Everything you need to know as kickoff approaches...
Key game-time decisions for Week 3
All players questionable unless noted
West returned to practice on Friday and was listed as a full participant, which is a positive sign for Sunday.
Ramsey was limited on Friday after missing the Thursday's practice. Robinson was limited Thursday and Friday.
It's a gruesome injury list for the Packers. Nelson was full-go all week and should play. Bulaga was limited on Thursday and Friday. The rest of the crew is long-shots to play.
Gordon was limited on Thursday and Friday after being added to the injury report this week.
New England Patriots: TE Rob Gronkowski (groin), WR Danny Amendola (concussion, knee), T Marcus Cannon (ankle, concussion), WR Phillip Dorsett (knee), S Nate Ebner (shoulder), CB Stephon Gilmore (groin), LB Dont'a Hightower (knee), WR Chris Hogan (knee), LB Elandon Roberts (thumb), CB Eric Rowe (groin), WR Matt Slater (hamstring)
Gronk said he plans to play. Cannon sat out all week. The resto of the group was limited. Amendola told reporters he expects to play. Rex Burkhead (ribs) was ruled out.
Reed and Kelley are likely game-time decisions. Norman should play.
Murray returned limited on Friday. Even if he suits up, it's likely Murray will lose reps to Derrick Henry.
We'll likely have to wait another week for the No. 1 overall pick to make his debut.
Aiken and Butler were limited all week.
It's almost miraculous that Bolles has a shot to play after injuring his foot last week. He was limited on Thursday and Friday. Fowler cleared concussion protocol on Saturday.
Ajayi is expected to play despite some rest during practice this week. Landry and Parker are also both expected to play.
Wilkerson returned limited on Friday.
Newton was limited this week but will be fine for Sunday. Center Ryan Kalil, however, was ruled out.
Jenkins returned to practice on a limited basis Friday, which is a positive sign after missing the Week 2 loss.
Smith sat out Friday with the illness. McLeod was limited on Friday.
Tuitt was full-go on Thursday and Friday, a good indication of his availability this week. First-round pick T.J. Watt (groin) was ruled OUT.
Positive news for Chicago: Guard Kyle Long was not on the injury report and will make his season debut.
Coach Pete Carroll said he expects Graham to play Sunday.
McCoy was full-go on Friday. Grimes was limited all week. The Buc ruled out LB Kwon Alexander (hamstring).
Smith was full-go by Friday.
- We've hit Fall, but it looks like a warm Sunday across the U.S. for our Week 3 slate (dome games excluded): *
Ravens at Jaguars (London) -- 59 degrees, 25 percent chance of light rain
Broncos at Bills -- 81 degrees, clear
Saints at Panthers -- 81 degrees, sunny
Steelers at Bears -- 82 degrees, sunny
Browns at Colts -- 85 degrees, clear skies
Texans at Patriots - 80 degrees, sunny
Dolphins at Jets -- 88 degrees, sunny
Giants at Eagles -- 87 degrees, sunny
Seahawks at Titans -- 85 degrees, partly cloudy
Bengals at Packers -- 86 degrees, sunny
Chiefs at Chargers -- 79 degrees, clear
Raiders at Redskins (SNF) -- 79 degrees, clear
Cowboys at Cardinals (MNF) -- 87 degrees, partly cloudy
What to Watch For
The Ravens head to London riding the running game to a 2-0 start. Joe Flacco needed just 51 pass attempts in the two wins, his fewest total in the first two games since his rookie season of 2008. The ground game has been a luxury for Flacco's wonky back to open the season. With Terrance West banged up (questionable) and All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda lost for the year, will the Ravens be able to pound the rock on the ground at Wembley Stadium? Javorius Allen looked solid last week and should see targets out of the backfield, and Alex Collins showed power in limited snaps. Against a Jags team that got gashed last week on the ground and has given up 136.0 yards per game rushing, Baltimore's ground-heavy game plan should remain the same for Week 3.
