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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.
SAINTS OVER JETS IS THE “BEST BET"
QB-HURTING BILLS NO MATCH FOR CHIEFS
GRUESOME NUMBERS FOR SABRES
BREEDERS’ CUP PICKS FOR SATURDAY
The New Orleans Saints figure to end the WLWLWLWL pattern of the New York Jets Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The Jets are a surprising 4-4 and tough against the run but master passer Drew Brees vs. inconsistent rookie Geno Smith is a mismatch at quarterback.
This week’s “Best Bet” is New Orleans 30, NEW YORK JETS (+6) 13.
Sunday’s other games
(home team in CAPS)
CAROLINA (-7 ½) 28, Atlanta 17 – The Panthers are 4-1 in their last five games and think they’re a playoff team. They can’t afford to overlook the Falcons with San Francisco and New England coming up next.
Tennessee 20, ST. LOUIS (+3) 13 – Titans running back Chris Johnson is due for a big game and Rams emergency QB Kellen Clemens is not.
DALLAS (-10 ½) 37, Minnesota 14 – The Cowboys are very much alive in the weak NFC East and have no excuses against the struggling Vikings.
San Diego 30, WASHINGTON (+1) 27 – QB Philip Rivers is in rare form and gives the Chargers a big chance to win a shootout against the defensively-challenged Redskins.
Kansas City 27, BUFFALO (-3 ½) 13 – The undefeated Chiefs might not be the NFL’s best team but their pass rush, veteran QB Alex Smith and RB Jamaal Charles figure to be too much for the QB-hurting Bills.
SEATTLE (-17) 33, Tampa Bay 7 – The Seahawks have won 11 straight home games and their offense is likely to show more coming off a dull 14-9 win in St. Louis Monday night.
Philadelphia 23, OAKLAND (-2 ½) 17 – The Eagles are 3-1 on the road and the offense is due for better after scoring a total of 10 points in consecutive home losses to Dallas and the Giants.
NEW ENGLAND (-7) 20, Pittsburgh 17 – The Patriots usually find a way to win but aren’t healthy enough to spot a proud opponent a touchdown.
Baltimore 21, CLEVELAND (+3) 13 – The bye week should help the 3-4 Ravens get back on track.
HOUSTON (+2 ½) 24, Indianapolis 20 – The disappointing Texans owe the home fans a big effort and Case Keenum won’t hurt them at QB. Colts QB Andrew Luck will miss favorite target Reggie Wayne.
Monday night’s game
GREEN BAY (-11) 33, Chicago 14 – The Bears clearly aren’t the same minus injured QB Jay Cutler. The Packers are 14-1 in their last 15 games vs. NFC North rivals and that trend should continue.
Thursday night’s pick was Cincinnati 27, MIAMI (+2 ½) 14. I figured the difference would be Bengals QB Andy Dalton. He was. In the wrong way. He was terrible and the main reason Miami won 22-20 in overtime.
Last week’s “Best Bets” results – 10-3 picking winning teams straight up (80-40 this season)...8-5 picking winners against the Las Vegas point spread (60-57-3 this season)...The “Best Bet” is 6-2 outright and 4-4 against the spread after 12-point favored New Orleans, picked to beat Buffalo by more, won by 18 points (35-17).
SABRES NUMBERS CAN ONLY IMPROVE
The Buffalo Sabres can only improve. We hope. Thursday night’s 2-0 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden dropped the team’s record to an NHL-worst 2-12-1. Here is how the Sabres rank i9n the 30-team NHL in assorted categories:
Point percentage -- .167; 5 of 30 possible points in the standings (30th)
Goals per game – 1.47 (30th)
Fewest goals allowed per54 game – 2.87 (21st)
5-on-5 GF/GA ratio – 0.55 (29th)
Power play percentage – 10.9 (27th)
Penalty kill percentage – 82.0 (12th)
Shots per game – 25.3 (30th)
Fewest shots allowed per game – 35.9 (28th)...outshot by more than 10 per game is not good
Winning % when scoring first -- .000 (30th)
Winni8ng % when trailing first -- .143 (t24th)
Faceoff percentage – 45.7 (26th)
Fewest penalty minutes per game – 12.4 (17th)...Buffalo leads the NHL with 14 major penalties.
