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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.
PATRIOTS (-10) OVER TEXANS IS THE “BEST BET”
BILLS’ 2013 SCHEDULE TOUGHER THAN IT LOOKS
TOUTING CHRIS PAUL FOR NBA MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
FRANK THOMAS 2014 HALL OF FAME LOCK
SABRES A GENEROUS 25x1 TO WIN 2013 STANLEY CUP
Favorites ruled in last weekend’s NFL wild-card action, going 4-0 straight up and against the Las Vegas point spread.
The legal sports books in Las Vegas took a beating, as they often do when a disproportionate amount of favorites win.
The lines for this weekend’s four divisional games were slightly adjusted – giving the underdogs a few extra points in an attempt to attract less action on the favorites.
My wild-card weekend results: 3-1 picking winning teams outright and 3-1 against the point spread; “Best Bet” Seattle, picked to beat Washington by more than the 3-point spot (27-20), won 24-14.
I like three of the four favorites to win and cover again this week:
Saturday’s’ games (home teams in CAPS):
DENVER (-10) 33, Baltimore 17 – The Broncos won 34-17 in Baltimore Dec. 16. Why should the rematch be much different? Denver has a huge advantage at quarterback (Peyton Manning over strong-armed but inconsistent Joe Flacco). Denver also plays much better defense than Indianapolis, the team the Ravens beat last week…During the regular season, Denver ranked 4th in total offense, 2nd in scoring offense and 2nd in total defense . Baltimore ranked 16th in total offense and 17th in total defense.
Green Bay 30, SAN FRANCISCO (-3) 27 –The difference in this game should be Packers QB Aaron Rodgers throwing to a healthy batch of talented receivers. Playing in nice weather should help Green Bay’s passing attack. The Packers held Adrian Peterson to 99 yards in a win over Minnesota last week. If they can similarly contain Frank Gore and force relatively inexperienced QB Colin Kaepernick to throw, they should be in good shape.
ATLANTA (-2 ½) 27, Seattle 20 – The Falcons and QB Matt Ryan are much better at home than on the road. Seattle is very talented and loaded with confidence after last week’s victory in Washington, but winning back-to-back West Coast-to-East Coast victories is a huge test for any team….Ryan is 33-6 in home games but 0-3 in the playoffs.
NEW ENGLAND (-10) 37, Houston 20 – This is my “Best Bet”…The Texans are much better than they looked in a 42-14 loss at New England Week 14, but not THAT much better. The Patriots are healthy and rested, and Bill Belichick is extra tough to beat when he has an extra week to prepare.
BOVADA odds to win Super Bowl 47: Denver 11x4…New England 7x2…Green Bay 6x1…San Francisco 6x1…Atlanta 7x1…Seattle 7x1…Baltimore 18x1…Houston 18x1.
RATING THE SURVIVING NFL PLAYOFF QUARTERBACKS
I wish someone would do a computer study to find out the percentage of NFL games won by the team with the higher-rated quarterback going in.
My theory is that quarterbacks are by far the most important players in pro team sports. If an NFL team has a QB rated in the top 5, it almost certainly will survive deep into the playoffs. Teams with above-average QBs almost always are playoff contenders. Every now and then, a team with a below-average QB might sneak into the playoffs and make a quick exit.
When in doubt in attempting to pick winning teams in postseason games, I go with the team I believe has the better QB in terms of current form, past performance – especially in the postseason – and health. For example, I picked Seattle over Washington in last week’s wild-card game because Redskins QB Robert Griffin III obviously wasn’t 100 percent healthy.
Here are my ratings of the eight QBs remaining in the playoffs:
1—Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay). I give him a slight edge for No. 1 over Tom Brady and Peyton Manning because he is more mobile and has proved he can win consistently on any kind of surface and in any kind of weather.
2—Tom Brady (New England). I give the edge over Peyton Manning because he has been much better in the postseason.
3—Peyton Manning (Denver).
4—Matt Ryan (Atlanta). Matty Ice has never been better and is particularly good at home. The Falcons host Seattle on Sunday. He’s due for his first playoff victory and has the experience edge over Seahawks rookie QB Russell Wilson.
5—Russell Wilson (Seattle). A remarkable rookie. If he were four of five inches taller, Buffalo probably would’ve drafted him and made the playoffs and the Seahawks would not have made the playoffs.
6—Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco) – In the long term, the 49ers figure to benefit from the Alex Smith-to-Kaerpernick switch. Kaepernick is the more explosive QB in terms of arm strength and scrambling for big gains. Kaepernick’s only question mark now is big-game experience. I don’t expect him to outplay Rodgers on Saturday night and that’s the main reason I picked Green Bay in a mild road upset.
