Visit to Pitts­burgh a big step up for Vik­ings

The Buffalo News - - NFL SUNDAY - By Milt Northrop 4-9-1 ver­sus spread. 8-6 out­right,

Where’s the of­fense? Five NFL teams – not count­ing Mi­ami and Tampa Bay, who were side­lined by Hur­ri­cane Irma – failed to score a touch­down in the open­ing week of the Na­tional Foot­ball League sched­ule. Ei­ther the de­fense is ahead of the of­fense or the of­fense just plain stinks.

Week 2 is of­ten viewed as the first piv­otal junc­ture of the sea­son, but does it make much dif­fer­ence if teams are 2-0, 1-1 or 0-2?

Ob­vi­ously it’s bet­ter to win than lose but noth­ing will be writ­ten in stone. Of the 12 teams that made the post­sea­son in 2016, three started 2-0 (New York Gi­ants, New Eng­land and Pitts­burgh). Only Mi­ami started 0-2. The other eight were 1-1.

Still, it would seem that Week 1 losers are un­der some pres­sure to get to 1-1 or face long odds. That would es­pe­cially be true of se­ri­ous con­tenders such as New Eng­land, Ten­nessee and the Gi­ants.

Two meet­ings stand out: the Steel­ers ver­sus the Min­nesota Vik­ings in Pitts­burgh, and an NFC Cham­pi­onship Game re­match be­tween the Fal­cons and Green Bay Pack­ers in At­lanta.

The Week 2 sched­ule:

Game of the Day

Vik­ings (1-0) at Steel­ers (1-0)

Kick­off: 1 p.m.

The line: Steel­ers (-5).

The scoop: Vik­ings band­wagon is fill­ing up fast af­ter Sam Brad­ford (346 pass­ing yards) and rookie RB Dalvin Cook (127 yards rush­ing) carved up Saints in opener. That pro­duc­tion, cou­pled with a de­fense that ranked third in the league last sea­son, has ex­perts en­vi­sion­ing a Minny play­off run. Pitts­burgh turned in a so-so of­fen­sive per­for­mance in the opener at Cleve­land. More than half the Steel­ers’ of­fen­sive pro­duc­tion (290 yards) came on 182 yards worth of re­cep­tions by WR An­to­nio Brown, who did not score.

Out­look: Rolling up the yards against the Steel­ers at Heinz Field is a much more dif­fi­cult propo­si­tion than do­ing it at home against the Aints. Pitts­burgh, 27-17.

Top at­trac­tions

Pack­ers (1-0) at Fal­cons (1-0)

TV: NBC, 8:30 p.m.

The line: Fal­cons (-2ø).

The scoop: Re­match of last sea­son’s NFC Cham­pi­onship Game won by At­lanta, 44-31. Matt Ryan of the Fal­cons (117.1) and Aaron Rodgers of te Pack­ers (104.2) ranked No. 1 and 4 in the league last sea­son. When the teams met in At­lanta in the reg­u­lar sea­son last Oc­to­ber, Fal­cons won a 33-32 shootout.

Out­look: Look­ing for both of­fenses to break out with Pack win­ning, 30-27.

Cow­boys (1-0) at Bron­cos (1-0)

Kick­off: 4:25 p.m.

The line: Cow­boys (-2ø).

The scoop: Was it Dal­las de­fense or in­ept­ness of Gi­ants of­fense last week when New York was kept out of end zone? Bron­cos got first win for rookie head coach Vance Joseph against Charg­ers, but just barely. Will be fun to see how touted Dal­las OL fends off Bron­cos’ sack mas­ter Von Miller.

Out­look: How of­ten has a road team been the fa­vorite in Den­ver? Bron­cos can ex­pect to see a lot of RB Ezekiel El­liott. Dal­las, 21-13. Titans (0-1) at Jaguars (1-0)

Kick­off: 1 p.m.

The line: Titans (-1ø).

The scoop: Have the Boys from Syra­cuse (Tom Cough­lin and Doug Mar­rone) re­ally changed things in Jax? Stop­ping Mar­cus Mar­i­ota of Titans will be bit more dif­fi­cult than go­ing against Hous­ton’s Tom Sav­age and rookie De­shaun Wat­son.

