Matthews: Who Will Be The NFL MVP?

WHO WILL BE THE NFL’S MVP? HERE’S A DARKHORSE -- NONINATING ANDREW LUCK?

The frontrunners for NFL Most Valuable Player at various times this season have included quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and recent addition Philip Rivers.

Isn’t it time to add another quarterback to the list? How about Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts were 4-12 last season and Luck didn’t play at all after shoulder surgery.

Luck was a huge question mark entering this season. He couldn’t throw a regulation football until training camp. When the season began, he was ready to play.

The Colts got off to a 1-5 start under rookie head coach Frank Reich. The surprising turnaround began October 21 with a 37-5 home romp over Buffalo.

Indianapolis is 7-1 in its last eight games. The only loss was 6-0 at Jacksonville December 2. In their next two games, the Colts ended Houston’s nine-game winning streak and Dallas’ five-game winning streak.

Luck’s late bid for league MVP honors probably would be erased if the Colts fail to make the playoffs. They’d need to win their final two games (home Sunday against the New York Giants and at Tennessee December 3) and Pittsburgh (home Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams and at Seattle December 30) or Baltimore (Saturday at the Los Angeles Chargers and home versus Cleveland December 30).

Luck’s 2018 performance line: 375-of-557 (.673) for 3,951 yards; 34 TD passes; 13 INTs; sacked 16 times; 98.4 passer rating).

Luck probably clinched NFL Comeback Player of the Year when he took his first snap Week 1. Two more wins and he deserves to become a legitimate candidate for NHL MVP.

SOME JUICY STATS AND FACTS ON THE BILLS

Believe it or not, the Bills are outgaining opponents by 17 yards this season – 4,108 yards total offense (rank 31st at 293.4 yards per game) and 4,091 yards allowed on defense (rank 2nd at 292.2 yards allowed per game).

Baltimore is back on top in total defense, allowing 290.2 yards per game. The Bills are No. 2 at 292.2 yards allowed per game. The Colts probably are the better defensive team. They rank  1st in scoring defense (allowing 18.1 points per game) and opponents are 63.16 percent scoring in the red zone. Buffalo is t18th in scoring defense (23.8) and 28th in opponents red-zone scoring (72.73 percent).

Buffalo has allowed 40 sacks and has 31 sacks.

The Bills rank 32nd in passing offense and TD passes 9) and 31st in yards passing per game (168.7) and yards per pass attempt (6.1).

The Bills rank 9th in rushing (124.7 yards per game) but 6th in yards per attempt (4.2).

Buffalo has 20 takeaways and 28 giveaway (-8; tied for 26rth).

The Bills have 110 penalties (second-most in the NFL) for 939 yards. Opponents have 90/892.

Buffalo was the only team in the NFL last season with more runs than passes. This season, the Bills have 432 pass attempts and 417 runs.

THE NATIONAL LACROSSE LEAGUE’S NEW PLAYOFF FORMAT ISN’T FAIR

The National Lacrosse League will have two new teams this season – Philadelphia and San Diego – for a total of 11 teams.

The NLL also this week announced that 8 of the 11 teams will make the playoffs. The top four finishers in each of the two divisions will make the postseason.

The big problem is that the Eastern Division has six teams – Buffalo, Georgia, New England, Philadelphia, Rochester and Toronto – and the Western Division has only five teams – Calgary, Colorado, San Diego, Saskatchewan and Vancouver.

Obviously, it is much easier to make qualify for the playoffs in the five-team West than in the six-team East. That’s simple mathematics.

A fairer formula to make the playoffs would be the top two teams in each division plus the two teams with the next-best records.

BUFFALO BANDITS LOOK LOADED

The Buffalo Bandits appear to be a cinch to make the NLL playoffs out of the six-team Eastern Division. The team is owned by the Pegulas and the roster is loaded.

