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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.
TEXANS OVER THE COLTs IS NFL WEEK 15’s “BEST BET”
EXPANDING THE NFL PLAYOFFS: SOUNDS GREAT TO WNY FANS
ARE THE BROWNS BETTER THAN THE BILLS?
ANGELS-DODGERS 2013 WORLD SERIES WOULD BE FUN
TWINS SIGN BATCH OF FREE AGENTS FOR RED WINGS
RUTH, MAYS, BONDS 1-2-3 ON THIS LIST
The Houston Texans are coming off a humiliating 42-14 loss and should make amends at home Sunday against the surprising but overmatched Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts are 9-4 outright and against the Las Vegas point spread (ATS) but they could be too far behind the Texans for rookie QB Andrew Luck to pull off yet another fourth-quarter comeback.
Houston’s only other loss this season was home against Green Bay (42-24) Week 6. The Texans bounced back to crush Baltimore 43-13 the following week.
This week’s “Best Bet”: HOUSTON (-9) 33, Indianapolis 15.
(home teams in CAPS)
Green Bay 28, CHICAGO (+3) 20 – The Bears are 1-4 since starting 7-1. The Packers are healthier and 7-1 since starting 2-3. Green Bay has won five straight over Chicago and can clinch the NFC North with a victory here.
ATLANTA (-1 ½) 24, New York Giants 20 – The Falcons are 6-0 at home and should bounce back from last week’s loss at Carolina. Warning: Atlanta is 11-2 straight up but only 7-5-1 ATS. The Giants are 8-5 straight6 up and 6-7 ATS.
CLEVELAND (+1) 23. Washington 17 – The underrated Browns are 8-4-1 ATS and shooting for their first four-game winning streak since 2009. Redskins star rookie QB Robert Griffin III is iffy with an ailing knee and won’t be close to 100 percent if he does play.
ST. LOUIS (-2 ½) 24, Minnesota 13 – The Rams have allowed only 17, 13 and 12 points in their three-game winning streak. The Vikings can win if Adrian Peterson runs for 150+ yards. That’s possible but not likely.
MIAMI (-7 ½) 20, Jacksonville 17 – The Dolphins are 1-6 in their last 7 games and can’t afford to spot any team 7 1/2 points – not even the Jaguars. Jacksonville has a better record ATS (6-7) than Miami (5-7-1).
Tampa Bay 30, NEW ORLEANS (- 3 ½) – The Buccaneers are due for a top effort and have enough firepower to outscore Drew Brees & Co. Tampa Bay is 8-4-1 ATS.
Denver 28, BALTIMORE (+3) 17 – The Broncos have won their last five road games and are 15-8 straight up in their last 23 games against the Ravens. Baltimore is 3-7-1 in its last 11 games.
Seattle 27, BUFFALO (+5 ½) 20 – The Seahawks are thinking playoffs. The Bills are thinking – well, I have no idea. Buffalo discard RB Marshawn Lynch should have a productive afternoon. Seattle is 9-4 ATS and Buffalo is 6-7.
Detroit 38, ARIZONA (+6) 10 – The frustrated Lions figure to snap their five-game losing streak and deal the Cardinals their 10th straight loss.
Carolina 28, SAN DIEGO (-3) 20 – Panthers QB Cam Newton is in top form (11 TDs and 0 turnovers in his last four games) and should be the difference. Warning: The Chargers are 19-4 in December under Norv Turner.
Pittsburgh 24, DALLAS (+2) 16 – The Steelers are more likely to deliver in a really big game than the Cowboys. Warning: Pittsburgh is 3-8 ATS in its last 11 road games. But Dallas is 0-5 ATS in its last five home games.
OAKLAND (-3) 27, Kansas City 17 – It’s sort of a shame one team has to win. I give the edge to the Raiders thanks to Carson Palmer’s arm and Sebastian Janikowski’s foot. Warning: Oakland is 1-8 ATS in its last 9 home games against Kansas City.
NEW ENGLAND (-5) 30, San Francisco 20 – Patriots QB Tom Brady hardly ever loses at home and back-to-back wins over Houston and the 49ers could earn him league MVP honors.
Monday night’s game
New York Jets 23, TENNESSEE (- 1 ½) 15 – The Jets think they can make the playoffs if they win their final three games. The Titans are 1-5 straight up in their last 6 games against the Jets and 2-6 ATS in their last 8 home games.
Thursday night’s game (picked on my radio show Wednesday night)
Cincinnati 27, PHILADELPHIA (+5) 17 – The Bengals have much more to play for and the pass rush to fluster Eagles rookie QB Nick Foles. Philadelphia is 1-5 ATS in its last 6 games and 0-5 ATS in the last five home games against Cincinnati.
