Thursday, October 31, 2013

Letter Never Sent: The Belle Tolls

Hey all!  Today I'll put a wrap on my journey through some of the great player collection additions that came courtesy of a package received from Kevin, The Diamond King.

In this edition, some badass cards of a badass man: Albert Belle.

1992 Leaf Gold

1992 Leaf holds a spot near and dear to me since one Easter (I'll have to assume it was '92) the Bunny brought me a hobby box of Series 1.  Loads of doubles, triples, quadruples...erm...what comes after quadruples?  Anyhow, lots of extras.  Still, it was fun ripping through all the packs.  And this is what the "Gold" cards looked like.  This Belle is from Series 2, FYI.

1994 Collector's Choice

1997 Pacific Crown

1997 Pinnacle Certified

Why did this become a fad in the mid '90s?  Protective coatings on cards?  I'm okay with a protective film covering the top of my ketchup bottle, but this is just unnecessary and wasteful.  Otherwise, this is a terrific card!

2001 Fleer Platinum

A classy, no-nonsense Spring Training shot of the slugger to finish off the post.  Albert Belle is right up there with Vlad and Sosa in terms of guys who never played for the Mets but have captured my collecting fancy.  Can never get enough of their cardboard!

Thanks again, Kevin, for a tremendous package!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Letter Never Sent: Carlos Beltran

I'm still enjoying the cards I recently received from The Diamond King's blogger extraordinaire Kevin not too long ago.  There were player collection cards-a-plenty.  And that's, y'know, right up my alley.

In prior posts, we've already looked at some great new-to-me cards of Gary Carter and Doc Gooden. Today, let's scope out some of the nifty Carlos Beltran pieces that found their way to my doorstep recently.

2000 Pacific Vanguard

2002 Topps

2004 Fleer Platinum

2004 Fleer Ultra

2005 Topps Heritage

Tough to pick a winner from this five-pack.  I'm heavily leaning towards the Fleer Platinum card for an obvious reason: the K.C. Monarchs jersey.  But, I've always been partial to 2002 Topps, so that's a nice one, too.  And, of course, anything Heritage is always a no-brainer choice (especially when the ivy-clad walls of the Friendly Confines enter the equation).  Well, luckily I don't have to choose, since I get to keep all of 'em.

Still a few more parts of Kevin's recent mailing that I'd like to highlight, so stay tuned...


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Buffalo Gameday, October 27, 2013

Prior to last Sunday's game in Miami, my hope for the Bills was at least a split of back-to-back road games against the Dolphins and Saints.  Well, the Bills eked out a very satisfying 23-21 victory at Sun Life Stadium, despite starting a former practice squad QB and being nearly double-digit underdogs to the Fish.

So, I guess I'd be something of a hypocrite to beg for a win today against a heavily-favored New Orleans side.  Of course, I'm hoping with all my might for such an outcome, but I won't be throwing a fit if they come up short against Drew Brees and Co.

I very rarely subscribe to moral victories, but I'll take a solid, hard-fought performance in the Superdome even if it results in a loss.  A defeat would put Buffalo at 3-5 at the midseason mark, but a considerably easier schedule awaits them in the season's second half.  Thus, a loss wouldn't send me scrambling for any white flags.

The Bills are hoping history is on their side Sunday versus the Saints.  Buffalo is 3-0 all-time in the Dome, though their last trip to New Orleans was nearly 15 years ago.  Rob Johnson was the Buffalo quarterback on that occasion, as he led the playoff-bound Bills to a 45-33 victory of Mike Ditka's Saints in the 1998 season finale. Since the Bills had already locked up their playoff seed, thus rendering the game's outcome meaningless, head coach Wade Phillips elected to rest Doug Flutie in advance of the Wild Card game and give Johnson the start.

Johnson, for all his shortcomings and faults during his time in Buffalo, played his butt off against New Orleans, completing 12 of 18 passes for 216 yards and two TDs.  The former USC Trojan also added a rushing touchdown, as the Bills raced out to a 28-0 lead and never looked back.

