Matthews: The O-Line & Pass Rush R Tough To Watch

THE OFFENSIVE LINE AND PASS RUSH WERE TOUGH TO WATCH...

BUT THERE WERE A FEW BRIGHT SPOTS FOR THE BILLS

A terrific crowd. The atmosphere was electric. A classy ovation for opposing quarterback Andy Dalton. The anticipation of watching Bills rookie Josh Allen throw. The weather was perfect.

And then the game started.

Cincinnati thoroughly dominated the Bills in the first half. The Bengals outgained Buffalo 246 to 78 in yards and led 20-0.

This was supposed to be the game Allen could clinch the start in Baltimore September 9 but he had no chance to display his talent. The Bengals toyed with Buffalo’s offensive line and Allen usually had no time to throw.

The final score was respectable -- I guess – 26-13. QB Nathan Peterman had an impressive second half in relief of Allen. But in all fairness to Allen, Peterman was playing against Cincinnati’s second- and third-stringers.

My hunch is that Peterman will start for Buffalo September 9 – not because Allen isn’t ready. But because the offensive line isn’t ready and might never be. Not this group. It might take a draft or two or some reinforcements from late cuts around the league to make this group respectable.

Buffalo’s pass rush wasn’t much better than the pass protection. Cincinnati had too much time for receivers to get open and quarterback Andy Dalton to find them. It’s a good thing the Bills have a very fine secondary because they figure to need it.

Bright spots? Buffalo’s reserve tight ends (Logan Thomas and Jason Croom) and running backs (Marcus Murphy and Chris Ivory) looked like there is quality depth behind Charles Clay and LeSean McCoy.

How to improve the pass protection and pass rush? Check the cuts around the league the next few weeks and get an early start on studying for the 2019 draft.

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SACKS THE BILLS...

PROJECTED 4-12 RECORD TIED FOR NFL LOW

The Bills surprised most of the NFL world last season with a 9-7 record to end their 17-year playoff drought

Count Sports Illustrated among the many skeptics who expect the rebuilding Bills to take a temporary step backwards this season.

Sports Illustrated always-interesting annual NFL Preview issue hit the newsstands (remember them) last week and there wasn’t much for Bills fans to cheer about.

Buffalo is picked to finish last in the AFC East with a 4-12 record, tied for the NFL’s worst with Cleveland, Cincinnati and Arizona.

I don’t believe the 2018 Bills will make the playoffs, but I’m surprised that SI is so much more impressed by AFC East rivals New York Jets (9-7) and Miami Dolphins (7-9). Naturally, New England is picked to win the AFC East with a 12-4 record, tied with Atlanta for best in the NFL.

SI’s Super Bowl 53 pick is Atlanta over Pittsburgh.

SI ranked the 32 teams in six categories. Here’s how the AFC East teams measure up:

Quarterbacks – Patriots 1st...Jets 25th...Dolphins 29th...Bills 32nd.

Running backs – Bills 7th...Patriots 15th...Dolphins 19th...Jets 27th.

Wide receivers/tight ends – Patriots 10th...Dolphins 13th...Bills 24th...Jets 25th.

Offensive line – Patriots 17th...Jets 22nd...Dolphins 24th...Bills 32nd. The Bills on Sunday made SI look smart.

Front-7 defense – Patriots 21st...Dolphins 24th...Jets 28th...Bills 31st. Ditto.

Secondary – Jets 6th...Bills 19th (I think SI missed the boat big-time in this category)...Dolphins 20th...Patriots 23rd.

ESPN, USA TODAY ALSO HAVE BELITTLED THE BILLS

During the past decade, 109 NFL teams have won 10-or-more games in the regular season and 102 (93.6 percent) made the playoffs.

ESPN Insider analyst Mike Clay recently listed his projections for each of the NFL’s 32 teams winning at least 10 games this season. Buffalo was 30th on his list, with a projected 5.7 wins.

He noted that the 2017 Bills were outscored by 57 points and the roster entering this season appears weaker.

In Clay’s projections for 10 wins this season, only Arizona and the New York Jets were below Buffalo.

USA Today’s Nate Davis recently used computer analysis to project the winners of all 267 games this NFL regular- and postseason. His record for the Bills is 3-13. Only the Indianapolis was worse at 2-14.

This analyst is 6-10 at best for Buffalo this season.

