BILLS PASS THE EASY TEST – THE PANTHERS WILL BE MUCH TOUGHER

The Bills did what they were supposed to do Sunday – barely. They beat the worst team in the NFL – the punchless 8-point underdog New York Jets – by nine points.

The Bills provided a strong clue that they’re significantly better than the Jets, who showed true 0-16 potential.

There were plenty of things to like. The Bills did what they do best – run and stop the run. Buffalo outrushed the grounded Jets 190 (4.5 yards per carry) to 38 (2.5 yards per carry).

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor played well. The critics should give him a break for at least one week. Personally, I believe his 16-14 career record as Buffalo’s starting QB is pretty good. He isn’t great but he could use more help – not less.

The revamped secondary held up well – against a noodle-armed 38-year-old quarterback who now is 2-21 in starts since 2014. Carolina’s Cam Newton is not Todd McCown and the Bills are early 8-point underdogs Sunday in Carolina. That sounds about right.

Other Week 2 early odds (courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook):

Thursday – Houston at Cincinnati (-3).

Sunday – Cleveland at Baltimore (-7 ½)...(-6 ½) Arizona at Indianapolis...Tennessee (-1) at Jacksonville...Philadelphia at Kansas City (-4)...New England (-4 1/2) at New Orleans...Minnesota at Pittsburgh (-7)...Chicago at Tampa Bay (-6)...Miami at LA Chargers (-4)...NY Jets at Oakland (-14)...Dallas (-2 ½) at Denver...Washington at LA Rams (-2 ½)...San Francisco at Seattle (-12 ½)...Green Bay at Atlanta (-2 ½).

Monday – Detroit at NY Giants (-5).

KEEPING TABS ON BUFFALO’S FUTURE – MAYBE -- “FRANCHISE” QUARTERBACK

Three college QBs who could figure in the future of the Buffalo Bills are off to a combined 6-0 start this season:

Sam Darnold (USC) -- 44-of-59 (.605) for 605 yards; 10.14 yards per pass attempt; 4 TD passes; 4 INTs; 169.5 rating...USC is 2-0 (49-31 over Western Michigan and 42-24 over Stanford); host Texas Saturday.

Josh Rosen (UCLA) – 57-of-84 (.679) for 820 yards; 9.76 yards per pass attempt; 9 TD passes; 0 INT; 185.2 passer rating...UCLA is 2-0 (45-44 over Texas A&M and 56-23 over Hawaii); at Memphis Saturday.

Lamar Jackson (Louisville) – 55-for-85 (.647) for 771 yards; 9.07 yards per pass attempt; 5 TD passes; 0 INTs; 160.3 passer rating...40 carries for 239 yards; 6.0 yards per attempt; 3 TD runs...Louisville is 2-0 (35-28 over Purdue and 47-35 over Hawaii; hosts Clemson Saturday.

SPRAYING BASEBALL HITS (AND MISSES) TO ALL FIELDS...

The amazing Cleveland Indians won their 18th straight game Sunday night, 3-2 at home over Baltimore, and have outscored opponents 122-32 (+90) over that span. They host the depleted Detroit Tigers Monday through Wednesday.

The Los Angeles Dodgers lost their 10th straight game Sunday night, 8-1 at home to Colorado, and are 1-15 in their last 16 games. What happened? They’ve plunged from a 91-36 record on August 25 to 92-51 and now lead Washington (88-55) by only four games for the best record in the National League. They play at San Francisco Monday through Wednesday.

Cleveland is 6-14 in interleague play but 81-42 vs. American League rivals (including 40-23 vs. AL Central)...The Dodgers are 16-4 in interleague play. They’re 44-17 vs. NL East and NL Central rivals but a mere 32-32 versus NL West rivals.

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, showing signs of life after his post-AA-Star Game slump, still leads the American League in home runs (41), walks (107), on-base percentage (.411), slugging percentage (.583) and OPS (.994). Actually, Mike Trout (Angels) has higher OB % (.458), slugging % (.650) and OPS (1.108) but does not yet have enough plate appearances to qualify.

NO NEW MEMBERS FOR THE 30-30 CLUB

The first Major League Baseball player to hit at least 30 home runs and steal at least 30 bases in a season was Ken Williams of the St. Louis Browns in 1922 (38 HRs/37 steals). It was 34 years before it was done again (Willie Mays 30 HRs/40 SBs with the 1956 New York Giants).

The 30-30 Club now consists of 38 different players a total of 60 times.

The most recent 30-30 players were Ryan Braun (41HRs/30 SBs) and Mike Trout (30HRs/49 SBs) in 2012.

The 30-30 Club drought figures to continue in 2016. Entering Sunday, only three players were in the 20-20 Club: Jose Altuve (Houston) 23 HRs/31 SBs...Mike Trout (LA Angels) 27 HRs/20 SBs...Elvis Andrus (Texas) 20 HRs/24 SBs.

Future threats to join the 30-30 Club: Byron Buxton (Minnesota)...Andrew Benintendi (Boston)...Keon Broxton (Milwaukee)...Whit Merrifield (Kansas City)...Mookie Betts (Boston).

