CAN THINGS GET WORSE FOR THE BILLS? THIS SEASON, YES!
Was Sunday’s 47-3 it-wasn’t-that-close Buffalo Bills season-opening road loss to the Baltimore Ravens a fluke?
Probably not. The offensive line, receivers and pass rush are all genuinely brutal. Those are fairly significant elements in football. The new punter was OK. That was a highlight – and even he mishandled a snap to hand the Ravens a TD.
What should coach Sean McDermott do at the quarterback position? I have no idea, do you?
Nathan Peterman was awful – again – and McDermott did something he doesn’t like to do – change his mind. He played rookie Josh Allen in the second half after all.
Can things get worse? Sure. The next three games are the home opener Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers – the Chargers are favored by “only” 7 ½ points and that number figures to grow -- and then road games against the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers. It doesn’t seem fair.
I hate to be mean, but a few more thoughts and a suggestion:
+++The national pundits who’ve been saying so many bad things about Buffalo’s roster in recent weeks – for example, ‘The worst team in the NFL” -- don’t exactly have egg on their faces today.
+++Kelvin Benjamin is by default the best wide receiver on the team, but he is not a deep threat. On a good team he’d be the No. 2 WR at best and a possession-type receiver.
+++We all know the Bills will be much better next season -- all that money under the cap to spend on a significant free agent or two plus those 10 draft picks. The first-round pick just might be the No. 1 overall selection if Sunday’s abomination was a fair indication.
+++The Bills made Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco look very good, and he’s average at best.
+++Interesting to see how Baltimore revamped their group of receivers with veteran free agents. Good idea.
+++I felt sorry for LeSean McCoy. Behind this OL and with no passing game to take some pressure off him, he might need 500 carries to reach 1,000 yards this season. If GM Brandon Beane could get a third- or fourth-round pick for Shady before the trade deadline, would you be opposed? I’d make Marcus Murphy the feature back and hope for the best.
AROUND THE NFL
Ryan Fitzpatrick (Tampa Bay) was great Sunday starting in place of suspended Jameis Winston in a 48-40 victory at New Orleans: 21-of-28 for 417 yards; 417 yards passing; 4 TD passes; 0 INT; 156.3 rating. Fitz is an easy guy to root for but the pattern in his career is one very good game, one fair game, two below average games. His NFL career record is 49 wins (14th among active QBs), 70 losses (tied for 5th among active QBs) and 1 tie.
Adrian Peterson (Washington) had a productive game Sunday in his Washington debut: 26 carries for 96 yards and 1 TD plus 2 catches for 70 yards. He’s 33 and still loves to play. He probably doesn’t have many 100-yard rushing games left in him, but he has 12,372 career yards rushing (10th all-time) and might be able to catch No. 4 Curtis Martin (14,101) and No. 5 Frank Gore (14,087). Finishing behind Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders wouldn’t be too bad.
The LA Chargers figure to be ready to play at Buffalo Sunday. They lost 38-28 at home to Kansas City Week 1. A 0-4 start last season cost them a playoff berth.
Cheers to James Conner (Pittsburgh) for leading NFL rushers with 135 yards rushing Week 1 as the “fill-in” for AWOL teammate (?) Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers might have beaten Cleveland Sunday with Bell instead of settling for a 21-21 tie, but they probably would’ve lost without Conner.
Aaron Rogers (Green Bay) was amazing in Sunday night’s 24-23 come-from-behind home victory over Chicago. From being carted off the field before halftime to throwing three TD passes in the fourth quarter ion a gimpy knee added to his legend. He isn’t the NFL highest-paid QNB – for now – for nothing.
I don’t know if young “franchise quarterbacks” Patrick MaPatrick Mahomes (Kansas City) and Mitch Trubisky (Chicago) can match Buffalo’s Josh Allen for arm strength but their accuracy looks pretty good to me.
