Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:56 AM

Sunday's Essentials - Week 8

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Giants at Lions (-6.5/49.5), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Saquon Barkley returned from a month-long absence and finished with 80 yards from scrimmage against the Cardinals last week, so New York aims to get him really going as they try to end a three-game losing streak. One of the main guys standing in his way will be former teammate Damon “Snacks” Harrison, who is now attempting to be one of the main lines of defense to help Detroit stop the run. The Lions’ DT is a noted run stopper but hasn’t been able to prevent his team from ranking fifth-worst in the NFL in yards allowed on the ground.

Speaking of determined former teammates, Giants WR Golden Tate will look to continue emerging as one of rookie Daniel Jones’ favorite targets, especially since Sterling Shepard remains out with a concussion. Detroit’s top corner, Darius Slay, is out with a hamstring issue, which doesn’t bode well for the Lions improving on a pass defense that ranks 31st in yardage allowed. Matthew Stafford won’t have RB Kerryon Johnson back until at least Week 16 due to a knee injury that required surgery, so rookie Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic will have to fill in. The Lions have lost three straight despite averaging 27.3 points, surrendering 33 points within that span.

Bucs at Titans (-2.5/45.5), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: This was circled on the schedule as a chance to see the top picks of the 2015 Draft square off, but Marcus Maritoa won’t be getting in unless there’s a need to replace Ryan Tannehill, who took his job and helped produce a 23-20 win over the Chargers last week. There’s also always the possibility that Bruce Arians loses patience with Jameis Winston, who has thrown 10 interceptions this season, including five last time we saw him overseas in an embarrassing loss to Carolina. Both teams still have illusions of saving their season and playing one meaningful game after another next month, so this one is vital to keeping those hopes alive.

Winston won’t have TE O.J. Howard to work with but has plenty of options in top WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, who will be working against a injury-riddled secondary. Veteran Cameron Brate will fill in for Howard, while Tennessee will need to replace CBs Chris Milton and Adoree Jackson in addition to LB Sharif Finch. Standout tight end Delanie Walker wasn’t able to make it back from an ankle issue, so Jonnu Smith will be pressed into a larger role. LB Kamalei Correa is listed as questionable. Tampa’s biggest remaining variable is veteran RT Demar Dotson (hamstring), who is hoping to be healthy enough to play. The Bucs will already be minus RG Alex Cappa. A pleasant day awaits both teams from a weather standpoint, so this one will be strictly about execution. The Bucs’ only wins this season have come outside of Tampa Bay. Their last four games have all surpassed the posted total.

Chargers at Bears (-3.5/41), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: The Chargers could get back DE Melvin Ingram back from a three-game absence due to a hamstring injury, which would definitely help a defense decimated by injuries for most of the season a little more teeth. DTs Brandon Mebane and Justin Jones will remain out, which is good news for a Bears’ running game that has been anemic. Mitchell Trubisky hasn’t been good either, but he does have an elite option in WR Allen Robinson, who continues to be the lone consistent source of production on an offense that has been incredibly disappointing.

Philip Rivers’ go-to guy, standout WR Keenan Allen, sat out practices with a hamstring issue and may not be able to participate. RBs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler are dangerous options out of the backfield that could help the Bears’ defense from being too aggressive. Khalil Mack comes off an unproductive effort against New Orleans, while safety Eddie Jackson will be gunning for the Chargers’ backs, so there will be some fun matchups to monitor even if both teams continue to struggle to move the ball. Weather won’t be a factor in Chicago since neither wind nor bitter cold has settled in yet.

Seahawks (-8.5/50) at Falcons, 1 p.m. ET, FOX: The Falcons ruled Matt Ryan out due to an ankle injury on Sunday, so Matt Schaub will be at the controls hoping to snap a five-game losing streak and keep the buzzards from engulfing beleaguered head coach Dan Quinn entering next week’s bye. Considering the season appears lost already, it seems like a change is coming. WR Mohamed Sanu has already been traded, so Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley will serve as Schaub’s primary targets against a Seattle defense looking to bounce back from a tough day against the elusive Lamar Jackson. The Seahawks have allowed 26 or more points in five of the last six games but haven’t dropped consecutive games since the beginning of last November.

Adding safety Quandre Diggs from the Lions should help, but he hasn’t done much work in practice. If Bradley McDougald (back) can play, that would lessen the need for Diggs to try and rush back from a hamstring issue and in spite of limited experience with Seattle’s system. DE Ziggy Ansah is hoping to return to make life tougher for Schaub, but DT Quinton Jefferson is out. The Seahawks have major question marks on the offensive end with tackles Germain Ifedi and Duane Brown both listed as questionable. Russell Wilson has proven he doesn’t require much time to put together some magic, but it would help to be able to have at least a little time to work against a vulnerable Atlanta secondary.

Jets at Jaguars (-6.5/40), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: Sam Darnold aims to bounce back from his dreadful Monday night performance against a secondary that has held up decently since moving Jalen Ramsey to the Rams and wants to show they’ve turned the page. Gardner Minshew will look to improve on his last home start, a rough outing against New Orleans that cooled off some of the hype surrounding the sixth-round pick. The Jets briefly got LB C.J. Mosley back to lead their defense but have lost him to a groin injury again. CB Trumaine Johnson, who was picked on by the Jets earlier in the week, is dealing with an ankle injury and could be a game-time decision.

