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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.
ALL THE BILLS NEED IS A 5-0 FINISH...AND THEY HAVE A (SLIM) SHOT
PEYTON MANNING, BREES SHOW MVP STUFF
GIVE THE GIANTS CREDIT FOR HAVING A BIG GAME WEEK 12
Happy days are here again for Buffalo Bills fans.
The NFL playoff system is a beautiful thing. It keeps loyal fans in a lot of cities rooting for miracles that will extend their favorite team’s season into January.
After Sunday’s 37-1 4 home romp over the New York Jets, fans in western New York are no exception.
The Bills are a mere 4-7 but a 9-7 record could be good enough to earn the second wild-card playoff berth in the AFC. One team has to get it and the Bills are in the mix – at least for now.
Reasons to give the Bills a remote chance to end their 13-year playoff drought:
In terms of overall talent, there isn’t a team clearly better than Buffalo in the nine-team battle for that one playoff spot: Miami (5-5), Jets (5-5), Baltimore (4-6), Cleveland (4-6), Oakland (4-6), San Diego (4-6), Pittsburgh (4-6), Tennessee (4-6) and the Bills (4-7). What team on that list leaps out at you? Probably none.
The Bills have one of softest remaining schedules: bye this Sunday...Atlanta in Toronto Dec. 1...at Tampa Bay Dec. 8...at Jacksonville Dec. 15...home against Miami Dec. 22...at New England Dec. 29 (the Patriots might not need the game)...On paper, the teams with better records will be facing tougher schedules.
The Bills should be relatively healthy coming off their bye week. Buffalo still lacks quality depth, but most of the other WC2 (second wild-card berth) contenders are in the same boat.
Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel had his most complete game Sunday against the Jets. An average team needs at least an average QB to make the playoffs. Manuel was better than average vs. the Jets. Can he play well on the road? He’ll have to. The Bills will play only one more game at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Are the Bills a long shot to make the playoffs? Sure. But so are the eight other teams in this one-of-them-has-to-win competition.
NFL MVP: PEYTON, BREES OR MAYBE BRADY?
Quarterbacks rule – in college and the NFL. The Heisman Trophy winner and the NFL Most Valuable Player this season both will be QBs. That’s a given.
Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos) and Drew Brees (New Orleans) showed on Sunday why they’re the frontrunners for NFL MVP. Tom Brady (New England) will get his chance to stay in the race Monday night at the Carolina Panthers.
Manning was the difference in Denver’s 27-17 victory over the previously unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs played a decent game, particularly on defense. But they couldn’t compare at the QB position.
The Broncos were a threat to score on every possession. With Alex Smith at QB, Kansas City was a threat to get one or two first downs on every possession.
Brees had another productive afternoon in New Orleans’ 23-20 home win over San Francisco. Being relatively short helped him get a key game-changing roughing the passer call in a hard-fought 23-20 home victory.
Brady doesn’t have his customary gaudy stats, but he earned plenty of MVP points for his major role in keeping New England afloat when the team was ravaged by injuries earlier this season. No QB has done more with less. His outside MVP hopes could rest with the outcome of Monday night’s game vs. the Panthers.
GIANTS: FROM 0-6 TO SPOTLIGHT SHOWDOWN VS. DALLAS
The New York Giants aren’t a real good NFL team but they deserve credit for coming a long way since they started this season 0-6 and were being ridiculed daily by the Big Apple tabloids.
The Giants have won four straight games and a 4-6 record makes them a title contender in the slow-starting NFC East. The standings entering Week 12:
Philadelphia 6-5...Dallas 5-5...Giants 4-6... Washington 3-7.
The Giants will host the Cowboys in a huge game Sunday at 4:25 p.m.
BOB’S NFL POWER RANKINGS (entering Monday Night Football)
1—Broncos...earned top spot with win over Chiefs
2—Seahawks...first to reach 10 wins
3—Chiefs...not embarrassed in Denver
4—Saints...Brees pulls out another win
5—Patriots...big road test in Carolina Monday night
6—Panthers...a moment of truth
7—Colts...Luck king of the comebacks
8—Bengals...record 31-point quarter
9—49ers...tough loss in New Orleans
10—Eagles...ended 10-game home losing streak
11—Bears...big OT win over Ravens
12—Lions...faded late vs. Pittsburgh
13—Cardinals...No INTs for Palmer first time this season
14—Cowboys...bye week to prepare for Giants
15—Packers...good try minus Aaron Rodgers
16—Dolphins...timely win over Chargers
17—Rams...host Chicago off bye week
18—Steelers...impressive rally beat Lions
19—Ravens...Super Bowl champs are 4-6
20—Giants...won 4 straight since 0-6 start
22—Chargers...fading after surprising start
23—Titans...costly home loss to Colts
24—Raiders...QB McGloin 3 TDs in debut win
25—Browns...led 13-0 before collapse
26—Bills...big step up for QB EJ Manuel
27—Redskins...no late surge likely this season
28—Buccaneers...two straight victories
29—Vikings...crushed in Seattle
30—Falcons...four straight losses by combined 135-61
31—Texans...QB-WR spat latest problem
32—Jaguars...at least home fans saw a touchdown.
