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Sunday Playbook: Number of shutouts far from a goose egg

Headline writers used to look for different ways to say "shutout" in sports.

Blanking, white wash, goose eggs, zip, zero, nada and horse collar were some used. My hometown paper used to call a 0-0 game a Mexican standoff. Why? No one knows.

The shutout win had become almost extinct in the National Football League. High scores were one of the reasons the pro football began to become so popular. Now, the shutout is back in vogue.

Last season there were exactly two shutouts among the 256 regular season games. One was the Bills 16-0 victory over the New England Patriots, an outlier because Tom Brady did not play. There have been six already this season, which isn't half over – three last week and one more Thursday night when the Baltimore Ravens blanked the Miami. The Dolphins have been shutout twice this season.

Going back to the leather helmet era, 1941, the last season before World War II, there were only seven shutouts in those days of stodgy football. What's going on? Maybe the NFL and its players are spending too much time on things other than football.
A capsule look at the Week Eight shutout possibilitie:

Game of the day

Texans (3-3) at Seahawks (4-2)

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.

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

The scoop: When the Seahawks defense starts coming at him and they crank up the noise at CenturyLink Field, it will be a real test for Houston's rookie quartrback Deshaun Watson, who has thrown for 15 touchdowns. Seattle has allowed only 5 passing TDs. Russell Wilson not only has thrown for 11 TDs versus three INTs for Seattle, he also leads the team in rushing with 164 yard and a 5.1 average.

Outlook: Seattle went 7-1 at home last season and has played there only twice so far. It's just about the time for the Seahawks' defense to get into synch. Seattle, 20-13.

Top attractions

Raiders (3-4) at Bills (4-2)

TV: CBS, 1 p.m.

The line: Bills (-2 1/2).

The scoop: How many future NFL Defensive Players of the Year emerged right in Buffalo's back yard? How did Khalil Mack not end up wearing blue and red? ... A pivotal game for each side. Raiders won't play in Oakland again until Nov. 26. Bills have next three out of four on road.

Outlook: It's going to be difficult for Bills to contain Raiders' passing game unless the offense keeps the ball out of the hands of Derek Carr and Co. Oakland, 24-21.

Chargers (3-4) at Patriots (5-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

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

The scoop: Chargers have won their last three. Patriots' defense came back to life in impressive throttling of Falcons last week. ... Chargers haven't defeated Pats since 2008 and haven't won in Foxboro since 2005. ... Chargers have so much receiver talent, they could afford to trade one (Dontrelle Inman) away this week.

Outlook: Unless Tom Brady, league leader in passsing yards and second in TD passes (tie) and passer rating doesn't show up, can't see Patriots not succeeding. New England, 34-20.

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

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Saints (-9).

The scoop: Coach John Fox was supposed to be in trouble in Chicago. He should get an extension for getting Chicago to three wins, two at home over favored Steelers and Panthers and on the road at Baltimore. ... Bears' last three TDs have come from defense. ... Saints are surprise leader in NFC South but have five division games left to play.

Outlook: Chicago not as scary on the road and can't picture Drew Brees offering any gift touchdowns but Bears keep it reasonably competitive. New Orleans, 23-17.

Cowboys (3-2) at Redskins (3-3)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.

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

The scoop: Ordinarily, this would be NFL's marquee game, but neither team has lived up to expectations so far. Loser of this one will have trouble catching first-place Eagles in NFC East. ... Cowboys' Dak Prescott completed 72.2 percent against Redskins in two games last season. Redskins' Kirk Cousins performing well, but team has won only one of last three and that was OT game against winless 49ers.

Outlook: Field goal at end or OT should do it for Redskins, 27-24.

Broncos (3-3) at Chiefs (5-2)

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

The line: Chiefs (-7).

The scoop: Hatred between these original AFC rivals exceeds even that of Bills fans over Fish. You should hear the names KC fans used to call John Elway. Despite record, Denver leads league in total defense (258.5), but you still have to score. With players such as Justin Houston and Marcus Peters it's hard to believe Chiefs rank 29th in league in defense (396.3 ypg).

Outlook: If Denver can't score against Chargers in L.A., what chance to they have up putting up a lot of points in K.C.? Chiefs, 17-10.

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

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Bucs (-2).

The scoop: Two teams that are underperforming, although Carolina is just hot-and-cold, depending on how Cam Newton performs. Bucs are second in league in total offense (392.8) but they average only about a point a game more than the Bills.

Outlook: How can Panthers get shut out by Bears? How can Bucs give up 30 against Bills? Looking for Tampa Bay offense to start producing points and a win, 30-26.

Best of the rest

49ers (0-7) at Eagles (5-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Eagles (-13).

The scoop: The whole football world seems to have fallen in love with Carson Wentz. He has 17 TD passes to lead league and should add to that total against Niners defense that has given up 12 TDs. ... After five close losses in a row, the frustration of losing finally brought a collapse for 49ers last week in 40-10 shelling at home by Cowboys.

Outlook: Football followers going gaga over Eagles but road games at Dallas, Seattle and Rams lie ahead. Eagles enjoy the good times until then. Phila 33-14.

Falcons (3-3) at Jets (3-4)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Falcons (-4 1/2).

The scoop: Can't believe Atlanta slump is all because offensive coordinator Kyle Shannon left and job was turned over to Steve Sarkisian. However, Falcons are NFL's biggest disappointment so far, and they have to go on road to division rival Carolina next week. Atlanta QB Matt Ryan has ordinary 89.3 rating and just 7 TD passes and almost as many INTs (6) after winning three of four major MVP awards for 2016 season.

Outlook: It's about time for Falcons to wake up or their season is headed bye-bye. Also time for Jets to stop playing over their heads. Falcons, 28-13.

Steelers (5-2) at Lions (3-3)

TV: NBC, 8:30 p.m.

The line: Steelers (-3).

The scoop: Maybe the Steelers are like those old Oakland A's teams -- the more turmoil the better they play. You didn't expect Pitt coach Mike Tomlin to surrender to Martavis Bryant's crying act did you? Lions coming off bye to collect themselves after getting whupped by Saints in New Orleans. ... Steelers beat on their favorite patsy (Bengals) as usual last week. Pittsburgh defense is second in league although their opponents include three of the bottom four offenses in the league.

Outlook: Matthew Stafford not lighting them up the way he did for Lions last year. He won't today either. Steelers, 24-16.

Vikings (5-2) at Browns (0-7)

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m.

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

The scoop: Despite record, Cleveland ranks ninth in the league in defense (304.7), but offense is good for only 304.9 per game. Nineteen turnovers, mostly due to inexperienced QBs, and just eight takeways keep Browns losing streak going.

Outlook: Case Keenum doing nice job of keeping Vikes afloat in absence of Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater. Minnesota, 17-10.

Dog of the day

Colts (2-5) at Bengals (2-4)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Bengals (-11).

The scoop: It's miracle Indy QB Jacoby Brissett is still in one piece. Colts are league worst minus-16 in sacks after giving up 10 to Jaguars last week in a home game. ... Bengals have to be frustrated after they were throttled again by Steelers just when they seemed to be on the right track. Cincy has too much talent to be 2-4, but as the Great Tuna once said: "You are what your record says you are."

Outlook: Indy is today's leading candidate to get shutout. Bengals, 21-3.

Last week's results: 11-3 outright, 7-5-2 versus spread.

Season's record: 57-42 outright; 46-49-4 versus spread.

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