Darnold complained of a toe injury that had him hobbling around, so we’ll see how careful New York is with its franchise quarterback, particularly considering its offensive line issues. Tackle Kelvin Beachum has already been ruled out. The Jags’ won’t have DT Marcell Dareus for the foreseeable future due to a core injury but have seen rookie Josh Allen emerge with sacks in three straight games and still have Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue anchoring the defensive front. Minshew has WR Marqise Lee back from a foot injury and saw Dede Westbrook return with a productive game last week. Jacksonville is hoping to be at .500 with Houston coming to town next week, which would restore their playoff hopes despite a rollercoaster ride of a first half of the season. Temperatures are set to be in the mid-80s in North Florida, and the threat of thunderstorms exists.

Eagles at Bills (-1.5/41), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: It’s a good thing both of the quarterbacks in this one boast some of the NFL’s strongest arms since they may be dealing with wind gusts that could reach 40 miles per hour. Both Carson Wentz and Josh Allen can make plays with their feet. While Philly is certainly the more desperate team in this matchup, looking to get back to .500 and wash the stench of Sunday night’s brutal performance at the rival Cowboys, they’re nowhere near as healthy. Tackle Jason Peters will miss another game with a knee issue and a vulnerable defense can at least look forward to facing a team that hasn’t proven capable of consistently pushing the ball downfield. Given the wind factor, Philly could benefit from being able to keep everything in front of them.

Philadelphia has had issues with its secondary, while Buffalo has been sound with elite CB Tre’Davious White leading the way. They do have to hold up this week with CB Kevin Johnson (neck), safety Kurt Coleman (hamstring) and LB Corey Thompson (ankle) all listed as questionable. Buffalo has surrendered more than 20 points only once this season and may have let its guard down some in last week’s 31-21 win over Miami in the first of three straight home games it is looking to use to solidify its status as a legitimate playoff threat. Last week’s win over the Dolphins was the first game Buffalo has participated to surpass the posted total.

Bengals vs. Rams (-12/47.5), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: Andy Dalton has had almost no time to throw over the past few weeks, so maybe he’ll be able to get a little more help out in London. It won’t come from Cordy Glenn, who remains sidelined and stayed back home in the states. Tackle Andre Smith and guard John Miller hope to return but have to deal with an L.A. defensive line that is one of the league’s most productive thanks to Aaron Donald. A.J. Green is still sidelined, while a number of key defensive players are also too banged up to strut their stuff for an international audience. Pride should kick in for the winless Bengals, so those taking points are hoping that spirit and a lethargic effort from the Rams will keep this closer than expected.

DE Carlos Dunlap and CB Turtle Jackson are also returning to the lineup to help the Bengals handle a Rams offense that scored 37 points in Atlanta last week to improve to 3-1 in road games. We’ve seen high-scoring games in London thus far, so Jared Goff will look to continue bouncing back from a slow start by moving in the pocket more and buying his talented receiving corps more time. The Rams hung around in Atlanta and practiced there before flying overseas, so we should see a cohesive group take the field looking to cover their first double-digit spread of the season.

Panthers at 49ers (-4.5/41), 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX: A well-rested Christian McCaffrey will look to continue a tremendous season by spoiling San Francisco’s perfect run as the Stanford product returns to town. He’s behind Dalvin Cook in yards per game and can pass him with a big day here, but the Niners’ defense has emerged as the driving force for their undefeated surge. LB Kwon Alexander and safety Jimmie Ward will look to contend with McCaffrey and an offense that Kyle Allen has looked sharp running as he’s produced a 4-0 mark in place of Cam Newton. Carolina has averaged 31.3 points and will playing a fourth road game in six weeks, coming off their bye after a 37-26 victory over the Bucs that was fueled by turnovers.

Fires in Northern California are being fueled by hurricane-force winds that should be less of a factor by kickoff but could still make passing the ball downfield an issue, allowing both defenses to press up. Linebackers Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson will be tasked with hanging with keeping RB Matt Breida and TE George Kittle. Tackles Mike McGlinchey and Joe Staley remain out, as does fullback Kyle Juszczyk, which limits how complex Kyle Shanahan can get with is playcalling against the Carolina defense. The 49ers will have new WR Emmanuel Sanders in the mix and have cleared Dante Pettis (knee) and Deebo Samuel (groin), so Jimmy Garoppolo will have plenty of options to work with as he tries to find a more consistent form.

Raiders at Texans (-2.5/42.5), 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS: The Raiders will have the bulk of their offense in place as they try to pull off an upset in Houston against a Texans team looking to avoid slipping back to .500 after falling behind the Colts last week. Derek Carr has been much better on the road through the first few games of the season than he’s been the past few years and really seems in command of Jon Gruden’s offense. He’ll have RB Josh Jacobs behind him after his status was in doubt due to an elbow injury and should have his offensive line closer to being intact. WR Tyrell Williams is also set to return following a foot injury and scored in every one of the first few games. His versatility will make it more difficult to key in on TE Derek Waller.

The Texans have offensive line issues to be concerned with, but Oakland traded their most talented corner, Gareon Conley, to Houston and must now deal with a number of excellent receivers who execute their roles within the offense well in DeAndre Hopkins, Kenny Stills and Keke Coutee. Will Fuller isn’t available, so those guys will all be called on to step up their production if this game winds up being a shootout. Houston has outscored teams 107-86 over their last three games and it’s clear that Bill O’Brien has trusted Watson more after a slow start to the season in which the attack struggled over the first month.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA

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