NFL WEEK 11 STAT PACK (entering Monday Night Football)
Home teams are 11-3 straight up (100-61 this season) and 9-2-3 against the Las Vegas point spread (86-68-7 this season)
Las Vegas favorites are 9-5 straight up (99-62 this season) and 6-5-3 against the point spread (82-73-6 this season)
Teams winning the turnover battle are 11-0 (96-24 this season)
Teams leading in time of possession are 8-6 (105-56 this season)
Teams with the most yards rushing are 6-8 (91-70 this season)
Teams with the most yards passing are 9-5 (94-67 this season)
Teams scoring first are 10-4 (103-58 this season)
Teams leading after the first quarter are 8-5-1 (83-47 this season)
Teams leading at halftime are 8-4 (107-37 this season)
Teams leading after three quarters are 11-3 (125-24 this season)
Teams with the better record entering the game are 8-5 (65-47 this season)
Three of the 14 games were decided by 3 points or less (41 of 161 games this season)
Five of the 14 games were decided by 7 points or less (76 of 161 games this season)
There were 701 points through 14 games (50.1-point average).
The NFC is 2-1 vs. the AFC in this week’s first three of four interconference games and the NFC leads this season’s interconference series 25-24.
TOP PERFOMERS NFL WEEK 11
Carson Palmer (Arizona) 419 yards (won)
Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh) 367 (won)
Matthew Stafford (Detroit) 362 (lost)
Scott Tolzien (Green Bay) 339 (lost)
Peyton Manning (Denver) 323 (won)
Drew Brees (New Orleans) 305 (won)
Michael Floyd (Arizona) 193 yards (won)
Calvin Johnson (Detroit) 179 (lost)
Vincent Jackson (Tampa Bay) 165 (won)
Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh) 147 (won)
Garrett Graham (Houston) 136 (lost)
Harry Douglas (Atlanta) 134 (lost)
Josh Gordon (Cleveland) 125 (lost)
Demaryius Thomas (Denver) 121 (won)
Jordy Nelson (Green Bay) 117 (lost)
Andre Johnson (Houston) 116 (lost)
Victort Cruz (NY Giants) 110 (won)
Coby Fleener (Indianapolis) 107 (won)
Bobby Rainey (Tampa Bay) 163 yards (won)
Rashad Jennings (Oakland) 150 (won)
Ray Rice (Baltimore) 131 (lost)
Ryan Mathews (San Diego) 127 (lost).
IS THE HEISMAN TROPHY A WINSTON VS. MANZIEL SHOOTOUT?
The Heisman Trophy looks like a two-man race between Jameis Winston (Florida State) and Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M).
It remains to be seen if a possible sexual assault scandal will wind up costing Winston the Heisman and his Seminoles a shot at the national championship. But as of the moment, things are looking good for both.
Manziel is making a strong bid for his second straight Heisman Trophy. The voters who hold his off-field missteps against him are undoubtedly following the Winston situation.
Winston wasn’t distracted in the slightest last Saturday as he played only the first half of a 59-3 romp over the grossly overmatched visiting Syracuse Orange. He was 19x21 for 277 yards (13.2 yards per attempt), with 2 TD passes and 0 INTs.
Texas A&M was idle last week.
Here’s how Winston and Manziel measure up with two games left on their regular season schedules:
Winston – 185x261 (.709) for 2,938 yards (11.16 yards per attempt), 28 TD passes, 7 INTs...he can run a bit when he needs to: 58 carries for 145 yards (2.5-yard average) and 3 TDs.
Manziel – 230x315 (.730) for 3,313 yards (10.52 yards per attempt), 31 TD passes, 11 INTs...he also leads the team in rushing: 110x611, 5.6-yard average, 8 TDs.
