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Bob Matthews' Column

UNDERDOG PATRIOTS AND 49ERS ARE THE “BEST BETS”

 
UNDERDOG PATRIOTS AND 49ERS ARE THE “BEST BETS”

UNDERDOG PATRIOTS AND 49ERS ARE THE “BEST BETS”

BRADY, PEYTON MANNING 2-3 ON THIS ALL-TIME QB LIST

A-ROD FRUSTRATED BRIGHTON’S SUPER WRITER CRAMER

“Best Bets” is bucking history and picking both visiting teams – New England and San Francisco -- to win outright in Sunday’s NFL Conference Championship games. The Patriots and 49ers also happen to be underdogs.

Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, the two visiting teams swept the conference championship games only three times – Buffalo and Dallas in the 1992 playoffs, Denver and Green Bay in the 1997 playoffs and Baltimore and San Francisco in the 2012 playoffs.

Since 1970, the home teams swept 17 times and the home and visiting teams split 23 times.

New England 35, DENVER (-5) 30 – I’m counting on 250-pound battering ram LeGarrette Blount to be the difference for the Patriots. In his last two games vs. Buffalo and Indianapolis, he had 48 carries (5.3-yard average) for 255 yards and 6 TDs. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vareen will get their share of carries as New England attempts to dominate time of possession and keep the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hands...Patriots QB Tom Brady enjoys the underdog role and says a victory in Denver would be “as satisfying” as any of his career.  I like his chances against a Broncos defense minus injured mainstays LB Von Miller and CB Chris Harris.

San Francisco 24, SEATTLE (-3) 20 – Most opponents are intimidated when they play in Seattle. The 49ers won’t be. They’re a tough team and in top form on offense and defense. They lost 29-3 in Seattle in September and beat the Seahawks 19-17 at home in the rematch Dec. 8...San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick has been sharper than Seattle QB Russell Wilson lately...In their last 17 road games, the 49ers were 0-2 in their two games in Seattle(outscored 71-16) but an impressive 13-2 against all other opponents (with a 428-229 scoring margin).

BRADY AND PEYTON MANNING ARE 2-3 ON THIS ALL-TIME QB LIST

We all have a list of the all-time five-best NFL quarterbacks and most of us won’t agree. Here’s my list, updated and subject to change (QBs who spent most of their careers since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger):

1--Joe Montana

2—Tom Brady

3—Peyton Manning

4—John Elway

5—Steve Young.

I give Brady a slight edge over Manning on the strength of his 10-4 record head-to-head and three Super Bowl rings (in five tries). Manning is 1x2 in Super Bowls. A New England victory Sunday would give Brady an 11-4 record vs. Manning. He’d also become the first QB to start in six Super Bowls.  A Patriots victory in Super Bowl 48 – giving Brady his fourth ring – would elevate him to No. 1 on my list.

REMEMBERING RICHARD BEN CRAMER

The current issue of Sports Illustrated includes an excellent feature (by S.L. Price) on the late and great Brighton High School product Richard Ben Cramer, a brilliant journalist and writer, who loved to write lengthy articles and biographies about controversial people. His subjects included Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and assorted politicians and business people. He loved baseball for most of his life and often wore a Rochester Red Wings cap in his early years with various top-shelf newspapers and magazines.

His last major project before he died was a biography of Alex Rodriguez. He received a $550,000 advance from a publisher and spent five years taking notes and doing interviews. But even Cramer grew frustrated trying to figure out A-Rod and wound up giving up.  The SI article is a tribute to Cramer and a clue to what drives A-Rod.

Cramer graduated from Brighton in 1967, won a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting (Middle East) in 1979 and died of lung cancer, Jan. 7, 2013.

SHORT SHOTS

Odds to win Super Bowl 48 (courtesy of VegasInsidrer.com): Seattle 19x10...Denver 2x1...San Francisco 13x5...New England 24x5.

Peyton Manning is the Hickok Belt monthly winner for December. He also won in September. He looks like a huge favorite to be the overall winner. Does that mean he’ll be the guest of honor at a revived Hickok Belt gala in Rochester?

I’m all for the expanded instant replay in Major League Baseball – with the exception of making force plays at second base (the old “phantom double play”) NOT reviewable. Does that mean the shortstops and second basemen will be making those DPs look even more ridiculous?

I wonder if recent comments regarding LeBron James for “coasting” and “flopping” will cost him enough support to fail to win his fifth NBA MVP award this season.

A lot of sharp college hoops people think undefeated Syracuse would need to be very sharp to beat Pittsburgh at the Carrier Dome Saturday afternoon. The Panthers are familiar with SU’s zone and have solved it many times.

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