Everything you need to know as kickoff approaches...
Key game-time decisions
All players questionable unless noted
Pete Carroll said Baldwin will be a game-time decision. Running back C.J. Prosise (ankle) is doubtful.
Crabtree sat out Friday's practice after being limited the previous two days. UPDATE: On Saturday, he was downgraded to doubtful.
The biggest name to monitor is Sean Lee, who sat out all week. He could be a game-time decision.
Gordon will play after being a full participant in Friday's practice.
There is a chance the No. 1 overall pick makes his NFL debut this week. Linebacker Jamie Collins (concussion) was ruled out.
Carlos Hyde was limited all week. Kyle Shanahan said he's a game-time decision.
Buffalo Bills: DE Shaq Lawson (groin)
Lawson sat out Friday's practice after being limited on Thursday. Buffalo ruled out starting left tackle Cordy Glenn (foot, ankle).
Hightower sounds like he will return to a Patriots defense that has missed his presence.
Carolina Panthers: DE Julius Peppers (shoulder)
Carolina added Peppers to the injury report on Saturday.
Cincinnati Bengals: G Trey Hopkins (knee)
Davis practiced on a limited basis this week, which is a good sign for his return, but he'll likely need to pass the final stages of concussion protocol. Golladay didn't practice Thursday or Friday.
Gipson was limited in practice on Friday.
New York Jets: DE Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder)
All four were limited on Friday. Snead is coming off a three-game suspension to open the season.
Miami Dolphins: RB Jay Ajayi (knee), LB Chase Allen (neck), LB Kiko Alonso (shoulder), G Isaac Asiata (ankle), LS John Denney (hamstring), WR Jakeem Grant (ankle), LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring), WR Kenny Stills (hand), CB Alterraun Verner (hamstring)
Ajayi was full-go on Friday and will play Sunday in London.
Vernon returned to practice limited on Friday.
Denver Broncos: WR Cody Latimer (knee)
Latimer was limited on Friday.
Davis and Mitchell were both limited on Friday.
Baltimore Ravens: TE Benjamin Watson (calf)
Watson was full-go on Friday.
Tennessee Titans: DT Jurrell Casey (groin)
Casey was limited on Friday.
Houston Texans: CB Marcus Burley (knee)
Crowder and Swearinger were added to the injury report on Friday. Foster, Kelley and Reed have been limited all week.
Fisher has been limited in practice this week.
Saints at Dolphins (London) -- 61 degrees, overcast, windy, 15 percent chance of rain
Bills at Falcons -- 70 degrees, clear
Steelers at Ravens -- 69 degrees, clear
Lions at Vikings (dome) -- 57 degrees, 31 percent chance of light rain
Bengals at Browns -- 63 degrees, sunny
Rams at Cowboys -- 78 degrees, clear skies
Titans at Texans - 86 degrees, sunny
Panthers at Patriots -- 63 degrees, sunny
Jaguars at Jets -- 68 degrees, sunny
49ers at Cardinals -- 93 degrees, clear
Eagles at Chargers -- 74 degrees, sunny
Giants at Buccaneers -- 89 degrees, 13 percent chance of rain
Raiders at Broncos -- 69 degrees, clear
Colts at Seahawks (SNF) -- 57 degrees, partly cloudy
Redskins at Chiefs (MNF) -- 80 degrees, partly cloudy
What to Watch For
Last week Sean Payton called a marvelous game, keeping a good defense off balance as Drew Brees found soft spots in zone coverage. In London on Sunday, the Saints get a Dolphins secondary that got burned several times by the New York Jets' aerial power. Michael Thomas will present a mismatch all over the field and should see double-digit targets. Miami has been stout against the run, so I expect to see Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram utilized heavily in the passing game against Dolphins linebackers in space.
Adam Gase spent the week vociferously torching his offense. Rightfully so. Jay Cutler looked asleep at the wheel a week ago. While Gase suggested some changes to the offense this week, expect those to be more schematic than personnel based. The Dolphins should look to up the tempo for spurts against a Saints defense that got torched through the air the first two weeks of the season. Speeding the pace will also help fatigue the defensive front, making Jay Ajayi's physical style all the more potent.
