Everything you need to know as kickoff approaches...
Key game-time decisions
All players questionable unless noted
The Bills insist McCoy is a game-time decision, but the team would be silly to put their star in harm's way if it means the possibility of prolonging the injury. UPDATE: The team is optimistic he will play, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.
Pryor returned to practice limited on Friday. If he plays, it won't be at 100 percent. UPDATE: Pryor is expected to play, per Rapoport.
Eifert looks like he'll play, but could be on a snap limit in his first game of the season. UPDATE: Rapoport confirms this.
Charles experienced swelling in his knee this week. If he plays, it'll likely be on a limited basis. UPDATE: Charles is not expected to play, per Rapoport.
Flacco is on pace to play after practicing Friday. UPDATE: Flacco is expected to play, per Rapoport.
Foster was full-go in practice all week and should be fine to play.
Diggs looks like he's set to return to action. Treadwell was limited all week.
T.Y. was full-go Friday.
Bolden was the only player that didn't practice on Friday.
Murray was limited all week. He should return to action barring a setback. UPDATE: Murray is expected to play, per Rapoport.
Thomas was limited Thursday and Friday.
The expectation is that Benjamin will play in what could be a shootout in Atlanta.
Smith was limited on Friday.
DJax was limited on Friday after getting two days off early in the week.
The trio was limited all week. Washington would step right back into a role as Detroit's power back if he plays. UPDATE: Washington is not expected to play, per Rapoport.
Palmer should be fine to start. Brown was limited on Friday. UPDATE: Palmer will start, per Rapoport.
Okung participated in practice on a limited basis Friday and Saturday and will have to pass the final stages of concussion protocol to be cleared for game action.
*It's looking mighty dry for our 11 outdoor games this week. We will update Sunday prognostications for all non-dome contests as we drift closer to game time. *
Giants at Rams (LONDON) -- 38 degrees
Browns at Bengals -- 67 degrees
Raiders at Jaguars -- 74 degrees
Saints at Chiefs -- 70 degrees
Bills at Dolphins -- 79 degrees
Ravens at Jets -- 61 degrees -- winds up to 15 MPH
Vikings at Eagles -- 61 degrees -- winds up to 16 MPH
Colts at Titans -- 72 degrees
Buccaneers at 49ers -- 74 degrees
Patriots at Steelers -- 61 degrees
Texans at Broncos -- 67 degrees
What to Watch For
Odell Beckham Jr. should be in for another huge day against a Rams defense missing top corner Trumaine Johnson. Last week Beckham became the third Giants player in the Super Bowl era to pass the 200-yard mark in a game. The previous two (Plaxico Burress, 2005; Amani Toomer, 2002) each had fewer than 60 receiving yards in their next contest. That shouldn't be a problem for Beckham. If Justin Pugh can keep Aaron Donald out of Eli Manning's face, the quarterback should pick apart a Rams secondary that suffers a significant drop-off at corner sans Johnson.
Last week, Case Keenum looked like Joe Montana for stretches, but his leash is getting pulled tighter. NFL Network's Steve Wyche reported that Jared Goff's practice reps will increase. Despite Keenum's play, there will be a call for Goff to play if the Rams continue to lose -- the bye week could be the best time to make the change. In London, Keenum faces a Giants defense that lacks a pass rush, compiling just six sacks (fewest in NFL). Keenum has a quarterback rating over 110 in two of his previous three games. Tight end Lance Kendricks and running back Todd Gurley both have matchup advantages in the passing game versus Giants linebackers. Kenny Britt's rebirth will be tested this week against former teammate Janoris Jenkins (#RevengeGame). Sidebar: The Rams could use a corner of Jenkins' caliber right now.
Hue Jackson revenge game! (#RevengeGame)
If Terrelle Pryor (questionable; hamstring) isn't full-go, it's a big blow for Cody Kessler and the Browns' offense. Pryor has been a matchup nightmare and worth at least one or two 'wow' plays a week. With the receiver at less than full capacity, expect Gary Barnidge to see a healthy amount of targets against Bengals linebackers that struggle in coverage. Cincinnati has given up the fifth-most touchdowns to tight ends this season (4). Rookie receiver Rashard Higgins will step in if Pryor sits. The Browns continue to get live looks at their bevy of first-year players, an experience that will be beneficial down the road.