Management warned the fan base to be prepared for a tough season. They’ve delivered so far.
MUCHO MACHO MAN THE PICK TO USET GAME ON DUDE
For most thoroughbred racing fans, the highlight of the year is the Saturday of the Breeders’ Cup. Saturday’s eight Breeders’ Cup races will be loaded with many of the best race horses on the planet, running for $17.5 million.
The main attraction is the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic at 1 ¼ miles (8:35 p.m., on NBC). My pick is Mucho Macho Man.
Game On Dude has 15 wins in 27 career starts – including 5-for-5 this year -- and likely will be the favorite. Deservedly so. But he hasn’t been facing fields as classy as this one. He likes to run up front and there are enough classy speed horses in this field to soften him up for Mucho Macho Man’s late run.
Mucho Macho Man was second at 6.30-to-1 to Fort Larned (9.40-to-1) in last year’s Classic. Game On Dude had a bad start and finished seventh as the 1.30-to-1 favorite. He’ll likely have a smoother start Saturday but he’s still in tough. It should be a terrific race.
Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Ron the Greek was scratched Thursday with a hoof injury.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says he wants the NFL to expand to Los Angeles and London, in no particular order. Of course, the vast majority of people who count a lot – NFL players and fans – would make LA the priority.
As of now, it looks like the Rochester Rattlers will return next Major League Lacrosse season. The Rattlers played two games at neutral sites last summer to test other markets but nothing has materialized, including a franchise in Atlanta.
The Rochester Red Wings will unveil new logos at a press conference Friday afternoon. The purpose is to boost merchandise sales. The former logos now will be obsolete. All minor league teams do it from time to time.
ARE WE WATCHING A GENUINE FALL CLASSIC?
CAN’T COUNT OUT THE GIANTS IN THE WEAK NFC EAST
ANDY DALTON SHOWING UP THE DOUBTERS
SCHIANO, KELLY HADE MORE FUN IN COLLEGE
Baseball’s World Series also is called the Fall Classic.
Let’s face, it, the World Series seldom is a classic. This year is shaping up as an exception.
Sunday night’s 4-2 Boston Red Sox victory over the host St. Louis Cardinals tied the Series at two games each. It now is a best-of-three series and it is guaranteed to end in Boston’s Fenway Park – arguably the best possible place ever to watch a baseball game.
The matchup alone for this World Series made it special – the Red Sox vs. the Cardinals. Two of the most-storied franchises in American sports history and arguably the two best baseball cities in America.
This World Series already is memorable.
Before Saturday night, there never had been a World Series game decided by an obstruction call or by a runner picked off. Then it happened in two consecutive games. How crazy is that?
This World Series has had other extraordinary incidents and moments:
Game 1 – The textbook Cardinals gave the game away early with sloppy play and lost 8-1.
Game 2 – St Louis rookie Michael Wacha continued his amazing playoff run and 23-year-old Trevor Rosenthal earned the save in a 4-2 win by striking out the side in the ninth inning on 11 pitches (all fastballs).
Game 3 – Umpire Jim Joyce’s obstruction call ended a St. Louis 5-4 victory. It was controversial but he got it right. The winning run scored without home plate being touched.
Game 4 – Boston won 4-2 when pinch-runner Kolten Wong was picked off first base with slugger Carlos Beltran at the plate. After the game, Wong was in tears. He tweeted apologies to the team’s fans.
If it is any consolation to Wong, Game 7 of the 1926 World Series ended when Babe Ruth was throw out at second base on a steal attempt with the Yankees trailing St. Louis 3-2 and Bob Meusel at the plate. Ruth did not tweet an apology after the game. It was the first World Series title for the Cardinals.
The favorites now for World Series MVP are Wacha (4-0, 1.00 ERA, 27 innings, 11 hits, 8 walks, 28 strikeouts in the postseason) and Boston slugger David Ortiz. Wacha is 4-0 in the postseason and Ortiz is hitting .727 (8x11) with 2 HRs, 5 RBI and 4 walks in this series.
