Everything you need to know as kickoff approaches ...
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Key game-time decisions
All players questionable unless noted
Sanders was a full participant Friday while Worilds was limited.
The Patriots' rookie receivers are both optimistic they can play. Vereen left last week's game with the groin injury and Bill Belichick could hold him out in hopes he'll be healthy for the playoffs.
Keenum was limited Friday after being full-go Wednesday and Thursday. If the young quarterback can play he should get the start.
Burfict was a full participant in Friday's practice, but will still need to be cleared before the game Sunday. Gresham missed the entire week of practice.
The Cardinals need the pass rusher if they hope to squeak into the playoffs. Abraham returned to practice Friday on a limited basis.
Jeff Fisher was optimistic his rookie would see the field before the end of the season. Austin returned to practice on a limited basis Friday after injuring his ankle Dec. 8.
The thin Seahawks receiving corps could be missing another weapon Sunday as Seattle tries to lock down the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Kearse didn't practice all week.
Barron was limited in practice all week.
Randle didn't practice all week.
Ware sat out Friday after being full-go early in the week.
Once again, Eddie Royal rounds out our game-time decisions list after sitting out practice this week.
Three Players To Watch
Mike McCarthy isn't going to hold back his All-World quarterback after Rodgers missed almost two months with a collarbone injury. We don't doubt Rodgers' ability to shake off the rust quickly. It will help that he faces a mediocre Bears defense with little pass rush. Winds at Soldier Field will be around 20 mph, which could affect Rodgers if the rust lingers.
Starting his first game since 2011, there has been a wave of sentiment from Dallas Cowboys alumni that Orton starting is a good thing for the team. That belief is cockeyed and discounts how good a year Tony Romo had. However, Orton is capable of managing the game and not turning the ball over. The question is whether he can help the Cowboys' offense score enough points to keep up with the high-flying Eagles.
Despite the tumultuous season the Dolphins can still make the playoffs. How Tannehill responds to his knee tweak will be a big factor in whether the 'Fins make the postseason. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman has refused to stick with the running game, putting his second-year quarterback in harm's way to the tune of 58 sacks this season. Tannehill can pick apart the New York Jets' secondary if given the time. However, that is a big if.
Did you know?
» NFL teams have combined to score 11,322 points this season, the most ever through Week 16 (10,914 in 2012). The 1,265 touchdowns this season are a record by 55 (1,210 in 2012) and the 757 passing TDs is the record through 16 weeks by 43 (714 in 2010).
» Remember back at the start of the season when the AFC was leading the head to head with the NFC (11-3) through three weeks? The National Football Conference flipped the script the rest of the way and will finish the season with a 34-30 advantage.
Cam Newton's offense has struggled to move the ball consistently throughout the course of a game. However, Newton has displayed an uncanny ability to make the big drives with the game on the line this season. Performing sans Steve Smith this week will offer a new challenge with the NFC South title on the line.
If the Ravens are to squeak into the playoffs Joe Flacco will need to lead the way. Despite going 5-2 in the past seven games, Flacco has more interceptions than touchdowns and is averaging a piddling 221.9 yards per game during that span. The Ravens' defense has carried the team this season. It's time for Flacco to throw Baltimore into the playoffs.
The Colts played their most well-rounded game of the season last week. Pep Hamilton seems to have realized his best offense is unleashing the full force of Andrew Luck. With a chance to improve their playoff positioning, hopefully we'll see the wide-open offense early Sunday before Hamilton turns to the slogging running game.
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Mike Wallace needs 95 yards to reach 1,000 this season. Brian Hartline needs 22 yards to reach 1,000. Hartline and Wallace would be the first Dolphins teammates to each go over 1,000 receiving yards in a season since Mark Duper (1,085) and Mark Clayton (1,053) did so in 1991. Whether the receivers can get there as the Dolphins fight for a playoff spot will depend on how much Ryan Tannehill is limited by his knee injury.
The Metrodome is closing after Sunday's game. The contest could also mark the final game for coaches Jim Schwartz and Leslie Frazier with their respective teams. Frazier failed his team this season by choosing Christian Ponder over Matt Cassel. Schwartz's team imploded, dropping the ball on a golden opportunity to win the NFC North.
