Matthews: Bills Are "Not Ready For Prime-Time"

posted by Bob Matthews -

JILTED BILLS APPARENTLY ARE AMONG THE NFL’s “NOT READY FOR PRIME-TIME TV” TEAMS

The NFL office obviously wasn’t very impressed by the Buffalo Bills ending their 17-year playoff drought last season.

The 2018 schedule was released Thursday night and the Bills didn’t get much respect.

There will be 106 prime-time games: 34 games on Thursdays (including the four Thanksgiving games), 34 Monday night games, 32 Sunday night games, 4 international games and 2 Saturday night games.

Prime-time appearances for last season’s 12 playoff teams: Kansas City 5, Los Angeles Rams 5, New England 5, New Orleans 5, Philadelphia 5, Pittsburgh 5, Tennessee 4,  Atlanta 3, Jacksonville 3, Minnesota 3, Carolina 2 -- and Buffalo 1.

Seattle appears on the prime-time schedule an NFL-most six times. I’m not sure why.

Buffalo’s only prime-time game will be at home against the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football Week 8, October 29. It will be Buffalo’s first home MNF appearance since 2008.

The NFL beefed up the Thursday night schedule for Fox (11 games starting Week 4) and the NFL Network. The only teams that won’t be appearing on Thursday at all (including Thanksgiving) are Tampa Bay – and Buffalo.

The complete list of scheduled prime-time appearances for the 2018 season: Seattle 6...Dallas, Green Bay, Kansas City, Los Angeles Rams, New England, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and San Francisco (thank you, Jimmy Garoppolo)  5 each...Denver, Houston, Miami, New York Giants and Tennessee 4 each...Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Jacksonville, Minnesota, New York Jets and Washington 3 each...Baltimore, Carolina, Cleveland and the Los Angeles Chargers 2 each...Arizona, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Miami, Tampa Bay – and Buffalo – 1 each.

Fifteen of 16 games starting Sundays at 1 p.m. is another slap in the face to the Bills and provides the least possible national exposure. Buffalo joins the 2008 Tennessee Titans as the only teams coming off a playoff season not to make the subsequent season’s Sunday night schedule.

And how about five of the first seven games on the road for the first time in Buffalo’s 59-season history? And three of the final four games in December, when the weather in Western New York figures to be the worst.

I assume that the Pegulas won’t be sending any messages of appreciation to the NFL office.

ARE THE PATRIOTS UP TO MORE TRICKS?

You have to respect the New England Patriots for the way they play on the field and for the Super Bowls they’ve won.

But there always seem to be legitimate reasons to be suspicious about the Patriots. They’ve been caught cheating a few times and who knows how many other times they weren’t caught?

I wonder if the Patriots are the ones promoting what I believe to be misinformation regarding their team heading into next week’s NFL college draft. For example:

Quarterback Tom Brady has yet to commit to playing this season.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski also isn’t sure he’ll play this season.

Coach Bill Belichick and Brady aren’t seeing eye-to-eye and this could be Belichick’s final season with the Patriots. He could be headed for Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers.

The Patriots are seriously considering trading up to select one of the hot-shot “franchise quarterbacks” next Thursday night.

I’m not buying any of this – are you?

Why would Brady retire now? He’ll turn 41 on August 3 but he’s also the reigning league MVP and still ranks right up there with Rodgers as the league’s best quarterback. He wants to be recognized as the all-time greatest NFL QB, and the longer he plays at a high level, the more likely that would happen.

I respect ESPN’s Adam Schefter for his reporting on the NFL. His work ethic is second to none. The cell phone was invented for guys like him. But was this a slow week for scoops? I mean, how many other stars haven’t announced they’ll be playing this season. We sort of assume that they will be.

(Apologies and major props to Schefter if Brady indeed has thrown his final NFL pass).

I get why Gronkowski is tired of getting injured. He appears on course for the Pro Football Hall of Fame but probably hasn’t yet played enough seasons to be elected.

I know Gronk loves the limelight and the paychecks to support his assorted off-field endeavors. He likely has a bright future in pro wrestling – he has the personality and athleticism to be a superstar -- or Hollywood. He probably wouldn’t win any Academy Awards but he’d be a hit at the box office in action/comedy roles.

He recently purchased a share of Gronk, the race horse that is named after Gronkowski and will run in next month’s Kentucky Derby. He says he can’t wait to ride Gronk. That’s extremely unlikely to ever happen. That’s fortunate for Gronk – the horse and the man.

Belichick to Green Bay? Why? So he isn’t on great terms with Brady. Big deal. So what. They’ve managed to thrive together up to now. Warning: Vince Lombardi post-Packers didn’t work out too well.

I believe that the Patriots are trying to prod AFC East rivals Buffalo and/or Miami and/or the New York Jets to trade a boatload of draft picks for one of the “franchise quarterbacks” in next week’s draft.

Buffalo’s Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott worked hard to accumulate a nice batch of draft picks. Will they be more inclined now to avoid any chance of the Patriots beating them to the punch. That would be a tough scenario of Western New York fans and media to swallow.

