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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.
Thad Brown of News 8 Now Sports talks with Bob Lonsberry about the Bills and the Miami Dolphins hazing scandal. Listen below...
GIANTS ARE THE “BEST BET” – REALLY!
CHECKING OUT THE PASSING NUMBERS FOR THE BILLS
GREAT NIGHT FOR SEMINOLES AND JAMEIS WINSTON
LOOKS LIKE MVP TIME FOR McCUTCHEN
NEW STADIUM FOR CHARLOTTE KNIGHTS
The New York Giants think they can win the NFC East. One team has to.
The 2-6 Giants making the playoffs is a stretch, but coming off their first two wins of the season and a bye week, and playing at home on Sunday, should be enough to beat the Oakland Raiders, who play considerably better at home (3-2) than on the road (0-3).
This week’s “Best Bet” is NEW YORK GIANTS (-7) 27, Oakland 13.
Sunday’s other games
(home team in CAPS)
Buffalo 24, PITTSBURGH (-3) 20 – The Bills are due to win a close game and should benefit from the return of quarterback EJ Manuel.
Philadelphia 27, GREEN BAY (-1 ½) 17 – The Eagles broke out of their offensive slump in a 49-20 romp at Oakland and Seneca Wallace will be starting instead of injured Pacers QB Aaron Rodgers.
TENNESSEE (-12) 28, Jacksonville 10 – The Jaguars aren’t likely to post their first win against a home team that can run the ball and play pass defense as well as the Titans.
INDIANAPOLIS (-9 1/2) 35, St. Louis 17 – The Colts and QB Andrew Luck are 11-2 in games decided by six points or less in the last two seasons. This game shouldn’t be close.
Seattle 24, ATLANTA (+7) 21 – The Seahawks seldom play well enough on the road to spot a decent opponent a touchdown.
Cincinnati 23, BALTIMORE (+1 ½) 17 – I’m counting on Bengals QB Andy Dalton to bounce back from a woeful performance in a 22-20 overtime loss at Miami.
Detroit 33, CHICAGO (+2 ½) 24 – The Lions are healthier and have no excuses as they try for their first win at Soldier Field since 2007.
SAN FRANCISCO (-6) 17, Carolina 14 – Both teams are in fine form and the Panthers are good enough to hang tough all the way.
ARIZONA (-3½) 24, Houston 15 – The Cardinals are 3-1 at home straight up and against the spread and Andre Ellington is averaging 7.7 yards per carry.
Denver 40, SAN DIEGO (-7) 27 – I can’t see Philip Rivers outgunning Peyton Manning. Can you?
NEW ORLEANS (-6 1/2) 35, Dallas 33 – How often have we seen the Cowboys lose close, high-scoring games in prime time? No reason to expect anything else.
Monday night’s game
TAMPA BAY (+2 ½) 23, Miami 20 – The winless Buccaneers are due for a victory and the Dolphins figure to be distracted by their internal problems. Miami’s pass protection has been terrible all season and now the starting left side of the OL is missing.
Thursday night’s result – The pick was Washington 27, MINNESOTA (+1 ½) 20. The Vikings rallied to win 34-27.
Last week’s “Best Bets” results – 7-6 picking winning teams straight up (87-46 this season)...4-9 picking winners against the point spread (64-66-3 this season)...The “Best Bet” is 6-3 straight up and 4-5 against the point spread after the New Orleans Saints, picked to beat the host New York Jets by more than the 6-point spot, lost outright, 26-20.
WORTH NOTING ON THE BUFFALO BILLS
The Bills have led at some point of the game or tied in the fourth quarter of every game this season. The only game they didn’t have a lead was the Week 3 27-20 loss to the New York Jets. They had managed a 20-20 tie.
Not surprisingly, considering the instability at quarterback, Buffalo has one of the NFL’s worst passing attacks (rank in the 32-team league in parentheses):
.554 completion percentage (worst in the NFL)...173x312
198.9 yards passing per game (28th)
6.2 yards per pass attempt (t29th)
9 TD passes (t25th)
73.2 passer rating (27th)
The Bills have thrown 8 INTs and been sacked 28 times.
Buffalo’s pass defense has been slightly better. The Bills have allowed an NFL-most 20 TD passes, have 29 sacks (t3rd-most), 12 interceptions (t3rd) and have held opponents to an 85.2 passer rating (17th).