ESPN on Monday revealed the Top 100 Players for 2018, as chosen by 50-plus ‘”experts.” The only Bills player on the list is cornerback Tre’Davious White at #100. Running back LeSean just missed at #101 and I’m sure he isn’t happy about that.

WEAK-HITTING RED WINGS HAVE WASTED LOTS OF GOOD PITCHING

The 2018 Rochester Red Wings will be remembered for arguably the most-disappointing season-long batting performance in modern franchise history and for wasting the work of a very fine pitching staff.

Entering Monday, Rochester is 59-72 despite a stingy 3.42 earned-run average, best in the in the 14-team International League. Pawtucket is second at 3.47.

Rochester hasn’t led the IL in pitching since 1976. That awesome pitching staff included Dennis Martinez (14-8 record and 2.50 ERA), Bob Galasso (13-5), Scott McGregor (4-5 with Syracuse and then 8-1 with Rochester), Mike Willis (12-6) and for a short time Mike Flanagan (6-1, 2.12), and relievers Dave Johnson (11-5, 2.80 and Earl Stephenson).

The 1976 Wings were an IL-best 88-50 in Joe Altobelli’s sixth and final season as manager. They were a solid all-around team: second in the eight-team league in runs and home runs (121) and tops in OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage). They outscored opponents by 166 runs (690-524). The lineup included IL co-MVP IL Rich Dauer, Jim Fuller, future Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly, Taylor Duncan, Mike Fiore, Larry Harlow, Jim Hutto, Royle Stillman, Tommy Shopay, Bob Bailor, Kiko Garcia and Eddie Murray (promoted from Double-A when Fuller broke his right thumb). Wow. That was a lot of talent.

WING TIPS

The Red Wings will play their final road game of the season Monday night in Syracuse. With a victory, the Wings would finish with a 36-34 road record. Not bad. They’re 24-38 at Frontier Field. Not good.

The Red Wings will begin a season-ending eight-game homestand Tuesday against Buffalo (4) and Lehigh Valley (4). Buffalo’s 19-year-old third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., is baseball’s top prospect. At age 19, in 23 games since being promoted from Double-A to Buffalo, he’s hitting .354 (290for-82), with 5 doubles, 4 HRs, 11 RBI, 125 walks and 19 strikeouts.

YANKEES CLOSING IN! 6 DOWN WITH 6 LFET VS. BOSTON

As expected the New York Yankees swept a four-game weekend series in Baltimore, outscoring the brutal (37-94 record) by a 27-12 margin. Slumping Boston is 12-6 in the last eight games and the Red Sox lead over the Yankees in the AL East is back down to six games.

The gap could continue to shrink this week as the Yankees will play seven games at home against weaklings Chicago White Sox (3) and Detroit Tigers (4).

Dates to circle for Yankees/Red Sox fans: September 18, 19, 20  Boston at New York...September 28, 29, 30 season-ending Yankees at Boston.

ARE MAUER AND/OR POSEY FUTURE HALL OF FAMERS?

San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey last week decided to have season-ending hip surgery. His days as the team’s full-time catcher might be over.

Minnesota’s Joe Mauer was a full-time catcher for his first eight seasons but now is a first A terrific crowd. The atmosphere was electric. A classy ovation for opposing quarterback Andy Dalton. The anticipation of watching Bills rookie Josh Allen throw. The weather was perfect.aseman/designated hitter.

Both were very good hitters -- for catchers – but I’m wondering if switching to other positions will hurt their chances to be elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame. Here are their career numbers:

Mauer – 15 seasons...1,828 games... .306 batting average (2,088-for-6,813)....999 runs...420 doubles...30 triples...142 HRs...914 RBI...career on-base percentage .389; slugging percentage .439; OPS .828...Top-10 MVP: 1st in 2009, 4th in 2008, 6th in 2006, 8th in 2010...three Gold Gloves for fielding excellence....six All-Star Games...920 games at catcher; 582 games at first base; 302 games at DH.

Posey – 10 seasons...1,144 games... .306 batting average (1,276-for-4,170)...552 runs...246 doubles...9 triples...133 HRs...635 RBI...career on-base percentage .375; slugging percentage .465; OPS .840...Top-10 MVP: 1st in  2012, 6th in 2014, 9th in 2015...one Gold Glove...six All-Star Games...886 games at catycher; 225 games at first base; 28 games at DH.

