Around the NFL  

 

Week 3 Cheat Sheet

Print

Everything you need to know as kickoff approaches...

Key game-time decisions

All players questionable unless noted

Buffalo Bills: WR Sammy Watkins (foot), TE Charles Clay (knee), CB Ronald Darby (hamstring), WR Greg Salas (groin)

Watkins hasn't practiced all week. He's a game-time decision. Clay was limited on Thursday and Friday. UPDATE: NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports that Watkins will not play.

Chicago Bears: WR Alshon Jeffery (knee), CB Kyle Fuller (knee), LB Willie Young (knee), CB Tracy Porter (knee)

Jeffery was limited all week. UPDATE: Jeffery is expected to play while Fuller is not, according to Rapoport.

New York Jets: WR Brandon Marshall (foot, knee), LB David Harris (shoulder), LB Erin Henderson (foot)

Marshall practiced on a limited basis on Friday. UPDATE: Marshall is a game-time decision, per Rapoport.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Andrew Luck (right shoulder), CB Vontae Davis (ankle), WR T.Y. Hilton (knee), C Ryan Kelly (shoulder)

Luck was full-go Friday. We're not worried about the QB in Week 3. Davis was also a full participant Friday and should make his first appearance of the season.

Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Chris Ivory (illness), CB Prince Amukamara (hamstring), S Tashaun Gipson (hamstring)

The Jags expect their power back to return. UPDATE: Amukamara is out, as is center Brandon Linder, per Rapoport.

Cleveland Browns: CB Joe Haden (groin)

Haden missed practice all week. If he can't play, an already good matchup for the Dolphins looks even better.

Miami Dolphins: WR DeVante Parker (hamstring)

Parker was limited all week but appears ready to play.

Detroit Lions: LB DeAndre Levy (quadricep) -- OUT; TE Eric Ebron (back), T Riley Reiff (ankle), DE Devin Taylor (ankle), LB Kyle Van Noy (calf), DT Tyrunn Walker (calf)

We'd be surprised if Ebron did not play. The Lions' defense is banged up with Ezekiel Ansah (ankle) and Levy declared out.

Green Bay Packers: LB Clay Matthews (ankle, hamstring), S Morgan Burnett (groin) -- OUT; DT Letroy Guion (knee), DE Datone Jones (knee) -- DOUBTFUL

Matthews and Burnett were downgraded to out on Saturday, joining Sam Shields on the sideline.

Minnesota Vikings: CB Xavier Rhodes (knee)

If Rhodes plays, it will upgrade an already stout Mike Zimmer D.

Carolina Panthers: DT Kawann Short (shoulder), G Trai Turner (ankle)

Kansas City Chiefs: RB Jamaal Charles (knee) -- DOUBTFUL

Charles will miss another game.

Tennessee Titans: TE Delanie Walker (hamstring), WR Kendall Wright (hamstring)

Walker did not practice on Friday. Wright was limited all week.

San Diego Chargers: TE Antonio Gates (hamstring) -- DOUBTFUL

Gates missed practice all week.

Seattle Seahawks: RB Thomas Rawls (shin), G Germain Ifedi (ankle) -- DOUBTFUL; WR Tyler Lockett (knee), RB C.J. Prosise (wrist)

Both Lockett and Prosise are on pace to play.

Washington Redskins: WR Josh Doctson (Achilles)

The rookie was again limited all week.

New York Giants: RB Rashad Jennings (thumb)

Jennings was limited all week. UPDATE: Jennings is not expected to play, per Rapoport.

Atlanta Falcons: WR Julio Jones (calf)

Jones told reporters Saturday that he expects to play Monday.

New Orleans Saints: DE Cameron Jordan (knee), LB Dannell Ellerbe (quad), TE Josh Hill (ankle), WR Willie Snead (toe), S Kenny Vaccaro (ankle)

Snead told reporters that is a game-time decision for Monday night.

Weather Tracking*

We could be in for rain in six of our 12 outdoor games this week. We will update Sunday prognostications for all non-dome contests as we drift closer to game times.

