Matthews: Take That, Last-Place Patriots


Kansas City Chiefs 42, New England Patriots 27.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and the rest of the team woke up Friday morning looking up at the NFL’s 31 other teams.

Arguably the most widely-hated team in America’s most popular sport lost at home in the NFL’s season-opening game Thursday night and it probably was a good thing for the league.

New England -- nearly everyone’s pick to repeat as Super Bowl champions – won’t finish 16-0 in the regular season. Maybe the Patriots will lose a few more games, including The Big One.

Brady, in his first game since turning 40, was not sharp. I made the mistake of writing him off during a slump last season, but didn’t it look like he was throwing more changeups than fastballs against the Chiefs?

Brady clearly missed out-for-the season favorite target Julian Edelman and then Danny Amendola went down with a head injury. Mike Gillislee had three TD mini-runs but was stuffed on two crucial fourth-and-short runs. Monster tight end Rob Gronkowski had only two catches and looked ordinary. The defense allowed 537 yards and 8.3 yards per play and appeared hopelessly confused and undermanned in the fourth quarter. A few key players went down with injuries and Kansas City beat up on the subs.

Let’s give Kansas City some credit. Quarterback Alex Smith silenced his many critics for at least one game (28-of-35 for 368 yards; 4 TD passes; 0 INTs; 148.6 passer rating) and rookie Kareem Hunt (Toledo) is the latest MAC offensive ace to suggest he can play at the sport’s highest levelThe Chiefs prevailed despite a rather lopsided count of yellow flags: Kansas City 15 penalties for 139 yards...New England 6 penalties for 55 yards.

It will be interesting to see how New England responds next Sunday at New Orleans. Drew Brees is going to put up points. My guess is that Brady and his Patriots will prevail. What do you think?


The Carolina Panthers were the NFL’s most surprising team in 2015 and the most disappointing team last year. They should bounce back this season and I expect rookie Christian McCaffrey to take some pressure off quarterback Cam Newton and play a huge role in what should be a dynamite offense. The defensive front seven still is among the league’s best.

The Panthers should be eager to prove they’re significantly better than last season’s 6-10 record and they get an early break opening at the rebuilding San Francisco 49ers.

This week’s “Best Bet”: Carolina 31, SAN FRANCISCO (+5 ½) 13.

Sunday’s other games

(home team in CAPS)

BUFFALO (-8 ½) 16, New York Jets 3 – The Bills aren’t good but they’re better than the Jets, who have 0-16 potential.

Atlanta (-6 1/2) 24, CHICAGO 20 – The Falcons should win but the 7-point spot to a home team in Week 1 is too tempting to pass up.

HOUSTON (-5) 30, Jacksonville 14 – The good folks in Houston could use a pick-me-up and the Texans should supply it.

Philadelphia (-1 1/2) 23, WASHINGTON 17 – The Eagles are my sleeper team this season.

Arizona (-2) 28, DETROIT 15 – I don’t know how much QB Carson Palmer has left but I assume he has enough to beat the Lions.

TENNESSEE (-2 1/2) 24, Oakland 20 – The Titans are my pick to win the AFC South.

CINCINNATI (-3) 27, Baltimore 20 -- I don’t think either team will make the playoffs but I’m taking the host Bengals in this game.

Pittsburgh (-9 1/2) 28, CLEVELAND 10 – The Steelers still are much better than the Browns.

LOS ANGELES RAMS (-3 ½) 24, Indianapolis 13 – The Colts are out of (Andrew) Luck.

Seattle 35, GREEN BAY (-3) 30 – The Seahawks are my pick to win Super Bowl LII and I like them in a high-scoring game here.

DALLAS (-4) 30, New York Giants 27 – The Giants usually play the Cowpokes tough and I’m taking the 4-point spot.

Monday night’s games

MINNESOTA (-3) 30, New Orleans 24 – 350-plus yards passing and another loss for Drew Brees.

Los Angeles Chargers 24, DENVER (-3) 20 – The Chargers enter this season underrated and I believe the Broncos are going to be challenged offensively.


The trusty FiveThirtyEight sports computer spit our fresh 2017 NFL probabilities after Kansas City’s upset victory at New England Thursday night. Here are the projections for the AFC East:

Wins – Patriots 101...Dolphins 7.5...Bills 7.0...Jets 6.6

Losses – Patriots 5.9...Dolphins 8.5...Bills 9.0...Jets 9.4

Point differential – Patriots +76.6...Dolphins -17.2...Bills -36.7...Jets -49.6

Probabilities to make playoffs – Patriots 70 percent...Dolphins 30 percent...Bills 23 percent...Jets 19 percent

Probabilities to win the division – Patriots 57 percent...Dolphins 18 percent...Bills 14 percent...Jets 11 percent

Probabilities to win Super Bowl LII – Patriots 10 percent...Dolphins 2 percent...Bills 1 percent...Jets under 1 percent.

I think this computer is grossly overrating New England’s loss Thursday night and has way too much respect for the three other AFC East teams in terms of post-season projections. The computer is fortunate that Las Vegas sports book take wagers only from humans.


The Cleveland Indians won their franchise-record 15th straight game Thursday night, 11-2, at the Chicago White Sox. They’ve outscored opponents by an amazing 109-28 over that span. They’re home this weekend against Baltimore’s struggling starting rotation.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have won 13 straight games by a combined 80-27 and host San Diego this weekend.

The Los Angeles Dodgers started ace Clayton Kershaw Thursday night and still their seventh straight game, 9-1 at home to Colorado, and are 1-12 in their last 13 games (outscored 71-28 over that span). They were 91-36 before this cold streak and still have MLB’s best record (92-48). They’ll continue to host the Rockies this weekend.


Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow did nothing to suggest that he has a future in pro baseball. He actually did slightly better at the Advanced-A level than he did the first half of his season in Single-A ball:

Columbia Fireflies (South Atlantic League) – 64 games; .220 batting average (47-for-214); 29 runs; 14 doubles; 1 triple; 3 HRs; 23 RBI; 24 walks; 69 strikeouts; 0-for-1 stolen bases.

St, Lucie Mets (Florida State League) – 62 games; .231 batting average (50-for-216); 21 runs; 10 doubles; 1 triple; 5 HRs; 29 RBI; 19 walks; 57 strikeouts; 2-for-3 stolen bases.

He turned 30 August 14 and is an outfielder without enough power or speed to suggest that he any kind of future in this sport.

Adam Brett Walker III has always fascinated me with his combination of raw power and huge strikeout totals. He had a productive 2016 season for the Rochester Red Wings (.243 batting average; 27 HRs; 75 RBI; 44 walks; 202 strikeouts in 132 games) but the Minnesota Twins decided to release him after five seasons in the organization.

He was a baseball gypsy with five teams this season:

Gwinnett (AAA International League) – 10 games; .128 batting average (5-for-39); 3 doubles; 1 HR; 4 RBI; 4 walks; 16 strikeouts.

Mississippi (AA Southern League) – 14 games; .122 batting average (6-for-49); 1 double; 4 HRs; 12 RBI; 4 walks; 23 strikeouts.

Bowie (AA Eastern League) – 12 games; .426 batting average (20-for-47); 5 doubles; 6 HRs; 12 RBI; 2 walks; 13 strikeouts.

Norfolk (AAA International League) – 18 games; .090 batting average (6-for-67); 2 doubles; 1 HR; 3 RBI; 0 walks; 26 strikeouts.

Louisville (AAA International League) – 25 games; .207 batting average (19-for-92); 4 doubles; 1 triple; 3 HRs; 15 RBI; 7 walks; 34 strikeouts.

Totals – 79 games; .190 batting average (56-for-294); 15 doubles; 1 triple; 15 HRs; 46 RBI; 17 walks; 112 strikeouts.

Maybe Walker can follow Jim Fuller’s spikesteps. Fuller was another Red Wings slugger with the ability to smash tape-measure home runs but the liability of striking out way too often. He had a brief taste of the big leagues – something Walker has yet to enjoy – and became one of the all-time greatest slow-pitch softball hitters. They named aluminum bats after him.


Here is how the seven minor-league teams in the Minnesota Twins organization fared this season:

AAA Rochester – 80-62

AA Chattanooga – 91-49

Advanced-A Fort Myers – 75-60

A Cedar Rapids – 75-65

Rookie -- Elizabethton 41-27

Gulf Coast League Twins – 35-23

Dominican Summer League Wins – 49-22.

Cumulative record – 446-308 (.592).

That’s a strong clue that the Red Wings should be extending their International League-best run of five straight winning seasons.


Entering Friday night, 99 Major League Baseball players had at least 100 strikeouts this season. That number will grow before the season ends.

Free-swinging Babe Ruth never struck out 100 times in a season.

Shoeless Joe Jackson, in 1920, his final season before being suspended for life for taking part in the 1919 Black Sox World Series scandal, struck out 14 times in 649 plate appearances.


A true boxing “superfight” is just around the corner: Gennady Golovkin vs. Canelo Alvarez September 16. The latest odds from BOVADA:  Golovkin -155 (bet $155 to win $100); Alvarez +125 (bet $100 to win $125).

If Brian Gionta doesn’t sign with an NHL team, I imagine Team USA would love to have him for the Winter Olympics. Maybe he could get in hockey shape with the hometown Rochester Amerks for a little while? Gionta Amerk jerseys would be a huge seller in the team store.

Roger Federer’s loss at the U.S. tennis Open leaves Super Bowl LI hero Tom Brady as the clear favorite for Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year (assuming he plays better than he did Thursday night). That’s assuming his New England Patriots get off to their expected impressive start this NFL regular season.

The Lehigh Valley IronPigs won their seventh straight game, 6-5 in 12 innings over visiting Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Thursday night, to take a 1-0 lead in Game 1 of their best-of-five International League first-round playoff series. The IronPigs won their last six games of the regular season to edge Rochester for the league’s wild-card playoff berth via a tie-breaker. Durham leads Indianapolis 2-0 in the other first-round series.


Friday, September 8

Matthew Dellavedova (27)...Tyler Eifert (27)...Matt Barkley (27)...Gerrit Cole (27)...Jay McKee (40)...Amani Toomer (43)...Latrell Sprewell (47)...Clarence Weatherspoon (47)...Zeniths center Larry Spriggs (58)...Maurice Cheeks (61)...L.C. Greenwood (71)...Lem Barney (72)...Rogie Vachon (72). Chumlee (35) and Bernie Sanders (76) – what a pair – are invited to the birthday party...On this date 63 years ago (1954), Phillies outfielder Richie Ashburn with a 3-2 count fouled off 14 pitches before walking.

Saturday, September 9

Billy Hamilton (27)...Luc Mbah a Moute (31)...Jose Aldo (31)J.R. Smith (32)...Shane Battier (39)...Mike Hampton (45)...Kevin Hatcher (51)...Dan Majerle (52)...Bob Stoops (57)...B.J. Armstrong (60)...Walter Davis (63)...Joe Theismann (68)...Dick LeBeau (80). Adam Sandler (51) and Hugh Grant (57) are invited to the birthday party....On this date 57 years ago (1960), Denver beat Boston 13-10 in the AFL’s first game.

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