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Sunday Primer: Week 8

Everything you need to know as we approach kickoff...

Key game-time decisions


All players questionable unless noted

Jimmy Graham, TE (foot) New Orleans Saints

It was assumed that coming off a bye week Graham would be fine. However, he didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday and was limited Friday. His status is one we need to keep a close eye on.

Dwayne Bowe, WR (groin) Kansas City Chiefs

Bowe's status declined all week. After practicing Wednesday he was limited on Thursday and did not participate Friday. That is not a good trend line, but CBS Sports is reporting that Bowe will play Sunday. 

DeMarco Murray, RB (knee); Miles Austin, WR (hamstring) Dallas Cowboys

Both players were limited this week, but it sounds like they should be able to go against the Detroit Lions.

C.J. Spiller, RB (ankle -- doubtful) Buffalo Bills

As much as Spiller wants to play, even he can admit that at some point the rest will do more good than playing.

Danny Amendola, WR (concussion, groin); Julian Edelman, WR (thigh); Aqib Talib, CB (hip) New England Patriots

Amendola said Friday he was "ready to go" after passing concussion protocols. NFL Media's Albert Breer reported Saturday, per a source, that Amendola has been cleared and will play. Talib is unlikely to play, according to Breer.

Cameron Jordan, DE (ankle) New Orleans saints

The Saints' dynamic pass rusher was limited Thursday and Friday.

James Jones, WR (knee -- doubtful); Nick Perry, LB (foot) Green Bay Packers

Jones is doubtful, so we don't expect to see him Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings. Perry, on the other hand, is shockingly questionable just two weeks after reportedly breaking his foot.

DeMarcus Ware, DE (thigh -- doubtful) Dallas Cowboys

I add Ware here, not because I believe he will play, but rather because -- given his personality and determination to get on the field at all costs -- I'm afraid of what he might do to me if I define him as out.

Weather Tracking


Only one game appears to have any weather implications Sunday. It shouldn't shock you that it's the game being played in London.

49ers at Jaguars (Wembley Stadium) -- 58 degrees / chance of rain


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.

According to reports, there is supposed to be heavy storms with winds of 70 mph blowing in Sunday night. While it's not supposed to arrive during the game, there always is a chance it starts to blow in early.

Three players to watch

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

Stafford has played the best back-to-back games of his career. He has been consistent and improved his pocket presence. More importantly, he has spread the ball around better than ever. He'll need to have a big game to keep up with Tony Romo and the Cowboys' offense. If Calvin Johnson gets minimized by Brandon Carr, Stafford will have to show the same faith in other receivers that he has the past two weeks.

Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati Bengals

Arguably the game's best defensive tackle, Atkins will loom large against the New York Jets. His ability to stuff the run always is notable, but his pressure up the middle could cause real havoc against Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith. If there is a lot of Geno-on-Geno crime, the Bengals should come out on top.

Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

A small percentage of the football fanatic population probably has watched the quarterback of the only undefeated NFL team, so I find it important to point him out. Also, he matches up against a Browns defense that could keep the game close enough that it will come down to one of those long, late-game drives Smith has conducted several times this season.

Did you know?


Through seven weeks, quarterbacks have combined for a league-wide passer rating of 87.1, and a completion percentage of 61.6. If those numbers stay true, both would be the highest in any season in NFL history. Previous records: 85.6 passer rating (2012) and 61.2 completion percentage (2007).

Sunday's storylines


Dallas Cowboys (4-3) at Detroit Lions (4-3)


Brandon Carr has played superbly the past two weeks, and he'll have to bring his game up a step this week against Calvin Johnson. Carr mitigating Megatron will play a key role in the Cowboys' success or failure on the road.

After a stellar start to the season, Lions linebackers Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy struggled to keep pace against the Bengals' weapons last week. Detroit will need the duo to play big against Jason Witten and the rest of the Cowboys' receiving targets.

San Francisco 49ers (5-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-7)


It will be fun to see what the spry Jags receivers can do against a tough 49ers defense. This could be one of those measuring-stick games for the trio of Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts and Mike Brown.

Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick got free on the ground a bit more last week, we'll see -- especially if rain becomes a factor -- if he continues to be the threat with his feet he was late last year. The Brits deserve the most exciting Kap we can provide.

Cleveland Browns (3-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-0)


The Chiefs lead the league with 35 sacks, a whopping 10 more than second place (Ravens). What is the over/under on how many times they drop Jason Campbell, 6.5?

