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Sunday Playbook: Vikings step up in class against Steelers

Where’s the offense? Five NFL teams – not counting Miami and Tampa Bay, who were sidelined by Hurricane Irma – failed to score a touchdown in the opening week of the National Football League schedule. Either the defense is ahead of the offense or the offense just plain stinks.

Week 2 is often viewed as the first pivotal juncture of the season, but does it make much difference if teams are 2-0, 1-1 or 0-2 come Tuesday morning?

Obviously it’s better to win than lose but nothing will be written in stone. Of the 12 teams that made the postseason in 2016, three started 2-0 (New York Giants, New England and Pittsburgh). Only Miami started 0-2. The other eight were 1-1 after two weeks of the season.

Still, it would seem that Week 1 losers are under some pressure to get to 1-1 or face long odds. That would especially be true of serious contenders such as New England, Tennessee and the Giants.

At most, only 10 teams will come through Week 2 with perfect records because five of the games on the schedule match undefeated teams. Two such meeting stand out: the Steelers versus the Minnesota Vikings in Pittsburgh, and an NFC Championship Game rematch between the Falcons and Green Bay Packers in Atlanta. The Philadelphia Eagles visiting Kansas City to face the Chiefs is a close runnerup.

Here’s a look at the Week 2 schedule:

Game of the Day
Vikings (1-0) at Steelers (1-0)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Steelers (-6).
The scoop: Vikings bandwagon is filling up fast after Sam Bradford (346 passing yards) and rookie RB Dalvin Cook (127 yards rushing) carved up Saints in opener. That production, coupled with a defense that ranked third in the league last season, has experts envisioning a Minny playoff run. Pittsburgh turned in a so-so offensive performance in the opener at Cleveland. More than half the Steelers’ offensive production (290 yards) came on 182 yards worth of receptions by WR Antonio Brown, who did not score.

Outlook: Rolling up the yards against the Steelers at Heinz Field is a much more difficult proposition than doing it at home against the Aints. Pittsburgh, 27-17.

Top attractions
Packers (1-0) at Falcons (1-0)
TV: NBC, 8:30 p.m.
The line: Falcons (-3).
The scoop: Rematch of last season’s NFC Championship Game won by Atlanta, 44-31. Matt Ryan of the Falcons (117.1) and Aaron Rodgers of te Packers (104.2) ranked No. 1 and 4 in the league last season. When the teams met in Atlanta in the regular season last October, Falcons won a 33-32 shootout.
Outlook: Both offenses looked a little rusty in openers when they got into scoring territory. Each had yardage counts in the 370s, but put the ball into the end zone just twice. Looking for both offenses to break out with Pack winning, 30-27.

Cowboys (1-0) at Broncos (1-0)
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Cowboys (-2).
The scoop: Was it Dallas defense or ineptness of Giants offense last week when New York was kept out of end zone? Broncos got first win for rookie head coach Vance Joseph against Chargers, but just barely. Will be fun to see how touted Dallas OL fends off Broncos’ sack master Von Miller.
Outlook: How often has a road team been the favorite in Denver? Broncos can expect to see a lot of RB Ezekiel Elliott. Dallas, 21-13.

Titans (0-1) at Jaguars (1-0)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Titans (-3).
The scoop: Have the Boys from Syracuse (Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone) really changed things in Jax? Stopping Marcus Mariota of Titans will be bit more difficult than going against Houston’s Tom Savage and rookie Deshaun Watson last week. Titans had no turnovers and played a statistically even game against Raiders at home, but settled for three field goals, one after a 93-yard drive, in loss. Jacksonville limited chances Blake Bortles could turn it over at Houston and got 100 rushing yards from rookie workhorse Leonard Fournette (26 carries).
Outlook: Jags limited Texans to 203 yards in Houston in opener and ran ball 39 times and passed only 21. Can’t see them getting away with that against Marcus Mariota and Co. Titans win dull one, 17-10.

Eagles (1-0) at Chiefs (1-0)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Chiefs (-6).
The scoop: Andy Reid, ex-Philly coach, goes against old team for second time since his departure after 2012 season. Loss of super safety Eric Berry is huge setback for Chiefs. Isn’t it about time KC QB Alex Smith got some respect after slicing up mighty Patriots last week? Chiefs had 537 total yards at New England, most for them since 2006. Each side leans heavily on tight ends but Chiefs have ultimate weapon in super-speedster Tyreek Hill.
Outlook: These teams know each other well. Eagles coach Doug Pederson was offensive coordinator for Chiefs from 2013-15. Chiefs, 24-16.

Patriots (0-1) at Saints (0-1)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Patriots (-7).
The scoop: Settling for field goals inside 10 -- Saints did that three times at Minnesota last week -- won’t beat New England. When was last time Patriots ranked last in the league in total defense? When was last time Tom Brady (70.0) was not among the top 10 in passer ratings in the AFC? Despite averaging 16.7 yard per completion and throwing no picks in loss to KC, he passed for no TDs.
Outlook: Brady vs. Drew Brees, matchup of two of the most productive passers in NFL history, is a rarity. If Alex Smith can light up Pats for 368 in Foxboro, what will Brees do in N’Awlins? Patriots, 42-38.
Best of the rest

Bills (1-0) at Panthers (1-0)
TV: CBS, 1 p.m.
The line: Panthers (-7).
The scoop: Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane’s team goes back to Carolina and a stadium that will be loaded with Buffalo ex-pats. The word to describe Panthers QB Cam Newton after opening win at San Francisco was “rusty.” He completed 14 for 25 for only 171 yards and two TDS. Bills will get a lot of looks at Carolina rookie Christian McCaffrey, who had ball in his hands 21 times against Niners. Big complaints after Bills’ opening win over Jets: Not enough targets of WR, not enough snaps for DT Marcell Dareus, not enough opposition from Jets. Picky, picky ...
Outlook: McDermott knows Panthers well. Offense struggles, but defense comes up big in 20-17 loss.

