MatthewsL A Not-So-Happy Look At The Bills And Josh Allen

A NOT-SO-HAPPY LOOK AT THE BILLS AND JOSH ALLEN

Thursday’s ESPN NFL on-line filler will not make you happy if you’re a fan of the Buffalo Bills.

Bill Barnwell subject: “Realistic Goals for the NFL’s 10 Worst Teams.”

Not surprisingly, Buffalo made the list. Not everyone thinks the Bills will be significantly better this season.

I don’t believe the Bills will be among the NFL’s 10 worst teams this season. I think Buffalo will be an average or slightly-above average team.

But Barnwell has some interesting takes on Bills QB Josh Allen. Not much is flattering. For example:

“Josh Allen was excellent as a scrambler (last season) but he was far worse as a passer than Tyrod Taylor...Allen’s receivers dropped 4.1 percent of his passes, which was above the league average of 3.5 percent, but Baker Mayfield, Patrick Mahomes, Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck all had a higher percentage of their passes dropped and they still managed to piece together pretty good numbers.

“The NFL’s Next Gen stats say Allen threw deep more frequently than any other passer in the league, throwing an even 20 percent of his passes 20 or more yards in the air. Nobody else topped 14.7 percent...Even after you adjust for his target depth, though, Allen struggled. Given where Allen’s receivers were relative to the defense when his passes were thrown, the league’s model would have expected him to complete 59.6 percent of his throws. He instead completed 52.8 percent. The 6.8 percent difference between those two figures was the second-highest among passers with 300 attempts or more, topped only by Blake Bortles at 6.9 percent.

“The good news, of course, is that Allen has plenty of time to9 develop...General manager Brandon Beane replaced several replacement-level starters with players who are likely to contribute at or around the league average...I wonder if the best sign of progress for Allen might be seeing his rushing numbers take a dramatic decline. It’s difficult to see him keeping up his prior level of success on scrambles over the long term....If he continues to throw one of every five passes as a bomb and scrambles effectively, Allen can be productive with a sub-60% completion rate. If the Bills ask Allen to make intermediate throws more frequently and ask him to work through his progressions at the expense of scrambles, though, Allen could top 60% and still be well below league-average as a quarterback in a league in which passers completed 65.5 percent of their passes a year ago.”

For the record, ESPN’s Football Power Index on the lousy 10’s chances to make the playoffs: Arizona 4.2 percent...Miami 4.8 percent... Cincinnati 7.9 percent...Tampa Bay 9.1 percent...Washington 9.9 percent...New York Giants 9.9 percent...Oakland 10.6 percent...Bills 13.8 percent...Detroit 16.9 percent....Denver 17.2 percent.

NO SUPERSTARS BUT THE TRAVERS STILL HAS AN INTERESTING FIELD

The 150th Travers Stakes, Saratoga’s “Midsummer Derby”, will be missing superstars Game Winner and Maximum Security on Saturday in the Spa’s annual feature race, but their absence emboldened other top owners and trainers enter what appears to be a contentious 12-horse field of three-year-olds going 1 ¼ miles (5 to 6 p.m., on FOX).

Here’s my worst-to-first forecast:

12th – Scars Are Cool (post position 10; jockey Tyler Gaffalione; trainer Stanley Hough; 3 career starts: 1 win-0 seconds-1 third; career earnings $58,020): This maiden winner has a patient stalking style but appears outclassed at this early stage of his career.

11th – Chess Chief (post position 8; jockey Mike Smith; trainer Dallas Stewart; 10 starts: 1-1-1; $195,530): This Virginia-bred maiden winner tries Grade 1 competition for the first time...a one-run closer at his best...fourth in the Indiana Derby and second in the Wes Virginia Derby...he’ll be facing better on Saturday....a rarity: big-money rider Mike Smith is in a major race he probably can’t win.

10th – Laughing Fox (post position 4; jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. trainer Steve Asmussen; 9 starts: 3-0-0; $$421,018): This son of Union Rags has a decent resume, including fifth in the Preakness Stakes followed byfourth in the Grade II Jim Dandy. A closer who’d benefit from a strong early pace. Might not get it.

9th – Everfast (post position 5; jockey Martin Chuan; trainer Dale Romans; 13 starts: 1-2-1; $549,805) – A tough horse to gauge...second to War of Will in the Preakness at odds of 29-to-1...seventh in the Belmont Stakes but beaten by only seven lengths...fourth in the rich Haskell Invitational...decent late kick...24-year-old Chuan was a sensation in his native Peru and Romans is touting him as a-future star in North America.