Out­look: Jags lim­ited Tex­ans to 203 yards in Hous­ton in opener and ran ball 39 times and passed only 21. Can’t see them get­ting away with that against Mar­cus Mar­i­ota and Co. Titans win dull one, 17-10.

Ea­gles (1-0) at Chiefs (1-0)

Kick­off: 1 p.m.

The line: Chiefs (-5).

The scoop: Andy Reid, ex-Philly coach, goes against old team for sec­ond time since his de­par­ture af­ter 2012 sea­son. Loss of su­per safety Eric Berry is huge set­back for Chiefs. Isn’t it about time KC QB Alex Smith got some re­spect af­ter slic­ing up mighty Pa­tri­ots last week? Chiefs had 537 to­tal yards at New Eng­land, most for them since 2006. Chiefs have ul­ti­mate weapon in su­per-speed­ster Tyreek Hill.

Out­look: These teams know each other well. Ea­gles coach Doug Ped­er­son was of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor for Chiefs from 2013-15. Chiefs, 24-16.

Pa­tri­ots (0-1) at Saints (0-1)

Kick­off: 1 p.m.

The line: Pa­tri­ots (-7).

The scoop: Set­tling for field goals in­side 10 – Saints did that three times at Min­nesota last week – won’t beat New Eng­land. When was last time Pa­tri­ots ranked last in the league in to­tal de­fense? When was last time Tom Brady (70.0) was not among the top 10 in passer rat­ings in the AFC?

Out­look: Brady vs. Drew Brees, matchup of two of the most pro­duc­tive passers in NFL his­tory, is a rar­ity. If Alex Smith can light up Pats for 368 in Foxboro, what will Brees do in N’Awl­ins? Pa­tri­ots, 42-38.

Best of the rest

Bills (1-0) at Pan­thers (1-0)

TV: CBS, 1 p.m.

The line: Pan­thers (-7).

The scoop: Sean McDer­mott and Bran­don Beane’s team goes back to Carolina and a sta­dium that will be loaded with Buf­falo ex-pats. The word to de­scribe Pan­thers QB Cam New­ton af­ter open­ing win at San Fran­cisco was “rusty.” He com­pleted 14 for 25 for only 171 yards and two TDS. Bills will get a lot of looks at Carolina rookie Christian McCaf­frey, who had ball in his hands 21 times against Nin­ers. Big com­plaints af­ter Bills’ open­ing win over Jets: Not enough tar­gets of WR, not enough snaps for DT Mar­cell Dareus, not enough op­po­si­tion from Jets. Picky, picky ...

Out­look: McDer­mott knows Pan­thers well. Of­fense strug­gles, but de­fense comes up big in 20-17 loss.

Car­di­nals (0-1) at Colts (0-1)

Kick­off: 1 p.m.

The line: Car­di­nals (-7).

The scoop: Both teams in trou­ble in­jury-wise. Colts still with­out QB An­drew Luck and Cards have lost RB David John­son un­til at least De­cem­ber. Ari­zona was sec­ond in league in de­fense last sea­son, but gave up four TD passes to Matthew Stafford and Lions in loss at Detroit last week.

Out­look: Colts strug­gling with­out Luck, but Cards had no run­ning game (45 yards, 18 at­tempts ver­sus Lions) and were only 3-5 on road last sea­son with two wins com­ing at SF and LA. Ari­zona, 17-14.

Bears(0-1)at Buc­ca­neers(0-0)

Kick­off: 1 p.m.

The line: Buc­ca­neers (-7).

The scoop: Bucs fac­ing 16-week gaunt­let af­ter opener at Mi­ami was post­poned, but that’s the way it used to be be­fore the NFL in­sti­tuted the bye week to squeeze another week of games out of the sched­ule for TV. ... Bears have ex­cit­ing rookie in 5-6, 179-pound scat­back Tarik Co­hen, a fourth-rounder from North Carolina A&T. Ex-Celtic bank-shot artist Sam Jones went to A&T.

