Around the NFL  


Sunday Primer: Week 7


Everything you need to know as kickoff approaches:

Key game-time decisions

Breer: Inside the NFL Notebook
Will Greg Schiano's woes deter NFL teams from giving it the old college try? Albert Breer studies that question and much more. READ

Jake Locker, QB (hip, knee) Tennessee Titans

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that, barring any setback, Locker will start Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, according to a source. Locker has missed the past two weeks with a hip injury

Rob Gronkowski, TE (back, forearm) New England Patriots

Gronkowski is slated to play, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday morning on NFL Network's "NFL GameDay First." 

Cecil Shorts, WR (shoulder) Jacksonville Jaguars

Shorts has been fighting through a clavicle injury, but he told reporters Friday he plans to play Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. Shorts is counting on adrenaline to carry the day.

Martellus Bennett, TE (knee); Charles Tillman, CB (knee) Chicago Bears

Bennett practiced in a limited fashion Thursday and Friday. Bears coach Marc Trestman said Wednesday that Tillman is expected to play against the Washington Redskins after sitting out Week 6. Both players are listed as questionable.

Harrison: Week 7 Game Picks
Can Peyton Manning beat his former squad? Which NFC East team will end the week in first? Elliot Harrison has the answers. READ

Joique Bell, RB (rib) Detroit Lions

Bell told reporters Friday he is in "a lot" of pain as he continues to deal with a rib injury. He was limited in practice all week but likely will give it a shot against the Cincinnati Bengals.

James Jones, WR (knee) Green Bay Packers

Jones sat out practice all week with a PCL sprain. He is listed as questionable but likely won't suit up against the Cleveland Browns.

DeMarcus Ware, DE (thigh) Dallas Cowboys

Ware (quad) labeled himself a game-time decision Sunday, but the defensive end remains a longshot to play Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. He did travel with the Cowboys on Saturday, which keeps him in the running for Week 7. Ware has never missed a game in his NFL career.

Thousands shared stories telling us why they love football in a contest to win a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII. We chose 10 finalists. Now you choose the winners.

Michael Vick, QB (hamstring) Philadelphia Eagles

Vick is listed as questionable on the Eagles' injury report, but don't expect to see him on the field this weekend. He declared himself out on Thursday.

Jarvis Jones, LB (concussion) Pittsburgh Steelers

Jones didn't report concussion symptoms to team doctors until Monday, which meant he couldn't be officially diagnosed until Wednesday. That delay likely will keep him off the field Sunday.

Mike Williams, WR (hamstring) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Williams practiced for the third consecutive day Friday. Barring a setback, expect him back on the field Sunday after a one-week absence.

Weather Tracking

Just three outdoor games have rain in the forecast:

Bills at Dolphins -- 88 degrees / chance of rain

Chargers at Jaguars -- 79 degrees / chance of rain

Browns at Packers -- 49 degrees / rain

And you thought watching Brandon Weeden throw in optimal conditions was fun!

Three players to watch

Nick Foles, QB Philadelphia Eagles

For the season, Foles has a higher completion percentage, more touchdown passes and a higher passer rating than Vick. He also has been good at keeping DeSean Jackson and the deep threat alive with the highest completion percentage (68.8) among all quarterbacks on passes of 11 yards of more this season. If Foles gets protection against a dinged-up Cowboys front he should be able to hit some big plays.

Eddie Lacy, RB Green Bay Packers

The rookie running back has given the Packers' ground game a punch it hasn't seen since Ryan Grant was touting the rock. How he performs against a top-10 rush defense will tell us a lot about the young back.

Andrew Luck, QB Indianapolis Colts

Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has insisted upon a power running game, much to the frustration of many fans and commentators. Hamilton will need to unleash Andrew Luck to take advantage of a weak Broncos secondary and keep up with Peyton Manning's offense. With the all the hoopla over this game, it could be Luck's chance to squelch the loud minority who believe the Colts should have stuck with Manning.

Did you know?

If you feel like teams are going it for on fourth down instead of attempting field goals more this season, you aren't wrong. The chasing points phenomenon early in games also has been significantly less successful through six weeks than in 2012.

In 2013, teams have attempted 28 plays on fourth down between the goal line and 33-yard line (a 50-yard field goal) in the first three quarters. They have failed 17 times for a 39.3 percent conversion rate.

Last season, through six weeks, there were 16 such plays total, just two of which failed -- 87.5 percent success rate.

That success rate fell to 60 percent for the entire 2012 season (80 attempts).

I'm not suggesting going for it on fourth down is the wrong decision, but the considerably higher failure rate this year is an interesting stat early in the season.

Sunday's storylines

The latest Around The League podcast previewed every game this week. Click here to listen. Below are a few other thoughts I have on the games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-5) at Atlanta Falcons (1-4)

Matt Ryan had the bye week to figure out how life will be without Julio Jones and Roddy White. How Ryan distributes the ball without his most dynamic targets will be intriguing to watch.

The Buccaneers' secondary was shredded by Nick Foles last week. How it plays against Atlanta will go a long way toward determining if Greg Schiano's team can get its first win.

