NOW THAT WAS AN IMPRESSIVE WIN
PEYTON MANNING: CLASS OF NFL SEASON SO FAR
FOUR OF TOP FIVE PICKS IN SI.COM 2014 NFL MOCK DRAFT ARE QBs
BASEBALL NOTEBOOK: GOOD, BAD AND UGLY
The Buffalo Bills 2014 roller coaster ride was in excellent form Sunday. The result was as perfect as the weather – Bills 23, defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore 20.
The Bills took a big step in learning how to win – against a very good team.
You can’t fault Baltimore’s pass-happy offensive game plan. Throw. Throw. And throw again against Buffalo’s injury-depleted secondary.
Buffalo’s second-line defensive backs weren’t terrific, but they were good enough.
Quarterback EJ Manuel has yet to enjoy his breakout game, but he was OK Sunday and fellow rookies MLB Kiko Alonso and WR Robert Woods look like potential NFL All-Rookie Team contenders.
It turned out that the Ravens did Buffalo a favor. They had only 9 runs for 24 yards against one of the NFL’s most suspect rush defenses.
Sure, it helped that Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco was this Week 4 game’s Least Valuable Player (with a career-high five interceptions). But the Bills clearly were the more motivated team from the start and were the harder-hitting team all afternoon.
Most of the doubters who picked the Bills to finish 5-11 (I plead guilty) chalked this game up as a loss. I believe most of the 10-6 folks did, too.
Happy days are here again – at least for almost four whole days.
Next up – at Cleveland Thursday night on national TV. The Browns are playing decent football and probably will be slight favorites. But this is a game the Bills should win. We know what that often means.
Denver QB Peyton Manning – The unanimous NFL Quarter-Mark MVP. He couldn’t be any better. On Sunday, he was 28x34 for 327 yards, with 4 TD passes, o INTs and a 146.0 passer rating...For the season, he is 117x156 (.750) for 1,470 yards, with 16 TD passes and 0 INTs. No wonder the Broncos beat visiting Philadelphia 52-20 to boost their record to 4-0.
Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch – He was a big reason why the Seahawks rallied from a 20-3 halftime deficit Sunday for a 23-20 overtime win in Houston. He had 17 carries for 98 yards (5.8-yard average) and 1 TD and 3 catches for 45 yards.
San Diego QB Philip Rivers – He was 35x42 for 401 yards, with 3 TD passes and a 120.3 passer rating in a 30-21 home victory over Dallas.
New England QB Tom Brady – He’s had better stats in the past through four games but wonder if he ever has been more valuable. He passed for 316 yards and 2 TDs in a 30-23 victory at Atlanta. The injury-riddled Pariots are 4-0 mainly thanks to him.
Minnesota QB Matt Cassel – He was excellent in an emergency start in London. He was 16x25 for 248 yards (9.9 yards per pass attempt), with 2 TD passes, 0 INTs and a 123.4 passer rating in a 34-27 victory over Pittsburgh.
Cleveland QB Brian Hoyer – The Browns are 2-0 in his two starts. He was 25x38 for 269 yards, with 2 TD passes and 0 INTs in a 17-6 home win over Cincinnati.
Detroit RB Reggie Bush – Playing on a sore left knee, he had 18 carries for 139 yards in a 40-32 home win over Chicago.
San Francisco RB Frank Gore – He rushed 20 times for 153 yards and 1 TD Thursday night in a 35-11 road victory over St. Louis.
New York Jets QB Geno Smith – What a difference one week can make. He was pretty good in a home win over Buffalo and pretty awful in Sunday’s 38-13 loss at Tennessee: 2 INTs, 2 lost fumbles and sacked 5 times.
Tampa Bay RB Doug Martin – He had to step up to help take th pressure off rookie QB Mike Glennon in his first NFL start. He did not. Martin was 27x45 rushing (1.7-yard average) in a 13-10 home loss to Arizona.
Baltimore QB Joe Flacco – He threw a career-most five interceptions in a 23-20 loss to Buffalo.
Houston QB Matt Schaub – The big knock on him is that he sometimes has trouble finishing big games. With the Texans leading Seattle 20-13 with 2:40 remaining in regulation, Richard Sherman picked off his pass and returned it 58 yards for the game-tying score. The Seahawks won 23-20 in overtime.
St. Louis’ rushing attack – The Rams had 19 carries for 18 net yards in a 35-11 home loss to San Francisco. Running backs Daryl Richardson and Benny Cunningham combined for 22 yards on 16 carries.