But this World Series has been so entertaining, goofy and zany that I won’t be shocked if light-hitting shortstops Pete Kozma or Steven Drew surprise us all by doing something memorable to help clinch the title.
GIANTS SUDDENLY UNLIKELY CONTENDERS
The New York Giants are looking like the luckiest team in the NFL. One week ago, they were 0-6 and the laughing stock of the league.
Why are they so lucky? The schedule gave them the Minnesota Vikings (featuring the incredibly awful Josh Freeman) last Monday night and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Two victories and all of a sudden, the Giants are 2-6.
“We still believe,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning said after Sunday’s 15-7 road victory over the now-very-bad Philadelphia Eagles.
And why are they smelling playoff berth entering their bye week? Because they’re in the NFC East – the NFL’s worst division: Dallas 4-4...Philadelphia 3-5...Washington 2-5...Giants 2-6.
One team has to win the division. So why not the Giants?
Reasons to think the Giants have a chance: Many of the team’s players have won big games in the past, including QB Eli Manning...The next three games are at home versus Oakland, Green Bay and Dallas...They’ll play division rival Washington twice (Dec. 1 on the road and Dec. 29 to end the regular season Dec. 29)...Their defense is pretty good.
Reasons to think the Giants won’t make the playoffs: Their offense isn’t6 nearly as respectable...I’d take the Buffalo Bills over the Giants and maybe the Jets over the Giants, too.
DALTON MUCH MORE THAN A CARETAKER LATELY
The Cincinnati Bengals are 6-2 and looking like a legitimate Super Bowl threat. They definitely have the defense. The big question mark was third-year quarterback Andy Dalton – until lately.
The knock on Dalton has been that he’s good enough to take a strong team to the playoffs but not likely to take that team deep into the playoffs.
But he has put together the most impressive three games of his career and it is time to take notice:
27-24 OT win at Buffalo – 26x40...337 yards...3 TD passes...1 INT...105.9 passer rating
27-24 win at Detroit – 24x34...372 yards...3 TD passes...1 INT...135.9 passer rating
49-9 home win Sunday over Jets – 19x30...325 yards...5 TD passes...1 INT...125.7 passer rating.
Last three games: 69x104 (.663) for 1,034 yards with 11 TD passes and 3 INTs.
BOB’S NFL POWER RANKINGS ENTERING MONDAY NIGHT
1—Chiefs...deserve top spot until they lose
2—Broncos—rebounded nicely from loss to Indy
3—Seahawks...Percy Harvin will make them even better
4—Saints...awesome at home
5—Bengals...Dalton never better
6—Colts...visit Houston off bye
7—49ers...enjoyed trip to London
8—Packers...Rodgers makes up for lots of injuries
9--Patriots...most impressive number is 6-2 record
10—Lions...impressive shootout win over Dallas
11—Panthers...in rare form to host Atlanta
12—Chargers...Rivers is very sharp
13—Bears...at Green Bay next Monday night
14—Cowboys...outgunned by Detroit
15—Cardinals...nice home win over Atlanta
16—Jets...crushed by Cincinnati
17—Ravens...champs aren’t the same
18—Bills...always give an honest effort
19—Raiders...tough to gauge
21—Rams...host Seattle Monday night
22—Dolphins...0-4 since 3-0 start
23—Browns...decent try in loss to Kansas City
24—Steelers...costly loss to Raiders
25—Texans...looks like a lost season
26—Eagles...offense a huge flop
27—Redskins...RG III is looking better
28—Giants...signs of life
29—Falcons...season slipping away
30—Vikings...QB s are a disaster
31—Buccaneers...Schiano headed back to college?
32—Jaguars...London fans got free T-shirts at least.
MORE NFL THOUGHTS, FACTS AND STATS:
I don’t think the 8-0 Kansas City Chiefs are the NFL’s best team—and you probably don’t either -- but as long as they’re the league’s only undefeated team, they deserve to be No. 1 in all of the power polls. Don’t they?