Florida State is 10-0 and Texas A&M is 8-2. Manziel has to pass more often and plays more minutes than Winston because his team is involved in so many high-scoring games.
The remaining schedule could benefit Manziel. He’ll be facing tougher competition:
Texas A&M – at No. 18 LSU Saturday...at No. 8 Missouri Nov. 30.
Florida State – hosts Idaho Saturday...at Florida Nov. 30. Winston isn’t going to get many Heisman points beating up on the outclassed and the disappointing Gators.
A.J. McCarron (Alabama) still has some Heisman supporters, but he wasn’t overly impressive in last week’s 20-7 win over Mississippi State and isn’t likely to significantly bolster his case against Chattanooga on Saturday. A prime performance in a road win at Auburn Nov. 30 could be an impressive late boost.
Maybe some hot-shot recruits from Florida will give Syracuse a look if they get shot down by the schools in their home state. They know SU needs help after last Saturday’s 59-3 loss at Florida State. It was a worse mismatch than SU vs. Colgate or Cornell in basketball.
If I were running the New York Yankees, I’d make Jacoby Ellsbury a higher priority than Carlos Beltran.
Do you think the Knicks and Nets could win the NBA East if you combined the 12 best players?
I’m eagerly awaiting an explanation on how Major League Baseball is going to handle phantom double plays at second base on instant replay. I hope they’ll no longer be allowed. Make-believe DPs have been a joke for way too long.
I would have voted Boston’s John Farrell American League Manager of the Year, but the criticism out of New England of those who voted for winner Terry Francona of the Cleveland Indians is ridiculous.
Ailing Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash is looking like a formerly great player who hung on for too long.
The new sports bar (Remedy) at Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack is a great spot to watch college football on Saturdays and the NFL on Sundays. It has 23 TVs, including an 18-foot high screen for Buffalo Bills games.
HOW THE NINE TEAMS VYING FOR AFCWC2 MEASURE UP
The nine teams in the mix for the AFC’s second wild-card playoff berth are a mediocre bunch. Just for fun, here is how they compare in the rankings in the 30-team NFL in total offense, scoring offense, total defense and scoring defense. The lower the total, the better (the rankings are through Sunday’s games):
San Diego – 7-17-27-11 – 62
Tennessee – 21-18-10-13 – 62
Pittsburgh – 15-20-14-19 – 68
Buffalo – 17-21-16-21 – 75
Cleveland – 25-28-5-17 – 75
Baltimore – 30-25-13-8 – 76
Oakland – 16-26-17-20 – 79
New York Jets – 20-31-8-27 – 86
Miami – 31-24-21-12 – 88.
HOW ABOUT JOHNNY MANZIEL FOR THE BUFFALO BILLS?
LIONS OVER STEELERS IS THE “BEST BET”
HOW THE AFC EAST TEAMS MEASURE UP
EXPECT NO MIRACLES FOR TED NOLAN
Allow me to become the first western New York media person (that I know of) to tout Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel as the first-round pick for the Buffalo Bills in the 2014 NFL college draft.
You all are familiar with Johnny Football. He has a very good chance to win his second Heisman Trophy. He’s the only quarterback that scares Alabama.
Reasons to like Manziel as Buffalo’s first-round pick:
He can make every throw.
He has exceptional mobility and instincts.
He’s confident and a fiery leader.
He’s an entertainer. He would sell tickets and help avoid TV blackouts. If Manziel were Buffalo’s starting QB, I believe the team would sell AT LEAST 5,000 new season tickets immediately and get significantly more prime-time exposure in the near future.
Reasons the Bills might reject the notion of taking Manziel:
There will be guys available who look more like the prototype NFL QB and have stronger arms. (None have been as productive).
He might run himself into injuries (Who couldn’t?).
The Bills used this year’s first-round pick on QB EJ Manuel and have other needs. (So what? The Bills need two QBs. If Buffalo drafted Manziel, he could battle Manuel for the starting job in training camp. The “loser” would be a better back-up QB than anyone the Bills had this season. One of the two young QBs would be prime trade bait in the near future – maybe even for a first-round pick from a team in need of a QB in a manpower pinch).
Other teams will be interested in Manziel. That’s for sure. Sadly, the Bills could be in position to beat them to the punch. Buffalo will enter Sunday’s home game against the New York Jets with a disappointing 3-7 record. Only three teams have fewer wins – Atlanta (2), Tampa Bay (1) and Jacksonville (1).
