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.
49ERS OVER RAMS IS THIS WEEK’S “BEST BET”
BASEBALL HALL OF FAME BALLOT IS LOADED
HOW THE AFC EAST TEAMS MEASURE UP
SYRACUSE HOOPS LOOKING GOOD
JAMESIS WINSTON A HEISMAN ???
The San Francisco 49ers are a respectable 7-4 despite a long injury list for most of this season. They’re getting healthier and appear to be improving when it counts the most.
The St. Louis Rams are no pushovers but probably aren’t good enough to pull off a road upset Sunday over the 49ers.
This week’s “Best Bet”: SAN FRANCISCO (-9 ½) 28, St. Louis 10.
(home team in CAPS)
DETROIT (-6) 30, Green Bay 20 – The underachieving Lions owe their fans a holiday top effort and should take advantage of the Packers minus Aaron Rodgers while they can.
DALLAS (-9 ½) 33, Oakland 14 – The Cowboys have a significant edge in overall talent but they’re never a sure thing.
Pittsburgh 24, BALTIMORE (-3) 20 – Love the way the Steelers have bounced back from their 0-4 start and the spot is a bonus. It would help if Ravens RB Ray Rice continues to struggle.
Sunday’s other games
INDIANAPOLIS (-4) 27, Tennessee 20 – The Colts lost their last home game 38-8 to St. Louis and lost 40-11 last week at Arizona. They have a lot to prove against the Titans.
CLEVELAND (-7) 12, Jacksonville 10 – The Jaguars haven’t given up and the Browns shouldn’t spot any opponent this many points.
CAROLINA (-8 1/2) 28, Tampa Bay 17 – The Panthers have won seven straight games and don’t figure to be as sluggish early as they in last week’s victory in Miami.
Denver 30, KANSAS CITY (+4 1/2) 21 – The Chiefs will be fired up to even the score after a 27-17 loss in Denver two weeks ago, but it remains difficult to envision Alex Smith winning a QB showdown against Peyton Manning.
Chicago 23, MINNESOTA (-1) 17 – No logical reason to like the Bears in this spot – except the Vikings are lousy.
PHILADELPHIA (-3 ½) 28, Arizona 20 – The Eagles are back in gear offensively and should win their second straight at home after 10 straight home losses.
Miami 24, NEW YORK JETS (-1) 13 – You might not think much of Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill, but have seen Jets rookie Geno Smith trying to play the last two games?
BUFFALO (-3 ) 28, Atlanta 17 – The Bills aren’t likely to run the table but they’re more than good enough to beat the depleted Falcons.
New England 35, HOUSTON (+9 ½) 20 – We’re tired of waiting for the disappointing Texans to wake up.
Cincinnati 27, SAN DIEGO (1 ½) 21 – The Bengals are the better team. All they need is a decent performance by hot-and-cold QB Andy Dalton.
New York Giants 24, WASHINGTON (+ 1 ) 17 – Tom Coughlin won’t let his Giants quit and it looks like the Redskins already have.
Monday night’s game
SEATTLE (-5 1/2) 35, New Orleans 24 – The Seahawks get a chance to show off and prove they’re the NFL’s best team. The Saints usually play much better at home than on the road.
Last week’s “Best Bets” results: 8-5-1 picking winning teams outright (112-63-1 this season) and 7-6-1 picking winners against the point spread (81-88-7 this season); the Kansas City Chiefs, picked to beat San Diego my more than the 5-point spot, lost 41-38. The “Best Bet” dropped to 7-5 straight up and 4-8 against the Las Vegas point spread this season.
BASEBALL HALL OF FAME BALLOT IS LOADED
For the first time since 1996, the 600-or-so veteran baseball writers who vote for the Hall of Fame last year failed to elect anyone. One reason was an obvious protest against “PEDs-tainted” names on the ballot – several for the first time (Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa).
There will be shutout this time. There are 19 newcomers on the 36-name ballot and several have outstanding credentials:
Likely to be elected on the first ballot – Greg Maddux (who wouldn’t vote for him – but a few voters won’t, just to make sure he won’t be the first unanimous selection).
