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Sunday Playbook: Some contenders already facing potential trouble

It seems early for “must-win” and “crucial” games but there are some teams that could be applied to even though it’s only Week Seven of the National Football League season.
Two seasons ago, the Philadelphia Eagles were Super Bowl champions and last season the Los Angeles Rams lost to the New England Patriots in the big game. Both seemed like playoff cinches, right?
Well, the Eagles and Rams are two of the teams facing potential trouble if they don’t come through with wins today. Los Angeles has lost three in a row and find itself trailing in a three-way race with San Francisco and Seattle in the NFC West.
Philadelphia is not in deep trouble, but if the Eagles should lose their first-place game at Dallas in the NFC East they could find themselves battling for a wild-card later against Seattle or Los Angeles, Minnesota or Chicago or Carolina.
In the AFC, the Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans were not favorites to win their divisions, but they were considered strong wild-card contenders. Instead, at 2-4 each they find themselves trying not get too far under water when they meet Sunday in Nashville, Tenn.|
A capsule look at the remaining Week Seven games in the NFL:
Game of the day
Texans (4-2) at Colts (3-2)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Pick em.
Record ATS: Texans 3-3; Colts 4-1.
Over/under: 47.
Times over/under: Texans 2/3/1; Colts 3/2.
The scoop: The big news in Houston, aside from the Astros, is that DeShaun Watson was not sacked in last two games and he has been especially productive in wins over Falcons and at Chiefs. ... Colts have had extra week to prepare for a key AFC South game. Why does the NFL schedule-maker continually give this advantage to one team in a divisional matchup?
Outlook: Offensive duel will come down to which running back has the most productive day: Carlos Hyde of Texans or Marlon Mack of the Colts. Indy, 24-21.

Top attractions
Vikings (4-2) at Lions (2-2-1)
TV: FOX, 1 p.m.
The line: Vikings (-1).
Record ATS: Vikings 2-4; Lions 4-1.
Over/under: 45.
Times over/under: Vikings 3/4; Lions 4/1/1.
The scoop: Lions should be steamed over officials handing over key divisional game and first place in NFC North in Monday nighter with hands-to-the-face calls. Vikings have won last two over Giants and Eagles behind good games by QB Kirk Cousins, who has become a whipping boy for some media and fans because of his inflated contract. Three of four Minnesota wins are at home but this one is indoors, too.
Outlook: Doesn’t it always seem like Matthew Stafford is always trying to bring Lions back with 2-minute offense. Lions two losses have been by total of five points. Matt Patricia has Detroit playing well. Lions, 24-20.

Raiders (3-2) at Packers (4-1)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Packers (-6).
Record ATS: Raiders 3-2; Packers 3-3.
Over/under: 46.
Times over/under: Raiders 4/1; Packers 5/0/1.
The scoop: Raiders come in off a bye after win over Bears in London. Packers played on Monday night and have short work to prepare. Oakland defense is third in AFC behind Patriots and Bills. Green Bay is already 3-1 at home and will be on road for six of last 10 games. Derek Carr of Raiders has been playing well even though he has only six TD passes. Rookie RB Josh Jacobs is in top five in AFC with 430 yards and averaging healthy 4.9 per carry.
Outlook: Odd season history here. Packers, of course, won first meeting in Super Bowl II. Then Raiders won last five but Pack has taken the last seven. Have to go with Packers at Lambeau, 23-13.

Saints (5-1) at Bears (3-2)
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Bears (-3).
Record ATS: Saints 4-2; Bears 2-3.
Over/under: 38.
Times over/under: Saints 3/3; Bears 2/3.
The scoop: A lot of observers believe Saints are best in NFC with only loss on road to Rams and big win at Seattle. Most of this without Drew Brees. Saints won’t have RB Alvin Kamara and TE Jared Cook for this one but Michael Thomas, who leads league with 53 pass receptions. will play. QB Mitch Trubisky is questionable so Chase Daniel may get start for the Bears.
Outlook: Handicappers not expecting much scoring in this one. Bears, 20-16.

Ravens (4-2) at Seahawks (5-1)
TV: FOX, 4:25 p.m.
The line: Seahawks (-3).
Record ATS: Ravens 2-4; Seahawks 3-3.
Over/under: 50.
Times over/under: Ravens 4/2; Seahawks 5/1.
The scoop: QB Lamar Jackson has passed for 11 touchdowns for Baltimore and leads the team in rushing with 460 yards but nobody is having the season that Russell Wilson is having with the Seahawks. He has 14 TDs, no INTs and league best 124.7 passer rating.
Outlook: Seattle has little margin for era the way the first-place 49ers are playing in NFC West. Seattle, 27-20.

Eagles (3-3) at Cowboys (3-3)
TV: NBC, 8:20 p.m.
The line: Cowboys (-3).
Record ATS: Eagles 3-3; Cowboys 3-3.
Over/under: 49.
Times over/under: Eagles 4/2; Cowboys 4/2.
The scoop: Two under-achieving teams playing for lead in NFC East. Both are coming off losses. Eagles fell at Vikings while Cowboys were upset by Jets on road. That was third loss in a row for Dallas.
Outlook: Carson Wentz of Eagles usually plays well against Dallas. Home field gives win to desperate Cowboys, 24-16.

