Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:01 AM

Essentials - Week 7

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Tennessee vs. L.A. Chargers (-6.5/45.5) in London, 9:30 a.m. ET, CBS: The stereotypes about fog and rain can apply to London weather, but the forecast for Sunday’s encounter between the Chargers calls for sun and mild conditions. With that out of the way, the biggest variable will be the absence of L.A. standout running back Melvin Gordon, who is dealing with a hamstring injury and has been ruled out despite not originally appearing on the injury report until Friday. He’ll be replaced by Austin Ekeler and rookie Justin Jackson. Gordon has been fantastic over the past few weeks, scoring touchdowns in five straight games after being kept out of the end zone in the opener, so it’s no surprise that news of his absence has affected the spread, which is now back at 6.5 after looking like it would top 7 by kickoff.

Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro was originally expected back to strengthen the Titans defense after returning to practice earlier this week with a big elbow brace but is considered questionable. LB Wesley Woodyard (shoulder) will return after missing the last two weeks, but top pass rusher and former first-round pick Derrick Morgan (shoulder) joins Will Compton (hamstring) in sitting this one out. DT Bennie Logan (elbow) is going to play, but guard Quinton Spain (shoulder) is questionable, so Tennessee could be vulnerable on both fronts. The Chargers don’t have much of a homefield advantage in their soccer stadium in Carson, so spending a weekend as the “home” team in England won’t affect much. The Titans are 1-10 in their last 11 games against the Chargers, coming in 0-9-1 against the number over the last 10.

New England (-2/48.5) at Chicago, 1 p.m. ET, CBS: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn’t travel with the team to Chicago and isn’t likely to play, leaving veteran Dwayne Allen and second-year option Jacob Hollister to handle the workload. A back issue has caused the Pats to take the cautious approach and get him some rest. Tom Brady won’t have top tackle Marcus Cannon (head) protecting him either, so these aren’t ideal conditions for him to face the top defense he’s seen since losing at the Patriots and Lions in consecutive weeks last month. WRs Josh Gordon (hamstring) and Julian Edelman (heel) will play and figure to be heavily involved if he gets the time to work, while rookie RB Sony Michel (knee) is also going to be available.

The Bears will have star Khalil Mack in the mix after an ankle tweak and also upgraded corner Prince Amukamara (hamstring) and top WR Allen Robinson (groin) to ‘probable.’ Chicago has ranked fourth in the league against the run and haven’t surrendered a touchdown on the ground, so we’ll see whether the defense remains stingy here since their attention will be on making Brady uncomfortable. New England has won seven of eight in this series since 1988, losing only in 2000. They hung up 51 points in the most recent meeting at Foxboro back in 2015 and posted a 36-7 rout in their last trip to Soldier Field back in 2000. The Patriots are looking for their first road win of the season. Temperatures are going to be in the 40s and wind won't be too much of a factor.

Cleveland at Tampa Bay (-3.5/52), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: A defense that has struggled mightily all season will lose their leader for a week with Gerald McCoy (calf) ruled out. Fellow pass-rusher Vinny Curry (ankle) isn’t going to play either. Both were in the mix in last Sunday’s loss to Atlanta, which marked the fourth time in five games this season that the Bucs surrendered 30 or more points. Mike Smith paid for that with his job and has been replaced by veteran LBs coach Mark Duffner, who hasn’t been a coordinator since a stint with the Bengals more than 15 years ago. He’s got his work cut out for him and will be counting on LBs Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander to step up and lead.

The Bucs will have to deal with Cleveland top draft pick QB Baker Mayfield, who made the injury report due to an ankle injury but will be under center running an offense that will now be even more reliant on the talent of fellow rookie Nick Chubb. The Browns traded veteran RB Carlos Hyde to Jacksonville earlier this week after utilizing him to serve as mentor over the past few months, so Chubb and Duke Johnson will try and keep pressure off Mayfield via the ground game. Mayfield comes off a rough outing in a 38-14 loss to the Chargers after throwing two picks and being sacked five times. Jameis Winston made his first start since returning from suspension in Atlanta and will be making his first appearance at home this season.