GREAT NIGHT FOR FLORIDA STATE
The biggest winner in college football Thursday night wasn’t Baylor (41-12 over Oklahoma) or Stanford (26-20 over Oregon in the most lopsided “close” game you’ll ever see) – it was a team that didn’t play – Florida State.
The Seminoles (8-0) now figure to be able to win out in the regular season against a soft remaining schedule (at Wake Forest, Syracuse, Idaho, at Florida) and maintain No. 2 in the BCS standings behind Alabama (8-0) LSU Saturday, at Mississippi State, Chattanooga, at Auburn). Florida State would need to win the ACC championship game Dec. 7 to lock up a spot in the BCS title game.
Seminoles redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston probably replaced Oregon QB Marcus Mariota as favorite for the Heisman Trophy. Stanford did a great job of keeping the ball out of Mariota’s hands. Stanford had the ball for 42:34 to Oregon’s 17:26.
WILL McCUTCHEN FALL SHORT AGAIN FOR NATIONAL LEAGUE MVP?
One of the most interesting results of the 2013 Players Choice Awards announced Monday was the players – for the second straight season – choosing Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen as National League Outstanding Player. He outpolled fellow finalists Yadier Molina (St. Louis) and Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona).
McCutchen finished only third in the official National League MVP balloting by the writers last year: Buster Posey (San Francisco) 422 points (20 first-place votes), Ryan Braun (Milwaukee) 285 points (10 first-place votes), McCutchen 245 points (1 first-place vote).
Will the writers disagree with the players on McCutchen for the second straight year? I don’t think so. The Pirates ended their 20-year losing streak this season and he was the main reason. When the NL MVP is announced next week, I believe McCutchen will be the man.
IL CHARLOTTE KNIGHTS GET A NEW STADIUM
The Charlotte (N.C.) Knights were last in the International League in attendance last season – 254,834 paid – while playing in Knights Stadium in Fort Mill, S.C.
That’s going to change in a big way. The Knights will open the 2014 season in the brand new BB&T Ballpark in Uptown Charlotte. Officials are predicting home attendance will exceed 600,000. The stadium’s seating capacity will be 10,000 and it will be a natural grass field. The stadium will host the Triple-A National Championship Game in September.
Some NBA analysts are touting the Indiana Pacers as a threat to win the NBA East. The Pacers are very big. They have good depth. Paul George is an emerging superstar. But I can’t see Indiana with George Hill and P.J. Watson at point guard beating the Miami Heat in a best-of-seven series.
Give Navy’s football team credit for being extremely disciplined. Through 8 games, the Midshipmen (4-4 record) have the fewest penalties (22) and yards penalized per game (23.13) among the 123 major college teams.
Rochester Red Wings Hall of Famer Jeff Manto is the new minor league hitting coordinator for the Baltimore Orioles. He had been batting coach for the Chicago White Sox. It wasn’t his fault they struck out so much.
Jason Pominville with the Minnesota Wild this season: 10 goals and 2 assists in 16 games.
Akron, Ohio, the Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, will have a new logo and name next season. The team was the Akron Aeros from 1997 through 2013, and the Canton-Akron Indians from 1989 through 1996. Now the team is the Akron RubberDucks.
Hard-working Jaime Rodriguez appears to be closing in on his first jockey title at Finger Lakes. Entering Thursday, he had 124 victories this season, followed by John R. Davila (110) and Wilfredo Rohena (96). Rodriguez had by far the most mounts this season (672), followed by Oscar Gomez’s 537...After Friday, there will be only 21 live racing days left through closing day Dec. 10, all weekdays. Saturday racing is through for the season...Orb has been retired to stud. The colt was favored in all three of this year’s Triple Crown races. He won the Kentucky Derby, finished 4th in t6he Preakness Stakes and 3rd in the Belmont Stakes. He won 5 of his 12 career starts and will stand at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., for a $25,000 stud fee.
CHIEFS ARE A GOOD BLUEPRINT FOR THE BILLS TO FOLLOW
PANTHERS ON THE RISE
SEMINOLES EARN MORE RESPECT
JUST WHAT THE DULL SABRES DON’T NEED
COULD KALETA HURT MORE THAN HELP THE AMERKS?
If long-suffering Buffalo fans are fortunate, the current Kansas City Chiefs look like what the Bills could be in a year or two. Kansas City beat the Bills 23-13 Sunday, but the overall talent on the two squads probably is reasonably close.