Here’s how ESPN Insider Brock Huard ranks the 2014 NFL draft-eligible quarterbacks: Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), Marcus Mariota (Oregon), redshirt freshman Jameis Winston (Florida State), Manziel, Tajh Boyd (Clemson), AJ McCarron (Alabama), Bryce Petty (Baylor)...Braxton Miller (Ohio State), Derek Carr (Fresno State), Aaron Murray (Georgia).
“BEST BET” IS LIONS TO MAUL STEELERS
The Detroit Lions finally are playing to their talent level. They’re 6-3 and coming off wins over Dallas and Chicago.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are 3-6 and were fortunate to face the flat Buffalo Bills last week.
The Lions have been tough against the run and Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t had the pass protection to take over games.
This week’s “Best Bet” is Detroit 28, PITTSBURGH (+2 ½) 17.
Sunday other games
(home team in CAPS)
New York Jets 24, BUFFALO (-1) 13 – Entering this matchup of rookie quarterbacks, Geno Smith has been hot-and-cold for the 5-4 Jets, and EJ Manuel has been consistently bland for the Bills. The Jets are coming off their bye after a home win over New Orleans and should end their pattern of WLWLWLWLW.
Atlanta 20, TAMPA BAY (+1) 14 – The Buccaneers are down to their third-string running back and I wouldn’t count on rookie Mike Glennon to pass them to a second straight victory.
Arizona 24, JACKSONVILLE (+7) 13 – The Cardinals quietly are 5-4 and coming off home wins over Atlanta and Houston. The Jaguars no longer are due for a victory after last week’s road win over Tennessee.
PHILADELPHIA (-5) 35, Washington 24 – The Eagles lead the NFL in big plays (20+ yards) and figure to produce a few more than the Redskins in a high-scoring game.
HOUSTON (-7) 28, Oakland 13 – The frustrated Texans are 0-7 since starting 2-0. They’re due for a win and despite a long injury list still have more overall talent than the Raiders.
CHICAGO (-3) 24, Baltimore 17 – The Ravens are going to struggle until (if?) running back Ray Rice wakes up (2.5 yards per carry). Josh McCown has been effective backing up injured Bears QB Jay Cutler.
CINCINNATI (- 6) 27, Cleveland 14 – Poor play by QB Andy Dalton is the main reason the Bengals have lost two straight games on the road in overtime. He figures to bounce back before the home crowd.
San Diego 24, MIAMI (+1) 17 – Both teams are 4-5 but the embarrassed Dolphins are the one that can’t wait for the season to end.
NEW YORK GIANTS (-5 1/2) 27, Green Bay 15 – The 3-6 Giants are thinking playoffs and they catch a huge break with recent Packers taxi-squad QB Scott Tolzien filling in for injured Aaron Rodgers.
SEATTLE (-12 ½) 30, Minnesota 10 – The Seahawks have won five straight games and are extra tough at home.
NEW ORLEANS (-3) 33, San Francisco 17 – Saints QB Drew Brees is hot and 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick is not.
DENVER (-8 ½) 35, Kansas City 24 – The undefeated Chiefs have thrived on takeaways against lesser opponents this season.
Monday night’s game
New England 24, CAROLINA (-1 1/2) 20 – The Panthers are 6-1 since their 0-2 start and no fluke, but the difference in the game figures to be Patriots QB Tom Brady.
Thursday night’s pick was Indianapolis 27, TENNESSEE (+3) 14 – The Colts won by 3 points (30-27).
Last week’s “Best Bets” results – 8-7 picking winning team straight up (95-52 this season) and 4-10 picking winners against the point spread (68-76-3)...The “Best Bet” is 7-3 straight up and 4-6 against the spread after the New York Giants, picked to beat Oakland by more than the 6-point spot, won by only four points (24-20).
COWBOYS LEADING THE NFL IN SOMETHING
The Dallas Cowboys are a mere 5-5 but not all of their fans are disappointed. The ones betting on the Cowboys have been cashing in. Dallas leads the NFL with a 7-3 record against the point spread (ATS).
The rest of the records ATS: 6-3 – Carolina, Kansas City, New York Jets, New Orleans, San Francisco...5-3-1 – Denver, Oakland, San Diego, Tennessee...6-4 – Seattle...5-4 – Arizona, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, New England... 5-4-1 – Cincinnati...5-5 – Buffalo, Philadelphia...4-4-1 – Baltimore, Green Bay...4-5 – Miami, Minnesota...4-6...St. Louis...3-6 – New York Giants, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington...2-6-1 – Chicago...2-7 Atlanta, Houston, Jacksonville.
