Everything you need to know as kickoff approaches...
Key game-time decisions
All players questionable unless noted
Dallas Cowboys: QB Tony Romo (back), WR Dez Bryant (knee), DE Ryan Davis (hamstring), T Chaz Green (foot, back), DE Demarcus Lawrence (back, shoulder), G Ronald Leary (concussion), T Tyron Smith (back, hip)
Romo is listed as questionable for the first time this season, but NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported the quarterback is not expected to be active this week. UPDATE: Romo is expected to be inactice while Bryant is expected to play, per Rapoport on Sunday morning.
Martin will be a game-time decision. Expect the Bucs to play it cautious with their No. 1 back. If he dresses, he likely wouldn't have a full load. UPDATE: Martin is expected to be active but his workload should be limited, per Rapoport.
Starks was limited all week and could make his return after missing four games following surgery. UPDATE: The Packers are hopeful Starks will play, but they want to see him warm up, per Rapoport.
Michael was limited on Friday. Also of note: Kam Chancellor was full-go and will return. UPDATE: The team believes Michael will play, per Rapoport.
New England Patriots: TE Martellus Bennett (ankle), DT Alan Branch (back), WR Julian Edelman (foot), WR Chris Hogan (back)
Bennett and Edelman were limited all week. Hogan did not practice Friday. UPDATE: Bennett and Edelman are expected to play while Hogan will be a game-time decision, per Rapoport.
There are some in New York that would prefer Fitzpatrick not be ready to play. UPDATE: Fitzpatrick expects to play if there is no swelling in his knee, per Rapoport.
Philadelphia Eagles: TE Brent Celek (rib), TE Trey Burton (hamstring), DT Taylor Hart (ankle), DT Bennie Logan (groin), CB Leodis McKelvin (hamstring)
The entire group practiced on Thursday and Friday, Celek and McKelvin on a limited basis. UPDATE: Celek is expected to play, per Rapoport.
Chicago Bears: WR Eddie Royal (toe), DT Eddie Goldman (ankle), LB Pernell McPhee (knee), CB Tracy Porter (knee), CB Bryce Callahan (hamstring),
Royal and the rest of the group were limited all week. UPDATE: Royal is expected to play, per Rapoport.
Los Angeles Rams: RB Todd Gurley (thigh), DT Michael Brockers (groin), CB Trumaine Johnson (ankle), CB Lamarcus Joyner (back), DE Matt Longacre (hip)
Gurley sat out Wednesday and Thursday was a full-go on Friday. The missed practices were likely precautionary, and we expect the running back to play. UPDATE: Gurley is expected to play, per Rapoport.
Houston Texans: WR Will Fuller (knee), CB A.J. Bouye (ankle), RB Jonathan Grimes (illness), LB Brian Peters (quadricep), DT Vince Wilfork (groin)
Fuller was limited all week. UPDATE: The Texans are not optimistic that Fuller will play, but he will work out pre-game to give it a try, per Rapoport. Wilfork is not expected to play.
Hurns was limited on Thursday and Friday. He must pass the final stages of concussion protocol. UPDATE: Hurns is expected to play, per Rapoport.
The Chiefs ruled out Justin Houston's return this week. Jaye Howard and Jeremy Maclin are also out. Johnson was limited all week.
Carolina Panthers: DT Vernon Butler (ankle), C Gino Gradkowski (knee), C Ryan Kalil (shoulder), DT Kyle Love (knee), LB Shaq Thompson (knee)
Does anyone want to snap the ball to Cam Newton? UPDATE: Thompson is not expected to play, per Rapoport.
Miami Dolphins: WR Jarvis Landry (shoulder), WR Kenny Stills (calf), S Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle), T Jermon Bushrod (shoulder), WR Leonte Carroo (knee), CB Chris Culliver (knee), TE MarQueis Gray (ankle), LB Jelani Jenkins (hand), TE Dion Sims (concussion)
Landry returned to practice limited on Friday after sitting out Thursday's session. Barring a setback, he will likely play, but not at 100 percent. UPDATE: Landry and Stills are both expected to play, per Rapoport.
San Diego Chargers: TE Hunter Henry (knee), WR Tyrell Williams (knee), G Orlando Franklin (concussion), CB Craig Mager (concussion)
Henry was full-go on Friday and should play. Williams was limited to close out the week. With Travis Benjamin out, Philip Rivers needs all the targets he can get. UPDATE: Henry is likely to play, per Rapoport.