After showing off in Week 1, Leonard Fournette was grounded in Week 2 for just 40 yards on 14 carries. Defenses are already daring the Jags to beat them through the air. Fournette has faced eight or more defenders in the box on 52.5 percent of his carries, fifth most in the NFL for qualifying running backs. His teammate, Chris Ivory, tops the list, facing 8-plus defenders 73.3 percent of the time. Until Blake Bortles shows even a modicum of consistency in the passing game, expect more of the same. The Ravens' defense has mauled opposing quarterbacks, allowing just a 35.0 opposing passer rating. Not having defensive lineman Brandon Williams (foot) is a blow, but with veteran safeties Tony Jefferson and Eric Weddle on the field, expect Baltimore to trust its backend end coverage and clog the middle to stuff the run.
NFL Research stat of the week: The Ravens are the only NFL team with at least 4 INTs and 3 sacks in each of its first two games of a season since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. 2017: 10 takeaways (8 INTs, 2 FF) and 8 sacks.
Trevor Siemian has silenced the doubters. The third-year quarterback has not just led one of the most balanced attacks, he's thrived off play-action, picking apart defenses. The seventh-round pick has completed 65 percent of his throws, is tied for first in the NFL with six TD passes, and ranks sixth with a passer rating of 106.9. The Bills' defense offers a stingy test, ranking in the top 10 against both the run and pass. If C.J. Anderson is stymied by Buffalo's stout interior, will Siemian shine again? Keep an eye on Bills pass rusher Jerry Hughes off the edge. Hughes has been a beast through two games and faces a Broncos offensive line with question marks at both tackle spots after Garrett Bolles (questionable) suffered an ankle injury last week.
A week after getting slowed by one stout defense, LeSean McCoy faces a Broncos D that has pulverized the run. Denver has allowed a measly 2.9 yards per carry and 52 rushing yards per game through two weeks. Buffalo might need to use Tyrod Taylor in more designed runs and zone-reads to keep Denver's D off balance and try to cultivate better running lanes. With left tackle Cordy Glenn not playing, Taylor's blindside blocking could be a major problem versus the Broncos' fierce pass rush. I want to see how Zay Jones reacts to facing a physical Denver defense against corners that love to press. The Bills need to find a passing game at some point and the rookie is the best option despite a slow start to his career.
NFL Research stat of the week: The Broncos' 2-0 start is partially a result of winning on third down. Denver owns NFL's best offense on third down (56.7 percent conversion) and second-best defense on third down (23.1 percent conversion).
Yes, the Saints' defense remains abhorrent, but the odder circumstance surrounding New Orleans' seemingly annual 0-2 start is how uncharacteristically awkward Sean Payton's offense has looked. The running back situation is still unsettled (see below) and Drew Brees hasn't found consistent chemistry with his receivers. With teams bracketing Michael Thomas, the dynamic playmaker has been slowed. Deep shots have been few and far between when the games were still competitive. Brees faces a stiffer test than the first two tilts. The Panthers' defense ranks first in the NFL in points allowed per game (3.0), total yards per game (196.5), yards per play (3.74) and TDs allowed (0). With offensive line troubles, Brees could be swarmed by a ferocious Carolina front. He'll have to exploit the few soft spots in Panthers zone coverages to overcome all the chips stacked against him Sunday.
The Panthers' offense remains a concern even after a 2-0 start. Cam Newton is still finding his way through offseason shoulder surgery, tossing for just 199.5 yards per game with a completion rate under 60 percent. After coach Ron Rivera talked all offseason about getting the ball out of Newton's hands and employing a quicker pass offense, it remains a deep-shot operation. We'll see if that changes against a Saints defense that hasn't stopped a soul this season. Last week New Orleans got beat up by running backs in routes, which could set up for a big day from Christian McCaffrey. The other big question entering Sunday is how will the Panthers replace Newton's security blanket, Greg Olsen, who was lost with a broken foot.