I’m serious: I’d like to see Colin Kaepernick start at quarterback for Buffalo. Assuming he’d be willing sign a reasonable contract for the rest of this season, he’d be an improvement on the field and make the Bills more interesting. I’m sure many fans in Western New York would not like to see this happen. I’m pretty sure Kaepernick would reject the offer. I’d like to see that happen bto prove he isn’t being blackballed by the NFL.
WEEK 1 STAT PACK
Through 14 games Week 1 and entering Monday night’s two games (Jets at Detroit and LA Rams at Oakland), here is the Week 1 Stat Pack:
Home teams 8-5-1 outright and 7-6-1 against the Las Vegas point spread (ATS).
Las Vegas favorites 8-5-1 outright and 6-7-1 ATS.
Teams scoring first 7-6-1.
Teams leading at halftime 10-3-1.
Teams leading after three quarters 11-2-1.
Teams winning the turnover battle 7-3-1.
Teams leading in yards rushing 10-3-1.
Teams leading in passing yards 7-6-1.
Teams with the fewest penalties – 5-5-1.
Teams with the fewest yards penalized 7-6-1.
Teams leading in time of possession – 9-4-1.
3 of 14 games decided by 3 points or less.
7 of 14 games decided by 7 points or less.
The AFC leads the NFC 2-0 head-to-head.
There were 654 points in 14 games (46.7 points per game).
100-yard rushers (2-0; their teams were 0-1-1): James Conner (PIT) 135 yards...Sequon Barkley (NYG) 106.
100-yard receivers (17; their teams were 8-7-2): Michael Thomas (NO) 180 yards...Julio Jones (ATL) 169...Tyreek Hill (KC) 169...Mike Evans (TB) 147...DeSean Jackson (TB) 146...Randall Cobb (GB) 142...Emmanuel Sanders (DEN) 135...Rob Gronkowski (NE) 123...Ju Ju Smith-Schuster (PITT) 119...Alvin Kamara (NO) 112...Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG) 111...Kerenanh Allen (LAC) 108...Jarvis Landry (CLE) 106...Kenny Stills (MIA) 106...Will Dissly (SEA) 105...Melvin Gordon (LAC) 102...Adam Thielen (MINN) 102.
300-yard passers (6; their teams were 2-3-1): Drew Brees (NO) 439 yards...Philip Rivers (LAC) 424...Ryan Fitzpatrick (TB) 417...Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) 335...Case Keenum (DEN) 329...Andrew Luck (IND) 319.
BASEBALL HITS AND MISSES
The Phillies are 10-20 since they were 15 games above .500 August 5...Tampa Bay has won 11 straight home games and is 16-3 in the last 19 games overall...Baltimore (41-102 record) has been outscored 115-61 in the first inning this season...Baltimore 1B/DH Chris Davis was 0-for-2 with 2 strikeouts Sunday and is batting .177. The MBL all-time low batting average for a qualifier (since 1900) is .179...Oakland is 30 games above .500 (87-57) for the first time since the end of the 2013 season (96-66)...Justin Turner’s four hits Sunday included a 2-run HR as his Los Angeles Dodgers closed within 1.2 game of first place Colorado in the NL West...The Mets beat the Phillies 6-4 Sunday after Mets star Jacob deGrom was scratched from his start due to a rain forecast...Red Wings 2018 MVP and Most Popular Player Willians Astrudillo hit a walk-off two-run HR in Minnesota’s 3-1 home win over Kansas City. He’s batting .297 (11-for-37)...Mike Trout (Angels) was 8-for-11 with 2 HRs and 5 RBI in a three-game series against the White Sox...Jonathan Schoop hit a grand-slam HR as Milwaukee closed within two games of the Cubs in the NL Central.
CAN SYRACUSE U. FOOTBALL CRASH THE AP TOP 25 POLL?’
