Everything you need to know as kickoff approaches...
Key game-time decisions
All players questionable unless noted
Rivers was listed as a full participant on Thursday and Friday. He must clear through the final stage of concussion protocol to play Sunday.
Dallas Cowboys: T Tyron Smith (back, groin), DT Maliek Collins (foot), S Jeff Heath (concussion), TE Geoff Swaim (knee)
NFL Network's Jane Slater reported Smith will miss Sunday's game. The Cowboys ruled out LB Sean Lee (hamstring) and K Dan Bailey (right groin).
Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Leonard Fournette (ankle), LB Blair Brown (hamstring), G Patrick Omameh (quadricep), T Jermey Parnell (knee)
Fournette sat out Friday's practice as he continues to deal with an ankle issue. He's likely to be a game-time decision in Cleveland on Sunday. The Jags ruled out WR Allen Hurns (ankle) and WR Arrelious Benn (knee).
New England Patriots: WR Danny Amendola (knee), TE Martellus Bennett (shoulder, hamstring), DT Malcom Brown (ankle), DE Cassius Marsh (shoulder), CB Eric Rowe (groin)
The group was limited all week. The Pats ruled out WR Chris Hogan (shoulder), C David Andrews (illness), T Marcus Cannon (ankle), and WR Matt Slater (hamstring).
Harrison was limited on Thursday and Friday. The Giants ruled out G Justin Pugh (back) and LB B.J. Goodson (ankle).
Griffen said he expects to play this week. The Vikings ruled out OT Mike Remmers (concussion) and S Andrew Sendejo (groin, hamstring).
Miami Dolphins: WR Kenny Stills (back), DE William Hayes (knee), RB Senorise Perry (knee), S Michael Thomas (knee)
Stills sat out on Friday but told reporters he expects to play Sunday.
Arizona Cardinals: WR John Brown (back), QB Drew Stanton (knee), C A.Q. Shipley (shoulder), OT John Wetzel (back)
Blaine Gabbert gets the start Sunday. The question is whether Stanton will be active as a backup after getting in limited practice reps this week. Brown returned to practice limited on Friday.
Houston Texans: RB Alfred Blue (hamstring), DE Joel Heath (knee), C Greg Mancz (knee, chest), WR Chris Thompson (knee)
Blue and Mancz sat out Friday's practice. The Texans ruled out WR Will Fuller (ribs), LB Dylan Cole (hamstring) and Julien Davenport (shoulder).
Baltimore Ravens: TE Nick Boyle (toe), WR Michael Campanaro (shoulder), S Chuck Clark (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (achilles), RB Terrance West (calf), LB Tim Williams (thigh)
Everyone but Smith was full-go on Friday. The corner was limited. The Ravens listed OT Ronnie Stanley (concussion) as doubtful to play.
Green Bay Packers: LB Ahmad Brooks (back), DT Quinton Dial (chest), CB Kevin King (shoulder), G Lucas Patrick (back)
The Packers ruled out OT Bryan Bulaga (knee), S Morgan Burnett (groin), RB Aaron Jones (knee) and RB Ty Montgomery (ribs).
Clay was limited on Thursday and Friday but is likely to play. The Bills ruled out OT Cordy Glenn (foot, ankle), G John Miller (ankle) and RB Mike Tolbert (hamstring).
LaFell and Jackson were full-go on Friday. The Bengals ruled out CB Adam Jones (concussion), LB Kevin Minter (elbow) and DT Pat Sims (calf).
Stephenson was full-go Friday. Latimer was limited all week. The Broncos ruled out TE A.J. Derby (shoulder) and TE Jeff Heuerman (knee).
Chicago Bears: LB Danny Trevathan (calf), CB Bryce Callahan (knee), T Tom Compton (ankle), S DeAndre Houston-Carson (illness), TE Dion Sims (illness)
Trevathan, Callahan, and Sims each missed practice all week.
Cleveland Browns: T Shon Coleman (concussion), CB Jamar Taylor (ankle), C J.C. Tretter (shoulder, knee)
On the plus side: Receiver Corey Coleman was not designated on the injury report and will return this week.