But, in terms of streaks, the Saints have won the last two versus Buffalo overall, including a 2009 matchup in Orchard Park that your's truly watched in-person.  The Bills hung around for a while in that affair, but 17 fourth-quarter points elevated the visiting Saints to a comfy 27-7 win.

Prior to that, the Bills and Saints hooked up in Week 4 of the 2005 season at San Antonio's Alamo Dome, as the Superdome was unavailable in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  The Saints scored 19 unanswered points and beat the Bills, 19-7.

In terms of today's game, I'd be very pleasantly surprised with a win against a Saints team coming off its bye week.  Darren Sproles is the type of player who can give the Bills defense fits if he gets the ball in space.  And it sounds like the dangerous Jimmy Graham will be suiting up at the TE spot, so the Bills get no break there.

CJ Spiller is doubtful to play today, which means Fred "Superman" Jackson will have to be the man today.  He's quietly having one of his finest seasons, so I'm fully confident in his ability to deliver some big plays against Rob Ryan's defense.

The Saints are just too good and the Bills are a team that are still working out some bugs.  That being said, I really love the spunk of this team, and I fully expect the Bills to battle all afternoon, albeit in a losing cause.

My Week 8 Picks:  The Cowboys were my only winner last week.  Blah.  Oh well, onward and upward, as they say.  Gimme the Patriots (-6) to clobber the Fish, the Lions (-3) to win a shootout with the Cowboys, and the Raiders (+1) to upset the Steelers.



Saturday, October 26, 2013

Letter Never Sent: The Doctor

Continuing with a look at a few of the dozens of cards recently sent to me by Kevin, The Diamond King.  Last time we checked out my fave five of Gary Carter, and now we switch to his most famous battery mate, Dwight Gooden.

Above, Doc and Phillies' second baseman Juan Samuel take a moment to pose for one of the SuperStar Special cards from '85 Fleer.  These guys would eventually become teammates--albeit for a very short time--when Samuel was dealt to New York in 1989.

1986 Fleer

Can it be, back-to-back SuperStar Specials?!  When they're this good, you betcha!  Doc's smooth 'n sweet mechanics are captured to a 'T' on this one.

1987 Fleer Limited Edition

I love these box sets from the '80s.  Fleer seemingly put out a hundred of these things during the decade, using retailers such as K-Mart, Woolworth or Kaybee to distribute them.  I like this Gooden because of the no-BS look on his face, plus we get a good view of the commemorative patch on the left sleeve.

1993 Finest

One of the best Finest sets that Topps ever produced.  And, yes, the very first.  Gooden appears larger than life here.

2004 Fan Favorites

Topps has produced plenty of quality off-shoot card sets during its many years, but not many top the All-Time Fan Favorites.  It was tough for me to include a card in this fivesome of Doc wearing Pinstripes, but it's too nice a card, plus being of Fan Favorites stock definitely elevates its status.

Still more Diamond King loot to come in the near future.  The next player in the queue is a former Met who finally punched his World Series ticket with this year's NL champs...


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Adams Family?

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has noticed this, and probably not the first to blog about it.  But why in the Wide World of Sports are there two Matt Adamses in this year's Update set?

Above you see the first Matt Adams, card No. US4.

But then his evil twin appears later in the checklist with card No. US213:

Will the zit-faced interns at Topps be fighting among themselves to be the first to offer an explanation for this?  I know this isn't the first time Topps has goofed and included a base card for the same player multiple times in a checklist.  (The Mark Teixeira twins from 2011 Heritage spring to mind.)  But, good grief, how about a little quality control so this sort of thing doesn't happen every two or three years?  Heck, if I did something as careless as this at my job...

Well, no need to drag out the tired prose.  You get the idea.  L-A-Z-Y.

Now allow me to parlay Topps' gaffe into my official World Series prediction.  Originally, I went with the Sox in seven games.  But, the Ancient Aliens-watching part of my brain can't help but think this Matt Adams thing is some sort of secret message, or perhaps a clue to the outcome of the series.

So, my formal prediction in light of recent events: Cardinals in six.

