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Milt Northrop's Sunday Playbook: Why it'll be a telling week in the NFL

Throughout a National Football League season there are "moments of truth" for each of the 32 teams. It's when the results on the field determine who the elite teams really are and who are the pretenders. Today might be one for several teams.

Are the Atlanta Falcons really as menacing as the team that destroyed the Green Bay Packers again last week or the one that coughed a late 25-point lead in Super Bowl LI?

Which version of the New England Patriots should we accept? The Week One team that was humbled by Kansas City or the one that marched into New Orleans and toyed with the Saints?

How bad are the New York Giants? Wouldn't a Tom Coughlin-Kevin Gilbride offense look good compared to what Ben McAdoo and Co. are putting out these days?

Can the Chargers keep on finding new ways to lose?

Some of these questions may be answered today. A capsule of the remaining Week Three games in the NFL:

Game of the day

Falcons (2-0) at Lions (2-0)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Falcons (-3).
The scoop: The only game on the schedule matching undefeated teams. Falcons were unimpressive in road win at Chicago, then handled Packers in opener of new stadium in Atlanta. ... Lions' 20 points in fourth routed Arizona before Monday night win at the Giants. ... Matthew Stafford of Lions shares NFL lead with Trevor Siemian of Broncos with six TD passes. Stafford has completed 7 of 9 with with 158.3 rating in fourth quarter. ... Without Victor Beasley, how much will Falcons' pass rush bother Stafford? ... RB Devonta Freeman and passing of Matt Ryan to Julio Jones will test improved Detroit defense.
Outlook: Lions were 6-2 at home last season and two losses were by one and seven to red-hot Packers in finale. Falcons, 28-27.

Top attractions

Buccaneers (1-0) at Vikings (1-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line:  Vikings (-1 1/2).
The scoop: Decision on whether Sam Bradford or Case Keenum will start at QB for Vikings look like it won't be known until kickoff. Bradford missed last week's loss to loss at Pittsburgh in which the Vikes produced just one TD after impressive offensive show in home opener versus Saints. ... Bucs took advantage of parade of turnovers by Bears to win easily in Chicago in their delayed season opener last week.
Outlook: Buccaneers held Bears to 20 yards rushing last week. They might do the same to Minny, especially if Bradford passing threat is missing. Buccaneers, 20-13.

Texans (1-1) at Patriots (1-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Patriots (-13 1/2).
The scoop: When touted Houston team visited Foxborough last September they were spanked 27-0 with Jacoby Brissett (not Tom Brady) at QB for Patriots. That was before Bill Belichick pawned Brissett off on the Colts. ... Texans didn't exactly set the world on fire in their win at Bengals 10 days ago. ... After 15-point loss to Chiefs, Brady lit up Saints for three first-quarter TD passes on the road. You have to remember that's the Saints.
Outlook: By the time Houston rookie Deshaun Watson figures out what Belichick's defense is doing to him, it will be Tuesday. After some early struggling against Texans "D," it's New England, 27-17.

Raiders (2-0) at Redskins (1-1)

TV: NBC, 8:30 p.m.
The line: Raiders (-3).
The scoop: Oakland comes east for the second time in three games. After close, but impressive win at Tennessee, Raiders toyed with Jets in home opener. ... Redskins had 17-0 lead on road against Rams last week, but needed TD in last two minutes to win, 27-20. ... Washington rolled up an impressive 229 rushing yards against that talented L.A. front four. ... Derek Carr of Raiders has passed for five TDs with no INTs so far. Michael Crabtree caught three in last week's win to take NFL lead in receiving TDs.
Outlook: Raiders may get run over by Washington running game, but Carr pulls them through. This could be most fun game on the day. Oakland, 33-27.

Cowboys (1-1) at Cardinals (1-1)

TV: ESPN, 8:30 p.m. Monday.
The line: Cowboys (-3).
The scoop: The half of the world that hates Jerry Jones' Cowboys hope that last week's embarrassing loss in Denver is a true indication of trouble ahead. Cowboys could find it in Glendale for Arizona home opener although Cardinals were only 4-3-1 at home last season against a soft schedule that included Jets, Rams and Niners. ... Cowboys' depleted secondary will have to stand up to talented Arizona receiving group of J.J. Nelson (16.3-yard average for 10 receptions), Jaron Brown and Larry Fitzgerald.
Outlook: Cowboys overcome selfishness of Ezekiel Elliott for 28-20 win.

Seahawks (1-1) at Titans (1-1)

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.
The line: Titans (-3).
The scoop: Seattle has one touchdown so far and is a notoriously bad offensive team on the road (10 points or fewer in four of eight last season). ... Titans lost home opener to Raiders then scored 31 in second half in unmasking of Jaguars in Jacksonville last week. Tennessee has well-balanced offense with passing of Marcus Mariota and TB combo of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. ... Where's Jimmy Graham? Seattle TE has four catches for 9 yards.
Outlook: Titans win a physical test from road-weary Seahawks, 20-10.

Best of the rest

Broncos (2-0) at Bills (1-1)

TV: CBS, 1 p.m.
The line: Broncos (-2 1/2).
The scoop: Tests keep getting little more difficult each week for Bills' defense that allowed 234.5 average against Jets and Panthers. Now comes Broncos with a legitimate running game and deep receiving threats in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders and rushing defense that is limiting opponents to 2.9 per attempt.
Outlook: Not expecting much passing production for Tyrod Taylor against Von Miller and Denver pass rush, but Bills will bother Trevor Siemian enough to keep it close. Denver, 17-16.

