BOB MATTHEWS SPORTS TALK
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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.
IRISH EYES ARE SMILING…NOTRE DAME CONTROLS DESTINY
NFL WEEK 11 REVIEW
A REALISTIC OVERVIEW OF BILLS’ PLAYOFF HOPES
WEST VIRGINIA”S MONUMENTAL COLLAPSE
ORANGE, NASSIB ON THE RISE
Raise your hand if you thought Notre Dame would be the only unbeaten, bowl-eligible major-college football team entering Saturday evening’s regular-season finale at USC.
It has been a long time since Notre Dame had more riding on the outcome of one game. With a victory over USC, Notre Dame probably would:
Clinch a spot in the BCS Championship Game…I don’t believe Notre Dame is the most-talented college football team in the nation. But no team has done more with the talent it has…Many other teams have better offenses but no team – with the probable exception of Alabama – has a better defense.
The wizards of odds say Alabama would be a 10-point favorite over Notre Dame ii they were to meet in the BCS title game. The Irish probably would be even bigger underdogs vs. Oregon. But who cares. The Crimson Tide and Ducks have a big fat ”1” in their loss columns and the Irish have the only “0”.
Make Brian Kelly national Coach of the Year…He taught his players to believe. They’ve met every challenge. They don’t always romp: winning margins include 3, 3, 3 (in three overtimes over Pittsburgh), 7 and 7 points. But at the end of every game, they had another “W.” They’re 11-0 for the first time since 1989.
Help linebacker Manti T’eo become the first pure defensive player ever to win the Heisman Trophy. We’re long overdue for a defender to win college football’s top individual award. Notre Dame is first and foremost a defensive team. He’s the unit’s inspirational leader and tops on the stat sheets, too…The star quarterbacks have dropped out of Heisman contention one-by-one. Matt Barkley (USC) lost early. So did freshman Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M). Then Geno Smith (West Virginia), A.J. McCarron (Alabama), Collin Klein (Kansas State) and Marcus Mariota (Oregon). The time never has been riper for a defensive player to win the Heisman. It would be an appropriate time to right many wrongs. But Notre Dame has to beat USC for it to happen.
In addition to being very good, the Irish have been fortunate. A few timely controversial calls went their way against Pittsburgh to help maintain their flawless record….Ohio State, the only other undefeated major-college team, isn’t eligible for a bowl game or the national championship...And now disappointing USC will be without star QB Matt Barkley (shoulder) for Saturday night’s showdown.
This has been an extraordinary college football season and no development has been more significant or more impressive than Notre Dame’s return to football prominence. Even the haters must admit that.
ANOTHER UNPREDICTABLE SUNDAY FOR THE NFL
There were three overtime games Sunday and the teams leading at halftime all lost. The winners – Houston, Tampa Bay and Dallas – are a combined 20-10. The three losers – Jacksonville, Carolina and Cleveland – are a combined 5-25….Atlanta’s Matt Ryan threw 5 INTs and had 0 TD passes, and the Falcons had a minus-5 turnover differential, but managed to win 23-19 at home against Arizona…Atlanta is 5-0 at home by a total of 21 points…
Arizona is 0-6 since it started 4-0….Tony Romo (Dallas) was sacked 7 times in a 23-20 overtime home win over Cleveland. The Cowboys now are 1-5 in games he was sacked at least 5 times.
Cincinnati (5-5) hasn’t had consecutive winning seasons in 30 years…Kansas City (lost 28-6 to visiting Cincinnati Sunday) hasn’t topped 23 points at home since Dec. 26, 2010…Kansas City’s seven straight losses is the team’s longest one-season losing streak since Oct. 5 to Nov. 23, 2008…The St. Louis Rams (3-6-1) had three giveaways in Sunday’s 27-13 home loss to the Jets and are in a 0-4-1 slump…Philadelphia has six straight defeats in the team’s longest in-season losing streak since 1994. The Beagles were a popular pick to win the NFC East this season…Philadelphia has a -14 turnover differential (including -3 Sunday).
