Sunday Playbook: Games start to become interesting in November - The Buffalo News

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Sunday Playbook: Games start to become interesting in November

Two games that will unsnarl at least part of that three-way tie for first in the NFC North and two games that could be previews of playoff matchups head today’s Week 10 schedule in the National Football League.

Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay, all 5-3, are tied for the lead in the old Black and Blue Division. The Bears and Lions meet today at Soldier Field while the Packers, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers out, face the unpredictable Philadelphia Eagles.

It’s conceivable that the visit of Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers to San Francisco to face Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers is a dress rehearsal for a possible NFC matchup. So could the Dallas Cowboys-Saints game in New Orleans.

ESPN gets a dubious Monday Night attraction – the troubled Miami Dolphins at winless Tampa Bay.

A look at the schedule:

Game of the day

Panthers (5-3) at 49ers (6-2)

TV: Ch. 29, 4 p.m.

The line: 49ers (-6)

The scoop: Teams have matching win streaks of five. ... Panthers have won last three over SF but last was 23-20 win in 2010. ... Carolina has moved into challenging position in NFC South, one game behind Saints. Niners still trail Seahawks (by game and a half) in NFC West. They can’t afford to lose this one at home, especially with Seattle playing a road game they could lose at Atlanta.

Outlook: Niners have scored 32 or more in each of their three home wins. .... Carolina is 2-2 on road with wins over winless Bucs and 2-7 Vikings. San Francisco 35-20.

Top attractions

Seahawks (8-1) at Falcons (2-6)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Seahawks (-4½)

The scoop: Seattle leads NFC in defense (196.0)... Mike Smith and Matt Ryan 3-0 versus Seattle, including 30-28 playoff win last January. ... Seattle 8-1 for first time in history. ... Tony Gonzalez has caught passes in 203 straight, second longest streak in NFL history. ... Turnovers tell the story of the season for each: Atlanta minus 7, Seattle plus 6.

Outlook: Seahawks can’t keep slithering off the hook. Overrated Falcons should be better than 2-6. Atlanta, 28-24.

Bengals (6-3) at Ravens (3-5)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Bengals (-1½)

The scoop: Cincy won last meeting, 23-17, on Dec. 30, 2012, snapping four-game Baltimore win streak. ...Joe Flacco is 4-1 at home vs. Cincinnati. ... Ravens’ workhorse back Ray Rice averaging only 2.7 rushing yards per attempt.

Outlook: Loss at Miami invalidated some of credentials Bengals had built. Ravens are mediocre but are tough at home. Baltimore, 20-17.

Lions (5-3) at Bears (5-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Pick ‘em

The scoop: Lions coming off bye while Bears have short week to prepare for important divisional game after Monday night win at Green Bay. More scheduling injustice in NFL. ... Matt Forte of Bears averaging 4.7 per rush. Matthew Stafford of Lions is third in league with 2,617 passing yards and 16 TD passes. ... Brandon Marshall of Bears has 53 catches. Calvin Johnson of Lions has only 47 but with 17.5 average and 7 TDs.

Outlook: Winner will keep at least a share of NFC North lead. ... Like Bears even if Cutler doesn’t play because they can stand up to pass-happy Lions offense. Chicago, 31-27.

Eagles (4-5) at Packers (5-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Packers (-1)

The scoop: Eagles’ LeSean McCoy leads league with 777 rushing yards and WR DeSean Jackson leads NFC with 50 receptions (16.5 average). ... Fast-paced Eagles averaging 413.2 yards but giving up more (419.3). ... Seneca Wallace starts in place of Aaron Rodgers at QB for Packers. He has 21 NFL starts under his belt. Still, Green Bay expected to lean on rookie RB Eddie Lacy, who ran for 150 yards against Bears on Monday night. ... Nick Foles of Eagles had 158.3 rating with his 7 TD passes last week in rout of Raiders.

Outlook: Lot of pressure on Packers defense. If Green Bay can’t control ball with Lacy on ground, it’s Eagles, 33-27.

Broncos (7-1) at Chargers (4-4)

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

The line: Broncos (-7)

The scoop: Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will take over Broncos while head coach John Fox recovers from heart valve surgery. That should have little effect on Peyton Manning, who is his own offensive coordinator. ... Denver has scored 343 points, most by a team through first eight games of any NFL season. ... Chargers’ Philip Rivers is third in league with 106.5 passer rating. He’s thrown for 17 TDs, 12 fewer than Manning.

