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Bob Matthews' Column

Realistic Goal For The Bills: A Playoff Berth - Finally!

 

 

REALISTIC GOAL FOR THE BILLS: A PLAYOFF BERTH – FINALLY!

 

There were three can’t-miss, super blue-chip prospects entering Thursday night’s NFL first round of the draft:  defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, offensive tackle Greg Robinson and wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

 

Watkins today is a member of the Buffalo Bills. That’s a big deal. It’s a strong clue that management means business and wants to win NOW! It’s about time, of course.

 

The cost was steep. The Bills swapped the ninth overall pick in Thursday night’s draft plus next year’s first- and fourth-round picks.

 

All the Bills need to justify the blockbuster deal is (1) end their 14-season playoff drought and (2) win 10-or-more games to lessen the pain of not having a first-round pick next year. If the Bills finish 10-6, the pick shipped to Cleveland could be around 20.

 

The move to grab Watkins proves what most of us suspected – the Bills needed a true No. 1 big-play receiver.

 

The Bills now have one of the deeper corps of wide receivers in the NFL – Watkins, Mike Williams, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin. Stevie Johnson was traded to San Francisco. Running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson also are productive receivers.

 

There already is speculation that Johnson is trade bait – perhaps for a fourth-round pick in next year’s draft, to replace the one Buffalo lost Thursday night.

 

No excuses now for second-year quarterback EJ Manuel – except his suspect knees.

 

If Manuel plays a full schedule and has a decent 2014 season, anything less than a playoff berth for the Bills would be a huge disappointment.

 

CLEVELAND BROWNS STOLE THE SHOW

 

The Browns were an underrated team on the rise before Thursday night. Now they’re even better. They had two first-round picks and struck gold. What a haul: c Cornerback Justin Gilbert and quarterback Johnny Manziel, plus the first- and fourth-round 2015 picks obtained in the Buffalo trade. There is speculation that the Browns will add USC wide receiver Marquise Lee with the No. 35 pick Friday night.

 

There was speculation that Cleveland would take Manziel No. 4 overall. The Browns got him at No. 22.

 

Browns first-year coach Mike Pettine this week all but handed the starting QB job at QB to popular hometown hero Brian Hoyer, but it won’t surprise anyone – except perhaps Hoyer – if Johnny Football is starting before too long. Cleveland plays at Buffalo Nov. 20. Manziel figures to be starting by then  (assuming he’s healthy). Guaranteed sellout.

 

JAGUARS BLEW IT BY PASSING ON MANZIEL

 

I’m sure most fans in Jacksonville are disappointed that Blake Bortles – and not Manziel -- was the quarterback picked No. 3 overall by the Jaguers.

 

Manziel’s incredible charisma and popularity would’ve given the Jacksonville franchise the jolt it needs – at the box office and in terms of the national spotlight. Not many NFL teams need gate attractions. The Jaguars are one of the exceptions.

 

The NFL draft buried the NBA playoffs in the national TV ratings by around 3-to-1 margin. Manziel was a huge reason why. The NFL had a captive audience as Johnny Football waited to hear his name called. His selection generated by far the loudest cheers of the evening.

 

I believe Jacksonville made a huge mistake passing on Manziel. Bortles might turn out to be the franchise QB the team has been missing. He’d better be, particularly if Manziel turns out to be a solid pro.

 

REMEMBER THESE GUYS? BUFFALO’S POST-MERGER QB PICKS

 

The Buffalo Bills have selected 25 quarterbacks since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Most of them were wasted picks. A few were decent picks (Joe Ferguson and Frank Reich, for a few games). One was a great pick (Jim Kelly). The latest pick might pan out (EJ Manuel).

 

Here they are (the number selected in parentheses):

 

1970 – Dennis Shaw (30th)

 

1971 – Dusty Underwood (316th)

 

1972 – Brian Lindstrom (391st)

 

1973 – Joe Ferguson (57th) and Matthew Reed (240th)

 

1974 – Gary Marangi (70th) and Gregg Hare (203rd)

 

1975 – Chris Kupec (383rd)

 

1976 – Scott Gardner (215th)

 

1977 – Fred Besana (115th)

 

1978 – none

 

1979 – Dan Manucci (110th) and Dave Marler (253rd)

 

1980 – Gene Bradley (37th) and Todd Krueger(202nd)

 

1981 – none

 

1982 – Matt Kofler (48th) and Luc Tousignant (218th)

 

1983 – Jim Kelly (14th)

 

1984 – none

 

1985 – Frank Reich (57th)

 

The Bills were so set at QB with Kelly and Reich that no other QBs were drafted 1987 through 1991.

