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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:56 PM

Sunday's Essentials - Week 11

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Cowboys (-7/46.5) at Lions, 1 p.m. ET, CBS: Matthew Stafford is sidelined for another week due to a back issue and may not even return for Detroit’s Thanksgiving game, so Jeff Driskel will be back on the center. The mobile Florida native has won once in six starts after last week’s setback against Chicago but does bring a skill set to the table that Dallas has to account for. He targeted Kenny Golladay nine times but connected just three times and didn’t get the benefit of much of a run game to help take the pressure off him since he ended up as the team’s leading rusher. Golladay hauled in a 47-yard score late in Detroit’s final push and offers the Lions their best chance to hang around.

The Lions have been more competitive at home than on the road, so we’ll see if that changes without Stafford. They’re 2-2 SU and ATS at Ford Field but have dropped four of their last five outright and haven’t covered in a four-game span. Coming off a disappointing home loss to Minnesota, this is undoubtedly a must-win for a Cowboys team that still also has to visit New England, Chicago and Philadelphia. Detroit CB Darius Slay will play, as will Amari Cooper, who has been limited in practice due to knee and ankle issues. Tackle La’el Collins is questionable but should play, while guard Zack Martin is expected to go. It seems like Jason Garrett gets fired on social media after every loss, but it would be especially bad for him to fumble away this one.

Saints (-5.5/49.5) at Bucs, 1 p.m. ET, CBS: Following last week’s terrible loss to Atlanta, Drew Brees and an offense that managed just three field goals coming out of their bye week looks to rebound against a Bucs’ defense that ranks dead last in points allowed (31.0). Brees has had some rough days in Tampa over the years and has been picked off 18 times over 13 games. He called last week’s loss “unacceptable” but will have to rebound without guard Andrius Peat, who is out with an arm injury. Tackle Terron Armstead has been dealing with the flu, so the first part of what went wrong last week – protection – may still be shaky.




Jameis Winston hasn’t overcome his turnover issues but made enough plays against Arizona last week to help the Bucs snap a four-game losing streak. He’s going to get the ball to Mike Evans in this game after allowing his No. 1 receiver to be shut out by Marcus Lattimore the first time around. Lattimore is out with a hamstring issue this time so the Saints could have issues stopping Evans and Chris Godwin, who ranks third behind L.A.’s Cooper Kupp and N.O.’s Michael Thomas in yards after catch. Corner P.J. Williams is suspended and Patrick Robinson is dealing with a knee issue, so New Orleans comes in vulnerable. The Saints haven’t lost consecutive games since the beginning of the 2017 season and beat the Bucs 31-24 on Oct. 6, but they haven’t swept Tampa since ’14. The ‘over’ has connected in seven straight Tampa contests.

Falcons at Panthers (-4/49.5), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: The Falcons came out of their bye week refreshed and apparently locked in on playing spoiler. Another divisional foe awaits in the Panthers, who will see Atlanta twice in the next four games and looks to bounce back from a disappointing loss in Green Bay where they fell just short of putting themselves in position to tie. Kyle Allen has won both of his starts in Charlotte, but it’s been Christian McCaffrey whose shown out, running for 326 yards and four touchdowns.

Atlanta gets back CB Desmond Trufant but is still without safety Kemal Ishmael. The offense won’t have starting RB Devonta Freeman or productive Austin Hooper, who leads all NFL tight ends with 56 catches but is out with a knee injury. Brian Hill is expected to get the bulk of the carries trying to balance out the offense. Atlanta has won three of the last four meetings, holding McCaffrey to 465 yards and a single touchdown. Julio Jones has made 71 catches for 1,233 yards and six scores and has helped the Falcons to a 9-4 mark in games he’s played in.

Jaguars at Colts (-2.5/43), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Nick Foles will see his first action since Week 1 and is thrown into a situation where he’ll be asked to win on the road to get the Jags back to .500 just to make a late-season push appear feasible. Indianapolis is in survival mode too and gets Jacoby Brissett back from a knee injury after a dreadful loss to the Dolphins where backup Brian Hoyer struggled with turnovers. T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell remain sidelined, so Brissett will have to click with his tight ends and WR Zach Pascal.

While quarterbacks returning from injuries has made the headlines, this will likely ultimately be decided by running backs Marlon Mack and Leonard Fournette and their ability to help their teams reach the end zone instead of settling for field goals. Fournette comes out of his bye week looking to bounce back from being held to a season-low 40 yards 11 carries by the Texans in London. The Colts have been a middle-of-the-road defense against the run while the Jags are 29th of 32 in allowing 4.9 yards per carry. Jacksonville gets CB D.J. Hayden back, while CB Quincy Wilson will be in the mix for the Colts. There are a lot of variables in play here, but if Foles can pick up where he left off in displaying chemistry with WR D.J. Chark and Brissett is healthy enough to keep drives alive with his feet, we should see points.

Broncos at Vikings (-10/40), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: After a win and a bye week, Brandon Allen will make his first career road start against a talented defense. The Arkansas native wasn’t picked off in his first start and threw TD passes to Courtland Sutton and rookie tight end Noah Fant in a victory over Cleveland but won’t get tackle Ja’Wuan James back and isn’t likely to have tight end Jeff Heuerman in the fold as he takes on a defense that held New York rookie Daniel Jones to just 182 yards in a 28-10 win in Week 3.