Kansas City Chiefs: OUT: DE Allen Bailey (knee), LB Dee Ford (back), LB Tamba Hali (knee), WR Albert Wilson (hamstring)
None practiced this week and will miss the game following the team's bye.
Carrier was limited on Friday, while Hill was full-go.
Oakland Raiders: G Gabe Jackson (ankle), LB Cory James (knee), T Marshall Newhouse (hip, quadricep), RB Jamize Olawale (hamstring)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OUT: CB Vernon Hargreaves (hamstring), QB Jameis Winston (right shoulder), DE William Gholston (neck)
Winston misses at least one more week.
Washington Redskins: LB Zach Brown (Achilles), CB Quinton Dunbar (illness), WR Ryan Grant (concussion), S DeAngelo Hall (knee), DE Matt Ioannidis (hand), DE Anthony Lanier (knee), G Shawn Lauvao (stinger), S Montae Nicholson (shoulder), OT Ty Nsekhe (core muscle), TE Niles Paul (concussion), WR Brian Quick (concussion), G Brandon Scherff (knee) OT Trent Williams (knee)
The Redskins ruled out TE Jordan Reed (hamstring), WR Terrelle Pryor (ankle), and C Spencer Long (knee, knee)
Klein returned to practice as a limited participant on Friday. Vaccaro sat out Thursday and Friday.
Jeffery was listed as full-go on Friday and should play Sunday night.
Buccaneers at Dolphins -- 79 degrees, clear
Jaguars at Browns -- 37 degrees, possible snow flurries (20 percent chance), winds 19 mph
Ravens at Packers -- 27 degrees, clear, winds 14 mph
Cardinals at Texans (indoors) -- 58 degrees, clear
Rams at Vikings (indoors) -- 27 degrees, partly cloudy
Lions at Bears -- 29 degrees, partly cloudy, winds 14 mph
Redskins at Saints (indoors) -- 55 degrees, clear
Chiefs at Giants -- 49 degrees, partly cloudy, winds 16 mph
Bills at Chargers -- 71 degrees, partly cloudy
Bengals at Broncos -- 52 degrees, partly cloudy
Patriots at Raiders (MEXICO CITY) -- 65 degrees, partly cloudy
Eagles at Cowboys (indoors) (SNF) -- 55 degrees, clear
Falcons at Seahawks (MNF) -- 47 degrees, partly cloudy
What to Watch For
Matthew Stafford remains red hot, tossing for 344.3 yards per game, a 68.1 completion percentage and five touchdowns to one interception over the past three weeks. The gunslinger, however, faces a Bears pass defense that ranks 10th in NFL, allowing 204.8 yards per game through the air. Stafford is yet to defeat a team with a top-10 pass defense. Stafford struggled mightily against Vic Fangio's defense last season -- 218.0 pass yards per game, one TD, four interceptions, 60.5 passer rating in two tilts -- and has played poorly at Soldier Field. The last time the Lions traveled to Chicago, Golden Tate had a disastrous performance leading to a benching. Detroit's two stars must put the demons behind them if the Lions are to puncture a feisty defense and avoid a disappointing road loss that would severely hamper their playoff hopes.
Was the Bears post-bye offense an indication of the coaching staff putting more on Mitchell Trubisky's shoulders or merely a product of game script? The Bears passed the ball on 70.2 percent of plays against the Packers, up immensely from the 39.9 percent in previous games with the rookie under center. Trubisky showed development last week and flashed his deep ball on a gorgeous TD bomb. The rookie was particularly improved on third downs, completing 83.3 percent, compared to 51.6 the previous four games. The addition of Dontrelle Inman paid immediate dividends, finally giving Trubisky a target who can separate versus man coverage. Inman's battle with the sticky Darius Slay will be one to watch. Offenses have gobbled up yards on Detroit's D, but have turned the ball over. Trubisky has tossed just two interceptions in five games, and must again avoid a back-breaking pick from Detroit's ball-hawking secondary.
