If the New England Patriots are serious about starting the 2020 season with billygoats Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer and Cody Kessler as their three-headed replacement for G.O.A.T. Tom Brady, I’m ready to make the Buffalo Bills the team to beat in the AFC East this season – assuming there will be a season.
After two decades of dominance in the NFL’s otherwise consistently worst division, the Patriots appear to be committed to a rebuilding project.
With the addition of wide receiver Stephon Diggs, DT Quinton Jefferson and pass rusher Mario Addison, the Bills are No. 5 in my NFL Pre-Draft Power Rankings. Frankly, I thought I’d be totally retired or maybe even deceased before that would happen.
Here are my rankings:
1-Kansas City. In the modern NFL, offense wins championships. No team has more O.
2-New Orleans. The Saints are loaded and might be the league’s best-balanced team.
3-San Francisco. They figure to be primed to make up for fizzling late in Super Bowl 54.
4-Baltimore. QB Lamar Jackson likely will slip a bit and they’ll miss OG Marshal Yanda.
5-Buffalo. I’m assuming the defense will remain solid and Diggs will help QB Josh Allen have his breakout season. Team-first attitude is worth a few wins (dig, it, Diggs?).
6-LA Chargers. I’ve always thought QB Tyrod Taylor was underappreciated with the Bills, but he looks like the weakest link on this solid team.
7-Tennessee. The Titans are sneaky good and well-coached.
8-Tampa Bay. Tom Brady figures to take advantage of better offensive weapons than he had to work with on last season’s Patriots.
9-Indianapolis. QB Philip Rivers might surprise me with time to throw behind a terrific offensive line.
10-Seattle. Never sell the Seahawks and QB Russell Wilson short.
11-Cleveland. Too much talent to disappoint much longer.
12-Dallas. Lots of starpower and might be a pleasant surprise for a change.
13-Philadelphia. Capable of more on top effort in a weak division.
14-Green Bay. QB Aaron Rodgers isn’t what he used to be.
15-New England. It would be a big surprise to me if the Patriots minus Brady win more games than Tampa Bay with Brady.
16-Minnesota. I have more faith in QB Kirk Cousins than most people do.
17-Las Vegas. On the upgrade. A sleeper if Derek Carr steps up.
18-Denver. QB Drew Lock is a big upgrade over washed-up Joe Flacco and the defense is sturdy.
19-LA Rams. Appear to be on the decline.
20-Pittsburgh. Good luck if you’re counting on a big comeback by QB Ben Roethlisberger.
21-Arizona. A team on the rise with a fun offense.
22-Chicago. Can QBs Mitch Trubisky/Nick Foles grind out more than 6 wins?
23-NY Jets. QB Sam Darnold should benefit from an improved OL.
24-NY Giants. Not-too-exciting battle with the Jets for most wins.
25-Dolphins. Much-improved roster with a promising QB likely in the draft.
26-Atlanta. QB Matt Ryan to WRs Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley makes the Falcons watchable.
27-Detroit. Give them a little bit of credit for a never-ending but enthusiastic house-cleaning project.
28-Houston. Maybe coach/GM Bill O’Brien should ready to college – maybe.
29-Washington. Good luck to coach Ron Rivera. He’ll need it.
30-Jacksonville. I hope the team’s fan enjoy QB Minchew.
31-Cincinnati. It won’t take long for Mr. Everything QB Joe Burrow to really miss LSU.
32-Carolina. Tank time for Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence? New coach Matt Rhule can afford to go 1-15 or so.
++++ The New York Post graded the 32 NFL teams for success in free agency and trades so far this offseason. Only three teams received top grades of A: Tampa Bay (thanks to Tom Brady), the Arizona Cardinals and the Buffalo Bills, with the notation, “Traded for Stefon Diggs to build one of the league’s most vertical offenses. Mario Addison, Quinton Jefferson and Vernon Butler improved the defensive line. Is there a renaissance in CB Josh Norman?”
++++ Does the arrival of Stefon Diggs give the Bills one of the top five trios of wide receivers in the NFL?
Here are some of the top WR groups:
Kansas City – Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman (bonus: TE Travis Kelce)
New Orleans – Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Tre’Quan Smith plus versatile Taysom Hill
Tampa Bay – Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller (bonus: TEs O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate; Tom Brady picked the right team
Los Angeles Rams – Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks
Buffalo – Stefon Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley
Arizona – DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk.
++++ Sony’s baseball video game MLB The Show 20 for PlayStation 4 ranked the 30 MLB teams in five basic categories. Here’s how the Minnesota Twins, parent club of the Rochester Red Wings, rated:
Contact hitting 6th
Power hitting 2nd
Pitching 7th (too generous?)
Minnesota ranked fifth overall, behind (in order) the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals.
++++ You might not agree with me but....
The International Olympic Committee finally got it right Tuesday by confirming that the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics will be postponed until 2021.
