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NFL Sunday Playbook: Bills-Jets winner takes AFC East lead

If Pete Rozelle were around today he wouldn't be comfortable.

One word most associated with the late former commissioner of the National Football League was "parity." He took great pride in the unpredictability and the even competition that made the league so popular.

Well, the NFL is coming off a season marked by an historic lack of parity and seems headed for another.

In the 38 seasons that the NFL has played a 16-game regular-season schedule, 2016 was only the second that with as many as four teams with three wins or fewer. Last season, Cleveland (1-15), San Francisco (2-14), Jacksonville (3-13) and Chicago (3-13) failed to win one quarter of their games. All four figure to be improved, but others seems capable of joining the Hapless Club. The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills come to mind. The NFL is top-heavy with Super Bowl possibilities led by New England, Atlanta, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Oakland Kansas City and Seattle. But it also is anchored with teams that are weak, largely because of deficiencies at quarterback. While the Bills and Jets thrash it out in Orchard Park, the Browns, Bears and 49ers are favored to keep on losing against superior opponents today.
Here's a capsule look at the rest of the Week One games:

Game of the Day

Giants (11-5) at Cowboys (13-3)

TV: NBC, 8:30 p.m.

The line: Cowboys (-4)

The scoop: Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott got suspension postponed until after the big game and will face the Giants. ... Last season the Cowboys had almost 1,000 more rushing yards than the Giants. Running game looks like only aspect of Giants that is not top flight. ... Dallas QB Dak Prescott tries to duplicate his very efficient and highly productive rookie season and third-best 104.9 QB rating. It won't be easy.
Outlook: Giants seldom seem uncomfortable visiting Dallas. They've won there 10 times in last 17 meetings including 20-19 win in the 2016 opener. New York, 17-16.

Top attractions

Seahawks (10-5-1) at Packers (10-6)

TV: Fox, 4:25 p.m.

The line: Packers (-3)

The scoop: Green Bay won last six in regular season and two more in postseason before loss to Atlanta in NFC Championship Game last season. Packers are determined not to have to dig themselves out again. Opening with Seahawks won't be easy. Aaron Rodgers throwing to receiving trio of Jordy Nelson (14 TDs), Davante Adams (12) and Randall Cobb arguably is best passing combo in league, but Seattle still has that standout secondary.
Outlook: Two playoff-caliber teams end up matching points. Seattle, 31-28.

Raiders (12-4) at Titans (9-7)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Titans (-1 1/2)

The scoop: Looks like a preview to an AFC postseason matchup with an outstanding QB on each side -- Derek Carr of the Raiders and Marcus Mariota of the Titans. Mariota, though, has to deal with NFL Defensive Player of Year, Khalil Mack, the former UB star.
Outlook: Raiders won in Nashville last season and do it again, 24-21.

Jaguars (3-13) at Texans (9-7)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Texans (-6)

The scoop: Jacksonville unveils rookie RB Leonard Fournette against Texans' defense that ranked No. 1 in NFL and gets J.J. Watt back after he missed last 13 games in 2016. With Tom Coughlin as the wizard behind the curtain and Doug Marrone as new head coach, look for Jags to be smash-mouth to limit depending on QB Blake Bortles. ... Tom Savage starts for Houston at QB because Clemson rookie Deshaun Watson isn't quite ready.
Outlook: Don't underestimate Jaguars' talent and Houston QB problem. Jacksonville, 17-14.

Eagles (7-9) at Redskins (8-7-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Eagles (-1)

The scoop: Redskins coach Jay Gruden is 5-1 against the Eagles, including wins in last five. ... Washington QB Kirk Cousins has revamped receiving corps after losing Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to free agency. Terrelle Pryor Sr., smurf-like Jameson Crowder are new WR targets. Eagles counting non Carson Wentz to make great progress in second season as starting QB.
Outlook: There will be only two undefeated teams in NFC East when the day is over and one of them will be the Redskins, 24-21.

Saints (7-9) at Vikings (8-8)

TV: ESPN, Monday, 7 p.m.

The line: Vikings (-3)

The scoop: RB Adrian Peterson's return to Minneapolis will be the story. Reportedly, at age 32 he still can get the job done. He joins offense that led NFL last season (426 ypg) despite record and will have a 5,208 yard passer, Drew Brees, on his side. Vikes were third in total defense last season. making this one very interesting. Saints have won last four (including playoffs) in rivalry.
Outlook: Brees still has it at age 38. Saints, 20-17.

