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Sunday Primer: Week 15

Everything you need to know as kickoff approaches...

Key game-time decisions


All players questionable unless noted

Adrian Peterson (groin, foot) RB; Toby Gerhart (hamstring) RB, Minnesota Vikings

Peterson and Gerhart are both expected to miss Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday. Peterson is expected to lobby to play prior to the game (we would expect nothing less), but teammates were told Saturday night that the star running back is likely out. Based on the depth chart, Matt Asiata would get the start in his stead and Joe Banyard, signed from the practice squad Saturday, would be the backup.

Carson Palmer (right elbow) QB; Michael Floyd (ankle) WR, Arizona Cardinals

Palmer is expected to play, as he did last week. Floyd missed Wednesday's practice but returned to limited action Thursday and Friday. 

Kiko Alonso (knee) LB, Buffalo Bills

Kiko Alonso asked coaches to label him as questionable to give Jacksonville fans hope they will gain one yard Sunday. #LegendofKiko. All joking aside, Alonso was limited all week.

Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring) RB; Cecil Shorts (groin) WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Shorts and MJD are expected to be out for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills, a Jaguars source told Rapoport.

DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) WR; Garrett Graham (hamstring) TE, Houston Texans

Hopkins was limited all week. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source informed of the injury, that the Texans expect Graham to miss Sunday's game. 

LaVon Brazill (foot) WR, Indianapolis Colts

The Colts signed Griff Whalen to the active roster, indicating Brazill is closer to doubtful than questionable.

Denarius Moore (shoulder) WR, Oakland Raiders

Moore was limited all week.

Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) WR; Aaron Dobson (foot) WR, New England Patriots

Thompkins and Dobson were both downgraded to out.

Tavon Austin (ankle) WR, St. Louis Rams

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Austin missed all week and was seen in a walking boot Friday. He is expected to miss Sunday's game, Rapoport reported. 

Antonio Cromartie (hip, concussion) CB, New York Jets

Cromartie returned to practice Thursday and Friday, albeit in a limited capacity. He will need to pass the concussion protocol prior to the game.

Mario Manningham (knee) WR, San Francisco 49ers

Manningham was limited all week.

Jordan Reed (concussion) TE, Washington Redskins

The Washington Redskins have downgraded tight end Jordan Reed (concussion) to out for Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons. Reed did not travel with the team on Saturday.

Tony Gonzalez (toe) TE; Roddy White (knee) WR, Atlanta Falcons

We don't expect either Falcon to miss the game, and Rapoport reported Sunday that White is expected to be a go against the Redskins.

Three QBs to Watch


We've reached the point of the season where most players have shown their true colors. This week we'll focus on three players who need banner games with playoff positioning on the line.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

Dalton snapped out of his funk last week, but will need a similar effort as the Bengals sit on the cusp of locking up the AFC North. The Bengals signal-caller faces a withering Pittsburgh Steelers defense. We need to see a killer instinct Dalton hasn't proven capable of conjuring during his NFL career.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

The Romo in December storyline is overplayed. Tony Football can shut up some critics by picking apart a low-grade Green Bay Packers secondary. Of course, if the Cowboys lose, we won't be able to -- as Peyton Manning would say -- shove that storyline where the sun don't shine.

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins have a chance to make a playoff push against a Patriots defense that is faltering thanks to a plethora of injuries. Tannehill played well last week in the snow, guiding Miami on key drives. However, on average he's been up and down the entire season. The second-year quarterback needs an up performance to keep the Dolphins swimming toward a playoff spot.

Weather Tracking


More snow this week, but we also could get some rain in our three Florida games.

Bears at Browns -- 26 degrees / Chance of snow. Winds at 17 mph.
Bills at Jaguars -- 65 degrees / Chance of rain. Winds at 12 mph.
Patriots at Dolphins -- 81 degrees / Chance of rain.
Seahawks at Giants -- 38 degrees / Winds at 14 mph.
49ers at Buccaneers -- 74 degrees / Rain showers.
Bengals at Steelers -- 21 degrees / Chance of snow. Winds at 13 mph.