Greg Schiano (Tampa Bay) is the latest example of a hot-shot college coach who appears in over his head in the NFL. After an impressive 6-4 start in Schiano’s rookie season last year, the Buccaneers are 1-12 in their last 13 games, including 0-7 this season. He has run quarterback Josh Freeman out of town and many fans are hoping Schiano deserves the same fate – the sooner the better.
Chip Kelly (Philadelphia) also is making hot-shot college coaches look bad. The quick-strike offensive tactics he employed so effectively with the Oregon Ducks took the NFL by storm for the first half of Week 1 against Washington (a 33-27 road victory). The Eagles have been mostly flying low ever since. In the last two games, they have a total of 10 points and 479 yards offense.
There haven’t been many NFL QBs with a better touch on deep passes than Drew Brees, so it was appropriate Sunday that he became the first one to have eight career five-TD pass games: Brees 8, Peyton Manning 7, Dan Marino 6, George Blanda 5...The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, 4 p.m. The most prominent names being mentioned are Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald and Minnesota DE Jared Allen.
San Francisco’s 42-10 romp over Jacksonville Sunday in London’s Wembley Stadium was roughly the equivalent of a 6 to 1 ½ soccer game and I assume not extremely entertaining in terms of competitiveness...Percy Harvin is close to returning to Seattle after offseason hip surgery. He’ll join Golden Tate, Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin in a solid group of wide receivers.
I’m wondering if any NFL team in position to draft Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) will take his gate appeal into consideration. A team like Jacksonville should...The Washington Redskins have denied a report that a friend of owner Daniel Snyder recently registered the trademark for Washington “Bravehearts.”...The Carolina Panthers (4-3) are above .500 (4-3) for the first time in the Ron Rivera-Cam Newton era and have three of their last four games by a combined 99-28 (over the Giants, Rams and Buccaneers).
How often did Buffalo fans boo the Bills off the field when they were really good? New England fans booed the Patriots off the field Sunday when they were down 17-3 to Miami. The Patriots won the second half 24-0 and the game 27-17. Said Brady, “I know a lot of people are frustrated. But to be 6-2 is not bad.” Most Bills fans would take it.
Miami is 0-4 since starting 3-0...Ryan Tannehill (Miami) was sacked 6 more times Sunday and has been sacked an NFL-most 32 times this season...Alex Smith (Kansas City) is 27-5-1 in his last 33 starts, with 39 TD passes and 14 INTs...Philadelphia has lost 10 straight home games. Eagles fans can’t blame Andy Reid anymore.
New York Jets rookie QB Geno Smith in 4 wins: 7 TD passes, 4 INTs, 93.7 passer rating; in 4 losses: 1 TD pass, 9 INTs, 51.7 passer rating...Before Oakland’s 21-18 home win over Pittsburgh, the Raiders had lost 10 straight games off byes by a combined 271-139...Atlanta is off to a 0-3 start on the road for the first time since 2007...New Orleans is allowing 17.1 points per game after allowing 28.4 points per game last season.
NFL WEEK 8 STAT PACK
Home teams are 8-4 straight up (74-45 this season) and 6-6 against the Las Vegas point spread (64-52-3 this season)
Las Vegas favorites are 10-2 straight up (78-41 this season) and 8-4 against the point spread (67-50-2 this season)
Teams winning the turnover battle are 8-2 (71-18 this season)
Teams leading in time of possession are 7-4 (83-35 this season)
Teams with the most rushing yards are 8-4 (80-38 this season)
Teams with the most passing yards are 6-6 (71-48 this season)
Teams scoring first are 9-3 (78-41 this season)
Teams leading after the first quarter are 9-2 (62-33 this season)
Teams leading at halftime are 9-2 (82-24 this season)
Teams leading after three quarters are 10-2 (93-17 this season)
Teams with a better record entering the game are 9-1 (45-27 this season)
Two of the 12 games were decided by 3 points or less (28 of 119 games this season)
Three of the 12 games were decided by 7 points or less (52 of 119 games this season)
The NFC was 2-1 vs. in Week 8 and 5the AFC leads this season’s interconference series 21-17.
There have been 593 points in 12 games (49.4-point average) and there have been 5,530 points in 119 games this season (46.5-point average).