The Chiefs aren’t the NFL’s best team – despite their gaudy 9-0 record – but they are a legitimately good team for a bunch of reasons, including an aggressive defense that forces turnovers; an efficient, low-risk quarterback; a versatile, big-play threat running back; and a solid coaching staff.
The Bills already have many of those ingredients and figure to improve.
The Chiefs went from an underachieving 2-14 last season to a probable playoff team this year. The Bills don’t have as far to go and appear to be on the right track.
The missing key ingredient for Buffalo is quarterback. Kansas City’s Alex Smith is an efficient pro. He seldom makes game-turning losing plays. Hopefully, EJ Manuel will continue to grow on the job for Buffalo starting this week at Pittsburgh.
MORE THOUGHTS ON THE NFL
Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck added to his reputation as a clutch performer Sunday night. He was woefully ineffective in the first half as the Colts fell behind host Houston 21-3 at halftime and 24-6 late in the third quarter. But he came alive to engineer three unanswered TDs for a 27-24 victory. His overall numbers weren’t spectacular. That’s often the case. But he sure is a winner.
More and more coaches are going for it on fourth-and-short in the red zone. Good for them. What has taken so long? I believe the risk has always been worth the reward and I suspect the increased reliance on computer data is affirming that.
After watching Drew Brees struggle in Sunday’s 26-20 road loss to the New York Jets, I’m wondering how much the winter weather would hurt New Orleans if they make the Super Bowl in MetLife Stadium.
The Washington Redskins are 3-5 after Sunday’s 30-24 home win over San Diego and feeling good about their chances to win the NFC East. Why shouldn’t they be? They were 3-6 last season before going 7 -0 down the stretch to win the division and make the playoffs. Dallas leads the division at 5-4 and will host the Redskins Dec. 22 in what could be a very important game.
Tennessee’s Chris Johnson ran for 150 yards in Sunday’s 28-21 victory in St. Louis. The mystery is why he was so ineffective in every other game this season (3.2 yards per carry).
One reason the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens are unlikely to make the playoffs is the decline in productivity of workhorse running back Ray Rice. He had 11 carries for 17 yards in Sunday’s 24-18 loss in Cleveland. He is averaging only 2.67 yards per carry this season (97x259).
The return to form by Tom Brady and the return to health of tight end Rob Gronkowski have the New England Patriots back on top in the AFC East – despite their long injury list. The Jets, Bills and Dolphins are demonstrating that they still lag in the talent, depth and savvy departments.
The Carolina Panthers are a dangerous team: terrific front seven on defense, solid running game and quarterback Cam Newton showing the consistency he needed to become a star.
Just when I began to give props to Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton, he played an absolutely brutal game in a 22-20 overtime loss to Miami last Thursday night.
The Jacksonville Jaguars enjoyed their best week of the season – they didn’t play – but they remain the heavy favorite for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. The Jaguars are on pace to deserve it: 0-8 and outscored 264-86.
BOB’S NFL POWER RANKINGS THROUGH SUNDAY
1—Kansas City...NFL-best +15 turnovers ratio
2—Broncos...visit San Diego off timely bye
3—Seahawks...needed big rally to beat Tampa Bay
4—Patriots...toys back for Brady
5—49ers...had bye week to prepare for Carolina
6—Saints...upset by host Jets
7—Colts...another comeback for Luck
8—Packers...host Chicago Monday night
9—Bengals...ugly loss to Miami
10—Panthers...moment of truth vs. 49ers
11—Cowboys...NC-best +10 turnovers
12—Lions...at Chicago this Sunday
13—Chicago...tough team to figure
14—NY Jets...major props for beating Saints
15—Chargers...cooled off by Redskins
16—Titans...Chris Johnson woke up
17—Dolphins...nice win over Cincinnati
18—Cardinals...can top .500 with win over Houston
19—Eagles...no QB controversy this week
20—Browns...big home win over Ravens
21—Redskins...timely win over Chargers
22—Ravens...dormant running game
23—Bills...another honest losing effort
24--Raiders...no match for Eagles
25—Rams...at Colts Sunday
26—NY Giants...not dead yet
27—Texans...blew big lead to Colts
28—Falcons...looking like a lost season
29—Steelers...embarrassed by Patriots
30—Vikings...decent effort in Dallas
31—Buccaneers...almost beat Seattle
32—Jaguars...does London want this team?