The bottom line – They’d both be probable Hall of Famers if they played most of their careers as catchers, but that probably won’t be the case...The MVP awards will be a slight boost for both. The Gold Gloves won’t hurt... six all-Star Games for each is impressive...Mauer benefits from two batting titles...tough home stadiums for power hitters will hurt both...I think Mauer is 50-50 for the Hall of Fame. Posey is slightly higher because I figure he’ll wind up his career with a few extra productive seasons as a DH in the American League.

 

 

 

 

   

 

SHORT SHOTS

Rochester’s Willie Monroe Jr., boosted his record to 23-3 with a unanimous decision (99-91, 100-90, 100-90) over veteran Javier Francisco Maciel (34-6-0) Friday night in Minneapolis. Willie wore a Red Wings jersey (not Plates) into the ring. Can another title shot be far away? He lost a six-round TKO to undefeated Gennady Golovkin May 16, 2015.The Mongoose hopes to next fight WBC mandatory challenger Jermall Charlo (27-0, 21vKOs).

Like father, like son. Chris Englehart is arguably the all-time greatest trainer at Finger Lakes Race Track and son Jeremiah could be on his way to big things in big-time thoroughbred racing. Jeremiah saddled Forty Under in an $85,000 turf race for 2-year-olds in last Saturday’s fourth race on the Travers Stakes Day card at Saratoga.  The colt, owned by former NFL coach Bill Parcells, won at odds of 20-to-1. It was the ninth victory of the meet for Englehart.

Catholic Boy won the Travers Stakes, returning $16.20 for a $2 win bet. The folly Wonder Gadot, named for the star of Wonder Woman, Was with the early pace but finished last in the 10-horse field. Gronkowski finished eighth and favorite Good Magic was ninth.

Sports Illustrated’s  projected four fresh teams in this season’s NFL playoffs: Houston, Jets and Los Angeles Chargers. OUT from last season’s playoff teams: Buffalo, Carolina, Kansas City, Tennessee.

The Yankees enter Monday on pace for 263 home runs. The MLB record is 264 by the 1997 Seattle Mariners and the Yankees team record is 245 in 2012.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY...

Monday, August 27

Breanna Stewart (24)...Darren McFadden (31)...Jim Flanigan (47)...Jim Thome (48)...Brian McRae (51)...Rob Burnett (51)...Michael Dean Perry (53)...Adam Oates (56)...Bernhard Langer (61)...Scott Studwell (64).

Tuesday, August 28

Bismack Biyombo (26)...Jeff Green (32)...Carlos Quintana (36)...Janet Evans (47)....Todd Eldredge (47)...Pierre Turgeon (49)...Scott Hamilton (60)...Joel Youngblood (67)...Ron Guidry (68)...Jim Lynch (73)...Mike Torrez (72)...Lou Piniella (75). LeAnn Rimes (36)...Jason Priestley (49)...Shania Twain (53) and David Soul (75) are invited to the birthday party.

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

August 27

97 years ago (1921), J.E. Clair of Acme Packing Co., in Green Bay, Wisc., was granted an NFL franchise...66 years ago (1952), Emil Zatopek won the 12th Olympics marathon...42 years ago (1976), transsexual Renee Richards was barred from competing in the U.S. Tennis Open...36 years ago (1982), Rickey Henderson stole his 199th base to break Lou Brock’s single-season MLB record...23 years ago (1995), Tiger Woods won the 95thU U.S. Golf Amateur Championship...14 years ago (2004), Argentina shocked the U.S. men’s basketball team 89-81 in the Olympics semifinals...1 year ago (2017), Floyd Mayweather defeated MMA fighter Conor McGregor in the 10th round in Las Vegas.

August 28

76 years ago (1942), the Chicago Bears beat the College All-Stars 21-0 in the ninth NFL Chicago All-Star Game before 101,100 fans...46 years ago (1972), Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut won gold in the team’s all-around in the Munich Olympics...41 years ago (1977), Nolan Ryan struck out 300 batters for the fifth straight season...14 years ago (2004), Great Britain shocked the U.S. in the men’s 4-x-100 meter relay at the Athens Olympics...Manu Ginobili led Argentina to an 84-69 victory over Italy for the men’s basketball gold medal at the Athens Olympics.

Bob Matthews' Column

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