Enjoy the Fall Classic, folks!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Letter Never Sent: The Kid

Also an R.E.M. song from many moons ago, "Letter Never Sent" also applies to the very thoughtful and generous package that recently arrived from Kevin, aka The Diamond King.  

Included in the yellow mailer along with three very robust team bags filled with cards was a nice note from Kevin, imparting apologies for the long-delayed delivery.  Well, that was a pleasant surprise to me, since I hadn't even recalled any prior promise of, well, anything!

But, sure enough, Kevin was kind enough to go through my player collection lists a while ago and found a bunch of great cards of my all-time faves that were missing from my collection.  Because there were so many great pieces to show off, I figured I'd break it up into a few posts.

This one honors the great Gary Carter, aka The Kid, who left us entirely too soon.  So, here are my top-five favorite Carter cards from the recent DK package...

1984 Donruss

It's tough to argue with '84 Donruss, right?  And this one features that classic Gary Carter smile.  Was there ever a more genuinely good guy in this sport than Gary?

1984 Topps Glossy Send-In

I really like the All-Star cards that Topps used to produce as wrapper redemptions.  This one, from 1984, is especially glossy, and captures Kid in a candid moment prior to a game.

1986 Fleer Box Bottom

I'm a sucker for box bottoms and side panel cards and the like.  And this one was neatly cut out and kept in very nice condition.  It's doubtful you would look as good if you began life as the bottom of a cardboard box, all right?

1987 Fleer Star Stickers

Fleer's Star Stickers feature some of the best action photography from this era of Fleer cards, in my opinion. This one appears to show Gary celebrating the final out of a Mets victory at Wrigley.

2001 Topps Stars

Perhaps the nicest card of the bunch.  Topps Stars was a product that came out when I wasn't collecting, but I'm definitely enjoying it many years later.  The golden silhouette of Carter's shadow is a really cool touch.

My next installment will feature one of Gary's most famous battery mates...


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Buffalo Gameday, October 20, 2013

Throw out the records and forget the trends.  This is Week 7 in South Florida.  This is Bills-Dolphins, folks!

And while this isn't the Griese Dolphins against O.J.'s Bills, nor is it Shula vs. Levy, most long-time Bills fans would tell you that the two Dolphins games each year represent the biggest rivalry games on the season-long calendar.  I don't know what Dolphins fans might say; then again I really don't care.

When I was growing up--when the Bills ruled the AFC and Marino's Dolphins were always chasing Buffalo's coattails--two players stood out to me as being complete and total warriors when it came to the Miami game. Neither was among the handful of stars you might first think of when conjuring the early '90s Bills, but both were truly important pieces who were always passionate about this rivalry.

Kenneth Davis (card above) was a second-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 1986, but he made himself a known commodity by spelling Thurman Thomas for the Super Bowl-era Bills.  In his 12 games against Miami as a Buffalo Bill, Davis sprinted, chugged, and vaulted his way to six TDs.  Impressive for a player who only scored 27 NFL rushing touchdowns during his career.  The Bills were 8-4 vs. Miami in games Davis played.

The fullback position never featured prominently in Marv Levy's offense, but when it came to the Dolphins game, Carwell Gardner always seemed to factor into the decision on the score sheet or otherwise.  When he wasn't scoring  a goal-line TD or making a big special teams tackle, the fiesty Gardner was likely to be mixing it up with Buffalo's Enemy No. 1, linebacker Bryan Cox.  I recall more than a few post-whistle clashes between those two.

By the way, of Gardner's 10 career TDs on the ground, three of them came against Miami.

The Bills no longer have a rushing attack that consists of Thomas, Davis or Gardner, but their present-day backfield isn't anything to sneeze at.  CJ Spiller, Fred Jackson and Tashard Choice have made Buffalo one of the league's best rushing attacks, and each will be a 'go' today.

Buffalo will need all hands on deck this afternoon in Miami to overcome a fast and talented Dolphins defense which should be getting back Cameron Wake.  Coming off their bye week at 3-2, Miami is well-rested and as healthy as they've been since the season opened.

