BOB MATTHEWS SPORTS TALK
Weeknights 6:00PM - 8:00PM
on WHAM 1180
Email Bob here.
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.
WHAT WOULD THE LAST 13 NFL SEASONS HAVE BEEN LIKE IF...
JETS WERE A HOT ITEM...FOR A WHOLE SIX DAYS
JAGUARS INFECTED PEYTON
DOLPHINS -9 OVER BILLS...BRONCOS -3 AT COLTS
You're a true blue Buffalo Bills addict if you know how Leif Olve Dolonen Larsen figures in the team’s history.
In the 2000 NFL draft, the Bills made Larsen, a Norwegian native and a shot putter-turned defensive end from Texas-El Paso, the No. 194 overall pick. He was a football project but had wowed some teams by bench pressing 225 pounds an amazing 45 times at the NFL scouting combine.
Unfortunately for Leif, and the Bills, he wasn’t nearly as adept at reaching opposing quarterbacks. He had two sacks (one per season) in 16 total games with Buffalo in 2000 and 2001. He later had a brief fling at pro boxing in his native land.
The New England Patriots used the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft – five picks after Larsen – to select Michigan quarterback Tom Brady. In fairness, every other team in the league struck out on Brady – including theretofore the Patriots (they used the 187th pick on Virginia defensive back Atwean Harris).
Ah, what might have been. What if the Bills had taken a flyer on the scrawny QB instead of on the muscular defensive end?
We all know the Bills haven’t made the playoffs in the past 13 seasons. How much different would things have been if Brady been with Buffalo instead of New England?
Like on Sunday, for example.
Buffalo’s sad quarterback saga continued again Sunday. Emergency QB Thad Lewis played valiantly under the circumstances but the Bills came up short once again – 27-24 in overtime before a full house of loyal fans who were thrilled, impressed and encouraged once more – only to go home frustrated. Sound familiar?
Meanwhile, Brady was working his magic once again on Sunday, leading the Patriots to an improbable 30-27 home victory over the stunned New Orleans Saints. He wasn’t sharp for most of the game. In fact, he was five seconds from ending one of his dullest performances in memory. He was brilliant merely on the money throw that won the game.
These story angles grew stale a long time ago. Brady’s Patriots routinely find ways to win. The Bills over the same span usually fall short.
But there are reasons to be optimistic. The Patriots and Brady appear to be slipping. They’re still the class of the AFC East, but the talent gap is shrinking.
There are plenty of legitimate hopeful reasons to believe that Buffalo will succeed New England as the team to beat in the AFC East. The Bills are playing competitive football every week. They’re building a roster with a nice bend of speed and strength. The depth is improving. And – most important – EJ Manuel could be the missing ingredient. He doesn’t need to be a great quarterback. He can start by being healthy. Then just be above average. Be a leader. Come through in the fourth quarter more often than not. Fans in western New York are due. Long overdue.
I wonder if Leif Larsen knows the Bills lost another tight one on Sunday.
RUDE CRASH LANDING FOR JETS
The New York City media can make and break sports heroes – quickly.
Take the New York Jets.
Last Monday night, the Jets upset the Atlanta Falcons 30-28 on national TV behind the brilliant play of rookie QB Geno Smith, who had been a turnover machine in his first four games.
The victory gave the Jets an improbable 3-2 record. The New York Daily News dubbed the Jets as “the biggest sports story in town” and gave the team blanket coverage entering Sunday’s home game against the winless Pittsburgh Steelers. The theme was that there was a good chance that the Jets and New England Patriots both would have 4-2 records entering this week’s showdown for first place in the AFC East.
Oops. The Jets lost 19-6 at home Sunday to the Steelers (entered the game with no takeaways in their 0-4 start; intercepted Smith twice) and the Patriots rallied to edge New Orleans 30-27.
This morning, the AFC East has a very familiar look:
New England 5-1...Miami 3-2...New York Jets 3-3...Buffalo Bills 2-4.
And Geno Smith has taken a big step backward after last Monday night’s huge leap against the overrated Falcons.
JAGUARS BROUGHT OUT THE WORST IN PEYTON MANNING
The Jacksonville Jaguars won their Las Vegas battle yesterday but lost the real life war in the official standings. The Jaguars were an NFL-record 27-point underdog Sunday in Denver against the 5-0 Broncos. They lost on the scoreboard 35-19 but covered the overly generous spread (lost by only 16 points).
Since 1990, there have been 11 underdogs of at least 20 points. All 11 lost the games outright but 9 of them rewarded their bettors by losing by fewer points than the spread.
Denver quarterback and league MVP frontrunner Peyton Manning obviously wasn’t pumped up to face Jacksonville. He lost two fumbles on poor exchanges for the first time in his career and threw his second interception of the season. He did manage to throw 2 TD passes, boosting his NFL-record to 22 through the first 6 games of a season.