Might be elected on the first ballot – Frank Thomas (he has the power numbers; two-time MVP; the most outspoken star against PEDs while he was playing...could be hurt by prejudice against designated hitters.
Other first-timers who might eventually be elected (in my order of preference) – Tom Glavine...Jeff Kent (outstanding offensive numbers for a second baseman)...Mike Mussina (likely to have to wait a long time – if he gets in).
First-timers not likely to ever make it (in order of preference) – Moises Alou...Luis Gonzalez (PEDs?)...Kenny Rogers...Hideo Nomo...Eric Gagne (PEDs?)...Armando Benitez...Sean Casey...Ray Durham...Richie Sexson...J.T. Snow...Paul Lo Duca...Jacque Jones...Todd Jones...Mike Timlin.
There are 17 holdovers on the ballot:
Likely to be elected this time – Craig Biggio (appeared on 68.23 percent of ballots last year, needed 75 percent)
Good chance to be elected this time – Jack Morris (his 15th and last time of the writers’ ballot; 67.7 percent last year)...Jeff Bagwell (59.6 percent last year) and Mike Piazza (57.8 percent last year). They never tested positive or admitted using PEDs, but there were whispers. Did they pay their dues in last year’s election? I believe they’ll both eventually be elected.
The PEDs holdovers – Will last year’s three strongly-connected PEDs first-time nominees (Clemens 37.6 percent, Bonds 36.2 percent and Sosa 12.5 percent), and holdovers McGwire (16.9 percent on his seventh try) and Rafael Palmeiro (8.8 percent on his fourth try) get significantly more support this time?...I believe they’ll pick up some votes but not nearly enough to be elected.
The other holdovers (in order of my preference; an impressive group but I don’t think any of them ever will be elected to Cooperstown): Tim Raines (there are worse players in the Hall of Fame)...Fred McGriff...Lee Smith...Curt Schilling...Alan Trammell...Edgar Martinez...Don Mattingly...Larry Walker.
My ballot (I don’t have one) would be:
There also are Expansion Committee nominees (post 1973), including retired managers Bobby Box, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and union boss Marvin Miller. They’d need 12 of 16 voters from the committee to be elected. Any selections would be announced Dec. 9.
HERE IS HOW THE AFC EAST TEAMS MEASURE UP
(rank in the 32-team NFL in parentheses)
Total offense – Patriots 370.9 yards per game (9th)...Bills 331.1 (19th)...Jets 315.3 (27th)...Dolphins 310.0 (28th)
Scoring – Patriots 26.2 points per game (6th)...Bills 21.5 (22nd)...Dolphins 20.8 (23rd)...Jets 16.9 (31st)
Total defense – Jets 322.9 yards allowed per game (9th)...Bills 347.8 (15th)...Dolphins 358.5 (19th)...Patriots 360.1 (21st)
Scoring defense – Patriots 20.9 points allowed per game (9th)...Dolphins 22.3 (t10th)...Bills 24.8 (21st)...Jets 26.1 (25th).
HEISMAN TROPHY RACE EQUALS ???
I have a Heisman Trophy vote and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston would be my runaway favorite based strictly on performance on the football field.
But Winston’s legal situation is a dark cloud over the Heisman race.
The Florida state attorney’s office this week said it could be two weeks or more before it decides whether or not Winston will be charged with sexual assault.
If Winston were charged with a felony, Florida State policy states that he’d be suspended from the football team. There is an “extraordinary circumstances” clause that would enable the university to waive a suspension, but fear of public outcry probably erases that possibility.
Integrity is supposed to count in Heisman consideration. If Winston were charged with sexual assault prior to the Dec. 9 deadline for Heisman balloting, I wouldn’t vote for him and I’m sure I’d have lots of company.
But what if the state fails to make a decision on the charges against Winston before Dec. 9?
If Winston ultimately isn’t charged and loses the Heisman, it would be unfortunate.
But if Winston were to win the Heisman based on voting before the state’s decision on the charge against him, and the state then decided to charge him, it would be worse.
The perfect scenario, would be to delay the vote until the Florida state attorney decided whether or not to charge Winston with a felony. That’s not going to happen.