NFL Research stat of the week: In the Week 10 win over the Browns, the Lions' rushing attack went for 104 yards, and 5.5 yards per attempt. As a team, Detroit has not had back-to-back games with 100-plus rush yards since Weeks 1-2 of last season (at IND and vs. TEN). The Lions have gone 61 games without an individual 100-plus yard rusher (since Week 13, 2013, when Reggie Bush had 117 rush yards in a 40-10 win over GB in Detroit), the longest-active streak in NFL.
Jacksonville won last week despite Blake Bortles throwing 51 passes for an inefficient 5.4 yards per attempt, 54.9 completion percentage and a 60.3 QB rating. In previous games, those stats were a recipe for a Jags loss. While JAX has been getting by with Bortles having to throw -- three straight wins earning 250-plus yards -- it's not a formula for sustained success. Each Bortles heave downfield feels like a closed-eye prayer. On a blustery Sunday with potential snow flurries, the Jags need to recapture their ground game after Leonard Fournette earned just 1.9 yards per carry in his return last week. The rookie, however, continues to deal with an ankle issue that could keep him sidelined. Whether it's Fournette, T.J. Yeldon or Chris Ivory, the conditions, coupled with a heavy mismatch between the Jags' D and the Browns' offense, calls for a run-first approach on the road against a Browns defense that was gashed by a previously limp Lions ground game last week.
Sacksonville is a brutal matchup for DeShone Kizer to build on his best performance of the season. The Jags rank first in the NFL in passing yards per game allowed (165.1), have allowed the fewest passing touchdowns (6), held quarterbacks to a league-low 65.9 passer rating and own the most sacks in the NFL with 35. Kizer, meanwhile, holds the NFL's worst passer rating at 54.4. The rookie signal-caller showed signs of life last week following Cleveland's bye, with improved accuracy, decision making on most throws and knowing when to escape the pocket. He'll need to be even better against the NFL's top defense. The one area the Jags struggled last week was covering the running back out of the backfield, so we should see plenty of plays designed to get Duke Johnson in space. We also need to see how quick Corey Coleman gets back in gear. Kizer desperately needs a go-to target like Coleman to get open against smothering coverage.
NFL Research stat of the week: More Sad Browns History Facts: Cleveland is 1-19 in games against teams that finished the season with the No. 1 scoring defense since returning to the NFL in 1999 -- Trent Dilfer led the Browns to their only win in 2005 over Kyle Orton's Bears. The Jaguars currently own NFL's No. 1 scoring defense.
The Ravens continue to trot out one of the least efficient and most boring pass offenses in the NFL. Joe Flacco ranks last in yards per attempt, 32nd in passing yards per game and passer rating (among 35 qualifiers). Can the immobile quarterback find a consistent connection with Jeremy Maclin to puncture a suspect Packers secondary? Green Bay has struggled to pressure the quarterback. Flacco's biggest struggles have come under duress. With time to throw, there should be lanes against a Packers defense ranked 23rd in pass DVOA. The possible return of pass-catching dynamo Danny Woodhead could be a difference maker for Flacco, who is quick to his check-downs. Coach John Harbaugh said a decision on Woodhead could come this weekend.
Brett Hundley displayed growth last week, setting career highs in completion percentage (72.0), yards per attempt (8.5) and passer rating (110.8). Hundley made a few gorgeous throws but remains inconsistent against pressure. The young quarterback will have a much more difficult task this week against a Ravens pass D that smothers opponents (third in DVOA). With Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery out, the Packers will rely on Jamaal Williams as the primary back. The rookie didn't display great burst but did a good job of plowing forward last week to churn out yards. Hundley needs Williams to keep him in third-and-manageable situations, lest the third-year pro be forced to heave balls into a Baltimore secondary that leads the NFL with 13 interceptions.
While he's mocked incessantly -- and for the most part justifiably so, given his previous play -- I actually want to see Gabbert in Bruce Arians' offense. The quarterback looked pretty decent in the preseason and could be an upgrade on YOLO Drew Stanton. Is there a chance he self-destructs and proves all the snarky social media comments correct? Absolutely. There is also the chance he meshes well with Arian's guns-blazin' offense and torches a Texans secondary that has been picked apart. Either way, expect the Cards to lean on Adrian Peterson once again. The running back is either boom or bust in Arizona (Week 6: 134 yards; Week 7: 21 yards; Week 9: 159 yards; Week 10: 29 yards). After a bust game last week, he's due for a boom.