Best of the Rest

Jets (5-11) at Bills (7-9)

CBS: 1 p.m.

The line: Bills (-9)

The scoop: Imagine. Winner of this one will have the lead in the AFC East, for a week at least. Bills have gone through the most drastic roster turnover in their history, but so have the Jets. Josh McCown starts at QB for New York and goes against an all-new Bills secondary with a revamped Gang Green receiving corps.
Outlook: Game will hinge on how much success LeSean McCoy has running against NY front four led by Leonard Williams. Shaky win for new-look Bills in Sean McDermott's head coaching debut, 20-17.

Ravens (8-8) at Bengals (6-9-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Bengals (-3)

The scoop: All four AFC North teams involved in division matchups today. Winner of this one gets to chase Steelers home. Ravens QB Joe Flacco (back) returns after missing all of preseason. Defense that allowed 350.8 yards per game last season (almost as much as the Bills) let Cincy down last season. Jeremy Maclin, who teased the Bills then signed with Ravens as FA, replaces retired Steve Smith Sr. at WR.
Outlook: Bengals have won six of last seven in division rivalry, but Ravens' defensive superiority carries the day, 20-16.

Chargers (5-11) at Broncos (9-7)

TV: ESPN, Monday, 10:20 p.m.

The line: Broncos (-3 1/2)

The scoop: Anthony Lynn, who was passed over by the Bills, debuts as new head coach of the Chargers, reborn as the L.A. Chargers, while Vance Joseph coaches first game for Denver. ... Antonio Gates of Chargers need one TD catch to break tie with Tony Gonzalez for most by tight end in NFL history. ... Trevor Siemian starts at QB for Denver. He passed for 3,401 yards last season. Philip Rivers had 33 TD passes and 21 INTs last season for Bolts.
Outlook: Chargers have more success than most at Mile High with six wins in last 11 visits. San Diego, 27-21.

Falcons (13-3) at Bears (3-13)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Falcons (-6 1/2)

The scoop: Falcons scored most points and were second in league in total yards last season and this is not the '85 Bears that Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman are facing. ... Will Falcons recover from Super Bowl collapse? ... Mike Glennon who attempted only 11 passes, completing 10 for Bucs last season, starts for Chicago.
Outlook: Atlanta has too much firepower. Bears one game closer to rookie Mitch Trubisky taking over at QB. Falcons, 31-13.

Steelers (11-5) at Browns (1-15)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Steelers (-9 1/2)

The scoop: Pittsburgh is 13-4 against the Browns in Cleveland in this century. Rivalry goes back to AAC-NFL merger in 1950. ... RB LeVeon Bell rejoined the Steelers this week after signing his tender as franchise player. ... Notre Dame rookie DeShone Kizer will start at QB for Browns. No. 1 draft pick Myle Garrett (ankle) will miss opener.
Outlook: Browns, who defeated only San Diego last season, will put up a fight but Steelers have too much offensive talent. Pitt, 27-10.

Cardinals ( 7-8-1) at Lions (9-7)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Cardinals (-2)

The scoop: Larry Fitzgerald of the Cards led the NFL with 107 receptions last season, but for only a 9.6 average, and RB David Johnson had 2,118 scrimmage yards and 16 rushing TDs. Also Cards were second in league in total defense. How did they not have a winning record?
Outlook: Lions haven't defeated the Cardinals since 2005 but 13 of their games were decided by a touchdown or less in 2016. Detroit, 6-2 at home last season, will break through, 23-20.

Panthers (6-10) at 49ers (2-14)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.

The line: Panthers (-5 1/2).

The scoop: Cam Newton kept under wraps in preseason after shoulder surgery. His effectiveness is a question after disappointing season when he completed only 52.9 percent. ... It's head coaching debut of Kyle Shanahan, who guided Atlanta offense to Super Bowl last season.
Outlook: Niners bottomed out last season but are starting on the road back with journeyman/backup Brian Hoyer at QB. Panthers struggle to 21-17 victory against revamped SF defense.

Dog of the Day

Colts (8-8) at Rams (4-12)

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.

The line: Rams (-3 1/2).

The scoop: Indy goes into L.A. with backup QB Scott Tolzien starting in place of Andrew Luck. Sean McVay, whose grandfather was NFL head coach with Giants (1976-78), makes debut leading the Rams as a 31-year-old. Ex-Bill Sammy Watkins' first game with Rams makes this one interesting for Buffalo fans.
Outlook: Jared Goff can't get the ball to Watkins often enough. Indianapolis, 17-13.ana


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