Detroit (-3/47) at Miami, 1 p.m. ET, FOX: The absence of QB Ryan Tannehill comes as no surprise this week, so the Lions have been able to dissect Brock Osweiler tape in preparation for this road game coming off a bye. Big plays helped take down the Bears at home in OT last week, but Osweiler wasn’t asked to do much besides get the ball out quickly and accurately. Pass rusher Ziggy Ansah has been ruled out for the Lions due to a recurring shoulder issue, but safety Tavon Wilson returns to aid secondary depth. Pass-catching RB Theo Reddick has been ruled out, so rookie Kerryon Johnson should expect more of a workload in keeping the Dolphins defense from keying in on Matthew Stafford.

Guard T.J. Lang will likely be back to help protect Stafford after sustaining the sixth concussion of his career and will have to deal with a pass rush bolstered by the return of Cameron Wake (knee). Corner Bobby McCain (knee) is expected back too. WR DeVante Parker is likely to miss another game with a nagging quad injury. Former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia comes off his first bye week as a head coach and will have had plenty of time to prepare for a former division rival, the first he’ll run into with Detroit. The Lions pulled out a 26-10 Week 3 upset of the Patriots but haven’t won away from home in two outings under Patricia’s watch, dropping one-possession games at San Francisco and Dallas. The weather forecast calls for hot weather that will feel like it will get up into the 90s, but the threat of rain in South Florida always exists and could factor in at any time throughout this contest.

Carolina at Philadelphia (-5/45), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: The Eagles looked a lot more like themselves in their latest outing, taking full advantage of the Giants’ limitations in posting a Thursday night blowout that gave them a few extra days of rest before facing this one. The time off definitely helped tackles Jason Peters (bicep) and Lane Johnson (ankle), both of whom will be working here. There were still a number of guys who couldn’t get back despite the extra time since RB Darren Sproles, corner Sidney Jones and safety Corey Graham have all been ruled out with lingering hamstring issues. Corner Jalen Mills did overcome his hammy ailment and will participate while DT Haloti Ngata is questionable. With fellow DT Tim Jernigan out, Philly is expected to lean on unproven Treyvon Hester, who was promoted from the practice squad. Cam Newton failed to complete a pass in the final few plays of last Sunday’s loss to Washington but has continued to run the ball more this season and gives the Panthers’ attack a variable that’s difficult to prepare for.

Rain could be a factor at the Linc and heavy winds are almost certain to be, which could favor the visitors since they’re less reliant on the passing game. The Eagles do lead the NFL in time of possession, so this will be a battle between two teams who look to utilize keeping their defense off the field as an advantage. Wind gusts of nearly 40 miles per hour are in the forecast. Philadelphia has ben excellent at home under Doug Peterson, coming in 10-3 while surrendering just over 10 points per game over their last 10. They haven’t dropped consecutive home games in years but are in danger of doing so here after falling short against Minnesota to open the month.

Buffalo at Indianapolis (-7/43), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: Derek Anderson hasn’t played in a regular-season game since last January’s Wild Card loss to New Orleans but will start this one ahead of turnover machine Nathan Peterman despite only being signed on Oct. 7. Rookie Josh Allen will miss time with an elbow injury suffered in last week’s loss to the Texans. Peterman, who started the opener and multiple games last season, came in and through a touchdown in Houston but then ultimately cost the Bills the game by throwing a late pick-six. He’s expected to be released when Allen is ready to return. Buffalo is already playing its fifth road game of the season here and come in 1-3, having shocked Minnesota in Week 3.

The Colts badly need this win and have been placed in the favorite’s role for the first time all season. Indianapolis has given up an average of 39 points per game over the last three outings, all losses. The Jets scored a season-high 41 points against them and were never in danger of being stopped despite working with a banged-up receiving corps and a rookie QB. Andrew Luck has led the offense to 34 points in two of the last three weeks, increasingly looking like his old self as he shakes off the rust. It will help to have top target T.Y. Hilton back from a hamstring injury that kept him out of multiple games, but top tight end Jack Doyle (hip) remains sidelined. Erik Swoope, who has caught a pair of TD passes this season in Doyle’s place, is questionable with a knee issue. DE Margus Hunt is dealing with a similar ailment and is questionable, while DT Denico Autry and safety Clayton Geathers will miss another game, having been ruled out.