NFL TOP PERFORMERS WEEK 8
Matthew Stafford (Detroit) 488 yards (won)
Peyton Manning (Denver) 354 (won)
Drew Brees (New Orleans) 332 (won)
Andy Dalton (Cincinnati) 325 (won)
Matt Ryan (Atlanta) 301 (lost)
Calvin Johnson (Detroit) 329 yards (won)
Josh Gordon (Cleveland) 132 (lost)
Kenny Stills (New Orleans) 129 (won)
Jordy Nelson (Green Bay) 123 (won)
Marvin Jones (Cincinnati) 122 (won)
Harry Douglas (Atlanta) 121 (lost)
A.J. Green (Cincinnati) 115 (lost)
Andre Ellington (Arizona) 154 yards (won)
Terrelle Pryor (Oakland) 106 (won).
FORT ERIE: BYE-BYE HORSES, HELLO HORSEPOWER?
Fort Erie Race Track is in trouble again. Big trouble. The final live thoroughbred racing program in the picturesque border track’s 116-year history might very well have been run on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
If you’re a horse racing fan, and never visited Fort Erie (just across the Peace Bridge, two miles from Buffalo), you missed a lot.
In 2012, the government shut down the slots attached to race track s, costing the tracks much-needed operating revenues. This month, the provincial government decided that Fort Erie is “unsustainable” and no longer will receive subsidies to remain open.
There is a long shot chance that Fort Erie could conduct a brief “festival meet” next year, including the traditional running of the Prince Wales Stakes (the second jewel of Canada’s Triple Crown), but no one seems to be taking it seriously.
This would be a sad development for the hundreds of people who made their living at Fort Erie Race Track and the 300 or so Grade B race horses that have nowhere to go and are for sale – cheap.
Meanwhile, ground has been broken on an ambitious auto racing plant in Fort Erie. The proposed $400 million project would include a 65,000-seat oval track and a road course. They’d be designed by Jeff Gordon and financed by investors from Kuwait. The facility supposedly would attract every sort of auto racing – including (they hope) NASCAR – plus rock concerts (sound familiar) and other major events. Construction is expected to take 18 months.
NETS VS. KNICKS ? NO CONTEST IN MY BOOK
The NBA season begins Tuesday night and here are two guarantees (clip and save):
Only five teams have a chance to win the championship -- Miami, Chicago, Indiana, Oklahoma City and Los Angeles Clippers.
The Brooklyn Nets are overrated and won’t win the title but they’re not as overrated as the New York Knicks. I feel sorry for new Knick Andrea Bargnani. He’s not likely to be embraced by fans at Madison Square Garden. He’s too bland and has no wow factor.
Four of the top six teams in the AP college football Top 25 will be idle this week (No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon, No. 5 Baylor and No. 6 Stanford). No. 3 Florida State will host No. 7 Miami and No. 4 Ohio State will visit Purdue).
The University of Buffalo Bulls won 41-21 at Kent State last Saturday and have won six straight games by a combined 215-73 after opening the season with road losses at Ohio State (40-20) and Baylor (70-13). The next game for the Bulls will be against Ohio Tuesday, Nov. 5, 8 p.m., on ESPN2.
The fortunate major league baseball umpire quietly retires and is remembered for no wildly controversial decisions. Jim Joyce will be recalled for two: An admittedly wrong call at first base that deprived Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga of a perfect game in 2010, and Saturday night’s obstruction call to end Game 3 of the World Series.
Bernard Hopkins, who boosted his career record to 4-1 on May 31, 1990, with a second-round KO of Jouvin Mercado at Rochester’s War Memorial, defended his share of boxing’s light heavyweight title Saturday night in Atlantic City with a unanimous decision over Karo Murat. The 48-year-old Hopkins , the oldest fighter to defend a major championship, boosted his career record to 54-6-2 in what was described as his most exciting fight in a decade. He fired up the pro-Hopkins crowd by brawling in pursuit of a knockout in the seventh, eighth and ninth rounds. Hopkins retired his “The Executioner” nickname in favor of “The Alien.” He entered the ring in a green mask with black eyes and a cape. He had “The Alien” etched on the green waistband of his black trunks.