7—Matt Schaub (Houston) – I think he’s better than his critics give him credit for, but I don’t expect him to perform well enough for the Texans to win Sunday at New England.
8—Joe Flacco (Baltimore) – Some observers say he has the strongest arm in the NFL. But he’s still inconsistent and often struggles on the road.
Sticking with my QB theory, if form holds true, I expect New England (Brady) to upset host Denver (Manning) in the AFC championship game, Green Bay (Rodgers) to upset host Atlanta (Ryan) in the NFC championship game, and Green Bay to beat New England in Super Bowl 47 (XLVII if you prefer).
BILLS’ 2013 SCHEDULE MORE CHALLENGING THAN IT LOOKS
The Bills figure to be tackling a considerably tougher schedule in 2013 than they in 2012, when they finished 6-10.
AFC East rivals New England (12-4), Miami (7-9) and the New York Jets (6-10) were a combined 25-23 in 2012. Miami figures to improve in QB Ryan Tannehill’s second season. The Jets figure to be healthier and Tim Tebow won’t be a distraction (he’ll likely be a Jaguar). The Patriots will be the Patriots -- the undisputed class of the division.
Based on 2012 records, four Buffalo’s five non-division home opponents appear to be high hurdles: Atlanta (13-3), Baltimore (10-6), Cincinnati (10-6) were a combined 33-15 in 2012. Carolina was 7-9 but closed fast and should be a genuine playoff contender. Kansas City was 2-14 in 2012 but most observers believe the Chiefs were underachievers.
They’ll have a new coach and figure to be better.
Buffalo’s 2013 non-division home opponents were a combined 42-38 in 2012. The five 2013 non-division road opponents were a combined 29-51 in 2012.
It should be a plus to play the toughest half of a team’s schedule at home. But at least three of the five non-division away road foes probably will be better than their 2012 records: Pittsburgh (8-8), New Orleans (7-9) and Tampa Bay (7-9). The two other road games will be at Cleveland (5-11) and Jacksonville (2-14).
TOUTING CHRIS PAUL FOR NBA MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Maybe LeBron James or Kevin Durant won’t be this season’s NBA Most Valuable Player after all.
Chris Paul has emerged as the league’s steadiest all-around point guard and has a big shot for MVP – particularly if his Los Angeles Clippers continue to have the NBA’s best record (29-8). The team’s other superstar – Blake Griffin – gets more highlights on SportsCenter with his awesome dunks, but there is no doubt that Paul is by far the MVP of the Clippers.
Paul is second on the NBA in assists (9.5 per game) and might be best defensive point guard in the league. He’s tied for 30th in scoring (17.0 points per game), but is you’ve seen him play frequently this season, you know he easily could average 25-plus points if he wanted to. But he picks his spots. He prefers to dish the ball. But when the team needs a spark, he knows when to take the big shots – and he usually delivers.
Who is the best NBA player wearing a Los Angeles uniform? It might still be Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, but the time has come to include Chris Paul in the discussion.
WHO WAS BEST POSTSEASON PITCHER: PETTITTE OR SCHILLING?
Dom from East Rochester, an entertaining contributor to sports talk shows locally and throughout the country, insists that Andy Pettitte has been a better postseason pitcher than Curt Schilling.
I understand and respect his pinstripe bias, but the numbers don’t back him up on this one. Schilling was a much better postseason pitcher – one of the best EVER.
Pettitte – 19-11 record (.633)…3.81 ERA…44 games....44 starts…276.2 innings pitched…285 hits allowed…76 walks…183 strikeouts…1.305 WHIP (walks+hits per game)
Schilling – 11-2 record (.846)…2.23 ERA…19 games…19 starts…133.1 innings pitched…104 hits allowed…25 walks…120 strikeouts…0.968 WHIP.
Schilling has the advantage in nearly every category. Pettitte has more victories because he had many more opportunities as a member of the mighty Yankees.
I believe Pettitte is a marginal Hall of Fame candidate. I think Schilling will be a Hall of Famer. Both deserve extra credit for their postseason work. I don’t hold Pettitte’s admitted limited PED use against him, but some Hall of Fame voters probably will.
Here are they’re regular-season pitching lines. Pettitte will try to pad his wins total this season:
Pettitte – 245-142 record (.633)…3.86 ERA (high by Cooperstown standards)…3130.2 innings…3250 hits allowed…983 walks…2320 strikeouts…1.352 WHIP
Schilling – 216-146 record (.597)…3.46 ERA…3261.0 innings…2998 hits allowed…711 walks…3116 strikeouts…1.137 WHIP.
CHECKING OUT THE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME’S CLASS OF 2014
The baseball Hall of Fame voters don’t figure to duplicate this week’s embarrassing shutout on picks for the Class of 2013.