Minnesota (-3.5/45) at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m. ET, FOX: The injury bug continues to bite in Minneapolis, seemingly taking large chunks out of a Super Bowl contender every time it strikes. Rookie corner Mike Hughes tore his ACL to end his promising first season that already featured a game-changing pick-six, while safety Andrew Sendejo and DE Everson Griffen remain sidelined. DT Linval Joseph is questionable after missing practices this week with multiple ailments, but DEs Danielle Hunter and Tashawn Bower are expected to play. The Vikings offense is also down top RB Dalvin Cook, who hasn’t been right all season due to a linger hamstring injury. Latavius Murray will start again.

The Jets will have their RB, Isaiah Crowell, in the mix to join Bilal Powell in the team’s highly affected two-headed monster at the position. New York has clawed back to .500 and will be looking for a third straight victory after scoring over 40 points in a home game for the first time since 2012. Sam Darnold has thrown six TD passes against just two interceptions over his last three games in coming out of a rough stretch in losses to Miami and Cleveland. He’s looked like the most effective of the rookie quarterbacks but has definitely exhibited signs of being streaky. We’ll see if Minnesota’s depleted defense can get to him early to shake his confidence. That should be one of this game’s biggest keys. Gusty winds should be an issue for him and Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins since gusts are expected to top 40 miles per hour.

Houston at Jacksonville (-3.5/41.5), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: The Jaguars won’t have RB Leonard Fournette back from a hamstring issue that looks like it will linger into the next month or two, requiring the acquisition of Hyde, who doesn’t know the system well enough to contribute and will be held out this week. That means T.J. Yeldon is in for a heavy workload against the Texans as he looks to keep their feared pass rush from locking in on QB Blake Bortles.

The Texans had won six straight games from 2014-17 before Jacksonville swept last year’s season series, pulling no punches in securing a little revenge by outscoring Houston 74-14 despite the games being played over three months apart. As a result of when games were played, the Jags missed out on facing the real Deshaun Watson, who struggle in his debut in the season opener (12-for-23, 102 yards) and was injured by the time Week 15 rolled around. He had a run of four straight games throwing for over 300 yards end in last week’s win over Buffalo. Bortles threw for just 149 yards in a 40-7 loss to Dallas and has been dreadful in October, throwing for two scores and five interceptions after a promising September. He’ll be facing a Texans defense that gets back corner Andrew Hal, who will be playing his first game since winning a bout with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Moderate wind gusts will be a part of the action in Jacksonville, but rain should stay away.

New Orleans at Baltimore (-2.5/49.5), 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX: The Saints will hit the road three of the next four weeks for challenging games against the Ravens, Vikings and Bengals and also host the Rams and Eagles before welcoming in the Falcons on Thanksgiving night. Despite a four-game winning streak and the return of Mark Ingram from suspension, success could still be fleeting for New Orleans given the schedule, so getting off to a strong start coming off a bye could go a long way in generating what could be a much-needed cushion. The team takes offensive line issues in to Baltimore with Andus Peat (concussion) out, Larry Warford (back) questionable and veteran tackle Jermon Bushrod dealing with unimaginable grief due to the loss of his one-week old daughter. Corner Marshon Lattimore (concussion) is expected to play, while linebackers Manti Te’o and A.J. Klein will both be back in the mix.

The Ravens come off a 21-0 shutout in Tennessee last week and will be playing their first home game for the first time since Sept. 23. They’ve surrendered 10 points per game over the last four and are giving up just 8.5 at home, so this will be a battle between the NFL’s highest-scoring team and its stingiest. Baltimore guard Alex Lewis isn’t expected to play following a scary-looking neck injury suffered last week. Corner Brandon Carr will be in the mix to try and stop Drew Brees and his receivers, but fellow secondary members Marlon Humphrey (thigh), Anthony Levine and Anthony Averett (hamstrings) are questionable. Wind gusts as high as 45 miles per hour could wreak havoc with the passing of Brees and Joe Flacco, so being able to move it on the ground is going to be vital.