NFL Research stat of the week: This season, New Orleans is boasting the youngest NFL defense since at least 1991 based on the average age of its Week 1 starters (24 years, 200 days old).
LeSean McCoy has rushed for 30 yards over his last two games combined. While one of those games ended in a win thanks to Tyrod Taylor's steady play, it's not a recipe for sustained success in Buffalo. Missing left tackle Cordy Glenn (out) has clearly had an effect on McCoy's ability to hit the edge. It's something he'll deal with again Sunday against a speedy Falcons' defense. Atlanta linebacker De'Vondre Campbell vastly improved his coverage this season, but will see his toughest task when asked to cover Shady out of the backfield. Even with his ground game slowed, McCoy proved last week he can still be deadly in the passing attack when he gets the ball in space.
The Bills secondary, led by first-round corner Tre'Davious White and safety Jordan Poyer, has impressed through three weeks, but they haven't faced the firepower Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Mohamed Sanu bring. When White faces off against Jones, it will be interesting to see how the rookie responds to the physical receiver. Ryan posted his eighth career 3-INT game last week. Following the previous seven, the Falcons' passer has posted an average 101.8 passer rating. On the fast home track in Atlanta, expect Ryan to test the Bills secondary early to help loosen up a defensive front that can demolish the line of scrimmage.
NFL Research stat of the week: The Falcons have scored 23-plus points in 12 straight games dating back to last season (including playoffs), the longest active streak in NFL (10-2 in those games). The Bills haven't allowed more than 16 points in a game this season.
Playoff teams bounce back from dreadful performances and avoid a slide that could damage the season. Both Pittsburgh and Baltimore played forgettable games last week, setting the perfect backdrop for one of the NFL fiercest and most hotly contested rivalries. Whichever team survives will have the upper hand toward a division title at the quarter-season mark.
The Steelers' loaded offense has sleepwalked through the first three games of the season. On paper, Pittsburgh looks like an explosive offense, with game-changers at each position. In practice, this bomb has been a dud. The Steelers are on pace for their worst total offense of the Ben Roethlisberger era (302.3 YPG). The focus has been on Big Ben's struggles thus far, but Le'Veon Bell will be the key Sunday. The dual-threat has earned fewer than 100 scrimmage yards in all three games this season and his 3.46 rush yards per carry would set a new career-low. With the Ravens missing defensive lineman Brandon Williams again, Bell needs to take advantage and be the injector fuel to a Steelers offense stuck in second gear.
Joe Flacco has attempted just 69 passes through three games. On those few attempts, he's been woefully inefficient, completing just 60.9 percent (ranked 27th in the NFL) for 5.3 yards per attempt (NFL-low), 122.0 yards per game (NFL-worst) and a 65.2 passer rating (31st). Yes, he's gotten almost zero help from Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman, but he's also been woefully off the mark deep. The Ravens are likely to lean on the ground game again against a Steelers defense that got ran over last week. But Flacco needs to probe a Steelers secondary that has yet to be tested this season, facing DeShone Kizer making his first career start, Case Keenum without a full week's preparation, and Mike Glennon.
NFL Research stat of the week: Ben Roethlisberger's road struggles have continued: More INT (18) than pass TD (17) on the road since 2015. Roethlisberger has been held under 300 pass yards in nine straight games, his longest personal streak since a 27-game streak from 2006-2008.
In Bill Lazor's first week as OC, the Bengals got the ball out of Andy Dalton's hands quicker and relied more heavily on their best weapon, A.J. Green. Cincy also finally leaned on Joe Mixon. The rookie earned 21 offensive touches in Week 3, exactly equaling his workload in the first two games combined. We should see more Mixon this week. The patient runner has superior vision to go along with game-breaking ability. With Mixon as a dual-threat, it should open up play-action shots from Dalton deep against a Browns secondary that has been burned often through three games.
