Bills: Ecstasy To Agony In One Week

BILLS WENT  FROM  ECSTASY TO AGONY IN ONE WEEK..

HISTORIC UPSET IN MINNESOTA NOW LOOKS LIKE A FLUKE

My job includes spending Sunday afternoons tweeting during Buffalo Bills games. The upset victory in Minnesota was a treat to tweet. Sunday’s 22-0 loss in Green Bay was...well, it was impossible to be kind to the Bills. They were collectively awful. My tweetbook:

“Well at least the Bills won the uniform battle over the Packers.

“I’m surprised the Packers are favored by 10 points. Are they that much better than the Bills?

“By late this afternoon in the AFC East, the Bills could be 2-2 and New England could be 1-3.

“(After Green Bay tight end caught a TD pass): “How can Jimmy Graham be so open in the end zone? You can’t say he was hiding. He’s very tall.

“Two straight three-and-outs (by Buffalo) = 6-0 deficit. Seems about right.

Things got worse in a hurry. I began to get nasty. I wondered if Week 3’s upset victory in Minnesota was a fluke. A reader asked if I had a short memory: “No, I vividly remember Week 1 and Week 2. They apparently were not the flukes. Week 3 in Minnesota was a fluke.

“(Green Bay QB) Aaron Rodgers makes it look so easy. Playing against the Bills doesn’t hurt.

“Should Buffalo’s wide receivers be called NON-receivers? Worst WR group in the NFL by FARRRR! (a reader in Texas countered with ”the Cowboys” Yep, they’re bad, too.

(Then I was ever more sarcastic) “Taiwan Jone (supposedly a versatile running back who can catch the ball). Zay Jones. Why not Shirley Jones?

A reader thought Shirley Jones is deceased. I checked it out. My reply: “Shirley is alive. But she’s 84 years old and 5-foot-5. Silly of me to think she’d fit in with Taiwan and Zay.

“It isn’t good when the opposing defensive backs are faster than your wide receivers.

Green Bay led 16-0 at halftime: “It’s 16-0. It seems like it could be 61-0.?

Fred Smerlas at halftime tweeted: “The real Patriots showed up at halftime.

(My reply) “So did the real Bills...not the counterfeit Bills (who beat the Vikings 27-6).

A reader was critical of Bills defensinve coordinator Leslie Frazier. My reply: “Frazier is not the problem. The PLAYERS are.”

“Why does 1st-and-20 for the Bills seem like 1st-and-50?”

“Robert Foster runs patterns like Foster Brooks (remember him?).

“Only one quarter left. Thank goodness. You know that Green Bay is an average NFL team (with a great QB). What does that make Buffalo?”

“Not meaning to be cruel. But how did the Bills beat Minnesota?”

(The game ended Green Bay 22, Buffalo 0): “It’s the first shutout loss for the Bills since 2008...and it was well-deserved. A genuinely feeble performance.”

AROUND THE NFL

The first four quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft all started Sunday and they all lost – Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield 45-42 in overtime at Oakland in his first NFL start...Josh Rosen of Arizona in a 20-17 home loss to Seattle in his first start...Buffalo’s Josh Allen in a 22-0 loss at Green Bay and Sam Darnold of the New York Jets in a 31-12 loss at Jacksonville...Darnold is 1-3, Allen is 1-2, Mayfield is 0-1 and Rosen is 1-0.

James Conner, filling in for AWOL Pittsburgh Steelers star RB Le’Veon Bell, had a huge Week 1: 31 carries for 135 yards and 2 TD plus 5 catches for 57 yards. In the three games thereafter, he has 32 carries for 97 yards and 1 TD plus 13 catches for 107 yards.

The Giants have added former Syracuse U. star wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo to their practice squad. He was a late cut in training camp.

Adam Vinatieri (Indianapolis) set an NFL record Sunday with his 566th career field goal, topping Hall of Famer Morten Andersen. Vinatieri turns 46 in December and has no plans to retire. Andersen touted Vinatieri as a future Hall of Famer and also gave Steve Tasker a big plug for Canton.

THOUGHTS ON BASEBALL..STATS AND FACTS

Is Aaron Judge the new “face of baseball”? For the second straight season, he ranked No. 1 in best-selling jersey sale on MLB.com.

I like it. The Yankees slugger has enormous talent and by all appearances and accounts is a really nice guy. He encourages teammates on the field and in the dugout and very seldom questions the eyesight of a plate umpire.