Best of the rest
Rams (3-3) at Falcons (1-5)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Rams (-3).
Record ATS: Rams 3-3; Falcons 1-5.
Over/under: 54.
Times over/under: Rams 3/3; Falcons 4/2.
The scoop: Rams have lost three in a row, two at home, already trail first place 49ers by 2ø games in NFC West. Falcons’ only win was over Eagles at home. ... Matt Ryan of Falcons leads league with 15 TD passes and is first NFC QB to go over 2,000 yards. That’s because Atlanta is almost always playing catch-up. ... If Rams were in enough trouble, they added a potential headache in trade for talented CB Jalen Ramsey.
Outlook: Falcons defense gives up almost as many yards as Ryan and offense produce. L.A., 33-27.

Jaguars (2-4) at Bengals (0-6)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Jaguars (-4).
Record ATS: Jaguars 3-3; Bengals 3-3.
Over/under: 43.
Times over/under: Jaguars 2/4; Bengals 2/4.
The scoop: Doug Marrone’s coaching style predisposes Jaguars to close games, and close losses. Bengals seem to be always playing from behind and that’s not Andy Dalton’s forte. Jax QB Gardner Minshew beginning to look like a low-draft choice rookie against Saints defense last week, but this is Bengals. Cincy is last in league, giving up 426 yards per game.
Outlook: Bengals and Dalton due for some luck. Cincinnati, 21-17.

Cardinals (2-3-1) at Giants (2-4)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Giants (-3).
Record ATS: 3-3; Giants 3-3.
Over/under: 49.
Times over/under: Cardinals 3/3; Giants 2/4.
The scoop: Teams used to meet twice a year as in NFC East before realignment. Battle of rookie QBs will give New York fans first look at No. 1 pick Kyler Murray of the Cards, who has passed for 300 or more yards in three of his six NFL starts. Giants rookie Daniel Jones played like a rookie in loss to Patriots and a Belichick defense.
Outlook: Giants get Saquon Barkley back for this one and that should make it a fun game. Giants, 30-23.

49ers (5-0) at Redskins (1-5)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: 49ers (-10).
Record ATS: 49ers 2-3; Redskins 1-5.
Over/under: 41.
Times over/under: 49ers 2/3; Redskins 3/3.
The scoop: Niners have given up only 10 points in last two wins over Browns and at Rams. Defense is giving up only 237.4 a game. That’s better than Bills and behind only Patriots. Redskins almost blew 17-3 in one-point win at winless Miami last week.
Outlook: Redskins averaging only 15 points a game. They could win with a little more than that if Niners aren’t paying attention. 49ers, 20-13.

Chargers (2-4) at Titans (2-4)
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.
The line: Titans (-2).
Record ATS: Chargers 1-5; Titans 2-4.
Over/under: 40.
Times over/under: Chargers 1/5; Titans 1/5.
The scoop: Chargers have lost last two, both at home. Titans scored 43 at Browns in opener and have only 55 total in five games since. That’s main reason for QB change from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill this week. Philip Rivers hasn’t been able to deliver for Chargers. Has six INT to go with only nine TD passes. Melvin Gordon holdout and lack of production since return seems to have created a mess for Bolts.
Outlook: After two games were visiting fans of rivals seem to outnumber home fans at Stubhub, Chargers will get some excitement in Nashville. Chargers, 20-17.

Patriots (6-0) at Jets (1-4)
TV: ESPN, Monday, 8:15 p.m.
The line: Patriots (-10).
Record ATS: Patriots 4-2; Jets 1-4
Over/under: 42.
Times over/under: Patriots 3/3; Jets 1/5.
The scoop: Jets own three wins over Patriots in last 10 years, but three of them came when Rex Ryan was head coach. Bill Belichick seems to have constructed his best defense since his days with the Giants and LT. New England leads league with 234.7 yield but has not faced a top-notch, experienced passer since Ben Roethlisberger in opener. This is end of soft portion of Pats’ schedule with Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and Chiefs coming up. It’s hard to judge how effective Jets’ defense is because offense was so weak in three games before Sam Darnold returned last week to lead upset of Dallas.
Outlook: Jets lost to Patriots, 30-14, on Sept. 22 with both scores coming from defense. Expecting more competitive Gang Green for this one. Patriots 23-16.

Dog of the day
Dolphins (0-5) at Bills (4-1)
TV: CBS, 1 p.m.
The line: Bills (-16).
Record ATS: Dolphins 1-4; Bills 4-1.
Over/under: 40.
Times over/under: Dolphins 1/4; Bills 0/5.
The scoop: Bills followers starting to think playoffs already with 11 games to go. First things first. Defense is strong, but only Patriots posed major threat. Dolphins almost pulled out home win over Redskins last week, losing when two-point conversion failed in last minute. Ryan Fitzpatrick gets the start for the Fish and it would not seem impossible that he could throw a scare into his old team.
Outlook: Media and fans are super-confident of a laugher, but Bills better not coast. Buffalo, 27-16.

Last week: Favorites were 5-9 against the spread; road favorites were 2-3. Five games went over the number, seven were under, the Texans-Chiefs and Lions-Packers were on the number.
Last week’s results: 8-5 outright, 6-7 against the spread.
Season’s record: 44-41-1 outright; 35-51 against the spread.

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