NFL STAT PACK WEEK 9 (through Sunday night):
Home teams are 8-4 outright (82-50 this season) and 8-4 against the Las Vegas point spread (72-57-3 this season)
Las Vegas favorites are 6-6 outright (84-48 this season) and 5-7 against the point spread (72-58-2 this season)
Teams winning the turnover battle are 8-1 (80-19 this season)
Teams leading in time of possession are 4-8 (88-44 this season)
Teams with the most yards rushing are 6-6 (86-45 this season)
Teams with the most yards passing are 6-6 (77-55 this season)
Teams with the fewest penalties are 10-1 (66-59 this season)
Teams with the fewest penalty yards are 9-3 (69-62 this season)
Teams scoring first are 7-5 (85-47 this season)
Teams leading after the first quarter are 5-3 (67-37 this season)
Teams leading at halftime are 6-5 (89-29 this season)
Teams leading after the third quarter are 7-2 (101-19 this season)
Teams with the better record entering the game are 7-5 (53-32 this season)
Three of the 12 games were decided by 3 points or less (31 of the 132 games this season) and 8 of the 12 games were decided by 7 points or less (61 of 132 games this season)
The AFC and NFC split four interconference games and the AFC leads this season’s series 23-19
There were 620 points in 12 games (51.7-point average).
NFL TOP PERFORMANCES WEEK 9:
Tom Brady (New England) 432 yards (won)
Nick Foles (Philadelphia) 406 (won)
Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh) 400 (lost)
Drew Brees (New Orleans) 382 (lost)
Caswe Keenum (Houston 350 (lost)
Philip Rivers (San Diego) 341 (lost)
Andy Dalton (Cincinnati) 338 (lost)
Tony Romo (Dallas) 337 (lost)
There have been 8 300-plus yards passers Week 9 and their teams went 3-5...There have been 70 300-plus yard performances this season and their teams were 33-37 in those games.
Andre Johnson (Houston) 229 yards (won)
Pierre Garcon (Washington) 172 (won)
DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia) 150 (won)
Rob Gronkowski (New England) 143 (won)
Riley Cooper (Philadelphia) 139
Aaron Dobson (New England) 130 (won)
A.J. Green (Cincinnati) 128 (lost)
Keenan Allen (San Diego) 128 (lost)
Danny Amendola (New England) 122 (won)
Greg Little (Cleveland) 122 (won)
T.Y. Hilton (Indianapolis) 121 (won)
Jimmy Graham (New Orleans) 116 (lost)
Jason Witten (Dallas) 102 (won)
Mike James (Tampa Bay) 158 yards (lost)
Chris Johnson (Tennessee) 150 (won)
Adrian Peterson (Minnesota) 140 (lost)
Chris Ivory (New York Jets) 139 (won)
Zac Stacy (St. Louis) 127 (lost)
Marshawn Lynch (Seattle) 125 (won)
Alfred Morris (Washington) 121 (won)
C.J. Spiller (Buffalo) 116 (lost)
Stevan Ridley (New England) 115 (won)
Lamar Miller (Miami) 105 (won)
Rashad Jennings (Oakland) 102 (lost).
SOME RESPEC T FOR THE SEMINOLES...SOME TV EXPOSURE FOR BULLS
Florida State picked up four first-place votes in this week’s Associated Press college football Top 25 poll after a 41-14 romp over previously undefeated Miami last Saturday night.
I still don’t know why the Seminoles have so little respect compared to top-ranked Alabama (52 first-place votes) but they at least have more first-place votes than second-ranked Oregon (2).
Unfortunately for Florida State, it doesn’t figure to gain any more ground on Alabama or Oregon unless one or both of those teams lose. The Seminoles will pay a price for an extremely soft schedule down the stretch: at Wake Forest, Syracuse, Idaho and at Florida.
Alabama and Oregon are involved in two of the three games matching Top 25 teams this week:
Oregon at No. 5 Stanford Thursday and Alabama hosts No. 10 LSU Saturday...No. 5 Baylor hosts No. 12 Oklahoma Thursday.
The University of Buffalo Bulls, winners of six straight games since season-opening road losses to Ohio State (40-20) and Baylor (70-13), get some much-deserved national TV exposure Tuesday when they host Ohio (8 p.m., on ESPN).
CARTER-WILLIAMS THE BIGGEST SURPRISE ON NBA’S BIGGEST SURPRISE
The 3-0 start by the Philadelphia 76ers is by far the NBA’s biggest surprise this season and rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams is the biggest surprise of them all.