Vikings at Panthers -- 83 degrees -- chance of thunderstorms (29 percent)
Lions at Packers -- 70 degrees -- chance of thunderstorms (64 percent)
Ravens at Jaguars -- 85 degrees -- chance of thunderstorms (33 percent)
Browns at Dolphins -- 87 degrees -- chance of thunderstorms (56 percent)
Rams at Buccaneers -- 88 degrees -- chance of thunderstorms (22 percent)
Jets at Chiefs -- 70 degrees -- chance of thunderstorms (76 percent)
Broncos at Bengals -- 81 degrees
Cardinals at Bills -- 65 degrees
Redskins at Giants -- 68 degrees
Raiders at Titans -- 88 degrees
49ers at Seahawks -- 70 degrees
Steelers at Eagles -- 70 degrees

*Forecasts courtesy of Weather Underground

What to Watch For


Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers


With or without Adrian Peterson, the Vikings' run game has been dismal this season. Minnesota's offensive line opened few holes through two games and faces a superior defensive front seven in Carolina. Sam Bradford will be asked to lead the offense through the air -- if he's not under siege from pocket pressure up the gut. Those who weren't aware Stefon Diggs was a stud before Sunday night now know. The second-year receiver versus the young Panthers corners will be fun to watch. If Bradford has time to throw, Diggs could be in for another big day.

The combination of Jonathan Stewart's absence and a stout, athletic Vikings defensive line means we'll see Cam Newton throwing the ball a ton Sunday. Minnesota's top defensive back, Xavier Rhodes, missed the first two weeks. His potential return will mean a stiffer test for Kelvin Benjamin. Last week Trae Waynes got picked on and 38-year-old Terence Newman doesn't have the speed to stick with Devin Funchess or Ted Ginn. After two big weeks from Benjamin, it could be time for a breakout game from another one of Newton's weapons.

Say what? Stat of the week: Carolina has rushed for 100-plus yards in 34 straight games (inc. playoffs), the longest streak by any NFL team since the late 70s Steelers (37). Will that streak get snapped this week?

Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans


The Raiders allowed 500-plus yards in each of the first two games this season. Sean Smith was the focal point of scorn after being torched, but the veteran corner won't be facing Drew Brees or Julio Jones. The run defense hasn't taken nearly as much criticism after letting Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman scamper for 139 yards last week. This week it faces a rejuvenated DeMarco Murray and monster-truck Derrick Henry. Over in Fantasyville, NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich believes this is Henry's breakout week.

The Titans' defense allowed has allowed one TD in two weeks and a passer rating of just 74.9. This week that D will be tested against the No. 1 offense in the NFL. Derek Carr's connection with Amari Cooper has been potent to start the season and should be again Sunday. Cooper ripped the Titans last season for 115 yards on seven receptions. The key for the Raiders offense will be blocking an underrated Tennessee pass rush. In the first two weeks, Oakland faced two of the limpest pass rushes in the NFL in New Orleans and Atlanta. The challenge will be stiffer in Tennessee.

Say what? Stat of the week: Amari Cooper hasn't scored a touchdown in nine of his last 10 games.

Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals


The matchup between A.J. Green and Broncos defensive backs will be fun to track. Last season Chris Harris Jr. lined up on Green 19 times, with Aqib Talib stalking the wideout on 41 snaps. Green was held to just 48 yards and a touchdown on six targets by the duo. Green's success came against the more physical Talib, catching three of his four targets and the TD. Denver's defense is only allowing 4.37 yards per play this season. Andy Dalton, meanwhile, leads the NFL in passing through two games with exactly 366 yards in each contest.

When the Broncos have the ball, expect a heavy dose of C.J. Anderson. The running back's production has continued from his scorching end to last season. Since Week 8 of 2015, Anderson is averaging 5.7 yards per carry (most in the NFL) C.J. has also scored a touchdown in four straight games. He'll face a Bengals defense that has allowed 100-plus rushing yards in each of its first two games. If Marvin Lewis's front can't plug the holes with Vontaze Burfict still out, Anderson will be in for another big day.

Say what? Stat of the week: No quarterback has had a 100-plus passer rating against Denver in the last 28 games (inc. playoffs). Since 2015, Andy Dalton has a 104.2 passer rating (3rd in NFL).

Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers


The Lions' defense is banged up, and the offense lost its starting running back. If Detroit is to make it back-to-back wins in Green Bay, Matthew Stafford will have to play lights out. Jim Bob Cooter's offense was one of just four to gain 375-plus yards in each of the first two weeks of the season (CIN, OAK, WAS). Facing a stout Packers defensive front, Stafford will need to be heady in the pocket and get rid of the ball quickly. While giving up less than 50 rushing yards per game to open the year, Green Bay has allowed 277.0 yards passing and got picked apart by Stefon Diggs last week. The Lions do their best work after the catch, so tackling will be paramount for Packers secondary defenders.