The Bandits won their season opener last Saturday night, 17-15, before 11,023 fans in Philadelphia. Buffalo was paced by Corey Small (5 goals + 1 assist), Scott Evans (2 goals + 7 assists), Dhane Smith (2 goals + 6 assists) and Josb Byrne (1 goal + 7 assists). Long-time Knighthawks star Matt Vinc got the win in goal and made 36 saves. Former Knighthawk star Josh Currier, lost in the expansion draft, led the Wings with three goals.

The Knighthawks open the season Saturday, December 29, 7:30, against Philadelphia at Blue Cross Arena at The War Memorial.

PREDICTING THE NFL IS NOT EASY...ASK SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

Here were the 2018 pre-Season NFL Predictions by Sports Illustrated:

AFC East

New England 12-4...New York Jets 9-7...Miami 7-9...Buffalo 4-12

AFC North

Pittsburgh 11-5...Baltimore 7-9...Cleveland 4-12...Cincinnati 4-12

AFC South

Jacksonville 10-6...Houston 9-7...Tennessee 8-8...Indianapolis 5-11

AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers 10-6...Denver 8-8...Kansas City 7-9...Oakland 5-11nore on the way.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is No. 2 on the list and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is No. 3. The most influential athlete is LeBron James at No. 15, just behind Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones No. 13 and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft No. 14.

THE NFL’S TOP FIVE RUNNING QUARTERBACKS

Quarterbacks generally are discouraged from running in the NFL because of the injury factor. But five QBs have run for at least 400 yards this season – Lamnar Jackson (Baltimore), Josh Allen (Buffalo), Cam Newton (Carolina), Deshaun Watson (Houston) and Mitchell Trubisky (Chicago). Here’s how they’ve fared:

Carries – Jackson 114...Newton 101...Watson 78...Allen 75...Trubisky 60

Yards rushing – Jackson 566...Allen 506...Newton 488...Watson 436...Trubisky 402

Yards per carry – Allen 6.7...Trubisky 6.7...Watson 5.6...Jackson 5.0...Newton 4.8

20+-yard runs – Allen 6...Newton 4...Jackson 3...Newton 4...Trubisky34...Jackson 3

Touchdowns – Allen 6...Newton 4...Trubisky 3...Jackson 3...Watson 2

Yards rushing/game – Allen 50.6...Jackson 40.4...Newton 34.9...Trubisky 33.5...Watson 31.1

Runs for 1st down – Newton 36...Jackson 36...Allen 33...Trubisky 27...Watson 23.

THANK YOU PENNY MARSHALL, RIP

Penny Marshall died Monday in Hollywood. She was 75.

Most people will best remember Penny for her role in the TV smash hit Laverne & Shirley. I wasn’t a fan of the show but I’ll always fondly recall Penny for being the director of A League of Their Own.

The 1992 movie was about the All-Americans Girls Professional League during World War II.

I love movies in general but I’ve usually been disappointed in movies with sports themes – particularly baseball movies.

I don’t mind admitting that A League of Their Own is my all-time favorite sports movie and among my all-time 10 favorite movies.

It was mostly funny and sometimes sad. The story was based on facts. It was compelling and exciting.

But most of all, the cast was amazing. I not only remember the actors – I remember the cast members they played:

Tom Hanks – manager Jimmy Dugan. “There’s no crying in baseball.”

Geena Davis – Dottie Henson

Madonna – F. Mae Mordabito

Lori Petty – Kit Keller

Rosie O’Donnell – Doris Murphy

Megan Cavanaugh – Marla Hooch

Jon Lovitz – Ernie Capadino.

The movie was a commercial hit. It had a $40-million budget and grossed $107.5 million in the USA. But it wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture – or anything else. Not even Madonna’s great song, This Used to be a Playground. And Penny Marshall was bypassed. Me Too came too late.

I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now.

I did some research Tuesday to find out why A League of Their Own was shut out.

I must say, it was a great year for movies. The list includes Unforgiven, A Few Good Men, The Crying Game, Scent of a Woman, The Bodyguard, Malcolm X, My Cousin Vinny, The Player, Howards End, Lorenzo’s Oil, Basic Instinct, Hoffa, Batman Returns and Last of the Mohicans.