The Texans' offense is a fumble waiting to happen with Tom Savage under center. Instead of prolonging the ripping of a struggling quarterback, lets focus on the best matchup of the day: DeAndre Hopkins versus Patrick Peterson. For all of Savage's faults, at least he targets his best receiver (30 passes to Hopkins in the last two games). Nuk leads the NFL in receiving TDs (8), is second in NFL in receiving yards (803) and has 108 targets on the season. While most teams ignore Peterson, choosing to pick on lesser corners, the Texans won't have that option Sunday, especially with Will Fuller injured. Houston needs Hopkins to win versus PP in order to move the ball. If Peterson negates the contortion artist, Savage has no shot.
NFL Research stat of the week:Larry Fitzgerald needs 62 receiving yards to pass Tony Gonzalez for fifth all-time in NFL history. He needs 143 receiving yards to pass Isaac Bruce for fourth and 227 yards to pass Randy Moss for third.
This was supposed to be a bye week for both struggling squads before Hurricane Irma blitzed through Florida causing devastation and a change of plans back in Week 1.
Mike Evans returns from suspension with a juicy matchup to explode for his first 100-yard game of the season. It's astonishing the Pro Bowl wideout has yet to break the century mark through eight games this year. If the offensive line keeps Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake from dismembering Ryan Fitzpatrick, Evans is a good bet to end his 13-game streak below the 100-yard barrier. The Dolphins' defense has covered receivers about as well as a newspaper shelters the local homeless man sleeping on a park bench. Miami ranks 31st in pass DVOA by Football Outsiders. To be fair to the Dolphins secondary, the run D has disappeared as well. Since Week 7, Miami ranks 32nd in the NFL in touchdowns allowed, 31st in rushing yards per game and third-down conversion percent, and 30th in points per game given up.
The Dolphins' offense has been as depressing as the defense, raking last in the NFL in points per game (15.2) and big plays (35) and are among the bottom four in every major statistical category. The dink-and-dunk style hasn't led to consistent drives, which has put Miami's defense in precarious positions. The best place to attack the Bucs' D is on the outside, which means DeVante Parker needs to be more than a garbage-time force. The coaching staff called out Parker this week, with offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen saying the first-round pick lost his "edge." Facing a Bucs' secondary that hasn't played up to its talent level should give Parker plenty of chances to answer the challenge and haul in a few deep shots.
NFL Research stat of the week: Over the last two seasons, only three other receivers account for a higher percentage of their team's targets than Mike Evans (27.2 percent of targets): DeAndre Hopkins (29.5), Jarvis Landry (28.8) and Antonio Brown (28.5).
One of the most intriguing matchups of the year pits Sean McVay's high-flying Rams offense versus Mike Zimmer's suffocating defense. The contrast should be fascinating. No team has generated more big plays than the Rams offense (8.3 per game -- defined as pass plays of 20-plus yards and run plays of 10-plus yards). No team has allowed fewer big plays than the Vikings defense this season (3.4 per game). Jared Goff has been phenomenal, earning 666 passing yards (DEVIL!), 7 passing touchdowns and 0 giveaways in his last two games. This is the stiffest test thus far. Can he remain calm in the pocket versus Everson Griffen & Co. and burn the physical Vikings secondary? Toddy Gurley also faces a stingy matchup. The Rams' rusher is trying to become the first running back to eclipse 100-plus rushing yards against the Vikings this season. If L.A. keeps up their 30-plus point firestorms in Minnesota, then the comparisons to the 'Greatest Show on Turf' teams can be taken seriously.
Revenge of the Keenum! Case Keenum faces the team that benched him for Goff last season. The journeyman said holds no ill-will (understandably so), but actions speak louder than words. Keenum is one of six QBs with 500-plus snaps this season and five-or-fewer giveaways (Alex Smith, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Tyrod Taylor, Keenum, Jared Goff). With Keenum primarily at the helm, the Vikings have a top-10 offense and are one of seven teams ranked in the top 10 in scoring offense and total offense. He faces a stiff test in Wade Phillips' defense. The Rams rank No. 2 in pass DVOA, according to Football Outsiders, boasting physicality on the outside and swarming safety play. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are the primary reason for Keenum's stellar play -- accounting for 80.3 percent of his passing yards last week. The duo must again find windows in the Rams' secondary. One thing we know is Keenum doesn't fear airing it out. That could benefit Thielen and Diggs Sunday or lead to an implosion many have been forecasting for the QB since he took over for Sam Bradford.