NFL COULD EXPAND PLAYOFFS: GREAT NEWS FOR BILLS
The NFL owners reportedly are considering expanding the playoff field from 12 teams to 14 or even 16. And there is strong support to do it. WHY? M-o-n-e-y.
My initial reaction was that increasing the number of teams in the postseason would dilute the importance of the regular season.
I still don’t like the idea of 16 playoff teams. But 14 wouldn’t be too bad:
The team with the best record in each conference would earn a bye. There would be six other playoff teams in each conference.
The obvious best thing about expanding the playoff field for fans in western New York is that it would improve the probability of the Bills ending their amazing 12-year (going on 13) playoff drought.
Here’s how Buffalo would’ve fared in terms of trips to the playoffs since it last qualified in 1999 if there were 14 or 16 playoff teams instead of 12 (including 7 or 8 AFC teams):
2000 – 8-8 record…tied for 9th-best record in AFC
2001 – 3-13 record…wouldn’t have made the playoffs (worst record in the AFC)
2002 – 8-8 record…tied for 10th-best record in AFC
2003 – 6-10 record…tied for 9th
2004 – 9-7 record…tied for 7th-best record in AFC (might have qualified on tie-breakers)
2005 – 5-11 record…tied for 12th-best record in AFC
2006 – 7-9 record …tied for 12th-best record in AFC
2007 – 7-9 record…tied for 9th-best record in AFC
2008 – 7-9 record…tied for 9th-best record in AFC
2009 – 6-10 record…13th-best record in the AFC
2010 – 4-12 record …tied for 14th-best (and worst) record in the AFC
2011 – 6-10 record …tied for 12th-best record in the AFC.
The bottom line – With the possible exception of 2004, expanding the NFL playoff field to 14 or 16 teams (or to 7 or 8 AFC teams) wouldn’t have helped the Bills. That’s pretty sad.
ARE THE BROWNS CLOSING IN ON THE BILLS?
Are the Cleveland Browns close to being a better team than the Buffalo Bills? Are they already? It hurts even to ask.
Both teams are 5-8.
I know the Bills won 24-14 in Cleveland Week 3, but the Browns have improved since while Buffalo has regressed. If they played this week, I’d pick Cleveland.
T he Browns are 5-3 in their last 8 games and their young defensive unit appears to be coming around.
I don’t think 29-year-old Cleveland rookie Brandon Weeden ever will be a Pro Bowl quarterback but I prefer him over Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Here’s how the two teams compare entering Week 15:
Point differential – Bills -63 (289-352)…Browns -13 (259-272)
Total offense – Bills 341.4 (20th)…Browns 321.8 (26th)
Pass offense – Bills 200.2 (25th)…Browns 221.4 (20th)
Scoring offense – Bills 22.2 (19th)…Browns 19.9 (24th)
Scoring defense – Bills 27.1 (27th)…Bills 20.9 (9th)
Point differential – Bills -4.9 points per game…Browns- 1.0 point per game
Total defense – Bills 362.1 (21st)…Browns 363.2 (23rd)
Pass defense – Bills 227.6 (14th)…Browns 242.7 (21st)
Rush defense – Bills 134.5 (28th)…Browns 120.5 (18th)
Takeaways/giveaways – Bills 19T/26G (-7)…Browns 27T/19G (+8).
Last week’s results: 10-6 picking winning teams straight up (128-79-1 this season); 10-6 picking winners against the point spread (91-110-7 this season); the “Best Bet” is 9-4-1 straight up and 4-8-2 against the spread after 8-point favored Tampa Bay lost 23-21 to Philadelphia.
ROBERT GRIFFIN III OR ANDREW LUCK FOR NFL OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF YEAR?
The NFL never has had three rookie quarterbacks as impressive as Robert Griffin III (Washington), Andrew Luck (Indianapolis) and Russell Wilson (Seattle) this season. Here’s how they compare:
Robert Griffin III – 223x352 (.664); 2,906 yards passing; 8.23 yards per pass attempt; 18 TD passes; 4 INTs; 28 sacks; 104.2 passer rating (1st in NFL); 224 yards passing per game…112 carries for 748 yards (6.7-yard average 1st in NFL); 6 TD runs; 9 fumbles (2 lost)…Washington is 7-6 (5-11 in 2011).
