Sunday Playbook: Super Bowl LI rematch at hand - The Buffalo News

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Sunday Playbook: Super Bowl LI rematch at hand

Sunday night's Atlanta-New England game between of the last Super Bowl opponents will get most of the attention, but more important will be the five divisional matchups on the Week Seven National Football League schedule.

Two of the five, Cincinnati at Pittsburgh in the AFC North and Washington at Philadelphia on Monday night in the NFC East, could swing the championship races in those divisions.

If the Patriots have kept Bills fans in misery -- and out of the playoffs -- for most of the 21st century, the Steelers have been just as much bad news to Cincinnati.

Since 2010, the Patriots are 11-3 against Buffalo. Over the same stretch, Pittsburgh is 12-3 against the Bengals. Not only does Cincinnati have difficulty beating the Steelers, they have a lot of trouble scoring. The Bengals have not scored more than 21 points in the last 15 games against Pittsburgh, and its worse on the road. Their high point total the last seven visits to the Steel City is 20. The average is a shade under 14.

As for Arizona against the L.A. Rams in London -- where else would you play an NFC West game? The New York Jets at Miami and Denver at the L.A. Chargers are the other divisional matchups this week.

A capsule look at the Week Seven schedule:

Game of the day

Falcons (3-2) at Patriots (4-2)

TV: NBC, 8:30 p.m.
The line: Patriots (-3 1/2).
The scoop: Super Bowl LI, where Falcons built 28-3 lead and lost, will be revisited in Foxboro. It's the first of three road games in a row for the Falcons, who have lost their last two, at home. ... Despite Tom Brady's excellent numbers (13 TDs, 2 INTs), the Patriots have been shaky. Their only decisive win was at New Orleans in Week Two. The 40-year-old QB has been sacked 16 times. The Patriots allowed only 24 sacks in all of last season. ... Matt Ryan has only one 300-yard passing game this season. All six of the QBs who have faced New Enrlnd so far has passed for at least 300.
Outlook: Ryan not as consistent at Brady this year. Unless Atlanta pass rush gets to No. 12 its New England, 34-21.

Top attractions

Bengals (2-3) at Steelers (4-2)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Steelers (-5 1/2).
The scoop: Steelers getting handled at home by Jaguars was shocking, but they came up big last week with a mauling of the Chiefs. Cincy started with three losses, but has wins over Bills and Browns since then. Bengals are No. 2, Steelers No. 3 in league behind Denver in total defense. ... Despite naysayers, Andy Dalton of the Bengals has played well in recent division games -- 10 TDs, no INTs in last five and in his last three road games has been plus-100 in passer rating.
Outlook: LeVeon Bell, who leads the league in rushing attemps, and Antonio Brown, who leads with 40 receptions and 700 yards, tough combination to beat. Steelers, 27-17.

Redskins (3-2) at Eagles (5-1)

TV: ESPN, Monday, 8:30 p.m.
The line: Eagles (-4 1/2).
The scoop: Last chance for Washington to stave off Green Machine's march to NFC East title because Dallas and New York Giants don't seem strong enough to do it. Eagles won first meeting, 30-17, in Week One at FedEx Field with Carson Wentz passing for two scores. It was a six-point game, though, before DT Fletcher Cox returned a fumble for score in last two minutes. ... Phila still has two with Dallas and road game at Giants left in division.
Outlook: Washington just squeezed by offensively challenged 49ers last week. Wentz passed for three TDs in last two games and has been especially good at home. Eagles, 26-20.

Saints at Packers (4-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Saints (-5 1/2).
The scoop: Prospect of a Aaron Rodgers-Drew Brees duel was lost when Rodgers went out for season with broken collarbone. Packers coach Mike McCarthy seems to be the only one showing any faith in Rodgers' replacement, Brett Hundley, who threw his first NFL career pass last week against Vikings (19 for 34, 1 TD, 3 INTS). This is former UCLA QB's third season with Packers. ... Brees has passed for 10 TDs, 1,321 yards already and has always played well against NFC North teams. ... Saints nearly blew 38-10 lead at home to Lions last week.
Outlook: Looking for Pack's defense and running game to rally behind Hundley. Saints, 24-21.

Buccaneers (2-3) at Bills (3-2)

TV: Fox, 1 p.m.
The line: Bills (-3).
The scoop: Question remains:  Jameis Winston (shoulder) has been erratic so far. Ryan Fitzpatrick produced big second half comeback (four TD passes) in loss on road to Cards last week after Tampa fell behind, 35-0. ... Have Bills, coming off bye, improved their lagging offense? ... Buccaneers have only six sacks so far. ... Bucs rank 31st in pass defense but Bills are 31st in pass offense.
Outlook: Bills defense figures to be tested by fourth-ranked offense with RB Frank Martin, big WR Mike Evans and TE Cameron Brate, who has caught TD pass in last four games. Buffalo slugs out 20-16 win.