Syracuse University is 2-0 after demolishing outmanned Western Michigan and Wagner by a combined 103-24 and coach Dino Babers thinks his team can beat Florida State at the Carrier Saturday at noon. The game will be shown on ESPN. The Orange are mere 2 ½-point underdogs.
The Orange will host Connecticut the following week. A 4-0 start would put SU on track for a 7-5 record and a trip to a bowl game for the first time since 2013. Think Pinstripe Bowl.
With victories over Florida State and UConn, SU would be 4-0 and might make the Associated Press weekly Top 25 poll for the first time in 16 years.
Can SU beat Florida State? The Seminoles are off to a slow start. They opened this season with a 24-3 home loss to Virginia Tech and survived a scare in a 36-26 home win over the Samford Bulldogs.
SU leads the series 10-1. SU’s only victory was in their first meeting – 37-21 at Syracuse in 1966. The Seminoles have won the last 10 meetings by a combined 496-147.
Florida State beat SU 45-14 at the Carrier Dome in 2016 and 27-24 in Tallahassee last year.
SU quarterback Eric Dungey has put up awesome numbers through two games this season: 26 carries for 244 yards; 9.4 yards per carry; 1 TD; and 30-of-49 for 402 yards passing, with 7 TDs, 1 INT and a 173.2 rating.
ENCOURAGING TAKES ON THE SABRES FROM “THE HOCKEY NEWS”
The Buffalo Sabres had the fewest points in the 31-team National Hockey League season, but we all know things are looking up – and so does The Hockey News 2018-19 Yearbook.
The Sabres are picked to finish fifth in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division, behind Tampa Bay, Toronto, Boston and Florida, but ahead of Montreal, Detroit and Ottawa.
Among the encouraging words: “GM Jason Botterill inherited a mess from his predecessor, Tim Murray...Ridding the Sabres of underperforming players and bloated contracts will take more time, but the roster looks far more formidable after Botterill’s off-season maneuvering...He still has his work cut out for him in ridding the Sabres of a losing culture that has festered for years...Jack Eichel will almost certainly be awarded the ‘C’ and is primed for a 90-or 100-point campaign...With Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Mittlestadt and Brendan Guhle, the Sabres potentially have their best rookie crop ever.”
Eichel is 40th on the NHL Top 50 Players list.
NORTH CAROLINA COURAGE FINISH NWSL REGULAR SEASON 17-1-6
The North Carolina Courage, the Western New York Flash until January 2017, capped their 2018 National Women’s Soccer League regular season with a 5-0 romp over the Houston Dash Saturday night before a season-best crowd of 9,505 at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, Pa.
The Courage finished the regular season with 17 wins, 1 loss and 6 ties. They outscored opponents 53-17 (+36). The next-best goal differential in the nine-team league was +12 (40-28) by the second-place Portland Thorns FC (12-6-6 record).
The worst thing about being so dominant is how disappointing it would be to not win the championship in the playoffs.
VINC, WITHERS HALFWAY TO WINNING THE MANN CUP
The Peterbourgh Lakers (Ontario Series A Lacrosse) enter Monday night with a 2-0 lead over the visiting Maple Ridge Burrards (Western Lacrosse Association) in the best-of-seven Mann Cup, Canada’s summer indoor lacrosse championship.
The rest of the series will be in Peterborough Monday through Friday (if necessary).
The Lakers won Game 1, 14-13 in overtime (with Evan Kirk in goal) and Game 2, 10-1 (with Rochester Knighthawks star Matt Vinc in goal).
Other K-hawks with Peterborough include Cory Vitarelli, Jake Withers (32-of-44 on faceoffs, of course) and Ian Lloyd, and former Hawk Josh Currier. Hawks coach Mike Hasen is Peterborough’s coach.
Saturday’s crowd at the Carrier Dome was 29,395 for SU’s romp over Wagner. It was SU’s smallest for a home opener since 1983. Can they squeeze in 40,000 this Saturday against Florida State? SU’s average home attendance last season was 33,929.