Dallas (-1/41.5) at Washington (-3.5/40), 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS: - Following a badly needed impressive win over the Jaguars last week, the Cowboys go in search of consecutive victories for the first time since last December. A victory would have them right up in the mix for the NFC lead approaching the season’s halfway point. A loss could truly spell the beginning of the end for Jason Garrett, who faces a win-or-else season. On paper, one can say that fate is smiling upon him since he’s getting back the services of standout LB Sean Lee to aid a defense that looked really sharp last week. It also helps that Washington pass-catching RB Chris Thompson and top offseason acquisition Paul Richardson won’t participate. WR Jamison Crowder is out too, so Alex Smith is going to be light on receivers and will likely have to make use of his tight ends to help make up for the absence of so many top targets. RB Adrian Peterson has been more of a catalyst than anyone could’ve anticipated and should be in for a heavy workload, having overcome a shoulder ailment.

The Cowboys have won six of seven games over the ‘Skins, including the last four. They’ve topped 30 points in four of those victories. A sunny day with gusty 40 mile per hour winds awaits in Landover, but both QBs, Smith and Dak Prescott, should overcome that obstacle since both utilize short passes and their legs extremely well when they’re at their best.

L.A. Rams (-9/52) at San Francisco, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS: The week’s biggest favorite opened at double-digits but have seen the number come down to 9/9.5, which still makes them the only team laying more than a touchdown in Week 7. Complacency isn’t likely to set in since the Rams have dropped four of five against the 49ers, including a 34-13 loss last time these teams squared off. L.A. wasn’t engaged in that Week 17 setback since they were already in the playoffs, but Jimmy Garoppolo still dominated in a 34-13 win, throwing for 292 yards and two scores. He’s done for the season, so C.J. Beathard will look to continue a decent run filling in as he comes off an impressive performance against Green Bay on Monday night. Although a late interception proved costly, Beathard has still demonstrated an ability to move the ball despite working a depleted receiving corps.

San Francisco WR Marquise Goodwin returned from an injury and immediately caught two touchdowns, so look for him to again be the preferred target since Pierre Garcon (knee) still isn’t 100 percent and speedy Dante Pettis (knee) remains out. Richard Sherman, who has been better than expected in anchoring the 49ers secondary, will be a game-time call due to a calf issue. The Rams welcome back kicker Greg Zuerlein and will have offensive tackle Rodger Saffold in the mix, but WR Cooper Kupp (knee) will sit this one out. Josh Reynolds is expected to take his place in sets.

Cincinnati at Kansas City (-6/57.5), 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC: The week's largest total isn't likely to be affected by weather since it's expected to be a really nice night in Kansas City, complete with light winds instead of the heavy once we'll see throughout the country on Sunday. The Chiefs remain without their top two defenders since safety Eric Berry (heel) has been ruled out and top pass-rusher Justin Houston isn't likely to play due to a hamstring injury that the team wants to make sure is fully healed before risking a relapse. Having already lost Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff to a broken fibula earlier this month, the Chiefs will now also be working without center Mitch Morse due to a concussion. Fortunately, being at home should help Patrick Mahomes better adjust to taking snaps from someone new.

The Bengals are 2-1 on the road this season and were in their lone loss, a 31-21 setback in Charlotte, for four quarters. Andy Dalton is off to a terrific season and will have receiver John Ross (groin) back, which means the WR corps is fully healthy. The same can't be said for the tight ends since Tyler Kroft has been ruled out and Tyler Eifert is done for the season. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will be coaching his third game with LB Vontaze Burfict in the mix but won't have corner Darqueze Dennard or LB Nick Vigil. Safety Shawn Williams is attempting to clear concussion protocol.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at [email protected]

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