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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.
49ERS -7 OVER MINNESOTA IS WEEK 3’S “BEST BET”
CABRERA NEW FRONTRUNNER FOR AL MVP
SPILLER MORE THAN A TWO-GAME WONDER
The San Francisco 49ers have no apparent weakness. They’re probably the NFL’s best defensive team. They have a balanced attack. They have a slightly above quarterback who protects the football. They have terrific special teams. They have a coach who pushes all the right buttons. They’re loaded with confidence after opening the season with an impressive road win over Green Bay. So what’s not to like?
The 49ers are favored by 7 points Sunday at the Minnesota Vikings. Home teams were 14-2 in Week 2 but that trend shouldn’t matter in this matchup. The 49ers figure to keep Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson from dominating the game and second-year QB Christian Ponder isn’t likely to pick up the slack.
Minnesota is 0-5 against the Las Vegas point spread (ATS) in its last five home games and the 49ers are 7-2 straight up in their last 9 road games. This week’s “Best Bet”: San Francisco 35, MINNESOTA (+7) 13.
Sunday’s other games
(home team in CAPS)
CHICAGO (-7) 27, St. Louis 17 – The Bears, particularly QB Jay Cutler, have a lot to prove after last Thursday night’s weak effort in a 23-10 loss at Green Bay. The Rams are 2-9 ATS in their last 11 road games.
DALLAS (-7) 30, Tampa Bay 14 – The Cowboys figure to be ready to make amends for an embarrassing 27-7 loss in Seattle last week. The Buccaneers are 1-8 in their last 9 trips to Dallas.
Buffalo 24, CLEVELAND (+3) 10 – The Bills are 1-6-1 ATS in their last 8 road games. The Browns are 4-8-1 ATS in their last 13 home games. Something has to give and I believe it will be Cleveland.
Detroit 28, TENNESSEE (+3) 20 – There always a chance that slumping Titans running back Chris Johnson will wake up but “Best Bets” is tired of waiting. WARNING: The Lions are 1-8 ATS in their last 9 games.
Cincinnati 24, WASHINGTON (-3)20 – The Redskins lost two key defensive players to injury last week (Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker) and Bengals QB Andy Dalton experience edge could trump Robert Griffin III’s raw talent advantage.
New York Jets 27, MIAMI (+3) 17 – The Jets are 15-7-3 ATS in the last 25 games against the Dolphins and that trend figures to continue.
NEW ORLEANS (-8) 35, Kansas City 20 – I thought the Chiefs were going to be a much-improved team this season. That might turn out to be true but I’m jumping off the bandwagon for now. The Saints are 0-2 and due for a win. They’re 9-1 in their last 10 home games.
Jacksonville 23, INDIANAPOLIS (-3) 16 – Even the poorest NFL teams win now and then. The Jaguars won’t have many better opportunities and Maurice Jones-Drew is ready for 30 carries. WARNING: Jacksonville is 1-10 straight up in its last 11 road games and the Colts are 15-7 straight up in the last 22 meetings.
Philadelphia 27, ARIZONA (-4) 20 – Both teams are 2-0 but the Cardinals have been more impressive. My hunch is that the Eagles are due to soar after a pair of one-point victories.
Atlanta 28, SAN DIEGO (-3) 24 – This is a big test for the Falcons, who need to prove they can play as well against a good team on the road as they usually do at the Georgia Dome.
Houston 24, DENVER (+2) 17 – Peyton Manning looked rusty in last week’s loss in Atlanta and the Texans have looked like a powerhouse so far. Houston is 5-2 in its last 7 road games and the Broncos are 2-5-1 ATS in their last 8 games.
Pittsburgh 27, OAKLAND (+3) – The Raiders are 2-5 straight up in their last 7 games, 2-5-1 ATS in their last 8 games, and unlikely to get well against the Steelers.
BALTIMORE (-3) 28, New England 20 – This could be a playoff review. Right now, the Ravens appear to be the better all-around team.
Monday night’s game
Green Bay 33, SEATTLE (+3) 24 – The Seahawks are coming off a 27-7 home romp over Dallas. The Packers aren’t the Cowboys. Seattle is very tough at home but Green Bay is 10-1 in its last 11 road games and is 6-1 in the last 7 meetings.
