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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.
13TH STRAIGHT NON-PLAYOFF SEASON FOR BILLS APPEARS LIKELY
BUFFALO’S RUSH DEFENSE IS RIDICULOUSLY BAD
COLLIN KLEIN NEW HEISMAN LEADER
YANKEES GM CASHMAN NEEDS A PRODUCTIVE WINTER
Let’s face it. The Buffalo Bills are an imposter as a playoff-worthy team. Again. 13 straight seasons without a trip to the playoffs appears inevitable.
Random thoughts on Sunday’s demoralizing 35-34 home loss to the Tennessee Titans – one of the NFL’s youngest and worst teams:
Buffalo’s lousy rush defense was easy pickings for struggling Titans running back Chris Johnson (195 yards on 18 carries).
When the chips were down, Titans journeyman No. 2 QB Matt Hasselbeck outplayed Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitz played well for most of the game – until it really counted. His ill-advised interception with 2:57 remaining set up Tennessee’s winning score.
Defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt had another tough afternoon. With 1:03 remaining, Tennessee had 4th-and-9 from Buffalo’s 15-yard line. The Bills had no pass rush and Hasselbeck had plenty of time to hit for the game-winning –yard TD to Nate Washington.
Fitzpatrick is not a master of the two-minute drill. One-minute drill – forget it. With the ball on Buffalo’s 20-yard line and one minute to go for a shot at a game-winning field goal, Fitzpatrick’s first two passes went for 6 and 2 yards in the middle of the field. Not wise strategy.
At the start of this season, who could’ve figured that Buffalo would have a better-than average offense and one of the two- or three-worst defenses in the NFL?
Chan Gailey has a 13-26 record in two-plus seasons as Buffalo’s head coach. What other NFL team would have a coach with a .333 winning percentage in his third season not be feeling some heat?
Since owner Ralph Wilson decided he’d be better off without Wade Phillips (29-21 from 1998-2000), the ensuing parade of head coaches consists of Gregg Williams (17-31), Mike Mularkey (14-18), Dick Jauron (24-33) and Gailey. Excluding Perry Fewell’s 3-4 record as interim coach after Jauron was dumped in 2009 – Phillips’ successors are a combined 68-108. Come on man!
The Bills hit their bye week with a 3-4 record. There is a remote chance that an AFC team could sneak into the playoffs with an 8-8 record. Assuming they lose Week 9 at Houston and Week 10 at New England, the Bills would be 3-6 with seven games remaining. Do you see five wins in those seven games?: home vs. Miami Nov. 15, at Indianapolis Nov. 25, home against Jacksonville Dec. 2, home against St. Louis Dec. 9, vs. Seattle at Toronto Dec. 16, at Miami Dec. 23 and home against the New York Jets Dec. 30.
Barring an impressive (and improbable) major turn around, it soon will be time to ponder how high a pick the Bills will have in the 2013 NFL draft. It is becoming the annual major cause for optimism.
THIS GAILEY QUOTE SUMS UP HIS BLIND FAITH IN FITZ
After Sunday’s loss, Bills coach Chan Gailey had this to say about QB Ryan Fitzpatrick’s performance: “He had a bad throw at the end. Other than that he played really, really well. If you get rid of all the quarterbacks for one bad throw, you’re not going to have any quarterbacks left.”
One bad throw!?! You have got to be kidding. Fitzpatrick led the NFL with 23 interceptions last season. He has thrown 9 INTs this season. Only Andy Dalton (second NFL season) and Brandon Weeden (rookie) have more INTS (10 each).
Fitz has a 21-37-1 as an NFL starting QB, including 4-12 since his 5-2 start last season, which seems so long ago.
No one is calling for a change at QB, mainly because Tyler Thigpen has a 1-11 career record as an NFL starter and Tarvaris Jackson apparently can’t learn the playbook.
Gailey and GM Buddy Nix have defended Fitzpatrick way too much for way too long. It could be the biggest reason they lose their jobs – unless Fitz makes an unexpected career turnaround.
THE UGLIEST BILLS STAT OF THEM ALL
The Bills have more than their share of problems, but none is worse than rush defense. Here’s how it looks over the last four games:
New England rushed 40 times for 247 yards (6.1-yard average)
San Francisco rushed 38 times for 311 (8.2-yard average)
Arizona rushed 30 times for 182 yards (6.1)
Tennessee rushed 27 times for 197 yards (7.3)
Totals – 135 carries for 937 yards (6.94 average).