HERE’S HOW THE AFC EAST TEAMS COMPARE (rank in 32-team NFL in parentheses)
Total offense – Patriots (12th) 361.1 yards per game)...Bills (16th) 322.9)...Jets (17th) 331.2...Dolphins (30th) 309.0
Scoring offense – Patriots (8th) 26.0 points per game...Dolphins (20th) 21.4...Bills (24thth) 19.9...Jets (28th) 18.8
Total defense – Jets (8th) 325.2 yards allowed per game...Bills (19th) 355.9...Miami (20th) 357.1...Patriots (21st) 361.0
Scoring defense – Patriots (7th) 19.4...Dolphins (t14th) 23.2...Jets (22nd) 25.7...Bills (24th) 25.9.
NOLAN DOESN’T HAVE MUCH TO WORK WITH
The Buffalo Sabres figure to slightly improve in the NHL standings under new coach Ted Nolan. It would be difficult not to. But don’t expect a dramatic turnaround. The team is 4-15-1 for a reason: Lack of experienced talent. Imagine how bad things would be minus goalie Ryan Miller.
Here is how Buffalo ranks in the 30-team NHL entering Nolan’s debut Friday night at home against Toronto:
Point percentage in the standings -- .225; 9 of 40 possible points (30th)
Goals per game – 1.65 (30th)
Fewest goals allowed per game – 3.15 (27th)
5-on-5 goals for/against ratio – 0.53 (30th)
Power-play percentage – 13.6 (23rd)
Penalty-killing percentage – 81.2 (t19th)
Shots per game – 24.8 (30th)
Fewest shots allowed per game – 36.9 (t29th)
Shot differential per game – minus 12.1 (30th)
Winning % scoring first -- .000 (30th)
Winning % trailing first -- .222 (20th)
Winning % leading after the first period -- .222 (20th)
Winning % leading after the second period -- .500 (t29th)
Winning % outshooting opponent -- .000 (30th)
Winning % when outshot by opponent -- .222 (28th)
Faceoff percentage – 45.4 (26th)
Fewest penalty minutes per game – 12.0 (15th).
The Sabres are 3-0 in shootouts and lead the NHL in major penalties (17).
I agree with Dick Vitale: Add a sixth foul before disqualification in college basketball – and trim the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds.
The crackdown on hand checking in college basketball should help Syracuse. The Orange are the only major-college power to play zone defense almost exclusively.
And isn’t it time for high school basketball quarters to be 10 minutes instead of 8 minutes?
The latest sharp move by Rochester Knighthawks owner/general manager Curt Styres: a four-year contract extension to coach Mike Hasen.
Joe Torre says virtually all calls other than balls and strikes, checked swings and some foul tips will be subject to review next season. I’m still waiting to hear how the old phantom double play will be handled. I assume it will be history. That would be good for baseball. There would be fewer double plays and fewer make-believe outs.
In the 15 NHL seasons Darcy Regier was GM of the Buffalo Sabres, the team made the Stanley Cup playoffs 8 times – his first 4 seasons but only 4 of the last 11 seasons.
Great quote from Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher: “The great thing about being in the NFC East is that it’s terrible.”
Minnesota’s Joe Mauer is a full-time first baseman now, but 10 seasons as a catcher with a .323 career batting average, three American League batting titles and three Gold Gloves will be his ticket to the Hall of Fame.
Every other National League must be hoping the trade rumor sending shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies to the St. Louis Cardinals isn’t true.
Entering NFL Week 11, only three teams rank in the Top 10 in both total offense and total defense: Houston (9th and 1st), New Orleans (2nd and 7th) and Cincinnati (8th and 4th).
Rochester Red Wings first baseman and 2013 International League MVP and Rookie of the Year Chris Colabello is headed for winter ball with Toros del Este in the Dominican Republic. Now that Joe Mauer has become Minnesota’s full-time first baseman, Colabello figures to see more playing time in right field with the Twins in spring training. He also could be trade bait for pitching help. The Twins reportedly are aggressively pursuing free-agent pitchers.
ESPN.com’s SportsNation polled readers: Should MLB ban collisions at home plate? Out of the 20,000-plus replies, Yes 17 percent; No 83 percent. That’s no surprise. Collisions aren’t so bad when you’re not involved.