Home teams Thursday and Sunday were 8-6 outright (40-22 this season) and 8-6 against the point spread (34-25-3 this season)
Las Vegas favorites were 8-6 outright (43-19 this season) and 8-6 against the point spread (36-24-2 this season)
Teams winning the turnover battle were 8-0 (34-11 this season)
Teams leading in time of possession were 10-4 (44-18 this season)
Teams scoring first were 8-6 (36-26 this season)
Teams leading after the first quarter were 7-5 (28-17 this season)
Teams leading at halftime were 9-4 (38-19 this season)
Teams leading after the third quarter were 11-3 (43-12 this season)
Teams with the most yards rushing were 11-3 (44-18 this season)
Teams with the most yards passing were 8-6 (39-23 this season)
Teams with the fewest penalties were 5-8 (27-31 this season)
Teams with the fewest yards penalized were 6-8 (30-31 this season)
Teams with the best record entering the game were 5-6 (16-10 this season)
3 of 14 games were decided by 3 points or fewer (15 of 62 games this season)
5 of 14 games were decided by 7 points or fewer (33 of 62 games this season)
There were points 654 scored in 14 games (46.7-point average) and 2,825 points in 62 games this season (45.6-point average)
The AFC was 4-3 vs. the NFC and the AFC leads this season’s interconference series 15-6.
There have been two overtime games and one shutout this season.
WEEK 4 TOP PERFORMERS
Matt Ryan (Atlanta) 421 yards (lost)
Philip Rivers (San Diego) 401 (won)
Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh) 383 (lost)
Matt Schaub (Houston) 355 (lost)
Joe Flacco (Baltimore) 347 (lost)
Peyton Manning (Baltimore) 327 (won)
Jay Cutler (Chicago) 317 (lost)
Tom Brady (New England) 316 (won)
Torrey Smith (Baltimore) 166 yards (lost)
Victor Cruz (NY Giants) 164 (lost)
Tony Gonzalez (Atlanta) 149 (lost)
Antonio Gates (San Diego) 136
Kembrell Thompskins (New England) 127 (won)
Jerome Simpson (Minnesota) 124 (won)
Andre Johnson (Houston) 110 (lost)
Julio Jones (Atlanta) 108 (lost)
Alshon Jeffery (Chicago) 107 (lost)
Nate Washington (Tennessee) 105 (won)
Jerricho Cothchery (Pittsburgh) 103
Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis) 100 (won)
Frank Gore (San Francisco) 153 yards (won)
Adrian Peterson (Minnesota) 140 (won)
Reggie Bush (Detroit) 139 (won)
BOB’S NFL POWER RANKINGS THROUGH SUNDAY
1—Broncos. Can Denver be stopped?
2—Seahawks. Impressive rally for road win
3—Saints. Host Miami Monday night
4—Chiefs. Have doubled 2012’s wins
5—Patriots. Just win baby.
6—Dolphins. Can better rating Monday night.
7—Colts. Toyed with Jacksonville.
8—Lions. Cooled off Chicago.
9--Bears. Likely to bounce back.
10—Titans. No giveaways through four games.
11—49ers. Last more like it.
12—Ravens. Blame this loss on Flacco.
13—Cowboys. Another disappointing loss.
14—Browns. Looking good with QB Hoyer.
15—Bengals. Flunked test in Cleveland.
16—Texans. Schaub on hot seat.
17—Chargers. Philips on a roll now.
18--Packers. Due for a winning streak.
19—Bills. Gritty victory over Baltimore.
20—Cardinals. Could be sleeper.
21—Jets. The bad Geno showed up.
22—Falcons. Couldn’t beat undermanned Pats
23—Panthers. Tough team to gauge.
24—Redskins. Signs of life.
25--Raiders. Missed Pryor. Honest.
26—Vikings. Enjoyed trip to London.
27—Eagles. Remember that hot start?
28—Rams. Steamrolled by 49ers.
29—Steelers. Shocking demise.
30—Buccaneers. 2-9 in last 11 games.
31—Giants. No hot finish likely this season.
32—Jaguars. Scouting No. 1 overall picks.
Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger after a 34-27 loss to Minnesota in London dropped the Steelers to 0-4: “Right now, you could say we’re the worst team in the league. That hurts.”
Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly after a 52-20 loss to Denver: “You’re playing against an offense that four teams have tried to stop and they haven’t yet. I don’t have an answer.”
Cleveland coach Rob Chudzinski on new starting QB Brian Hoyer: “Certainly he’s been the spark that I had hoped for and has led us to two (wins).”
WEEK 5’s KEY GAMES
New Orleans at Chicago – Can the Bears bounce back?
New England at Cincinnati – The toughest test yet for the Patriots.
Baltimore at Miami – The Dolphins can take a big step up.
Philadelphia at New York Giants – Could be ugly early for the Giants.
Detroit at Green Bay – Over/under 90 passes?
Seattle at Indianapolis – Colts probably will need more than Luck.
Denver at Dallas – Romo needs to be sharp to keep pace with Manning.
Houston at San Francisco – Possible Super Bowl preview.
Week’s 5 bye teams will be Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington.
