Matthews: Idea For Bills, More Passes, Less Runs


The new regime at One Bills Drive has already displayed that it isn’t afraid to shake things up.

Here’s a suggestion for the 2018 offensive playbook: Run less...throw the ball more.

Here are a few dubious statistical factoids:

In the 2017 season, exactly one team in the 32-team NFL had more rush attempts (487) than pass attempts (476). You guessed it, the Buffalo Bills.

Buffalo also had more rush attempts than pass attempts in 2016 (492/474) and 2015 (509/465).

Why do you think every other NFL team passes more than runs? Because throwing the ball usually produces longer gains and often results in more points and more victories. Simple, right?

Here are a few reasons why I think the Bills should ditch the old run-first, pass-second philosophy:

1—Tyrod Taylor probably will be playing elsewhere next season and the new starting quarterback will undoubtedly have worse legs but a better arm – which is helpful in the modern NFL. With Taylor at QB, emphasizing the run was more logical. If he’s gone, time to change the offensive game plan.

2—LeSean McCoy will turn 30 soon. He’s still a top-10 NFL running back and I’d keep him, Why not? But I believe he’d be more effective and stay healthier with 12-to-15 carries and at least 5 targets per game than carrying the ball 20-plus times.

3—I assume the Bills plan to upgrade the receiving corps. I’m hoping a wide receiver will be among Buffalo’s four picks in the first two rounds of the 2018 college draft. Kelvin Benjamin figures to be healthy and an excellent big target. Buffalo has enough money under the cap to lure another top receiver.

4—The rushing offense hasn’t paid off, particularly this season. Buffalo’s yards per rush slipped to 4.1 yards in 2017 (14th in the NFL), after leading the league in 2016 (5.3) and 2015 (4.8).

5—Most of the team’s fans probably would appreciate a more exciting and productive offense.

Since the not-so-dearly departed 17-year playoff drought began in 2000, Buffalo has finished in the top 10 in total offense once – ninth in 2000. The Bills have finished 25th or worse in total offense 10 times over that span (including 29th this season).

Since 1999, Buffalo has ranked in the top 10 in scoring only twice – 7th in 2004 and tied for 10th in 2016. The Bills have finished 20th or worse in scoring 12 times (including 22nd this season).

With apologies to this season’s Blizzard Bowl home victory over Indianapolis, I believe it is a myth that the Bills are smart to emphasize the run because the weather is so terrible in Buffalo. The weather is somewhat similar in New England and the Patriots have been reasonably effective throwing the football.

So what do you think? I believe it is time for the Bills to get with the NFL times and become a passing terror.


The underdogs covered the Las Vegas point spread in all four wild-card round games last weekend – the first time that happened since 1991.

Can the underdogs sweep this weekend’s divisional round games? Not likely.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have a terrific defense -- it probably is better than Pittsburgh’s -- but the Steelers have far more firepower and will be playing at home in Sunday ‘s game.

Pittsburgh is 10-0 outright and 7-3 against the Las Vegas point spread (ATS) as home favorite by more than 3 points in their first playoff game. They figure to gang up on Jacksonville rookie running back Leonard Fournette and let inconsistent quarterback Blake Bortles try to beat them.

The Jaguars won 30-9 in Pittsburgh in Week 5 this season. Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions that game. That won’t happen again.

This week’s “Best Bet”: PITTSBURGH (-7 ½) 28, Jacksonville 13.

Saturday’s games

(Home team in CAPS)

PHILADELPHIA (+3) 24, Atlanta 20 – If Carson Wentz were healthy and starting quarterback for the Eagles in this game, they’d be favored by around five points. But Nick Foles will get the call and he’d need to perform much better than he has lately for Philadelphia to win. I like his chances.

The Eagles will rely on running the ball and stuffing Atlanta on the ground. They’ll be trying to prove they can win without Wentz and the home-field advantage should be significant.

NEW ENGLAND (-13 ½) 30, Tennessee 13 – Patriots star Tom Brady had 6 TD passes and 5 INTs in his final five games of the regular season but he had an extra week to rest his Achilles and left shoulder.

The Patriots will try to stuff running back Derrick Henry and make QB Marcus Mariota beat them. He completed a TD pass to himself in last week’s 22-21 comeback victory in Kansas City. He probably won’t be as fortunate in this game.

Sunday’s other game

MINNESOTA (-4 ½) 23, New Orleans 16 – New Orleans’ offense versus Minnesota’s defense is a terrific matchup. The Saints are a live underdog but defense wins championships and the Vikings have the goods to get the job done and advance to the NFC championship game.


The recent annual Gallup poll on America’s favorite spectator sports didn’t provide many surprises.

Football was No. 1 at 37 percent, down from a high of 43 percent in 2007 but still far ahead of basketball (11 percent), baseball (9 percent), on-the-rise soccer (7 percent), hockey (4 percent), auto racing (2 percent) and tennis (2 percent). No other sport got more than 1 percent.  That means many other sports received modest support. Was pro wrestling among them?

Football has an advantage in that college and the NFL are lumped together.

Baseball continues to slip. The strongest support is from fans 55 and older and the lowest support is from fans 18 to 34.

The MLB Network is entertaining but doesn’t attract nearly enough young viewers.

Baseball has to wake up. Speeding up the game is a must. The players must buy into the recommended rule changes (shot clock for pitchers; fewer trips to the mound by catchers).

My suggestion: Minimize the march of relief pitchers in the late innings by requiring each pitcher to face at least two batters. Actually, I’d prefer to make it three batters, but I know that is much too drastic.