I’m going to wait until just before the Dec. 9 deadline to submit my Heisman vote. Since I don’t believe I should be judge or jury against Winston, and since I have no idea what really happened between Winston and the woman involved, I’m leaning strongly toward giving him my No. 1 vote. If he is charged with felony assault before the voting deadline, I will not include him on my 1-2-3 ballot.
Meanwhile, AJ McCarron (Alabama) and maybe Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) can boost their Heisman stock in games Saturday.
SU BASKETBALL TEAM IS LOOKING GOOD
Syracuse University’s men’s basketball team, after less than brilliant efforts in its first four games against inferior competition, looked much better in the first two games in Hawaii’s Maui Invitational – particularly sharpshooter Trevor Cooney, flashy forward Jerami Grant and cool freshman point guard Tyler Ennis.
Cooney is averaging 14.8 points and hitting at a .488 clip (20x41) from 3-point range. He’s one of the team’s key components. When he’s clicking from the perimeter and drawing out defenders, his teammates have more space to operate. Grant is looking like a future solid NBA player. Ennis is incredibly poised for a freshman point guard. C.J. Fair is the go-to star every Final Four-type team needs.
SU plays tall and talented Baylor Wednesday night in the championship game of the Maui Invitational (10 p.m., ESPN). The Orange are favored by 2 ½ points.
Buffalo Bills Wall of Famer Fred Smerlas is bucking the trend in predicting NFL games this season. Most public handicappers are having a horrible year picking against the Las Vegas point spread (ATS). Smerlas, who makes his picks Wednesday nights on WHAM 1180 (Bob Matthews On Sports, 6 to 8 p.m.) was 6-1 last week to boost his record ATS this season to a profitable 43-27.
The Hamilton Nationals of the National Lacrosse League have suspended operations for the 2014 season. The expansion Florida Launch (based in Palm Beach) will take Hamilton’s spot and inherit most of the roster. Hamilton came from Toronto via Rochester...As of now, the Rochester Rattlers are scheduled to remain in the league.
The Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears have identical records (6-5) but they’re at opposite ends of the Las Vegas point-spread standings (ATS). The Cowboys are an NFL-best 8-3 ATS and the Bears are an NFL-worst 2-8-1 ATS.
The NHL dug deep for a positive nugget on the Buffalo Sabres: The last three teams the Sabres beat are a combined 44-17-9 (.693) – Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Toronto Maple Leafs.
MY NEXT WHAM 1180 COLUMN WILL BE FOR MONDAY DEC. 2...HAVE A GREAT THANKSGIVING.
5-WEEK SEASON FOR 9 AFC TEAMS BATTLING FOR 1 PLAYOFF SPOT
SEAHAWKS NO. 1 IN BOB’S POWER RANKINGS
BAD WEEK FOR HOME TEAMS (4-8-1) AND VEGAS FAVORITES
The Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets were the biggest losers Sunday as the nine-team battle for one AFC wild-card berth got even tighter.
The nine teams now all are within one game of each other.
They all have losing records, but who cares? It is a five-game season now.
Six of the teams are 5-6: Baltimore, Miami, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Tennessee.
The three other contenders are 4-7: Buffalo, Cleveland and Oakland.
Here’s how I handicap the race:
Baltimore Ravens (5-6 record) ... The defending Super Bowl champions deserve to be the favorite...They have one of the three stud QBs in the nine-team field and a very good defense...Ray Rice is a very good running back having a poor season. With a little help from his OL friends, he could be the difference...Pretty tough remaining schedule: host Pittsburgh, host Minnesota, at Detroit, host New England, at Cincinnati.
Pittsburgh (5-6) – The Steelers started 0-4 but are 5-2 since...The defense has improved...The key is protecting Ben Roethlisberger. He has the winning edge over most of the other QBS in this tournament field when he has time to throw...The remaining schedule: at Baltimore Thanksgiving Day, host Minnesota, host Cincinnati, at Green Bay (other contenders hoping Aaron Rodgers will be playing by then), host Cleveland.