No basketball coach in the world has it made like Kentucky’s John Calipari. The college hoops factory he has built is stunningly successful. Come to Kentucky for one year (two max), major in Hoops 101 and get ready for the NBA. This season’s top-ranked Wildcats supposedly have eight future NBA first-round picks. That’s ridiculous.
Horse racing notes: Breeders’ Cup Sprint contender Points Offthebench suffered a broken leg while working out Saturday at Santa Anita Park and was euthanized...Kentucky Derby winner Orb will skip this weekend’s Breeders’ Cup and could next start in the Cigar Mile Nov. 30 at Aqueduct Racetrack,
Maybe it is just as well that Rochester didn’t get a team in Major League Soccer. The regular season still is being played and the MLS Cup title game will be Dec. 7. Do you think our town could’ve supported a soccer season that long – unless we had a championship-type team?
The New York Rangers are down (3-6-0 start) but not out. They play their first home game Monday night and captain Ryan Callahan (broken thumb) is expected back soon.
Michael-Carter Williams wound up making the right move leaving Syracuse after his sophomore season. He was a lottery pick by a lousy team (Philadelphia 76ers) and will start immediately at point guard. There will be little pressure because no one expects the 76ers to be any good (they might win fewer games than the Orangemen) and there is no decent veteran backing him up.
The death of former Boston Celtics great Bill Sharman last Friday at age 87 revived memories of classic backcourt duels in the 1950s between Boston’s Sharman and Bob Cousy and Bobby Davies and Bobby Wanzer of the Rochester Royals. The Celtics duo generally was regarded as the first great NBA backcourt, but Davies-Wanzer were next in line and always gave Cousy-Sharman all they could handle.
SAINTS OVER BILLS IS THE “BEST BET”
HEISMAN TROPHY LOOKS LIKE A TWO-MAN RACE
HOW ABOUT KHALIL MACK AS FIRST-ROUND PICK FOR BILLS?
COWBOYS LEAD POINTSPREAD STANDINGS
ABBY LEADING U.S. WOMEN’S TEAM SCORER AGAIN
The Buffalo Bills have been surprisingly (to many of us) competitive this season. They’ve scored and allowed at least 20 points in every game. They have a 3-4 record and three of the four losses were by a total of 12 points. They’re a profitable 5-2 against the Las Vegas point spread.
But Sunday’s trip to New Orleans does not figure to be a pleasant one. The Bills vs. the high-powered Saints is not a good matchup. New Orleans is 5-1 and should be primed for a top effort coming off an unfortunate 30-27 road loss at New England, followed by a bye week.
This week’s “Best Bet” is NEW ORLEANS (-12) 30, Buffalo 13.
Sunday’s other games
(home team in CAPS)
NEW ENGLAND (-7) 23, Miami 20 – The return of star tight end Rob Gronkowski boosts New England’s offense but key injuries have taken a toll on defense. The Dolphins are coming off narrow losses to Baltimore and Buffalo and could be competitive here.
KANSAS CITY (-9) 24, Cleveland 7 – The QB switch from Brandon Weeden to Jason Campbell probably can’t hurt the Browns but probably won’t help them either. The undefeated Chiefs aren’t the best team in the NFL but they’re much the best team in this matchup.
San Francisco 35, JACKSONVILLE (+17) 10 – The fans in London don’t figure to get a competitive game. The “host” Jaguars are 0-7 and the 49ers have won four straight by a combined 132-51 since their sluggish 1-2 start.
Dallas 30, DETROIT (-3) 24 – It always is dangerous to count on the Cowboys to win three straight games, but I’m buying how the team’s defense played in wins over the Redskins and Eagles. The 3-point spot is a bonus.
Pittsburgh 23, OAKLAND (+2 ½) 13 – The Steelers are feeling good about themselves coming off two straight victories after a 0-4 start. Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor has the talent to engineer upsets but is wildly inconsistent.
CINCINNATI (-7) 24, New York Jets 13 – Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is in top form and Jets rookie QB Geno Smith figures to struggle against Cincinnati’s rugged front seven.