Denver’s Von Miller has 7 sacks in the last 3 games and leads the NFL with 13 sacks. No wonder the Buffalo Bills wanted to draft him…The Cleveland Browns (2-8 record) are trying to avoid finishing last in the AFC North for the 10th time in 14 seasons since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999…Green Bay beat Detroit 24-20 and is 29-9 vs. NFC North rivals since coach Mike McCarthy’s arrival as coach in 2006…The last 7 games between Baltimore and Pittsburgh were decided by an average of 4.5 points.
Calvin Johnson (Detroit) started slowly this season but leads the NFL with 1,117 yards receiving (including 479 in the last 3 games)…The most costly injury of Week 11 was New England tight end Rob Gronkowski’s broken forearm. The Patriots are the same team without him…ESPN.com asked readers who should be blamed for the New York Jets’ problems: Rex Ryan 53 percent; Mark Sanchez 22 percent’ Tony Sparano 10 percent; Tim Tebow 3 percent; other 12 percent…No more open dates for NFL this season.
Houston QB Matt Schaub to WR Andre Johnson – Schaub’s 48-yard TD pass to Johnson in overtime was the difference Sunday in a 43-37 overtime home victory over Jacksonville. Schaub was 43x55 for 5237 yards with 5 TD passes, 2 INTs and a 121.7 passer rating. Johnson had 14 catches for 273 yards.
Tampa Bay RB Doug Martin – The rookie from Boise State had 24 carries for 138 yards in a 27-21 overtime victory at Carolina. In the Buccaneers’ four-game winning streak, he has 97 carries for 592 yards (6.1-yard average) and 7 TDs.
Washington QB Robert Griffin III – Was he worth the No. 2 pick in the 2012 NFL draft? He was 14x15 for 200 yards, with 4 TD passes, 0 INTs, and 12 carries for 84 yards in a 31-6 home romp over the Philadelphia Beagles.
Atlanta WR Roddy White – He caught 8 passes for 123 yards from erratic QB Matt Ryan in a 23-19 home win over Arizona.
Dallas WR Dez Bryant – He had 12 catches for 145 yards and 1 TD in a 23-20 home overtime victory over Arizona.
Arizona QBs Ryan Lindley and John Skelton – They were a combined 11x27 for 41 yards (1.5 yards per attempt) with 0 TD passes, 0 INTs and 3 sacks in a 23-19 loss at Atlanta.
Carolina RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart – The high-priced, low-producing duo combined for 22 carries for 61 yards (2.8-yard average) in a 27-21 overtime home loss at Tampa Bay.
Atlanta QB Matt Ryan – The MVP candidate wasn’t very valuable in Sunday’s 23-19 home win over Arizona. He passed for 301 yards but had five INTs and 0 TD passes.
Philadelphia QB Nick Foles – The rookie did a nice impression of Michael Vick in an ugly 31-6 loss at Washington. He completed only 21 of 46 passes, with o TD passes, 4 sacks and a 40.5 passer rating. Vick could’ve done that.
Miami RB Reggie Bush – He isn’t showing much in his contract season. He had only 20 yards on 10 carries in a 19-14 loss at Buffalo last Thursday night.
NFL Week 11 Top Performers:
300-yard passers: Matt Schaub (Houston) 527 yards (won)…Chad Henne (Jacksonville) 354 yards (lost)…Andrew Luck (Indianapolis) 334 yards (lost)…Tom Brady (New England) 331 yards (won)…Tony Romo (Dallas) 313 yards (won)…Carson Palmer (Oakland) 312 yards…Matt Ryan (Atlanta) 301 yards (won)
100-yard rushers: Doug Martin (Jacksonville) 138 yards (won)…LaRod Stephens-Howling (Arizona) 127 yards (lost)…Marcel Reece (Oakland) 103 yards (lost)
100-yard receivers: Andre Johnson (Houston) 273 yards (won)…Justin Blackmon (Jacksonville) 236 yards (lost)…Dez Bryant (Dallas) 145 yards (won)…Calvin Johnson (Detroit) 143 yards (lost)…Ron Gronkowski (New England) 137 yards (won)…Roddy White (Atlanta) 123 yards (won)…T.Y. Hilton (Indianapolis) 100 yards (lost)
NFL Week 11 Stat Pack (entering Monday night):
Home teams are 7-6 outright (92-66-1 this season) and 4-9 against the Las Vegas point spread (67-90-2 this season).
