Everything you need to know as kickoff approaches...
Key game-time decisions
All players questionable unless noted
Reed and Norman need to get final clearance after concussions. UPDATE: Reed and Norman are expected to play, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.
Brown expects to play in a juicy matchup versus the Panthers. Floyd will be a game-time decision. UPDATE: Brown is expected to play, while Floyd is a longshot, per Rapoport.
Bill O'Brien said Friday that Miller would be a game-time decision. Clowney was limited all week. UPDATE: Miller is expected to play, per Rapoport.
Getting Bradberry and/or McClain would be a big boost for Carolina's beleaguered secondary.
Ebron should return to the lineup after being full-go in practice Thursday and Friday. Also of note: running back Theo Riddick is off the injury report.
The quartet was listed as limited on Friday. We have no indications either of the WRs will sit. UPDATE: Montgomery is expected to play, but Cobb is out, per Rapoport.
Dan Quinn said his pass rusher will be a game-time decision.
Look, no Gronk. UPDATE: Bennett and Edelman are expected to play, per Rapoport.
Wilkerson was limited on Thursday and Friday.
Oh, Joe, where did you go?
McCoy was limited Thursday and Friday. Ayers was full-go Friday.
That's three of Philip Rivers' top four pass-catching targets questionable. All three, however, expect to play.
All three defenders were limited on Friday. Ware could sit another week for precaution before returning.
Lockett was full-go by the end of the week. Of note: Russell Wilson is not on the injury report despite a pectoral injury suffered last week. UPDATE: Lockett is expected to play, per Rapoport.
Dez was limited all week and labeled as questionable. He expects to return. No, Tony Romo isn't active this week despite returning to the practice field this week. UPDATE: Bryant is expected to play, per Rapoport.
Patterson was a limited participant on Saturday. Sherels sat out practice all week.
*We will update Sunday prognostications for all non-dome contests as we drift closer to game time. *
Redskins at Bengals (LONDON) -- 59 degrees
Patriots at Bills -- 52 degrees -- chance of rain (81 percent)
Jets at Browns -- 58 degrees -- chance of rain (64 percent)
Raiders at Buccaneers -- 78 degrees
Cardinals at Panthers -- 79 degrees
Chargers at Broncos -- 72 degrees
Vikings at Bears (MNF) -- 68 degrees -- winds up to 16 MPH
What to Watch For
Is it the Jay Gruden revenge game? Perhaps the Andy Dalton revenge game is better. The Bengals quarterback made the leap following Gruden's departure, completing a higher percentage of passes for more yardage, a better TD-INT ratio, and a nearly 10-point higher passer rating. Dalton might not get the praise he earned last year, but the signal-caller has been just as good in 2016; it's the surrounding talent that's taken a dip. A.J. Green has been performing at an All-Pro level and squares off against Josh Norman (questionable, concussion), who has locked down No. 1 receivers this season. Green-Norman is the matchup to watch. Coming off a season-high 168 rushing yards, Jeremy Hill needs to stack up another stellar performance against a Redskins defense that's proven pliable up the gut (allowing 5.0 yards per carry, 31st in NFL).
With Matt Jones (knee) out, Robert Kelley takes the lead back role against a Cincinnati run D that has allowed 180 yards on the ground in two of its last three games. Kirk Cousins has improved his play the last few weeks, making smarter decisions. With Kelley starting, Cousins' quick-pass attack should be the go-to for Gruden. Expect jitterbug Chris Thompson and tight end Jordan Reed (questionable, concussion) to be heavily involved Sunday against Bengals linebackers that struggle to cover in space.
Say what? Stat of the week: Green has accounted for 37.5 percent of Bengals receiving yards this season, the highest percentage in the NFL. He also leads the league with 50 receptions. Since 2015, his 24 receptions of 20-plus air yards is tops in the NFL.
The Bills handed the Patriots their first home shutout loss since 1993 in Week 4. Four weeks later, the teams meet in Western New York under very different circumstances. Rex Ryan doesn't get the luxury of facing a banged-up rookie quarterback this time. Tom Brady has lit the league on fire since returning. The Pats have scored 25-plus points in every game with TB12. Brady is throwing for a 75.2 completion rate, 9.9 yards per attempt, 334.7 yards per game, 8-0 TD-INT ratio and a 132.6 passer rating -- those would ALL be career highs if he kept the pace. With Brady exploiting the mismatches on tight ends Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski and running back James White (the trio has combined for all eight of Brady's TDs), Ryan needs huge performances from Lorenzo Alexander, Jerry Hughes and a returning Marcell Dareus (questionable) to knock Brady off his spot. Otherwise, Buffalo's back end will get torched.