Other than QB EJ Manuel, Buffalo (2-4) is also pretty fit heading into the game, albeit on the heels of a two-game losing streak.  Thad Lewis played well enough against Cincy last week to lead the Bills on a 14-point 4th quarter rally and an overtime session.  Consider this Lewis's first big test, though, as it's a divisional road game.

The Bills defense will be the key to victory, as Miami's pass blocking and run game have both been suspect this year.  If they can harass Tannehill and force a few TOs, they might be able to escape with a sorely-needed 'W'. Otherwise, it's a 2-5 record and a road date with the Saints next week.  Yikes!

My Week 7 Picks: Well, the Steelers and Pats made me look like a genius last week; not so much with the Raiders, though they made it interesting.  This week, let me get Lions (-2.5) over the Bengals; the Cowboys (+3) to upset Philly; and the Rams (+7) to beat the spread in Carolina.

Enjoy the games!


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Meet the (Update) Mets

Thursday was the day I grabbed a 2013 Topps Update hobby box on my way home from work.  I was anxious but, as always, ready to be let down.  After all, I pulled a Mike Schmidt auto/relic from the Series 2 hobby box I opened over the summer, so it would be unfair and impractical of me to expect greatness from this box.

I'll get into the various inserts, parallels and, yes, relic that came in this box (its nothing earth shattering, I assure you), but the majority of my eagerness stemmed from getting at the new Mets cards.  In my last post I gave a rundown of the Mets cards one should expect to come across.  Of the nine, I got eight, so that's pretty decent I suppose.

The best of the bunch?

I was a bit worried that Topps would goof up the card of one of my new favorite Mets.  Not only did they avoid a pratfall, but they hit a bulls-eye with EY Jr.'s card.  Dare I say, this card made up for some of the minor gripes I have with this year's product and the hobby box I lucked into.  Oh, and since this copy of the card goes towards the complete Update set, I'll be looking for another one of these at the next card show for my All-Time Mets Project.

On the left, Zack Wheeler's rookie card [Ed. Note: Which was a little bent int he top left corner, might I add. Grrrrr.] and his 'Rookie Debut' card on the right.  I wish they had used the photo from his debut on his normal rookie issue.

While I might've opted for an outfield action shot of Juan Lagares if I were Topps, this is a pretty cool photo. Lagares is a Gold Glove-caliber defender in center field, but he's also a hustler on the bases, too.  So, I can't really complain about this card.

I can excuse Topps for including Marcum in it's Bowman base set, since that thing comes out in, like, February.  But there is no excuse for this guy being in Update.  Especially after it was announced he'd need season-ending shoulder surgery on July 9.  And, yes, he was a woeful 1-10 prior to that.  Sigh.

The two Mets All-Stars.  I like how Topps went simple and unobtrusive with the All-Star Game shield, but how about using the respective league logo (NL or AL) instead of the team logo?  It is an All-Star card, after all.

I'd rather have a Josh Satin or Jenry Mejia card than this.  I love David Wright, don't get me wrong, but Home Run Derby cards are pimples on the checklist, in my opinion.  Don't need 'em.

So that's eight of the nine Mets cards from this year's Update.  The one card I didn't get?  Well, I actually did get it, but not really...

Seeing as this will be Marlon Bryd's one and only Mets card, I'm pretty stoked about the photo choice.  Heck, the ball is still in the process of arriving to Miguel Montero in this picture!  I guess I could use this ecto-green emerald parallel for the ATMP, but I'd prefer the regular card.  Still, I thought it was pretty good fortune to get this one of Marlon because it's such a neat photo.

If I had to grade Topps performance with the Mets portion of the checklist, I'd give them a 6.5 out of 10, which is a passing grade.

How did Topps do by your favorite team?


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Have You Met...? (Brought to you by the Letter C)

At the latest card show I went to, I had very little time to work with.  It was pretty much a hit-and-run affair a couple Fridays ago when I shot over to my local mall after work to scope out the various tables for about an hour. It was the same weekend when the mid-Atlantic was in the throes of a nor'easter, so many of the normal vendors had either stayed away or were delaying their arrival for perhaps the following day.