Don’t feel too badly if you’ve had a poor season so far picking winners in the NFL. The New York Post has 11 weekly handicappers against the Las Vergas point spread. Two have winning records (74-71-2 and 73-73-2) and the other nine have losing records (including 50-95).
FILE THAT ONE UNDER “WASTED AFTERNOON”
Now what was embarrassing.
Just when you think the Buffalo Bills are about to take a step forward, they take a huge step backward.
I give the Pittsburgh Steelers a little bit of credit for bouncing back from the previous week’s humiliating loss to New England with a 24-10 romp over the Bills – it wasn’t that close – but the Bills deserve plenty of blame for playing so lousy.
I’m willing to cut rookie quarterback EJ Manuel some slack for being rusty coming off his latest knee injury. But when hasn’t he looked rusty? We’re all hoping he’ll be an above-average NFL QB in the sort of near future. There were no hints of progress against the Steelers.
If the most important thing this season for the Bills is to determine if Manuel is the long-awaited “franchise quarterback,” it has been a frustrating waste of time so far.
Manuel wasn’t the only one who played lousy in Sunday’s game. He at least had an excuse. Most of his teammates were outclassed by a 2-6 team coming off a 55-31 loss to New England.
I can’t think of one good thing to say about Buffalo’s trip Sunday to Pittsburgh. It was pretty much a no-show by the Bills and a wasted afternoon for their fans.
Who knows what will happe
n Sunday afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium against the New York Jets? I suppose it will be mildly interesting to compare rookie QBs Manuel and Geno Smith. But I can’t figure either team out. Can you?
THE PANTHERS WERE WEEK 10’S BIGGEST WINNERS
No team gained more respect or confidence Sunday than the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers have been dismissed as an underachieving team in recent past seasons. Quarterback Cam Newton symbolized the team’s raw potential.
Carolina stumbled out of the gate this season, with a 12-7 home loss to Seattle and a 24-23 loss at Buffalo. The Bills obviously caught the Panthers at the right time.
Carolina is 6-1 since that loss in Buffalo. The six wins were by a combined 178-57, including Sunday’s 10-9 victory at San Francisco.
The Panthers are a dangerous young team gaining confidence. They have the right ingredients: franchise QB, solid running game, strong front seven on defense.
Carolina deserves some prime-time exposure and it will come quickly – New England at the Panthers on Monday Night Football Nov. 18.
FITZ COULD BE ON DISPLAY THURSDAY
OK, I’ll admit it. The Bills probably would be slightly better than 3-6 so far this season with Ryan Fitzpatrick as starting QB. Compared to his young successors, he was functional, experienced and durable. But the team’s future still looks brighter without him.
Fitzpatrick could get some national exposure Thursday night when his Tennessee Titans host the Indianapolis Colts on the NFL Network.
Titans starting QB Jake Locker went down with a right foot injury early in Sunday’s 29-27 home loss to the previously winless Jacksonville Jaguars. Fitzpatrick put up some nice numbers as relief pitcher: 22X33 for 264 yards, with 2 TD passes, 0 INTs, and a 4-yard TD run.
Locker was charged with the loss and Fitzpatrick got no decision. Fitz was 0-2 in his two starts earlier this season and now is 24-45-1 in his 70 career NFL starts.
OTHER QUARTERBACK CONCERNS INCLUDE...
The Denver Broncos are sweating out an MRI Monday of Peyton Manning’s lower right leg – ankle and knee. He took a few hard hits late in Sunday’s 28-20 victory in San Diego.
Matt Cassel could star Sunday for Minnesota at Seattle. Christian Ponder suffered a possible season-ending right foot injury in last Thursday night’s win over Washington.
Chicago’s Jay Cutler was hampered by a groin injury during Sunday’s 21-19 home loss to Detroit and his lack of mobility inspired coach Marc Trestman to replace him with Josh McCown for the team’s final drive. The Bears host Baltimore Sunday.
Scott Tolzien will start Sunday for Green Bay against the New York Giants. Seneca Wallace suffered a groin injury early in a 27-13 home loss to Philadelphia and Tolzien played OK in relief. Aaron Rodgers is at least three weeks away.
GIVE THE GIANTS SOME CREDIT
Can the New York Giants make the playoffs after a 0-6 start? Probably not, but anything is possible in the NFC East. The Giants are 3-6 after Sunday’s 24-20 home win over Oakland.
