUT (Los Angeles Angels)
What’s to like: The Angels were 6-14 when he was promoted from Triple-A Salt Lake City on April 28…They are 71-52 since…If the Angels don’t make the playoffs, the slow start minus Trout will be the main reason…He leads the AL in batting average (.331) and leads the major leagues in runs (114 in 1230 games; No. 2 Andrew McCuthen has 97 runs) and stolen bases (45…with only 4 caught stealing)…He ranks 2nd in the AL in OPS (slugging percentage + on-base percentage), 3rd in slugging percentage and 4th in on-base percentage…He has 23 doubles, 6 triples,27 HRs and 77 RBI (a lot for a leadoff hitter; maybe he should’ve been dropped a notch or two in the lineup)…He’s clearly been the team’s MVP (over Albert Pujols)…He has played a Gold Glove caliber LF and CF.
Why he might not win: MVP voters have been reluctant to vote for rookies. The only two players to earn Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same year were Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki…It’s not his fault, but the Angels have been a big disappointment this season and if they fail to make the playoffs, it could cost him MVP.
MIGUEL CABRERA (Detroit Tigers)
What’s to like: He leads the majors in total bases…He leads the AL in slugg9ng percentage (.590) and OPS (.983)…He’s hitting .328 (2nd to Trout in the AL), with 91 runs, 35 doubles, 36 HRs (2nd in the AL) and 118 RBI (2nd in the AL)…He agreed to play third base to make room for new teammate first baseman Prince Fielder. He wasn’t slick at 3B but he wasn’t a butcher, either.
Why he might not win: The Tigers have been a big disappointment. They were expected to easily win the AL Central but continue to chase the Chicago White Sox for first place…If Detroit fails to make the playoffs, it could cost him MVP…He leads the majors in grounding into doubles plays (28).
JOSH HAMILTON (Texas Rangers)
What’s to like: He leads the majors in HRs (41) and RBI (121)…He ranks 4th in the majors in slugg9ng percentage…He’s the obvious team leader...The Rangers have played to expectations and will cruise into the playoffs…When he Rangers were building a big lead in the ASL West in the first two months, he was baseball’s best hitter by far. His betting line through May 31: .368, 21 HRs, 57 RBI…He’s no Trout in LF-CF, but he’s very good.
Why he might not win: He had a prolonged slump in June (.223, 4 HRs, 16 RBI) and July (.177, 4 HRs, 11 RBI). He bounced back with a strong August (.310, 7 HRs, 29 RBI) but has cooled off again in September (.195, 5 HRs, 9 RBI)…He’s part of a loaded lineup.
DEREK JETER (New York Yankees)
What’s to like: He’s obviously the MVP of the Yankees, passing Robinson Cano somewhere in midseason…He’s hitting .324 (3rd in the AL) and leads the majors in hits (194; No. 2 Miguel Cabrera has 179 hits)…While most of his teammates have struggled since the All-Star Game break, he has continued to shine…He has been solid defensively...He isn’t a Gold Glove shortstop, but he’s had a solid year defensively…91 runs, 30 doubles, 15 HRs are impressive numbers…Being captain of the team helps. So does arguably being the most valuable player of his era never to win the MVP award…It doesn’t hurt to be perhaps the sport’s best role model.
Why he might not win: Trout, Cabrera and Hamilton have better run production numbers…Only 52 RBI. He bats leadoff and his RBI count suffered because the guys at the end of the lineup didn’t get on base consistently…It shouldn’t matter, but he isn’t the all-around player he used to be. A few misguided voters might figure if he wasn’t good enough to be MVP in his prime, how could he be MVP now?
The bottom line: This four-man MVP race is too close to call and will go on to the finish line. Hamilton is only one who is on a team that has played to expectations. Texas has been impressive all season. Trout, Cabrera and Jeter play for teams that have collectively disappointed this season. If one or more of those teams make the playoffs, it would bolster the MVP hopes of their star players.
YANKEES VS. ORIOLES IS HIGH DRAMA
I give the Baltimore Orioles and a lot of credit for battling the New York Yankees tooth-and-nail for the American League East pennant. They entered Friday night tied for the lead (81-62) with 19 games remaining. Unfortunately, they won’t play any games against each other.
YANKEES (12 home and 7 away) – Friday, Saturday, Sunday home vs. Tampa Bay…Sept. 18-19-20 home vs. Toronto…Sept. 21, 22, 23 home vs. Oakland…Sept. 24, 25, 26 at Minnesota….S 27, 28, 29, 30 at Toronto…Oct. 1, 2, 3 home against Boston.