Did you know?


» Nick Foles has three of the top six highest passer ratings to individual receivers in the league. The Foles-DeSean Jackson combo leads the way with NFL's highest passer rating (151.8); Foles to Riley Cooper is the fifth-highest passer rating duo (145.5); and Foles to Brent Celek is the NFL’s sixth highest (139.1) -- second-best among tight ends.

» 2013 marks the second season in franchise history the Bears have had one 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers in running back Matt Forte and the wide receiver duo of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. The original Chicago trio? running back Rashaan Salaam and wide receivers Jeff Graham and Curtis Conway in 1995.

» In what seems to be a statistical oddity, Chris Johnson has rushed for 177 yards in the fourth quarter in six games on the road, but has only six rushing yards in the fourth quarter in six games at home.

Sunday's storylines


Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons

Kirk Cousins will get the most attention, but expect his attempts to be lessened as the Falcons boast the third-worst run defense in the league. Cousins is at quarterback, but this is Alfred Morris' game to shine.

Matt Ryan couldn't get his offense moving in the cold of Green Bay last week. He should have a better time at home against the 27th-ranked Redskins pass defense. These are two teams who've packed it in, but only one currently has a $100 million quarterback.

Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns

Quite possibly the most intriguing matchup of the day. Josh Gordon and Alshon Jeffery -- undoubtedly two of the best young receivers in the NFL -- will be featured. The dynamic has the potential for producing big plays in droves. The Browns boast the best corner on the field in Joe Haden, who will see time on Jeffery or help shut down Brandon Marshall -- allowing extra coverage to roll toward Alshon.

The Jay Cutler saga will be the biggest determiner of playoff potential for the Bears. If he struggles early, it will be interesting to see how Marc Trestman reacts. Will the coach unreel the fishing line into the fourth quarter or give him the quick hook with a potential playoff berth on the line?

Houston Texans at Indianpolis Colts

If Andrew Luck is going to keep his streak of never losing back-to-back games alive he'll need young receiver Da'Rick Rogers to perform at the same level he did last week. As Chris Wesseling said on Friday's "Around The League Podcast," Rogers has the potential to help loosen up coverage on T.Y. Hilton.

The Texans' contingent is playing and coaching for jobs. Houston's defensive line holds a huge advantage over the Colts. If they can get Luck to the ground often -- a seemingly Herculean task -- the Texans have a chance to end their losing streak and build hope for 2014.

Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars

Jordan Todman will get the ball with Maurice Jones-Drew still ailing. The Jags' winning streak, however, is likely to fall on the arm of Chad Henne. The veteran quarterback often looks like a baseball relief pitcher: He can give you two solid innings, but asking more than that is fiddling with fate. Henne will need to cut out the long stretches of stench-play, especially if Cecil Shorts is out.

The pass rush is the biggest advantage for Buffalo. However, with the season lost, this is another measuring-stick game for EJ Manuel. Coach Doug Marrone sounded despondent about Manuel's growth after last week's performance. Here is hoping the first-year coach is in a happier mood after Sunday.

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins

Did you know that Week 14 at Pittsburgh was the first game this season that the Dolphins scored 28-plus points? Ryan Tannehill and associates will face a ravaged, ruined, wrecked, demolished, devastated, devoured Patriots defense and could make it back-to-back weeks over the 28-point line after being the last team to reach the plateau.

For the Patriots, Tom Brady will face two of the league's top five cornerbacks against the pass. Brent Grimes (second) is allowing just a 63.0 passer rating when targeted and Nolan Carroll (4th) just 64.2. And he'll face them sans Rob Gronkowski this time.

Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings

The Eagles possess the ball, on average, for 26:04 a game, lowest in the league. Chip Kelly's offense has lived on the big plays and disappeared for long stretches in games. Nick Foles should have his way with a Vikings defense mediocre in all phases.