Things to like about the Giants: a proven NFL winner in coach Tom Coughlin...a two-time Super Bowl-winning QB in Eli Manning...a very good running back in Andre Brown (the only NFL RB with six straight 100-yard rushing games, dating back to last season), an improving defense., and -- most of all – a division no team has taken control of (Dallas 5-5, Philadelphia 5-5, Giants 3-6, Washington 3-6). The Giants have division games left against Dallas at home Nov. 24, at Washington Dec. 1 and home against Washington Dec. 29.
BOB’S NFL POWER RANKINGS (entering Monday night)
1—Kanas City – deserve top spot until defeated
2—Denver – host Kansas City Sunday...minus Peyton?
3—Seattle – rare decisive road win in Atlanta
4 – New Orleans – bounced back from loss to Jets
5—New England – different team with Gronk
6 – Carolina – huge road win over 49ers
7 – San Francisco – surprising loss to Panthers
8 – Detroit – big win in Chicago
9 – Indianapolis – tough team to figure
10 – Cincinnati – need Andy Dalton to shake slump
11 – Dallas – overmatched by Saints
12 – Arizona – surprisingly decent
13 – Chicago – costly home loss to Lions
14 – New York Jets – will try to sweep Bills
15 – Green Bay – different team minus Rodgers
16 – Philadelphia – thumbs up to Nick Foles
17 – Baltimore – much-needed OT win over Bengals
18 – San Diego – flunked big test vs. Denver
19 – Miami – mess on national display Monday night
20 – Tennessee – Fitz likely starter rest of season
21 – Cleveland – seek .500 record at Cincinnati
22 – St. Louis – crushed visiting Colts
23 – New York Giants – never say die in NFC Least
24 – Pittsburgh – took out frustration on Bills
25 – Washington – no miracle likely this season
26 – Buffalo – disappointing no show in Pittsburgh
27 – Oakland – latest victim of Giants
28 – Minnesota – surprising win over Redskins
29 – Atlanta – the misery continues
30 – Houston – Arian Foster through for the season
31 – Jacksonville – won’t finish 0-16
32 – Tampa Bay – seek first win Monday night vs. Dolphins
NFL WEEK 10 STAT PACK (entering Monday night’s game)
Home teams are 6-7 outright (88-58 this season) and 4-8-1 against the Las Vegas point spread (65-66-4 this season)
Las Vegas favorites are 6-7 outright (90-56 this season) and 4-8-1 against the point spread (76-67-3 this season)
Teams winning the turnover battle are 4-5 (85-24 this season)
Teams leading in time of possession are 7-6 (96-50 this season)
Teams with the most yards rushing are 9-4 (95-50 this season)
Teams with the most yards passing are 7-6 (85-61 this season)
Teams scoring first are 7-6 (92-54 this season)
Teams leading after the first quarter are 6-5 (73-43 this season)
Teams leading at halftime are 8-4 (98-33 this season)
Teams leading after three quarters are 12-1 (114-20 this season)
Teams with the better record entering the game are 4-8 (57-41 this season)
Five of the 13 games were decided by 3 points or less (36 of 146 games this season)
Seven of the 13 games were decided by 7 points or less (70 of 145 games this season)
The NFC is 3-0 vs. the AFC entering Monday night’s Miami at Tampa Bay game and the AFC leads this season’s interconference series by only 23-22.
There were 584 points in 13 games (44.9-point average).
NFL WEEK 10 TOP PERFORMERS
Drew Brees (New Orleans) 392 yards (won)
Andrew Luck (Indianapolis) 353 (lost)
Peyton Manning (Denver) 330 (won)
A.J. Green (Cincinnati) 151 yards (lost)
Brandon Marshall (Chicago) 139 (lost)
Tavon Austin (St. Louis) 138 (won)
T.Y. Hilton (Indianapolis) 130 (loss)
Pierre Garcon (Washington) 119 (loss)
Alshon Jeffery (Chicago) 114 (lost)
Jarrett Boykin (Green Bay) 112 (lost)
Demaryius Thomas (Denver) 108 (won)
Marques Colston (New Orleans) 107 (won)
Golden Tate (Seattle) 106 (won)
Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh) 104 (won)
Riley Cooper (Philadelphia) 102 (won)
LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia) 155 yards (won)
Marshawn Lynch (Seattle) 145 (won)
Mark Ingram (New Orleans) 145 (won)
Alfred Morris (Washington) 139 (lost)
Andre Brown (NY Giants) 115 (won)
Reggie Bush (Detroit) 105 (won).
