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Milt Northrop’s Sunday Playbook: Ravens, Eagles among 0-2 desperadoes

Does an 0-2 start doom a team to also-ran status in the season’s final accounting in the National Football League?

Not necessarily, but it’s not a recommended way to open the season.

In 2014, seven teams pushed off with an 0-2 start. Only one, Indianapolis, made the playoffs. The other six were a combined 30-44 the rest of the season.

Seven NFL teams stand 0-2 heading into the weekend. Four – the Ravens, Eagles, Colts and Lions – were viewed as playoff timber before the season. Four of the 0-2 teams face undefeated opponents. It’s desperation time.

Only one game on the schedule – Chicago at Seattle – matches winless teams. Only Atlanta at Dallas finds undefeateds colliding.

A capsule look at the Week Three games:

Game of the dayBengals (2-0) at Ravens (0-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Ravens (-2½)

The scoop: Losing this one would drop Baltimore three full games behind in the AFC North race. Ravens should be in desperation mode in their home opener. Both Baltimore losses were on West Coast road trip but getting lit up by Raiders seems inexcusable.

Outlook: Bengals don’t seem to fear Ravens. They swept series in ’14 and have won four of last five. Bengals, 30-27.

Top attractionsBills (1-1) at Dolphins (1-1)

TV: CBS, 4:25 p.m.

The line: Dolphins (-3)

The scoop: Bills have new bogus issue: handling of No. 2 QB situation. As Hillary Rodham Clinton said in the Benghazi hearings: “What difference does it make?” … Miami unimpressive so far, but Bills “D” may be most overrated unit in league and they haven’t figured out how to use all those offensive weapons.

Outlook: Thank goodness it’s a late afternoon start, but you still have to like Miami in the heat. Dolphins, 24-13.

Eagles (0-2) at Jets (2-0)

TV, FOX, 1 p.m.

The line: Jets (-1)

The scoop: New York may be second-best team in AFC East unless Ryan Fitzpatrick implodes. … Philly QB Sam Bradford had end zone INT and lost fumble last week and couldn’t produce a TD until just before final minute. Last year’s NFL rushing leader, DeMarco Murray, who may not play, has 11 total rushing yards and 0.5 average so far. Jets giving up only 3.8 on ground.

Outlook: Eagles coach Chip Kelly’s “genius” rep takes another rap. Jets, 20-10.

Steelers (1-1) at Rams (1-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Steelers (-1)

The scoop: Ben Roethlisberger (72.2 completion rate, 122.6 passer rating) may not be as good as Brady and Rodgers, but he is mighty good. Other NFL receivers should study how Antonio Brown of Steelers (18 receptions, 18.2 yards, 2 TDs) is always open.

Outlook: Rams’ pass rush, perhaps the NFL’s best, will bother Ben, but won’t stop him. Steelers, 34-24.

Falcons (2-0) at Cowboys (2-0)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Falcons (-1½)

The scoop: Dallas begins eight-game stretch without Tony Romo. Brandon Weeden completed 7 of 7 in relief last week at Philadelphia, but dinked first six before hitting 42-yard TD bomb that wrapped up game. … Falcons have their confidence back after wins over inept Eagles and Giants.

Outlook: O-line, defense and home crowd carry Cowboys through first test without Romo. Dallas, 24-21.

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

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

The line: Packers (-6½)

The scoop: How will Chiefs recover from heartbreaking loss to their bitterest rival in prime time? Who will be first to pick off Aaron Rodgers pass at Lambeau since Harrison Smith of Vikings did it Dec. 2, 2012?

Outlook: After getting blanked in ’14, K.C. wide receivers still haven’t caught TD pass this year. Green Bay, 28-17.

Best of the restSaints (0-2) at Panthers (2-0)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Panthers (-9)

The scoop: Saints getting dissed after six straight home losses and signs that QB Drew Brees (bruised rotator cuff) is playing hurt. The other McCown (Luke) is backup. Since 2010, Brees’ backups have thrown only 10 passes (seven completions) in regular-season games.

Outlook: Cam Newton is still erratic but makes big plays with immense physical talent. Panthers, who have won four of last six versus Saints, add another, 30-16.

Raiders (1-1) at Browns (1-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Browns (-3)

The scoop: Oakland got whomped at home by Bengals after Derek Carr was injured, then upset Ravens last week with Carr passing for 351 yards and three TDs. … Browns return to Josh McCown as starting QB over Johnny Manziel, who threw two scoring bombs to Travis Benjamin last week, but still looks like a sandlotter most of the time.

Outlook: First week was deceiving. Raiders starting to climb back to relevance, win 26-20.

Buccaneers (1-1) at Texans (0-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Texans (-6½)

The scoop: Winning first career game on road is big for Bucs rookie QB Jameis Winston after so-so opening week. Now he gets a look at JJ Watt. Look out.

Outlook: Watt and QB Ryan Mallett lead Houston to 30-21 victory.

Chargers (1-1) at Vikings (1-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Vikings (-2)

The scoop: After traveling to Cincy last week, Chargers are in Middle America again. … Philip Rivers has most TD passes in San Diego history, but is only third on INT list.

Outlook: Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater is 6-2 at home and has won last four starts. Minny, 24-20.

Jaguars (1-1) at Patriots (2-0)

TV: CBS, 1 p.m.

The line: Patriots (-13½)

The scoop: Demolition of Bills last week with help of 14 Buffalo penalties and all-around special teams disaster sent a message that Patriots’ reign may not be over. … Does upset over Dolphins mean Jaguars are getting better or are Dolphins that dysfunctional?

Outlook: It’s tough to cover two-touchdown spread, even for the Deflate-riots. New England, 33-21.

Colts (0-2) at Titans (1-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Colts (-3)

The scoop: Just when Indy needs it most, up crops Tennessee. Indy has won last seven and 13 of last 14 over Titans in AFC South rivalry. … People beginning to doubt Andrew Luck, who was viewed as first-ballot Hall of Famer before season began. … Rookie QB Marcus Mariota has six TDs, no INTs and 129.9 passer rating in first two NFL games.

Outlook: Should be a fun shootout between two former Pac-12 QBs. Colts, 37-31.

49ers (1-1) at Cardinals (2-0)

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.

The line: Cardinals (-6½)

The scoop: Arizona looks awfully good with Carson Palmer back at QB and people are starting to mention coach Bruce Arians in same breath at Belichick. Whoa, there. … Cards are 2-10 since 2009 against San Francisco and both wins were at home, including 23-14 last year.

Outlook: Arizona always struggles to score against Niners. Cardinals, 17-9.

Broncos (2-0) at Lions (0-2)

TV: NBC, 8:30 p.m.

The line: Broncos (-3)

The scoop: Each coach, Gary Kubiak and Jim Caldwell, is 2-0 against opposing franchise. … Caldwell getting lot of flak for Detroit’s disappointing start, blowing lead at San Diego and falling to division rival Vikings. … Broncos coming off win at K.C. in what looked like a sure loss.

Outlook: It’s not a good time for Lions to be taking on Peyton Manning and tough Denver, but look for them to answer criticism with a max performance. Detroit, 24-23.

Dog of the dayBears (0-2) at Seahawks (0-2)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.

The line: Seahawks (-14½)

The scoop: Jimmy Clausen may have to start for Chicago if Jay Cutler is unable to go. Seattle welcomes hard-tackling safety Kam Chancellor back from holdout.

Outlook: Seahawks need win badly. This one could be ugly. Seattle, 27-16.

Last week’s record: 6-8 outright; 7-7 versus spread

Season’s record: 17-12 outright; 18-11 versus spread.


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