Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:01 AM

Essentials - Week 12

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Jacksonville (-3/37) at Buffalo, 1 p.m. ET, CBS: It’s hard to fathom that this is a battle of two last-place teams. The Jaguars were a bounce away from finishing off an AFC Championship upset of New England and were expected to be among this season’s top contenders. Instead, they come in on a six-game losing streak, having failed to even so much as cover a spread since Sept. 30. Jalen Ramsey getting injured trying to chase around Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill seemed to be the root of the problems on the defensive end, although there have been multiple injuries on that side of the ball that have crept up as huge problems. Corner A.J. Bouye returning against Pittsburgh to lend Ramsey provides some hope that the defense can get things fixed and go on a run, but former Bill Marcell Dareus will be absent from a defensive front that will be tasked with keeping Josh Allen in the pocket.

The Buffalo rookie hasn’t played since Oct. 14 but will return from an elbow injury. His parade of replacements – Nathan Peterman, Derek Anderson and Matt Barkley – make it easy to forget that he had thrown for just over 80 yards in his previous two starts. Still, his ability to run and extend plays has made his absence a glaring one since he at least worked in conjunction with the defense instead of against them. Controlling possession should be a huge part of this one given Jacksonville’s own lack of confidence in Blake Bortles, whose struggles have gone off the rails over the past month-plus. He threw for 104 yards last week, so it’s no surprise that this total will be among the lowest of the season. Can Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy break off enough big runs to make under bettors nervous? Temperatures will be in the mid-40s with wind a factor. The last four meetings between these teams have all produced at least 47 points, but this is the first time Doug Marrone and Sean McDermott meet as head coaches.

Oakland at Baltimore (-12/42.5), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: Lamar Jackson will get his second start and will presumably not rack up 26 carries again, although, who knows, maybe that usage will be his norm? The rookie is back under center since Joe Flacco’s hip issue has sidelined him a second straight week and produced win by throwing for 150 yards and running for 119 last week. The Raiders defense has faced mostly pocket passers all season. Russell Wilson took off only six times in their 27-3 Oct. 14 loss in London, gaining 20 yards. Ryan Tannehill rushed for 26 yards on three carries way back in Week 3, but you can safely expect that this will be a different animal for a defense that has struggled to gain pressure but did help snap a five-game losing streak with big plays against Arizona rookie Josh Rosen last week.

Baltimore is going to trust its defense to keep Derek Carr from coming through on his wish to wreck the Raiders’ draft plans by winning as often as possible now that the lid is back off, but it must be pointed out that Oakland could be winless this season if not for some tremendous luck in its Sept. 30 loss to Cleveland and last week’s comeback win in Arizona. Both of those victories have come against rookies. The odds of that run continuing improved with RB Doug Martin and WR Jordy Nelson both getting cleared to participate despite injuries, so the Ravens will have some problems to solve. It’s never been nicer in Maryland this time of year, so Jackson and Carr will have mild conditions to work with.

San Francisco at Tampa Bay (-1.5/54.5), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Jameis Winston is back after coming in and providing a spark against the Giants last week, throwing two touchdowns and moving back ahead of Ryan Fitzpatrick as their game of QB teeter-totter continues. Winston is back up and takes aim at a 49ers pass defense that has been inconsistent and won’t be able to count on LB Reuben Foster, who is again in legal trouble after an alleged domestic violence incident. The 49ers haven’t cowered on the road all season, so their 0-5 record is misleading. Setbacks against the Vikings, Chiefs, Chargers, Packers and Cardinals have all been one-possession games with the expectation of a 38-27 loss at Arrowhead.

Second-year QB Nick Mullens will get his third career start – the first on the road. He’s had moments of brilliance since being pressed into duty and will face a depleted Bucs defense missing its top linebackers and featuring major issues in the secondary. Corner M.J. Stewart and safety Justin Evans have been ruled out but defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry should play. Winston will count DeSean Jackson among his weapons, but tight end O.J. Howard was lost for the season to an ankle injury last week. The ‘over’ is 8-2 in Bucs’ games this season, which is partially why the total has been placed in the mid-50s.