Las Vegas favorites are 11-2 outright (101-57-1 this season) and 7-6 against the spread (68-89-2 this season)
The first teams to score are 5-8 (94-64-1 this season)
The teams leading after the first quarter are 7-5 (86-41-1 this season).
The teams leading at halftime are 8-3 (114-34-1 this season)
The teams leading entering the fourth quarter are 8-4 (122-26 this season)
Teams with the most yards rushing are 8-5 (107-51-1 this season)
Teams with the most yards passing are 9-4 (89-69-1)
Team winning the turnover battle are 9-3 (99-25-1)
Teams with the fewest yards penalized are 7-6 (86-68-1)
Teams leading in time of possession are 8-5 (95-63-1)
Teams with the better record entering the game are 9-2 (63-42-1)
The NFC won two of the three interconference games Week 11 and leads this season’s series 27-17
There have been 615 points in 13 games (47.3-point average).
Bob’s NFL Rankings (entering Monday night’s Chicago at San Francisco game):
1-Atlanta…2 Houston…3 Baltimore…4 Denver…5 New England…6 Green Bay…7 San Francisco…8 Chicago…9 Tampa Bay…10 New York Giants…11 New Orleans…12 Seattle…13 Pittsburgh…14 Minnesota…15 Indianapolis…16 Cincinnati…17 Dallas…18 Washington…19 San Diego…20 Detroit…21 New York Jets…22 Buffalo…23 Tennessee…24 Miami…25 Arizona…26 St. Louis…27 Philadelphia…28 Oakland…29 Carolina…30 Cleveland…31 Jacksonville…32 Kansas City.
Week 12 key games Include:
Houston at Denver – The Texans figure to carve up the Lions on Thanksgiving.
Washington at Dallas – The stumbling Cowboys will be chasing Robert Griffin III all afternoon.
New England at New York Jets – A prime-time TV audience gets to see how much the Jets have slipped.
Minnesota at Chicago – Vikings RB Adrian Peterson continues his MVP quest. In his last four games, he has rushed for 153 yards (6.7-yard average), 123 yards (8.2), 182 yards (10.7) and 171 yards (6.3).
Buffalo at Indianapolis – The Bills can’t afford a loss here.
Atlanta at Tampa Bay – The Buccaneers are on a roll.
San Francisco at New Orleans – Can the Saints continue their comeback?
Green Bay at New York Giants – This could be a playoff preview.
Carolina at Philadelphia – A prime-timer nail in the coaching coffin for Andy Reid?
Week 12 Las Vegas early line:
Thanksgiving Day: Houston -3 at Detroit…Dallas -4 ½ at home vs. Washington…New England by 7 1/2 at the New York Jets.
Sunday: Pittsburgh -4 at Cleveland…Seattle -1 at Miami…Indianapolis -1 at home vs. Buffalo…Chicago -6 at home vs. Minnesota…Cincinnati -7 at home vs. Oakland…Denver -8 at Kansas City…Atlanta -2 at Tampa Bay…Tennessee -2 at Jacksonville…San Diego -1 at home vs. Baltimore…San Francisco -3 at New Orleans…Arizona -2 at home vs. St. Louis…New York Giants -2 at home vs. Green Bay.
Monday night: Philadelphia -2 at home vs. Carolina.
BILLS’ PLAYOFF HOPES: SLIM BETTER THAN NONE
The AFC’s four divisional leaders – Houston (South), Baltimore (North), New England (East) and Denver (7-3) – all have at least a two-game lead and healthy starting quarterbacks. They figure to account for four of the AFC’s six playoff berths.
Throw out Kansas City (1-9), Jacksonville (1-9), Cleveland (2-8) and Oakland (3-7).