Former Rochester Rhinos star Kenardo Forbes scored a goal and was selected Man of the Game for the USL Pittsburgh Riverhounds Friday night as former Rhinos coach Bob Lilley’s team beat Bethlehem Steel at Highmark Stadium. The Hounds are 13-4-10 and have a USL-most 15 shutouts. They’ve outscored opponents 36-17. The USL has added 9 teams for 2019 to boost the league to 42 teams. It seems strange that Rochester won’t be among them.
HAPPY BITTHDAY TO...
Monday, September 10
Desmond Trufant (28)...Jordan Staal (30)...Paul Goldschmidt (31)...Anthony Swarzak (33)...Neil Walker (33)...Joey Votto (35)...Jay Williams (37)...Ben Wallace (44)...Randy Johnson (55)...Sedale Threatt (57)...Brandon Marshall (63)...Russ Bollinger (64)...Joe Nieuwendyk (52)...Tim Hunter (58)...Mike Glenn (63)...Gary Danielson (67)...Bob Lanier (70)....Larry Nelson (71)...Charlie Waters (71)....Marlin Briscoe (73)..Jim Pappin (79). Roger Maris was born on this date in 1934 and died in 1985 at age 51. Arnold Palmer was born on this date in 1934 and died in 2016 at age 87.
Tuesday, September 11
Marcus Paige (25)...Mike Moustakas (30)...Andrew Cashner (32)...Shaun Livingston (33)...Jacoby Ellsbury (35)...Ike Diogu (35)...Mike Comrie (38)...Ed Reed (40)..Stave Foley (43)...Fred Thomas (45)...Mack Strong (47)...WWE manager Paul Heyman (53)...Ellis Bukhs (54)....Gerald Wilkins (55)...Don Mosebar (57)...Jeff Sluman (61)...Robin Cole (63)...Jonny Neumann (67)...Marty Liquori (69)...Franz Beckenbauer (73). Paul “Bear” Bryant was born on this date in 1913 and died in 1983 at age 69. Tom Landry was born on this date in 1924 and died in 2000 at age 75.
ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...
100 years ago (1918), players on both teams threatened to strike the World Series unless they were guaranteed $2,500 each for a winner’s share and $1,000 each for a loser’s share...81 years ago (1937), the Cleveland (Los Angeles) Rams lost their first NFL game...58 years ago...58 years ago (1960), Mickey Mantle hit a 643-foot home run – so they say – over the right field roof in Detroit...52 years ago (1966), Muhammad Ali TKO 12 Karl Mildenberger for the heavyweight boxing title...49 years ago (1969), the Mets swept the Montreal Expos to put them in first place for the first time...46 years ago (1972), the U.S. men’s basketball team suffered its first Olympic loss – disputed – 51-50 to the Soviet Union...44 years ago (1974), Lou Brock tied (104) and Broke (105) the MLB stolen base record...29 years ago (1989), Deion Sanders returned a punt 68 yards for a TD in the NFL five days after he hit a home run in a victory for the New York Yankees...13 years ago (1995), Pete Sampras won his third U.S. Open, beating fellow American Andre Agassi 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.
100 years ago (1918), the Boston Red Sox won the World Series 4-2 over the Chicago Cubs. A winner’s share was $1,103 and a loser’s share was $671. The Series was played early due to World War I restrictions...90 years ago (1928), Ty Cobb popped out to shortstop in his final career at-bat...82 years ago (1936), Philadelphia A’s 37-year-old pitcher Horace Lisenbee gave up 26 hits in a 17-2 loss to the White Sox. A’s manager Connie Mack wanted to rest the rest of his pitching staff...36 years ago (1982), Chris Evert won her sixth and final U.S. Open tennis title...33 years ago (1985), Pete Rose got his 4,192nd career hit to break Ty Cobb’s record...19 years ago (1999), Serena Williams defeated Martina Hingis for the U.S. Open title and her first Grand Slam title.