NFL Research stat of the week:Saints backfield:
Mark Ingram: 62 snaps, 14 carries, 69 rushing yards, 9 receptions, 78 receiving yards
Alvin Kamara: 47 snaps, 8 carries, 21 rushing yards, 7 receptions, 71 receiving yards
Adrian Peterson: 23 snaps, 14 carries, 44 rushing yards, 0 receptions, 0 receiving yards
When the Steelers' offense begins to click, it will be a marvel to watch. Pittsburgh's Big 4 (Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant) bring an array of weaponry to Chicago the Bears simply can't match. While John Fox's team boasts a stout front that could give Bell some fits and should get after Roethlisberger, Brown and Bryant should feast on a lesser talented secondary. The Bears got burned deep several times last weekend (even if DeSean Jackson and Jameis Winston couldn't connect) so expect Big Ben to take his shots often. I'm expecting another big day from Bryant when he gets single coverage.
We've hit the point where the locals in Chicago are already starting to rumble for Mitchell Trubisky to take over for Mike Glennon. While the starter has looked OK for some stretches, his fits of poor play are backbreaking -- evidenced by the barrage of turnovers last week. Glennon looks like a backup, not a quarterback who will win you games. Facing a Steelers front that has smothered mediocre quarterbacks through two weeks (9 sacks, tied for second most in the NFL), the immobile Glennon will be under siege at Soldier Field. If Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard are kept in check again, it could get ugly for the Bears at home, which will certainly lead to louder calls for the Trubisky-era to begin.
NFL Research stat of the week: Bell averaged 3.2 yards per carry through the first two games and hasn't scored a touchdown. The RB went through a longer scoring drought to start 2016 season after being suspended for first three games: zero TDs through five games.
The Atlanta Falcons' offense looked fast and multifaceted once again on their fast home indoor track last week. Heading to Ford Field in Detroit, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu should expand on their explosive repertoire. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have massive advantages in the passing game Sunday against Lions linebackers, especially with rookie Jarrad Davis (concussion) out for Detroit. When Freeman and Coleman are taking safety attention underneath out of the backfield it will open up big shots for Jones and Sanu. The key for Ryan is right tackle Ty Sambrailo replacing Ryan Schraeder (concussion) against a thus far frisky Detroit pass rush.
Matthew Stafford's hot start displayed his improved pocket movement, patience and ability to find the right matchup. The NFL's top-paid player will need to be on point again against a young, fast Falcons defense. The loss of Vic Beasley (hamstring) hurts Atlanta's pass rush, but Dan Quinn's team has enough depth to make up for it. This could be the week we see big days from Detroit backs Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah in the passing game. The Falcons have given up the most catches (19) to running backs in the NFL through two weeks. Stafford should lean on the duo in the screen game and on checkdowns against an Atlanta D that has been prone to missed tackles and can get caught overrunning plays.
NFL Research stat of the week:Matt Ryan has a passer rating of 100-plus in nine straight games (including playoffs), which is tied for the second-longest streak in NFL history (Aaron Rodgers, 13). Ryan has also thrown 23 consecutive passing touchdowns since his last interception, including playoffs. Last INT: Week 13, 2016 vs. the Chiefs.
With a struggling running game, the Browns will put Sunday's tilt on DeShone Kizer's shoulders once again. The rookie passer has been enigmatic through two starts but remains fearless pushing the ball down the field when he decides to pull the trigger. The Colts' young secondary showed improvement last week but has given up chunk plays and will again be without corner Vontae Davis. Without Corey Coleman, receiver Rashard Higgins will be Kizer's go-to target. The Browns should get a few deep shots in to loosen up the defense for underneath passes to Duke Johnson, Seth DeValve and David Njoku, providing a more balanced passing game than we've seen from Kizer thus far.
Jacoby Brissett ably moved Indy's offense in his first start. The big-armed, second-year quarterback can take advantage of deep shots to T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. After playing with a restricted playbook, the Colts' offense should expand in Brissett's second start. As with most young quarterbacks, the tight end became a security blanket for Brissett last week. Jack Doyle has another good matchup against a Browns defense that has given up big days to tight ends the past two weeks. With Jamie Collins (concussion) out and Myles Garrett (ankle) doubtful, the Colts should be able to give Brissett enough time in the pocket to find Doyle underneath to move the chains consistently.
NFL Research stat of the week: Indianapolis has gained fewer than 300 total yards in each of its two games, the first time the Colts have opened with back-to-back sub-300 yard games since 2011 (finished 2-14).