The rest of the top 10: 2-Jose Altuve (Houston)...3-Javy Baez (Cubs)...4—Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)...5-Mookie Betts (Boston)...6-Anthony Rizzo (Cubs)...7-Kris Bryant (Cubs)...Shohei Ohtani (Angels)...9-Giancarlo Stanton (Yankees)...10-Yadier Molina (St. Louis).

The biggest surprise to me was Mike Trout (Angels), probably baseball’s best all-around player, dropping from 7th in 2017 to 11th this year. Bryce Harper (Washington) plunged from 4th in 2017 to 13th this season – deservedly so for having a disappointing season for a disappointing team in his contract year.

+++J.D. Marinez (Boston) and Christian Yelich (Milwaukee) made strong bids for Triple Crowns in their respective leagues (league rank in parentheses):

Martinez, AL -- .330 batting average (2nd)...43 HRs 92nd)...130 runs-batted-in (1st)

Yelich, NL -- .323 (1st)...36 HRs (t2nd)...109 RBI (t2nde).

+++The Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks teased their fans for much of this season before wilting badly when it really counted. The Phillies were 64-49 (15 games above .500) on August 7 and went 16-33 thereafter...The Diamondacks were 71-56 (15 games above .500) on August 22 and then went 11-24.

+++--Yadier Molina (St. Louis) became the first MLB catcher with 14 consecutive seasons with at least 100 starts. And all with one team. That alone seems worthy of election to the Hall of Fame. He ranks in the middle in most offensive categories compared to the 13 catchers already enshrined in Cooperstown and he has 8 Gold Glove for defense and 9 All-Star Games appearances.

+++Who knows what Minnesota plans to do with 2018 Rochester Red Wings MVP/Most Popular Player Willians Astudillo, but he probably showed enough in his first MLB opportunity to start next season in the majors somewhere. He plays several positions, including catcher, he’s a fan favorite wherever he goes and he has established himself as the best contract hitter in pro baseball.

Astudillo with Minnesota this season: 239 games; .355 batting average (33 for 93); 9 runs; 4 doubles; 1 triple; 3 HRs; 21 RB I; 2 walks; 34 strikeouts.

--Two 2017 Rochester Red Wings had strong rookie performances in the AL this season:

Daniel Palka (White Sox) – 134 games; .240 (100-for-417); team-leading  27 HRs; 67 RBI; 30 walks; 153 Ks

Niko Goodrum (Tigers) – 131 games; .245 (109-for-444); 29 doubles; 3 triples; 16 HRs; 53 RBI; 42 walks; 132 Ks.

SABRES AND AMERKS OPEN THIS WEEK

The Buffalo Sabres and Rochester Americans open their seasons this week.

The NFL Sabres open at home Thursday against the Boston Bruins and home  Saturday against the New York Rangers. The AHL Amerks open with home games against the Charlotte Checkerts Friday and Saturday.

Reasonable goals for each team; The Sabres improve at least 20 points in the NHL standings and the AHL Amerks win a playoff series.

The assorted oddsmakers are picking Buffalo to improve over last season but not contend for the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Cup odds: BetOnline 50-to-1 (better than 8 teams)...SportingNews 66-to 1 (better than 5 teams)... Bovada 100-to-1 (better than three teams).

Bob’s projection: The Sabres to improve by 23 points in the standings (from an NHL-fewest 32 points last season to 85 this season). That would be impressive but not enough to make the playoffs. Columbus and  Columbus and New Jersey were the last two Eastern Conference teams to make the playoffs last season. They each had 97 points in the standings.

The Amerks last won a playoff series in 2005 and have lost seven straight series since. They last won the Calder Cup in 1996. The defense is loaded. The veteran goalies should be OK. The big question again is will Rochester have enough firepower to be a legitimate Cup threat.

PAST U.S. RYDER CUP HEROES AND ZEROES

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson saw their career Ryder Cup records go from bad to worse in last weekend’s U.S. 17 ½ to 10 1/23 loss to Europe.

Tiger was 0-4 (13-21-3 lifetime) and Phil was 0-2 (18-22-7).

Here are some other prominent American golfers who struggled in Ryder Cup competition:

Fred Couples 7-9-4...Ben Crenshaw 3-8-1...Jim Furyk (this year’s captain) 10-20-4...Davis Love III 9-12-5...Mark O’Meara 4-9-1...Mike Souchak 5-10...Curtis Strange 6-12-2...Steve Stricker 3-7-1.