Broncos WR Wes Welker summed up the game pretty well: “There was a lot of bad football out there. We’ve got to correct that stuff and come out better next time.”
NFL WEEK 6 HEROES
Dallas kick returner Dwayne Harris – He scored a TD on an 86-yard punt return and set up another TD with a 90-yard kickoff return as the Cowboys beat visiting Washington 31-16. The Redskins outgained Dallas 433-213 in defeat.
Detroit RB Reggie Bush – He had 121 of his 135 total yards offense in the second half as the Lions rallied for a 31-17 victory in Cleveland. Detroit tight end Joseph Fauria said, “He’s not a dual threat or a triple threat, he’s a quadruple threat. He does everything.”
Philadelphia QB Nick Foles – He’ll never be as flashy as injured teammate Michael Vick, but can be just as effective. He was 22x31 for 296 yards, with 3 TD passes, 0 INTs and a 133.3 passer rating in a 31-20 victory at Tampa Bay.
Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers – Playing much of the game with two of his top three wideouts sidelined with injuries, his 7 completions in the second half went for 199 yards in a 19-17 victory in Baltimore: “Days like today remind you of why you love this game so much. Offensively, we’re struggling a little bit, but we found a way to make enough plays to win.”
... AND A FEW GOATS
Cleveland QB Brandon Weeden – His decent stats were obscured by an ill-timed shovel pass that was intercepted and returned for a TD in the fourth quarter of a 31-17 home loss to Detroit: “It’s a bone-headed play. Anytime you try underhanded stuff, bad things happen.”
Tennessee RB Charles Johnson – There isn’t a more disappointing running back in the NFL. He had 12 carries for 33 yards in Sunday’s 20-13 loss in Seattle. In his last three games, he has 37 carries for 71 yards.
BOB’S NFL POWER RANKINGS THROUGH SUNDAY
1—BRONCOS...showed mercy on Jaguars
2--CHIEFS...host Houston this week
4—COLTS...red carpet for Peyton
5—SAINTS...folded late to Patriots
6—PATRIOTS...another Brady miracle
7—49ERS...still very good
8—LIONS...could be underrated
10—BENGALS...survived scare in Buffalo
11—PACKERS...receivers banged up
12—DOLPHINS...host Buffalo off bye
13—COWBOYS...always tough to figure
14—RAVENS...lost at home to Green Bay
16—BROWNS...at Green Bay this week
17—TITANS...Fitz no super sub yet
18—CARDINALS...no easy touch
20—JETS...back to earth
21—CHARGERS...which Rivers will show up?
22—BILLS...never a soft touch
23—RAIDERS...no match for Chiefs
24--VIKINGS...will real QB please stand up
25--REDSKINS...RG III still a project
26—FALCONS...exposed by Jets
27--BUCCANEERS...Schiano is struggling
28--PANTHERS...good every third week or so
29—TEXANS...no bigger disappointment
30—STEELERS...delivered with pride on the line
31—GIANTS...Eli has matched 2012 INT total (15)
32—JACKSONVILLE...covered the record spread
WEEK 6’S TOP PERFORMERS
Joe Flacco (Baltimore) 342 yards (lost)
Andy Dalton (Cincinnati) 337
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) 315
Chad Henne (Jacksonville) 303
Justin Blackmon (Jacksonville) 190 yards (lost)
Vernon Davis (San Francisco) 180 (won)
Josh Gordon (Cleveland) 126 (lost)
Riley Cooper (Philadelphia) 120
Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona) 117
Vincent Jackson (Tampa Bay) 114 (lost)
Jordy Nelson (Green Bay) 113 (won)
Brandon LaFell (Carolina) 107 (won)
A.J. Green (Cincinnati) 103 (won)
Arian Foster (Houston) 141 yards (lost)
Eddie Lacy (Green Bay) 120 (won)
LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia) 116 (won)
Frank Gore (San Francisco) 101 (won)
NFL STAT PACK
Home teams Thursday and Sunday were 7-7 outright (56-35 this season) and 5-9 against the Las Vegas point spread (48-40-3 this season)
Las Vegas favorites were 8-6 outright (59-32 this season) and 6-8 against the spread (50-39-2 this season)
Teams winning the turnover battle were 9-2 (54-14 this season)
Teams leading in time of possession are 9-5 (63-28 this season)
Teams with the most yards rushing were 7-7 (60-30this season)
Teams with the most yards passing were 7-7 (52-39 this season)
Teams with the fewest penalties were 8-6 (42-45 this season)
Teams with the fewest penalty yards were 8-6 (45-45 this season)
Teams scoring first were 11-3 (56-35 this season)
Teams leading after the first quarter were 8-4 (43-27 this season)
Teams leading at halftime were 10-3 (59-20 this season)
Teams leading after the third quarter were 12-1 (68-14 this season)
Teams with the better record entering the games were 7-3 (30--18 this season)
Three of the 14 games were decided by 3 points or fewer (21 of 91 games this season)
Five of the 14 games were decided by 7 points or fewer (43 of 91 games this season)
The NFC was 3-2 vs. the AFC in interconference games...The AFC leads this season’s interconference series 20-12.