We've rehashed the struggles of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' passing offense plenty this week. Let's instead focus on what could be a big week for Eddie Lacy. The big back isn't his 2013-2014 self (he might never get back there) but he looks fresher than last season. Lacy needs a bigger workload after averaging just 13 carries in two weeks. He hasn't surpassed the 65-yard barrier in five regular season games dating back to last season. Against a Detroit defense that will likely be without linebacker DeAndre Levy and defensive end Ziggy Ansah, Lacy should eat Sunday.

Say what? Stat of the week: In his last 16 games (inc. playoffs), Rodgers has a passer rating of 83.7. The NFL league average in that span is 89.5 (inc. playoffs).

Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars


Baltimore is 2-0 despite earning fewer than 400 total yards in 12 straight games and fewer than 100 rushing yards in each tilt this season -- 11 of last 13 overall. The Ravens' running game has earned a paltry 3.0 yards per carry, but could bounce back Sunday versus a Jags defense giving up 122.5 yards per game on the ground (T-7th most). The Ravens' offense has lacked continuity because it's so often behind in down-and-distance, forcing Joe Flacco into tough heaves.

Blake Bortles has been a disappointment thus far -- and has admitted as much. The third-year player needs to break out of his funk against a secondary that got beat deep by the Browns last week. While the Ravens boast the third-ranked passing defense, most of that was thanks to their Week 1 performance. Last week Josh McCown tore them up early. After a down week, Allen Robinson gets a favorable matchup against Jimmy Smith and Shareece Wright. Blocking might be the problem for Bortles, as he could be missing two starting offensive linemen. In a pivotal contest for the Jags' regime, Bortles needs the best game of his career.

Say what? Stat of the week: Mike Wallace is the only Raven to score a TD so far this season.

Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins


The Cody Kessler Show! It's not the third-round pick's fault he's been thrust into duty as the Browns 26th different starting quarterback since 1999. It's not his fault he'll be without first-round pick Corey Coleman (broken hand). Cleveland is clearly cursed. It will be interesting to see how much trust Hue Jackson has in Kessler, especially behind a shaky offensive line that faces Ndamukong Suh. Isaiah Crowell looks set to carry a big load, but the Dolphins are weakest at corner, so Jackson should scheme ways for his rookie quarterback to take advantage down the field. Expect a lot of Duke Johnson in the passing game.

The Dolphins will be without Arian Foster, so the dink-and-dunk passing offense will be in full effect. Ryan Tannehill might throw quick screens until his arm falls off Sunday. Browns cornerback Joe Haden has returned to Pro Bowl form through two games. If he plays, the battle at the line of scrimmage with Jarvis Landry will be fun to watch. Last week in his season debut, DeVante Parker caught eight passes for 106 yards (all in the second half) and could be in for a big day if Haden spends most of his time on Landry. If Haden is out, the Dolphins' passing game is in for a huge day.

Say what? Stat of the week: Miami passed on 63.0 percent of their offensive plays in Week 1 and 73.8 percent in Week 2. Since 2012, the Dolphins are 10-33 when passing on 60 percent or more plays and have lost seven straight such games.

Washington Redskins at New York Giants


Expect the Josh Norman-Odell Beckham matchup plenty Sunday in New York. With Sterling Shepard taking over the full-time slot duty (and shining) the Giants won't stash Beckham there to hide him from Norman. Nor should they. While Norman got in Beckham's head last year, the receiver beat the corner with ease multiple times, including a touchdown. Norman has been good this year on star receivers, stopping all three targets he faced when covering Dez Bryant and Antonio Brown. With the emergence of Shepard and return of Victor Cruz, this isn't a Beckham-or-bust scenario for Eli Manning.

Kirk Cousins' performance the past two weeks have been dreadful. Sunday he faces an even better defense. The Giants' offseason acquisitions have been superb thus far. Big Blue might not be sacking the quarterback but disruption is production, and the front four has been plenty productive. The back end has been solid with safety Landon Collins flying around wherever the ball goes. Cousins has put up numbers this season, but turnovers and timely bad throws killed the Redskins offense. If he doesn't calm down in the pocket and trust his reads, it will be another frustrating day for DeSean Jackson and the rest of the Washington receivers.