ESPN Insider Chris Mortensen says the NFL is discussing a new format that would include a three-game preseason and could feature an expanded playoff field from 12 to 14 teams. It could happen as early as next season but 2015 is more likely. The owners will vote. I assume Buffalo would opt for more teams in the playoffs. By the way, even with a seventh AFC playoff team from 2000 through 2012, the Bills still would not have made the playoffs.
Costliest season-ending injury of Week 4 was New England defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who has been the heart and soul of the team’s defensive front for a decade.
During Sunday’s Jacksonville 37-3 home loss to Indianapolis, a small plane flew over the stadium with a banner reading TEBOW, WHY NOT? In four games, the pathetic, winless Jaguars have scored 2, 9, 17 and 3 points.
With Detroit’s 40-32 home win over Chicago, the Lions now are 7-19 vs. NFC North rivals under coach Jim Schwartz.
Kansas City is 13-3 in its last 16 games vs. NFC teams.
The New York Giants are only the third team in NFL history to allow at least 30 points and commit at least 3 turnovers in each of their first four games.
The Tennessee Titans are shopping wide receiver Kenny Britt. He’s only 25 and would be an upgrade for the Bills. He’s also in the last year of his contract and probably too expensive for Buffalo’s taste.
Tennessee crushed the visiting Jets 38-13 Sunday but they won’t win many games when Chris Johnson has 15 carries for 21 yards.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (Tennessee) surfaced Sunday when Jake Locker went down with a hip injury. He was 3x8 for 108 yards and a TD pass in a 35-13 romp over the Jets. Fitz figures to get a start or two as Locker recovers.
Rookie QB EJ Manuel (Buffalo) is tied for 22nd in yards passing (856) with Colin Kaepernick. Manuel’s passer rating is 81.0 (Kaepernick’s is 80.2).
Benched Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman went from starter to suite-sitter with the other inactive players in one week.
Denver5’s 52 points was a team record...Peyton Manning 16 TDs in September topped the month’s former record (Don Meredith 1966 and Kurt Warner 1999).
Pittsburgh’s 0-4 start is the team’s worst since 0-6 in 1968 (finished 2-11-1).
Fans in England got a look Sunday in a sold-out Wembley Stadium at what could be their future NFL team – the relocated Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags will be playing a “home” game in London every season through 2016. The Jags are hurting for loyal fans, and what few they have can’t be happy about their team playing an annual game across the Atlantic Ocean.
Blaine Gabbert is 5-21 as Jacksonville’s starting QB.
The NFL’s eight new coaches this season were 5-3 on Sunday and are 16-16 this season: Andy Reid (Kansas City) 4-0...Marc Trestman (Chicago) 3-1...Bruce Arians (Arizona), Doug Marrone (Buffalo), Mike McCoy (San Diego) and Rob Chudzinski (Cleveland) all 2-2...Chip Kelly (Pjhiladelphia) 1-3...Gus Bradley (Jacksonville) 0-4.
Just when you think the Dallas Cowboys are on the verge of becoming a legit playoff team by posting a few consecutive victories, they fall on their faces. Like Sunday in a 30-21 loss at San Diego.
New England is 13-2 in its last 15 road games vs. NFC teams.
This Monday Night Football matchup is a battle of 3-0 teams – Miami vs. New Orleans. The Saints are 10-2 on Monday nights since 2006 under Sean Payton and have won eight consecutive MNF games (the last six at home)...The Dolphins will be trying to start 4-0 for the first time since 1995.
The Brothers Manning:
Peyton (Denver) – 4-0 record...117X156 (.750)...1,470 yards passing...9.42 yards per pass attempt...16 TD passes...0 INTs...5 sacks...138.0 passer rating
Eli (NY Giants) – 0-4 record...85x151 (.563)...1,148 yards passing...7.60 yards per pass attempt...6 TD passes...9 INTs...14 sacks...69.1 passer rating
QBs DOMINATE TOP PICKS IN SI.COM 2014 NFL DRAFT
Most NFL draft analysts figured the 2015 NFL draft would be as strong on stellar quarterbacks as the 2013 draft was weak. That’s why so many teams passed on QBs early in last year’s draft – the Buffalo Bills the obvious exception.
Here are SI.com’s 2014 Mock Draft 2./0 top 10 picks: 1-Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville QB) by Jacksonville...2—Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina DE) by Oakland...3—Marcus Mariota (Oregon QB) by Tampa Bay...4—Brett Hundley (UCLA QB) by Cleveland...5—Tajh Boyd (Clemson QB) by Minnesota...6—Jake Matthews (Texas A&M OT)...7—Taylor Lewan (Michigan OT ) by Pittsburgh...8—Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama OT) by Arizona...9—Bradley Roby (Ohio State CB) by Carolina...10—Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M QB) by Philadelphia.