San Diego (5-6) – Big road win Sunday at Kansas City...QB Philip Rivers has been in rare form...Remaining schedule is no picnic: host Cincinnati, host New York Giants, at Denver, host Oakland, host Kansas City.
Tennessee (5-6) – QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing OK...Big win Sunday at Oakland...Would be dangerous if RB Chris Johnson gets on a roll...Next three games are high hurdles (at Indianapolis, at Denver, host improving Arizona), then close at Jacksonville and host Houston...3-2 on road but only 2-4 at home.
Buffalo (4-7) – Best of the three 4-7 teams...Defense is improving...Strong pass rush...Keys are the running game and rookie QB EJ Manuel, who is coming off his best game...On paper, the softest next-four games in the field: Atlanta in Toronto, Tampa Bay, at Jacksonville, host Miami (combined record 12-32 , but Buccaneers and Jaguars are showing signs of life)...Finishing at New England a potential problem.
Miami (5-6) – Costly home loss Sunday to Carolina...Lack impact players on both sides of the football...Already lost at home to Buffalo. Not likely to get even in the cold at The Ralph...Two gamers against the Jets and presumably erratic rookie QB Geno Smith a plus. Rest of the remaining schedule looks tough: at Pittsburgh, host New England, at Buffalo.
Cleveland (4-7) – Weakness at quarterback and running back has largely negated the work of an underrated defense...The Browns were a promising 3-2 after a 37-24 home win over Buffalo but are 1-5 since...The remaining schedule: host Jacksonville, at New England, host Chicago, at New York Jets, at Pittsburgh.
Oakland (4-7) – QB Terrelle Pryor has a sore knee and remains inconsistent when he is completely healthy...Have a few surprising wins (including over San Diego and Pittsburgh), but only 1-4 on the road...Brutal remaining schedule: at Dallas Thanksgiving, at New York Jets, host Kansas City, at San Diego, host Denver.
New York Jets (5-6) – Have looked awful in their last two games in lopsided road losses to Buffalo and Baltimore...No reason to think rookie QB Geno Smith is going to suddenly turn things around...Remaining schedule: host Miami, host Oakland, at Carolina, host Cleveland, at Miami.
BOB’S NFL POWER RATINGS (entering Monday Night Football)
1—Seattle – NFL-best 10-1...hosts Saints on MNF Dec. 2
2—Denver—blew 24-0 lead in loss at Patriots
3—New Orleans – Brees passes Moon for 5th in passing yards
4—Kansas City – second straight loss after 9-0 start
5—New England – Brady now 10-4 vs. Peyton Manning
6—Carolina – 7 straight wins
7—Cincinnati – Dalton 8 INTs in last 3 games
8—Indianapolis – outscored 93-12 first half L4G (2-2)
9—Arizona – Four straight wins (121-62)
10 – San Francisco – at Washington Monday night
11—Dallas – huge win at New York Giants
12—Philadelphia—close season at Dallas
13—Pittsburgh – Roethlisberger 16-1 vs. Browns
14—Detroit—lost two straight first time this season
15—Chicago— Forte No. 2 on team’s all-time rushing list
16—Green Bay – Matt Flynn hero in rally for tie
17—Baltimore – Timely home win over Jets
18—San Diego – Impressive win in Kansas City
19—Tennessee— Fitz game-winning TD pass
20—Miami – 8 games decided by 4 points or less (4-4)
21—St. Louis – 258 yards rushing in win over Bears
22—Buffalo – 1-4 in regular-season games in Toronto
23—New York Jets – Geno Smith L6G: 10 INTs, 1 TD pass
24—Cleveland – 5-25 vs. Steelers since 1999
25—Oakland – Janikowski 2 missed FGs in 23-19 loss
26—New York Giants – Four-game win streak ended by Dallas
27—Tampa Bay – 3-0 since 0-8 start
28—Washington – hosts 49ers Monday night
29—Minnesota – Salvaged tie in Green Bay
30—Jacksonville – 2-1 in last 3 games
31—Atlanta—clinch losing season
32—Houston – 9 straight losses since 2-0 start.
