Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:56 AM

Sunday's Essentials - Week 10

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Chiefs at Titans (-6.5/49.5), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Patrick Mahomes is set to return and will have the doctor with him on the offensive line. Laurent Duvernay-Tarif is back from an ankle sprain and there’s hope that defensive end Frank Clark will play, so the Chiefs are definitely getting healthier and will have overcome a really dangerous point in the season if things stabilize going forward. Holding off the Vikings last week was crucial, especially when you consider Oakland’s success on Thursday night. Mahomes will look to hit the ground running against a pass defense that ranks in the middle of the pack in yards allowed and come off surrendering a season-high 30 points to Carolina. With a bye on deck, it’s worth wondering if this team is running on fumes given the late bye coming up next week.

Tennessee is down WR Corey Davis and TE Delanie Walker, so A.J. Brown and Jonnu Smith will be asked to step up. Center Ben Jones has cleared concussion protocol and will play. The defense is down DT Jurrell Casey, LB Jayon Brown and corner Malcolm Butler, who broke his wrist in the Titans’ loss to the Panthers. Expect a big second half from this group once the coaching staff figures out where to attack a depleted secondary since having to account for Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce is a puzzle that doesn’t really have a solution. It’s set to be a sunny day in Nashville, so conditions should be favorable for Mahomes to flourish in his return and Ryan Tannehill to try and match him as he looks to stay unbeaten in home starts.

Bills at Browns (-3/41), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: Last week was definitely rock-bottom for Cleveland, which expected to go out to Denver and beat a first-time starting quarterback in order to spark a resurgence but were instead handed another heartbreaking loss. The Browns now carry a four-game losing streak into this one and realistically have no room for error if they’re going to reach their preseason goal of making the playoffs. First-year head coach Freddie Kitchens has proved inept in his in-game decision-making, so don’t look for Cleveland fans to let this team off the hook if it gets down early, which makes this a situation where being at home ends up being a disadvantage. Both of the Browns’ wins this season have come on the road against the Jets and Ravens.

Buffalo is perfect on the road thus far and visits Miami next week, so they can really set themselves up to challenge the Patriots for the AFC East instead of just rolling over after the halfway point and chasing the wild card. Baker Mayfield will have to deal with a secondary that should have corner Kevin Johnson and safety Kurt Coleman in play with both cleared to take the field next to Tre-Davious White, one of the league’s top DBs. Josh Allen may be able to take advantage of a Browns’ secondary that could be missing free safety Damarious Randall, who may be held out with a hamstring issue. Wind gusts that could reach 20 mile per hours will make it feel like temperatures are in the high 30s.

Cardinals at Bucs (-5.5/52), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Bruce Arians has downplayed facing the Cardinals, and outside of squaring off with Larry Fitzgerald and a few other holdovers, the nature of the league featuring so much turnover makes it a little easier than it would be squaring off against former employers in other sports. The Bucs aren’t going to make the playoffs, so this is all about continuing to gain trust in the offense and Jameis Winston against a secondary featuring Patrick Peterson and a defense that has posted 18 sacks and will be looking to add to Tampa Bay’s league-high 18 giveaways.

Winston has been hit-or-miss all season due to his propensity for miscues but he has thrown for at least 301 yards in five of his last six outings but has fumbled in four straight. After seven interceptions in a two-game span, he wasn’t picked off in last weekend’s OT loss in Seattle and will have tight end O.J. Howard back as another receiving option after he’s ready to return from a hamstring issue. The Bucs will face rookie Kyler Murray without DE Carl Nassib, LB Anthony Nelson and CB Carlton Davis. They’ll have to deal with RB David Johnson, who now joins forces with Kenyan Drake to suddenly give Arizona its most dynamic look yet. Clear conditions and temperatures in the 80s await in Central Florida.

Giants (-3/44.5) at Jets, 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Outside of New York, no one really cares about determining which of these bad football teams is less terrible but rest assured bragging rights do play a large role here. These teams don’t share a training facility, but they do inhabit the same stadium and compete for the same space in the tabloids. Nobody wants to be the team mocked on Monday morning. The fact both have young quarterbacks that the franchises view as the future at the position for the next decade makes it compelling to see whether Sam Darnold or Daniel Jones can snap out of their recent funk. Darnold has developed an affinity for throwing the ball to the other team while Jones has a fumbling problem, so the headlines have written themselves of late.