8th --Endorsed (post position 11; jockey Joel Rosario; trainer Kiaran McLaughlin; 4 starts: 2-1-0; $1124,850): McLaughlin says this relatively inexperienced colt should like the 1 1/4-mile distance....second to Highest Honors in the Curlin Stakes July 26 at Saratoga...Rosario does well riding closers.

7th – Looking At Bikinis (post position 9; jockey Javier Castellano; trainer Chad Brown; 3 starts: 2-0-1; $98,350): Third as the favorite in the Curlin Stakes July 26 at Saratoga...could set the pace in a field void of speedballs...off track might help...Castellano has won the Travers a record six times.

6th – Mucho Gusto (post position 7; jockey Joseph Talamo; trainer Bob Baffert; 8 starts: 5-2-1; $630,800): Always tries...has won four Grade 3 races and two seconds in Grade 1 stakes.......in the money all eight career starts...impressive workjouts at Delo Mar in California convinced Baffert to enter here.

5th – Code Of Honor (post position 2; jockey John Velazquez; trainer Shug McGaughey III; 7 starts: 3-2-1; $1,215,820): A good third in the Florida Derby; rallied inside in the Kentucky Derby and was placed second; skipped the Preakness and Belmont Stakes; won the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes July 6...a stalker...mile might be ideal distance...a one-run horse who needs a heady ride.

4th – Highest Honors (post position 3; jockey Luis Saez; trainer Chad Brown; 3 starts: 2-1-0; $114,800): Stretched out in his three races and won the last two, including the July 26 Curlin Stakes, the Spa prep for the Travers... lacks experience but obviously talented...Brown will be leading trainer at the Spa for the fourth straight year...worth a long look.

SHOW– Tax (post position 12; jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr.; trainer Danny Gargan; 8 starts: 3-2-1; $756,300): Claimed for $50,000 out of a winning effort at Keeneland last October...won the Grade 3 Withers, second to Tacitus in the Wood Memorial, 14th in the sloppy Kentucky Derby, fourth in the Belmont Stakes and a win over Tacitus in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga July 27...tough far outside post but Irad Ortiz is a top-shelf rider.

PLACE – Owendale (post position 1; jockey Florent Giroux; trainer Brad Cox; 10 starts: 4-1-2; $668,725): In top form...Beyer Speed Figures above 90 three straight races...rallied for third in the Preakness Stakes and then won the Grade 3 Ohio Derby...stalking style.

WIN – Tacitus (post position 6; jockey Jose Ortiz;trainer William Mott; 7 starts: 3-2-1; $1,353,000): Another chance... spectacularly bred gray son of Tapit...won the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby...beat Tax in the Wood Memorial April 6 at Aqueduct...rallied for third in the Kentucky Derby slop...skipped the Preakness...closed for second to Sir Winston in the Belmont Stakes...stumbled at the start of the Jim Dandy and finished a game second to Tax...Will try blinkers for the first time.

HAVE BAT, WILL TRAVEL: CALL TURTLE (LA TORTUGA)

Willians Astudillo was 3-for-5 for the Rochester Red Wings Thursday night in a 20-3 home romp over the Buffalo Bisons. Just another night at the Frontier Field office for the popular La Tortuga (The Turtle).

It’s been an interesting season for Astudillo, who plays a lot of positions and hits at all of them.

Astudilio has had his ups and downs this season, including a surprising demotion from Minnesota to Rochester, a much-deserved return to Minnesota, and few injuries and rehab stints.

Here are Astudillo’s batting lines this season:

Minnesota (MLB) – 39 games; .263 batting average (35-of-133); 7 doubles; 3c HRs; 13 RBI; 2 walks; 5 strikeouts.

Pensacola (Double-A) – 5 games; .353 (6-of-17); 1 doubles; 2 HRs; 4 RBI; 0 walks; 0 strikeouts.

Rochester (Triple-A) – 11 games; .500 (24-of-48); 3 HRs; 13 RBI; 1 walk; 1 strikeout.

In 198 official at-bats he has 6 strikeouts. He also has 3 walks.

Last season, in 30 games with Minnesota, he batted .355 (33-of-33), with 4 doubles, 1 triple, 3 HRs, 21 RBI, 2 walks and 3 strikeouts.

It won’t be a surprise if he makes a significant contribution to the Twins in September if not sooner.