N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia (-5/48), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: This may be Sunday’s most compelling game simply due to the magnitude of what’s involved. The slumping Giants could come into Philadelphia and bury the Eagles in a whole they’ll be unlikely to work their way out of. Losing would put Philly a full two games back of both Washington and Dallas. For New York, this is a last gasp for any realistic thought that it can win out and rise up from the dead, but they have pulled off consecutive victories to inspire hope. Rookie RB Saquon Barkley was named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the week for his dominant Week 11 efforts against the Bucs, so this figures to be a tough test for an Eagles defense hurting for depth in the back seven with LB Jordan Hicks sidelined and corner Sidney Jones doubtful while Jalen Mills, Avonte Maddox and Ronald Darby already out. Unless the front four gets pressure on Eli Manning, he could have a big day.

Carson Wentz will attempt rebound from a dreadful performance where he missed throw after throw against the Saints in a shocking 48-7 loss. The Eagles also failed to make plays in their last three appearances in the Linc, suffering tight losses to Dallas, Carolina and Minnesota. Philadelphia is 0-4-1 against the number at home and looks Super Bowl-cursed as the calendar approaches December. Considering how quickly fortunes change and the fact they’ll still see the ‘Skins twice and visit the Cowboys, nothing is set in stone and futures of NFC champ (50/1) and Super Bowl winner (100/1) remain attractive if you think Wentz will figure things out and the Eagles can go on a run. It’s certainly possible, but will require a victory here. Philly has won eight of nine in this series, including a 34-13 win in Week 6. The Giants haven't won at Lincoln Financial Field since 2013, getting outscored 105-50.

New England (-11.5/46.5) at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m. ET, CBS: The first scheduled meeting between the Jets’ greatest source of hope and their primary tormentor over the last decade-plus won’t end with a post-game handshake after four quarters of mutual admiration. Sam Darnold is sidelined with a foot injury and will again be replaced by veteran Josh McCown, who will have a full bye week of preparation for his second start of the season after a rough start against Buffalo. The Bills won 41-10 in Week 10 two Sundays ago as the season hit rock bottom for New York considering starter Matt Barkley was basically signed off the street and helped beat them handily. The Jets are hoping a week off from action will help provide a fresh start, but the opportunity to turn the page by moving on from head coach Todd Bowles to open the bye week came and went without incident.

Bowles is 1-5 against the Patriots and is by no means the root of New York’s problems over the last decade, but he’s won only his first home matchup with fellow defensive mind Bill Belichick, continuing a 2-13 run for the Jets against the Pats since December 2010. There have been embarrassing episodes and three games close enough to require overtime. The two victories have come at Met Life Stadium. We’ll see if the Jets can find a way to come out of the holiday by providing some resistance at home but will face a New England team coming off its own embarrassing pre-bye effort, getting drilled 34-10 at Tennessee. The Pats have bounced back with wins in nine of their last 10 games following losses, covering in every victory. They’ve covered in eight of the last 10 as a double-digit favorite, losing outright only once. New England typically handles its business in these situations and will have Brady under center despite some knee soreness and an illness that forced him to miss practice on Friday. He’ll have Rob Gronkowski back in the lineup after he missed multiple games with a back injury and will also have RB Sony Michel in the mix. Right guard Shaq Mason is also expected to be back after missing a pair of games and pleasant 50 degree temperatures will make for solid working conditions for both.

Miami at Indianapolis (-8.5/52), 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS: Two of the five AFC teams vying for the No. 6 seed as they enter Sunday’s play with 5-5 records square off under the dome at Lucas Oil Stadium. For Miami, it doubles as the return of Ryan Tannehill to the lineup following a five-game absence in which Brock Osweiler managed to keep the Fish afloat with a 2-3 mark. He lost both road games convincingly and beat the Jets, so splitting against Chicago and Detroit has to be considered his strongest work. At any rate, Tannehill is more accurate and sharper, so any realistic hope of making the playoffs will require him remaining healthy, especially given the defenses that will be lining up to stop him going forward. The Dolphins have averaged 12.5 points over the past two weeks due to attrition at the receiver position and Osweiler’s limitations but will have tackle Laremy Tunsil available to offer protection and used the bye to get RB Kenyan Drake, WR DeVante Parker and Danny Amendola.

The Colts have won four straight by riding Andrew Luck and a defense playing much better than anticipated, so with safeties Clayton Geathers and Malik Hooker available and corner Nate Hairston also cleared, the secondary is intact to make Tannehill’s return as unpleasant as possible. Luck has been brilliant and has been getting excellent protection up front, so there’s a major development to monitor with center Ryan Kelly ruled out with a knee injury. It’s looking like Evan Boehn will be tasked with snapping to Luck and calling out signals but hasn’t played center since college. He joined the Colts only a month ago.

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

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