NFL WEEK 12 STAT PACK (entering Monday Night Football)
Home teams are 4-8-1 straight up (105-69-1 this season) and 4-8-1 against the Las Vegas point spread (91-76-8 this season).
Las Vegas favorites are 4-8-1 straight up (104-70-1 this season) and 3-9-1 against the spread (86-82-7 this season).
Teams winning the turnover battle are 10-0-1 (107-24-1 this season).
Teams leading in time of possession are 7-5-1 (112-62-1 this season).
Teams scoring first are 8-4-1 (112-62-1 this season).
Teams leading after the first quarter are 5-3-1 (89-50-1 this season).
Teams leading at halftime are 8-4-1 (116-41-1 this season).
Teams leading after three quarters are 8-4-1 (134-28-1 this season).
Teams with the better record entering the games are 4-6-1 (69-54-1 this season).
Five of the 13 games were decided by 3 points or less (46 of 175 games this season).
Nine of the 13 games were decided by 7 points or less (86 of 175 games this season).
There were 587 points in 13 games (45.2-point average).
The NFC won both games against the AFC this week and leads this season’s interconference series 28-24.
Sunday had the first tie game of the season (Green Bay 26, Minnesota 26).
NFL WEEK 12’S TOP PERFORMERS
Philip Rivers (San Diego) 392 yards (won)
Josh McCown (Chicago) 352 (lost)
Ryan Fitzpatrick (Tennessee) 320 (won)
Carson Palmer (Arizona) 314 (won)
Ryan Tannehill (Miami) 310 (lost)
Josh Gordon (Cleveland) 237 yards (lost)
Mike Wallace (Miami) 127 (lost)
Keenan Allen (San Diego) 124 (won)
Brandon Marshall (Chicago) 117 (lost)
Calvin Johnson (Detroit) 115 (lost)
Justin Hunter (Tennessee) 109 (won)
Tiquan Underwood (Tampa Bay) 108 (won)
Michael Floyd (Arizona) 104 (won)
Kendall Wright (Tennessee) 103 (won)
Jacoby Jones (Baltimore) 103 (won)
Dezs Bryant (Dallas) 102 (won)
Jimmy Graham (New Orleans) 100 (won)
Adrian Peterson (Minnesota) 146 yards (tied)
Andre Brown (New York Giants) 127 (lost)
Jamaal Charles (Kansas City) 115 (lost)
Eddie Lacy (Green Bay) 110 (tie)
Benny Cunningham (St. Louis) 109 (won).
McCANN SHOULD BE AN INSTANT HERO WITH YANKEES
It shouldn’t take long for new catcher Brian McCann to become a fan favorite with the New York Yankees. It will be easy to forget Chris Stewart, who had to catch way too often for his talent level last season. He ran out of gas late because he wasn’t accustomed to playing so much. With good reason.
My projection for McCann in 2014: .265 batting average, 27 HRs, 78 RBI.
McCann is only average defensively and can’t run a lick but he’ll be a huge improvement over the catchers who combined for a .213 batting average and 8 HRs for the Yankees last season. He’s a left-handed pull hitter and figures to like the short porch in right field. The Yankees will benefit from his offensive talent and attitude. He’s a hard-nosed competitor and fiery leader.
JEFF MANTO LIKELY NEW INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE HALL OF FAMER
The ballots are out for the International League Hall of Fame Class of 2014. I voted for former Rochester Red Wings IL Most Valuable Player Jeff Manto and he is likely to be elected. He was the IL MVP in his only season with the Red Wings and went on to have his number retired by the Buffalo Bisons.
There currently are 110 individuals in the IL Hall of Fame. Here are the 41 with Rochester baseball connections as players, managers or executives: Walter Alston, Joe Altobelli, Don Baylor, Jack Bentley, Jack Berly, Joe Brown, Walter Cazen, Rip Collins, Estel Crabtree, Steve Demeter, Russ Derry, Luke Easter, Bobby Grich, Ed Holly, Merwin Jacobson, Bill Kelly, Joe Knight, Fred Merkle, Rocky Nelson, Jack Ogden, Eddie Onslow, Pat Powers, George Puccinelli, George Quellich, Don Richmond, Cal Ripken Jr., Jimmy Ripple, Mike Ryba, Red Schoendienst, George Selkirk, Billy Short, Morrie Silver, George Sisler Jr., Billy Southworth, George Stallings, Ed Stevens, Bobby Tiefenauer, Specs Toporcer, Frank Verdi, Dixie Walker and Harry Walker.