The Browns need some semblance of a running game to help DeShone Kizer. Isaiah Crowell has been abhorrently inefficient, earning just 2.9 yards per carry. Duke Johnson has seen just six totes this season, but popped a big gainer last week. Hue Jackson should look to vary Johnson's workload, getting the playmaker the ball in the backfield more often. Johnson has been one of the few bright spots in the Browns' offense this season, but he's being underutilized. The Bengals have given up almost 130 yards per game on the ground through three weeks, but Vontaze Burfict returns from suspension to provide some thump up the middle.
NFL Research stat of the week: A.J. Green had season-highs in targets (13), receptions (10), receiving yards (111.0) and receiving TD (1) in his first game with Bill Lazor calling plays.
If I told you in June that Jared Goff would rank in the top three in the NFL in completion percentage (70.4), yards per attempt (10.1), and passer rating (118.2) as we hit October, you would have likely fallen off your chair laughing. The Sean McVay effect, however, has the second-year passer looking like a rising quarterback. Gone are the jittery hitches and deer-in-headlights plays. Instead, McVay has schemed his quarterback easy throws into wide-open windows and Goff is making plays with confidence. The Cowboys secondary looks like a 21st-century version of M*A*S*H right now, which provides Goff with an optimal matchup on paper. First, however, the Rams will need to find a way to block game-wrecker DeMarcus Lawrence.
Dak Prescott is systematically dismantling any lingering concerns about his ability to carry the Cowboys offense. With a running game that has suffered fits and starts this season and an offensive line not as dominant as a year ago, Prescott has been a marvel. The second-year quarterback is nearly unstoppable when on the move. Against a Rams defense that boasts Aaron Donald in the middle, expect the Cowboys to move Prescott's pocket often Sunday, putting pressure on L.A.'s secondary with his feet and arm. The Rams have been gashed on the ground to the tune of 139.0 yards per game this season (fourth-worst in the NFL), so Sunday should be a get-right game for Ezekiel Elliott.
NFL Research stat of the week: DeMarcus Lawrence leads the NFL in sacks (6.5) and QB hits (10) this season. The last Dallas player to lead NFL in sacks was DeMarcus Ware (15.5, 2010). Lawrence earned the most sacks by a Cowboy in the first three games of a season since 1982.
Marcus Mariota faces an injured Houston Texans secondary that got dive-bombed last week. The Titans own the most balanced offense in the NFL to date, but expect it to be the Mariota show on Sunday. While the third-year passer continues his stellar ascent, we have yet to see a true blast-off game from Mariota through the air -- just one 300-plus passing game since his rookie season. Sunday could be that explosion. With one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and the threat of the play action, Tennessee should provide time for Mariota to find Rishard Matthews and Taywan Taylor deep.
Deshaun Watson stole the show last week, putting up 301 passing yards and dancing for another 41 yards on eight keeps. The rookie quarterback possesses the ideal elusiveness behind an offensive line that continues to struggle. If he can avoid an underrated Titans pass rush, Watson can do damage against a Titans secondary that has given up chunk plays to Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Allen Hurns and Doug Baldwin this season. DeAndre Hopkins should be in for a big day, but Watson proved last week he's willing to spread the ball around and find the open target. Tight ends have feasted for big plays against Tennessee, so Watson should find his big bodies over the middle Sunday afternoon.
Everson Griffen calling out Lions interim left tackle Greg Robinson this week was a bizarre start for these division foes. Griffen could wreck the Lions game plan by destroying Robinson, who has not played well thus far. With the Vikings defensive front enveloping the quarterback, expect Matthew Stafford to get the ball out quickly. Golden Tate should see another target-heavy day. Xavier Rhodes is expected to shadow Marvin Jones, which means Tate will be the beneficiary out of the slot. Teams have been able to beat non-Rhodes corners deep this season, so Tate and T.J. Jones should see a few long balls if Griffen & Co. aren't swallowing Stafford before he can get them away.