The Bengals' offense desperately needs a get-right game. Ken Zampese's unit ranks 29th in scoring (18.2 PPG), 24th in rushing YPG (89.8), 31st in third-down offense (32.1 percent) and allowed 19 sacks (T-2nd most). On paper, Sunday looks like a breath of fresh air for Andy Dalton and Co. The Browns rank 29th in yards allowed (403.3 YPG) and points scored (29.3 PPG). Cleveland is the only team to allow 25 or more points in every game, and have allowed 400-plus yards in four of six games this season. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard need to finally get loose against a Browns defense allowing 118.0 rush yards per game.
Kirk Cousins has found consistency and confidence the last several weeks, spearheading the Redskins' four-game win streak. Sunday he faces a Detroit defense that has allowed a 119.3 passer rating this season (worst in the NFL; on pace to be the highest in history, eclipsing the 116.2 rating the Saints gave up in 2015). Even with Jordan Reed out, Cousins has mismatches across the field with Jamison Crowder and Pierre Garcon on intermediate routes, DeSean Jackson deep, and tight end Vernon Davis toasting Lions linebackers who can't cover. The former Michigan State quarterback should have no problems moving the ball in Detroit.
Matthew Stafford is on pace to set career bests in completion percentage (68.9), yards per attempt (7.8), TD-INT ratio (3.5) and passer rating (106.1). The Lions quarterback has 7 TD, 0 INTs, and a 137.6 passer rating in his past two games. And he's doing all this without Calvin Johnson. (All hail Jim Bob Cooter!) Sunday's matchup between Marvin Jones and Josh Norman will be one to watch. Norman might not travel with Jones to start. If Jones makes big plays early against lesser corners, defensive coordinator Joe Barry (#RevengeGame) would be smart to try and take the Lions' No. 1 target out of action. If Jones can beat Norman, it would further prove he has the makings to be a dynamic No. 1 receiver. Golden Tate burst out last week, but he's lacked consistency. Tate needs to show it multiple weeks before we declare him back to form.
Say what? Stat of the week: Washington is averaging 6.2 yards per play this season. Only the Falcons (6.9) average more.
This matchup is all about the quarterbacks.
Derek Carr has outplayed Blake Bortles by leaps and bounds this season. Yet, Carr is coming off his worst game of the season. The Raiders' signal caller struggled on deep sideline throws and was off-target all day in the swampy muck last week. Sunday he faces a good Jacksonville secondary, giving up just 218.4 yards passing per game (eighth best). Carr still has matchups in his favor with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree (despite the down week). We expect the third-year quarterback to put aside one mediocre outing and get back to his gun-slinging ways.
Bortles is the more worrisome passer. His play has been one of the most disappointing aspects of the 2016 season. Bortles has gone Full Jay Cutler on us -- never go Full Jay Cutler -- making mind-boggling decisions, turning the ball over at a rapid pace (1.8 giveaways per game this season), and displaying a scattershot arm for long stretches. Bortles has a massive advantage this week against the last-ranked pass defense in the NFL (yards surrendered). Oakland is good for at least one or two breakdowns a game on the back end. Bortles needs to hit on those big-play opportunities to Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.
Say what? Stat of the week:Allen Robinson has not gone over the 75-yard mark in any game this season and has fewer than 60 receiving yards in four straight games. Robinson has zero receptions on six targets of 25-plus air yards this season (had 10 receptions on 26 such targets last year).
It's strength on strength Sunday when Drew Brees' aerial attack meets Eric Berry's pass defense. The Chiefs played lights out on the back end last week, but get a stiffer test against Brees, Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas, Willie Snead, et al. The Cooks/Marcus Peters matchup will be fun to watch. Peters stays on the left side of the defensive formation, while Cooks moves all round, spending more of his time (41 percent) in the slot than either of the outside positions. When they are lined up across from one another, keep your eye there. Peters usually has his way with smaller receivers, but has been burned by speedsters this season (Will Fuller, Sammie Coates).