 

19992 – Matt Rodgers (335th)

 

1993 – none

 

1994 – none

 

1995 – Todd Collins (45th)

 

From 1997 through 2003 – incredibly – Buffalo did draft a quarterback. How can a team get lucky if it doesn’t try (Tom Brady and Russell Wilson top the list)?...Buffalo traded for QB Rob Johnson in 1998. That didn’t work out real well, either.

 

2004 – J.P. Losman (22nd)

 

2005 – none

 

2006 – none

 

2007 – Trent Edwards (92nd)

 

2008 – none

 

2009 – none

 

2010 – Levi Brown (209th)

 

2011 – none

 

2012 – none

 

2013 – EJ Manuel  (16th).

 

Will another name be added to this list Friday or Saturday?

 

ONLY SIX NFL TEAMS PLUS-TURNOVER RATIOS LAST TWO SEASONS

 

We all know turnovers are a huge factor in the success or failure of NFL teams. Here’s more proof:

 

In the past two NFL seasons, only 6 of the 32 teams had plus turnover differentials in both seasons: New England (+25 and +9), Chicago (+20 and +15), Seattle (+13 and +20), San Francisco (+19 and +12), Cincinnati (+4 and +1) and – surprise – Tampa Bay (+3 and +10).

 

The Patriots (24-8 record the past two seasons), Seahawks (24-8), 49ers (23-8-1), Bengals (21-11) and Bears (18-14) were a combined 110-49-1…Tampa Bay was 11-21. How much worse would the Buccaneers have been with a minus turnover differential?

 

In the past two seasons, only 7 of the 32 teams had minus turnover differentials in both seasons :New York Jets (-14 and -14), Detroit (-16 and -2), Oakland (-7 and -9), Pittsburgh (-10 and -4), Minnesota (-1 and -12), Miami (-10 and -2) and Jacksonville (-3 and -6).

 

The Jets, Lions, Raiders. Steelers, Vikings, Dolphins and Jaguars had a combined 85-138-1 record.

 

The Buffalo Bills were -13 in 2012 and +3 in 2013 in turnover differential. They had a 6-10 record each year.

 

COULD THIS BE SWAN SONG FOR JOHN TAVARES?

 

The Buffalo Bandits might have a motivational advantage over the two-time defending champion Rochester Knighthawks in the National Lacrosse League East Division finals starting Saturday night in Buffalo (Game 2 will be in Rochester Saturday night, May 17): This could be the pro lacrosse swan song for the amazing John Tavares.

 

Tavares, the NLL’s all-time scorer, is 45 years old and has hinted at retirement for the first time since his pro career began with Buffalo in 1992. The Bandits snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 15-13 playoff victory at Toronto last Saturday night after coach Troy Cordingley wore Tavares’ jersey in his pre-game pep talk. The team responded like it didn’t want it to be Tavares’ last game.

 

Tavares has played in 330 total games (regular season and playoffs) in his legendary NLL career, with 882 goals and 1,022 assists for 1,904 points…This season, in 16 regular-season games, Tavares had 24 goals and 27 assists. The high school math teacher had 2 goals and 2 assists in the playoff victory in Toronto.

 

UPDATING THE NBA AND NHL PLAYOFFS

 

In the NBA Thursday night, both home teams won and covered the spread as favorites. Through 58 games in the playoffs, home teams are 32-26 and Las Vegas favorites are 20-35-3 against the point spread.

 

In the NHL, through 62 games in the playoffs, home teams are 8-24. Exactly half of the games – 31 – were decided by one goal, including 18 in overtime.

 

SHORT SHOTS

 

NFL Draft schedule: Rounds 2-to-3 Friday night, 7 to 8 p.m. on ESPN, 8 to 11:30 p.m. on ESPN2 (7 minutes between picks)….rounds 4-to-7 Saturday, noon-to-8 p.m. on ESPN (five minutes between picks).

 

The New York Yankees will retire former manager Joe Torre’s No. 6. Should the Yankees add Bernie Williams’ No. 51 to the long list of numbers retired by the Yankees? He’s high on the team’s list in several categories, spent his entire career with the team and always was a credit to the Yankees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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