New England also has some ammo for next week’s draft:

I believe the Patriots have lost more than they’ve added this offseason.  But I believe the same can be said for the Bills, Jets and Dolphins.

Which AFC East team will emerge as the big winner in the 2018 draft? The team that gets lucky and strikes gold with the right “franchise quarterback” or the team that ignores the QB hype and focuses on filling glaring holes at other positions?

The more I hear about Brady and or Gronk retiring or Belichick leaving or the Patriots lusting to trade up for a high first-round quarterback – the less I believe it.

What do you think?

2018 NFL DRAFT AMMO (subject to change...a lot)

Buffalo (9 picks) – 12-22-53-56-65-96-121-166-187

New England (8 picks) – 23-31-43-63-95-198-210-219

New York Jets (6 picks) – 3-72-107-157-179-235

Miami (8) – 11-42-73-123-131-209-227-229.

BILLS HAVE THREE OF THE NFL’S “WORST POSITION GROUPS”

 Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott haven’t been shy about alerting fans and media to the many holes on the current roster.

Pro Football Focus this week suggested that Beane and McDermott are being brutally honest.

 In rankings of the “worst positions groups” in the 32-team NFL, PFF posted a “worst” and the two “next-worst” teams in assorted groups. Buffalo was the worst in three categories:

Quarterback – AJ McCarron/Nathan Peterman...(next-worst New York Jets and Baltimore)

Wide receivers – Kelvin Benjamin/Zay Jones/ Andre Holmes/Rod Streater/Jeremy Kerley/Brandon Reilly/Malachi Dupre/Quan Bray...(next-worst Baltimore and Arizona)

Defensive interior – Kyle Willams/Adolphus Washington/Star Lotulelei/Trent Murphy/Rickey Haley...(next-worst Los Angeles Chargers and Dallas).

It could’ve been worse. Buffalo wasn’t included as the worst or next-two worst teams at linebackers (Indianapolis worst, followed by Los Angeles Rams and Oakland) or offensive line (Houston worst, followed by Seattle and New York Giants).

UPON FURTHER NBA REVIEW...MY REVISED FINALS MATCHUP

I’ve seen enough of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the NBA playoffs (tied 1-1 with the Indiana Pacers) to give up on them as my Eastern Conference team in the NBA Finals.

LeBron James at age 33 still is the best all-around player in the NBA today and one of the five all-time greatest players, but he simply lacks the supporting cast to reach the Finals. It is the King and His Court Jesters.

My revised projected NBA Finals matchup is the Toronto Raptors versus the Golden State Warriors. That’s assuming Stephen Curry is close to 100 percent.

Three-point shooting is the dominant weapon in the NBA today. No team does that better than Golden State. The Warriors are the only team with three dynamite three-point shooters: Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

I believe Golden State will beat Houston in the Western Conference Finals. The Rockets shoot the most three-pointers but the Warriors are considerably more accurate from long range.

BRUNO SAMMARTINO’S ROCHESTER CONNECTIONS

Bruno Sammartino, one of the all-time most popular pro wrestlers, died this week at age 82.

He was a legitimate hero. As a young boy in his native Italy during World War II, his family survived in the mountains to escape the Nazis. He came to the United States in 1950 and became a champion body builder and a legitimate “good guy” pro wrestling hero.

He held the most prominent pro wrestling title for almost eight years and sold out Madison Square Garden 188 times in the 1960s and 1970s.

Sammartino often wrestled at Rochester’s War Memorial. I have no idea how often. As far as I know, no one kept track. Clips reveal that he faced Buddy O’Brien here on May 15, 1961 and teamed with Ilio DiPaolo versus the Stanlee Brothers October 24, 1962. An ad in the Democrat and Chronicle in April 1974 pushed a dynamite double-main event show: Bruno Sammartino versus Killer Kowalski and George “The Animal” Steele versus Domenic DeNucci. That must have been a fun night for local ‘rasslin fans.

Two local products figured prominently in Sammartino’s career and vice versa – Jefferson High football and wrestling star Bob “Tiny” Marella (as a pro wrestler, the fewocious Gorilla Monsoon, the flesh-eating, blood-drinking giant from Manchuria) and Madison High 1949 Section 5 heavyweight wrestling champion Tony Silipini (“good guy” pro wrestler Tony Marino).

Marella, who was on the construction crew that built the War Memorial in the early-to-mid 1950s, was one of Sammartino’s most frequent “heel” opponents in the 1960s. In 1963, in what turned out to be three sold-out shows in New Jersey and Madison Square Garden, Gorilla Monsoon upset Sammartino in a dubious finish in the first of the three matches and lost the two subsequent rematches. Monsoon’s victory was one of Bruno’s final losses before his nearly eight-year reign as World Wide Wrestling Federation champion.