Say what? Stat of the week: The last reigning division winner to start the next season 0-3 or worse was the 2013 Redskins (won division in 2012, started 0-3, finished 3-13).

Arizona Cardinals at Buffalo Bills


We knew new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn would run the ball more, but he might not have much of a choice if Sammy Watkins (foot; game time decision) sits. LeSean McCoy's workload will be heavy Sunday. The shifty back wasn't seeing much space even with the threat of the Watkins, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry. He'll need some help against a Cardinals front that is giving up just 95.5 yards per game on the ground. Lynn could attempt to use the elusive Tyrod Taylor in creative running plays, but given his slight frame that could subject the quarterback to devastating hits.

Rex Ryan's defense couldn't handle veteran dual-threat Matt Forte last week. Sunday they get the younger, souped-up version in David Johnson. D.J. ranks fourth in the NFL this season with 275 scrimmage yards. His 141 receiving yards are second in the NFL among RBs (Spencer Ware, 177) and has 130-plus scrimmage yards in each of the first two games. Ryan's linebackers and safeties can't cover Johnson in space.

Say what? Stat of the week: No playoff hangover for Carson Palmer: After turning the ball over six times in the NFC Championship Game, Palmer is 1 of 4 QBs to start both games in 2016 without a giveaway -- Derek Carr, Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz.

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks


The Seahawks' offensive struggles need to be put through the prism of Russell Wilson's ankle injury, which clearly hindered his mobility last week. With the pocket crumbling, Wilson's lack of mobility kills the magical plays for which he's known. Seattle needs to rely on Christine Michael heavily to get back on track Sunday. Michael has 126 rushing yards on 25 carries this season. All other Seattle running backs combined have 22 carries for 23 yards. Michael will face a 49ers defense that has given up the ninth-most rushing yards per game this season (120.5). Ride the C-Woke Train, Pete Carroll. Ride it to a magical place.

Seattle's defense is as good as it ever was, allowing a total of 19 points though two weeks while ranking first in points per game given up and total yards allowed. Their stiffest test Sunday might be 49ers tight end Vance McDonald. (Rams TE Lance Kendricks won his matchup last week versus the Seahawks.) McDonald had a long TD in Week 2 and should have had more if Blaine Gabbert found him on several open routes down the seam. Expect Chip Kelly to call plays that look for McDonald early Sunday.

Say what? Stat of the week: Blaine Gabbert has gone 12 straight games with at least one pass TD (NFL's longest active streak). Blaine Gabbert has the NFL's longest active TD passing streak. Blaine freaking Gabbert. What a sport.

Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Many are pegging this as a game for Todd Gurley's 2016 breakout, but it's not a fantastic matchup for the bottled-up running back. The Bucs have been stellar against the run through two weeks, giving up just 78.5 yards per game on the ground and haven't allowed a single back to earn more than 54 yards. Tampa has been torched through the air -- 113.2 passer rating allowed; 5 pass TDs. Case Keenum has looked dreadful this season but did scorch the Bucs last year (234 yards, 2 TDs). He might need to do it again with the Buccaneers tossing their entire ship at Gurley.

Aaron Donald and the Rams D rattled Jameis Winston last season, will the second-year pro learn from that dreadful night and the rough outing in the desert last week? With Doug Martin out, expect Tampa to throw a ton. Charles Sims ran tougher between the tackles, but he's not a back that you want carrying it a lot. Expect the screen game and quick passes to supplement the lack of a run presence. If Jameis has time against the Rams front four, the L.A. defensive backfield is susceptible to giving up plays down the field. Keep an eye on Alec Ogletree; the Rams middle linebacker was everywhere last week.

Say what? Stat of the week: Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander has accounted for 21.6 percent of Tampa Bay's tackles this season (highest percentage in the NFL).

San Diego Chargers at Indianapolis Colts


Last season, the Chargers couldn't keep offensive linemen healthy. This year, Philip Rivers' receiving weapons are being struck down. First Kennan Allen, then Danny Woodhead, now Antonio Gates (hamstring) is doubtful. Rivers had a good matchup versus a banged up Colts defense, but the possible return of Vontae Davis could be a big boost for Indy. Melvin Gordon will get the chance to stack positive performances toward his breakout season versus a Colts defensive front giving up 125.0 yards per game on the ground.