NFL Research stat of the week:Case Keenum (31 career starts) and Teddy Bridgewater (28 career starts):
Keenum: 14-17 W-L record, 59.7 completion percentage, 224.7 pass YPG, 34-25 TD-INT, 81.5 passer rating
Bridgewater: 17-11 W-L record, 65.0 completion percentage, 214.3 pass YPG, 28-21 TD-INT, 87.1 passer rating
Kirk Cousins once again faces a tough secondary, throwing into Marshon Lattimore & Crew. Stiff tests haven't stunted Cousins this season. The Redskins passer ranks fourth in the NFL in yards per game (274.9), while playing with an underwhelming pass-catching cast. The best matchup for Cousins on Sunday is Chris Thompson against a Saints defense that has allowed 469 receiving yards to running backs (6th most in the NFL). The shifty back should find space through the air and on the ground versus DVOA's No. 25 ranked rush D. With Rob Kelley out for the year and Samaje Perine showing little consistency, expect Thompson to carry the load for the Redskins against a confidence-fueled Saints defense.
Saints running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara deserve plenty of praise for running over the Bills last week. The offensive line, however, needs more hype. Terron Armstead was flattening people in space. Andrus Peat, Max Unger and Larry Warford open massive holes up the gut. And rookie Ryan Ramczyk has been fantastic at right tackle. The quintet has allowed Ingram and Kamara to run scot-free to the second level. In fact, over his last five games, Ingram has three 100-yard rush games and 7 rush TD -- had three 100-yard rush games and 7 rush TDs in his previous 25 games combined. Many have marveled about the transformation of the Saints offense this season. It doesn't happen without the hogs pushing around defenders. After watching what Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys did to Washington several weeks ago, you must imagine Sean Payton has many more runs on his play-sheet this week.
NFL Research stat of the week:Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are on pace to be the second teammate RB duo in NFL history to each have 1,400-plus scrimmage yards in a single season. Ingram: On pace for 1,536 scrimmage yards; Kamara: On pace for 1,404 scrimmage yards. 1985 Browns: Earnest Byner had 1,462 scrimmage yards and Kevin Mack had 1,401 scrimmage yards.
Kareem Hunt has failed to record 100 scrimmage yards in each of his last two games after gaining 100-plus yards in each of his first seven career games. The rookie runner shouldn't make it a third straight game on the downturn. Hunt faces a Giants defense that has collapsed at every level and has been gashed on the ground in recent weeks, giving up 132.6 yards per game on the ground for the season, and ranks 27th in DVOA. The big-play Chiefs offense should have a field day against Steve Spagnuolo's defense that has looked like it's quit. Tyreek Hill can burn any Giants cornerback. Oh, and Travis Kelce will go off against a Big Blue defense that can't cover tight ends.
While it hasn't been pretty, the Giants offense has moved the ball decent in recent weeks. Eli Manning's rapport with Sterling Shepard has grown, with the second-year receiver making spectacular receptions all over the field. With Shepard taking 74 percent of his snaps from the slot, the go-to wide receiver will avoid Marcus Peters, instead facing Steven Nelson, who got beat for two scores against Dallas. Tight end Evan Engram is on his way to stardom and has a great matchup against a K.C. D that has given up 551 yards to tight ends this season, fifth-most in the NFL. Orleans Darkwa has been solid the past two weeks, averaging 4.7 yards per tote. The Chiefs defense has been terrible over the past four games, allowing 24.3 points per tilt, 420.8 yards per, including 147.5 rushing yards, and a 44.9 third-down conversion rate over that span. If the Giants don't turn it over (big IF), they should move the ball.