Cardinals (0-1) at Colts (0-1)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Cardinals (-7½).
The scoop: Both teams in trouble injury-wise. Colts still without QB Andrew Luck and Cards have lost RB David Johnson until at least December. Arizona was second in league in defense last season, but gave up four TD passes to Matthew Stafford and Lions in loss at Detroit last week. Chris Williams, who was cut in preseason, was re-signed by Cards to replace Johnson. Bruce Arians was NFL Coach of the Year with Indy while filling in for ill Chuck Pagano in 2012. Teams have not met in Indy since 2006.
Outlook: Colts struggling without Luck, but Cards had no running game (45 yards, 18 attempts versus Lions) and were only 3-5 on road last season with two wins coming at SF and LA. Arizona, 17-14.

Bears (0-1) at Buccaneers (0-0)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Buccaneers (-7).
The scoop: Bucs facing 16-week gauntlet after opener at Miami was postponed, but that’s the way it used to be before the NFL instituted the bye week to squeeze another week of games out of the schedule for TV. ... Bears have exciting rookie in 5-6, 179-pound scatback Tarik Cohen, a fourth-rounder from North Carolina A&T. Ex-Celtic bank-shot artist Sam Jones went to A&T.
Outlook: Bears new QB Mike Glennon goes back home to Raymond James Stadium to face old team. Chicago used to visit Tampa regularly when teams were in same division before realignment. Lot of Chicago transplants and snowbirds should be in crowd unless Irma sent them all away. Bears just talented enough to throw a scare. Tampa Bay, 20-17.

Dolphins (0-0) at Chargers (0-1)
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.
The line: Chargers (-4 ½).
The scoop: Miami won’t play at home until Oct. 8. They go from L.A. to N.Y. to open Jets’ home season and then to London for “home” game with Saints. ... Chargers teased followers, as usual, with comeback that failed at Denver.
Outlook: All of San Diego rooting for Chargers to fail and Spanos Family to be embarrassed in new home. All eyes will be on head count at StubHub Center in Carson. Jay Cutler’s first real game as QB of the Fish. Bolts’ Younghoe Koo and Raiders’ Giorgio Tavecchio are rookie kicker names to remember. Dolphins have offensive balance, which is unusual for them. Miami, 31-23.

Jets (0-1) at Raiders (1-0)
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.
The line: Raiders (-14).
The scoop: If Jets are tanking they are doing a good job of it. They’re offense looks like it will have difficulty averaging much over 200 yards this season, but defense should be decent until injuries and demoralization sets in because of pathetic offense and lame-duck coaching situation and empty seats at Met Life.
Outlook: Raiders will show no mercy. Oakland, 35-9.

Redskins (0-1) at Rams (1-0)
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Rams (-3).
The scoop: Wish Bills had a receiving corps like the Rams with Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods? They did once. Los Angeles rang up 46 points on Colts last week for debut of rookie kid coach Sean McVay, 31 years old. His granddad coached Giants in Meadowlands Miracle loss to Eagles in 1979. Big point total versus Colts was product of Indy offensive ineptness (0 for 10 on third down), three FGs, a safety and two pick-6s.
Outlook: Rams QB Jared Goff should have some fun against Redskins’ secondary. Los Angeles, 27-20.

Lions (1-0) at Giants (0-1)
TV: ESPN, Monday, 8:30 p.m.
The line: Lions (-3½).
The scoop: Big Blue fans will be restless if Eli and Co. turn in another offensive performance as dreadful as last week’s against Cowboys. Matt Stafford of Lions threw for three second-half TDs against Cards last week, two to rookie Kenny Golladay, another third-rounder from Mid-American Conference (Northern Illinois) who stood out in Week 1. Memo to NFL Scouts: Start paying more attention to Mid-American Conference.
Outlook: As dull as they are like the Giants as a home underdog, 20-17.

Browns (0-1) at Ravens (1-0)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The scoop: Ravens had no difficulty shutting down the Bengals on the road last week with the help of five Cincy turnovers. With healthy lead, 17-0 at half, they pounded away on the ground, 42 rushing attempts. Browns closed to within three of Steelers at home but couldn’t get the ball back after score with 3:05 left. Rookie QB DeShone Kizer completed 20 for 30 for 222 yards and one TD and scored once himself in his NFL debut. Promising start but going against Balto defense won’t be easy. Ravens have dominated new Browns, 27-9, in rivalry.
Outlook: Browns will hand with division rivals until they get worn down with injuries and fatigue earlier in season. Ravens, 23-17.

Dog of the Week

49ers (0-1) at Seahawks (1-0)
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Seahawks (-14).
The scoop: Neither produced a touchdown in Week 1 games.
Outlook: Nothing suggests 49ers have a chance in the Seattle noise against that defense, but San Francisco teams are used to playing there and historically it takes a month or so for Seattle offense to get going. Remember, Seahawks lost to Rams, 9-3, in Week 2 last season and that was week after Rams were blanked by Niners, 28-0. Seahawks, 21-10
Last week’s results: 8-6 outright, 4-9-1 versus spread.

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