Nov 11, 2018
Essentials - Week 10
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Buffalo at N.Y. Jets (-7/37.5) , 1 p.m. ET, CBS: For the first time this season, rookie Sam Darnold will sit and watch veteran Josh McCown, which was originally the plan for 2018. The 21-year-old Darnold hasn’t fared well of late but hasn’t been benched, battling a strained foot that has kept him out of practices this week. There was talk that he’d be available in a backup role, but Davis Webb has instead been called up from the practice squad. Unfortunately for McCown, who comes off a career year and threw for over 2,900 yards and had an 18-9 TD-to-INT ratio last season, he won’t have his favorite target from last season, Robby Anderson, available due to an ankle injury. This year’s most targeted Jets receiver, Quincy Enunwa, will be in the mix after his own ankle issue has healed sufficiently.
Todd Bowles could very well be coaching the final game of his Jets tenure given the bye week ahead, so the expectation here is that he’ll go down swinging with his defense against Bills new starting QB Matt Barkley, who hasn’t started since Jan. 1, 2017 and was just signed on Halloween. Buffalo is killing time until rookie Josh Allen is able to return from an elbow injury and has seemingly given up on Nathan Peterman, the culprit most responsible for the Bills becoming the first team in league history to have thrown as many pick-sixes as TD passes through a half-season. Expect LeSean McCoy to be heavily featured since ex-Jet Chris Ivory, who has been one of the few bright spots on the Buffalo offense, is unlikely to participate after injuring his shoulder last week. Tight end Chares Clay is nursing a shoulder issue. Considering that both defenses have playmakers and have proven capable, it’s no surprise that the lowest total of the NFL season has been placed on his one. The ‘under’ has prevailed in five of seven meetings between these AFC East rivals. The Jets have won three of the past four encounters.
Atlanta (-6/50.5) at Cleveland, 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Interim head coach Gregg Williams might have been able to lock up the Browns gig permanently if he’d found a way to shut down the Chiefs last week. Nobody else has succeeded either so it’s no deal-breaker, but Kansas City scored 37 and coasted to a win in Cleveland, becoming the fifth team in six weeks to score 26 or more points against Williams’ defense. The Falcons are up as the last test before a much-needed bye week and have scored 31 or more points in five of seven, so you have to like their odds of continuing to flourish offensively. QB Matt Ryan’s ability to beat the blitz will determine the winner here, so it will help the Falcons’ cause that Calvin Ridley (concussion) and Mohamed Sanu (hip) have been cleared to take the field alongside Julio Jones, who comes off his first TD reception last week and has three 100-yards games in his last four appearances.
Unlike New York’s Darnold and Buffalo’s Allen, Cleveland rookie Baker Mayfield has stayed healthy enough to make his Week 10 start. That wasn’t without drama though. He made a visit to the dreaded tent last week after getting dinged up but will start here and will have his full complement of weapons with WR Antonio Callaway and TE David Njoku both cleared to play. Up front, center J.C. Tretter remains questionable but tackle Desmond Harrison practiced in full and will be available. The Browns defense is also going to have safeties Denzel Ward and Damarious Randall available to help contend with Atlanta’s excellent receiving corps. The Falcons lost their first two road games this season but won at Washington last week 38-14 and are looking for their first four-game win streak since their 2016 Super Bowl season. They’ll be throwing newly-signed pass-rusher Bruce Irvin into the mix for the first time.
New Orleans (-6/54) at Cincinnati, 1 p.m. ET, FOX: The Bengals come off a well-timed bye week since they nearly blew an 18-point lead to Tampa Bay before Randy Bullock converted on a 44-yarder at the gun to secure a 37-34, snapping a two-game winning streak. Cincinnati is 5-3 through the first eight games but by no means enters the season’s second half bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Top wide receiver A.J. Green is dealing with turf toe and won’t play, which moves every other receiver up to a role that they may not be ready for, but at least they’ve had a week to work with Andy Dalton in preparation for this one. Cincy’s defense remains banged up as leader and top LB Vontaze Burfict, LB Nick Vigil, pass rusher Carl Lawson and corner Darqueze Dennard are all still too injured to play despite the week off.