We've been saying for weeks that the San Diego corner trio of Jason Verrett, Brandon Flowers and Casey Hayward was underrated. Then they stopped Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns cold last week. This week the threesome will battle T.Y. Hilton and Phillip Dorsett. Expect Andrew Luck to target tight ends Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle plenty across the middle, as that is the better matchup for the Indy passing game Sunday.

Say what? Stat of the week: T.Y. Hilton hasn't scored a TD in his last seven games.

New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs


Marcus Peters has backed up his Defensive Rookie of the Year award with two superb outings to start the season. Last week he earned two interceptions and four passes defensed against a good Houston receiving corps. This week he'll face Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall (questionable) and Quincy Enunwa, three physical receivers. If Marshall plays, his battles with Peters will be the most fun to watch this weekend.


The Jets' defense has been studly up front but got burned deep repeatedly in two games. It will be interesting to see if Andy Reid breaks at all from his tendencies and threatens down the field more often with Jeremy Maclin and Chris Conley against Darrelle Revis and Co. Spencer Ware leads the NFL in receiving yards out of the backfield and should see more passes his way again Sunday against Jets linebackers and safeties.

Say what? Stat of the week: This season, Revis has allowed an 80.0 completion percent when targeted (12 of 15). In 2015, Revis allowed a 42.2 completion percent when targeted (38 of 90).

Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles


Carson Wentz has earned all the recent praise. The rookie's poise under center has been phenomenal, he's displayed a strong arm and pinpoint accuracy. But that was against the Browns and Bears. We'll see how he does against a formidable Steelers defense. Pittsburgh's front seven, led by the electric Ryan Shazier, has held opposing running games to a mere 50.5 YPG. If Pittsburgh can make Philadelphia one-dimensional, will Wentz have the same success?

Ben Roethlisberger will have mismatches at his disposal all over the field. The Eagles' secondary is shaky at best with Leodis McKelvin already declared out. Big Ben's offensive line has been among the best in the NFL through two weeks. If Jim Schwartz can't get pressure it could be a long day for his defensive backs. Antonio Brown is in for a big bounce-back week after a down outing in Week 2.

Say what? Stat of the week: DeAngelo Williams, the oldest running back in the NFL, has accounted for 87.9 percent of his team's rushing attempts and 87.5 percent of his team's rushing yards (leads NFL in both categories)

Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys


How will Brian Hoyer starting affect Alshon Jeffery's production? The receiver has been the only force in the Bears offense. Jeffery is a mismatch for Cowboys cornerbacks Sunday, but will Hoyer be able to connect down the field? Upon entering Monday's game, Hoyer targeted five different receivers on his first five passes, which indicates he'll spread the ball around.

It could be the first big breakout performance of the season from the Cowboys offense. Dallas has advantages all over the field. Chicago has given up 114.5 rush yards per game and suffered key injuries to nose tackle Eddie Goldman and linebacker Danny Trevathan. Ezekiel Elliott could earn his first 100-yard rushing day. Dez Bryant also has the advantage outside versus young Bears corners. If Kyle Fuller (questionable) returns that would be a boost, but Dak Prescott has enough weapons to dice up the Bears in prime time.

Say what? Stat of the week: Prescott is attempting to go three straight games without a giveaway. In Tony Romo's 127 career starts, he has two 3-plus game streaks without a giveaway (3-game streak in 2011, 4-game streak in 2009).

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints


Matt Ryan has put up impressive stats to start the season, completing 72.6 percent of his passes for 365 yards per game, a 5-1 TD-INT ratio and 121.4 passer rating. The Falcons have the advantage through the air versus a decimated Saints secondary. Despite the injuries, New Orleans held up surprisingly well in New York last week, but will have a similarly tough matchup Monday night. Mohamed Sanu, despite the occasional drop, brings an added element Atlanta missed last season opposite Julio Jones. Tight end Jacob Tamme has been a big part of the Falcons' offense through two weeks and could see similar production in Week 3.

Drew Brees should have a ton of time to throw Monday night. The Falcons have just one sack in two games and can't conjure a pass rush. Brees and the Saints are a different beast on their home track, scoring almost 10 more points per game at home than on the road since 2013. The trio of Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead and Michael Thomas should gobble up ground against a Falcons secondary allowing 290 yards per game passing. The question in New Orleans is whether tight end Coby Fleener will find finally his rapport with Brees this week.

Say what? Stat of the week: Brees is first QB since (at least) 1960 to have 5 pass TD, 0 INT, and an 0- 2 record after the first two games of a season.

Print