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Sunday Playbook by Milt Northrop: It’s time to figure out if some of the unbeatens are for real

The 2013 NFL season is approaching the end of its first quarter and so far the usual upheaval seems to be taking place.

Of the seven undefeated teams, four – Miami, Kansas City, Chicago and New Orleans – did not make the postseason in 2012.

Only one of the six NFC playoff teams from last season, Seattle, has a winning record. Combined, they are 7-12, and Minnesota and Washington have yet to win. Atlanta and Green Bay each have a losing record. San Francisco is 2-2 after routing St. Louis on Thursday night.

All six of the AFC playoff qualifiers from a year ago have winning records but after 3-0 starts Kansas City and Miami look capable of swooping in and grabbing wild-card berths.

Or it all could be a mirage.

Remember, after three weeks in 2012, Buffalo, the New York Jets, San Diego and unbeaten Arizona were leading or tied for the lead in their divisions. They finished a combined 24-40 for an average 6-10 record.

A look at Week Four, in which the home team is the underdog in half the games:

Game of the day

Seahawks (3-0) at Texans (2-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Seahawks (-2).

The scoop: Seahawks outscored Niners and Jags, 74-20, at home last two weeks and will put eight-game regular season win streak on the line at Reliant Stadium. … Houston averaged only 7.8-yards per pass completion last week at Baltimore. Seattle leads league in pass defense.

Outlook: How can supposed Super Bowl contender be an underdog at home? S-Hawks smother Houston passing game. Seattle, 23-17.

Top attractions

Patriots (3-0) at Falcons (1-2)

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

The line: Falcons (-2).

The scoop: This is a great test for each team. How does New England measure up against teams outside AFC East? Will Atlanta turn it around after disappointing start? … First two games, Pats QB Tom Brady outwardly displayed his disappointment with rookie WRs Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. Last week he was hugging them after they came up big in 23-3 win over Buccaneers.

Outlook: Falcons need win badly. Pats may not be able to contain WR Julio Jones. Falcons, 38-35.

Dolphins (3-0) at Saints (3-0)

TV: ESPN, Monday, 8:40 p.m.

The line: Saints (-6ø).

The scoop: Miami may be missing top pass rusher Cameron Wake. Dolphins averaging only 70.3 yards rushing per game and have allowed 14 sacks (Only Jaguars have allowed more). … Nobody has been able to contain QB Drew Brees, TE Jimmy Graham and Saints’ passing game.

Outlook: Atlanta settled for four FG tries against Dolphins last week, but Saints will finish their drives. New Orleans, 28-16.

Bears (3-0) at Lions (2-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Lions (-3).

The scoop: Chicago has yet to lose under new coach Marc Trestman. … Lions second only to Peyton and Broncos in pass offense but Bears have five INTs, two returned for TDs.

Outlook: Lions went 0-3 at home against NFC North rivals last season but are 1-0 already. Make it 2-0. Detroit, 30-21.

Best of the rest

Jets (2-1) at Titans (2-1)

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.

The line: Titans (-3½).

The scoop: Jets don’t have many weapons but Bills couldn’t handle what they had in 27-20 loss last week. … Titans drove 94 yards on last series to beat Chargers last week.

Outlook: Don’t underestimate Jets’ defense. New York, 20-17.

Eagles (1-2) at Broncos (3-0)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.

The line: Broncos (-11).

The scoop: Denver is No. 1, Philadelphia No. 2 in league in total offense. Will Eagles be able to handle sustained hurry-up pace in Mile High Denver atmosphere? … Peyton Manning of Broncos completing 73.0 percent of his passes with 12 TDs so far. Eagles opponents completing at 67.2 rate.

Outlook: Broncos making it look easy. Denver, 34-20.

Ravens (2-1) at Bills (1-2)

TV: Ch. 4, 1 p.m.