Chicago Bears (4-2) at Washington Redskins (1-4)

The Bears' defensive front has been decimated by injuries. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is leaning on rookie linebacker Jon Bostic to step up to stop Alfred Morris and the Redskins' zone-rushing attack.

The Redskins' secondary has been torched early this season. Facing one of the NFL's biggest wide receiver tandems in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery will be one of its toughest challenges thus far.

Dallas Cowboys (3-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)

The Cowboys have struggled to run the ball without DeMarco Murray. Expect Tony Romo to run no-huddle and liberally sling the pigskin this week.

LeSean McCoy is facing a Cowboys defensive front hampered by injury. The Eagles running back should find plenty of space to roam.

New England Patriots (5-1) at New York Jets (3-3)

The Jets' running attack should match up well against a Patriots front that has been without several of its key run-stuffers (something its previous opponents couldn't take advantage of).

The Patriots have leaned on a multifaceted rushing attack that has performed well in recent weeks. It will face one of the stoutest fronts in the NFL this week. If the Pats can't find traction on the ground, look for Tom Brady to prolifically put the ball up this week.

Buffalo Bills (2-4) at Miami Dolphins (3-2)

The matchup between the Dolphins' shaky offensive line and the Bills' strong pass rush will be key to this game. If Miami can't give Ryan Tannehill time to throw it will be a long day for the home team.

On the flip side, Bills quarterback Thad Lewis played well in a loss last week. He'll have to put on a similar performance against a Dolphins defense with a good pass rush. The Dolphins, however, have given up the sixth-most passing yards per game this season.

San Diego Chargers (3-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6)

The Chargers' offense has found an ability to lead numerous long scoring drives. Philip Rivers should again be able to conduct his orchestra masterfully against a weak Jaguars secondary.

The Jags showed signs of gusto in last week's loss to the Broncos. Justin Blackmon completely has changed the dynamic of Jacksonville's offense and should have another great game against a susceptible defensive back group.

St. Louis Rams (3-3) at Carolina Panthers (2-3)

Rams running back Zac Stacy has taken some of the pressure off Sam Bradford the last two weeks. Against a stingy Panthers front, the pressure will be back on Bradford to make plays.

Cam Newton arguably had the best game of his career last week against the Vikings. He could duplicate that performance this week against a Rams defense that ranks No. 31 against the run. The Panthers' ability to run the ball should open up the passing game for Newton.

Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) at Detroit Lions (4-2)

If Andy Dalton can avoid the Lions' pass rush, he should be able to connect on several big plays to A.J. Green that could change the complexion of the game.

I'd argue that Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford played the best game, start to finish, of his pro career last week. He'll need to maneuver in the pocket as well as he did last week to avoid the Geno Atkins-led pass rush.

San Francisco 49ers (4-2) at Tennessee Titans (3-3)

The 49ers' offense has featured big plays to Vernon Davis and a grinding running game. There is no reason to expect that trend to change, even against a good Titans defensive front.

The Titans' running game continues to struggle to create holes. Chris Johnson needs to break through against a 49ers front that has been hindered by injuries on the defensive line.

Houston Texans (2-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-0)

Congratulations, Case Keenum, your first start comes against arguably the NFL's best defense. Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips compared Keenum's ascension to Tony Romo. The Texans QB will need to find some of that Romo-like slipperiness in the pocket to remain upright.

Baltimore Ravens (3-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4)

The Ravens have a chance to bury the Steelers' AFC North hopes. They'll need to protect Joe Flacco better in order to convert that chance

Pittsburgh rookie running back Le'Veon Bell needs to be better than the 34-yard performance he turned in last week. If Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs can tee off on Ben Roethlisberger, it will be a long day for a bad Steelers offensive line.

Cleveland Browns (3-3) at Green Bay Packers (3-2)

The Weeden horror show has hidden the fact that the Browns can't effectively run the ball -- before or after the Trent Richardson trade. That has allowed defenses to blindly rush the quarterback, which will be the case again this weekend against Green Bay.

With Aaron Rodgers' wide receiving corps dealing with a multitude of injuries, look for Jermichael Finley to play a big role in the Packers' offense. It seems like we say this weekly, but it will be especially important with Browns cornerbacks Joe Haden and the improved play of Buster Skrine locking down the outside. Finley could exploit a Browns defense torched by a lesser-known tight end last week.

Peyton's Pace
Peyton Manning is on pace for the greatest quarterbacking season in NFL history. Track Peyton's pace and relive every memorable highlight here. More...

Denver Broncos (6-0) at Indianapolis Colts (4-2)

Forget Peyton Manning returning to Indianapolis. The bigger return is Von Miller's to the playing field. Miller's ability to get the quarterback should help out the league's worst pass defense.

The Colts' young defense has been up and down this season. After struggling last week, a bounce-back game against the highly potent Broncos offense could give the spry group the confidence it needs to even out those unbalanced performances.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" previewed every Week 7 game.


Fan Discussion