JAIME RODRIGUEZ LIKELY NEW JOCKEY CHAMPION AT FINGER LAKES
John Davila, Jr., has been one of Greater Rochester’s most underrated pro athletes for a long time. He rode the most winners at Finger Gaming and Racetrack every year from 2002 through 2012.
Davila’s streak will end this year – partly because he cut back on his mounts and partly because probable first-time champion had an extraordinary workload. With 11 live thoroughbred racing days left at the Thumb this season (Nov. 25, 26, 27, 29, and Dec. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10), here is how the two outstanding riders measure up:
Jaime Rodriguez – 747 starts (no one else has more than 600)...138 wins...133 places...112 shows...$1,967,414 purse earnings.
John Davila, Jr. – 409 starts...118 wins...79 places...71 shows...$1,474,162 purse earnings.
Hard to believe how lousy the New York Knicks (3-9) and Brooklyn Nets (3-10) are right now. They’re a combined 5-19 and have a combined 10 straight losses. Both teams are hurting for chemistry. I thought the Knicks were overrated entering this season but I’m surprised the Nets are this bad. I figured they’d start OK and then fade. I still expect Brooklyn to make the playoffs. The Knicks? Not so sure. What do you think?
Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M), Marcus Mariota (Oregon) and Bryce Petty (Baylor) played themselves out of Heisman Trophy contention with weak performances in defeat last Saturday. Jameis Winston (Florida State) is the clear favorite pending resolution of his legal issues. Steady AJ McCarron (Alabama) continues to pick up support as others fall out of contention.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS LIKELY TO BOUNCE BACK AS “BEST BET”
A-ROD AND SELIG MIGHT BOTH MISS ELECTION TO HALL OF FAME
THIS COULD BE THE YEAR FOR ANDRE REED
TWINS CONTINUE TO BEEF UP RED WINGS
The Kansas City Chiefs lost their first game of the season – 27-17 last week in Denver – and should be primed to prove on Sunday that they’re a legitimate 9-1 team.
San Diego has lost three straight and is 2-4 on the road. The Chiefs are 5-0 at home and this week’s “Best Bet”: KANSAS CITY (-5) 24, San Diego 13.
Sunday’s other games
(Home team in CAPS)
DETROIT (-9) 28, Tampa Bay 14 – The Buccaneers have won two straight since their 0-8 start but the Lions are a tougher assignment than Miami and Atlanta.
GREEN BAY (-4 ½) 30, Minnesota 21 – Emergency QB Scott Tolzien has been sharp enough to pass the Packers to an important home victory.
Carolina 27, MIAMI (+4) 17 – The Panthers are seeking their seventh straight victory and their defensive front seven vs. Miami’s offensive line is a mismatch.
Pittsburgh 23, CLEVELAND (-2) 20 – The proud Steelers are 4-2 since their 0-4 start and know they can’t afford another loss in their bid to make the playoffs.
HOUSTON (-10) 24, Jacksonville 21 – The Texans should win but they have too many problems to sport any opponent this many points.
Chicago 28, ST. LOUIS (-1) 20 – Josh McCown gives the Bears the advantage over Kellen Clemens at QB and the Rams lack the running game to advantage of Chicago’s soft rush defense.
BALTIMORE (-3 ½) 24, New York Jets 17 – Jets rookie QB Geno Smith can’t play as poorly as he did in last week’s 37-14 road loss to Buffalo but he’d need to play much better in order to continue his team’s historic WLWLWLWLWL pattern.
Tennessee 20, OAKLAND (+1) 17 – If RB Chris Johnson has a decent game. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick could post a rare victory.
ARIZONA (-2 ½) 27, Indianapolis 20 – The Cardinals have an under-the-radar 6-4 record and can pad that mark if Carson Palmer has more TD passes than interceptions.