NFL Research stat of the week:Andy Reid has the highest win percentage (88.9 percent) after a bye week among active coaches with at least five such games. Reid is 16-2 in his career after a bye. The next closest with at least 10 such games is Mike McCarthy at 9-3 (75 percent).
Nathan Peterman, you've been chosen to take over as the starter this week! Bob, tell Mr. Peterman what he's won! Well, Nathan, in your first career start you'll travel to sunny Carson, Calif., to face Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, two fire-breathing pass rushers who will dismember your limbs if you don't keep your head on a swivel. You'll also get to play behind an offensive line ranked 30th in pass blocking by Football Outsiders, with a No. 1 receiver who has participated one whole game in your offense, a starting tight end still battling injury, and nary a field-stretching weapon to be found. We have more for you, Nathan! You'll get to face a Chargers defense that been worked over on the ground, which should be good news for your running back, LeSean McCoy. Except, wait, L.A. held Leonard Fournette to 1.9 yards per carry last week, and solidified the middle of the defense with linebacker Denzel Perryman's return. And don't forget, if you struggle in your first game, a good portion of fans will question why Tyrod Taylor was benched for you in the first place! Congratulations, Nathan. This and more will be yours Sunday. Good luck!
The Chargers utilized a two-back backfield last week with Austin Ekeler getting more run. The Ekeler-Melvin Gordon combo has a plus matchup against a Bills defense that has been raked on the ground. Buffalo allowed 298 rush yards and six rush TD in Week 10 and are giving up 5.5 yards per carry the last two weeks. While Gordon should play a big role, Ekeler's emergence gives the Chargers a shiftier option out of the backfield in passing situations. The undrafted rookie should continue to chip away at Gordon's snaps, even after the disastrous fumble last week. Given the matchup, and the fact that Philip Rivers is coming out of concussion protocol, expect L.A. to be a ground-heavy operation this week.
NFL Research stat of the week: The Bills traded DT Marcell Dareus to the Jaguars prior to Week 8. Since then, they have allowed 31.67 points per game and 182 rushing yards per tilt.
Outside of potentially taking advantage of a defense that struggles to cover tight ends, it's difficult to find a matchup that favors the Bengals wilting offense. Can Andy Dalton run a Tyler Kroft-centric game-plan to success? Doubtful. The matchup to watch is Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard as pass-catchers out of the backfield. Cincy OC Bill Lazor needs to rip a page from the Patriots' playbook and pick apart Denver's linebackers and safeties with the running backs in space. Is it hard to ignore A.J. Green on the outside? Sure. But New England provided a blueprint, and the Bengals' backs are good pass-catchers. There are far worse options for Dalton than 200 check-downs to Mixon on Sunday, especially behind an offensive line as sturdy as reclaimed cedar from a crumbling 1946 Ohio home.
Truth be told, Brock Osweiler wasn't terrible last week. It's just sad that needs to be stated. Osweiler isn't the future, but he's the present for now. The good news for Denver is that Emmanuel Sanders looked unstoppable last week and can help overcome some of Brock's off-target heaves. With Pacman Jones out (concussion), Sanders and Demaryius Thomas can take advantage of less physical corners on the outside. First, Osweiler will need his offensive like to keep Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Carl Lawson and Michael Johnson pummeling the statuesque quarterback.
NFL Research stat of the week: The Broncos defense is allowing 33.0 PPG since their Week 5 bye and 300-plus total yards in back-to-back games, after not allowing an offense to gain 300 total yards in Weeks 1-8.
We're on to the high altitudes.
After facing the "No Fly Zone" last week, Tom Brady gets the 'Free Route Airspace' Raiders secondary this Sunday. Oakland ranks dead last in pass DVOA this season and made Jay Cutler look efficient last game. Brady should pick apart the Raiders with ease. Even without Chris Hogan, Patriots wideouts have a plus matchup. Brandin Cooks should burn a Raiders defense that can't handle speed on the outside. As always, Rob Gronkowski should feast on linebackers and safeties that can't match his size and speed. Given the altitude concerns -- last year the Raiders' and Texans' defenses were toast by the end -- Brady and the Pats are in line to put up huge numbers.