Here are the Class of 2014 first-time eligibles:
Cinch picks in their first appearance on the ballot – Frank Thomas and Greg Maddux
Probable Hall of Famer but might have to wait a year or two – Tom Glavine
Probable Hall of Famer eventually – Mike Mussina
Possible Hall of Famer eventually – Jeff Kent
Player most likely to miss out due partly to hints and rumors of PED use
– Luis “Gonzo” Gonzalez. His HR totals over a 12-year span were 15, 10, 23, 26, 31, an out-of-sight 57 in 2001 (with 142 RBI), 28, 26, 17, 24, 15, 15. One suspects that he was using a potent brand of something in that one huge season.
Forget the rest – Moises Alou, Armando Benitez, Joe Borowski, Sean Casey, Ray Durham, Shawn Estes, Eric Gagne, Keith Foulke, Geoff Jenkins, Todd Jones, Jon Lieber, Esteban Loaiza, Paul Lo Duca, Matt Morris, Hideo Nomo, Kenny Rogers, Richie Sexson, J.T. Snow, Shannon Stewart, Mike Timlin, Jose Vidro, Dmitri Young.
LATE BRIGHTON GRAD ROBERT BEN CRAMER WAS BRILLIANT
Fellow Brighton High School product Robert Ben Cramer, who died Jan. 7 at age 62 in Baltimore of complications from lung cancer, was a brilliant reporter and writer. He began writing for Trapezoid, the BHS student newspaper, after he was cut from the baseball team.
He graduated from Brighton in 1967. I didn’t know him, but his sister was a classmate. 22 years later, he won a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his coverage of the Middle East for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He scored again with What It Takes: The Way to the White House, an account of the 1988 presidential election.
He loved baseball for entire life. A devoted New York Yankees fan, he wrote a no-holds-barred best-selling 2000 biography: Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life. He reportedly was working on a biography about Alex Rodriguez shortly before his death.
The Rochester Americans have 17 wins and 17 losses (including 2 overtime losses and 1 shootout loss) but they’ve been way above average on special teams. Among the 30 AHL teams, Rochester ranks 2nd on the power play (33x151; 21.9 percent) and 10th in penalty killing (130x153; 85.0 percent).
The National Lacrosse League will get more exposure this season with 10 games shown live on ESPN3. The Toronto Rock will play in all 10 games (15,000-plus home crowds look good). The only appearance for the defending champion Rochester Knighthawks will be home against Toronto Saturday, Jan. 26.
Interesting note from STATS: In the last 10 seasons, two teams from each of the four major team sports in North America with the best of tied for the best regular-season records went on to win championships:
NFL Tampa Bay 2002 and New England 2003…MLB Boston Red Sox 2007 and New York Yankees 2009…NBA San Antonio Spurs 2003 and Boston Celtics 2008…NHL Detroit Red Wings in 2002 and 2008….The Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos tied for the NFL’s best record (13-3) this season.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Teo’s disappointing performance in the BCS title game dropped him from No. 2 to No. 6 on ESPN.com analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s “Big Board.” He thinks Te’o will be drafted lower.
Interesting note from reader Don Badura: “I have just a quick observation: Seven is an unlucky number for those suspected of using PEDs. Barry Bonds has seven MVP awards. Roger Clemens has seven Cy Young Awards. Lance Armstrong has seven Tour de France titles. Kobe Bryant should just settle for his six NBA championships.
A caller to my radio show the other night said he doesn’t believe the Buffalo Sabres will ever win a Stanley Cup with Ryan Miller. I disagree. I think Miller is the main reason the Sabres have a sliver of a chance to win the Stanley Cup this season. Considering the team’s apparent lack of firepower, I don’t think the current Sabres could win the Cup with ANY goalie who ever donned mask and pads.
Bovada odds to win the 2013 Stanley Cup: Pittsburgh 8x1…Rangers 17x2…Vancouver 9x1…Los Angeles Kinds, Philadelphia each 12x1…Chicago 14x1…Boston, Detroit, St. Louis each 16x1…Minnesota 18x1…San Jose 20x1…Carolina, Washington 22x1…Buffalo, Edmonton each 25x1…Nashville and Tampa Bay each 28x1…Montreal, New Jersey and Toronto each 30x1…Anaheim, Colorado, Dallas, Florida, Ottawa, Phoenix each 40x1…Calgary, Winnipeg each 50x1…Islanders 66x1…Columbus 100x1.
We don’t know which teams will be playing in Super Bowl 47 Feb. 3 in New Orleans, but the Las Vegas wizards of odds say the AFC is a 2 ½-point favorite over the NFC.
Syracuse sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams made the 25-player midseason list for the 2012-13 Wooden Award (college basketball Player of the Year). The list, announced Thursday night, includes 3 freshmen, 4 sophomores, 6 juniors and 12 seniors.