With Jamaal Charles landing on the injury report after experiencing knee swelling, expect a heavy dose of Spencer Ware. Even if Charles were healthy, Ware would have carried a heavy load. With the setback, expect the Chiefs to be cautious with Charles. Ware has the power, size, speed and agility to continue to be the workhorse. Ware ranks fourth in scrimmage yards per game this season (129.2) -- for reference, the most scrimmage yards Charles earned per game in one season was 132.0 in 2013. The Saints' sad defense is last in scoring and 31st in total yards per game. Watch Ware as a receiver out of the backfield and expect tight end Travis Kelce to have a big day as Saints linebackers aren't particularly good covering in space.
Despite being a game-time decision, it's looking like LeSean McCoy is closer to the doubtful side of questionable. Even if he's able to go, we don't expect the shifty Shady that launched the Bills' four-game win streak. The drop-off to backup running back Mike Gillislee is sizable, putting more weight on Tyrod Taylor's arm and legs. The Bills boast one of the best interior offensive lines to aid the ground-and-pound effort -- including ex-Dolphin Richie Incognito (#RevengeGame) -- against a woeful Miami run defense (31st ranked). Facing a Dolphins secondary that lost its best player, safety Reshad Jones, should open up opportunities for Justin Hunter and tight end Charles Clay down the field. Taylor has thrown for just 179.3 yards per game (second fewest in NFL).
Ryan Tannehill wasn't sacked last week. Against Rex Ryan's swarming rush, spurred by the NFL's sack leader Lorenzo Alexander (8.0) and Jerry Hughes, we'll see if last game was the start of better blocking with a healthy unit or an aberration. Jay Ajayi's out-of-nowhere rushing attack certainly aided Tannehill's sackless endeavor. Ajayi displayed power, solid cutting ability and drive to finish off runs. He's earned a longer leash this week, which should keep Arian Foster as the pass-catching option for another game. The Dolphins' offense finally clicked last week against an injured Steelers group. Doing it against Buffalo would show that Adam Gase finally found a working gas pedal.
Say what? Stat of the week: The Bills are only one sack shy of their entire sack total from 2015: 20 sacks in 2016 (6 games), 21 sacks in 2015.
Oh, where have you gone deep-ball Joe? The Ravens have the most pass attempts in the NFL (265), but rank last in yards per pass attempt (6.0). Flacco has been off target on his deep passes and sat out of two practices this week with a shoulder injury (listed as questionable). He's on pace to play Sunday, but will he be limited? Facing a porous Jets secondary would be a great chance to correct the problems on deep patterns. Not having Steve Smith Sr. (ankle; doubtful) continues to hurt the Ravens' passing attack.
Is it bad that it might be worse for Geno Smith to get his first start of the season at home? How sad is that? Smith has been a rollercoaster throughout his career, but gets a chance to show the praise he received last offseason, pre-jaw punch, was warranted. Smith faces a Ravens defense that has given up 113.7 more passing yards in Weeks 4-6 (282) than Weeks 1-3 (168.3). The Ravens do boast the No. 1 ranked run defense, so we don't expect much aid from Matt Forte on the ground. With Geno forced to throw often, we could be in for a huge day or a tragic affair. Jets fans knew a change had to be made from Ryan Fitzpatrick, but that doesn't mean they'll treat Smith nicely. The screams for Bryce Petty will begin with the first Geno interception.
Say what? Stat of the week:Brandon Marshall's 45.0 reception percent (27 receptions on 60 targets) ranks last among players with more than 30 targets this season.
Sam Bradford goes back to Philadelphia (#RevengeGame). The ex-Eagles starting quarterback is playing the best football of his career for Norv Turner. Bradford ranks first in the NFL in completion percentage at 70.4, tied for first in TD-INT ratio at 6-0 (that's right, zero interceptions), and second in passer rating at 109.7. It's not just the stats that are eye-popping. Bradford is fitting throws in tight spaces while standing in the pocket and taking hits. He's been fearless behind a porous offensive line. And he's done it all without a reliable running game. With Stefon Diggs (groin; questionable) on pace to return against the Eagles, Bradford is in for another big day -- if someone can block Fletcher Cox.