I saw most of those movies and enjoyed them. But I liked A League of Their Own more than any of them – then and now.

Penny Marshall’s passing probably means her great movie will be appearing on assorted cable networks soon. If you haven’t seen it yet, give it a look. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

SHORT SHOTS

Popular former Rochester Red Wings manager Gene Glynn (72-72 in 2012, 77-67 in 2013 and 77-67 in 2014), a coach with the Minnesota Twins from 2015 through 2018, will be a roving instructor for the Miami Marlins next season.

Major League Soccer will expand the playoffs by two teams (from 12 to 14) next season and play the championship MLS Cup November 10 (instead of early December). The 34-game schedule will begin March 2.

Former Franklin High School, Brockport State and Rochester Zeniths basketball star Monroe “Pops” McTaw died last week of heart failure at age 67 in Atlanta. He was one of the stars on a Franklin Section V championship team, with a roster including Michael “Tree” Swinton and Bobby Moss.

The University of Buffalo is halfway home for the greatest week in the school’s sports history. The 14th-ranked basketball Bulls beat Syracuse 71-59 Tuesday night to boost their record to 11-0. It was no fluke. UB is deeper and better. The UB football team is favored by 1 ½ points over Troy in Saturday night’s Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, Ala.  UB has never won a bowl game.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Wednesday, December 19

Alexis Sanchez 30...Ian Kennedy 34...Mo Williams 36...Drayton Florence 38...Jake Plummer 44...rren Sapp 46...Santana Dotson 49...Tom Gugliotta 49...Eric Weinrich 52...Alberto “La Bomba” Tomba 52...Arvydas Sabonis 54...Eugene Goodlow 60...Kevin McHale 61...Stan/Stun Cliburn (62)...Murry Kuntz 73 (scored 51 goals for the Amerks in the 1973-74 AHL season)...former Amerk Ron Schock 75...Al Kaline 84. Paulina Gretzky 30, Jake Gyllenhaal 38, Alyssa Milano and Jennifer Beals are invited to the birthday party.

Thursday, December 20

Calvin Ridley 24...Martavis Bryant 27...David Wright 36...James Shields 37...Aubrey Huff 42...Rich Gannon 53...Tom Newberry 57...Nate Newton 57...Cecil Cooper 69. Bob Morley 34 and Jonah Hill 35 are invited to the birthday party. Rochester baseball Hall of Famer Fred Merkle was born on this date 130 years ago (1888). He died in 1958 at age 77.

Friday, December 21

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 26...Kendall Graveman 28...Mike Clevinger 28...Mark Ingram 29...Khris Davis 31...Philip Humber 36...Karrie Webb 44...Mike Alstott 45...Latroy Hawkins 46...Leon Searcy 49...Anthony Lynn 50...Joe Kocur 54...Andy Van Slyke 58. Kiefer Sutherland 52, Emmanuel Macron 41 and Jane Fonda 81 are invited to the birthday party. Walter Hagen was born on this date 126 years ago in Rochester and died in 1969 at age 76. Joe Paterno was born on this date 92 years ago (1926)  and died on this date in 2012 at age 85.

Saturday, December 22

Gabriel Medina 25...Trent Murphy 28...Zach Britton 31...Lonnie Smith 63...Ken Landreaux 64...Ron Greschner 64...Jan Stephenson 67...Ray Guy 69...Steve Garvey 70...Steve Carlton 74. Ted Cruz 48 is invited to the birthday party.

Sunday, December 23

T.J. Oshie 32...Hanley Ramirez 35...Scott Gomez 39...Ales Kotalik 40...Alge Crumpler 41...Brad Lidge 42...Petr Klima 54...Jim Harbaugh 55...Jerry Kossman 76...Paul Hornung 83. Eddie Vedder 54 and Susan Lucci 72 are invited to the birthday party.

Bob’s next column will be published in this space Wednesday, January 2. Season’s greetings.

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