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Picturesque play can enliven a humdrum slate

The NFL's Week Seven schedule appears as unappetizing as last week's did. And what did the drab-looking Week Six slate produce?Upsets of the New York Giants and Washington Redskins.One overtime surprise (Arizona over Dallas).Two games decided on the last play of regulation.Two others decided in the last nine seconds.The lesson: You just never know what to expect in the NFL.This week's slate is far from impressive. Four teams that won last week -- Arizona, Atlanta, Jacksonville and Philadelphia -- have open dates. There are only three divisional games on the schedule. San Francisco and St. Louis, two of the weakest teams, are matched against the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, two of the strongest.The big question is which teams will bounce back from losses? New England? Chicago? Carolina? The Giants? Dallas? Washington? Denver?

>Game of the day

Chargers (3-3) at Bills (4-1)

TV: Ch. 4, 1 p.m.

The line: Bills (-1).

The scoop: The most interesting game on the schedule. It will indicate whether the Chargers are really on the road to the Super Bowl. It also may tell us if the Bills are a true playoff contender. . . . Buffalo gets QB Trent Edwards and return threat Roscoe Parrish back. . . . San Diego's Philip Rivers is coming off a 306-yard passing game against New England in which he completed 66.7 percent and had a 141.9 passer rating.

Outlook: Bills' flaws were evident in loss at Arizona. Chargers, 31-21.

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>Top attractions

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

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

The line: Patriots (-3).

The scoop: Which team will bounce back? Jacksonville ended Denver's home winning streak. The Pats were humbled at San Diego. . . . Denver coach Mike Shanahan has a 9-3 record against New England and the Broncos have won four of the last five in the series between the teams, including a 17-7 triumph in Foxborough two years ago. . . . San Diego's aggressive defense shook Pats QB Matt Cassel last week. Denver will try the same tactics, but is allowing a whopping 393 yards per game.

Outlook: Patriots, back home after bye and two road games, return some joy to Boston, 24-17.

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Vikings (3-3) at Bears (3-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Bears (-3).

The scoop: Last time the Vikings visited Soldier Field, Adrian Peterson ran through the Bears for what was then a franchise-record 224 yards. Minnesota has won last two games in rivalry. . . . Chicago took lead with 11 seconds left last week at Atlanta and lost.

Outlook: Vikes QB Gus Frerotte is 3-1 in career against Chicago. Minnesota, 17-13.

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Saints (3-3) at Panthers (4-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Panthers (-3).

The scoop: Supposedly resurgent Panthers managed one field goal and only 40 yards rushing in division loss at Tampa Bay last week. . . . Carolina has won four of last five in series but Saints won, 31-6, in their most recent visit to Charlotte last November.

Outlook: No. 2 offense in league (Saints) trumps NFC's top defense, 23-16.

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Browns (2-3) at Redskins (4-2)

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.

The line: Redskins (-7 1/2 ).

The scoop: Is Cleveland finally awake? Browns, who started season like the Indians, played up to expectations in rout of Giants. . . . Redskins' loss to Rams was inexcusable for a team with playoff aspirations. Washington had no turnovers in previous four games, but lost three fumbles against Rams.

Outlook: Could be day's best game. Redskins, 27-24.

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Colts (3-2) at Packers (3-3)

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.

The line: Colts (-1).

The scoop: Marvin Harrison in decline? He opened Colts' surprising rout of Ravens with 67-yard TD catch from Peyton Manning, who had his best game this season. . . . Packers coming off win at Seattle, relied heavily on running of Ryan Grant (33 carries, 90 yards) with QB Aaron Rodgers ailing.

Outlook: Manning lights up Lambeau. Indianapolis, 31-27.

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>Best of the rest

Ravens (2-3) at Dolphins (2-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Dolphins (-3).

The scoop: Dolphins favored at home for first time since Jets game last December. . . . Miami's only win in '07 was over Ravens, 22-16, in overtime.

Outlook: Miami (4-0) never has lost to the Ravens at Dolphins Stadium. Make it 5-0, 17-9.

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Cowboys (4-2) at Rams (1-4)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Cowboys (-7).

The scoop: Rams upset Washington last week despite only 200 yards total offense. Jim Haslett's defense largely responsible for upset. . . . WR Roy Williams, most recent acquisition of star-gazing Jerry Jones, will make his debut with 'Boys.

Outlook: Cowboys score workmanlike victory, 28-10.

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Titans (5-0) at Chiefs (1-4)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Titans (-9).

The scoop: Tennessee (5-0), only remaining unbeaten team in league, comes off bye and finds lowly Kansas City, also coming off bye, sitting there. . . . Things haven't been this bad in K.C. since 1977 (2-12), the season before Marv Levy arrived.

Outlook: Chiefs upset Denver in last home game. Titans play 'em all close. Tennessee, 17-13.

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49ers (2-4) at Giants (4-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Giants (-10 1/2 ).

The scoop: Browns brought Giants back to earth after a string of soft opponents. . . . New York still may be best-balanced NFC team. . . . Giants lead the league in offense (419.4 ypg) and are third in NFC in defense (279.6). . . . Niners have given up nearly 28 points a game.Outlook: Tom Coughlin is angry and his Giants will be, too. New York, 33-17.

*

Steelers (4-1) at Bengals (0-6)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Steelers (-9 1/2 ).

The scoop: Ben Roethlisberger needed week off and should be healed some from his injuries. . . . Ryan Fitzpatrick starts again at QB for Bengals with Carson Palmer out. . . . Pittsburgh has won last seven times in Cincinnati.

Outlook: Steelers' lead in AFC North could be three games after this weekend. Pittsburgh, 27-17.

*

Jets (3-2) at Oakland (1-4)

TV: Ch. 4, 4:15 p.m.

The line: Jets (-3).

The scoop: Raiders were embarrassed last week in New Orleans, and they will struggle until JaMarcus Russell gets some seasoning. . . . Jets did not impress in routine win over Bengals. . . . New York's defense ranks 11th in league.

Outlook: Raiders can be stingy at home. Conservative effort by Jets keeps it close. New York, 21-19.

*

Seahawks (1-4) at Bucs (4-2)

TV: Ch. 2, 8:15 p.m.

The line: Buccaneers (-10 1/2 ).

The scoop: Seahawks in deep, deep trouble. They may not win title again in soft-touch NFC West. Seneca Wallace (calf) is back to start at QB instead of injured starter Matt Hasselbeck (back). . . . Jeff Garcia starts again at QB for Bucs, who are in three-way tie for NFC South lead.

Outlook: Seattle is 0-2 in Eastern time zone so far. Make it 0-3. Bucs, 28-6.

***

Dog of the day

Lions (0-5) at Texans (1-4)

TV: Ch. 29, 4:05 p.m.

The line: Texans (-9 1/2 ).

The scoop: Dan Orlovsky starts for Lions with Jon Kitna on IR. . . . Houston finally won last week, just barely over Dolphins on 3-yard Matt Schaub run with three seconds left.

Outlook: Texans too explosive for weak Lions. Houston, 33-14.

Open: Arizona, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Jacksonville.

e-mail: mnorthrop@buffnews.com

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