Regardless, I was able to find a vendor that I hadn't come across before.  He had a nice array of vintage baseball and football at reasonable prices.  The guy was actually half-way decent (something that, sadly, surprises me about most sports card vendors) and proved pretty chatty once I told him I was working on a one-of-every-Met project.

After fishing through the baseball boxes four about 10 minutes, I found three cards that latched onto my fancy.  I was able to secure the trio for a combined 10 bucks, which I felt was pretty fair, considering how each was individually marked.

Only after I got home and began to truly admire my newest additions to the All-Time Mets Project did I notice that each fella's last name began with a 'C'.  Certainly unintentional, but pretty amusing nonetheless.  [Ed. Note: It's actually not that amusing, but when you have a mortgage, a baby on the way, and you fall asleep at 8:30 each night, such things are thrilling to a degree.]

So, here they are, the newest C's for the ATMP (got that?)...

1963 Topps, #197

I was particularly tickled to find this card, and in pretty tip-top shape to boot.  Not that Roger Craig was a star for the Polo Grounds-era Mets or anything like that.  Far from it.  As a matter of fact, Craig, who joined the Mets for their seminal 1962 season after seven seasons with the Dodgers, garnered the dubious distinction of a 20-loss season not once, but TWICE as a Met.  He still holds the team mark with 24 losses, which he accepted in '62. He followed that up with a 5-22 record in '63 before moving on to St. Louis the following year.  Add it all up and Craig was a combined 15-46 with a somewhat-respectable 4.14 ERA in his two years for the Amazins.  And that, friends, is why they were the Amazin' Mets.

1964 Topps, #251

The '63 Topps Craig was a great find, but even more exciting was this '64 Choo Choo Coleman piece.  I have been combing the vintage bins for many months hoping to find a card of Clarence "Choo Choo" Coleman, but had found nothing but dead-ends til now.  For those that don't know, Coleman was a man of few words.  One of my favorite stories involved an interview that Ralph Kiner did with Choo Choo during the '62 season.  "What's your wife's name and what's she like?" asked the affable Kiner.  In response, the stoic Coleman muttered back, "Her name's Mrs. Coleman and she likes me."

1968, #563

Finally, this guy probably has one of the best nicknames in Mets annals.  Yes, I know Choo Choo is tough to top, but Ed Charles might have him beat.  "The Glider" came over to the Mets from Kansas City via trade in May of '67.  He led the Mets with 15 homers in 1968 and then split time at third base for the Miracle Mets in '69. Charles actually scored the game-winning run in New York's Game 2 victory over the Orioles in the 1969 Series. A few days later he'd play his final big league game as the Mets knocked off the O's in Game 5 to clinch the Series.  Not a bad way to go out.

A pretty colorful trio of Mets to say the least.  Just the way I like 'em!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Discounted Archives and (FINALLY!) an Update Checklist

Has anyone else noticed that the rack packs (I refuse to call them "jumbo" packs) of various Topps products have gone to discount at Target?  Last week I was in and noticed that the Archives packs were marked down to about $3.89 or something like that.  It's still kinda overpriced for, what, 18 cards, but I'm still chasing the set and I quite enjoy the inserts and SPs.

Well, I bought three rack packs and the most noteworthy card I got was Mr. Lynn (above).  I think I managed to net an unimpressive nine or 10 new cards towards the base set.  The inserts were kinda 'blah' -- including a four-panel Yankees sticker that doesn't need to be shown.

But, the Lynn is cool.  So is this one, which I also pulled:

I bought this card for a buck at a card show over the summer, but that's okay because now I have one for my Archives binder and one for my Jefferies collection.

I think I'm probably done buying Archives by the pack.  From here on out, I'll fill in the holes in my checklist through card shows and/or trades.  I'm sure I'll use for some of the SPs that I'd like to own, too.  I don't anticipate chasing down all the short prints, in case you were wondering.  That sort of lunacy is only reserved for Heritage.  But, if that's your thing, I think that's pretty cool.  I just don't have the dough to chase both SP collections, and Heritage is my first love.


I've been barking for a while about the lack of a 2013 Topps Update checklist online anywhere.  Well, I haven't been able to find one, anyways.  And the dang product hits shelves later this week (and it may even be on some retail shelves near you right now!)