Dallas 27, NEW YORK GIANTS (-2 ½) 24 – The Cowboys are the better team on paper but will need to be sharp to beat the surging Giants.
Denver 35, NEW ENGLAND (+2 ½) 28 – The Broncos have more weapons and the healthier defense.
Monday night’s game
San Francisco 28, WASHINGTON (+5) 20 – The 49ers should be primed for a top effort coming off consecutive losses to Carolina and New Orleans.
Thursday night’s pick – The New Orleans Saints by more than the 7 1/9-point spot over host Atlanta. The Saints won but by only 4 points (17-13).
Last week’s “Best Bet” results – 9-6 picking winning teams outright (104-58 this season)...6-6-3 picking winners against the point spread (74-82-6 this season)...The “Best Bet” is 7-4 straight up and 4-7 against the point spread after the Detroit Lions, picked to beat Pittsburgh by more than the 2 ½-point spot, lost 37-27.
HIGH PRAISE FOR BILLS’ DEFENSE
The Buffalo Bills enter Week 12 ranked 16th in the 32-team NFL in total defense, but most observers consider the unit to be significantly above average in terms of overall talent and the probability of continued improvement.
Here’s a nice compliment this week from Sterling Xie of Advanced NFL Stats: “I’ve yet to write a single word about the Buffalo Bills, which is what happens when you start Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel (at quarterback) for a month. But the Buffalo defense has turned a decisive corner in 2013, with promising young stars in all three units. Marcell Dareus, Kiko Alonso and Stephon Gilmore are all 24 or younger. Mario Williams is still not worth $100 million, but with 12 sacks and the fourth-highest (rating )among defensive ends, he’s been excellent. If the team can appease Jairus Byrd and sign him to a long-term deal, this could be one of the league’s top units very soon.”
A-ROD WON’T MAKE COOPERSTOWN: SELIG MIGHT NOT EITHER
New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and commissioner Bud Selig are locked in an interesting battle for the hearts and minds of the nation’s baseball fans. The legal battle is ugly and fascinating, with no apparent middle ground.
A-Rod’s legal team is attempting to portray him as an unfortunate victim of an unjustified smear campaign.
I don’t think Rodriguez is a fan favorite but I believe he entered this clash with the popularity edge over Selig, who seems to be considered a clown by a vast majority of fans and media people.
I haven’t heard a sports figure cry as loud and long about being falsely accused since Lance Armstrong. He won the public relations war against his adversaries for a long time. Then truth prevailed and he crashed to earth.
I don’t believe Major League Baseball (Selig) would claim to have “a mountain of evidence” against Rodriguez if it did not. I don’t believe MLB would’ve suspended Rodriguez for an unprecedented 211 games unless it was completely convinced the punishment was justified and could prove why.
I believe part of Rodriguez’s strategy is to prolong the legal battle for as long as he can, while continuing to cash his mammoth paychecks.
By admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs for (only) three seasons with the Texas Rangers, Rodriguez probably cost himself a future plaque in Cooperstown.
I think Selig is a cinch future Hall of Famer, but I could be wrong. If Rodriguez and his legal team ultimately prevail and he is cleared of all charges, Selig will lose any hope he had of being elected.
TWINS PICK UP CLASSY PITCHER AND OF FOR RED WINGS
The Minnesota Twins this week continued to beef up the Red Wings for the 2014 season by adding two quality International League players to the fold: outfielder Chris Rahl and right-handed starting pitcher Kris Johnson.
Rahl, 29, signed as a six-year minor-league free agent. Last season, in 111 games with the Syracuse Chiefs, he hit .293, with 21 doubles, 5 triples, 8 HRs and 42 RBI. Veteran outfielders Jermaine Mitchell and Wilkin Ramirez earlier signed minor-league deals. Speedy Antoan Richardson won’t return. He has signed with the New York Yankees. In 82 games with Rochester last season, he hit .265, with 14 doubles, 7 triples, 0 HRs, 29 RBI and 25 stolen bases in 27 attempts.