ORIOLES (7 home and 12 away) – Friday, Saturday, Sunday at Oakland…Sept. 17, 18, 19 at Seattle…Sept. 21, 22, 23 at Boston…Sept. 24 (2 games), 25, 26 home vs. Toronto…Sept. 28, 29, 30 home vs. Boston…Oct. 1, 2, 3 at Tampa Bay.
The schedule clearly favors the Yankees, with 12 of the remaining 19 games at home, including the final series against Boston…Baltimore will play 12 of the remaining 19 games on the road, including a 9-game trip starting Friday night and a season-ending series at Tampa Bay.
The Yankees have statistical advantages over the Orioles in nearly every category. Sixteen teams in the majors entered Friday with winning records. Of those 16 teams, only Baltimore (-20) and Pittsburgh (-1) had minus run differential s. The Yankees were +95.
But who cares? The big numbers for Baltimore are 27-7 (record in one-run games…the Yankees are 18-22) and 14-2 (record in extra innings…the Yankees are 3-3)..Tampa Bay still has a shot to win the AL East. The Rays are 4 games behind the Orioles and Yankees, but it would be fitting for the O’s and Yankees to fight it out to the finish.
Orioles fans have had a much more fun watching their resourceful and gritty team pull out improbable victories than Yankee fans who’ve watched their team leave runners on base all season.
The second-place finisher in the AL East has a very good chance to make the playoffs as a wild-card, but winning the division obviously is extremely significant. The two-wild card teams will meet in a one-game playoff to earn the right to move on. The wild-card winner would enter the divisional playoffs at a pitching disadvantage against the three division winners.
ONE SEASON LEFT FOR THE ALL-TIME FANTASY INFIELD?
The current infield of the Yankees could be baseball’s all-time best fantasy infield on one team at the same time. If it isn’t, it would have to be in the running.
Here are the best seasons as Yankees for the 1B Mark Teixeira, 2B Robinson Cano, SS Derek Jeter and 3B Alex Rodriguez:
Teixeira (this is his 4th season with Yankees) – 2009: .292, 43 doubles, 3 triples, 39 HRs, 122 RBI, 344 total bases…led the AL in HRs, RBI and total bases…2nd in MVP voting behind only Joe Mauer.
Cano – (8th 2010; 8th season with Yankees) – 2010: .319, 103 runs, 41 doubles, 3 trioles, 29 HRs, 109 RBI, .914 OPS…3rd in MVP voting behind Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera.
Jeter – (17th full season with Yankees) – 1999: .349, 134 runs, 219 hits, 37 doubles, 9 triples, 24 HRs, 102 RBI, .989 OPS, 19 stolen bases…6th in MVP voting (believe it or not, behind Ivan Rodriguez, Pedro Martinez, Roberto Alomar, Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro).
A-Rod – (9th season with Yankees) – 2007: .314; 143 runs; 31 doubles; 54 HRs; 156 RBI; 24X28 stolen bases; .645 slugging percentage; 1.967 OPS… AL MVP.
How long will this Fantasy Four infield remain intact? I figure two more seasons. I predict that A-Rod will wind up playing for another team with the Yankees paying most of his salary. The Yankees could afford to do that in an effort to improve the team. He’s still in the top half of third baseman, but much closer to No. 15 than No. 1.
The NFL says 105.9 million Americans watched Week b1 games on NBC, CBS, FOX and ESPN. I’m surprised that more than 220 million American did NOT watch some NFL football.
A kind listener chided me for comparing President Obama as a great orator to the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Adolf Hitler. He said I’ve been brainwashed by Obama and that he can’t match Winston Churchill, FDR, Martin Luther King, William Jennings Bryan and Frederick Douglass as speakers.
Encouraging note for Buffalo Bills fans: In the past 10 NFL seasons, 70 of the 120 teams that made the playoffs (58.3 percent) began the season 1-1 or 0-2. Note courtesy of Tim Graham of buffaklonews.com.
Stony Brook will play at Syracuse Saturday (4 p.m.) and the Orange had better be ready. The Seawolves are a Division I-AA powerhouse, with a roster including 11 Division I transfers. A player to watch is former Iowa Buckeyes star running back Marcus Coker. He was the offensive MVP of the 2010 Insight Bowl (33 carries for 219 yards and 2 TDs) and second in the Big 10 in rushing in the 2011 regular season (1,384 yards).