The Giants come into this one without WR Sterling Shepard (concussion) and TE Evan Engram (foot), so look for rookie Darius Slayton to continue serving a larger role next to Golden Tate. The Jets will have Le’Veon Bell available despite listing him as questionable with ankle and knee ailments, so he’s likely in line for a workhorse role. Tight end Chris Herndon is going to play too, while tackle Kelvin Beachum is also back. Both teams are going to missing starting centers Ryan Kalil and Jon Halapio, further adding to the potential chaos. Inclement weather won’t pile on since clear conditions and light winds are expected on a 50-degree day at Met Life Stadium.

Lions at Bears (-6.5/47.5), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: Matthew Stafford was advised not to risk playing through a back issue, so this must-win game for both teams now decisively favors host Chicago and the line has moved four points on Sunday morning, shifting from 2.5 to 6.5 with backup Jeff Driskel set to make his first start with the Lions. The former Bengals backup is among the NFL’s speediest quarterbacks but has had accuracy issues keep him from securing a full-time starting job. He’ll have a pair of terrific receivers in Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones to work with but will be facing a talented defensive backfield and a Bears defense that will be looking to come after Driskel and take advantage of a depleted running back corps. Tight end T.J. Hockenson could have a solid day as a safety valve Driskel will have to use often. The Bears are hoping Mitchell Trubisky can straighten out his own accuracy issues to make better use of Allen Robinson, who had a terribly unproductive day last time out and will now be matched up against Darius Slay. Wind gusts of 15-17 miles per hour will make passing even more difficult for Driskel and Trubisky, so this could be a game where we see both scrambling often.

Dolphins at Colts (-10.5/43.5), 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS: With Jacoby Brissett ruled out due to a knee injury, the Colts will turn to Brian Hoyer to try and stay afloat after he put them in position to win in Pittsburgh last week before an Adam Vinatieri miss at the gun. Chad Kelly will back up Hoyer, who is 16-21 in his career as a starter and is playing with his seventh team in 11 seasons. He’ll look to keep Miami’s modest streak at one game but won’t have the luxury of working with T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell, who have each been ruled out. Count on heavy use of Marlon Mack behind a big offensive line and perhaps a heightened role for tight end Eric Ebron, who has complained about his lack of use. Zach Pascal, Chester Rogers, rookie Ashton Dulin and the recently promoted Marcus Johnson will be Hoyer’s receivers.

Continuity isn’t a luxury the Dolphins bring to the table either. Ryan Fitzpatrick remains under center and has proven he gives Miami its best chance to win, but top WR Preston Williams was lost for the season last week and RB Mark Walton has been suspended for four games. Kelan Ballage is expected to get the bulk of the carries. Safety Reshad Jones has been ruled out, so the Dolphins’ secondary is definitely vulnerable since CB Xavien Howard was already shelved. After winning unexpectedly for the first time last week, it remains to be seen how invested Miami is to chase wins that would adversely affect its draft position.

Rams (-4/43.5)at Steelers, 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX: Jared Goff will have to work without one of his top receivers since Brandin Cooks is still dealing with a concussion. That should mean increased targets for Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, who was the league’s most productive wideout the last time L.A. took the field in blowing out the Bengals in London. Todd Gurley will have his backup Malcolm Brown back from an ankle injury, which means L.A. will have a loaded backfield in place since explosive rookie back Darrell Henderson looks better acclimated.

The Steelers are looking for Mason Rudolph to continue his steady improvement but won’t have the luxury of RB James Conner being out there for him to lean on due to a nagging shoulder injury. Jaylen Samuels and Trey Edmunds will handle the work, and you figure there should be a lot of it given the need to keep the ball away from the L.A. offense and the fact top WR Juju Smith-Schuster is nursing a toe injury. Rudolph has displayed good chemistry with rookie Diontae Johnson and college teammate James Washington, but they’ll be facing a secondary fortified by Jalen Ramsey. Guard Ramon Foster has been ruled out with a concussion, so the Steelers’ offensive line isn’t going to be intact. A rainy day in Pittsburgh shouldn’t affect things here since conditions are supposed to dry up by kickoff.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA

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