Case Keenum became a deep-shot magician last week, picking apart a battered Tampa secondary. The quarterback, who will make his third straight start Sunday, had a perfect passer rating (158.3) on attempts of 15-plus air yards. This is the same Keenum who lit up Detroit's defense last season in a career game as a member of the L.A. Rams -- completing 19 straight passes at one point. Keenum's deep shots are predicated on Dalvin Cook. The rookie running back requires teams to press the line of scrimmage. His speed, quickness and increased usage in the passing game means safeties must respect Cook when he's on the field. The threat of Cook leads to juicy matchups for Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. The Lions secondary is more frisky than last year and has turned the ball over regularly. It's also a unit on which offenses have moved the chains. If Keenum avoids turnovers and Cook is doing to Detroit what Devonta Freeman did last week, the Vikings offense shouldn't struggle at home.
NFL Research stat of the week: Xavier Rhodes has held opposing receivers to 11 receptions, 113 receiving yards and 0 TDs on 21 targets in coverage (68.2 passer rating) this season. Notable matchups include: Michael Thomas (Week 1), Antonio Brown (Week 2) and Mike Evans (Week 3).
The Panthers' offense is still trying to find itself. It shouldn't come as a surprise. Carolina added new weapons that had little offseason work together, the Panthers are without their top target, Greg Olsen, and Cam Newton coming off shoulder surgery is being asked to change how he plays. Carolina has fewer than 300 total yards in each game this season. Assuming the Panthers won't abandon the plan and revert to more designed runs for Newton, we should expect to see more growing pains as the offense continues to gel. On the plus side, Newton faces a Patriots defense that ranks last in total defense (461 yards per game allowed) and last in scoring defense (31.7 points per game). New England struggled with a mobile quarterback last week, which should give Cam belief he can provide the same sort of damage when the pocket breaks down. With Kelvin Benjamin returning after missing most of last week's game, Newton will have his go-to target Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
At age 40, Tom Brady looks like a 28-year-old unleashing deep shot after deep shot. It's a wonder to watch the old man stand in the pocket, take a crushing blow and deliver an absolute dime to a receiver streaking down the field. Brady is averaging 340.0 pass YPG this season, most in the NFL, and he's doing it mostly on deep balls. Against the Panthers' zone coverages, Brady should again get deep looks to Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan on Sunday. The Panthers defensive front can bring waves of pressure up the gut and off the edge, however, so Brady could be primed to take another beating. The chess match between Panthers speedy linebackers Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson versus Rob Gronkowski and James White is one to keep an eye on. Few consistently get the best of Kuechly and Thomas, but Gronk and White have been unstoppable this season.
NFL Research stat of the week: The Patriots have allowed 95 points over the first three games this season, the most points allowed in their first three tilts in the Bill Belichick era. Previous: 82 points allowed in 2010. The most points a Belichick-era Patriots team has allowed in its first four games is 108 in 2005.
Game script has determined the outcome of the Jaguars' first three tilts. When they trailed big, they wilted. However, when Jacksonville gets ahead and can stick with the ground-and-pound game plan with battering-ram Leonard Fournette, they can lean on opponents. The rookie running back looks exactly like the player we expected coming out of LSU. He's physical at the point of attack and has burst through the line of scrimmage. He has yet to break a long run, but it's coming. The Jets smothered Jay Ajayi last week, so it won't be easy sledding for Fournette. I'm looking forward to the collisions between the running back and New York's stud defensive back Jamal Adams, who has been a menacing blur to open the season. The two first-round picks were teammates at LSU. Their reunion should be like locomotives colliding.
Newsflash: The Jets offense hasn't been a complete disaster! Hooray! With Matt Forte out, Gang Green should rely on Bilal Powell more Sunday, which is a positive. Josh McCown has steadily moved the Jets offense this season, and while it's not always pretty, the QB has been moderately effective. He'll face a much better secondary than the one he picked apart last week, however. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are two of the most physical corners in the NFL and won't give McCown many wide-open windows. In what could be a defensive struggle, whichever quarterback makes the critical mistake could lose the game for his team. Who do you trust more: McCown or Blake Bortles?
NFL Research stat of the week: The Jaguars are the only team in the NFL ranked in the top five in scoring offense (4th) and scoring defense (4th) this season.