It's not as if the Eagles watch Bradford's inspired play and get misty eyed. One of the few win-win-win trades in recent memory (that third win is for us, the viewers) unleashed Carson Wentz. The rookie struggled last week, but continues to make impressive plays (like the back-to-back deep shots down the middle last week to keep the Eagles within striking distance). The issue for Wentz is his disintegrating offensive line. Rookie right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (a.k.a. Big V) was a liability in his first start. Facing a dominant Vikings defensive line could prove a nightmare for Big V and the rest of the offensive line. The disparity in the blocking versus the rush talent is game-changing in the Vikings' favor and could be devastating for Wentz.
Say what? Stat of the week: The Vikings allow the lowest completion percentage (55.5) and passer rating (65.3). Wentz has 70-plus completion percentage in two of his last three games and ranks eighth in passer rating at 99.9 (min. 4 starts).
Andrew Luck could be under siege Sunday from an underrated Titans pass rush. Tennessee has racked up six sacks in each of the past two games. Brian Orakpo has 1-plus in five straight games; Jurrell Casey has three sacks in the past two. The Colts have allowed 23 sacks this season, most in the NFL. Luck has been the Colts' best player this season, but he's struggled some on the road -- 60.5 percent completion percentage, 227.7 pass YPG, 4-3 TD-INT, and 78.2 passer rating. While under pressure Sunday, Luck will need to make tough throws downfield to T.Y. Hilton to move the Colts' offense. The quarterback has never lost to Tennessee in his career.
DeMarco Murray's rejuvenation should continue against a Colts defense that gives up an average of 117.7 rushing yards per game. Murray ranks 4th in the NFL with 526 rushing yards and 138 offensive touches. His 5.1 scrimmage yards per touch are just slightly down from his 2014 pace of 5.3 through six games. The Titans are intent on riding Murray, especially in the second half of games, where Derrick Henry's snaps have dwindled. That plan should work just fine Sunday against Indy's hapless D.
It's amazing that even as teammate injuries pile up, Rivers keeps producing. His latest project has been rookie tight end Hunter Henry. Since Week 3, Henry has 18 receptions, 290 yards, 3 TD -- third in receiving yards, T-1st in receiving TDs among TEs in that span. The rookie has become Rivers' go-to target in the red zone. Against an injured Falcons linebacker unit, Henry and Antonio Gates should thrive Sunday in Atlanta.
Ryan is on pace for career bests in passing YPG (345.8), passing TDs (on pace for 40) and passer rating (117.9) this season. With the Chargers boasting the No. 5 ranked rush defense, expect Kyle Shanahan to employ a pass-heavy game plan for his MVP-candidate quarterback. Julio Jones leads the NFL in receiving yards (656), but perhaps Ryan's best attribute is a continued willingness to spread the ball around to Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, Justin Hardy, tight ends Jacob Tamme, Austin Hooper, and Levine Toilolo, or his backs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman. The Chargers' defense has played exceptionally well since Joey Bosa got in the lineup. But covering all the talent on the Falcons is a scary prospect.
Jacquizz Rodgers earned career highs in carries (30) and rush yards (101) in Week 5. With Doug Martin out again, Rodgers gets the starting nod in a dream matchup against a 49ers defense that has been pathetic since NaVorro Bowman got hurt. The Niners have allowed a 100-plus yard rusher in five straight games and give up 174.3 rushing yards per game this season. Rodgers isn't anyone's idea of a workhorse back, but with Dirk Koetter insisting on taking pressure off Jameis Winston, we expect Rodgers to get a lot of touches again.
Colin Kaepernick wasn't much better than Blaine Gabbert in his first start. One positive: At least he was willing to look for Torrey Smith down the field -- even when he missed. Smith presents one of the few matchup problems for defenses. Against a Bucs secondary that is susceptible to the big play, Kap needs to give Smith more than a few chances to make plays. With Carlos Hyde out, Mike Davis is in line to draw the early-down carries.