ARIZONA (-2) 27, Atlanta 20 – The Falcons have a long injury list and are much better at home than on the road.
PHILADELPHIA (-5) 31, New York Giants 17 – The Giants can’t feast on Josh Freeman every week. The Eagles need a win to stay within hailing distance of Dallas in the NFC East.
DENVER (-13) 40, Washington 23 – Peyton Manning will be able to focus on playing after last week’s homecoming trip to Indianapolis.
Green Bay 33, MINNESOTA (+10) 15 – The Vikings are 1-0 in England and soon will be 0-6 in the United States. At least Christian Ponder should be an improvement over Josh Freeman at QB.
Monday night’s pick
Seattle 28, ST. LOUIS (+12) 13 – The Rams are the only team without a rushing TD and have lost QB Sam Bradford to a season-ending knee injury. The Seahawks will show no mercy.
Thursday night’s pick was Carolina to beat host Tampa Bay by more than the 6 ½-point spot. The Panthers won 31-13.
Last week’s “Best Bet” results – 8-7 picking winners outright (70-37 this season)...7-8 picking winners against the Las Vegas point spread (52-52-3 this season)...the “Best Bet” is 5-2 outright and 3-4 against the spread after San Francisco, picked to beat Tennessee by more than the 4 ½-point spot, won 31-17.
MARIOTA, WINSTON LEAD THE HEISMAN TROPHY PACK
The Heisman Trophy currently is a two-man race between quarterbacks Marcus Mariota (Oregon) and Jameis Winston (Florida State).
They both benefit from playing for undefeated teams and offensive machines. The Ducks are 7-0 and outscoring opponents 403-121. The Seminoles are outscoring opponents 319-74.
Mariota is a redshirt sophomore and expected to enter the 2014 NFL draft. Winston is a redshirt freshman. Mariota might have an edge in seniority, though it won’t mean anything when I fill in my ballot.
Here’s how they measure up this season:
Mariota – 123x197 (.624) for 2,051 yards, 10.41 yards per pass attempt, 19 TD passes, 0 INTs, 181.7 passer rating, 49 rushes for 493 yards (10.1-yard average), 0 TDs.
Winston – 112x157 (.713) for 1,885 yards, 12.01 yards per pass attempt, 20 TD passes, 3 INTs, 210.4 passer rating, 43 rushes for 137 yards and 3 TDs.
Winston’s Heisman stock climbed with his brilliant performance in a 51-14 road romp over Clemson last week. Oregon and Mariota have yet to be tested.
Obviously, Mariota or Winston would be tough to beat for the Heisman if one of the two teams finishes the regular season undefeated. Here are the remaining schedules for Oregon and Florida State (both face a few stiff challenges):
Oregon – UCLA Saturday...at Stanford Nov. 7 (a huge Thursday night TV audience)...Utah Nov. 16...at Arizona Nov.23...Oregon State Nov. 29.
Florida State – North Carolina State Saturday...Miami Nov. 2...at Wake Forest Nov. 9...Syracuse Nov. 16...Idaho Nov. 23...at Florida Nov. 31.
KHALIL MACK COULD BE A LOGICAL PICK FOR BILLS
Who is the best senior college football NFL prospect from a non-BCS conference?
That was the question Daniel Jeremiah, an NFL media analyst for nfl.com, asked five NFL personnel executives. They all had the same reply: University of Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack.
They mentioned his size, long arms, speed, power, instincts and versatility. One described him as “the ideal 3-4 outside linebacker.” They all mentioned his performance in a season-opening loss at Ohio State, calling him “the best player on the field.”
Mack currently is projected as a mid-first round pick. That could be Buffalo Bills territory.
Mack could be a timely addition to the Bills’ improving young defensive unit.
Mack and the rest of the Bulls will get some national TV exposure with three straight Tuesday night games: Nov. 5 home vs. Ohio University, 8 p.m., on ESPN2...Nov. 12 at Toledo, 7:30 p.m., on ESPNU...Nov. 19, at Miami (Ohio), 8 p.m., on ESPN2.