Andrew Luck – 295x537 (.549); 3,792 yards passing; 7.06 yards per pass attempt; 18 TD passes; 18 INTs; 32 sacks; 74.5 passer rating (31st in NFL); 292 yards passing per game…49 carries for 223 yards (4.6-yard average); 5 TD runs; 1 fumble (0 lost)…Indianapolis is 9-4 (2-14 in 2011).
Russell Wilson – 208x330 (.630); 2,492 yards passing; 7.55 yards per pass attempt; 20 TD passes; 9 INTs; 24 sacks; 94.9 passer rating (7th in NFL); 192 yards passing per game…69 carries for 310 yards (4.5-yard average); 0 TD runs; 2 fumbles (1 lost)…Seattle is 8-5 (7-9 in 2011).
In most seasons, two running backs would be legit Rookie of the Year candidates:
Doug Martin (Tampa Bay) – 264 carries for 1,234 yards (4.7-yard average); 10 TD runs; 94.9 yards rushing per game…35 catches for 378 yards and 1 TD
Alfred Morris (Washington) – 253x1,228 yards (4.9-yard average); 7 TD runs; 94.5 yards rushing per game…6 catches for 42 yards and 0 TD.
Cam Newton (Carolina) has bounced back from a slow start this season and has recovered from an early bout with the sophomore jinx. The Panthers are 3-3 in their last 6 games and he has 15 TD passes and only 2 turnovers over that span…Miami changed head coaches Tony Sparano to Joe Philbin) primarily to improve the offense. During the team’s current 1-5 stretch, the Dolphins have averaged 15 points (20, 3, 14, 24, 16, 13…The St. Louis Rams are 4-0-1 vs. NFC West foes and 2-6 vs. the rest of the NFL…Green Bay is 7-1 since its 2-3 start…Atlanta is 6-0 at home, with 5 of those wins by 6 points or fewer…Adrian Peterson (Minnesota) needs to average 133.3 yards rushing in his final three games to become the 7th 2,000-yard rusher…Drew Brees (New Orleans) has 18 INTs including 9 in his last 3 games and 7 in his last 2 games….Indianapolis has 6 wins this season when tied for behind in the 4th quarter…Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona), one of the NFL’s top four-or-five wide receivers, is averaging only 50.2 yards receiving per game this season because his team’s QBs stink…Dallas has one 100-yard rushing performance in its last 15 games(DeMarco Murray Week 1 this season)…Remember when all four AFC East teams were 3-3? New England is 7-0 since with an average victory margin of 21 points.
ARE ANGELS-DODGERS DESTINED TO MEET IN 2013 WORLD SERIES?
For the sake of baseball, I hope the 2013 World Series matchup is not the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. the Los Angeles Angels. But I’d like to see it.
With the surprise signing of Josh Hamilton, the Angels have a chance to score 1,000 runs this season.
How’s this for a possible starting lineup for the Angels: Mike Trout CF, Erik Aybar SS, Albert Pujols 1B, Josh Hamilton LF, Mark Trumbo RF, Kendrys Morales DH, Howard Kendrick 2B, Alberto Callaspo 3B, Chris Ianetta C.
That’s an awesome combination of power and speed.
Signing Hamilton was a coup for the Angels. Five years is a reasonably safe contract. He should feel less pressure in such a star-studded lineup. And the AL West-rival Texas Rangers lost their biggest bat.
TWINS SEND CHRISTMAS TALENT PACKAGE TO RED WINGS
The parent Minnesota Twins haven’t forgotten the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.
The Twins signed eight minor-league free agents this week. Many of them figure to be 2013 Red Wings:
SS Ray Olmedo…31 years old…Hit .244 in 20 games with Chicago White Sox last season…Spent most of 2012 with Charlotte (International League), where he hit .273.In portions of 10 Triple-A seasons, he’s been a .271 hitter with 22 HRs, 270 RBI and 70 stolen bases in 843 games.
OF Brandon Boggs…29YO…Hit .259 with 9 HRs and 57 RBI with Indianapolis (IL) last season…In 101 games with Texas (AL) in 2008, he hit .226 with 8 HRs and 41 RBI.
1B Reynaldo Rodriguez…26YO…Hit .249 with 16 HRs and 53 RBI with Portland (Double-A Eastern League) and briefly Pawtucket (IL) last season.
P-OF Jason Lane…35YO…an interesting player…He was a starting outfielder for the 2005 World Series Houston Astros (267, 26 HRs, 78 RBI in 145 games). ..He spent last season as a pitcher-outfielder with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters (Roger Clemens’ latest team). He was 9-5 with a 3.17 ERA and hit .275 with 9 HRs and was chosen team MVP.
