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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.
PEYTON MANNING, BRADY LEAD TIGHT NFL MVP RACE
BUCCANEERS OVER DEPLETED EAGLES IS THE “BEST BET”
ABBY OR ALEX FOR FIFA’S GOLDEN BALL
KNICKS ARE LOOKING LEGITIMATE
The battle for this season’s NFL Most Valuable Player is much more contentious than most of the division playoffs.
The only sure MVP thing is that a quarterback will win it – for the 36th time in 52 tries.
Here are my top 10 frontrunners, in order of preference, with four games to go (three for Peyton Manning):
1-Peyton Manning (Denver QB) – Forget about the fact that be sat out the entire 2011 season after neck surgery. That’s why he’ll be Comeback Player of the Year. He’s a completely legit MVP candidate strictly on performance this season.
Let’s compare his NFL-record four league MVP seasons with his pace for 2012 (including Thursday night’s win at Oakland to boost Denver’s record to 10-3):
2003 – 379x566 (.670); 4,267 yards passing; 29 TDs; 10 INTs; 266.7 yards passing per game
2004 – 336x497 (.676); 4,557 yards passing; 49 TDs; 10 INTs; 284.8 yards passing per game
2008 – 371x555 (.668); 4,002 yards passing; 27 TDs; 12 INTs; 250.1 yards passing per game
2009 – 393x571 (.688); 3,812 yards passing; 30 TDs; 16 INTs; 281.3 yards passing per game
2012 (projected) – 406x594 (.683); 4,692 yards passing; 37 TDs; 12 INTs; 293.2 yards passing per game.
So what has he lost?
1A-Tom Brady (New England QB) – The main man in arguably the most prolific offensive machine over an extended period in NFL history. The next two games could help him win or cost him his third league MVP award: home vs. Houston Monday night; home vs. San Francisco Dec. 16. He’ll get to pad his stats at Jacksonville (Dec. 23) and home against Miami (Dec. 30).
3-Andrew Luck (Indianapolis QB) – His passing stats aren’t all pretty but his all-around game – particularly in the clutch -- has been super impressive. He’s the rookie reason the Colts are 8-4 and in playoff contention after going 2-14 last season.
4-Adrian Peterson (Minnesota RB) – Coming off major reconstructive knee surgery, he’s been better than ever. His 1,446 yards rushing lead No. 2 Marshawn Lynch by 308 yards. His career bests are 1,760 yards rushing (2008) and 5.6 yards per carry. He’s on pace for 1,928 yards rushing and averaging 6.2 yards per carry. In his last 6 games, he has rushed for 153, 123, 182, 171, 108 and 210 yards. The Vikings have a feeble passing attack. Opponents know he’s coming but still can’t stop him….He won’t win the MVP award because Minnesota has only a 6-6 record, but I wouldn’t object if he did.
5-Aaron Rogers (Green Bay QB) – The Packers have been ravaged by injuries, usually stink on defense and struggle in pass protection, but Rodgers leads the NFL with a 105.0 passer rating and has kept Green Bay alive for a playoff berth despite being sacked 39 times.
6. Robert Griffin III (Washington QB) – He’s as athletic as any QB in NFL history and already the heart of the Redskins. They’re 6-6 and probably would be headed for 3-13 or 4-12 without him.
7-Matt Ryan (Atlanta QB) – Matty Ice used to play much better at home than on the road. Now he’s solid everywhere for the 11-1 Falcons, who don’t blow many teams out but win more than their share of close games.
8-J.J. Watt (Houston DE) – The heart of Houston’s defense: 16.5 sacks second-most in NFL and swats down passes like nobody else.
9-Russell Wilson (Seattle QB) – Biggest rookie surprise.
10-Calvin Johnson (Detroit WR) – No wide receiver ever has been NFL MVP, not even Jerry Rice. The NFL record for receiving yards in one season is 1,848 by Rice in 1995. After a slow start, Johnson is on pace for 1,904 yards.
TAMPA BAY SHOULD DOMINATE EAGLES
The much-improved Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be ready to play Sunday coming off a disappointing hard-fought road loss to Denver. The Philadelphia Eagles are down to most of their junior varsity players and appear overmatched. This week’s “Best Bet”: TAMPA BAY (-8) 35, Philadelphia 13.