LeSean McCoy didn't rush for 100 yards in the last outing versus the Pats, but his influence loomed larger than the stats. New England couldn't corral the shifty back or cover him out of the backfield (six catches for 38 yards, TD). Shady's status for Sunday is doubtful, putting more on Tyrod Taylor's plate. The Bills quarterback played one of his best games in Week 4, completing 69.2 percent of his passes. He'll be throwing to tight end Charles Clay (knee) and a mash unit at wide receiver. The Bills offensive line will need to control the trenches and help move the chains with a grinding, less dynamic run game to keep Brady off the field.
Say what? Stat of the week:Lorenzo Alexander leads the NFL with 9.0 sacks this season (most in NFL). He earned 9.0 career sacks in his first nine NFL seasons (2007-2015). Alexander has least 0.5 sack in each game this season, becoming the first player to start the season with at least a half-sack in seven straight games since Jared Allen in 2011.
David Johnson has been the Cardinals' entire offense of late. The running back leads the NFL in touches (174), scrimmage yards (1,004) and rushing TDs (8) and is second in rushing yards (681) and rushing first downs (35). The Panthers defense has played poorly, but still boasts speedy linebackers in Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, and Shaq Thompson. Johnson versus that trio should be entertaining all game. Carson Palmer has been off target deep all season. After getting swamped by Carolina in the playoffs, it's the quarterback's chance to return the favor against a young, banged-up Panthers secondary.
The Panthers offensive line continues to struggle, allowing an average of 7.8 quarterback hits a game, second-most in the NFL. If they can't keep Markus Golden and Chandler Jones (combined for 11.0 sacks) off Cam Newton, it will be a painful day for the passer. Greg Olsen has been the only constant for the Panthers offense this season, earning at least five receptions and 60 yards in each game this season -- the only NFL player to do so. He'll face his toughest challenge thus far in an Arizona defense giving up a meager 26.4 yards per game to tight ends, second-fewest in the NFL.
Say what? Stat of the week:Kelvin Benjamin earned 90-plus receiving yards in each of his first two games this season but is averaging 48.75 yards in his last four contests.
Will we get Fitzmagic or Fitztragic this week in Cleveland? The Jets' 30th-ranked scoring offense returns to the hands of Ryan Fitzpatrick after the GenoCoaster predictably broke again. New York needs to take the ball out of the quarterback's hands and rely on the ground attack. In games in which Matt Forte has 100-plus rushing yards, the Jets are 2-0.; they are 0-5 when he does not. This isn't merely Forte gobbling up stats as the Jets preserve a lead either. As we saw last week, relying on the ground game as the base of the offense takes pressure off Fitzpatrick, thus mitigates his nincompoopian mistakes. Against a 31st-ranked Browns rushing defense, which is giving up 139.9 yards per game on the ground, the Jets should hand the ball off a ton on Sunday.
Laugh at the 0-7 Cleveland Browns if you must, but they're far more entertaining than some other raggedy teams that keep getting thrust into prime time. The Browns might be on pace to match the 2008 Detroit Lions as the second 0-16 season in NFL history, but I knew the 2008 Detroit Lions. I lived through the 2008 Detroit Lions. I watched every pathetic game of the 2008 Detroit Lions. These Browns are no 2008 Detroit Lions. Hue Jackson's team lacks talent, but it doesn't suffer from lack of effort and isn't often outcoached.
Josh McCown returning to the lineup should bring back the deep ball Cleveland lacked under accurate but pop-gun-armed Cody Kessler. Terrelle Pryor should see more shots down the field and tight end Gary Barnidge earns much more production with McCown on the field. Against a Jets defense that is prone to getting beat deep (10 plays of 40-plus yards allowed), expect McCown to test Gang Green downfield often.
What is there left to be said about Matthew Stafford's 2016 season that hasn't been frothed over the past week? The man many dismissed as mediocre this time a year ago is in the much-too-early MVP discussion. Stafford has been transcendent down the stretch each week. Since 2011, nobody has more fourth-quarter comebacks (19) or game-winning drives (22) than Stafford. Houston's run defense has been awful, but the Lions just don't possess the backs to take advantage. Stafford will be asked to win a game against the Texans' No. 2 ranked pass defense that hasn't allowed more than 271 yards passing in a single game this season.