Outlook: San Diego let opportunity to get in division race get away at Washington. Broncos, fresh off bye week, win 42-27.

Cowboys (5-4) at Saints (6-2)

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

The line: Saints (-6½)

The scoop: New Orleans has dominated Cowboys lately, winning seven of last eight but needed overtime for 34-31 win in Arlington last December. ... Since he arrived in New Orleans in 2006, Drew Brees has passed for more yards (36,243) and more TDs (265) than any other NFL passer. Of course, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning each missed one (or virtually one) whole season in that stretch. Saints TE Jimmy Graham leads league with 10 TD passes, including two in each of the last two games.

Outlook: Brees versus Tony Romo passing show should be fun. Saints, 34-31.

Best of the rest

Bills (3-6) at Steelers (2-6)

TV: Ch. 4, 1 p.m.

The line: Steelers (-3)

The scoop: Bills must re-think their goal-line offense after it cost them Cincinnati and Kansas City games. Shotgun formation inside 5 is too limiting. ... Steelers’ Antonio Brown leads league with 61 receptions. ... This is not a classic Steelers team with only three rushing TDs and 3.5 average and just 13 sacks, five by La Marr Woodley.

Outlook: Steelers have to be chafing after giving up 55 points in loss at New England. ... Bills have lost last five in Pittsburgh where they are 2-9 all time. Only wins with O.J. in 1975 and in 1992 playoffs. Bills due for off week and Steelers are angry. Pittsburgh, 24-10.

Rams (3-6) at Colts (6-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Colts (-9½)

The scoop: Kellen Clemens of Rams will make 15th career start at QB in place of injured Sam Bradford. Ex-Titan TE Jared Cook leads St. Louis with 32 receptions for 12.8 average. ... With T.Y. Hilton (three TDs in second half at Houston), who needs Reggie Wayne? ... Andrew Luck keeps saving the bacon for Indy.

Outlook: Luck will take beating from St. Louis pass rush, but Indianapolis, 23-10.

Raiders (3-5) at Giants (2-6)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Giants (-7).

The scoop: Eli Manning of Giants has league-worst 15 INTs. Eight have come in fourth quarters. Minus-12 turnover ratio is major reason Giants are 2-6. New York coming off bye week after two straight wins. ... Raiders outgained Eagles last week and gave up no turnover scores but still lost, 49-20. Puzzling.

Outlook: Manning heating up. Giants, 30-17.

Jaguars (0-8) at Titans (4-4)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Titans (-13)

The scoop: Chris Johnson of Titans has six career TDs on runs of 80 or more yards, most in league history. He finally woke up last week and ran for 150 in win over Rams. ... Jaguars coming off bye week after loss to Niners in London.

Outlook: Underdog Jaguars never have been in awe of division rival Titans, whether its home or away. Tennessee, 27-20.

Texans (2-6) at Cardinals (4-4)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.

The line: Cardinals (-2½)

The scoop: Texans were leading Colts, 21-3. Then coach Gary Kubiak was stricken at halftime, Wade Phillips took over and Indy rallied for win. Coincidence? ... Case Keenum will make another start at QB for Houston. Texans WR Andre Johnson is second in league with 57 receptions, but only three for touchdowns, both against Colts. ... Cardinals coming off bye and 27-13 home win over Falcons.

Outlook: Under-rated Cardinals own home wins over Lions and Panthers, who are 10-6 combined. Arizona, 27-20.

Dog of the day

Dolphins (4-4) at Buccaneers (0-8)

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

The line: Dolphins (-2½)

The scoop: Winless Bucs have come close with losses by 1, 2, 3 and 3 in OT at Seattle. This looks like their best chance to break through. Next will be home date against Bills on Dec. 8. ... Dolphins have to be hugely distracted by the Martin-Incognito Affair, which has disrupted already suspect offensive line.

Outlook: Lot of dissatisfaction again with Philbin coaching regime. Buccaneers, 17-10.

Last week: 8-4 outright, 8-4 versus spread. Season’s record: 70-54 outright, 59-61-4 versus spread.


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