That leaves 8 teams fighting for the 2 wild-card spots.
Pittsburgh (6-4) and Indianapolis (6-4) have the best records but are far from locks. The Steelers will be without QB Ben Roethlisberger for at least two more games and the Colts showed in Sunday’s 59-24 loss to New England that they have many flaws and rely too much on the play of rookie QB Andrew Luck.
Cincinnati is 5-5 and has a solid shot.
Here’s how I rank the chances of the five teams with 4-6 records:
Buffalo (easiest remaining schedule; 6-0 finish probably out of reach; 5-1 a remote possibility for a 9-7 record; healthy starting QB and relatively fresh star RB C.J. Spiller.
San Diego – Probably the most-talented 4-6 team but QB Philip Rivers appears to be slipping and coach Norv Turner does not inspire confidence.
New York Jets – Proved in Sunday’s 27-13 win in St. Louis that they haven’t given up.
Miami – Peaked at 4-3; three straight losses since; feeble offense; rookie QB.
Tennessee – Sleeper with RB Chris Johnson back in top form.
Buffalo’s bottom line: If you think the Bills can go 5-1 down the stretch, they’d have at least a slight chance to pass Pittsburgh, a fair chance to top Indianapolis and Cincinnati, and a slight chance to outkick the other four 4-6 teams.
My Buffalo odds to make the playoffs: 5 percent (I don’t think the Bills will do better than 4-2 in the remaining 6 games and 8-8 isn’t likely to be good enough even in the relatively weak AFC (the NFC leads this season’s interconference series 27-17.
WEST VIRGINIA – A FOOTBALL COLLAPSE FOR THE AGES
Remember when the West Virginia Mountaineers were 5-0, climbing in the top 10 of the weekly polls, and quarterback Geno Smith was being touted as the likely Heisman Trophy winner?
First five games:
Beat Marshall 69-34…Smith 4 TD passes, 0 INTs…323 yards passing
Beat James Madison 42-12…Smith 5 TD passes…0 INTs…411 yards passing
Beat Maryland 31-21…Smith 3 TD passes…0 INTs…338 yards passing
Beat Baylor 70-63…Smith 8 TD passes…0 INTs…656 yards passing
Beat Texas 48-45…Smith 4 TD passes…0 INTs…268 yards passing
Totals: 5-0 record…outscored opponents 260-175 (+85)…Smith 24 TD passes…0 INTs…1996 yards passing
Next five games:
Lost 49-14 to Texas Tech…Smith 1 TD pass…0 INTs…278 yards passing
Lost 55-14 to Kansas State…Smith 1 TD pass…2 INTs…143 yards passing
Lost 39-38 to TCU…Smith 3 TD passes…1 INT…260 yards passing
Lost 55-34 to Oklahoma State…Smith 2 TD passes…0 INTs…364 yards passing
Lost 50-49 to Oklahoma…Smith 4 TD passes…2 INTs…320 yards passing
Totals: 0-5 record…outscored by opponents 248-149 (-99)…Smith 11 TD passes…5 INTs…1365 yards passing.
Smith can’t be blamed for his team’s collapse. He doesn’t play defense.
Among the 120 FBS (football bowl subdivision) teams, West Virginia ranks 120th in pass defense (364.60 yards allowed per game), 119th in scoring defense (42.30 points allowed per game) and 117th in total defense (496.50).
West Virginia ranks 9th in total offense (510.0 yards per game), 4th in passing offenhse (344.80) and 8th in scoring (40.90).
Smith is out of the running for the Heisman but could settle for being the first QB picked in the 2013 NFL draft.
ORANGE WILL GO BOWLING…AND WELL-DESERVED
The Syracuse Orange and quarterback Ryan Nassib are playing their best football of the season. Last Saturday’s come-from-behind 31-27 victory at Missouri boosted their record to a bowl-eligible 6-5.
SU has put up decent all-around numbers in the 120-team FBS (football bowl subdivision) national rankings: 24th in total offense (473.27 yards per game)…15th in pass offense (309.45)…63rd in rush offense (163.82)… 64th in scoring (28.55 points per game)…56th in total offense (389.18 yards allowed per game)…69th in pass defense (242.73)…43rd in rush defense (146.45)…58th in scoring defense (26.18).