CHECKING OUT THE NFL PLAYOFF RACES
In the NFC, the battle of mediocrity in the East gives all four teams a shot to win the division...The North looks like a two-team battle between Detroit (6-3) and Chicago (5-4). Green Bay (5-4) looks shot minus QB Aaron Rodgers. Forget Minnesota...New Orleans (7-2) and Carolina (6-3) are in a two-team contest in the South. Forget Atlanta and Tampa Bay...In the West, Seattle (9-1) has a two-game lead over San Francisco (6-3)...At this time, the Panthers and 49ers appear to be the most likely two wild-card teams.
In the AFC, New England (7-2) is getting healthier and looks like a cinch to win the division...Cincinnati (6-4) should win the North no matter how poorly QB Andy Dawson plays...Indianapolis (6-3) should win the South by default. Forget Houston and Jacksonville...In the West, Kansas City and Denver figure to battle all the way for the division title. The “loser” figures to earn one of the conference’s two wild- card playoff spots..Six other teams are 4-5 or better and dreaming of the other berth.
NFL KEY GAMES WEEK 11
Kansas City at Denver – Most observers expect the 9-0 Chiefs to lose their first game
Washington at Philadelphia – They’re all big in the NFL Least
Green Bay at New York Giants – The Giants catch a break: no Rodgers
New England at Carolina – Another big test for the Panthers.
HAPPIEST MAN IN THE NFL TODAY...
...Has to be colorful New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan after Sunday’s 49-17 home romp over the Dallas Cowboys – the team that fired him after last season. Ryan said he was an excellent coach and a scapegoat for Cowboys owner/president/general manager Jerry Jones...New Orleans, after the worst defensive performance in NFL history last season, hired Ryan and the defensive unit has improved immensely...The Saints rolled up 625 yards offense and an NFL-record 40 first downs Sunday night against the Cowboys and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin...Rob Ryan had to love every yard of it.
PACERS LOOKING LIKE A THREAT TO KNOCK OFF THE HEAT
Is it too late for me to submit a team capable of beating the Miami Heat in the NBA East? I’ve been arguing that Miami is a lock to make the Finals in pursuit of a title threepeat, but Indiana is looking like the team fully capable of knocking off the Heat in a best-of-seven series.
The Pacers are very tall and very tough. They’re unselfish and work very hard on defense (in other words, the opposite of the New York Knicks).
Indiana enters this week as the NBA’s only remaining undefeated team (7-0). The Pacers are leading the league in point differential (+9.6), scoring defense (allowing 85.3 points per game) and field-goal defense (.389).
Indiana has a budding superstar in Paul George, a huge and versatile center in Roy Hibbert, a solid power forward in David West and a dangerous shooting guard in Lance Stephenson. Hard-working Luis Scola is the perfect backup forward for this team. Anything the Pacers get from former star score Danny Granger is a bonus.
No NBA team is perfect and the question mark for Indiana is point guard. Starter George Hill is ordinary and so is backup C.J. Watson.
Can the Pacers win the East with Hill and Watson at point guard? It will be fun to find out.
Indiana’s games this week: host Memphis Monday...host Milwaukee Friday...at Chicago Saturday.
UPDATING THE HEISMAN RACE
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota went from Heisman Trophy favorite to out of contention with last week’s embarrassing 26-20 loss to Stanford. It wasn’t that close.
That leaves three quarterbacks in the Heisman race: Charismatic redshirt freshman Jameis Winston (Florida State) has the lead turning for home. Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) has rallied and is closing fast. Old reliable AJ McCarron (Alabama) is plodding along and within striking distance.
Here’s how they compare by the numbers:
Jameis Winston (9-0 record) – 166x240 (.692) for 2,661 yards, with 26 TD passes, 7 INTs, 192.2 rating; plus 53x157, 3 TDs rushing.
Johnny Manziel –(8-2 record) 230x315 (.730) for 3,313 yards, with 31 TD passes, 11 INTs, 186.9 rating; plus 110x661, 8 TDs rushing.
AJ McCarron (9=0 record) – 159x229 (.694) for 2.041 yards, with 19 TD passes. 3 INTs, 169.1 rating; plus 16x-22 yards rushing.
Winston benefits from a soft remaining regular season schedule...Texas A&M has two losses but Manziel put up huge numbers in defeat (including 918 yards passing and 9 TD passes)...McCarron is gaining support for the possibility of leading the Crimson Tide to three straight national titles.