Minnesota Vikings: DT Linval Joseph (shoulder), G Zac Kerin (hand), CB Captain Munnerlyn (ankle), WR Laquon Treadwell (hamstring)
The quartet was limited on Friday.
DJax sat out all week and is unlikely to play. UPDATE: Jackson will not play, per Rapoport.
Hyde was limited all week but could return to the lineup. UPDATE: Hyde is a game-time decision, but should play, and Smith is also expected to play, per Rapoport.
*It's looking mostly dry for our 11 outdoor games this week. We will update Sunday prognostications for all non-dome contests as we drift closer to game time. *
Chiefs at Panthers -- 59 degrees
Texans at Jaguars -- 68 degrees -- chance of rain (22 percent)
Rams at Jets -- 54 degrees
Falcons at Eagles -- 54 degrees
Bears at Buccaneers -- 74 degrees
Packers at Titans -- 59 degrees
Vikings at Redskins -- 53 degrees
Dolphins at Chargers -- 78 degrees
Cowboys at Steelers -- 50 degrees
Seahawks at Patriots -- 43 degrees
Bengals at Giants (MNF) -- 51 degrees
What to Watch For
Jeremy Maclin (groin) is out, but the return of Alex Smith and Spencer Ware will boost an offense that couldn't find footing last week. Ware's physical brand of rugged running and dynamic open-space agility in the passing game were notably missing. Charcandrick West is a serviceable backup, but Ware has proven he can move an offense. Returning from a concussion, the running back has a stiff test against a Carolina defense that has been a fortified brick wall. The Panthers allow 3.3 rushing yards per carry (lowest in the NFL) and have given up just 41.5 rush yards per game in the past two weeks. It is a tough task for Smith and Ware's return from a one-week sabbatical to face Luke Kuechly and a Carolina defense that knows it can't afford any more home stumbles if it's to turn the season around.
Cam Newton continues to get battered this season, suffering through five sacks last week and 48 QB hits in seven games this season (took only 59 in 16 games last year). Newton makes ridiculous throws look pedestrian with bodies scattered at his feet and arms draped all over him. You can take issue with his tendency not to set his feet and sail high passes on occasion, but he moves the ball behind an offensive line that would render other offenses comatose. Sunday he'll have to contend with a surging Dee Ford, who has been a human wrecking ball of late.
Say what? Stat of the week: When targeting the Chiefs' jitterbug do-it-all Tyreek Hill, quarterbacks have a 141.1 passer rating this season (4 TD, 0 INT on 28 targets) -- third-highest in NFL this season (minimum 25 targets).
DeAndre Hopkins has struggled this season to find a rapport with Brock Osweiler, ranking 88th among receivers in yards per catch at 10.9 and 42nd in receiving yards with 434. The matchup against Jaguars stud rookie Jalen Ramsey will be fun to watch. Hopkins doesn't back down, and Ramsey loves talking. Scuffles could ensue. Unfortunately for Nuk, Osweiler couldn't take advantage of a terrible Lions pass defense before the bye, so why should we expect him to perform better against a No. 5 ranked pass defense? If the Texans are to get their first road victory of the season, Lamar Miller will need to be in for a big day.
With Blake Bortles struggling, new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett turned to Chris Ivory last week. The bruising back showed signs of life as the primary ball carrier, out-toting T.J. Yeldon 18 to seven in K.C. Expect more of the same this week. Houston's pass defense is ranked No. 2 in the NFL, but has been gashed on the ground, giving up 128.5 yards per game on the ground (28th most). Ivory's bruising style can help keep Bortles in manageable down-and-distance as the Jags attempt to keep a sinking ship afloat.
Say what? Stat of the week: Houston is the first NFL team since the 1998 Buccaneers to reach the midpoint of a season undefeated at home and winless on the road.
Gary Kubiak keeps thrusting more and more responsibility on quarterback Trevor Siemian, but the offense remains stuck in neutral. If the second-year signal-caller can't move the ball through the air against the 32nd-ranked Saints passing defense, it's not going to happen. The Saints are a different team at home, where Drew Brees puts up points against every defense. Siemian needs his offense to keep pace. New Orleans gives up big chunks after the catch, so expect Siemian to get the ball out quickly to his receivers and backs in space in hopes to gobble up a lot of YAC.