But, today I finally stumbled upon one via the Topps Twitter account, of all places.  Here's the link to the checklist page in case you have similarly been finding dead-ends on your checklist search.  Not sure why this was such a freakin' task to find, but whatever.

I've been jonesin' to find out which Mets were going to make the Update cut.  Two months ago, I put forth my six-card wish list in the event that Topps was spying on my insignificant little blog.  Well, whether they meant to or not, they somewhat got it right.  Thankfully, the crucial players are included, but there are also the obligatory fluff and misfires that makes Update such an endearing entity.

Okay, no more delays.  Here's the Mets Update breakdown for 2013:

US1 -- Matt Harvey, All-Star
US49 -- Marlon Byrd (Hey, one of my wishlist cards!  Too bad he's no longer a Met...)
US50 -- Zack Wheeler RC (A no-brainer!)
US129 -- David Wright, HR Debry (Enough with the HR Derby cards, please.)
US199 -- Juan Lagares RC (YES!!!)
US220 -- Zack Wheeler Rookie Debut (I could do without these, too; gimme more regular player cards!)
US236 -- Shaun Marcum (Uhh...what?  Why?)
US238 -- Eric Young, Jr. (Double YES!!!  I had a one-thousand word hate letter at the ready if he didn't make it.)
US316 -- David Wright, All-Star

And there you have it.  Nine Mets cards in all, four of which are subset cards of varying madness.  Which means the 330-card Update set has exactly five Mets players which didn't make the regular set.  I asked for six, they gave me five.  Byrd, Wheeler, Lagares and Young were on my want list; Marcum most certainly was not.  I will steadfastly maintain that either LaTroy Hawkins or Omar Quintanilla would've been infinitely better inclusions than Marcum (1-10 with a 5.29 ERA this year, by the way), but what do I know, I'm just a stupid fan.

In any event, I'm ready for Update, warts and all.  I'll be swingin' by my local shop either Wednesday or Thursday to snag my hobby box.  I look forward to sharing my yield, and I also will be anxious to see how everyone else made out with their purchases.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Four Topps, #320

Has everyone recovered from the unbelievable Fenway finish from last night?  I was flipping between that, the Sunday Night Football game in Dallas, and the season premiere of The Walking Dead.  Unfortunately, I kinda tuned out of the baseball when I saw the 5-1 Detroit advantage.  A lesson learned: Don't ever count out the Sox til the final out.

Anyhow, on we move with another edition of Four Topps.  On this Columbus Day 2013, gifted us an All-Star caliber card number: #320.

Let's see who we've got...


Oh jeez, what can I say about this card?  It's obviously one of the iconic collectibles from the late '80s.  While it isn't his XRC, this was Barry's first appearance in a regular 792-card Topps set.  I have a few copies of this card, but the one I scanned is from my '87 Topps binder.  It's the one I pulled from a pack when I was a kid; before I knew who or what Barry Bonds was.  It's gonna be tough for any of the remaining three cards to best this one. Hey, Stat Man:  Bonds cranked 16 homers in 113 games for the Bucs in 1986.


Tigers fans have gotta be licking their wounds still from last night's lost opportunity.  As a means for incremental recuperation, may we offer you an Alan Trammell card from 1988?  This was one of the final cards I had to track down to complete my '88 set, so that's what stands out the most for me.  It's not the most exciting action shot of the Detroit All-Star, but  it's a pretty nice card nonetheless.  Hey, Stat Man:  Trammell surpassed the 200-hit mark for the first time in his career with 205 during the '87 season.


"Sweet" Lou Whitaker played second base for the Tigers for nearly two decades and collected 2,369 hits--sixth most in Detroit annals, one spot ahead of the aforementioned Trammell.  The stern and focused scowl on Lou's face as he takes a few practice cuts is by far this card's best feature.  Intentional or not, it's like his looking straight at the photographer.  Hey, Stat Man:  In just 115 games, Whitaker crafted a .275 average with 12 homers and 55 RBIs in 1988.