The matchup to watch in Minnesota is Mike Evans versus Xavier Rhodes. Evans looked unstoppable in his first game this season but goes against one of the stingiest, most physical corners in the NFL in Rhodes. Over the past two seasons, Rhodes allowed a 21.8 passer rating while in coverage against Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham. If Rhodes trails Evans, it should open deep shots to DeSean Jackson. Jameis Winston just missed on three heaves to Jackson last week. Expect a bevy of throws heading Jackson's way if the Bucs' offensive line can keep Everson Griffen (11 QB pressures in two weeks) and Co. off Winston's back.
With Sam Bradfordout, the Vikings should lean on Dalvin Cook once again. Despite facing a defense that didn't believe Case Keenum could beat them last week, the rookie running back still managed 5.3 yards per carry. The electric Cook should see an increased workload, but faces a Bucs defense that looked dynamic in their opening game. Over the last nine tussles dating back to last season, the Buccaneers are allowing just 16.0 points per game. Tampa's linebackers are fast and tackle with ferocity. Kwon Alexander is out, but rookie Kendell Beckwith displayed last week he's playmaker alongside Lavonte David. I expect the Vikings to try and get Cook to the edge against the Bucs. The rookie running back seems poised to rip off a cavalcade of long runs at some point. Minnesota will need them with Keenum under center.
NFL Research stat of the week:Dalvin Cook averaged over 5 yards per carry for the second straight game -- fourth in yards/carry (5.62) among players with 20-plus carries this season. Cook has 191 rush yards in his first two career games -- 22 more than Adrian Peterson's rookie year on five fewer carries.
What happens when the New England Patriots force Deshaun Watson to go to someone other than DeAndre Hopkins? Since the rookie quarterback took over in the second half of Week 1, 24 of his 47 passes have gone to Hopkins. The question heading into Foxborough will be how Watson acclimates to a Patriots defense that historically takes away a team's go-to option. Will the rookie signal-caller find the patience to go through his progression? Will he force the ball to Hopkins in coverage, trusting his physical receiver will make plays? Facing a Bill Belichick defense is a nightmare for infantile quarterbacks. Sunday's test will show how heady the first-round pick is or how much further he needs to go in his development.
With a banged-up pass-catching corps, Tom Brady has become a mad bomber, taking 14 deep shots through two weeks, second-most in the NFL. The current lack of chemistry on the precise underneath timing routes likely has a lot to do with Brady's deep ball propensity thus far. Going deep is also what Brandin Cooks, Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan do well. The Texans are missing defensive backs, which will open the downfield shots again. With injuries piling up for Brady's receiving corps, it will be interesting to see what type of game plan the Pats deploy. We expect to see more two-back sets again, which should provide mismatches against Houston linebackers, and multiple tight end formations with Rob Gronkowski expected to play. The Texans knocked around Brady in January's playoff matchup (8 QB hits). J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Co. will need to be in TB12's face often to help out the back end.
NFL Research stat of the week: Rookie QBs vs. Patriots in Bill Belichick Era: 0-8 W-L record, 51 percent completion percentage, 196.8 passing yards per game, 5-16 TD-INT ratio, 50.7 passer rating.
Jay Ajayi picked up where he left off last season, pulverizing for 122 rushing yards on 28 carries in the team's opener. The bulldozing back now faced a Jets defense that has given up a league-worst 185.0 YPG rushing yards per game. The matchup sets up for a huge day for Ajayi against a New York D that struggled to tackle and often overran plays (it could be another tough day for Gang Green linebacker Darron Lee). Ajayi's one-cut ability should lead to huge chunk gains. The consistent threat of tackle-breaking beast will cause Jets linebackers to suck up and should give Jay Cutler chances to strike deep several times Sunday.
The most promising aspect of the Jets offense through two weeks is the play of wideout Jermaine Kearse, who was acquired in the Sheldon Richardson trade. Kearse has caught 11 of 14 passes from Josh McCown for 2 TDs and 123 yards. The 27-year-old receiver gets a good matchup against a Dolphins secondary that gave up 323 yards passing last week. We know McCown isn't afraid to heave shots to his receivers in tight spaces. As the two become better acquainted, Kearse could prove he's more than the second-fiddle he was in Seattle. The next step will be showing he can produce when schemed against.