SHORT SHOTS

The New York Yankees are looking disinterested and playing their worst baseball of the season. The host Oakland A’s just finished sweeping the New York F’s. Right now, the Mets are the best MLB team representing New York City. They have an underrated lineup, send a solid starting pitcher to the mound every game and are having fun playing the game. Maybe the Yankees will wake up this weekend against the loaded Los Angeles Dodgers, who are 51-16 at home.

Entering Friday night’s harness racing card at Batavia Downs post-time favorites are winning at a 50.3 percent clip (87 out of 169 races) and 56 winners were from the No. 1 post position (56-for-169). Suggestion: as always, betting on a horse from the No. 8 post position tends to hazardous to one’s wealth (3 wins in 82 starts) at a half-mile harness track. You need to have much the best horse or extraordinary good luck.

HAPPY SPORTS BIRTHDAYS TO...

Friday, August 23

Tyler Glasnow 26...Seth Curry 29...Mike Yastrzemski 29...Jeremy Lin 31...Darren Collison 32...Rex Grossman 39...Dez White 40...Kobe Bryant 41...Hugh Douglas 48...Jeremy Schaap 50...Cortez Kennedy 51...Markus Ketterer 52...Rik Smits 53...Mark Ingram 54...Jeff Manto 55...Ray Ferraro 55...Kyle Clifton 57...Chris Fowler 57...Julio Franco 61...Mike Boddicker 62...Ron Blomberg 71...Joe Andruzzi 44...Bobby Humphrey 58...Rayfield Wright 74...Sonny Jurgensen 85. Rick Springfield 70, Shelly Long 70 and Barbara Eden 88 are invited to the birthday party.

Saturday, August 24

Allen Robinson 26...Enrique Hernandez 28...Anze Kopitar 32...Arian Foster 33...Kevin Kolb 35...Brett Gardner 36...Michael Redd 40...Andrew Brunette 46...Tim Salmon 51...Ken Priestlay 52...Reggie Miller 54...Cal Ripken Jr., 59...Mike Shanahan 67...WWE/XFL Vince McMahon 74. Chad Michael Murray 38. Dave Chappelle 45, Craig Kilborn 57 and Marlee Matlin 64 are invited to the birthday party.

Sunday, August 25

Tyler Ennis 25...Max Muncy 29...Justin Upton 32...Gary Matthews 45...Marvin Harrison 47...Robert Horry 49...Greg Paslawski 50...Albert Belle 53...Cornelius Bennett 54...Bate Odomes 54...Doug English 66...Rollie Fingers 73...Charlie Sanders 73. Blake Lively 32, Rachel Ray 51, Billy Ray Cyrus 58, Gene Simmons 70 and Sean Connery 98 are invited to the birthday party.

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

August 23

1942 (77 years ago), Walter Johnson pitched to Babe Ruth in a pre-game attraction that drew 69,000 to Yankee Stadium for a Washington Senators-Yankees game; $80,000 was raised for Army/Navy relief.

1964 (55 years ), the St. Louis Cardinals were 11 games behind in the National League; they won the World Series. Sparked by future Red Wings manager Ken Boyer.

1970 (49 years ago), Pittsburgh’s Roberto Clemente had his second straight five-hit game.

1989 (30 years ago), Rick Dempsey’s home run gave the Los Angeles Dodgers a 1-0 win over the Montreal Expos in 22 innings.

2008 (11 years ago), Lisa Leslie, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi led the U.S. women’s basketball team to a 92-65 win over Australia for the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.

August 24

1919 (100 years ago), Cleveland pitcher Ray Caldwell was flattened by a bolt of lightning.

1929 (90 years ago), Helen Wills Moody won her sixth U.S. women’s singles tennis title.

1972 (47 years ago), Gordie Howe and Jean Beliveau were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

1989 (30 years ago), Pete Rose was suspended from baseball for life for betting on baseball.

2008 (11 years ago), the Summer Olympics became the most-watched event on TV ever; nearly 5 billion people, 70 percent of the world’s population...The U.S. men’s basketball team, featuring LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul, won the gold medal with a 118-107 victory over Spain.

August 25

1922 (97 years ago), the Chicago Cubs beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 26-23.

1946 (73 years ago), Ben Hogan won the PGA Championship for the first of his nine major golf titles.

1960 (39 years ago), the AFL began putting names on the back of jerseys.

1958 (51 years ago), Arthur Ashe became the first African-American to win the U.S. tennis singles championship.

1985 (34 years ago), Dwight Gooden of the Mets became the youngest MLB pitcher to post a 20-win season (20 years, 9 months, 9 days).

1996 (23 years ago), Tiger Woods won the 96th U.S. Amateur Championship.

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