I was not overly impressed by Carter-Williams in his sophomore season at Syracuse and I know I wasn’t alone. He was wildly inconsistent and didn’t appear close to being ready for the NBA.
But the rebuilding 76ers selected Carter-Williams No. 11 overall and quickly tabbed him as starting point guard. Management advised the team’s fan base to expect a long season. The expectation was to contend for the worst record in the league and a blue-chip draft pick.
But the 76ers enter Monday night’s home game against Golden State with a 3-0 record. This mini-success won’t last. The 76ers really are void of established talent. But so far, so good, and no one is having more fun than Carter-Williams, who is averaging 35.3 minutes per game (compared to 20.9 minutes per game for SU last season). Check out these numbers: 20.7 points per game...4.7 rebounds per game...9.0 assists per game... .468 field-goal percentage (.393 last season for SU)... .471 three-point percentage (.294 last season for SU)...4.3 steals per game.
COULD “VETERAN” KALETA HURT MORE THAN HELP THE AMERKS
I hate the AHL’s designated “veteran” category. Teams can play only five such players in any given game. The reasoning is that the AHL is a developmental league and grooming young players for the NHL is far more important than winning a Calder Cup.
Unfortunately, too many of the “prospects” in the AHL aren’t genuine prospects. They fill out rosters and are much cheaper than older players who’ve proven to be effective performers at the AHL level. The overall level of play is diluted and the games aren’t as enjoyable as they used to be.
The AHL used to be loaded with veterans. Players returned to the same city year after year. It was more fun to be a fan.
I don’t advocate a return to the veteran-dominated AHL. I only suggest that the “veteran” limit be lifted in terms of the number of games to qualify for “veteran” status and the number of veterans allowed to suit up – like maybe 8 instead of 5.
The Amerks appear to be an above average AHL team this season because they have a solid core of quality “veteran” players – Drew Bagnall, Matt Ellis, Kevin Porter, Alex Sulzer, Jamie Tardif, Mike Zigomnais – and now Patrick Kaleta.
That’s seven “veterans” – two over the limit allowed to suit up for a game. That means two of the dozen-or-so best players on the Amerks aren’t allowed to play. The fans aren’t seeing the best product. I don’t get it and I don’t like it. How about you?
I recognize Kaleta’s assets. He’s got the toughness every NHL team likes and is a good skater and solid body checker. He’s down here to learn how to be effective while staying out of the penalty box and off the suspended list. But I wonder if Kaleta can contribute as much or more to the Amerks as the six other “veteran” players on the roster. He hasn’t been a goal scorer in the NHL and it remains to be seen if he can be a scorer at the AHL level.
Just what the Buffalo Sabres didn’t need – a three-game trip to the West Coast: Tuesday t San Jose (10-1-3 record), Thursday at Los Angeles (9-6-0) and Friday at Anaheim (11-03-1). The next home game will be Tuesday, Nov. 12, against Los Angeles. ... The Sabres are 2-13-1 (NFL-fewest 5 points out of a possible 32 points in the standings). ... The addition of Randy Cunneyworth to Buffalo’s payroll as a pro scout was interesting. It isn’t much of a stretch to project him as a future coach for the Sabres or Rochester Americans.
The signing of classy 31-year-old veteran forward Dan Dawson to a seven-year contract is another coup by Rochester Knighthawks owner/general manager Curt Styres. Dawson could have tested the open market as an unrestricted free agent. The seven-time National Lacrosse League All-Pro and former NLL MVP had a solid first season with Rochester in 2013. In three playoff games, he had a team-high 6 goals and tied with Cody Jamieson in total points (14) en route to the team’s second straight championship. The Knighthawks took off last season when Casey Powell was traded to Denver and Dawson inherited more floor time.
Sports talk show host Jim Rome is part owner of the five-year-old race mare Mizdirection, and he spent months touting her chances to repeat in Sunday’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. She did and returned $7.40 to win in a field of 14. She has 11 wins in 17 career starts and is expected to be retired and sold.
Masahiro Tanaka, the 25-year-old Japanese pitcher the New York Yankees hope to sign as a free agent, finally lost a game on Saturday. He was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in the regular season for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, but he was the loser in a 4-2 loss to the Yomiuri Giants in Game 6 of the Nippon Series.