Kirk Cousins has one more game to raise that trade stock. The Giants will be by far the toughest defense the quarterback faces in his three-game run. The Giants boast one of the best safety duos in the NFL. Cousins has looked decent in spurts, but hasn't shown he's worth that first-round draft pickMike Shanahan was delusional about.
Ben Roethlisberger has a 16-1 career record versus Cleveland, which is tied with Roger Staubach (versus Giants) and Tom Brady (versus Bills) for the highest winning percentage against any single opponent in a starting QB's first 17 starts. The Steelers have slim hopes to make the playoffs, but Roethlisberger has enjoyed one of his best statistical seasons. Even without Mike Wallace, Big Ben has attempted more throws of 21-plus yards (60) than 2012 (41).
The end of the nightmare can't come soon enough for the Texans, who have lost 13 consecutive games. In those 13 losses, the offense has scored just 15.8 points with a minus-15 turnover differential. Assuming he can play, it could be the final chance for Case Keenum to prove he deserves a roster spot in 2014.
It's likely to be Chris Johnson's final game in Tennessee. He and coach Mike Munchak could both be leaving town this offseason. The Titans entered 2013 with a plan to play smash-mouth football, but rarely have been able to consistently push the pace on the ground. That failure is likely to lead to both men seeking new jobs this offseason.
Poor Cardinals fans saw their postseason hopes fade dramatically as NaVorro Bowman did his best James Harrison impression to the end zone last week. Bruce Arians could bring home back-to-back Coach of the Year awards for his job this season. His offense, led by Carson Palmer, has improved during the 7-1 second-half run. Not only has Palmer been more consistent, but the running game behind Rashard Mendenhall and dynamic rookie Andre Ellington has provided more punch on the ground.
Aaron Rodgers' return is a game-changer, but the biggest advantage for the Packers remains the running of Eddie Lacy. The Bears have allowed 11 individual 100-yard rushing games this season, which is four more than any other team. Lacy should have even more space to run with Rodgers under center. If winds hit the 20 mph mark, the Packers would have an even bigger incentive to pound Lacy.
With 56 sacks and 22 interceptions, the Bills are on pace to become only the sixth team since 1964 to lead the league in sacks and finish in the top two in interceptions. While the wins haven't been there, it's been a good season for Mike Pettine's defense.
The Patriots have won 12 straight home games against the Bills. Their last loss in New England was in 2000, when Pats QB Drew Bledsoe was knocked out of the game and Doug Flutie led the Bills to a 16-13 win in overtime. The Pats' red-zone offense has been a concern after Rob Gronkowski was lost for the season, but New England was 3 for 3 in last week's win. Even with the receiving corps in flux, Tom Brady has been highly productive (342.4 passing yards per game) the past seven contests.
The key for the Saints will be keeping Drew Brees upright against Gerald McCoy and the Bucs' pass rush. The offensive line was a turnstile last week on the road -- specifically rookie left tackle Terron Armstead, who will make his second start Sunday. The Saints play exponentially better at home, but if they can't keep Brees protected they could see their playoff hopes dashed.
Terrelle Pryor gets the start to end the season. Regardless of what his agent might think, it's Pryor's chance to show he's improved in the pocket heading into the Raiders' offseason evaluations. Not having to face Miller will aid Pryor's effort. It will be interesting to see if the quarterback will be reluctant to leave the pocket in order to prove he's become a better pocket passer.
Having wrapped up the No. 5 seed, the Chiefs will "mix and match" starters and reserves this week. If Jamaal Charles starts, we'll at least get a glimpse of two of the most productive runners in the NFL this season on the field together. Charles and Ryan Mathews rank second and third, respectively, in rushing yards per game (Charles 89; Mathews 87.7).
Everything is setting up for the Eagles. Since Week 9, the Eagles' offense leads the NFL in points, yards and rushing yards per game. Philly has four of the NFL's top five rushing totals this season and gained 400-plus yards in six of its last seven games. The Cowboys' defense ranks last in total defense (418.6 YPG).