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 9-7 picking winners straight up (18-14 this season)…7-8-1 picking winners against the Las Vegas point spread (14-16-2 this season)…The “Best Bet” is 1-1 outright and 0-1-1 ATS after Cincinnati, favored to beat Cleveland by 7 points, won by 7 (34-27).
CABRERA AL MVP FAVORITE; TROUT CLEAR NO. 2
For most of the 2012 Major League Baseball season, I’ve been touting super rookie Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels for American League Most Valuable Player.
For the first time, I rate Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera the man to catch. Trout is my clear No. 2. Josh Hamilton (Texas) and Derek Jeter (New York Yankees) would need spectacular finishes to catch up to and pass Cabrera and Trout. Adam Jones (Baltimore) is going to get plenty of votes, but won’t likely finish better than 5th.
Here’s why I’ve put Cabrera on top:
He has a very good chance to earn baseball’s first Triple Crown (lead his league in batting average, HRs and RBI) since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
.333 batting average 1st in the AL (Trout is 2nd at .324)
41 HRs 2nd in the majors (Hamilton No. 1 with 42)
130 RBI 1st in the majors (Hamilton 2nd with 123; Josh Willingham 3rd with 110)
Many baseball stat analysts would much prefer that the Triple Crown be the Quadruple Crown – adding OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage). Cabrera leads the majors in that, too: 1.009 (Ryan Braun is 2nd at .984).
.611 slugging percentage leads the majors (Braun 2nd at .596).
Cabrera is a below average third baseman, but he hasn’t been a butcher this season. He doesn’t make the tough plays but he has only 13 errors. He volunteered to switch from first base in order to accommodate his new teammate Prince Fielder and make room for another quality bat at designated hitter. Fielder is hitting .304 with 27 HRs and 101 RBI. Cabrera bats third and Fielder protects him batting fourth.
I figured the fairest way to choose between Cabrera and Trout would be to give one the edge if only one of their teams made the playoffs. But Cabrera has contributed significantly more down the stretch than Trout no matter what happens in the standings.
August – Cabrera .357 batting average; 5 HRs; 24 RBI…Trout .284 batting average; 7 HRs; 19 RVI; 11x12 stolen bases
September – Cabrera .369 batting average; 8 HRs; 21 RBI…Trout .268 batting average; 2 HRs; 3 RBI; 4x4 stolen bases.
Trout gets extra credit for being a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder. Cabrera gets extra credit for playing in 22 more games than Trout (149 to 127). Of course, it wasn’t Trout’s fault that he was playing in Triple-A until April 28. The time he spent in Salt Lake City could wind up costing the slow-starting Angels a playoff berth and could contribute to Trout not becoming the third rookie in baseball history to be selected league MVP (joining Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki).
By the way, winning a Triple Crown does not guarantee that a player will be selected MVP. Since the baseball writers (BWAA) began selecting the MVPs in 1931, there have been nine Triple Crowns.
Players with those Triple Crowns were voted MVP only five times. Four of the non-MVPs finished second, including Ted Williams twice. He wasn’t popular with many of the voters and they made him pay:
In 1942, Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon (.322; 18 HRs; 103 RBI; .900 OPS) outpolled Williams (.356; 36 HRs; 137 RBI; 1.147 OPS). In 1947, Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio (.315; 20 HRs; 97 RBI; .930 OPS) topped Williams (.343; 32 HRs; 114 RB; 1.133 OPS).
The worst Triple Crown/MVP snub was to Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig in 1934. As far as I know, Gehrig wasn’t disliked by anyone in baseball except – briefly – Babe Ruth. Gehrig hit .363 with 49 HRs and 165 RBI but finished only fifth in MVP balloting.
COULD SPILLER HAVE PLAYED MORE BEFORE?
Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey says running back C.J. Spiller wasn’t ready to play i9n the NFL for his first 1 ½ seasons. Gailey should know. But it is interesting how Spiller got so good so fast when the Bills desperately needed him on the field.
Spiller, the controversial No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, never had double-figure carries in his first 24 games. He had 2 or fewer carries in 9 games.