RHP Scott Elarton…36YO…6-foot-7, 240 pounds…6-11 record, 5.41 ERA with Lehigh Valley (IL) last season…56-61 record, 5.29 ERA in majors (including 17-7 with Houston in 2000 and 11-9 with Cleveland in 2005…Last pitched in majors in 2008.
RHP Virgil Vasquez…30YO…spent last three years playing independent ball and in Australia. Was 2-5, 5.84 ERA with Pittsburgh Pirates in 14 games.
LHP Michael O’Connor…32YO…3-6, 3.73 ERA in 31 games (15 starts) with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (IL) last season…Pitched in 9 games for New York Mets in 2011.
RH Bryan Augenstein…2-1, 3 saves, 3.59 ERA in 23 games with Durham (IL) last season.
It would take a brilliant season to top LeBron James for NBA Most valuable Player, but – so far –Carmelo Anthony (Knicks) is having one. He scored 22 points in the first quarter of Thursday night’s 116-107 (it wasn’t nearly that close) home win over the Los Angeles Fakers. The Knicks are 17-5 (only Oklahoma City at 18-4 has a better record). The Knicks rank T4th in scoring (103.2), 10th in scoring defense (95.9) and 4th in scoring differential (+7.4; Oklahoma City is tops at +9.3).
--If the Buffalo Bills had a shot at trading for Alex Smith (San Francisco) or Tony Romo (Dallas) or Michael Vick (Philadelphia) after this season, my preference (in order) would be 1-Romo, 2-Smith, 3-Vick.
--The Cincinnati Bengals didn’t look much like a dangerous playoff team in Thursday night’s sloppy 34-13 victory over Philadelphia. The Eagles lost it as much as the Bengals won it.
--If I were Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, and Robert Griffin III (sprained right knee) was less than 100percent and available, I’d start fellow rookie Kirk Cousins and try to beat Cleveland without putting Griffin at risk. A week off probably would do wonders.
--Finally, a break for New York Yankees fans. Andrew Jones will play in Japan last season. Last year, he hit .197 with 14 HRs and 34 RBI in 94 games. Jones, 35, appeared to be headed for the Hall of Fame for the first half of his career. But he lost it quickly. I wonder why and I’m suspicious.
--With a projected Major League Baseball record $225 million player payroll, in 2013, the Los Angeles Dodgers will end the 15-year run of the Yankees for the highest in baseball.
--Baseball and softball have joined forces to lobby for inclusion in the 2020 Summer Olympics. They were voted out by the IOC in 2005 and last participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. They’ll bid against karate, roller sports, squash, wakeboard, climbing and wushu. The IOC will vote in September.
--The Amerks aren’t setting the AHL on fire, but they have the 12th-best point percentage in the 30-team league (.565; 26 of 46 possible points), they’ve played respectable hockey on the road (5-4-2-0; outscored opponents 45-40) and are capable of better at home (7-5-0-0; outscoring opponents 34-32).
--First, the Boston Red Sox hired statistical pioneer Bill James. Now the NBA Memphis Grizzlies have hired ESPN.com stat whiz John Hollinger. He’ll be a vice-president of basketball operations and evaluate players throughout the league. He developed the Player Efficiency7 Rating (PER) to measure the overall effectiveness of players.
ESPN PICKS TOP 100 ALL-TIME BASEBALL PLAYERS: RUTH, MAYS, BONDS 1-2-3
ESPN.com this week offered “Baseball’s Hall of 100.” A “panel of experts” ranked the all-time 100 best players in Major League Baseball history. I think they did a pretty good job.
The top 25: 25-Tris Speaker…24-Tom Seaver…23-Randy Johnson…22-Frank Robinson…21-Joe DiMaggio…20-Joe Morgan…19-Albert Pujols…18-Alex Rodriguez…17-Cy Young…16-Mike Schmidt…15-Rogers Hornsby…14-Rickey Henderson…13-Greg Maddux…12-Walter Johnson…11-Lou Gehrig…10-Homus Wagner…9-Mickey Mantle…8-Stan Musial…7-Roger Clemens…6-Ty Cobb…5-Hank Aaron…4-Ted Williams…3-Barry Bonds…2 Willie Mays…1 Babe Ruth.
Some other rankings of note: 95-Sammy Sosa…85-Manny Ramirez…83-Mark McGwire…78-Mike Piazza…67-Mariano Rivera…65-Eddie Murray…55-Reggie Jackson…52-Jackie Robinson…49-Chipper Jones…44-Sandy Koufax…43-Brooks Robinson…38 Derek Jeter…37 Pete Rose…35 Nolan Ryan…31 Cal Ripken Jr. …30-George Brett…27-Johnny Bench.