The Saints have loaded up on the run game to help keep their miserable defense off the field. Tim Hightower and Mark Ingram combined for 352 yards on 57 carries the past two weeks. Expect the New Orleans offense to probe the ground game early against a Broncos defense that has been gashed by the run, giving up 128.6 yards per contest on the ground (29th). With Aqib Talib out again, the Broncos secondary is also out of whack, leaving a banged-up secondary to deal with rookie stud Michael Thomas and Brees' high-flying offense. If Brees makes it into a track meet, the home team will push itself further into the NFC playoff discussion by knocking off the defending Super Bowl champs.
Say what? Stat of the week: No quarterback has registered a 100-plus passer rating against the Broncos in 34 straight games, including playoffs. Brees has four straight games with a 100-plus passer rating.
Is anyone rooting for a 0-0 shutout tie Sunday? Based on yardage and scoring stats, neither offense in this game holds a single advantage over the defense they face. The Jets defense is prone to giving up big passing plays, but Case Keenum leads the lowest-scoring offense, and 31st-ranked unit in total yards earned. Expect plenty of shots deep to Kenny Britt and Brian Quick. Britt has been the Rams' most consistent offensive weapon. Despite representing themselves as a bruising ground attack, Keenum has thrown 27-plus passes in three straight games. Facing a stout Jets run defense, expect the ignoring of Todd Gurley to continue.
Todd Bowles is going to give Ryan Fitzpatrick at least one more chance to save the season. Fitzpatrick's inconsistencies have been well-documented, with a 5-13 TD-INT ratio and 55.1 passer rating in the Jets' six losses. Gang Green is 0-6 in games they've scored 23 points or fewer. The Rams have held offenses to 17 points or fewer four times. Keeping Aaron Donald from killing Fitzpatrick will be the key for New York. The pass rusher a teammate referred to as a "bowling ball with the strength of two men" leads the NFL with 19 QB hits and has five sacks in the last five games.
The Eagles' defensive line needs to discombobulate Matt Ryan, or Atlanta's offense will pick apart a struggling secondary. Atlanta leads the NFL in PPG (33.9) and is second in total YPG (429.2). Ryan has been sublime feeding the ball to his bevy of targets behind a solid offensive line. The Eagles boast the fifth-most sacks in the NFL, but Fletcher Cox does not have a QB takedown in any of the past four games. Disrupting Ryan will be key. The Eagles haven't allowed a 300-yard passer this season, in large part due to their persistent front seven and solid play from the safeties. Matt Ryan has five 300-yard passing games, tied for most in the NFL.
Carson Wentz has attempted to stretch the field the past few weeks with mixed results. Wentz hit speedy rookie Bryce Treggs once last week, but in his last three games is 6-of-22 passing with zero touchdowns, two interceptions and a 26.0 passer rating on throws of 15-plus air yards. We'll see if Wentz can turn those numbers around against a Falcons defense ranked 31st against the pass and whose top corner, Desmond Trufant, was ruled out. Atlanta's pass rushing duo of Vic Beasley and Adrian Clayborn have come on strong the past few weeks, which could be a problem for an Eagles offensive line that badly misses Lane Johnson.
Say what? Stat of the week:Ryan Mathews has nine carries for 25 rush yards combined in his last two games. Darren Sproles has 50-plus rushing yards in each of the last two games.
Jordan Howard's emergence is key for a Bears team that wants to minimize Jay Cutler's influence on the outcome of games. Howard doesn't possess breakaway speed, but has plus vision and hits the hole hard. The rookie has 110-plus rushing yards in three of his last five games (Bears are 2-1 in those contests). Facing Kwon Alexander and a 25th-ranked Bucs rushing defense, giving up 117.9 yards on the ground per game, Howard needs to churn out yards on early downs to keep Cutler in manageable distances. Only in Chicago would a rookie RB need to keep a veteran QB out of trouble.
Doug Martin is a game-time decision for the Bucs, but if he plays, expect Tampa to ease him into the rotation. Coach Dirk Koetter sounds wary of his No. 1 back suffering another setback. The matchup to watch is Mike Evans versus an overperforming Bears defense -- Vic Fangio doesn't get enough credit. Evans has been beastly this season, leading the NFL with eight TD catches on 103 targets. Jameis Winston will force-feed Evans again heavily Sunday as the Bucs will be forced to move the ball through the air.
Say what? Stat of the week: The Bears defense allows 5.19 yards per play this season (ninth in NFL), which would be the lowest by Chicago since allowing 5.02 yards/play in 2010.
The Green Bay Packers offense is finally back on track, totaling 380.7 yards per game and 28.0 points per game in the past three contests. With no running game to speak of, Aaron Rodgers has thrown 10 TD passes in the last three games. James Starks' possible return would boost the ground attack, but the unit will only go as far as Rodgers takes them against the Titans' 20th-ranked aerial defense. We'd like to see Mike McCarthy continue to utilize the quick passing attack as opposed to the hit-or-miss deep shots that have bogged down Green Bay's offense.