COWBOYS TOPS IN NFL POINTSPREAD STANDINGS...BILLS ARE 5-2
Here are the records of NFL teams against the Las Vegas point spread entering Week 8:
AFC East – Bills 5-2...Jets 5-2...Dolphins 3-3...Patriots 3-4
AFC North – Bengals 4-2-1...Ravens 3-3-1...Browns 3-4...Steelers 2-4
AFC South – Titans 4-2-1...Colts 4-3...Titans 1-6...Jaguars 1-6
AFC West – Chargers 5-1-1...Chiefs 5-2...Raiders 3-2-1...Broncos 3-3-1
NFC East – Cowboys 6-1...Eagles 3-4...Redskins 2-4...Giants 2-5
NFC North – Packers 3-2-1...Lions 4-3...Vikings 2-4...Bears 1-5-1
NFC South – Saints 4-2...Panthers 3-3...Falcons 2-4...Buccaneers 1-5
NFC West – Seahawks 5-2...49ers 5-2...Cardinals 4-3...Rams 2-5
WAMBACH TOP 2013 U.S. GOAL SCORER WITH THREE GAMES LEFT
The undefeated U.S. women’s national soccer game is 11-0-2 (outscoring opponents 43-8) this year with three games remaining (Sunday vs. New Zealand in San Francisco; Oct. 30 vs. New Zealand in Columbus, Ohio; Nov. 10 vs. Brazil in Orlando, Fla.). The game in the Citrus Bowl is sold out and assures that every U.S. home game this year drew 10,000-plus fans.
Here are the leading scorers this year: Abby Wambach 26 points (10 goals and 6 assists) in 11 games; Sydney Laroux 18 points (7 goals and 4 assists) in 12 games; Alex Morgan 16 points (6 goals and 4 assists) in 11 games.
Wambach now has 162 goals in 209 caps (international matches). Morgan has 44 goals in 44 caps and Leroux has 21 goals in 39 caps. They started together for the first time in last week’s 4-0 win over Australia. Laroux dropped back to midfield in the 4-4-2 formation.
The U.S. team has a 36-game unbeaten streak (last loss was March 5, 2012, 1-0 to Japan in the Algarve Cup in Portugal) and a 74-game home unbeaten streak (65-0-9).
Between-innings commercial breaks for Major League Baseball games: regular season 2:05...nationally-televised regular season 2:25...postseason 2:55.
NHL career scoring line for 6-foot-8, 270-pound Buffalo Sabres “left wing” John Scott: 187 games...1 goal...4 assists...324 penalty minutes in very limited action.
Bernard Hopkins, 49 years old and still going strong, will defend his IBF light heavyweight title against Karo Murat Saturday in Atlantic City (bet $900 to win $100 on Hopkins; bet $100 to win $600 on Murat). Hopkins has floated the thought of fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr.
New York City broadcasting legend Bill Mazer, who spent 16 years talking sports in Buffalo en route to the Big Apple, died Wednesday at age 92. He was a walking sports encyclopedia and one of the early big-time sport talk hosts.
Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel suffered a concussion and a broken fibula in a race Wednesday at Keeneland Race Course and will be sidelined indefinitely.
World Series player payrolls: Boston $174.1 million (third in the majors) and St. Louis $119.3 million (11th).
Former Rochester Knighthawks superstar John Grant Jr., this week signed a four-year contract through 2017 with the Colorado Mammoth. In the three seasons since he was traded by Rochester to Colorado for goaltender Matt Vinc, Grant leads the National Lacrosse League in goals (129) and points (290). Grant and his family recently moved permanently from Peterborough, Ont., to Denver. Grant is 38 years old.
Jose Abreu, the 26-yrar-old Cuban slugger recently signed by the Chicago White Sox (six years for $68 million), had even better numbers in Cuba than fellow defectors Yoenis Cespedes (Oakland) and Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers). In the 2010-11 season in Cuba, he batted .453, with 33 HRs and 93 RBI in 63 games. The previous season, he hit .399 with 30 HRs and 76 RBI. He is expected to replace free agent Paul Konerko at first base.