This HAS to be the week Brock Osweiler plays well, right? The Lions defense is on pace to allow the worst passer rating in NFL history (117.3) and allows QBs to complete a league-worst 74.2 percent of passes, a mark which would be the highest for a full season since the 1970 merger. Detroit also ranks last in third-down percentage (51.2) and red-zone defense (78.3 pct red zone TD efficiency). On top of those already grotesque stats, the Lions will be without top corner Darius Slay (hamstring). Osweiler must be able to do SOMETHING Sunday. Brock's been terrible, ranking last in yards per attempt at 5.7. He looks terrified to go downfield, unsure of what he's doing in the pocket, tentative to trust his eyes and slow in his reads. Forget Brian Hoyer. Osweiler is approaching Charlie Whitehurst levels of ineptitude. If the $72-million man can't move the ball against this Lions defense, we need to see what Tom Savage looks like.
Say what? Stat of the week: Osweiler has gone three games this season with 40-plus pass attempts and fewer than 200 pass yards -- the most such games in a single season since at least 1950. He's completed 27.3 percent of 15-plus air yard passes this season (worst in NFL among QBs with 15-plus such attempts).
With Jeremy Maclin getting the Vontae Davis treatment this week, expect Alex Smith to target Travis Kelce heavily Sunday in Indy. Kelce has fewer than 35 receiving yards in four of six games this season. Kelce especially struggles on the road, having earned 50-plus receiving yards once in the last seven road games with just one receiving TD in the last 10 away contests. That should change Sunday in Indianapolis. The Colts defense has given up 487 total yards to tight ends this season, third most in the NFL, and struggled to keep track of Delanie Walker last week. It's also worth noting that the Colts have given up the most receiving touchdowns to running backs in the NFL this season (4); keep an eye on Spencer Ware in the passing attack.
Andrew Luck has been phenomenal in recent weeks and particularly good in his home dome. Luck has 320-plus pass yards in all three home games this season. In Marcus Peters and Eric Berry, Luck faces his stiffest secondary since traveling to Denver in Week 2 -- K.C. boasts a pass defense playing better than the stats indicate. Yet the Chiefs haven't been able to generate much of a pass rush, earning just eight sacks this season (tied for the fewest in NFL). Luck's beleaguered offensive line played much better last week. If he's given time to throw, the quarterback has shown he can pick apart any defense.
Say what? Stat of the week: The Chiefs have allowed 23 rush TD since Andy Reid arrived in 2013 (fewest in NFL) and given up just three this season (T-4th fewest in NFL).
It's strength on strength Sunday. Drew Brees continues to put up monster numbers at home, averaging 421. 3 passing yards per game in the Superdome. Brandin Cooks is dynamic on his home track, with 329 yards and 3 TDs in three dome games. Rookie Michael Thomas has become the most consistent playmaker in the Saints' receiver trio, especially in the red zone. On every play, Brees will have the option to avoid Richard Sherman. The Seahawks pass defense ranks No. 9, giving up an average of 226.0 yards per game this season. The past three weeks they've given up more than that average: 261 to the Jets; 335 to the Falcons; and 342 to the Cardinals.
The Jimmy Graham revenge game! Brees' former BFF returns as a growing Russell Wilson #fav. In his last four games, Graham has six receptions per and 89 receiving YPG, which puts him on pace for 1,088 yards for the season (he averaged 1,099 yards per year from 2011-2014 with the Saints). Wilson's struggles last week were thanks to a shoddy offensive line and clearly restricted mobility. Fortunately, Wilson faces a defense that has earned just nine sacks on the season (tied for third worst) and giving up 287.0 yards per game passing. Brees can make any home game a track meet, so expect Wilson to sling it often to keep pace.
Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree have combined for the most targets (124), receiving yards (1,075) and T-most receptions (79) among any teammate WR duo in the NFL this season. Coop and Crab will have the advantage against most defenses, including the Buccaneers. Brent Grimes has played very well at one corner, but rookie Vernon Hargraves has gone through peaks and valleys associated with most first-year cover men. Look for Derek Carr to test the rookie early. Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald have also been among the worst coverage safeties in the NFL. With an offensive line allowing the fewest sacks in the NFL this season (7), Carr should have time to avoid Grimes and pick apart the rest of the secondary.
Jacquizz Rodgers might be the most perplexing storyline of 2016. A back who couldn't make a sorry Bears squad is dominating in Tampa. The running back has 26-plus carries and 100-plus rushing yards in two straight games (18 totes and 86 yards were his previous career highs). Rodgers will put up yards for a third straight week as he capably handles keeping the job warm for Doug Martin. Rodgers doesn't have one trait that jumps off the film, but he hits the hole and doesn't waste yards. Against a Raiders defense allowing 128.3 yards per game and 5.0 YPC, Quizz will move the chains and keep Jameis Winston in manageable down-and-distances.
Say what? Stat of the week: The Buccaneers are 7-2 with 30 or fewer attempts from Winston -- 1-10 career when he has 33-plus pass attempts.