Brian Hoyer displayed some gumption last week after a brutal interception to open the game. The 49ers can move the ball when Hoyer is willing to push it downfield. The key to that this week will be tackles Joe Staley and Trent Brown keeping Cardinals pass rushers Chandler Jones and Markus Golden off Hoyer's back. Staley remains one of the best, and Brown has been solid -- though the young blocker does have his moments when he's stuck in the mud. If the Niners can protect Hoyer, he can pick on Justin Bethel and Tyrann Mathieu, as other offenses have thus far this season.
Carson Palmer has not been as bad as your average Twitter troll would have you believe. When given time to throw, Palmer still shows accuracy on his shots deep. The protection will likely continue to struggle with left guard Mike Iupati headed to IR this week and guard Alex Boone out. Left tackle D.J. Humphries (questionable) could return. Against a banged-up 49ers defense that allowed Jared Goff to look like Joe Montana last week, Palmer could be in for a good day if his line can keep the 49ers' pass rushers off his back. (Brobdingnagian IF.) I expect to see more Andre Ellington this week, even if Chris Johnson remains the Cardinals' starter. Ellington showed more burst last week and gives Bruce Arians offense a better dual-threat look.
NFL Research stat of the week: Larry Fitzgerald ranks third in the NFL in targets (34), second in receptions (22), 11th in receiving yards (244) and T-7th in first down receptions (12).
Doug Pederson made a concerted effort to run the ball last week and it paid off. We should expect a balanced approach this week against a Chargers defense that has been gashed for 146.7 yards per game on the ground (second-most in the NFL). With the play action now a threat, Carson Wentz should have more time to hit Alshon Jeffrey deep against a Chargers secondary that badly misses Jason Verrett. The Eagles' offensive line played well last week against a good Giants front, but Sunday's clash with Defensive Player of the Year candidate Melvin Ingram and grating pocket-pusher Joey Bosa is a different beast. Wentz will need to utilize his mobility in the pocket Sunday to avoid being destroyed by Ingram and take advantage of the L.A. secondary.
Coming off a turnover-filled loss, Philip Rivers faces one of the most decimated defenses in the NFL. It's a prime spot for the veteran to get off the schneid. The Eagles' secondary is walking wounded and, without Fletcher Cox in the middle, Jim Schwartz's defense loses its pass-rush potency. Rivers will not get a better chance this season to put up big numbers than against this injured defense. Keenan Allen should be the primary beneficiary on quick slants and crossers. Melvin Gordon is dealing with a knee injury, but looked spry to the edge last week in limited snaps. He will likely split reps again, but with Fox out, the middle of the Eagles defense is more open for interior runs.
NFL Research stat of the week: Zach Ertz leads all tight ends in targets (28), receptions (21), yards (245) and first downs (14).
His touchdown celebration got most of the headlines this week, but Odell Beckham looking almost back to 100 percent should be the focus. The get-the-ball-to-Beckham game plan should be employed heavily again this week against an injured Buccaneers defense. Tampa got ripped by Case Keenum last week, but gets corner Brent Grimes back. Expect Eli Manning to get the ball out quick and let his receivers make plays after the catch. With the Bucs missing a boatload of defensive starters, including linebackers Kwon Alexander (out) and Lavonte David (doubtful), Evan Engram should have a good matchup over the middle.
The Bucs will look to be more balanced on offense, after allowing Jameis Winston to go wild throwing the ball last week. Tampa needs Jacquizz Rodgers to keep them ahead of schedule, so Winston isn't in third-and-long forcing balls into tight windows. (Doug Martin is serving the final game of his suspension this week.) Surprisingly, the Giants have been gashed on the ground -- specifically letting runners get to the edge. We'll see if linebacker B.J. Goodson returning from injury helps fill the gaps. When Winston does drop back to throw, expect him to pick on Eli Apple, the Giants first-round corner that has been beaten deep repeatedly this season. When Jackson gets Apple on the edge, Winston needs to give his speedy wideout a chance to make a play against the DPI-prone corner.
NFL Research stat of the week: In an attempt to alleviate pressure on the struggling Giants offensive line, Eli Manning got rid of the ball faster in Week 3: Averaged 2.0 seconds to throw in Week 3. Week 1 averaged 2.89 seconds; Week 2 2.61. In 2016 he averaged 2.53 seconds to throw.
Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree have redemption on their minds after laying an egg in primetime last week. The key for Oakland's offense will be keeping Carr from getting lit up, like he surprisingly did on several occasions in Week 3. The Raiders have allowed fewest sacks and QB hits since start of 2016. Meanwhile, the Broncos defense has most QB hits (T-3rd most sacks) since 2016. Oakland's O-line should head to Denver peeved at its performance last week. If the Raiders can't keep Von Miller and Shaq Barrett out of Carr's grill, Oakland will once again struggle to move the ball against the "No Fly Zone" and the top-rated run defense in the NFL.
Speaking of redemptions, after two weeks of nearly everyone singing Trevor Siemian's praises, the quarterback made two boneheaded interceptions that cost his team in last week's loss. Given the fortitude he's displayed in his young career, I expect the QB to bounce back this week against the Raiders' secondary. Blocking Khalil Mack will be the key for Denver, especially when he lines up over right tackle Menelik Watson. Jamaal Charles looked spry last week and should see more touches. The Raiders allowed Chris Thompson to go off in Week 3, so I expect Siemian to look for Charles often in the flat Sunday.
NFL Research stat of the week: The Broncos have held Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree in check in their four meetings since 2015 (when Cooper and Crabtree joined the Raiders). Week 5, 2015: 8 receptions, 101 yards, 0 TDs (combined). Week 14, 2015: 4 receptions, 19 yards, 0 TDs. Week 9, 2016: 8 receptions, 83 yards, 0 TDs. Week 17, 2016: 9 receptions, 86 yards, 1 TD.
How will Jacoby Brissett handle the first road start of his career? The second-year quarterback has breathed life into the Colts offense with his big arm and elusiveness out of the pocket. Facing the Seahawks, in Seattle, in primetime, however, is a different beast. Frank Gore has a good matchup on paper against a Seahawks defense that has been gashed on the ground by better offensive lines. If Indy's running game is stymied early, however, will Brissett be able to find T.Y. Hilton deep consistently enough to move the ball against the Legion of Boom?
Russell Wilson is coming off a 4-TD performance and faces a Colts defense that has been shredded through the air through three weeks. Indy getting corner Vontae Davis back will be a boost, but is it enough to slow the Seahawks pass-attack? If Doug Baldwin plays (groin; questionable) he'll have a good matchup in the slot, where he can attack the Colts' young secondary over the middle. Expect Wilson to look Jimmy Graham's way often Sunday night as well, against an Indy defense that has given up yardage to less-talented tight ends.
NFL Research stat of the week: The Seahawks defense has allowed a 100+ yard rusher in back-to-back games. They allowed 100+ yard rusher in only three games last season. The last time Seattle allowed a 100-yard rusher in three straight games: Weeks 13-16, 2006 (4 straight).
Chris Thompson leads Washington in scrimmage yards (350), rushing yards (119), rushing TDs (2), targets (19) receptions (13), receiving yards (231) and receiving touchdowns (2). Coach Jay Gruden insisted the running back's usage won't increase, but I expect the shifty back to see a load of targets out of the backfield against K.C. linebackers and safeties. Thompson has proven he's the Redskins biggest mismatch feeding him is imperative. Facing a rowdy Kansas City crowed Kirk Cousins will look for the shifty back often on checkdowns.
Alex Smith has silenced doubters thus far this season, raking first in the NFL in completion percentage (77.4) and passer rating (132.7). The Chiefs offense deploys deadly deception (can anyone cover the shovel pass?) and Smith has mixed in deep shots more often. Tyreek Hill should be in for a big game. The shifty receiver lines up primarily in the slot position, which will help avoid Josh Norman, who patrols the outside in the Redskins' system. Likewise, Travis Kelce is in for a bounce-back game against a Redskins defense that has been tortured by tight ends through three games.
NFL Research stat of the week: Kareem Hunt now has the second-most scrimmage yards (538) of any rookie through his first three games, since 1970, behind only Detroit's Billy Simms in 1980 (562 yards). Hunt needs 208 scrimmage yards to pass Sims (745) for the most scrimmage yards in a rookie's first 4 games since 1950.