At this point -- aside from keeping track of the alien known as Adrian Peterson -- the most entertaining aspect of the Vikings team is Cordarrelle Patterson. The rookie is a big play waiting to happen every time he touches the ball. The football world should all be hoping the Vikings' coaching staff gives the receiver an overabundance of opportunities for the duration of the season.

Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants

Remember back when Russell Wilson was running for his life? He's not so much anymore. The Seahawks signal-caller has been sacked one or fewer times in four of the last five games -- the fifth game was last week in San Francisco when he was nabbed just twice. Meanwhile, the Giants' defense has four-plus sacks in four of their last six games. Something has to give.

This could be the game where Eli Manning snags back the interception lead from that pesky rookie Geno Smith. Cold with pregame precipitation potential does not bode well for Eli against a Seahawks defense coming off a loss.

San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers


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Get ready for a run-heavy game as the 49ers and Bucs are the two teams with the fewest passing yards per game in the NFL. The 49ers rank last in the league at 178.3 passing yards per game, while the Bucs are right behind them at 180.8 passing yards per game. Given the defenses we should see a lot of Frank Gore and Bobby Rainey.

Mike Glennon needs to break out of the funk he's been in the last couple weeks.

New York Jets at Carolina Panthers

This would have looked like a bad matchup for the Panthers' ground-heavy game plan five weeks ago. Since then the Jets have steadily given up more yards on the ground per week, culminating in last week's 150-burger.

The best hope for Geno Smith? Attack a secondary that Santonio Holmes aptly defined as the "weakest link" on Carolina's D.

Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders

The Raiders' mediocrity has permeated every phase of the team. Even Sebastian Janikowski is susceptible to the disease. The kicker is 18 for 26 on field-goal attempts this season. His FG percentage of 69.2 is his worst figure since 2005 and the lowest percentage in the NFL this season. This likely will have nothing to do with the matchup, but it's fun to talk kickers sometimes, no?

The Chiefs can clinch a playoff spot with a win. More importantly they need to use this game to tune up their slumping defense. They sacked Terrelle Pryor nine times in the last meeting. We'll see what they can do with Matt McGloin.

Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys

Matt Flynn has given Packers fans no hope that he can keep their playoff chances afloat, but at least he will face a defense that has been torched time and time again this season. Expect Jordy Nelson to be open a lot. Whether Flynn can get him the ball is a different question.

The Packers' defense has been a disappointment most of the season. Last week it made Steven Jackson look spry. DeMarco Murray could pick up chunks of yardage Sunday -- that assumes the Cowboys keep him in the game plan.

New Orleans Saints at St. Louis Rams

The Rams have lost their punch lately. They'll need to get it back to challenge the Saints on the turf. Chris Long and Robert Quinn must be in Drew Brees' face or this track meet could get lopsided.

For the Saints it seems simple, with Kellen Clemens' hand being held by play calling they must shut down Zac Stacy and force the quarterback to beat them -- which history tells us he can't.

Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans

Carson Palmer is clearly excelling in Bruce Arians' offense. Over the past six weeks, his completion percentage jumped to 69.3, his yards per game up to 286.2, his touchdown-to-interception ratio is 12:4 and the Cards are 5-1. He'll have to do it against a good secondary this week.

Chris Johnson has 217 rushes for 820 yards this season and is on pace for his sixth straight season with 1,000-plus rushing yards. The Cardinals' defense, on the other hand, is allowing 84.5 rush yards per game, which is the best in franchise history.

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers haven't been able to tackle in recent weeks, which has sent their defense tumbling down the rankings and out of playoff possibility. Facing slick offensive playmakers like A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard might make an aging defense look older.

Ben Roethlisberger has been very solid even in the Steelers' recent losses. He hasn't thrown an interception in four games and the offense has been able to move the ball. Big Ben will need another outsized performance in prime time if the Steelers are to break the Bengals' two-game head-to-head winning streak.

We previewed every Week 15 game in the latest "Around The League Podcast."

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