Matthews: Bills Are Better....But So Are The Jets And Browns

BILLS ARE BETTER – SO ARE THE JETS AND THE BROWNS...

MORE BULLETS FOR THREE YOUNG GUNSLINGERS

The Buffalo Bills are a better football team on Wednesday than they were when this week started.

That’s a good thing because general manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott simply had to start building a decent offense to complement a relatively solid defense.

They delivered by adding wide receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley, tight end Tyler Croft, running back Frank Gore and linemen Mitch Morse, Ty Nsekhe and Jon Feliciano.

Quarterback Josh Allen finally has some quality targets. Who isn’t looking forward to Allen throwing deep to speedsters John Brown and Robert Foster?

It’s a good thing the Bills are improved because they’ll play two games against AFC East rival New York Jets and a road game against Cleveland this season. .

The Jets and Browns have added at least as much juice to their offenses in recent days.

The Jets landed super running back Le’Veon Bell Tuesday night (earlier added wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Josh Bellamy) and the Browns traded for super wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. He’ll join WR and former LSU teammate Jarvis Landry, plus running backs Nick Chubb and eventually Kareem Hunt (maybe he’ll still be suspended when the Bills visit Cleveland).

The relatively low salaries of second-year quarterbacks Josh Allen, Sam Darnold (Jets) and Baker Mayfield (Cleveland) helped their teams afford the big-name additions to maximize their talents.

The Bills will be much more fun to watch on offense this season. But so will the Jets and the Browns.

WISHFUL THINKING: COULD BILLS BE NFL’S NO. 1 DEFENSE IIN 2019?

Last NFL, the top two teams in total defense (not as important as points allowed) were:

1--Baltimore 292.9 yards allowed per game

2—Buffalo 294.1 yards allowed per game.

Do you think the Bills could be No. 1 this season. The Ravens have lost four starters on defense: C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle, Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs.

ARE A FEW MAJOR CHANGES IN STORE FOR BASEBALL? WOULD THEY HELP?

The independent Atlantic League has agreed to play ball with Major League Baseball by experimenting with a few changes – some rather earth-shaking – during this season. They include eliminating catcher-pitcher visits, increasing the size of the bases and reducing time between innings and pitching changes. The Atlantic League already has a pitch clock.

I’m a life-long baseball lover but I fully support any suggestions to increase the pace of the games. I’m frustrated by the players who insist that their sport is in great shape and needs no modifications.

Great baseball writer Peter Gammons for ESPN recently mentioned four drastic measures that have been discussed:

1—Robot umpires to help the human umpires call balls and strikes. According to ESPN data, the correct-call rate on balls and strikes in 2018 and 91.1 percent. That sounds way high, but...

Bob’s take: Forget it. What’s next – robot players? Umpires are part of the game. Fans love to boo umpires. Booing robots would take a lot of the fun and passion out of the game.

2—End the shift. The new rule would require that two infielders must be on each side of second base when the pitch is released. The penalty would be a called ball on the pitch. The shifts reduce hits and runs. Most fans prefers hits and runs over ground outs and goose eggs on the scoreboard.

Bob’s take: It would be a drastic change, but I’m all for the anti-shift rule. I know left-handed pull hitters would agree with me.

3—Three-batter minimum for a pitcher.In 2018, relief pitchers faced one batter 1,145 times and two batters 1,143 times. Making them face a minimum of three batters wouldn’t be asking too much of the pitchers and definitely would speed up the games.

Bob’s take: Of course. The sooner the better.

4—Move the mound back: from 60-feet, 6 inches to 62 feet, 6 inches. It was changed from 50 feet to 60 feet, 6 inches in 1893, when the average pitcher was around 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds. Current pitchers are much larger and throw much harder. Pitchers overmatch the batters far too often. There are way too many strikeouts. Moving the mound back would result in more contact and more action.

Bob’s take: After 126 years, I think it would be time to move the mound back. I would suggest 61 feet, 6 inches or 62 feet, 0 inches. A gradual change would make it easier for the pitchers to adjust. I don’t expect the mound to be pushed back. Too drastic. Unfortunately, in my opinion.

A SUPER AHL SHOWDOWN FRIDAY-SATURDAY: AMERKS AT THE CHECKERS

When the Rochester Amerks opened this American Hockey League season with back-to-back home losses to the Charlotte Checkers – 6-2 October 5 and 4-2 October 6 – who could have guessed that 5 ½ months later, Rochester and Charlotte would be the two best teams in the 31-team league:

Charlotte 39-15-6-1 record; 85 points in the standings; outscoring opponents 200-165 (+35)

Rochester 38-18-3-2 record; 81 points in the standings; outscoring opponents 206-171 (+35).

Both teams have outstanding records on the road – a sign of a quality team at any pro hockey level: Rochester 19-6-3-1 and Charlotte 21-9-2-1.

The Amerks have a better power play (21.5 percent to Charlotte’s 18.0 percent) and the Checkers have the edge in penalty killing (85.3 percent to 82.2 percent).

The Amerks, coming off three straight victories last weekend, host the Utica Comets Wednesday night, 7:05 p.m. It will be a tune-up for the encore of the season-opening two-game series between Rochester and charlotte. They’ll play in Charlotte’s Bojangles Coliseum this time. It could be a Calder Cup playoffs preview.

If all goes well for the Amerks, they could be alone on top of the AHL by Saturday night.