Here are some of the U.S. golfers who thrived in the Ryder Cup:

Julius Boros 9-3-4...Billy Casper 20-10-7...Jimmy Demeret 6-0...Dow Finsterwald 9-3-1...Raymond Floyd 12-16-3...Walter Hagen 7-1-1...Hale Irwin 13-5-2...Tom Kite 15-9-4...Tony Lema 8-1-2...Gene Littler 14-5-8...Larry Nelson 9-3-1...Jack Nicklaus 17-8-3...Arnold Palmer 22-8-2...Gene Sarazen 7-2-3...Sam Snead 10-2-1...J.C. Snead 9-2...Lee Trevino 17-7-6...Lanny Wadkins 20-11-3...Tom Watson 10-4-1...Tom Weiskopf 7-2-1.

SHORT SHOTS

Great try by Syracuse U. in Saturday’s 27-23 loss at 24-point favored Clemson. Would a victory have topped the Buffalo Bills 27-6 upset over the Minnesota Vikings? The Orange deserve to sneak into this week’s Associated Press Top 25. A victory would’ve put Dino Babers on the list of Coach of the Year candidates.

Syracuse U. basketball coach Jim Boeheim doesn’t mind critics who motivate his players by underestimating his team before a season. This one apparently will be no exception. Street & Smith’s popular College Basketball Yearbook ranks the Orange seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference (behind Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Florida State) and 22nd in the nation.

Tickets for SU basketball individual games are on sale – except versus Duke February 23. They’ll cost a minimum of $90. Season tickets including the Duke game) are available starting at $250.

Here’s a painful body shot to pro boxing. The October 27 middleweight championship fight between Daniel Jacobs and Sergiy Derevyanchenko will be the final bout carried by HBO. The cable network began carrying pro boxing on January 22, 1973, when George Foreman KO’d then heavyweight champion Joe Frazier. HBO has carried 1,111 fights in 45 years.

 HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Monday, October 1

Xander Boegarts 26...Alex Chiasson 28...Matt Cain 34...Domenic Pittis 44...Alexei Zhitnik 48...Mark McGwire 55..Jeff Reardon 63....Greta Waitz 65...Conrad Dobler 68...Rod Carew 73. Randy Quaid 68,  Julie Andrews 83 and Jimmy Carter 94 are invited to the birthday party.

Tuesday, October 2

T.J. Yeldon 25...Lance McCullers Jr. 25...Shane Larkin 26...Aaron Hicks 29..Phil Kessel 31....Joe Ingles 31...Tyson Chandler 36...Eddie Guardado 48...Glen Wesley 50...Jana Novotna 50...Michael Brooks 54...Mark Rypien 56...Glenn Anderson 58...Tim Vogler 62...Jack Brownschidle 63...Don Luce 70...Maury Wills 86. Kelly Ripa 48, Sting 67 and Don McLean are invited to the birthday party.

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS HISTORY...

October 1

115 years ago (1983), the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Boston Americans in the first-ever World Series game...99 years ago (1919), the Cincinnati Reds beat the Chicago Black Sox 9-1 in the first game of the World Series...97 years ago (1921), Rochester’s Walter Hagen won the PGA Championship, 3 and 2 over England’s Jim Barnes...86 years ago (1932), Babe Ruth hit his :called shot home run at Wrigley Field in Game 3 of the World Series...57 years ago (1961), Roger Maris hit his single-season record 61st home run...51 years ago (1967), Richard Petty won the Wilkes 400 for his 10th consecutive NASCAR victory...43 years ago (1975), Muhammad Ali defeated Joe Frazier  in 14 in the “Thrilla in Manila”...14 years ago (1994), the NHL owners locked out the players. The stoppage lasted 103 days and the season was shortened from 84 to 48 games.

October 2

102 years ago (1916), Phillies pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander recoded his record 16th shutout of the season...71 years ago (1947), Yankees catcher Yogi Berra hit the first pinch-hit HR in World Series history...64 years ago (1954), the underdog New York Giants completed a four-game sweep over Cleveland in the World Series...38 years ago (1980), 38-year-old Muhammad Ali came out of two-year retirement to beat previously undefeated heavyweight champion Larry Holmes...30 years ago (1988), the Minnesota Twins became the first American League team to break 3million in attendance for a season...2 years ago (2016), Vin Scully called his final game for the Los Angeles Dodgers after a record 67 M:B seasons...the U.S. regained the Ryder Cup with a 17-11 win at Hazeltine National GC.

Bob Matthews' Column

Bob Matthews' Column

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