Matthews: Bills Need Help At OL and WR

BILLS NEED HELP AT OL AND WR...IS THERE ONE WORTH NO. 9 PICK?

The Buffalo Bills will have the No. 9 overall pick in the 2019 NFL college draft.

Buffalo’s most pressing needs appear to be on the offensive line or at wide receiver.

If there isn’t a player at t hose positions worthy of the ninth pick, might GM Brandon Beane trade down?

Since the 1970 NFL draft, Buffalo had the No. 9 overall pick only once – running back C.J. Spiller in 2010.  He was a mild (at best) disappointment.

Since 1970, the No. 9 picks at wide receiver were Jerome Barkum (1972), Koren Robinson (2001), Roger Williams (2004), Ted Ginn Jr. (2007), and John Ross (2017). That is not an impressive quintet.

The offensive linemen picked No. 9 were collectively much more impressive: Bruce Matthews (1983), Kevin Allen (1985), John Rienstra (1986), Richmond Webb (1990), Lincoln Kennedy (1993), Tyron Smith (2011), Ereck Flowers (2015) and Mike McGlinchey (2018).

Other productive No. 9 overall picks included LB Brian Urlacher (200), LB Luke Kuechly (2012), DT Jerome Brown (1987), RB Fred Taylor (1998), LB Anthony Barr (2014), DE Cedric Hardman (1970), RB Gerald Riggs (1982), DT B.J. Raji (2009) and RB Otis Armstrong (1973).

POSSIBLE FIRST-ROUND NO. 9 PICKS FOR THE BILLS

The flood of 2019 NFL mock drafts has begun and here are the assorted projected picks for the Buffalo Bills:

WR A.J. Brown (Ole Miss)

DE Rashan Gary (Michigan)

WR N’Keal Harry (Arizona State)

DT Dexter Lawrence (Clemson)                                                                                                                

OT Greg Little (Ole Miss)

WR DK Metcalf (Ole Miss)

OT Jawaan Taylor (Florida)

WR Devin White (LSU).

OT Jonah Williams (Alabama.

BILLS 2019 SCHEDULE DOES NOT LOOK SUPER FORMIDABLE

Here are the opponents for the 2019 Bills:

Home – New England (11-5 record in 2018)...New York Jets 4-12...Miami (7-9)...Denver 6-10...Baltimore 10-6...Washington 7-9...Philadelphia (9-7), Cincinnati (6-10). Combined record: 60-68

Road – New England (11-5)...New York Jets 4-12...Miami (7-9)...New York Giants (5-11)...Cleveland (7-8-1)...Tennessee (9-7)...Dallas (10-6)...Pittsburgh (9-6-1).  Combined record: 62-64-2.

Games versus 2018 playoff teams -- only 5, New England (2), Baltimore, Philadelphia, Dallas.

SEVEN NEW NFL PLAYOFF TEAMS

Of the 12 teams in this season’s NFL playoff field, seven did not participate in last season’s postseason: Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles Chargers and Seattle.

Those seven teams were a combined 75-37 this season after going 49-63 in 2017.

If there will be seven new teams in next season’s playoffs, is it crazy to think Buffalo could be among them?

SOME JUICY BUFFALO BILLS NUMBERS

The Bills outgained opponents by 72 yards – 4,778 to 4,706.

Ranked 30th in total offense (298.6 yards per game), ahead of Miami (289.9) and Arizona (241.6).

Ranked 9th in rush offense (174.6), 21st in yards per rush (4.2) and t11th in rushing TDs (15).

Ranked 31st in pass offense (174.6), 32nd in TD passes (13), 32nd in passer rating (62.6) and 2nd in most INTs thrown (23).

Tied for 6th-most penalties (116) and 5th in most yards penalized (992)....opponents had 99 penalties for 976 yards.

31 more pass attempts than rushing attempts (499 to 468).

Ranked 2nd in total defense (294.1 yards allowed per game), 1st in pass defense (179.2) and 16th in rush defense (114.9).

36 sacks by and 41 times sacked (-5).

27 takeaways and 32 giveaways (-5).

30th in scoring offense (16.8 points per gaqme) and 18th in scoring defense (23.4 points allowed per game).

14th in average time of possession 3029.

21st in average home attendance (64,961).

SABRES NEED SCORING BOOST TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS

The Buffalo Sabres obviously are on the upgrade but – after a hot start – there are signs that a lack of secondary scoring could cost the team its first trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs since 2011.

Through November 27 – 16-6-2 record (34 of 48 possible points in the standings)...,outscored opponents 73-66 (+7)

After November 27 – 5-7-4 record (14 of 32 possible points in the standings)...outscored by opponents 49-42 (-7).  =Buffalo has 10 goals in the last six games.