I expect soccer to continue to advance in future Gallup polls as the number of pro teams increases at all levels, more top international games are available on TV, and the percentage of kids playing soccer increases. I also believe lacrosse will make relatively modest gains.


Rochester Americans goalie Linus Ullmark made his first start of the season for the NFL Buffalo Sabres Thursday night and earned First Star honors with 44 saves in a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Amerks defenseman Brendan Guhle had an assist for his first point in the NHL and wowed the crowd with his skating ability.

Ullmark and Guhle figure to see more action with the floundering Sabres this season. Buffalo’s fans and media will be calling for it. But the two young stars almost certainly will be returned to Rochester in plenty of time for the Calder Cup playoffs.

Buffalo’s brass believes success in the AHL playoffs is a plus for the development of their prospects. The Amerks are a very good AHL team but there really aren’t a lot of genuine NHL prospects on the roster. Ullmark and Guhle definitely are among those headed for long NHL careers.


Frisco, Texas isn’t messing around as an emerging sports mecca.

The upscale city near Dallas hosts the offices and training facilities for the NFL Cowboys, will be the new home of the Major League Lacrosse Dallas Rattlers (formerly the Rochester Rattlers) and the National Soccer Hall of Fame will open there October 20, 2018.

The National Soccer Hall of Fame began in Oneonta, New York and was known as the National Soccer Museum from 1979-2010. It became the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1983 and the facility closed in February 2013. FC Dallas owners Clark and Dan Hunt, sons of the late Lamar Hunt, were pushing to bring the Hall of Fame to Frisco since 2013.

Frisco is planning a huge athletic park with lots of fields to attract major amateur sporting events. I’d say those folks know what they’re doing.


The Amerks, home Friday night against Binghamton and Monday afternoon against Utica, will then play 8 of their next 10 gamers on the road. Is that bad or good? Rochester is 10-7-0-1 at home and 12-1-4-2 away.

FiveThirtyEight’s ELO computer odds to win Super Bowl LII: New England 34 percent...Minnesota 18 percent...Philadelphia 15 percent...Pittsburgh 14 percent...Atlanta 9 percent...New Orleans 8 percent...Jacksonville 2 percent...Tennessee 1 percent.

On my radio show this week, we had a fun discussion of NFL “franchise quarterbacks” since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. My definition of a “franchise quarterback” is one who plays at least five seasons with a team, plays at a very high level and preferably wins his share of postseason games.  Most teams have had multiple “franchise QBs” since 1970. A few teams have had none. I believe the Buffalo Bills have had only one – Jim Kelly. The search continues.

The Syracuse Orange will play at 23rd-ranked Florida State Saturday afternoon. The 23rd-ranked Seminoles had their 28-game home winning streak ended Wednesday night with a 73-69 loss to Louisville.

ESPN baseball guru Buster Olney ranked baseball’s Top 10 right fielders. The top two are New York Yankees: 1-Aaron Judge and 2-Giancarlo Stanton. The rest of the list: 3-Bryce Harper (Washington), 4-Mookie Betts (Boston), 5-J.D. Martinez (free agent expected to sign with Boston to play LF or DH), 6-Yasiel Puig (Dodgers), 7-Josh Reddick (Houston), 8-Avisail Garcia (White Sox), 9-Jay Bruce (Mets), 10-Dexter Fowler (St. Louis).

Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel earned a $212,500 bonus for being named to the NHL All-Star Game.

Pro Football Focus supplies another reason to hope Kansas City’s Alex Smith is the starting quarterback for the Buffalo Bills: He had incredible success throwing deep passes this season – 33 completions in 62 attempts for an NFL-most 1,344 yards and 12 TDs and a 131.4 passer rating on deep passes. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce as targets helped.

On this date: 60 years ago (1958), the NCAA approved the two-point conversion option after TDs...49 years ago (1969), the Louisville draft board refused exemption for boxer Muhammad Ali...26 years ago (1992), the Bills beat Denver 10-7 in the AFC Championship game...23 years ago (1995), O.J. Simpson’s murder trial began in Los Angeles.


Friday, January 12

Alex Wood (27)...Claude Giroux (30)...Ivan Nova (31)..Chad Greenway (35)...Dontrelle Willis (36)...Marion Hossa (39)...Shane Dronett (47)...Dan Lambert (48)...Cam Russell (49)...Ulf Dahlen (51)...Dominique Wilkins (58)...Tim Hulett (58)...Campy Russell (66)...Bill Madlock (67)...Drew Pearson (67)...Tom Dempsey (71)...Joe Frazier (74). Howard Stern (64), Kirstie Alley (67) and Rush Limbaugh (67) are invited to the birthday party.

Saturday, January 13

Connor McDavid (21)...Doug Martin (29)...Nick Mangold (34)...Bam Morrisw (46)...Curtis Conway (47)...Kevin Mitchell (56)...Kelly Hrudey (57)...Ernie Irvan (59)...Mark O’Meara (61)...Bob Baffert (65)...Bob Forsch (68). Patrick Dempsey (52) is invited to the birthday party. Former Buffalo Bills center Kent Hull was born on this date 57 years ago (1961) and died in 2011 at age 50.

Sunday, January 14

Stephen Piscotty (27)...Hakeem Nicks (30)...Logan Forsythe (31)...Mike Pelfrey (34)...Vincent Jackson (35)...Byron Leftwich (38)...Shawn Barber (43)...Kyle Brady (46)...Terry Wooden (51)...Tommy Kane (54)...Former Red Wings knuckleball pitcher Dan Boone (64)...Hacksaw Jim Duggan (64). Carl Weathers (70) and Faye Dunaway (77) are invited to the birthday party.

Bob Matthews' Column

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