Ravens (2-0) vs. Jaguars (1-1) in London

TV: None. (Yahoo streaming).
The line: Ravens (-3 1/2).
The scoop: It's fifth season in a row Jaguars have played in London, including notorious win over Bills in 2015 with that terrible pass interference call that set up winning touchdown. Jaguars are 2-2 at Wembley. ... Baltimore wins so far over winless Bengals and Browns in division. ... Jaguars lead league with 11 sacks which spells trouble for Joe Flacco, who won't have Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda (ankle fracture) helping to protect him for rest of the season.
Outlook: Bad things keep happening to Jags' QB Blake Bortles. Ravens, 24-17.

Saints (0-2) at Panthers (2-0)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Panthers (-6).
The scoop: Game matches NFL leader in team defense against worst. New Orleans defense is giving up 512.5 ypg and 32.5 ppg. Fortunately Panthers are averaging only 271 and 16.0 and that's against 49ers and Bills. Drew Brees has thrown for 344 per game and nine TDs in last three against division rival. Saints are giving up 388.5 yards per game passing, worst in league by far. Patriots are next at 350.
Outlook: Doesn't Drew Brees deserve a last kick at the can with a contender? Carolina, 23-20.

Steelers (2-0) at Bears (0-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Steelers (-7).
The scoop: Strange that these two old-line NFL teams will be meeting for just the 27th time. Bears lead all-time series, 18-7-1. Mike Glennon, Chicago's caretaker at QB until Mitch Trubisky is ready, had horrendous start to 29-7 loss at Tampa Bay last week. It was 26-0 at half with help of Glennon turnovers. ... Steelers took advantage of Vikings not having Sam Bradford and won 26-9 in Minneapolis. ... Bears diminutive rookie back Tarik Cohen leads team with 79 rushing yards and 16 pass receptions (for only 102 yards).
Outlook: Steelers' flock of fleet receivers, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and rookie Ju Ju Smith Schuster, will make it a long day for Chicago DBs. Pittsburgh, 31-17.

Dolphins (1-0) at Jets (0-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Dolphins (-6).
The scoop: Just like the old days. Miami lucked out when Chargers' rookie kicker missed 44-yarder at end of Dolphins' 19-17 win last week. It was opener for Fish, who have a home game in London next Sunday against Saints. ... WR Jermaine Kearse (11 receptions, 123 yards and two TDs) is virtually the whole Jets offense right now. They didn't have him until trade with Seattle during training camp. How could the Seahawks afford to trade Kearse? Good question. ... Slot receiver Jarvis Landry (Bills fans should never forget his cheap shot against Aaron Williams last season) had 13 receptions from Jay Cutler for 78 yards in last week's win.
Outlook: Dolphins' pass rush and battering ram Jay Ajayi will make for another long day for Jets in their home opener. Dolphins, 27-10.

Giants (0-2) at Eagles (1-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Eagles (-7).
The scoop: Losing is bad but being dull at the same time is unforgiveable. That's what Big Blue fans must be saying. Even return of Odell Beckham Jr. did not light a fire under Giants offense last week. New York has scored one touchdown so far. Eagles Carson Wentz passed for 333 yards and two touchdowns in loss at Kansas City last week, but Eagles are being faulted for over-reliance on passes (85 attempts so far). Only Green Bay and Dallas have more.
Outlook: Eagles have won five of last six against division rivals, driving Giants fans crazy. Philadelphia, 28-13.

Bengals (0-2) at Packers (1-1)

TV: Fox, 4:25 p.m.
The line: Packers (-6 1/2).
The scoop: Cincinnati has not scored a touchdown yet in losses to Ravens and Texans, both at home. Bengals QB Andy Dalton has four interceptions and 47.2 rating. Packers have faced two playoff contenders so far, winning over Seattle at home and losing at NFC champion Atlanta. ... Injuries hurting Pack already. They finished Atlanta game with WRs Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb on the bench with injuries and DT Mike Daniels out. On top of that running game doesn't scare anybody.
Outlook: Despite record, Bengals' defense giving up only 267 yards a game. Cinci good enough to make Packers work for it. Green Bay, 20-17.

Chiefs (2-0) at Chargers (0-2)

TV: CBS, 4:25 p.m.
The line: Chiefs (-3).
The scoop: Kansas City rookie RB Kareem Hunt leads the league with 229 rushing yards and QB Alex Smith is third with five TD passes and second with 134.1 passer rating. Defense is giving up 388.5 per game, but facing Tom Brady one week and the Carson Wentz the next will do that to your numbers. ... "If it can go wrong, it will," is the Chargers' team motto. Bolts have lost by three and two so far after five lossees by four or less in 2016.
Outlook: Chiefs extend win streak over Chargers to seven. 23-14.

Dog of the week

Browns (0-2) at Colts (0-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Pick'em.
The scoop: Cleveland's first visit to Indy since 2012. Colts were routed on road by Rams in opener, and never were behind until Cardinals kicked overtime field goal to beat them last week. Browns have hung in but have been overmatched against division rival Steelers and Ravens so far. Cleveland rookie DeShone Kizer has had impressive moments at QB but knack of a bad decision at wrong time is killing drives. Also he had to leave last week's loss for a while with migraine. Colts will start Jacoby Brissett at QB again because Andrew Luck isn't ready yet after shoulder surgery. He couldn't lead Indy to end zone in second half last week when one TD would have finished off Cardinals.
Outlook: Case of two young inexperienced QBs leading ineffective offenses. Colts, 13-10.

Last week's results: 11-4 outright, 9-6 versus spread.
Season's record: 19-10, outright, 13-15-1 versus spread.

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