The back-to-back Tigers spell is broken up by one of the best hurlers of the '80s.  This is an awesome card of the Toronto All-Star, replete with a terrific action photo and a totally rad purple, orange and Carolina blue color motif.  Hey, Stat Man:  Stieb matched a career high with 17 victories for the Jays in 1989.

And the Winner Is:  Some decent competition, but nothing so overwhelming as to displace the '87 Bonds rookie as the best of the bunch.  It wins not only for its significance in the collecting realm, but also because it's a great looking card.  I'll give the '90 Stieb runner-up honors.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Buffalo Gameday, October 13, 2013

Today, the Buffalo Bills (2-3) host the Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) at 1 p.m.  The Bengals are coming off a huge victory over Tom Brady and Patriots, while the Bills have had a long time to ponder last Thursday's loss to the Cleveland Browns.

I hope everybody is ready for the classic QB matchup that is Andy Daulton vs. Thad Lewis.

Wait, Thad who?

Lewis appeared for Buffalo in the preseason finale

Thad Lewis is pressed into action today in the aftermath of EJ Manuel's LCL sprain that will sideline him for the next few weeks.  Backup Jeff Tuel, who entered the Browns game and looked like a stranger in a strange land, is an undrafted rookie who is obviously not ready to operate within an NFL framework.  So rather than chase after one of the many middling FAs on the market, the Bills dipped into their practice squad for their own unknown quantity.

A Duke product, Lewis has started one NFL game:  the season finale last year in Pittsburgh.  And that was as a member of the Browns.  So there isn't much to glean on Thad other than that and his performance from this year's preseason finale versus Detroit.  He's got many of the same tools as Manuel in terms of mobility and quickness, but lacks EJ's rocket arm and linebacker-esque size.

I guess we'll have to watch and see.

Today's game is the 26th time the Bills and Bengals have locked horns dating back to 1968, with Buffalo holding a 15-10 advantage all-time.  Daulton and the Bengals beat the Bills in their last meeting, a 23-20 decision in 2011.  Unbelievably, that snapped Buffalo's 10-game winning streak in the series.

Prior to that win, Cincinnati's last triumph over Buffalo occurred when this guy was behind center:

Check out his cleats: The Reebok Pump!

Boomer and the Bengals not only beat the Bills during the 1988 regular season, but also denied the Bills their first-ever Super Bowl trip when Cincinnati knocked out the Bills, 21-10, in that year's AFC title game.  That's when, you know, the Bengals were a proud franchise.  And when sneakers came with a built in air pump.  In other words, long, long, looooong ago.

Getting back to today's game, the Bills could get a huge boost to their defense with the return of top CB Stephon Gilmore and top safety Jairus Byrd.  With Cincy's array of talented WRs and TEs, the timing couldn't be better.

On offense, the Bills are hoping that CJ Spiller and Stevie Johnson will be able to go.  Both are listed as questionable, but I think the former is a pretty safe bet to play.  Not sure about Stevie, who will be a game-time decision.

Speaking of Stevie and the Bengals, it was the 2010 matchup that saw Johnson haul in three second-half TDs and lead Buffalo from a 17-point deficit to a 49-31 road victory.  It was also the occasion that Stevie unveiled this bit of, uh, personality:

Why So Serious?  Stevie received a hefty fine from the NFL.

Hey, when you're a 1-8 team--which Buffalo was at the time of Stevie's stunt--and your team scores five unanswered TDs to erase a big deficit, I guess you are allowed to have a little fun.  (I think.)

I have no idea how to handicap today's game.  The Bengals are a five-point road favorite, and rightly so considering the Bills' QB situation.  But, Buffalo's defense has been strong and Cincy's offense has been somewhat spotty.  So I suspect this will be a much closer game than some folks might expect.  I hope Thad makes me a believer, but I think the Bengals will make enough plays to pull out a W at The Ralph.

My Week 6 Picks:  I hit on the Saints and Colts last weekend, but failed badly with the G-men.  This week, let me get the Steelers (+1) to beat the Jets; the Raiders (+7.5) to lose a close game or win outright in Kansas City; and the Patriots (-2) to tarnish the unbeaten Saints in primetime.

Enjoy your NFL!