Sunday’s other games
(home team in CAPS)
St. Louis 23, BUFFALO (-3) 21 – The Rams have a slightly better record and appear to be healthier. When in doubt, take the points. I wish I heeded that advice all season. Underdogs are a healthy 104-82-6 against the Las Vegas point spread(ATS).
Atlanta 27, CAROLINA (+3 ½) 17 – It has become fashionable to call the 11-1 Falcons overrated. That might be true but they’re much better than the Panthers.
CINCINNATI (-3) 28, Dallas 20 – Cowboys streaky QB Tony Romo is fine when he has time to throw but the Bengals lead the NFL in sacks.
CLEVELAND (-6 ½) 20, Kansas City 17 – The Browns don’t have enough firepower to spot any team 6 ½ points – not even the Chiefs.
Tennessee 24, INDIANAPOLIS 20 (- 5 ½) – Strictly a hunch. I don’t think the Colts are a legit 8-4 team.
New York Jets 23, JACKSONVILLE(+ 2 ½) 13 – The Jets aren’t very good but they’re better than the Jaguars and have slightly more to play for.
MINNESOTA (+3) 27, Chicago 20 – The Bears were struggling on defense before losing injured linebacker Brian Urlacher. MVP candidate Adrian Peterson is on a roll for the Vikings.
PITTSBURGH (-7) 28, San Diego 13 – The return of QB Ben Roethlisberger should give the Steelers an added boost against the disappointing Chargers.
Baltimore 24, WASHINGTON (-2 ½) – Redskins rookie QB Robert Griffin III will be the best player in the game, but the Ravens coming off a disappointing home loss to Pittsburgh and getting 2 ½ points are too tempting to pass up.
SAN FRANCISCO (-10) 33, Miami 15 – The 49ers have too much firepower for the Dolphins to keep up with.
NEW YORK GIANTS (-4 ½) 35, New Orleans 24 – The Saints don’t play much defense and the Giants have much more at stake.
SEATTLE (-10) 28, Arizona 10 – The Seahawks are terrific at home and the Cardinals are 0-8 since starting this season 4-0.
GREEN BAY (-6 ½) 38, Detroit 27 – Not many QBs can win a shootout against Detroit’s Matthew Stafford but Aaron Rodgers can and probably will.
Monday night’s game
NEW ENGLAND (- 3 ½) 30, Houston 24 – I’d never pick against Tom Brady at home.
Thursday night’s pick (on my WHAM 1180 radio show): Denver 34, OAKLAND (+11)13.
Last week’s results: 10-6 picking winners straight up (118-73-1 this season) and 5-10-1 against the spread (81-104-7 this season). The “Best Bet” is 9-3-1 straight up and 4-7-2 against the spread after Dallas, favored by 10 points, beat Philadelphia by only 5 points (38-33).
TWINS SURPRISE BY TRADING BOTH DENARD AND REVERE
I figured the Minnesota Twins would trade one of their two left-handed hitting, spray-hitting former Rochester Red Wings center fielders – Denard Span or Ben Revere.
They were too similar to keep both in the starting lineup or even on the roster.
But I didn’t envision the Twins trading them BOTH.
Span went to Washington last week for Alex Meyer, the top pitching prospect for the loaded Nationals. He’ll lead off and play center for Washington.
Reveve was traded Thursday to Philadelphia for pitchers Vance Worley and Trevor May.
Trading both Span and Revere is evidence of how desperate Minnesota was for pitching. Meyer figures to be Minnesota’s ace starter by 2015 (if he stays healthy). Assuming Worley is healthy coming off elbow surgery, he figures to be in Minnesota’s starting rotation this season. May figures to be in Rochester’s starting rotation (10-13, 4.87 ERA at Double-A Reading last season).
Here are the numbers Span and Revere put up as very good Red Wings:
Span -- .281 batting average (193x688), 105 doubles, 36 triples, 23 HRs, 230 RBI, 74x93 stolen bases in 191 games (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011)
Revere -- .314 (71x226), 4 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 14x18 stolen bases in 55 games (2011 and 2012).
MORGAN OR WAMBACH FOR THE GOLDEN BALL?