RHINOS ARE A DANGEROUS TEAM

With 25 games down and 7 left to play in this United Soccer League season, we pretty much know what the Rochester Rhinos are – a hard-working, defensive-minded side that no opponent likes to play.

The Rhinos have 11 wins, only 5 losses, and 9 draws. They’re 7-2-4 at Capelli Sport Stadium and 4-3-5  on the road.

Rochester is coming off a 1-0 home win last Saturday evening. The attendance was 2,345. The Rhinos rank 22nd in the 30-team USL in average home attendance (2,181). It’s disappointing to all involved.

USL average attendance last week was a season-low 2,755. With football season started and kids back in school, that’s not a big surprise. The USL average home attendance this season is 4,311 for 388 matches.

Rochester’s next three games are on the road: at Pittsburgh Riverhounds Saturday...at Eastern Conference-leading Louisville City FC September 20...at Richmond Kickers September 23.

The next home game is Saturday, September 30, against Louisville City FC. It should be a very good match and could be a playoff preview.

SHORT SHOTS

Entering Monday night, through 13 games Week 1, NFL home teams are 5-8 straight up and 6-7 against the Las Vegas point spread. Las Vegas favorites are 8-5 straight up and 7-6 against the point spread. Teams scoring first are 9-4. Teams winning the turnover battle are 7-1.

New Buffalo Bills wide receiver Jordan Matthews had 2 catches for 61 yards on Sunday. Departed Bills Sammy Watkins (5 for 58 yards) and Robert Woods (3 for 53 yards) combined for 8 catches for 111 yards for the Los Angeles Rams. Marquies Goodwin (San Francisco) had 3 catches for 21 yards on Sunday and Chris Hogan (New England) had 1 catch for 8 yards last Thursday night.

The Chattanooga Lookouts, Minnesota’s Double-A affiliate, won their first-round playoff series Sunday, 3-2, on a two-run walk-off HR by first baseman Jonathan Rodriguez, who finished this regular season with the Rochester Red Wings. The Lookouts won the best-of-five series 3-2 after finishing the regular season 91-49 (.650). Chattanooga and the Pensacola Blue Whahoos were declared playoff co-champions after the Finals were canceled by Hurricane Irma.

Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook NHL over/under totals have Anaheim on top (106.6) and the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights on the bottom (68.5). The Buffalo Sabres are 87.5. Buffalo had 78 points last season and Toronto was the eighth and final playoff qualifier in the Eastern Conference with 95 points.

Believe It Or Not: Since 2013, the Buffalo Bills are 32-31-1 against the point spread in Las Vegas.

The Rochester Amerks are offering Kids Tickets this AHL season. Good idea. Kids ages 2-to-6 will be admitted for $10 per seat when accompanied by an adult. Families will be more likely to attend games and young fans become adult fans. Wednesday games have become poor draws. So 2-for-1 tickets on BOGO Wednesdays is a good idea, too.

Thoroughbred racing was canceled at Woodbine outside Toronto last Friday when 43-year-old exercise rider Darren Fortune was killed when a horse he was working out collided with another horse during training that morning.

The North Carolina Courage, the transplanted New York Flash, continue to prove last season’s National Women’s Soccer League championship was no fluke. They won 1-0 last Saturday at home over the Houston Dash to boost their record to a NWSL-best 15-6-0 (including 9-2-0 at home, where they drew 4,702 on Saturday in Cary, N.C.

Syracuse football attendance for the first two home games this season were announced as 30,273 and 29,731. They’d be great basketball crowds. They also were obviously inflated. Will the crowd be better for this Saturday afternoon’s home game against Central Michigan? SU opened up as an 11-point favorite. That seems steep. The Chippewas are 2-0 and coming off a 45-27 road romp over Kansas. They opened the season with a home win over Rhode Island in three overtimes. Quarterback Shane Morris, a transfer from Michigan, threw for 467 yards and 5 TDs in the upset win over Kansas.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Monday, September 11

Nik Turley (28)...Mike Moustakas (29)...Shaun Livingston (32)...Jacoby Ellsbury (34)...Ike Dioga (34)...Mike Comrie (37)...Ed Reed (39)...WWE manager Paul Heyman (52)...Ellis Burks (53)...Gerald Wilkins (54)...Jeff Sluman (60)...Marty Liquori (68)...Franz Beckenbauer (72). Harry Connick Jr. (50) is invited to the birthday party...58 years ago today (1959), Baltimore’s Jerry Walker pitched a 16-inning complete game 1-0 victory over the White Sox...32 years ago today (1985), Pete Rose’s 4,192nd hit topped Ty Cobb’s record.

Tuesday, September 12

Andrew Luck (28)...Freddie Freeman (28)...Yao Ming (37)...Ki-Jana Carter (44)...Martin Lapointe (44)...Vernon Maxwell (52)...Rick Rudd (61)...Mike Murphy (67)...Mickey Lolich (77)...41 years ago today (1976), in the first NFL regular season game for the Seattle Seahawks, they lost 30-24 to St. Louis, and at age 53, Minnie Minoso became the oldest Major League Baseball player to get a hit.