Two weeks ago the Denver Broncos held Philip Rivers to a measly 178 passing yards and 6.1 yards per attempt, while Melvin Gordon rushed 27 times for 94 yards. Expect the Chargers to lean on the ground game again Sunday against a Broncos secondary giving up just 175.0 yards passing. Since allowing Kelvin Benjamin to gain 91 yards and a TD in Week 1, the Broncos have not allowed a WR to score a TD. The key to moving the ball against the Broncos has been targeting their linebackers in space. When Rivers throws, he will look to tight ends Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry (questionable; concussion) as his primary targets, especially in the red zone.
Devontae Booker takes over the starting role in the Denver Broncos' backfield. The rookie shows plus vision, power between the tackles and a bowling-ball running style. Against a solid Chargers run defense, Gary Kubiak should deploy a quick pass attack to supplement Booker. Getting the ball out quickly will ensure the Chargers' improving defensive front doesn't wreck an average offensive line. Joey Bosa is fast becoming the most entertaining pass rusher to watch. The relentless rookie is the only player with two QB hits in each of his first three career games and has two sacks in two of his first three contests.
Say what? Stat of the week:Melvin Gordon leads the NFL with 10 TDs, but is ranked 32nd in yards per carry (3.3), 31st in yards after contact per carry (1.6) and 22nd in 10-plus yard carries (8) -- out of 38 qualified RBs.
It's the same question every week with Aaron Rodgers' offense: Will this be the week they break out of the shell for good? We didn't take last Thursday's performance as an indicator all is well, as Green Bay continues to average 4.3 yards per play (31st in the NFL). The question this week is will the Packers offense gear toward their younger, quicker receivers, Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery, and away from a slower Jordy Nelson? Adams and Montgomery can create separation other Green Bay receivers haven't. Will Rodgers trust the youngsters enough to go their way in big spots in what should be a shootout?
Tevin Coleman's absence wipes away a huge matchup advantage for Matt Ryan, but the NFL's No. 1 offense has plenty of weapons with which to attack a banged up Packers secondary. It's no surprise Green Bay's defensive backs are "praying" for help in slowing down Julio Jones. Green Bay has allowed 101.0 receiving yards per game to its opponent's No. 1 wide receivers this season (31st in NFL). With 170 yards Sunday, Jones would become the first players since 1961 to earn 1,000 yards through the first eight games of the season. We won't be betting against him getting there.
The rookie quarterbacks will earn all the hype. The two have been spectacular, but Dak Prescott isn't even the best rookie in his own backfield, an honor that belongs to Ezekiel Elliott. The Redskins ran all over the Eagles defense two weeks ago. Dallas is earning 48 yards more per game than Washington. Behind a dominant offensive line, Zeke has been unstoppable, rushing for 100-plus yards in each of his last four games and leading the league in yards entering the week (despite already having a bye). If the Eagles' defensive front can't stunt the Cowboys' precision blocking, it will be a long day for Jim Schwartz in Dallas.
It's actually impressive how productive the Eagles have been the last three weeks despite struggles moving the ball. Carson Wentz has averaged 185 passing yards the past three games and thrown three interceptions to three touchdowns. The Eagles won one of those games (should have won two). The Eagles offense outside of Wentz has been average. Ryan Mathews is inconsistent. Jordan Matthews has fewer than five receptions in four straight games. The offensive line has collapsed the past two weeks. Against a Dallas defense that's played rock-solid, the Eagles need Wentz to outplay his rookie counterparts.
Say what? Stat of the week: The Eagles have at least one takeaway in every game this season and 11 players with at least 1.0 sack this season.
The Vikings offensive line is in bad shape and nearly got Sam Bradford killed last week. While the Bears don't possess a dominant pass rush (14th in sacks), with Pernell McPhee's return, Leonard Floyd's improvement and Willie Young's sack acumen (six on the season) they aren't declawed cubs either. Vic Fangio will bring pressure to knock Bradford around. The signal-caller has a chance Monday night to prove last week was the aberration and he won't permanently regress to the cowering quarterback we've seen before.
Jay Cutler is back! Prime-time has been waiting for you Smokin' Jay. Cutler's return, for however long, should bring at least some joy to Alshon Jeffery, who wasn't seeing the downfield 50/50 balls he got used to with Cutler under center. Those tossups will be more like 35/65 balls against a sticky group of Vikings corners with Cutler under harassment from a relentless Vikings pass rushers. Moving an offense ranked last in points per game against a pissed-off Mike Zimmer team is a scary prospect for Cutler on Halloween.
Say what? Stat of the week: Bradford owns a 140.5 passer rating on passes of 15-plus air yards this season (best in NFL among QBs with at least 20 such attempts).