Nassib ranks 14th in the nation in passing: 267x420 (.636)…3,404 yards passing…8.10 yards per attempt…12.75 yards per completion (very good)…23 TD passes…9 INTs…24.27 completions per game. He might be a candidate for the 2013 NFL draft.
Is it too early to tout Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te’O as the 2013 first-round pick for the Buffalo Bills?
Four college football teams are averaging 100,000 fans per home game:
Michigan (112,252); Ohio State (105,248); Alabama (101,705); and Texas (101,071)…Penn State is next (97,267)…Notre Dame is 15th (80,795; 100 percent capacity)…Syracuse is 61st (37,953).
The Toronto Blue Jays is taking a gamble in signing left fielder Melky Cabrera, but plugging him in at No. 2 in the lineup makes the American League’s best top-to-bottom lineup even better. Any disagreements?...Revised projected Blue Jays lineup: SS Jose Reyes (switch-hitter), LF Melky Cabrera (switch-hitter), RF Jose Bautista, DH Edwin Encarnacion, 3B Brett Lawrie, 1B Adam Lind, C J.P. Arencibia/John Buck, CF Colby Rasmus, 2B Maicer Izturis/Emilio Bonifacio.
The bold moves by the Blue Jays have fueled a significant adjustment in 2013 World Series odds: LVH SportsBook dropped the Blue Jays’ odds from 50-to-1 to 15-to-1 and raised Miami’s odds from 100-to-1 to 200-to-1…The Angels, Nationals and Tigers are co-favorites at 8-to-1. The Yankees are 9-to-1 and the Dodgers and Rangers are 12=to-1. The defending champion Giants are 15-to-1.
The five-page official document banishing Pete Rose from baseball in 1989 was a flop at an auction last weekend. It failed to garner the undisclosed minimum bid. The top bid was $235,000. Auctioneer Ken Goldin touted it as “the most important document in baseball history.” The 1919 contract sending Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees sold for $996.000 in 2005.
Miguel Angel Jimenez – 48 years and 318 says – on Sunday became the oldest golfer to win a European Tour event (the Hong Kong Open for the third time). Ireland’s Des Smyth was 48 years and 34 days when he won the 2001 Madeira Islands Open….John Daly will be fined for throwing a club on the second day of play. He hurled his club because he was upset by fans using mobile phones and cameras.
This probably isn’t big news to you, but it was a big deal in Prague. The Czech Republic beat Spain 3-2 on Sunday to win its first Davis Cup as an independent nation.
Mike Ditka was released from the hospital Sunday after suffering a “mild stroke” Friday. He plans to host his Chicago radio show Tuesday on ESPN 1000 in Chicago.
Ben Reiter of SI.com is touting Los Angeles Angels outfielder and AL Rookie of the Year for SI’s Sportsman of the Year – for his excellence on the field and his unabashed boyish enthusiasm for playing the game he loves.
Shackleford, the gritty 2011 Preakness Stakes winner, will soon make his final career start before being retired to stud. He has 5 wins, including the Grade I Met Mile, in 19 career starts.
The biggest football game at Toronto’s Rogers Centre this season, at least in the minds of most Canadians , won’t be the NFL Seattle Seahawks vs. the Buffalo Bills Dec. 16. It will be this Sunday’s Canadian Football League 100th Grey Cup between the host Argonauts and the Calgary Stampeders.. The 5 ½-point underdog Argos upset the host Montreal Alouettes 27-20 Sunday in the East final. Ricky Ray had 399 yards passing and former Hawaii star Chad Owens had 11 catches for 207 yards. Calgary upset host B.C. in the West final.
Cheers to Brad Keselowski for winning the first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship Sunday for Penske Racing. It was also a victory for Twitter (Keselowski loves it) and his crew. We sometimes forget that NASCAR is a team sport but Keselowski made sure his pit crew received its fair share of the credit.