The Saints arrive as the hottest team in the NFL, coming in with seven straight victories, the last three of which have been particularly impressive. Following a Week 6 bye, New Orleans won at Baltimore and Minnesota before knocking off the previously unbeaten Rams last Sunday. If there’s a letdown coming, this is likely to be it, since this will be only the third game they’ve played in an open structure this season. There have been elements that Drew Brees and the offense had to deal with in wins over the Giants and Ravens, but the 40-degree temperatures will be a new variable. Wind shouldn’t be a factor. The Saints are 5-5 straight up in their last 10 regular-season games played in outdoor stadiums but have won six of eight. They’ll be working somewhat short-handed at receiver since newly acquired Dez Bryant tore his achilles in his first practice with the team while Cam Meredith and Ted Ginn are on IR.
Washington at Tampa Bay (-3.5/51), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: The Bucs have dropped five of six, replaced franchise cornerstone Jameis Winston with Ryan Fitzpatrick and have given up 30 or more points in each of their losses. Linebacker Kwon Alexander has also been lost during this stretch and rookie corner M.J. Stewart won’t be available to aid the NFL’s worst defense. Mercifully for the Bucs, they won’t have to face a ‘Skins offense anywhere near full strength since tackle Trent Williams and guards Brandon Scherff and Shawn Lauvao have all been lost. WR Paul Richardson is done for the season, Jamison Crowder remains out and Chris Thompson hasn’t overcome a rib injury sufficiently enough to return. Alex Smith will thus be relying on undrafted guys like Kapri Bibbs and Maurice Harris in key roles as Washington looks to maintain its NFC East edge.
Washington scored just 14 points against Atlanta last week and lost all those guys in-game, so it’s hard to tell what we’re going to get here. Fitzpatrick will go after Washington’s star-studded secondary with Mike Evans cleared and productive DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Chris Godwin and tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate all healthy, so the pace in this one should be reliant upon whether we see some early scoring. Tampa led after the first 15 minutes in each of its first three games but has trailed in four of five, getting outscored 44-9 in those games. Washington has led after the first quarter in four of its five wins and has yet to win a game it trailed after the first 15.
New England (-6.5/47) at Tennessee, 1 p.m. ET, CBS: Running back Sony Michel will return for the Patriots, so don’t expect to see Cordarrelle Patterson play as large a role as he did in Sunday night’s victory over the Packers. Rob Gronkowski won’t be out there again, sidelined by a back issue that the Patriots are right to be extra cautious with. After all, there’s still over a month remaining until they truly need him and they’ve been getting along just fine, stretching their win streak to six games and scoring over 30 for the fifth time during this stretch. Tom Brady hasn’t missed many throws and will be a handful for the Titans defense to deal with on a short week. Tackle Shaq Mason won’t be available for New England, so expect Tennessee to be aggressive in trying to get after Brady as a defensive brain trust that should have at least some decent theories on how to contain the Patriots looks to win their third game as a home underdog this season.
The Titans surprised the Cowboys as Marcus Mariota produced some clutch plays on third down and delivered his most productive outing of the season. The former No. 2 overall pick threw two touchdowns without being intercepted for the first time since Dec. 2017 and only the third time in the last two years. He also ran for a score for only the second time this season, so if he’s healthy, his ability to thrive as a dual threat could be a game-changer. Tackle Jack Conklin remains out for the Titans, who may at least get back receivers Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor from foot injuries. Defensive tackle Bennie Logan and pass rusher Derrick Morgan are both questionable and would really be missed if they can’t participate. Tennessee is 12-3 SU (11-3-1 ATS) at home over its last 15 in Nashville, but the Pats have won 16 of 19 on the road and have won five straight in the series, last losing in Tennesee in 2002, Brady’s second year as New England’s starter.
Jacksonville (-3/47) at Indianapolis, 1 p.m. ET, CBS: The Jaguars will get back RB Leonard Fournette, which means the pressure on Blake Bortles to at least be serviceable ramps up further. Make no mistake, if the Jags are struggling with the Colts due to Bortles being inaccurate or sloppy with the ball, he’ll be pulled in favor of Landry Jones, who was signed prior to last week’s bye after Bortles’ shoulder was injured in London. Bortles has thrown 12 TDs and just three picks over his career vs. the Colts, which includes a 10-0 TD-to-INT ratio over the last six. The Jaguars went into the bye extremely banged up in the secondary and will again be without starter A.J. Bouye and backup Quenton Meeks but do return D.J. Hayden to the fold and will see Jalen Ramsey be as healthy as he’s been since Tyreek Hill literally ran him ragged in Week 5 to start this four-game losing streak the team is embarked upon.