The bottom line: 4 of top 5 and 5 of top 10 picks are quarterbacks.
For the record, Buffalo’s projected pick is UCLA OLB Anthony Barr No. 13 overall and University of Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack is the No. 22 overall pick, by Atlanta.
Lost in all of the excitement and genuine affection displayed last week regarding the retirements of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, was the possibility that Alex Rodriguez also has played his final game as a New York Yankee. Hardly anyone seems to notice or care.
I assume Barry Bonds will not be asked to throw out a ceremonial first pitch during Pittsburgh’s playoff run.
Do you think Alex Rodriguez ever will be invited to play in a New York Yankees Oldtimers Game?
Michael Cuddyer (Colorado Rockies) on Sunday became only the sixth former Rochester Red Wing to win a major league batting crown: George Sisler 1920 (AL) and 1922 (AL)...Johnny Mize 1939 (NL)...Stan Musial 1943, 1946, 1948, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1957 (NL)...Harry Walker 1947 (NL)...Joe Mauer 2006, 2008, 2009 (AL)...Two former Red Wings managers but non-players won MLB batting crowns: Dixie Walker 1944 (NL) and Frank Robinson 1966 (AL).
The NBA reportedly is likely to changes the scheduling format for the Finals from 2-3-2 to 2-2-1-1-1-1. Why not? The 2-3-2 format used since 1985 is outdated. Travel is much easier now. Game 6 on the lower-seeded team’s home court would increase the probability of a Game 7.
ESPN.com Training Camp Power Rankings are interesting: 1 Miami...2 Indiana...3 Brooklyn...4 Clippers...5 San Antonio...6 Houston...7 Oklahoma City...8 Chicago...9 Memphis...10 Golden State...11 Knicks...I don’t believe any of the other 19 teams has a remote chance to win the championship – do you?
Cleveland was a MLB-best 21-6 in September...15-2 in last 17 games...won last 11 games...First team to sweep seven four-game series in a season since 1943 St. Louis Cardinals...Minnesota hitters struck out in double digits 66 times this season. Previous team record was 26...Yankees missed playoffs for second time in 19 years...Houston finished season with 15 straight losses (most to end a MLB season since the Cleveland Spiders lost their last 16 games in 1899)...The Astros struck out a ML:B-record 1,535 times...Mike Trout (LA Angels) joined Ty Cobb (1915) and Lenny Dykstra (1993) as the only players with 190 hits, 100 walks and 30 stolen bases in same season.
Toronto reliever Darren Oliver is retiring after 20 seasons...Toronto drew 2,536,562 home fans, the most since 1997...Boston tied St. Louis with MLB-best 97-65 record...Red Sox finished season with 39 consecutive successful stolen bases...Chris Davis (Baltimore) led MLB in HRs (53) and RBI (138)...Baltimore was 20-31 in one-run games (MLB-record 29-9 in 2012)...Baltimore set MLB record for fewest errors in a season (53). The previous record was 65 by Seattle in 2003...Kansas City’s 86-76 record was team’s best since 1989.
Cincinnati lost its last five games, matching its regular-season high...Joey Votto’s team-record 135 walks led the NL in walks for the third straight se4ason...Eric Young Jr. (Mets) led the NL in stolen bases (46). His father led the NL in stolen bases (53) in 1996...Carlos Gomez (Milwaukee) became the first Milwaukee Brewer to have a 20 HR/40 SB season...Miami’s home attendance was 1,586,322, the second-worst in MLB, behind only Tampa Bay. Not so terrific state for baseball...Detroit pitchers had a MLB-record 1,428 strikeouts this season...Matt Carpenter (St. Louis) had 199 hits and also the NL in runs (126), doubles (55) and multi-hit games (63)...Washington lost 3-2 at Arizona in retiring manager Davey Johnson’s final game. SOURCES: ESPN, STATS, Elias Sports Bureau).
A FEW HORSE RACING NOTES
There is a new star jockey at Finger Lakes. Jamie Rodriguez is leading the rider standings in victories (94 to runner-up John Davila Jr.’s 87) and purse money ($1,440,168). Rodriguez is earning his status and pay. He had 520 rides this season, more than 100 above anyone else...Batavia Downs will have live harness racing Tuesday and Wednesday (post time 6:30 p.m.) but there will be no on-track betting as the track is working on the new Video Lottery Terminal area that will open Friday on the ground floor. Patrons can wager at OTB parlors or at the Batavia ITW simulcast center...The 2012 2-year-old thoroughbred champion Shanghai Bobby, has been retired to stud duty due to an injury suffered in his last race. In eight career starts, he had six wins and a second and won $1,857,000.
INOTE: will have surgery Tuesday and won’t be doing my show Tuesday through at least Wednesday. I hope to return for Friday’s show and to write my column featuring “Best Bets.” Thank you.