Buffalo’s defense has been OK and the goaltending has been better than OK. The big problem is diminished scoring. Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner have combined for 41 goals of the team’s 112 goals. Next-best is Jason Pominville with 9 goals, and he has only 1 goal in his last 21 games.

Too many Buffalo forwards have too few goals. Expect more traffic between Buffalo and Rochester the rest of this season as the Sabres look for more scoring punch.

RED WINGS PROMOTIONS FOR 2019 INCLUDE...

The Rochester Red Wings celebrated New Year’s Day with a news release celebrating 100 days until Opening Night April 11 and a sneak “peak” at a few promotions for 2019. They include:

Rochester Hop Bitters Night May 25. It will salute the colorful team that represented Rochester from 1912 through 1920.

ROC the ROC Night on July 26.

The Office Night featuring David Baker – aka Stanley Hudson – July 31.

Bobblehead nights for usher Uncle Phil July 24, a Plates bobble August 8 and hockey’s Brian Gionta August 11.

Five Bark in the Park games.

ZOOperstars June 15 and August 10.

Memorial Day Celebration May 27 ($5 tickets and 50-cent hot dogs).

PRO Concert July 13.

POSITIVE NOTE ON THE MINNESOTA TWINS FARM SYSTEM 

The Minnesota Twins had baseball’s fifth-most improved farm system in 2018, according to Jim Callis of MLBcom.

The Twins are ranked behind only Seattle, Houston, Kansas City and Detroit for improvement in quality and depth of prospects in the last 12 months.

Minnesota vaulted from “just missing the MLB Pipeline Top 10 rankings last March” to “close to the top five” now.

Left-handed hitting outfielder Alex Kirilloff and former No. 1 overall draft pick shortstop Royce Lewis “now rank among the most elite prospects in the game.”

Kiriloff and Lewis and expected to start the 2019 season at Double-A Pensacola and – if all goes well – join the Rochester Red Wings for the second half of the season.

SHORT SHOTS

Troy Tulowitzki is a relatively cheap gamble for the New York Yankee, who will pay hom inly the MLB minimum of $550,000 this season. The Toronto Blue Jays are responsible for the rest of his $38 million contract for 2019-2020. He’s 34 and injury prone. He didn’t play at all in 2018 after ankle surgery. The plan is for him to play shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns from Tommy John surgery. I believe it won’t take long for Yankee fan to really miss Gregorius.

Pro bowling returns to TV on Sunday, 11 a.m., on FS1, with the Hall of Fame Classic in Arlington, Texas. It will be carried on Sundays, usually at 1 p.m., through March 10, on FS1 of FOX, and weeknights, mostly Monday evenings, through mid-July.

It was great to see old-fashioned weekend  crowds in back-to-back nights last holiday weekend: 8,061 Friday for a 5-1 Amerks romp over the Toronto Marlies and 8,144 Saturday for a season-opening 13-9 Knighthawks win over the Philadelphia Wings.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Wednesday, January 2

Ronald Darby 25...Heather O’Reilly 34...Kirk Heinrich 38...Scott Mitchell 51...Pernell Whitaker 55...David Cone 56...Edgar Martinez 56...Craig James 58...Raymond Clayborn 64...Robbie Ftorek 67....Bill Madlock 68...Royle Stillman 68...Mike Newlin 70...Calvin Hill 72. Kate Bosworth 36, Taye Diggs 48, Cuba Gooding Jr. 51 and Tia Carrere 52 are invited to the birthday party.

Thursday, January 3

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson 24...Doug McDermott 27...Alex Meyer 28...Eli Manning 38...David Tyree 39...Mike Gandy 40...A.J. Burnett 42...Michael Schumacher 50...Cheryl Miller 55...Jim Everett 56...Jacques Cloutier 59...Willy T. Ribbs 63....Rick MacLeish 69...Mike Walton 74...Bobby Hull 80. Mel Gibson 63, Victoria Principal 69 and Stephen Stills 74 are invited to the birthday party.

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

January 2

97 years ago (1922), California and Washington & Jefferson tied 0-0 in the eighth Rose Bow...74 years ago (1945), Kentucky began a 130-game home winning streak in college basketball; it ended in 1955...53 years ago (1966), the Green Bay Packers beat the Cleveland Browns 23-12 in the NFL championship game...23 years ago (1996), No. 1 Nebraska beat No. 2 Florida 62-24 in the 25th Fiesta Bowl.

January 3

36 years ago (1983), Tony Dorsett of Dallas set an NFL record with a 99-yard TD run against Minnesota...26 years ago (1993), the Buffalo Bills rallied from a 32-point deficit behind QB Frank Reich to defeat the Houston Oilers 41-38 in overtime in a wild-card playoff game....18 years ago (2001), No. 10 Oklahoma beat No. 2 Florida State 13-2 on the third BCS national championship game.

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