In his last 11 games, Spiller has 115 carries for 738 yards (a spectacular 6.417-yard average) plus 29 catches for 249 yards.
Spiller was pretty much a dud for his first 24 NFL games. He probably wasn’t ready to play but he sure didn’t get many chances to show what he could do. He has arrived now. It looks like he was worth the wait.
The two main duties of an offensive line are to open holes for the running backs and protect the quarterback. The Buffalo Bills’ OL has to be rated the NFL’s best through two weeks of this season. The Bills lead the league is rushing yards (396) and yards per carry (6.4) and are the only team in the league not to allow a sack.
Here’s hoping the Ryder Cup captains put strategy aside and provide what every golf fan wants to see – Tiger Woods vs. Rory McIlroy in singles on Sunday.
ESPN.com’s James Walker on Sunday’s Bills at Cleveland game: “It’s not easy to get motivated for a road game against Cleveland. As a former Browns reporter, I can firmly say this will be a test of Buffalo’s maturity level. The Browns are not very good, but they are not a soft team.
They will fight hard for four quarters at home. We saw that in Cleveland’s 17-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1.
Ichiro Suzuki has done a good job for the New York Yankees: .321 batting average (54x168), 18 runs; 10 doubles; 1 triple; 4 HRs; 22 RBI; 3 walks; 19 strikeouts; 10x13 stolen bases. He’d like to return to the Yankees in 2013 but that seems unlikely. He’ll turn 39 on Oct. 22 and the Yankees expect Brett Gardner to return for next season. He walks more than Suzuki and is 10 years younger.
NBA game to circle: Nov. 1, New York Knicks vs. Brooklyn Nets at the new Barclays Center. It will be the opener of the season for both teams. This could become a heated rivalry and the two teams figure to finish with similar records. They aren’t legit title contenders but both should make the playoffs and help heat up the winter on cable TV in Western New York.
STATS, FACTS AND OPINIONS
Two reasons the Baltimore Orioles are the surprise team of this season is their incredible success in one-run games and extra innings. Here’s how the O’s have fared and the next-best teams in each category:
One-run games – Orioles 27-8 (+19)…Cleveland 23-10 (+13)…Atlanta 23-12 (+11)…San Francisco 29-19 (+10)…Cincinnati 28-19 (+9).
Extra-inning games – Orioles 15-2 (+13)…Miami 11-5 (+6)…Oakland 9-3 (+6)…Washington +5 (12-7).
For the record, last season’s Orioles were 22-22 in one-run games and 8-8 in extra innings.
--From CBSSports: Through NFL Week 2, instant replay reviews are way up but the percentage of reversals is way down: 2011 21 reversals out of 46 challenges; 2012 23 reversals out of 62 challenges.
--New York Yankees fading slugger Alex Rodriguez was 0-for-7 with 5 strikeouts in Wednesday’s doubleheader sweep and was booed loudly by many of the home fans. He’d better get used to it.
--The Buffalo Bills have drafted only three quarterbacks since 1995: J.P Losman (1st round) in 2004, Trent Edwards (3rd round) in 2007 and Levi Brown (7th round in 2010). They traded a No. 9 overall pick to Jacksonville in 1998 for Rob Johnson. One reader/listener suggested that the Bills should draft at least one QB every year.
--I’ve suggested that the NFL dump kicking extra points in favor of running or passing for conversions. Kicking extra points is boring. Running or kicking would bring more excitement to the games. Now I’m wondering if the kickers have become so proficient that field goals are too boring. Through two weeks this season, NFL kickers are a ho-hum 159x160 (.99375) on extra points and 118x128 (.921975) on field goals…Buffalo is the only team that hasn’t attempted a field goal.
--The Buffalo Bisons (International League) have a new parent club. They dumped the New York Mets in favor of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Mets wound up in Las Vegas…Minnesota switched Single-A Midwest League affiliates, dropping Beloit, Wisc., after eight years in favor of Cedar Rapids, Iowa (closer to the Twin Cities and a better stadium)…The Charlotte Knights (International League) broke ground this week on BB&T Ballpark, a downtown stadium expected to be ready for the 2014 season.