Out­look: Bears new QB Mike Glen­non goes back home to Ray­mond James Sta­dium to face old team. Lot of Chicago trans­plants and snow­birds should be in crowd un­less Irma sent them away. Bears just tal­ented enough to throw a scare. Tampa Bay, 20-17.

Dol­phins (0-0) at Charg­ers (0-1)

Kick­off: 4:05 p.m.

The line: Charg­ers (-3½).

The scoop: Mi­ami won’t play at home un­til Oct. 8. They go from L.A. to N.Y. to open Jets’ home sea­son and then to Lon­don for “home” game with Saints . ... Charg­ers teased fol­low­ers, as usual, with come­back that failed at Den­ver.

Out­look: All of San Diego root­ing for Charg­ers to fail and Spanos Fam­ily to be em­bar­rassed in new home. Dol­phins have of­fen­sive bal­ance, which is un­usual for them. Mi­ami, 31-23.

Jets (0-1) at Raiders (1-0)

Kick­off: 4:05 p.m.

The line: Raiders (-13ø).

The scoop: If Jets are tank­ing they are do­ing a good job of it. They’re of­fense looks like it will have dif­fi­culty av­er­ag­ing much over 200 yards this sea­son, but de­fense should be de­cent un­til in­juries and de­mor­al­iza­tion sets in be­cause of pa­thetic of­fense and lame-duck coach­ing sit­u­a­tion and empty seats at Met Life.

Out­look: Raiders will show no mercy. Oakland, 35-9.

Red­skins (0-1) at Rams (1-0)

Kick­off: 4:25 p.m.

The line: Rams (-3).

The scoop: Wish Bills had a re­ceiv­ing corps like the Rams with Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods? They did once. Los An­ge­les rang up 46 points on Colts last week for de­but of rookie kid coach Sean McVay, 31 years old. Big point to­tal ver­sus Colts was prod­uct of Indy of­fen­sive in­ept­ness (0 for 10 on third down).

Out­look: Rams QB Jared Goff should have some fun against Red­skins’ sec­ondary. Los An­ge­les, 27-20.

Lions (1-0) at Gi­ants (0-1)

TV: ESPN, Mon­day, 8:30 p.m.

The line: Gi­ants (-3).

The scoop: Big Blue fans will be rest­less if Eli and Co. turn in another of­fen­sive per­for­mance as dread­ful as last week’s against Cow­boys. Matt Stafford of Lions threw for three sec­ond-half TDs against Cards last week, two to rookie Kenny Gol­la­day, another third-rounder from MidAmer­i­can Con­fer­ence (North­ern Illinois) who stood out in Week 1.

Out­look: As dull as they are, like the Gi­ants at home, 24-17.

Browns (0-1) at Ravens (1-0)

Kick­off: 1 p.m.

The line: Ravens (-8).

The scoop: Ravens had no dif­fi­culty shut­ting down the Ben­gals on the road last week with the help of five Cincy turnovers. With healthy lead, 17-0 at half, they pounded away on the ground, 42 rush­ing at­tempts. Browns closed to within three of Steel­ers at home but couldn’t get the ball back af­ter score with 3:05 left. Promis­ing start but go­ing against Balto de­fense won’t be easy. Ravens have dom­i­nated new Browns, 27-9, in ri­valry.

Out­look: Browns will hang with di­vi­sion ri­vals un­til they get worn down with in­juries and fa­tigue ear­lier in sea­son. Ravens, 23-17.

Dog of the Week

49ers (0-1) at Sea­hawks (1-0)

Kick­off: 4:25 p.m.

The line: Sea­hawks (-14).

The scoop: Nei­ther pro­duced a touch­down in Week 1 games.

Out­look: Noth­ing sug­gests 49ers have a chance in the Seat­tle noise against that de­fense, but San Fran­cisco teams are used to play­ing there and his­tor­i­cally it takes a month or so for Seat­tle of­fense to get go­ing. Re­mem­ber, Sea­hawks lost to Rams, 9-3, in Week 2 last sea­son and that was week af­ter Rams were blanked by Nin­ers, 28-0. Sea­hawks, 21-10.

Last week’s re­sults:

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