Imagine the numbers Buffalo running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson might have running against their teammates.
WEEK 7 HEROES
Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers – He was in MVP form again Sunday:
30x37 for 342 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs in a 30-20 road win over St. Louis. A few more seasons and we might wonder if Brett Favre was the all-time best Packers quarterback.
Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson – He had 23 carries for 153 yards and 1 TD in a 21-14 home win over Arizona.
Tennessee RB Chris Johnson – If he could run against Buffalo every week he might hit 3,000 yards rushing in a season. He had 195 yards on 18 carries (10.8-yard average) in Sunday’s 35-34 road win over the Bills.
New York Giants WR Victor Cruz – He had 7 catches for 131 yards and his 77-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter was the key play in a 27-23 home win over Washington.
Pittsburgh Steelers RB Jonathan Dwyer – Pressed into service due to injuries, he ran for 122 yards on 17 carries in a 24-17 win in Cincinnati.
New Orleans QB Drew Brees – He was 27x37 for 377 yards and 4 TDs in a 35-28 win at Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman and WR Vincent Jackson – Freeman passed for 420 yards and 3 TDs and Jackson had 7 catches for 216 yards and 1 TD in the loss to New Orleans.
WEEK 7 GOATS
Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – His ill-advised INT late in the fourth quarter set up Tennessee’s game-winning TD drive. He also lost a fumble in the 35-34 loss. He played a good game otherwise and maybe deserved better. So do Bills fans.
Baltimore QB Joe Flacco – He was 21x43 for 147 yards (3.4 yards per attempt) with 2 INTs and 4 sacks in a 43-13 loss at Houston.
NFL STATS, FACTS AND OPINIONS:
There were no interconference games Week 7. That probably was good news for the AFC. The NFC leads this season’s interconferenc e series 19-9…Only three AFC teams have winning records: Houston (56-1), Baltimore (5-2) and New England *4-3). The other 13 AFC team are a combined 32-51…With Sunday’s 19-14 win in Carolina, Dallas coach Jason Garrett is 16-14 in his 30 games at the team’s head coach. Wade Phillips, the man he replaced, was 35-24 with the Cowboys…Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, disappointed in his team’s 31st ranking in turnovers (1 INT and 3 fumble recoveries), last week decided to call turnovers “takeovers.”The Cowboys had two takeovers in Sunday’s 19-14 win at Carolina…Dallas QB Tony Romo ended his six-game streak of games with at least one ion Sunday… Arizona now is 0-8 at Minnesota’s Metrodome…The Houston Texans were 0-6 and outscored 163-102 by Baltimore before Sunday’s 43-13 home victory.
Washington had 248 yards rushing in Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the New York Giants and has at least 100 yards rushing in 13 consecutive games. The second-longest such streak is 3 games by the St. Louis Rams…Washington’s Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris have combined for 1,126 yards rushing, the most by rookie teammates through 7 games in the Super Bowl era…The Giants have allowed 1 sack in the last 4-plus games…Encouraging note for San Diego fans: The Chargers are 35-15 after their bye week under Norv Turner (since 2007)…Kansas City has not had a lead in six consecutive games (including a win over New Orleans on the last play of overtime)…Cleveland has lost 11 straight road games.
Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers entered Sunday with an NFL-career best 113.6 passer rating indoors and had a 132.2 rating in Sunday’s 30-20 win in St. Louis…Are the Dallas Cowboys still “America’s Team”? Maybe not. An ESPN.com SportsNation poll last week had New England 1st (31 percent), Green Bay 24 percent, Dallas 13 percent, Pittsburgh 8 percent, and all others a combined 24 percent. Jacksonville on Sunday scored its third first-quarter TD in its last 17 games…Eli Manning (New York Giants) is 26-5 in October, the NFL’s best QB record for the month in the Super Bowl era.
Entering Monday night, Chicago’s defense has outscored opposing defenses in its last three games. The Bears defense had 5 TDs over that span…Cleveland rookie QB Brandon Weeden turned 29 this month. He’s older than 18 other NFL starting QBs…Philadelphia has 0 sacks in its last 3 games (7 through 6 games). The Eagles tied for the league lead with 50 sacks last season…Entering Week 7, Arian Foster (Houston) had averaged an NFL-best 134.1 yards from scrimmage since 2010. Ray Rice (Baltimore) was second at 120.
Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher at age 37 is having another strong season. He’s tied for 8th in the NFL with 54 tackles. He was Buffalo’s leading tackler (including a team-record 209 in 2002). The Bills let him go after the 2006 season, saying he was a too old and made too many tackles downfield. I blamed Buffalo’s DL for that. No one can fault his durability. His 230 consecutive games are tops among active players…Minnesota Vikings QB Christian Ponder confirmed that he is dating ESPN sideline reporter Samantha Steele…The United Football League last week postponed the rest of the 2012 season. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know the UFL even started a 2013 season. The UFL’s four teams this aborted season were Las Vegas, Sacramento, Omaha and Virginia.
WEEK 7 STAT PACK (entering Monday night’s Detroit at Chicago game)
Home teams are 7-5 outright (63-40 this season) and 3-9 against the Las Vegas point spread (46-55-2).
Las Vegas favorites are 10-2 outright (62-41) and 6-6 against the point spread (38-63-2).
Teams winning the turnover battle are 6-4 (63-19)
Teams leading in time of possession are 7-5 (62-41)
Teams entering the game with the better record are 4-3 (26-30)
Teams scoring first are 6-6 (61-42)
Teams leading after the first quarter are 5-4 (50-29)…Teams leading at halftime are 7-3 (74-23)…Teams leading entering the fourth quarter are 8-2 (81-15).
Teams with the most rushing yards are 8-4 (68-35)
Teams with the most passing yards are 8-4 (57-46)
Teams with the fewest yards penalized are 7-3 (58-42)
There have been 550 points in 12 games (45.8-point average).
TOP PERFORMERS (entering Monday night’s game)
300-yard passers – Josh Freeman (tampa Bay) 420 yards (lost)…Drew Brees (New Orleans) 377 (won)…Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) 342 (won)…Eli Manning (New York Giants) 337 (won)
100-yard rushers – Chris Johnson (Tennessee) 195 yards (won)…Adrian Peterson (Minnesota) 153 Won)…Frank Gore (San Francisco) 131(won)…Marshawn Lynch (Seattle) 122 (lost)…Alfred Morris (Washington) 120 (lost)…LaRod Stephens-Howling (Arizona) 104 (lost)
100-yard receivers= Vincent Jackson (Tampa Bay) 216 yards (lost)…Victor Cruz (New York Giants) 131 (won)…Lance Moore (New Orleans) 111 (won)
BOB’S WEEK 7 POWER RANKINGS (entering Monday night’s game)
1 Atlanta…2 Houston…3 Chicago…4 New York Giants…5 San Francisco…6 Green Bay…7 Baltimore…8 Minnesota…9 New England…10 Denver…11 Seattle…12 Pittsburgh…13 San Diego…14 Dallas…15 New Orleans…16 Miami…17 Philadelphia…18 Detroit…19 Washington…20 New York Jets…21 Arizona…22 Cincinnati…23 St. Louis…24 Indianapolis…25 Tampa Bay… 26 Tennessee…27 Buffalo…28 Cleveland…29 Oakland…30 Carolina…31 Jacksonville…32 Kansas city.
WEEK 8 KEY GAMES
Atlanta at Philadelphia – Can the Eagles hold onto the football and knock off the NFL’s last unbeaten team?
Miami at New York Jets – AFC East rivals seeking a playoff berth
New York Giants at Dallas – The Giants will try to avenge a Week 1 home loss to the Cowboys
New Orleans at Denver – Drew Brees vs. Peyton Manning. Ebough said.
COLLIN KLEIN IS THE NEW HEISMAN FRONTRUNNER
Last Saturday’s Kansas State (Collin Klein) at West Virginia (Geno Smith) featured a showdown between the 1-2 frontrunners for this season’s Heisman Trophy. It was no contest.
Smith had a lousy performance in his team’s 55-14 home defeat, including his first two interceptions of the season and -15 yards rushing.
Klein was brilliant. He was 19x21 for 323 yards (15.4 yards per attempt), with 3 TD passes and 0 INTs. He ran 12 times for 41 yards and 4 TDs.
West Virginia plunged to 113th (out of 120 teams) in total defense and 115th in scoring defense. The Mountaineers have allowed 63, 45, 49 and 55 points in their last four games.