ANDRE REED’S LONG WAIT COULD BE OVER
Former Buffalo Bills wide receiver Andre Reed was among the 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Wednesday. I don’t think I’m being a homer in thinking Reed has a very good chance to be elected this time.
Here are the 25 semifinalists: first-time eligible candidates LB Derrick Brooks, coach Tony Dungy, WR Marvin Harrison and OT Walter Jones, plus PK Morten Andersen, S Steve Atwater, RB Jerome Bettis, WR-KR Tim Brown, coach Don Coryell, RB Roger Craig, RB Terrell Davis, owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., LB-DE Kevin Greene, DE-LB Charles Haley, OT Joe Jacoby, coach Jimmy Johnson, S John Lynch, LB Karl Mecklenburg, WR Andre Reed, G Will Shields, DE Michael Strahan, commissioner Paul Tagliabue, CB-S Aeneas Williams, G Steve Wisniewski, contributor George Young.
The 25 semifinalists will be joined on the ballot by seniors committee nominees punter Ray Guy and DE Claude Humphrey.
The voters will select 4 top 7 for the Hall of Fame, including no more than 5 from the modern era.
Brown, Reed and fellow WR Cris Carter split votes in the past. Carter was elected last year. This could be the year Brown and Reed hey both get in. The voters might figure Harrison can wait a few years. I don’t see any other names that scream out to be elected before Brown and Reed.
Buffalo Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso this week is ranked No. 1 on Mel Kiper Jr.’s (ESPN Insider) updated list of the NFL’s top 30 rookies: ‘He is a second-round pick who has played to the level of what you might hope for from a top-10 pick so0 far.”...Other Bills on Kiper’s list: QB E.J. Manuel 24th (“Back on the list now that he’s healthy and coming off his best game of the season”)...CB Nickell Robey (“Has quietly become one of the better stories from this rookie class, playing a key role.”
Jason Vargas is the latest example of why there has never been a better time to be baseball pitcher. The 30-year-old free-agent lefty on Thursday signed a four-year, $32 million contract with the Kansas City Royals. He was 9-8 with a 4.02 ERA for the Los Angeles Angels last season. His career record: 51-58 vwith a 4.30 ERA.
Prince Fielder in 2014 isn’t likely to break the Texas Rangers record for most home runs in a season: 57 by Alex Rodriguez in 2002. A-Rod has admitted he was boosted by PEDs that season.
Former NFL star linebacker Shawne Merriman reportedly recently flunked a tryout at the WWE training center in Orlando, Fla. Stamina was an issue.
Baylor QB Bruce Petty (24 TD passes and 1 INT) will have the opportunity to impress Heisman Trophy voters Saturday at 11th-ranked Oklahoma State. The third-ranked Bears are 9-0 and lead the nation’s major colleges in points (61.2 per game) and yards (684.8 per game). Two caution notes on the 9 ½-point favored Bears: OLT Spencer Drago is injured and Baylor hasn’t beaten a top-25 opponent on the road in 22 years.
Syracuse University is off to a 4-0 start against outclassed opponents, but shooting accuracy has to be a concern: field-goal percentage .425...three-point field-goal percentage .318...free-throw percentage .617. All must improve in order to consistently beat better competition.
Future odds to win the 2014 World Series (Vegas Insider): Dodgers 5x1...Detroit, Washington 8x1...St. Louis 10x1...Boston 12x1...Angels, Cincinnati, Oakland, Texas 14x1...Atlanta, Yankees 16x1...Tampa Bay 18x1...San Francisco 20x1...Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh 25x1...Kansas City 30x1...Arizona, White Sox, Philadelphia, Toronto 40x1...Cubs 50-x1...Colorado, Milwaukee, San Diego, Seattle 60x1...Mets, Miami, Minnesota 100x1...Houston 200x1.
Saturday night’s HBO pay-per-view fight odds: for the vacant WBO International Welterweight Title; in Macao, China; Manny Pacquiao bet $500 to win $100...Brandon Rios bet $100 to win $350.
The host Saskatchewan Roughriders are 6-point favorites over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 101st Grey Cup Canadian Football League championship game Sunday, 6 p.m., in Regina.