Marshawn Lynch finally had a good game last outing, but in an attempt to keep pace with Brady, the Raiders need Derek Carr to pick apart the Patriots secondary. Carr has passed for 300-plus yards in three straight games (T-2nd longest streak in OAK franchise history). While New England's defense has improved of late, it still ranks 30th in pass DVOA, are susceptible to big plays and watched Malcolm Butler get picked on by Emmanuel Sanders last week. Michael Crabtree could be in for a Sanders-type game. Perhaps the bye week allowed Amari Cooper to clear his head and end a string of up-and-down play. If Cooper makes big plays, the Raiders' offense will move the ball and keep a potential offensive showdown alive in Mexico.
NFL Research stat of the week: The Patriots' defense has allowed fewer points over last three games (36) than in Week 1 vs. Kansas City (42).
The internet loves the Carson Wentz vs. Dak Prescott debate, but here is a simple fact: Both are fantastic second-year quarterbacks. Choosing between the two is like arguing which type of chocolate is best.
Wentz heads to Dallas riding a hot hand, tossing a league-leading 23 touchdown passes. The strong-armed signal-caller makes a bevy of wow-throws each week. His shiftiness in the pocket will come in handy against Cowboys pass rushers, who have terrorized opponents since David Irving's return. When he gets time, however, Wentz should penetrate a susceptible Cowboys second-level. Without Sean Lee in the game, Dallas' D takes a huge step backward versus the run and covering backs and tight ends. Given Lee's absence, the Eagles should ride Jay Ajayi in his second game with the team. The Cowboys are allowing 153.3 rushing yards per game sans the linebacker, while just 80.3 with Lee in the lineup.
Will Dallas try to find a ground game with Alfred Morris against one of the top run Ds in the NFL or just say 'to heck with it' and let Dak try to work magic? The Cowboys rushed on only 35.6 percent of plays in Week 10, including six rushing attempts by Prescott -- they rushed on 43.7 percent of plays in Weeks 1-9. Game script had something to do with that last week, but Dallas faces a much better defense this time around. It's tough to state how huge Tyron Smith's absence will be again this week. Prescott got pummeled sans Smith last week and faces Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, et al. this time around. Expect the Cowboys to run quicker route combinations (and for the love of all that is holy, someone throw a chip block) to help out Byron Bell, the replacement left tackle. I'd also imagine there will be a few more designed rollouts for Dak, to get him out of the pocket and employ a run-pass option.
NFL Research stat of the week: Both Wentz and Prescott have played 25 career games. They have the exact number of touchdown passes (39). Wentz (23) and Prescott (21) rank first and T-2nd, respectively, in combined passing and rushing touchdowns this season.
On game day, it will have been 2,500 days since the Seahawks last played without Richard Sherman (2010 NFC Divisional Round loss at Chicago on 1/16/2011). Seattle's loss is Atlanta's gain. When the teams met last year, Julio Jones torched Seahawks corners not tamed Sherman. Jones was responsible for a perfect passer rating on targets when covered by anyone but the All-Pro corner. Facing a pass-funnel Seahawks defense, expect Matt Ryan to air out the ball a lot Monday night and test Seattle's replacement defensive backs. Jones has the advantage on the outside over rookie corner Shaq Griffin, Jeremy Lane (Seattle tried to trade) or Byron Maxwell (Miami cut). Mohamed Sanu also has a sizable advantage out of the slot, where Seattle has been fleeced of late.
We should stop expecting the Seahawks run game to find itself this season. Seattle is a pass-first offense and will move the ball as far as Russell Wilson can throw it. Wilson is averaging career-highs in pass attempts per game (37.2) and passing yards (282.5). The matchup to watch is Doug Baldwin versus Falcons slot corner Brian Poole. Atlanta needs Poole to hold his own versus Wilson's go-to target in order to stymie the Seahawks' pass attack. Jimmy Graham has come on as a scoring machine of late, earning six receiving TDs in his last five games. Atlanta, however, has allowed just one TD to TEs this season.
NFL Research stat of the week: Wilson has accounted for 82.1 percent of the Seahawks' scrimmage yards (highest percent by any player in the Super Bowl era). Wilson's 290 rush yards is the fewest among any team rushing leader in the NFL.