The line: Ravens (-3)

The scoop: Last time the teams met, Ray Lewis of the Ravens recovered a David Nelson fumble after a short pass completion and Billy Cundiff kicked a 38-yard field goal in OT. … Ravens won without Ray Rice last week, defeating Texans thanks to an INT return and 82-yard punt return by Tandon Doss. Rice is game-time decision for this one. ... Bills lost only by 7 at Jets last week but were totally ineffective offensively and in pass defense.

Outlook: Joe Flacco averaging only 10.3 yards per completion and Ravens backs averaging only 2.6. Expecting those numbers to increase today. Ravens, 27-13.

Bengals (2-1) at Browns (1-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Bengals (-3ø)

The scoop: Last week. Bengals upset Packers on late fumble return, and Browns won at Minnesota with third-string QB Brian Hoyer. … Browns defense ranks sixth in league after three games and sacked Vikings’ Christian Ponder six times.

Outlook: Browns, who usually play downstate rivals tough, are 2-2 against Cincy in Cleveland the last four years, and one of the losses was by a field goal in OT. Bengals 20-17.

Colts (2-1) at Jaguars (0-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Colts (-8).

The scoop: Indy coming off shocking road win at San Francisco. Jags offered no contest at Seattle. … Blaine Gabbert back at QB for Jax.

Outlook: Only way Indy should lose is if it is caught looking ahead to next week’s game with Seahawks. Colts, 30-10.

Giants (0-3) at Chiefs (3-0)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Chiefs (-4).

The scoop: K.C. looks for third straight home win. Giants were embarrassed by Panthers on road (38-0) last week. … Turnovers killing New York. They are tied with Steelers for league-worst minus-9, and have allowed 11 sacks, while Chiefs are plus-9 in turnovers. … K.C. coach Andy Reid was 17-14 against Giants as coach of Eagles. New York has 10-2 advantage over K.C. all-time with Chiefs last win in ’95.

Outlook: Chiefs QB Alex Smith has not thrown an INT yet and Giants don’t have pass rush to force him into mistakes. Kansas City, 28-21.

Steelers (0-3) vs. Vikings (0-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Steelers (-3).

The scoop: Game is at London’s Wembley Stadium. What did the British do to deserve this matchup? … Steelers near bottom of league in offensive statistics with lowly Jaguars and Buccaneers. … Matt Cassel gets start for injured Vikings QB Christian Ponder, which may be an improvement. Steelers averaging a meager 3.0 yards per rush.

Outlook: Giving Pittsburgh the edge because of QB Ben Roethlisberger. Steelers, 26-20.

Redskins (0-3) at Raiders (1-2)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.

The line: Redskins (-3).

The scoop: Washington is biggest disappointment so far this season. Jim Haslett’s defense is giving up yards at 488.0 rate, last in the league. However, opposition has been high-powered Eagles, Packers and Lions. … Raiders are third in the league in rushing but with QB Terrelle Pryor averaging 198 yards and 7.6 per attempt.

Outlook: Redskins finally a get to face an offense they can contain. Washington avoids early deficit and wins, 31-21.

Cowboys (2-1) at Chargers (1-2)

TV: Ch. 29, 4:25 p.m.

The line: Cowboys (-2).

The scoop: Chargers come home after two Eastern games and face Dallas team that leads weak NFC East. … QB Philip Rivers of Bolts is second in league with 116.2 rating, but his leading receiver is RB Danny Woodhead and 6.4-yard-per-catch average. … Tony Romo of Dallas has six TD passes with just one INT.

Outlook: San Diego defense seems to fade late in games. Cowboys 33-27.

Dog of the day

Cardinals (1-2) at Buccaneers (0-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Buccaneers (-2½).

The scoop: Tampa Bay made move to rookie Mike Glennon at QB after Josh Freeman completed just 45.7 percent with 59.3 passer rating in first three games.

Outlook: Cards not a good road team, but Bucs have internal unrest and may be trying to get coach fired. Cardinals, 17-13.

Last week: 7-8, 2-10-2 versus spread.

Season’s record: 25-20 outright, 14-26-4 versus spread.


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