Jacksonville remains only 2.5 games behind Houston in the AFC South and come in tied with the Colts. Indy has safeties Clayton Geathers and Malik Hooker available and have seen Andrew Luck throw seven touchdown passes without being picked off since getting T.Y. Hilton back in the lineup. Indianapolis has won two straight for the first time since 2015 and haven’t won three in a row since earlier that year.
Detroit at Chicago (-7/44.5), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: The Lions and Bears play twice in the next three weeks, so Detroit could keep Matt Patricia’s first season from devolving into a rebuilding project if it is able to get its act together. The offense has disappeared in setbacks against the Seahawks and Vikings, putting up touchdowns in just three of their last nine contests. In their first game playing without Golden Tate, neither Marvin Jones nor Kenny Golladay was able to step up and help Matthew Stafford put together chunk plays. The veteran QB has struggled himself, and it should be disconcerting that the most consistent weapon over the past few weeks, versatile rookie RB Kerryon Johnson, will be playing through an ankle injury.
Chicago was lights out last week against the slumping Bills and gets back Khalil Mack, who has been sidelined the past few weeks, so a group that has shut down the Jets and Bills should be formidable as they look to improve to 4-1 at home. Wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel are both now ‘probable’ and could prove troublesome with top Lions corner Darius Slay being ruled out. Top pass-rusher Ziggy Ansah (shoulder) will be available as he tries to get going in what’s been an injury-filled season, but Matt Nagy ideally wants QB Mitch Trubisky to get rid of the ball quickly, which should neutralize his impact. Wind gusts should be minimal and are expected to only reach about to 10-to-15 miles per hour, so both strong-armed quarterbacks shouldn’t have problems managing mild November weather for Chicago.
Arizona at Kansas City (-16/49.5), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: Sunday’s largest spread resides here, where rookie QB Josh Rosen looks to try and keep pace with the NFL’s most productive scoring offense. He’s beaten the 49es twice and hasn’t experienced much success otherwise, leading Arizona to over 20 points only once this season, but Rosen did throw multiple touchdown passes for the first time in his pro career and finally hooked up with Larry Fitzgerald, helping him end his end zone drought. First-time offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will have no choice but to try and open things up, so it will be interesting to see what this offense can come up with.
Its best bet might be for a secondary that features Patrick Peterson and emerging young safety Budda Baker to create turnovers, especially since Mahomes has been picked off seven times over the last five games and hasn’t had a turnover-free game since Oct. 1. Still, he’s already 29 touchdown passes for the season and has failed to top the 30-point mark only once. On that note, Kansas City’s lowest-scoring game is just one point less than Arizona’s highest output. Center Mitch Morse remains out as the Chiefs continue to work with a patchwork offensive line, a task made easier by the fact most of the team’s key playmakers are healthy. WR Sammy Watkins (ankle) is doubtful to play, but the defense will be welcoming back standout pass-rusher Justin Houston to try and get after Rosen on predictable passing downs.
Miami at Green Bay (-10/48), 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS: - The Packers have had trouble getting started in the past and always seem to get their act together so a November must-win home game is nothing new. Coming off a tough loss to New England where a costly Aaron Jones’ fumble kept them from likely taking a fourth-quarter lead, Green Bay has to be frustrated since it also saw an opportunity to potentially beat the Rams slip through the fingers of a now dismissed Ty Montgomery. Green Bay is close to what we typically expect it to be under Aaron Rodgers’ watch, but the team went 3-8 down the stretch last season and has done far more losing than we’re used to seeing from them of late. With road games in Seattle and Minnesota closing out November, it’s absolutely crucial that the Packers stop the bleeding here. Unfortunately, they’ll be without corner Kevin King and have tackle Bryan Bulaga, WR Randall Cobb and LB Blake Martinez questionable.
That still leaves them better off than the Dolphins, which snapped a run of four losses in five games by defeating the Jets last week but take the field in Green Bay with Brock Osweiler still filling in at quarterback for an injured Ryan Tannehill. Three starting offensive linemen, tackle Ja’Wuan James, center Ted Larsen and guard Laremy Tunsil are all questionable, so Osweiler may be under siege. Defensively, LB Kiko Alonso should play and safety Reshad Jones is also going to be utilized despite telling defensive coordinator Matt Burke that he wasn’t going back in the game last week. Just another day in paradise. Speaking of which, the Dolphins are leaving sunny South Florida, where they’ve played three of the last four, for frosty Green Bay, where game-time temperatures will be at 32 degrees and snow flurries could be part of the festivities.
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at [email protected]