GONZAGA DIDN”T DESERVE NO. 1 RANKING – BUT SHOCKING LOSS MIGHT BE A BLESSING

I didn’t think Gonzaga deserved to be ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press basketball rankings the last few weeks. They had the best record in Division 1 and they’re a very good team – but they wouldn’t have had a 30-2 record entering Tuesday night’s West Coast Conference championship game against 15-point underdog St. Mary’s if they played in the rugged Atlantic Coast Conference instead of in the West Coast Conference.

Gonzaga’s 21-game winning streak ended Tuesday night with a shocking 60-47 loss to Saint Mary’s in the WCC championship game.No one saw this coming.

In this week’s Associated Press poll, Gonzaga was No. 1 and had 41 first-place votes. Distant No. 2 Virginia had the other 23 first-place voters. Cheers to the 23voters who felt Virginia’s 28-2 record in the rugged ACC was more impressive than Gonzaga’s 2902 record, including 16-0 in the WCC by an average margin of 27 points against Saint Mary’s, BYU, San Francisco, Loyola Marymount, Santa Clara, San Diego, Pepperdine, Pacific and Portland.

The Coaches Poll had also had Gonzaga No. 1 (28 first-place votes) and Virginia No. 2 with the 4 other first-place votes.

Gonzaga entered this week’s WCC tournament leading the nation in scoring (90.2 points per game), scoring margin (24.9 points per game), field-goal percentage (.53.6) and assists-to-turnover ratio (1.80).

Gonzaga’s best win was over full-strength Duke 89-87 Nov. 21 in the Maui Invitational. The only losses by the Zags were 76-73 to Tennessee and 103-90 to North Carolina in back-to-back games in December.

During Gonzaga’s march through the relatively soft WCC this regular season, the Zags crushed St. Mary’s 94-46 (that’s no typo) at home and 69-55 on the road.

None of that mattered Tuesday night. The 15-point underdog Gaels (now 21-11 and no longer a bubble team because it won this conference championship game) dictated the pace of the game. They milked the clock and shut down Gonzaga’s vaunted fast break. The Zags shot horribly (18-for-48, 37.5 percent field goals and 2-for-17. 11.8 percent from 3-point range).

Gonzaga is an excellent team. They might well win the Big Dance. The Zags simply had a rare off night.

In fact, the lost might help Gonzaga in the long run. They might still be one of four No. 1 seeds on this week’s Selection Sunday and they won’t be overconfident entering the NCAA Tournament.

AFC EAST DOMINATION BY THE PATRIOTS REALLY IS REMARKABLE

Frustrated fans of the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins might want to pass up this item.

Here is how the New England Patriots have dominated the AFC East since 2001:

New England 220-68 record in the regular season...31-10 record in the postseason...made the playoffs 16 times including the last 10 ...won six Super Bowls...lost three Super Bowls...16 winning seasons (including the last 10 in a row).

Miami Dolphins 133-155 record in the regular season (87 games behind the Patriots)...0-3 record in the postseason...made the playoffs three times (most recently 2016).

New York Jets 132-156 record in the regular season (88 games behind the Patriots)...6-6 record in the postseason...made the playoffs 7 times (most recently 2010).

Buffalo Bills 119-169 record in the regular season (101 games behind the Patriots)...0-1 in the postseason...made the playoffs once (2017).

SHORT SHOTS

The playoffs-bound Rochester Lancers will play at the top-seeded Chicago Mustangs, Thursday, March 21, in Chicago.

ESPNNews launched a one-hour sports betting and information show this week. Daily Wager will be on 6 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and hosted by ESPN sports betting analyst Doug Kezirian. It is the latest reaction to the spread of legal sports betting throughout the country.

Baseball America’s top states for top prospects for this June’s entry draft are no shock considering their climates: Texas 28, California 26, Florida 24, North Carolina 21 and Georgia 14.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Wednesday, March 13

Tristan Thompson 28...Marcell Dareus 29...Sandy Leon 30...Caron Butler 39...Johan Santana 40...Dan Wilkinson 46...Bobby Jackson 46...Trent Dilfer 47...Curtis Conway 48...Chris Zorich 50...Will Clark 55...Cliff Robinson 59...Andy Bean 66...Joe Bellino 81. William Macy (69) and Charo (78) are invited to the birthday party.

Thursday, March 14

Simone Biles 22...Marwin Gonzalez 30...Stephen Curry 31...Ahmad Brooks 35...Ron Dayne 41...Antwain Smith 47...NBA Larry Johnson 50...Greg Biekert 50...Darcy Wakaluk 53...Kevin Brown 54....Richard Migliore 55...Wes Unseld 73. Billy Crystal 71, Quincy Jones 86 and Michael Caine 86 are invited to the birthday party.

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

March 13

104 years ago (1915), Dodgers manager Wilbert Robinson tried to catch a baseball dropped from an airplane but the pilot substituted a grapefruit...65 years ago (1954), Milwaukee Braves outfielder Bobby Thomson broke an ankle and was replaced in the lineup by Hank Aaron...58 years ago (1961), Floyd Patterson KOd Ingemar Johansson in 6 for the heavyweight boxing title.

March 14

65 years ago (1954), the NBA Baltimore Bullets snapped a 32-game road losing streak...51 years ago (1962), Gordie Howe became the second NHL player to score 500 goals...50 years ago (1969), Barbara Jo Rubin became the first female jockey to win a race at Aqueduct...47 years ago (1972), the Cincinnati Royals announced they would be moving to Kansas City...39 years ago (1980), 22 U.S. amateur boxers were among the 87 fatalities in the crash of a Polish airliner...2 years ago (2017), the world’s oldest golf club, Muirfield in Scotland, voted to allow women as members for the first time after 273 years.

Bob Matthews' Column

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