Early in Marino’s pro wrestling career, he introduced The Battman gimmick (a takeoff on Batman). Sammartino, operating the higher-profile Pittsburgh-based territory, was impressed by Marino’s work on the Buffalo-Rochester circuit. He brought Marino to Pittsburgh, where Tony quickly became a popular performer on a larger scale. They often were tag-team partners and briefly held the International Tag Team Championship in 1969. (They had to split because a wrestler couldn’t be an individual world champion and a tag-team champion simultaneously. Victor Rivera became Marino’s new partner and they held the prestigious title for seven months).

HOW ABOUT FRED JACKSON FOR THE BILLS WALL OF FAME?

Fred Jackson signed a one-day contract Wednesday in order to officially retire from the NFL as a member of the Buffalo Bills.

Is Jackson a candidate for the New Era Field Wall of Fame?

In terms of stats, probably not.  In terms of work ethic and popularity, definitely yes.

Jackson was undrafted in 1990 and get his first NFL carry until he was 26 years old.

Jackson spent eight seasons with the Bills (2007 through 2014). In 106 games, he had 1,305 carries for 5,746 yards; 4.4 yards per carry; 30 TDs rushing; 354 catches; 2,897 yards; 8.2 yards per catch; 9 TD   receptions.

Jackson ranks third in team history in yards rushing, but he’s way behind the top two: Thurman Thomas 11,938 yards and O.J. Simpson 10,183 yards.

There are three running backs on the Wall of Fame: Simpson, Thomas and Cookie Gilchrist (last season).

Jackson was one of team’s all-time fan favorites and was respected for giving his best on every play. No. 22 was proud to be a member of the Bills, proud to represent Buffalo and appreciated how he was treated by the fans and the organization.

I believe he’d be a deserving and immensely popular addition to the Wall of Fame and could be a plus for the organization as a team ambassador or in fan/media relations.

SHORT SHOTS

My first reaction to Thursday night’s release of the official 2018 regular-season schedule for the Buffalo Bills: Three of the first four games in September when the weather in Western New York is most likely to be decent and three of the last four games in December when the weather in Western New York is most likely to be lousy. That’s dumb.

Entering the seven-game homestand starting Friday night, the Rochester Red Wings are 4-5 (including 0-3 at Frontier Field) and have been outscored 41-32. The pitching has been good (3.24 ERA ranks 7th and 1.24 WHIP ranks 4th in the 14-team International League) and the hitting has been weak (.210 team batting average and .597 OPS – on-base percentage + slugging percentage – of .597 rank last).

Rochester Knighthawks goalie Matt Vinc is closing in on a major National Lacrosse League milestone. He recently joined retired Anthony Cosmo as the only goalies in league history with 7,000 saves. Cosmo had 7,222 saves in 17 seasons. He was 40 when he retired before this season. Vince will enter Saturday night’s home game against New England with 7,035 saves. Vinc turns 36 in June and figures to pass Cosmos next season – presumably with Rochester.

Updating the NBA playoffs: Through 19 games, home teams are 14-5...Las Vegas favorites are 14-5 straight up and 13-6 against the point spread...only 5 of the 19 games were decided by 5 points or less.

Updating the NHL playoffs: Through 32 games, home teams are 17-15 (including 1-8 Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday)...5 shutouts...4 overtime games...margins of victory: one goal 12 games; two goals 6 games; three goals 6 games; four goals 5 games; five goals 1 game; seven goals 2 games...181 goals in 32 games (5.66 goals per game).

The Rochester RazorSharks lost Tuesday and Wednesday nights at the Kansas City Tornados to finish this inaugural North American Premier League basketball season with an 11-18 record. They were an amazing 240-46 (.839 winning percentage), with eight league championships, in their first 12 seasons in the ABA and old Premier Basketball League.

Departed Syracuse University basketball forward Matthew Moyer will continue his college career at Vanderbilt. He’ll have to sit out this season and will have two years of eligibility.

It is sad to see the standings for the United Soccer League in the newspaper and Rochester not among the 33 teams. Rochester’s “adopted” USL team – Toronto II will play four “home games” this season at Capelli Sport Stadium – is 0-3-1 and has been outscored 8-1.

The 2018 live thoroughbred racing season at Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack opens Saturday. Post-time is 1:10 p.m.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Friday, April 20

Luke Kuechly (27)...Brandon Belt (30)...Allan Houston (47)...Claude Verret (55)...Don Mattingly (57)...Steve Spurrier (73).

Saturday, April 21

Joc Pederson (26)...Rodney Stuckey (32)...Tarvaris Jackson (35)...Tony Romo (38)...Ed Belfour (53)...Steve Vickers (67)...Red Wings Hall of Famer Al Bumblebee” Bumbry (71).

Sunday, April 22

Kenny Stills (26)...Kevin Kiermaier (28)...Dee Gordon (32)...Marshawn Lynch (32)...Kaka (36)...Glenn Parker (52)...Jimmy Key (56)...Jeff Hostetler (57)...Terry Francona (59). Jack Nicholson (81) is invited to the birthday party.

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