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Bob Matthews' Column

 

SAINTS OVER JETS IS THE “BEST BET"


QB-HURTING BILLS NO MATCH FOR CHIEFS


GRUESOME NUMBERS FOR SABRES


BREEDERS’ CUP PICKS FOR SATURDAY


The New Orleans Saints figure to end the WLWLWLWL pattern of the New York Jets Sunday at MetLife Stadium.


The Jets are a surprising 4-4 and tough against the run but master passer Drew Brees vs. inconsistent rookie Geno Smith is a mismatch at quarterback.


This week’s “Best Bet” is New Orleans 30, NEW YORK JETS (+6) 13.


Sunday’s other games


(home team in CAPS)


CAROLINA (-7 ½) 28, Atlanta 17 – The Panthers are 4-1 in their last five games and think they’re a playoff team. They can’t afford to overlook the Falcons with San Francisco and New England coming up next.


Tennessee 20, ST. LOUIS (+3) 13 – Titans running back Chris Johnson is due for a big game and Rams emergency QB Kellen Clemens is not.


DALLAS (-10 ½) 37, Minnesota 14 – The Cowboys are very much alive in the weak NFC East and have no excuses against the struggling Vikings.


San Diego 30, WASHINGTON (+1) 27 – QB Philip Rivers is in rare form and gives the Chargers a big chance to win a shootout against the defensively-challenged Redskins.


Kansas City 27, BUFFALO (-3 ½) 13 – The undefeated Chiefs might not be the NFL’s best team but their pass rush, veteran QB Alex Smith and RB Jamaal Charles figure to be too much for the QB-hurting Bills.


SEATTLE (-17) 33, Tampa Bay 7 – The Seahawks have won 11 straight home games and their offense is likely to show more coming off a dull 14-9 win in St. Louis Monday night.


Philadelphia 23, OAKLAND (-2 ½) 17 – The Eagles are 3-1 on the road and the offense is due for better after scoring a total of 10 points in consecutive home losses to Dallas and the Giants.


NEW ENGLAND (-7) 20, Pittsburgh 17 – The Patriots usually find a way to win but aren’t healthy enough to spot a proud opponent a touchdown.


Baltimore 21, CLEVELAND (+3) 13 – The bye week should help the 3-4 Ravens get back on track.


HOUSTON (+2 ½) 24, Indianapolis  20 – The disappointing Texans owe the home fans a big effort and Case Keenum won’t hurt them at QB. Colts QB Andrew Luck will miss favorite target Reggie Wayne.


Monday night’s game


GREEN BAY (-11) 33, Chicago 14 – The Bears clearly aren’t the same minus injured QB Jay Cutler. The Packers are 14-1 in their last 15 games vs. NFC North rivals and that trend should continue.


Thursday night’s pick was Cincinnati  27, MIAMI (+2 ½) 14. I figured the difference would be Bengals QB Andy Dalton. He was. In the wrong way. He was terrible and the main reason Miami won 22-20 in overtime.


Last week’s “Best Bets” results – 10-3 picking winning teams straight up (80-40 this season)...8-5 picking winners against the Las Vegas point spread (60-57-3 this season)...The “Best Bet” is 6-2 outright and 4-4 against the spread after 12-point favored New Orleans, picked to beat Buffalo by more, won by 18 points (35-17).


SABRES NUMBERS CAN ONLY IMPROVE


The Buffalo Sabres can only improve. We hope. Thursday night’s 2-0 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden dropped the team’s record to an NHL-worst 2-12-1. Here is how the Sabres rank i9n the 30-team NHL in assorted categories:


Point percentage -- .167; 5 of 30 possible points in the standings (30th)


Goals per game – 1.47 (30th)


Fewest goals allowed per54 game – 2.87 (21st)


5-on-5 GF/GA ratio – 0.55 (29th)


Power play percentage – 10.9 (27th)


Penalty kill percentage – 82.0 (12th)


Shots per game – 25.3 (30th)


Fewest shots allowed per game – 35.9 (28th)...outshot by more than 10 per game is not good


Winning % when scoring first -- .000 (30th)


Winni8ng % when trailing first -- .143 (t24th)


Faceoff percentage – 45.7 (26th)


Fewest penalty minutes per game – 12.4 (17th)...Buffalo leads the NHL with 14 major penalties.


Management warned the fan base to be prepared for a tough season. They’ve delivered so far.


MUCHO MACHO MAN THE PICK TO USET GAME ON DUDE


For most thoroughbred racing fans, the highlight of the year is the Saturday of the Breeders’ Cup. Saturday’s eight Breeders’ Cup races will be loaded with many of the best race horses on the planet, running for $17.5 million.


The main attraction is the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic at 1 ¼ miles (8:35 p.m., on NBC).  My pick is Mucho Macho Man.


Game On Dude has 15 wins in 27 career starts – including 5-for-5 this year -- and likely will be the favorite. Deservedly so. But he hasn’t been facing fields as classy as this one. He likes to run up front and there are enough classy speed horses in this field to soften him up for Mucho Macho Man’s late run.


Mucho Macho Man was second at 6.30-to-1 to Fort Larned (9.40-to-1) in last year’s Classic. Game On Dude had a bad start and finished seventh as the 1.30-to-1 favorite. He’ll likely have a smoother start Saturday but he’s still in tough. It should be a terrific race.


Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Ron the Greek was scratched Thursday with a hoof injury.


SHORT SHOTS


NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says he wants the NFL to expand to Los Angeles and London, in no particular order. Of course, the vast majority of people who count a lot – NFL players and fans – would make LA the priority.


As of now, it looks like the Rochester Rattlers will return next Major League Lacrosse season. The Rattlers played two games at neutral sites last summer to test other markets but nothing has materialized, including a franchise in Atlanta.


The Rochester Red Wings will unveil new logos at a press conference Friday afternoon. The purpose is to boost merchandise sales. The former logos now will be obsolete. All minor league teams do it from time to time.

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