Jets (3-3) at Dolphins (3-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Dolphins (-3).
The scoop: Jets are supposed to be tanking and Dolphins lost three in a row with little offense, before rallying in second half for upset at Atlanta last week. ... Josh McCown had New York in front of Patriots, 14-0, last week before NFL officials put microscope to apparent touchdown and cancelled it, swinging game to New England's favorite. ... New York better be prepared to see a lot of Miami RB Jay Ajayi and Dolphins' receiving corps starting to get in synch with Jay Cutler.
Outlook: Believe it or not: Jets are only AFC East team with all-time advantage over Miami (54-48-1), but not this time. Dolphins, 24-10.

Best of the rest

Panthers (4-2) at Bears (2-4)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Panthers (-3)
The scoop: Bears went into Baltimore and ran for 231 yards in OT win last week. ... Carolina lost at home to Eagles on Thursday night. ... Cam Newton and Panthers started to use rookie Christian McCaffrey effectively. He has 37 receptions, two for TDs. Rookie Mitchell Trubisky gets third start but Bears are keeping him under wraps. Chicago RB Jordan Howard is averaging 4.2 yards per attempt and rookie RB Tank Cohen as 26 receptions.
Outlook: Beware the Bears at home, but Newton and Panthers can tough this one out, 20-13.

Jaguars (3-3) at Colts (2-4)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Jaguars (-3 1/2).
The scoop:  Jaguars are as unpredictable as any team in unpredictable league. ... Jags have been impressive in wins at Texans and rout of Ravens in London and at Pittsburgh, but they've also lost at Jets and at home to Rams. Doug Marrone leaning on rookie RB Leonard Fournette and trying to get ball out of QB Blake Bortles' hands. ... Colts have some offensive weapons, even without Andrew Luck, but are giving up 410 yards a game
Outlook: Colts hold Fournette under 135 scrimmage yards, win 21-13.

Cardinals (3-3) vs. Rams (4-2) 

Kickoff: 1 p.m., London
The line: Rams (-3 1/2).
The scoop: Game at Twickenham Stadium, a rugby stadium in London, not Wembley. Rams trained in Jacksonville where they won, 27-17, last week before departing for Great Britain. Special teams (103-yard kickoff return, blocked punt) were big in Rams' win. ... Less than a week after his trade from Saints, Adrian Peterson ran for 134 yards against Bucs last week. Larry Fitzgerald of Cards having huge season. Leads NFC with 42 receptions for 465 yards, three TDs.
Outlook: London games tough to call, but Rams are NFL's highest scoring team (29.8) and win, 35-27.

Ravens (3-3) at Vikings (4-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Vikings (-5 1/2).
The scoop: Door wide open for Vikes to win the NFC North with Rodgers out at Green Bay, but can QB Chase Keenum stay as efficient as he has been in place of Sam Bradford? A true journeyman, Keenum has 93.1 rating and only one INT so far. Ravens' QB Joe Flacco has only 4 TD passes with 8 INTs so far.
Outlook: Vikings "D" allowing only 295.5 ypg and they are home Minnesota, 27-17.

Cowboys (2-3) at 49ers (0-6)

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.
The line: Cowboys (-6).
The scoop: Reprieve from the governor keeps Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott out of Goodell Jail for now. ... Even with him and though QB Dak Prescott has held up and Demarcus Lawrence leads league with 8.5 sacks, Cowboys have been mediocre. ... Niners making history by losing close -- by 3, 2, 3(OT), 3 (OT) and 2 in last five.
Outlook: C.J. Beathard of the Beathard football clan may get first start for Niners in place of Brian Hoyer at QB. Cowboys pass rush should give him a rough ride. Cowboys, 31-10.

Broncos (3-2) at (Chargers (2-4)
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Chargers (-2).
The scoop: Denver's flop at home against Giants hard to explain. Broncos QB Trevor Siemian has thrown six INTs and team is minus-5 in turnovers. Siemian will have Melvin Ingram (7.5 sacks) and Joey Bosa (5.5 sacks) dogging him this week. ... Both Chargers wins have been on road. They are 0-4 parked in StubHub Center in Carson.
Outlook: Broncos have won 10 of last 12 vs. Bolts, but their league-leading defense won't carry them through. Chargers, 24-17.

Seahawks (3-2) at Giants (1-5)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Seahawks (-5 1/2).
The scoop: Seattle coming off bye after win at L.A. Rams. ... Giants rocked the world by dominating Broncos at Mile High last week for first win. ... You can be sure Seahawks' protesters Michael Bennett and Doug Baldwin will have trouble resisting the temptation to hijack the scene at MetLife just a few miles from media capital of the world.
Outlook: Giants defense digs in against Seattle offense that produced 16 points or fewer in three of five games. Giants, 20-17.

Dog of the day

Titans (3-3) at Browns (0-6)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Titans (-5 1/2).
The scoop: Browns coach Hue Jackson shifts back to rookie DeShone Kizer at QB after starting Kevin Hogan last week. ... Browns having more trouble scoring (15.7) than even the Bills (17.8). ... Grand Island's Brett Kern is second in league with 51.5 punting average and 46.9 net for Tennessee.
Outlook: Titans have too much balance and too many offensive weapons to Browns. Titans, 28-13.

Last week's results: 6-7 straight up; 5-7 versus spread.
Season's record: 46-39 straight up; 39-44-2 versus spread.
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