The Giants' offensive struggles have been a well-worn topic this week, and deservedly so as it's been an unwatchable operation thus far. The offensive line is a mess and heads to Philly against a penetrating Jim Schwartz front. The matchup has the potential to be a bloodbath with Eli Manning as the victim. The only saving grace is that the restrictor plate should come off Odell Beckham. In Week 2, he played just 60 percent of the snaps and didn't press the coverage deep. He averaged just 6.9 air yards per target in his debut, compared to 11.3 in 2016. Big Blue has no chance against the Eagles' defense if OBJ isn't stretching the field.
The Eagles' running game is nonexistent. Facing the Giants' defensive line isn't the time to find itself either. Expect another week of the Carson Wentz action thriller. The second-year quarterback remains an unfinished product, but golly is he fun to watch when he gets rolling. Wentz's deep ball accuracy has improved, completing his shots down the field at a much greater clip than his rookie year. The QBs connection with Alshon Jeffery is already evident, with the big-bodied wideout averaging 65.0 yards per game on five touches per tilt. Jeffery's ability to fight for the ball over smaller corners should play a role Sunday, especially if Janoris Jenkins (ankle) sits again. Also, look for Wentz to target Zach Ertz a ton against a Giants defense that can't cover tight ends.
NFL Research stat of the week: Manning has a passer rating below 90 in five straight games (including playoffs). It is Manning's longest such streak since 2013-14 (six straight games).
Behind a struggling offensive line, Russell Wilson has a decent chance to put up numbers against the Titans' secondary if he can find time to throw. Tyler Lockett showed up in a big way last week, looking slippery in and out of breaks. His presence on the outside should allow Doug Baldwin to patrol the middle of the field against Tennessee. The Titans boast a stout front that can get after the quarterback, so I'm expecting Wilson to be on the move a lot -- both as part of the scheme on boots and in scramble drills. Against a Titans defense that has given up yards to Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Marquise Lee through two weeks, it's time for Wilson's pass-catchers to break out of their early season slumber.
The Derrick Henry train began rolling after last week's breakout performance. It will hit runaway pace if he doubles down against a Seahawks defense that got gashed last week. The Heisman Trophy winner runs with an effortless power and speed for a big back. He owns quickness to the edge and brute strength between the tackles. DeMarco Murray's injury could be a blessing in disguise for the Titans' offense, which has functioned better this season with Henry on the field. Despite his pedigree, there is surprisingly little national fanfare for Henry's breakout. That should change after this week.
NFL Research stat of the week: The Seahawks are 2-10 on the road in September under Pete Carroll, losing their last five road games in the month. Since 2010, Seattle has earned just 14.7 points per game, allowed 22.6 points per game with a minus-8 turnover differential in September.
Bill Lazor took over for fired Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese this week, which will lead to many questions about what Cincy's offense will look like. We've seen coordinator switches provide a spark to snoozing offenses in the past -- Jim Bob Cooter in Detroit is one example -- but often it takes more than a week to see significant changes take hold. In Miami, Lazor employed a quick-pass offense that got the ball out of the quarterback's hands. With a struggling offensive line in front of Andy Dalton, that should be a welcome sight for Bengals fans. We also hope the change unleashes A.J. Green from target purgatory. Against a Packers secondary that still gives up chunk plays, Green could emerge the biggest beneficiary of the OC change. Finally, we need to see if Lazor will curtail the running back rotation and trust rookie Joe Mixon to carry a bigger load moving forward.
Aaron Rodgers should have Jordy Nelson on the field, but likely will be without Randall Cobb (chest, doubtful). His left tackle David Bakhtiari (hamstring) is also doubtful, while right tackle Bryan Bulaga (ankle) remains questionable. Rodgers got battered last week behind a makeshift O-line. Facing game-wrecker Geno Atkins foreshadows another painful day for Rodgers. With the injuries, expect the Rodgers to ride Ty Montgomery. The running back leads all tailbacks in snaps through two tilts with 124. His improved pass protection means Green Bay can leave him on the field for all three downs, which is a major advantage given his dual-threat ability. Against a Bengals defense that has allowed 162.5 yards rushing per game (31st in the NFL), it's a matchup Montgomery should be able to exploit.