The Titans live and die with Marcus Mariota. When the second-year quarterback is on a roll, the play-action attack is potent and a joy to watch. When Mariota is missing throws to the outside, fumbling the ball and tossing game-changing interceptions, the Titans offense becomes a Clydesdale show. The Packers defense ranks first against the run (thanks to facing some weak opponents), but has gotten torched through the air. Green Bay has allowed 30-plus points in three of their past four games. The Titans can swipe the AFC South title, but they need to take the next step by beating teams like the Packers at home first. Mariota negating the turnovers is the place to start.
Say what? Stat of the week:Ty Montgomery has 23 receptions, 202 receiving yards, 19 carries and 119 rush yards in the last three games.
Pat Shurmur ran a more up-tempo offense last week, which aided a beleaguered offensive line. Facing a Redskins defense ranked seventh in sacks with 22 for the season, Sunday presents a much more daunting task. Sam Bradford plays better in the quicker tempo allowing for quicker reads, so expect more of it in Washington. Stefon Diggs remains his go-to target, receiving 13-plus targets the past two weeks. Despite the Redskins' willingness to toss Josh Norman at opponent's No. 1 receivers, don't expect a ton of Diggs-on-Norman action. Diggs played a lot more out of the slot last week under Shurmur, while Norman primarily sticks to the outside.
Regardless of the opponent, the Redskins move the ball, ranking fourth in total offense. Without left tackle Trent Williams (suspension) and DeSean Jackson (doubtful; shoulder), however, the task will be tougher on Kirk Cousins. We can't understate Williams' absence. One of the best left tackles in the NFL, there is now a hole on Cousins' blind side that could give Everson Griffen a free pass into the backfield. Expect many quick throws to Jamison Crowder and Pierre Garcon to keep Cousins upright and avoid Mike Zimmer's blitz packages.
Say what? Stat of the week:Stefon Diggs earned 13-plus targets in back-to-back games for the first time in his career and had 21 receptions over his last two games (most in NFL since Week 8).
When the Dolphins have the ball Sunday, we should see Jay Ajayi, Jay Ajayi, and more Jay Ajayi. Miami won three straight with the same strategy Adam Gase used last year in Chicago: Rely on a running back to cover for a quarterback rife with deficiencies. With Ajayi blasting through holes and running over opponents, Miami's offense has gone from sputtering to efficient. In the last three games, Ajayi has 77 totes for 529 yards, an average of 6.9 YPC, with four scores. The Chargers boast the No. 5 ranked run defense with Brandon Mebane helping eat up backs in the middle. Missing linebacker Denzel Perryman (hamstring) and Jatavis Brown (knee) for the second straight week will hurt, but it's a San Diego group that shut down DeMarco Murray last game.
The Chargers boast a surging sophomore running back of their own. Melvin Gordon has looked more explosive and broken far more tackles in recent weeks, leading a Chargers offense that has been decimated by injuries in the passing game. The Chargers average 106.7 rush yards per game (18th in NFL) and 3.9 yards per rush (23rd in NFL) this season. Miami is giving up 136.1 rush yards per game (30th in NFL) and 4.6 yards per rush (26th in NFL) this season. After 32 carries last week, expect a heavy dose of Gordon again.
Say what? Stat of the week: The Chargers defense allowed fewer than 100 rush yards in eight of nine games this season, but has given up 25-plus points in seven of nine games this season.
There is not much good to be said about the San Francisco 49ers. It's a talent-poor team that plays sloppy with a quarterback that looks like the shell of a man who once participated in a Super Bowl. The best positive we can say: Did you see DuJuan Harris last week? The former car salesman runs like he's shot out of a cannon, with the abandon of a man on fire. Even if Carlos Hyde (questionable; shoulder) returns, Harris should keep a role in the Niners' offense. Against a Cardinals defense giving up 102.1 yards on the ground, Chip Kelly needs to run to have a shot win.
Speaking of running backs, David Johnson should feast like a puppy that got into the pantry. Johnson has 100-plus yards from scrimmage in all eight games this season, leading the league with 1,112 yards of offense. A physical, pounding runner with quick cuts is a laughable mismatch against a 49ers defense that enlists special team's players masquerading as linebackers. The Niners allow 193.0 rushing yards per game and have given up a 100-yard rusher in seven straight games. David Johnson will have a big day. A big, big day.