Cheers to the countries that previously announced they would not send their athletes to compete under the circumstances – the coronavirus global crisis. And jeers to Russia for insisting that the Olympics should go on as scheduled and for criticizing the nations that took the prudent and logical road.
++++ Is looks like a convenient time for pitchers to clean up elbow woes with Tommy John surgery. Now we know why the New York Mets were shopping Noah Syndergaard. The Mets still have a decent starting rotation (Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha) and an underrated lineup but losing Thor is a tough blow.
IRemember when the Mets had baseball’s best batch of young starting pitchers. Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and now Syndergaard have had elbow surgeries.
++++ Happy birthday to:
Wednesday, March 25 – Mike Zunino 29...Hyun-Jin Ryu 33...Kirby Yates 33...Kyle Lowry 34...Marco Belinelli 34...Danica Patrick 38...Wladimir Klitschko 44...Lawrence Moten 48...Sheryl Swoopes 49...Travis Fryman 51...Dale Davis 51...Debi Thomas 53...Tom Glavine 54...Avery Johnson 55...Lee Mazzilli 65...Jean Potvin 71. Also born on this date, Sarah Jessica Parker 55 and Elton John 73.
Thursday, March 26 – Justice Winslow 24...Kyle Van Noy 29...Michael Taylor 29...Von Miller 31...Doug Janik 40...Michael Peca 46...Marshall Faulk 47...Luke Richardson 51...Jose Vizcaino 52...Ulf Samuelsson 56...Kevin Seitzer 58...Joe Binion 59...John Stockton 58...Mickey Weston 59 ( he was a combined 19-4 for the Rochester Red Wings in 1989 and 1990)...Marcus Allen 60. It’s a popular birthdays for non-athletes, too, including Keira Knightley 35, Kenny Chesney 52, Jennifer Grey 60, Martin Short 70, Steven Tyler 72, Diana Ross 76, James Caan 80 and Nancy Pelosi 80.
Friday, March 27 – Brandon Nimmo 27...Jake Odorizzi 30...Matt Harvey 31...Buster Posey 33...Michael Cuddyer 41...Chike Okeafor 44...Randall Cunningham 57...Ed Pinckney 57...Bart Connor 62. Also born on this date, Mariah Carey 49 and Quentin Tarantino 57.
++++ On this date in sports:
March 25 (Wednesday) – 352 years ago (1668), the first horse race in America took place...116 years ago (116 years ago), New Zealand-bred Moiffa won the 66th Grand National steeplechase race at odds of 25-to-1; the horse survived a shipwreck off Ireland a year earlier...49 years ago (1971), the Boston Patriots became the New England Patriots...48 years ago (1972), Bill Walton was Most Outstanding Player as the UC LA Bruins beat Florida 81076 for their sixth straight NCAA men’s basketball championship...38 years ago (1982), Wayne Gretzky became the first NHL player to score 200 points in a season.
March 26 (Thursday) – 74 years ago (1946), Kentucky beat Oklahoma State 46-36 for its second straight NCAA men’s basketball championship; Alex Groza was MVP...71 years ago (1949), 66-to-1 longshot Russian Hero won the 103rd Grand National...60 years ago (60 years ago), political turmoil in Cuba forced the Baltimore Orioles and Cincinnati Reds to move their exhibition games from Havana to Miami...48 years ago (1972), the Los Angeles Lakers broke the NBA record for victories in a season (69-13 record; it stood for 24 years)...46 years ago (1974), George Foreman TKOd Ken Norton in 2 in Caracas, Venezuela for the heavyweight boxing title...41 years ago (1979), Michigan State with Magic Johnson beat Indiana State with Larry Bird 75-74 in the 41st NCAA men’s championship; it was the highest-rated game in the history of televised college basketball...28 years ago (1992), the New York Rangers, coached by Mike Keenan, won the team’s first NHL regular-season championship in 50 years.
March 27 (Friday) – 89 years ago (1931), John McGraw said night baseball would never catch on...81 years ago (1939), Oregon beat Ohio State 46-33 in the first NCAA men’s basketball championship game...78 years ago (1942), Joe Louis KOd Abe Simon in 6 to retain the heavyweight boxing title...69 years ago (1951), the NCAA men’s basketball tournament had a 16-team field and Kentucky beat Kansas 68-58 in the championship game...55 years ago (1965), Tommy Smith became the first American jockey to win the Grand National aboard U.S.-owned and trained Jay Trump...43 years ago (1977), Chris Evert won her fourth and final WTA Tour championship over England’s Sue Baker at Madison Square Garden...32 years ago (1988), Randy “Macho Man” Savage beat Ted DiBiase at Wrestlemania 9 at Atlantic City Convention Hall...22 years ago (1998), the Chicago Bulls beat the Atlanta Hawks 89-74 before 62,046 fans at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
++++ I thought the coronavirus challenge sort of muted a national reaction to Friday’s death of Kenny Rogers We’ll honor the great singer Wednesday, 6 to 8 p.m.,by airing some of his classic songs during Bob Matthews On Sports, on News Radio WHAM 1180.