After pulling off a 28-24 upset in Dallas, the Vikings have now won five of six, dropping only a 26-23 result in Kansas City after a pair of clutch Harrison Butker field goals knocked them off to open the month. Minnesota is perfect at home this season, winning all four of its games and covering all but once, outscoring opponents 119-55. Kirk Cousins will have to make due without WR Adam Thielen, who is sidelined by a hamstring injury for the third time in four games. DT Linval Joseph is also out, as is safety Anthony Harris, so the recently reacquired Andrew Sendejo is likely to start if he can overcome his own hammy issue.

Texans at Ravens (-4.5/51.5), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Houston safety Tashaun Gipson returns, which give Houston a little hope that they can find a way to stifle Lamar Jackson. The Ravens haven’t scored fewer than 23 points in a game all season and poured in 49 last week in Cincinnati, their largest output since their 59-10 Week 1 rout of Miami. It’s obvious the Ravens have hit their stride and play the bully role extremely well but they’ve got someone closer to their own size in town for a visit. Rookie WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown is set to stand out after overcoming an ankle injury.

The Texans won’t have WR Will Fuller V back but should have better protection for Deshaun Watson in play with tackles Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard joining center Greg Mancz in being cleared to take part. Houston has scored at least 23 points in seven of their nine outings, including five in succession. This will be the Texans’ fourth road game in a six-week span. Coming off a bye may give a J.J. Watt-less defense more time to figure out how to keep Jackson from continuing his remarkable run that has him up over 700 rushing yards in addition to his great work with his arm. Watson vs. Jackson won’t be foiled by bad weather since it won’t be particularly windy in chilly Baltimore, where temperatures will hover in the low 40s.

Cardinals at 49ers (-9.5/43.5), 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS: The Niners look to shake off their first loss of the season on a short week but had the benefit of staying home as they look to bounce back from falling short in OT against Russell Wilson-led Seattle. They won’t get TE George Kittle back from the knee injury that sidelined him on Monday night, but did catch a break with center Weston Richburg not missing any time due to an ankle sprain. Although rookie replacement Dre Greenlaw had a big interception in OT, the 49ers will obviously miss LB Kwon Alexander against a team with a mobile QB like Kyler Murray who targets guys on short and intermediate passes.

Arizona has a chance to be competitive since Murray will be seeing a defense for the second time in less than three weeks and did his best work in that game late. The Cardinals’ defense could get Terrell Suggs back despite him not practicing and hopes to have CB Tramaine Brock out there. After getting knocked out of Monday night’s game, Emmanuel Sanders is expected to play through sore ribs, but starting RB Matt Breida won’t participate. Tevin Coleman should get additional work as a result. Week 9’s 28-25 Niners win in Glendale snapped Arizona’s eight-game winning streak in the series. San Francisco last pulled off a sweep since 2013.

Patriots (-4.5/44.5) at Eagles, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS: New England lost consecutive games twice last season and still managed to win another Super Bowl, but you know there are people chomping at the bit to sprinkle dirt on Tom Brady and the Pats again should they lose here. Bill Belichick is coming off a bye and has won four of five in this situation, covering four of five too. New England is 14-4 with an extra week to prepare since 2001 but will have to overcome the elements here too since freezing rain is expected to dissipate by kickoff but winds that could reach 30 miles per hour will remain ever present. Temperatures will be in the mid-30’s.

New England comes out of its bye week relatively healthy and should get rookie WR N’Keal Harry into the fold. Tight end Matt LaCosse is also potentially due back from a knee injury, so Brady should have a number of sharpened weapons in play since Julian Edelman is also completely healthy. RB Jordan Howard is out for the Eagles, while WR Alshon Jeffery won’t play either. Carson Wentz hasn’t had DeSean Jackson on board for most of the season so rookie RB Miles Sanders will have an opportunity to make a big splash and figures to get plenty of touches.

Bengals at Raiders (-12.5/48.5), 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX: After surviving the Chargers two Thursdays ago, Oakland is in position to make the playoffs. Nearly half the season remains and there’s a pack of teams in the chase, but Jon Gruden has done a great job with a young roster and will have to navigate a new role as a heavy favorite to take advantage of the schedule breaks that see Cincinnati in town this week and a visit to the Jets on tap for next week. The Bengals are winless and allowing Ryan Finley to get on-the-job training, so even though a double-digit spread seems excessive, it’s understandable. A.J. Green is still sidelined with an ankle injury, so Oakland’s depleted secondary catches a break.

Temperatures should be in the 70’s and winds won’t be a factor, so Derek Carr will have a chance to put up big numbers in what will be his final November game at the Coliseum. Tight end Derek Waller has struggled over the past few weeks and is due a bounce-back after just seven catches over the past three games. Cincinnati has failed to cover in five of its last six losses while the Raiders have covered in three straight, so you’re definitely paying the tax for that on this spread since it should ideally be closer to 10 points. The Bengals will need to get Auden Tate and Tyler Boyd off and running early in order to hang around.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA

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