Speaking of Campbell, the last time we saw him start a game he was getting pummeled by the 49ers and throwing lawn darts. The Browns will need more from him than they've gotten from Brandon Weeden the last few weeks

Miami Dolphins (3-3) at New England Patriots (5-2)


New England Patriots QB Tom Brady is listed as probable for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins.
New England Patriots QB Tom Brady is listed as probable for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins. (New England Patriots / Facebook/)

Ryan Tannehill, who has a touchdown pass in every game this season, did not throw a touchdown in either game against Bill Belichick's defense last season. He'll need to change that stat if the Dolphins want to win on the road and stick their nose back in the AFC East race.

Tom Brady was spotted Saturday with tape on the middle and ring fingers of his throwing hand (see picture to the right). He is listed as probable on the Pats' scouting report with a shoulder injury -- with no mention of a hand injury. It's likely not a big deal, but worth keeping an eye on if they are taped Sunday, given how that could affect his throwing.

Buffalo Bills (3-3) at New Orleans Saints (5-1)


Sans C.J. Spiller, the ageless Fred Jackson should carry the load on the ground for the Bills. Thad Lewis will need that run game to help keep the Saints' mean pass rush off his back.

The Saints had a bye week to seethe about a failed opportunity in Foxborough. No one likes to run up against an angry team, especially with an assassin like Drew Brees at the helm. Expect the Saints to come out gunning, with or without Jimmy Graham.

New York Giants (1-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)


I picture Giants fans screaming "1-6!" after getting off the schnide last week, with the same gusto they still randomly scream "18-1!" If there is one thing to cure Eli Manning's ills it is getting the Vikings and Eagles' defenses in consecutive weeks.

No, Jason Pierre-Paul hasn't been himself, but he still can cause havoc against the Eagles' offensive line. JPP will be especially effective if Michael Vick isn't physically able to evade the pressure with his normal slipperiness. We all should expect a heavy dose of LeSean McCoy, for obvious reasons.

New York Jets (4-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-2)


Geno Smith is the first rookie QB since at least 1950 with four fourth-quarter/OT game-winning drives in his first seven games. We could be in for another ride on the Geno-coaster in the road game against a division leader.

A.J. Green versus Antonio Cromartie is the key matchup for both sides.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4) at Oakland Raiders (2-4)


The Terrelle Pryor Show returns after missing last week due to a league-mandated bye week. Pryor has become -- by FAR -- my favorite player to watch on a mediocre team. I'll stop grinning if the Steelers decapitate him on one of those loco, roll-out, stiff-arm, shimmy-shake runs he tries to pull off.

Ben Roethlisberger should find time against a nonexistent Raiders pass rush, allowing the QB to be able to pick apart a middling secondary.

Atlanta Falcons (2-4) at Arizona Cardinals (3-4)


Steven Jackson should be back for the Falcons. He will provide a boost to Matt Ryan, who again will be without Roddy White. I'd be amiss not to point out that missing White and Julio Jones didn't slow Ryan down last week. He's quietly been as consistent as ever this season.

With Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall (toe) doubtful, we might see Andre Ellington finally get the bulk of the workload in the backfield. Bruce Arians doesn't believe his most dynamic back is a bell cow, but maybe for just one game? Come on, Bruce, one game?

Washington Redskins (2-4) at Denver Broncos (6-1)


The Denver Broncos probably are sick of homecomings. This week it's Mike Shanahan's return to Mile High. Unfortunately for Shanny, Peyton Manning doesn't have any skin in this reunion. If Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan don't provide pressure, Manning will have a field day against Washington's secondary.

The Redskins are the first team since the 2002 Arizona Cardinals to allow a special teams touchdown in three consecutive games. Trindon Holliday could make it four and atone for last week.

Green Bay Packers (4-2) at Minnesota Vikings (1-5)


Jarrett Boykins had a big Week 7, and he'll need another performance with the Packers hurting badly at the receiving positions. Assuming James Jones can't play, Aaron Rodgers will be without receivers who have caught 51.7 percent of his passes this season.

How much more intrigue does this game have than it appeared two weeks ago? Will Vikings fans boo Christian Ponder? Will a feisty, nothing-to-lose Ponder be a better Ponder? Will he crumble or rise to the occasion, beating the rival Packers in an impeccable performance that forces Leslie Frazier to stick with him the remainder of the season? And we haven't even mentioned Greg Jennings facing the Packers! ... Al Michaels! Cris Collinsworth! It's "Sunday Night Football!"

We previewed every Week 8 game in the latest "Around The League Podcast."

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