The buzzsaw known as the Kansas City Chiefs heads to L.A. From a pure watchability standpoint, perhaps no team has brought more to the table through two games than Andy Reid's team. Between Kareem Hunt's long jaunts, Tyreek Hill's big plays, Travis Kelce flying over defenders, Alex Smith heaving bombs like it's his last game on this planet, and a pounding defense, the Chiefs have been a joy to behold. Hunt's early season magic should continue against a Chargers squad that has gotten gashed on the ground. Hunt's 7.6 yards per carry through two starts are well above the last two leading rookie rushers, Ezekiel Elliott (3.3) and Todd Gurley (6.2). With the movable pieces throughout the Chiefs' offense, it feels like Reid's creativity is only going to be unleashed more as we press forward this season.
If he plays, Melvin Gordon (knee, questionable) must break out of his two-game funk. The third-year back looks more like the unsure, stuttering runner we saw his rookie season than the decisive power back he displayed last year. Gordon is averaging a meager 2.5 yards per carry through two tilts. It's tough sledding behind a poor offensive line, but Gordon needs to break a few more tackles to help carry the offense. If Gordon sits with his knee ailment, it will force Branden Oliver into a fulltime roll, which will hurt the running attack, but be a plus in the passing game. Against Justin Houston, Chris Jones and Dee Ford, however, Philip Rivers will take a pounding if he's forced to drop back 50 times.
NFL Research stat of the week: The Chargers have lost 11 one-possession games since 2016 (8 points-or-fewer), most in the NFL -- 4-11 (.267) record in one-possession games since 2016.
Name an offense that can pummel defenses in a more diverse fashion than the Raiders. Oakland boasts the most cohesive offensive line play in this young season: a gunslinging quarterback who gets the ball out with a flip of the wrist and vacillates between deep bombs and precise, short tosses; a pounding running game with Marshawn Lynch complemented by speedsters Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington; a top receiver duo in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, which can score from 40 yards or 4 yards out; a tight end in Jared Cook who made a seamless transition as Aaron Rodgers' possession target to Derek Carr's. Finding weakness in the Raiders' offense is like searching for a scratch on a Lamborghini that just rolled off the assembly line. On paper, the Redskins' defense doesn't have a favorable matchup on the field. Luckily for Jay Gruden, we don't play these games on paper.
Terrelle Pryor needs to have a big game versus his old team. Kirk Cousins has given the big wideout plenty of chances to make plays this season (7.5 targets per game), and been rewarded with a cavalcade of mistakes. The Raiders' pass defense has appeared improved from last year, sitting in the top 10 in yards allowed, but there are still gaps on the outside to attack. With Jordan Reed questionable, Pryor should once again get plenty of opportunities for his first breakout game in D.C.
NFL Research stat of the week: The Raiders have only allowed a pressure rate of 8.5 percent in their first two games, improving on their league-leading pressure rate allowed of 11.8 percent from last season. They face a Redskins defense that has blitzed at a higher percentage rate (48.5) than any team so far this season.
All eyes will be on how Ezekiel Elliott responds after a week of media criticism about his career-worst performance in last week's loss. I expect a determined Elliott to bounce back, but he won't do it alone. Last week was the first time in more than a year we've seen the Cowboys' vaunted offensive line repeatedly blown off the ball in both the run and passing game. The group will be challenged again by a Cardinals defense that loads the box on 45.8 percent of snaps, 10th highest in the NFL, and has given up just 79.0 rushing yards per game. Under the Monday Night Football lights, will Zeke put on a show to quiet the doubters that feasted over the past week?
Chris Johnson should see his snaps increase after a positive performance last week, but if the Cardinals' offense is to get in gear, it will be on Carson Palmer. The veteran quarterback faces a banged-up Cowboy secondary that gave up four touchdown passes a week ago. Expect Larry Fitzgerald to be heavily targeted with deep throws to J.J. Nelson and Jaron Brown mixed in. Palmer has taken undue heat for his play to open up the season, but he still possesses the big arm to stretch the field against Dallas' suspect secondary.