There were 633 points in 14 games (45.21 points per game).
NFL STATS AND FACTS
The Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs are the NFL’s only two remaining undefeated teams. The AFC West rivals will meet in Denver Nov. 17 and in Kansas City Dec. 1.
The Houston Texans outgained St. Louis 420-216 and dominated time of possession (35:10) in a 38-13 home loss...Greg Schiano was 6-4 in his first 10 games as coach of Tampa Bay and is 1-9 since. Tampa Bay was 17-23 with banished QB Josh Freeman before Schiano arrived.
The Kansas City Chiefs (6-0) joined the 1956 Detroit Lions as the only teams in NFL history to start 6-0 the season after having the league’s worst record...Ryan Fitzpatrick (Tennessee) is 0-2 as starting QB for the Titans. He was 17x29 for 171 yards (5.9 yards per pass) with 0 TD passes and 2 INTs in Sunday’s 20-13 loss in Seattle.
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) has 30 TD passes and only 6 INTs in his last 12 games vs. AFC opponents and is 9-3 in those games...Baltimore had won 13 straight home games over NFC foes before Sunday’s 19-17 loss to Green Bay.
Cincinnati had lost 10 straight games to Buffalo before winning the last two seasons...Since the start of the 2012 season, Luke Kuechly (Carolina) leads the NFL with 209 tackles.
The San Francisco 49ers reportedly are not counting on troubled star linebacker Aldon Smith to return this season. ... Sources told ESPN that there is some grumbling with New England’s ranks regarding tight end Rob Gronkowski’s slow return from injuries. He reportedly has been impressive in practice.
Andrew Luck (Indianapolis) has an NFL-record nine fourth-quarter game-winning drives in his first 21 games....Danny Woodhead (San Diego) leads all NFL running backs with 31 catches.
NEXT WEEK’S KEY GAMES
Seattle at Arizona (Thursday night) – A good measuring stick for the improved Cardinals
Houston at Kansas City – The disappointing Texans vs. the surprising Chiefs
Dallas at Philadelphia – One team has to win the NFC East
Buffalo at Miami – Are the Dolphins really a step above the Bills?
Baltimore at Pittsburgh – Steelers showed some life in win over Jets
Denver at Indianapolis – NFL homecoming for Peyton Manning
NFL WEEK 7 EARLY LINE...BILLS +8 ½ AT MIAMI
Here are the early odds from Las Vegas for NFL Week 7:
Thursday – Seattle at Arizona +6
Buffalo at Miami -8 ½
New England at New York Jets +4 ½
San Diego at Jacksonville +7 ½
Houston at Kansas City -6 ½
Cincinnati at Detroit – 2 ½
Chicago at Washington +1
Dallas at Philadelphia +1
St. Louis at Carolina – 5 ½
Tampa Bay at Atlanta – 7 ½
San Francisco at Tennessee + 4 ½
Cleveland at Green Bay -10
Baltimore at Pittsburgh -2
Denver at Indianapolis +6
Minnesota at New York Giants -3
SABRES CAN ONLY GET BETTER
The Buffalo Sabres are the NHL’s only winless team (0-5-1) but things can only improve.
Here is how the Sabres rank in the 30-team NHL:
Point percentage – .083; 1 of 12 possible points (30th)
Goals per game – 1.00 (30th)
Fewest goals allowed per game – 2.67 (t15th)
Power-play percentage – 9.5 (27th)
Penalty-killing percentage – 90.0 (t4th)
Faceoff percentage – 44.5 (25th)
DAVID ORTIZ: A HALL OF FAME DH?
Boston slugger David Ortiz’s dramatic grand-slam home run Sunday night was one of the all-time clutch hits in the history of the Red Sox. He’s had an interesting career, but is he a future Hall of Famer?...A big knock against him: He’s been primarily a designated hitter...He has some impressive numbers: .287 career batting average; 2,023 hits; 431 HRs; 1,429 RBI...9 All-Star Game selections....Five top-five MVP finishes (5th, 4th, 2nd, 3rd, 4th)...15 HRs, 54 RBI in 75 postseason games...He turns 38 on Nov. 18 and should have a year or two left.