Tom Brady's passer rating of 135.5 after two games of 2016 is the highest of his career after his first two games of any season. Against an injured Steelers defense, he could put up more gaudy numbers. Pittsburgh missed Cameron Heyward last week and got no pass rush. Sans the defensive force again, the Steelers need manufacture pressure to move Brady off his spot, or he'll cut them apart. Getting Ryan Shazier back should be a boost against LeGarrette Blount's (#RevengeGame) ground attack and in coverage versus Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. Gronk has particularly been unguardable since Brady's return. He needs 143 receiving yards for the most by any tight end in a three-game span since 1970. The Steelers have not surrendered 85-plus yards in a game to a TE this season.
With Ben Roethlisberger out, expect a heavy dose of Le'Veon Bell. Bell has 100-plus scrimmage yards in all three games this season. He'll need even more to give the Steelers a chance with Landry Jones under center. DeAngelo Williams being out due to a knee injury also hurts at a time Pittsburgh wants to lean on the ground game. Quick, easy passes to Antonio Brown will supplement the rushing attack, but Jones lacks the field-stretching ability of Big Ben. With Pittsburgh relying on Bell, one player to watch for New England is rookie Elandon Roberts. The linebacker flashes on film and can stuff the run despite being small for an inside backer.
Russell Wilson's impressive play continues post-injury scare. The Wizard of Seattle has gone 158 straight attempts without an interception, the second-longest stretch of his career. Wilson has spread the ball around, but particularly has taken advantage of mismatches with Jimmy Graham. In his last three contests, the tight end is averaging six receptions per game and 101 receiving YPG. The Cardinals do a good job of covering tight ends, allowing a meager 132 yards total to TEs this season. If Wilson moves away from Graham, one matchup to watch is Doug Baldwin versus Tyrann Mathieu. Baldwin takes the majority of his snaps from the slot, where Mathieu is now covering. The Honey Badger struggled two weeks ago when first moving back to slot corner from free safety. Can Baldwin take advantage after a down game last week?
David Johnson vaulted himself into the lead of the 'best running back in the NFL' discussion. The sharp cuts of the powerful back are a wonder. His soft hands make him a dangerous weapon in the passing attack. Johnson has 100-plus scrimmage yards in all six games this season -- the only player to do so in all of his team's games this season. The Seahawks specialize in stuffing the run. Missing Kam Chancellor (doubtful) is a blow, but getting Michael Bennett on the field after last week's injury is a big boost. If Johnson can't plow over, through, and around the first wave of defenders, the 2016 version of the Cardinals' offense will be in trouble Sunday night.
Say what? Stat of the week:Patrick Peterson is allowing an opposing passer rating of 48.2 this season -- 1 TD allowed, 2 INT. In eight career games versus Russell Wilson: Allowed 48.4 completion percent, 2 TD, 1 INT, 78.0 passer rating when targeted in coverage.
The ULTIMATE revenge game (#RevengeGame).
Brock Osweiler returns to Denver. Many Broncos players thought Osweiler would be their quarterback this season. Instead, the signal-caller is struggling in Houston. Brock ranks 29th in yards per attempt (5.2), passer rating (74.1) and interceptions (8), and is 26th in passing yards per game (233.7). Last week, the Texans' $72 million-man had problems against a weak Indianapolis defense. This week he gets the Denver's "No Fly Zone," ranked No. 1 against the pass. No one expects Osweiler to light up his former team. Perhaps with expectations so low entering Monday night, it's the perfect time for Brock to unleash his pent-up fury and take it to his former teammates. Or not.
Gary Kubiak's absence last week went understated. The Broncos' offense looked discombobulated without the play-caller. Now that he's returned, expect more fluidity in Denver's offense. Also, expect a bigger emphasis on the ground game. Kubiak stated this week he wants more totes for rookie Devontae Booker. The Texans give up an average of 126.3 rushing yards per game on the ground (fourth worst) -- the unit gave up the first 100-yard rushing game since 2012 to the Colts last week. The combination of Booker and C.J. Anderson should have plenty of room to scamper Monday night.
Say what? Stat of the week:Von Miller has gone eight straight games with at least half a sack, including playoffs, the longest active streak in NFL. I'm sure he'd like to extend that streak by planting his former teammate.