Sunday playbook by Milt Northrop: Extra prep time hasn’t helped teams this season - The Buffalo News

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Sunday playbook by Milt Northrop: Extra prep time hasn’t helped teams this season

Today, the Bills will face the first of three opponents this season that will have the benefit of an extra week to prepare for the game after a bye the week before. It’s Miami today and the New Orleans Saints and New York Jets down the line.

How fairly are the bye weeks spread out by the NFL schedule-maker? What difference does it make?

First of all, the bye scheduling is not spread evenly. The Bills and Carolina are the only teams this season that must face three opponents coming off a bye week. Eight NFL teams don’t run into that situation at all. One of them – you probably guessed – is New England. Miami, Baltimore, Kansas City, Minnesota, Seattle and San Francisco are the others.

It would seem fairer if teams coming off a bye week would face each other next. That happens only once this season – when Indianapolis goes to Houston on Sunday night, Nov. 3.

So far this season, extra prep time doesn’t seem like a clear advantage. Teams coming off a bye are only 2-4 against opponents that played the previous week.

A look at the Week Seven games:

Game of the day

Broncos (6-0) at Colts (4-2)

TV: Ch. 2, 8:30 p.m.

The line: Broncos (-6).

The scoop: Manning comes home to the House That Peyton Built to face his former team. … Colts QB Andrew Luck looked like a mere mortal in loss at San Diego on Monday night. … Colts owner Jim Irsay took an obvious slap at Manning and Bill Polian regime this week. … Broncos’ Von Miller back from suspension to make life miserable for Luck.

Outlook: Would love to see Broncos romp by … oh, say, 27 points. Denver 45-17.

Top attractions

Texans (2-4) at Chiefs (6-0)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Chiefs (-6).

The scoop: K.C. piling up sacks again with 31. (Do they still pipe in crowd noise to augment Arrowhead decibel level as many suspect they used to?). … Houston crowd showed no class in booing injured Matt Schaub during loss to Rams last week. Schaub won’t start today as former third-stringer Case Keenum, gets the start.

Outlook: K.C. winning with team Paoli built before he was fired. Perfect spot for upset if Schaub played. Chiefs, 20-17.

Patriots (5-1) at Jets (3-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Patriots (-3).

The scoop: Is the Gronk Mystery over? Will he finally play? Really? … Pats have seen top defenders Wilfork and Mayo go down last few weeks, but Belichick will come up with something. … Tom Brady added to his legend with comeback win over Saints last week. … New England has won last six against Gang Green and last 13 within division.

Outlook: Brady is 18-4 as starter against Jets in career including 49-19 rout at MetLife last November. Jets think they are playoff contender. New England, 23-21.

Cowboys (3-3) at Eagles (3-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Eagles (-3).

The scoop: Dallas leads NFC with 183 points but defense is giving up 413.2 yards per game and will be without DeMarcus Ware. … Chip Kelly’s offense seems to be coming on nicely in Philly with LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson making big plays. WR Riley Cooper had huge game (4 catches-120 yards) last week.

Outlook: ’Boys are arch-enemy with Eagles and their fans. Philadelphia, 42-31.

Bengals (4-2) at Lions (4-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Lions (-2).

The scoop: Detroit’s mega-talented WR Calvin Johnson is way off league-leading 122-catch, 1,964-yard 2012 season. He is 22nd with just 24 receptions and 43rd in receiving yards with 337. … Bengals could be awfully good but blowing 14-point lead to Bills last week may mean they are nothing but a big tease.

Outlook: Bengals give Matthew Stafford a rough day. Bengals, 27-17.

49ers (4-2) at Titans (3-3)

TV: Ch. 29, 4:25 p.m.

The line: 49ers (-3).

The scoop: Titans 2-1 at home and played unbeaten Chiefs and once-beaten Seahawks tough last two games. … TE Vernon Davis becoming Niners’ top receiving threat with 22-404-6 TDs.

Outlook: Three of Niners’ four wins have come at home. Wonder how good a road team they will be. Tennessee, 28-27.

Ravens (3-3) at Steelers (1-4)

TV: Ch. 4, 4:25 p.m.

The line: Steelers (-2).

The scoop: Baltimore has won last three visits to Heinz Field, by three points each time. How many can say that? … Ravens converted only 2 of 14 third downs in loss to Packers last week. Something is not right, and Ray Rice is producing unimpressive numbers.

Outlook: Proud Steelers and Mike Tomlin have battened down the hatches. Pittsburgh, 13-10.

Best of the rest

Bills (2-4) at Dolphins (3-2)

TV: Ch. 4, 1 p.m.

The line: Dolphins (-7)

The scoop: Can Bills and fans work up that old hate of the Fish? Miami had extra week to prepare but for whom? Thad Lewis or Matt Flynn? … Bills have depth at DL to come at Ryan Tannehill in waves in South Florida heat.

Outlook: Bills need huge confidence-builder: Buffalo 23-20.

Bears (4-2) at Redskins (1-4)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Redskins (pick’em).

The scoop: It’s ancient, ancient history but can’t help thinking “73-0” when it’s Bears versus Redskins. Ask your great granddad or Marv Levy about it. … Isn’t it odd to see 31-30, 40-23, 40-32 scores for Bears games? Marc Trestman has brought a new culture to the Midway.

Outlook: Despite record, Redskins not out of NFC-East race, but Jim Haslett has to get defense straightened out. Washington, 35-30.

Rams (3-3) at Panthers (2-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Panthers (-7).

The scoop: Each coming off impressive road wins over troubled opponents – Rams at Houston and Carolina at Minnesota. Panthers only 1-1 at home with 38-0 win over Giants four weeks ago.

Outlook: Expect Cam Newton to stay cool at home in face of Rams’ pass rush. Carolina, 28-21.

Chargers (3-3) at Jaguars (0-6)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Chargers (-7).

The scoop: Loss at Oakland may have been misleading. Bolts better than we think and believe they can challenge Broncos and Chiefs in AFC West. … Philip Rivers may be having career year but Peyton overshadowing him. … Jags WR Justin Blackmon had 14 catches for 190 yards against Denver last week in second game back from suspension.

Outlook: San Diego may get caught sleep-walking in third of five Eastern trips on schedule this season. Chargers, 30-28.

Browns (3-3) at Packers (3-2)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.

The line: Packers (-10).

The scoop: Last time Cleveland played for a league championship was against Packers in 1965, almost 60 years ago. … Shaky Green Bay defense rose up and nearly shut out Ravens from the field in Baltimore last week.

Outlook: Don’t think tough Browns defense (seventh in league) can keep Aaron Rodgers under control. Green Bay, 27-13.

Vikings (1-4) at Giants (0-6)

TV: ESPN, Monday, 8:30 p.m.

The line: Giants (-3).

The scoop: Minnesota won, 41-17, in last game against Giants in Meadowlands. That was in 2007 when Big Blue went on to win last seven road games and Super Bowl. … Desperate Vikings will start newcomer Josh Freeman at QB. Peyton Hillis is latest RB Giants have signed off the street.

Outlook: Time for Mara Tech to break through. Giants, 23-17.

Dog of the day

Buccaneers (0-5) at Falcons (1-4)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Falcons (-7).

The scoop: Bucs lead all-time series, 20-19, one of few teams Tampa Bay owns winning record against. Bills, course, are another. … Falcons coming off bye week and three straight losses to AFC-East teams.

Outlook: Loss here would bring full-scale panic in Hotlanta. Falcons, 31-17.

Last week: 5-9 outright, 7-7 versus spread.

Season’s record: 45-41 outright; 38-44-4 versus spread.


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