TIGERS STARTING PITCHERS KEY TO WORLD SERIES
If the American League champion Detroit Tigers have a weakness, it is an inconsistent bullpen.
If Detroit’s four starting pitchers perform the way they did in the AL playoffs, the team’s relief pitchers wouldn’t need to be stellar:
Justin Verlander – 3 starts; 3-0 record; 0.74 ERA; 24 1/3 innings; 10 hits; 5 walks; 25 strikeouts; 0.62 WHIP (walks+hits allowed per inning; .122 batting average against
Max Scherzer – 2 starts; 1-0 record; 0.82 ERA; 11 innings; 5 hits; 3 walks; 18 strikeouts; 0.73 WHIP; .128 BAA
Anibal Sanchez – 2 starts; 1-1 record; 1.35 ERA; 13 1/3 innings; 8 hits; 5 walks; 10 strikeouts; 0.98 WHIP; .174 BAA
Doug Fister – 2 starts; 0-0 record; 1.35 ERA; 13 1/3 innings; 12 hits; 6 walks; 13 strikeouts; 1.35 WHIP; .246 BAA.
Totals: 9 starts; 5-1 record; 1.02 ERA; 62 innings; 35 hits; 19 walks; 66 strikeouts.
All things considered, at this time, I would not predict the New York Yankees to make the playoff next season. I don’t think even the Yankees can afford to patch all of the holes on the current roster. The physical status of Derek Jeter (broken ankle)and CC Sabathia (sore eblow) are among the many question marks.
LeBron James has denied a report that he would consider opting out of his Miami Heat after two more seasons in favor of replacing Kobe Bryant and joining Dwight Howard. In a recent poll of 104 ESPN experts to rank the NBA players 1-to-500, the top 10 in order were James, Kevin Durant, Howard, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Bryant, Kevin Love, Dwayne Wade, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams.
CC Sabathia is the latest example of why so many long-term contracts to high-profile pitchers wind up being mistakes. Sabathia has done a very good job for the New York Yankees in his first four seasons of an eight-year contact (74-29 record), but it hardly is surprising that he has an elbow problem. He has pitched 1,399 innings since 2007, the most in the majors, and he weighs at least 300 pounds. His contract runs through 2016 worth almost $100 million per season.
Assuming Alex Rodriguez (647 career HRs) returns to the New York Yankees next season, and he passes Willie Mays (660) in a home game to pick up a $3 million bonus, I wonder if the fans would cheer or boo. My projection for A-Rod is he spends all of the 2013 season with the Yankees: 135 games; .265 batting average; 22 HRs; 65 RBI.
Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane continues his great work. Last week’s trade with Arizona for Chris Young gives the A’s one of baseball’s best young outfields: LF Yeonis Cespedes, CF Young, RF Josh Reddick, with veteran Coco Crisp in reserve.
Syracuse University’s football team is 3-4 after a 40-10 home romp over Paul Pasqualoni’s Connecticut Huskies last Friday night. Four of SU’s five remaining games are on the road, including Sunday vs. South Florida. … Among the 120 major-college teams, SUI ranks 33rd in total offense, 15th in passing offense, 80th in rushing offense, 81st in scoring offense (25.29 points per game), 26th in total defense and 45th in scoring defense (23.43 points allowed per game)…Ryan Nassib ranks 12th in the nation in passing yards (2,164)…SU leads the Big East in passing offense (309.14 yards per game) and tackles for loss per game (7.86).
After 115 years of live thoroughbred horse racing, Fort Erie Race Track might have only six live racing cards left – forever. The picturesque Canadian track, just beyond Buffalo and just over the Peace Bridge, is expected to offer its final racing program on Tuesday, Oct. 20, post time 1:15 p.m. The track is scheduled to close for good on Dec. 31 due to the loss of revenues from slot machines.
Jon “Bones” Jones is a huge early favorite (bet &50 to win $100) for his UFC light heavyweight championship defense against recent middleweight convert Chael Sonnen (bet $100 to win $475) April 27 in Las Vegas or New Jersey. Madison Square Garden loses another potential big-money event because the sport is banned in New York State. Are the wrong hands being greased in Albany?
Dynamo Moscow players are under fire for the soccer team’s worst-ever start. On Friday, a group of fans in camouflage gear shot players and staff with paintball guns. Earlier this season, Dynamo fans painted graffiti on the street outside the team’s training ground.