Say what? Stat of the week: In honor of Veterans Day, for every point scored during the NFL's Salute to Service games, the league will donate $1,000 to its military non-profit partners -- USO, Pat Tillman Foundation, and Wounded Warrior Project. ROOT FOR POINTS, FRIENDS.
Ben Roethlisberger compared Dak Prescott to himself as a rookie quarterback. If Dak is to live up to that billing, he'll have to win his toughest road game yet (Big Ben went undefeated as a rookie, 13-0). While Prescott is buoyed by a dominant run game, like Ben before him, he's become more dynamic as the weeks progress. The Cowboys quarterback owns the highest passer rating by a rookie in NFL history (min. eight starts) at 104.2, and is the only rookie QB since at least 1950 with 12-plus passing touchdowns and 2-or-fewer interceptions in his first eight games. The Steelers defense is much sturdier with Cameron Heyward and Ryan Shazier stuffing the run. Pittsburgh will try to force Prescott to beat them. If the rookie pulls off the road win with his magical play, he won't get benched for Tony Romo.
Despite not boasting the most talent, Dallas' defense has been phenomenally solid. The Cowboys rank fourth in points allowed per game (17.5) and 10th in yards per game. But Rod Marinelli's unit has yet to face an offense with the explosive potential Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell bring to the table. Sure, the Steelers looked rusty in Big Ben's first game back last week; don't bet on it happening at home. Dallas' defensive backfield is banged up, which should open holes for Brown. Pittsburgh knows it can't fall behind in a winnable AFC North. When the Steelers need a win against a good opponent -- and they do this week --the firepower usually shows up.
Say what? Stat of the week:Dez Bryant has 50 receiving yards or fewer in 10 of his 14 games played since 2015.
It's shocking to think that the heretofore ground-and-pound Seattle Seahawks are on pace to be the worst rushing offense in franchise history (since 1976), owning a franchise-low 23.5 carries per game, 75.4 rushing yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. With Christine Michael getting stymied, expect to see more of C.J. Prosise this week against the 15th ranked Patriots run defense, where New England has been most vulnerable. The Seahawks have put the ball in Russell Wilson's hands. When healthy, the magician has been wonderful. When he's been gimpy, the Seahawks offense has stalled. One of the criticisms of Jamie Collins pre-trade was his tendency to get burned in coverage at times -- see playoffs versus Denver. After the trade, it will be intriguing to see how Bill Belichick decides to handle Jimmy Graham. The Seattle tight end was unguardable last week.
Tom Brady's patient precision passing game is uniquely suited to pick apart a stout Seahawks defense. Seattle's zone coverage scheme lulls quarterbacks into errors. Brady makes no errors. Michael Bennett's absence is huge in this matchup. Not only has Seattle's run defense fallen off a cliff without Bennett, but also his pass rush is sorely missed. When Bennett inevitably asks for another pay raise in the offseason, he'll certainly cite the statistics piled up against the Seahawks defense in his absence. It's not been good. While Seattle's D remains wounded, the Pats should get another dynamic weapon to play with in Dion Lewis. Don't expect the shifty back to take James White off the field immediately, but with a two-jitterbug formation to complement the two-tight end formations, it's just another headache Brady and Co. can unleash on defense.
A.J. Green set career highs through first eight games of a season in targets (88), receptions (59) and receiving yards (896) this season. He's 104 receiving yards shy of a sixth straight 1,000-yard season, which would put him with Randy Moss as the only players in NFL history with 1,000-plus receiving yards in each of his first six seasons. The Giants' pass defense ranks 25th, but has steadily improved. Green, however, marks the stiffest test for Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The Bengals offensive line has been abysmal at times this season, so it could be the night the Giants' 30th ranked sack squad finally puts up numbers.
Odell Beckham Jr. could get in a highlight-for-highlight competition with Green on Monday night -- wouldn't that be fan-freaking-tastic? Beckham has two-plus receiving TDs in two of the last three games. OBJ also loves the spotlight: In four career MNF games, he's earned 6.3 receptions/game, 101.5 receiving YPG, and 3 TDs. The Giants can't run the ball, meaning Beckham should have plenty of chances to add to those stats against a middling Bengals secondary that has allowed 27-plus points in four of eight games this season.
Say what? Stat of the week: The Giants boast the NFL's No. 1 red-zone defense (allowing TD on 39.3 percent of red-zone drives). Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert has 13 receiving TDs in the red zone on 23 career red-zone targets.