Will Alex Morgan’s great season cost teammate U.S. women’s national soccer team teammate Abby Wambach prestigious 2012 FIFA Golden Ball (top female soccer player in the world)?
Morgan this week was selected Female athlete of the Year by the U.S. Soccer Federation. Wambach has won the award five times.
Morgan has outscored Wambach this season. They’ve both appeared in all 28 of the U.S. team’s games: Morgan 28 goals and 19 assists; Wambach 23 goals and 8 assists.
Morgan, Wambach and Brazil’s Marta are the three finalists for FIFA’s Golden Ball. The winner will be announced Jan. 7 in Switzerland.
Marta, a five-time winner of the Golden Ball, did not have a great 2012 year by her lofty standards. Wambach was one of the three finalists last year.
The voting is done by coaches of the national teams and selected members of the soccer media. My hunch is that Abby – partly because of her career accomplishments – will be the winner of her first Golden Ball. It would be a fitting cap to her superb soccer career.
Morgan’s turn will come – perhaps many times.
The U.S. women’s national team continues its “Fan Tribute Tour” against China Saturday in Detroit’s Ford Field, Dec. 12 in Houston and Dec. 15 in Boca Raton, Fla.
KNICKS ARE LOOKING GOOD – VERY GOOD
The New York Knicks are looking like a threat to reach the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals. I’m not ready to say they’d be capable of knocking off defending league champion Miami, but you might disagree – and you could be right.
The Knicks have more size and depth most of the other 29 NBA teams and will be very tough to beat as long as they keep playing tough defense.
Thursday night’s 112-92 victory – minus top-scorer Carmelo Anthony – in Miami was very impressive. It sort of proved that the Knicks’ 104-84 season-opening victory over the Heat at Madison Square Garden was no fluke. Neither is New York’s +8.5 point differential (second only to Oklahoma City’s 9.6).
A few more thoughts on the 14-4 Knicks:
Knicks at the Lakers Christmas Day, 3 p.m. on ABC, is a game even a weary Santa Claus might tune in.
Raymond Felton is a significantly better all-around point guard than departed Jeremy Lin.
I don’t know what the Knicks plan to do with Amar’e Stoudemire (knee) when he’s ready to play, but I assume his return won’t hurt.
HO-HUM: PACQUIAO-MARQUEZ IV PAY-PER-VIEW SATURDAY NIGHT
Manny Pacquiao will take on Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time Saturday night in an HBO pay-per-view welterweight fight from Las Vegas.
Their three previous meetings were action fights, but Pacquiao won them all.
Wouldn’t you rather see Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Pacquiao I?
Not surprisingly, Pacquiao is favored over Marquez: Pacquiao bet $265 to win $100…Marquez bet $100 to win $220…The over-under for the 12-round fight is 10 ½ rounds…”over” bet $270 to win $100…”under” bet $100 to win $220.
Pacquiao’s last five fights went the distance.
MY TOP FIVE ALL-TIME NBA PLAYERS
Kobe Bryant this week became the fifth NBA player to top 30,000 points. Everybody is asking if Bryant is among the top five all-time players. There are no right or wrong answers. Everyone has an opinion.
I believe Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson , Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the all-time top five NBA players. The rest of my top 10 (not in order of preference) are LeBron James, Bill Russell, Bryant, Jerry West, and Larry Bird (apologies to Elgin Baylor, Karl Malone and George Mikan). Only LeBron and Kobe still are playing and candidates to crack my top five.
What do you think?
STATS, FACTS AND STRICTLY OPINION
If George Steinbrenner were alive and calling the shots, free-agent slugger Josh Hamilton would be a member of the New York Yankees by now…I won’t be surprised if it happens anyway.
Most turnovers in NFL in 2011-12: Philip Rivers 45, Mark Sanchez 44, Ryan Fitzpatrick 41, Josh Freeman 36.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o cleaned up at Thursday night’s Home Depot College Football Awards show: Maxwell Award for the nation’s most outstanding player; the Water Camp Foundation Award as player of the year; and the Bednarik Award as the top defensive player). He could make room for the Heisman in his crowded trophy case but I’m afraid Texas A&M freshman QB Johnny Manziel will beat him out Saturday night by a relatively slim margin. My vote was Te’0, Manziel, Collin Klein.
Navy 24, Army 13.