Everything you need to know as kickoff approaches...
Key game-time decisions
All players questionable unless noted
Mike Zimmer said he expects Bradford to play. All three were limited on Friday.
The cornerback missed practice all week, putting his availability in doubt.
Landry was downgraded to limited on Friday, but the team is optimistic he'll play.
Alexander was full-go on Friday, indicating he's likely to play in the team's season opener.
Both Jones and Williams were limited on Friday.
The trio was limited on Friday. Leary was cleared to return from the concussion protocol Saturday, but is still listed as questionable.
Tuitt returned limited on Friday, a positive sign for his availability. Linebacker Bud Dupree (shoulder) was not on the status report, meaning he will play after missing last week's game.
Parker was limited on Thursday and Friday. With Eric Berry done for the season, K.C. hopes its safety is able to play.
Ward was limited on Thursday and Friday.
Pete Carroll said he expects Sherman to play.
Doctson was limited all week.
The Packers offensive line heads into the weekend banged up. Bulaga returned limited on Friday after missing the first two practices of the week with an illness. Bakhtiari was limited all week.
Ansah was limited in practice all week.
While the receiver told reporters this week that he is four weeks into a six-to-eight-week recovery, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the expectation is that Beckham will indeed make his season debut on Monday Night Football.
- It's mostly clear skies and sun for our Sunday slate (dome games excluded): *
Browns at Ravens -- 78 degrees, partly cloudy
Bills at Panthers -- 81 degrees, clear
Titans at Jaguars -- 86 degrees, clear skies
Eagles at Chiefs -- 73 degrees, mostly cloudy
Vikings at Steelers - 80 degrees, sunny
Bears at Buccaneers -- 89 degrees, sunny
Dolphins at Chargers -- 70 degrees, clear
Jets at Raiders -- 68 degrees, partly cloudy
Cowboys at Broncos -- 72 degrees, partly cloudy
Redskins at Rams -- 71 degrees, clear
49ers at Seahawks -- 64 degrees, mostly cloudy
Packers at Falcons (SNF) -- 78 degrees, clear
Lions at Giants (MNF) - 71 degrees, 22 percent chance of rain
What to Watch For
Sunday's matchups offer a bevy of reunions, some which we'll briefly note along our journey.
DeShone Kizer went through ups-and-downs in Week 1, but the rookie's big arm and willingness to take chances are a welcome sight for Browns fans who have suffered through enough bottom-barrel QB play the past decade-plus. Kizer needs to make strides in decision making, however, as he holds the ball too long. Against a fast, ferocious Ravens defense that can give multiple pre-snap looks, the rookie needs to get the ball out quickly Sunday. The Ravens did allow the Bengals into the red zone several times in last week's shutout, so Kizer can move the ball between the 20s. How the rookie fares in the red zone could tell the story.
The Ravens delivered on their promise to get back to the ground game. Baltimore ran the ball on 70 percent of plays in Week 1, the highest rate of any team, and the highest rate in a game in team history. The game script aided that lopsided approach and gave Joe Flacco a reprieve in his return from a back injury. The QB looked like he'd been on the shelf all preseason, throwing off target several times. Against an inspired Browns defense that shut down the Steelers ground game last week (35 total yards on the ground), how will Flacco fare if the rush attack is stymied early and the game remains close?
NFL Research stat of the week: In his debut, Kizer finished with 20-of-30 passing for 222 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 85.7 passer rating (also had rush TD). Only Brady Quinn had a higher passer rating (104.3) in a Browns debut among the five QBs drafted in the first two rounds (since 1999).
Reunion: Is Buffalo the new Panthers North? General manager Brandon Beane came over from Carolina this year, bringing first-year coach Sean McDermott. Backup running back Mike Tolbert also followed northward. The chess match between McDermott and his former players should add level of intrigue as each team attempts to start the season 2-0.
LeSean McCoy will face a much stiffer test this week than he did in the opener -- a 22-carry, 110-yard rushing day. The Panthers' clobbering front squeezes the middle of the field, while the speedy linebackers nullify the edge. McDermott's knowledge of the weaknesses of the Panthers' defense could pay dividends. Expect McCoy to again get 25-plus touches and be particularly active in the passing game.
Cam Newton didn't have to do much to get the win in Week 1, relying on a stout defense and running game. As he gets further from offseason surgery, expect the Panthers to open the offense up. Newton needs to prove he can hit passes down the field before division matchups against high-flying offenses begin. The Bills' young corners played well last week, but that was against one of the worst receiving groups in the NFL. Taking on Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen is a different beast. Expect Newton to target his tight end down the seam often on simple throws.
NFL Research stat of the week:After injuring his shoulder during Week 14 of last season, Newton struggled with the deep ball. Those struggles continued Week 1 in a small sample size:
Last four games of 2016: 5-of-20 passing on 20-plus air-yard throws, two TDs, two INTs, 54.4 passer rating.
Week 1, 2017: 1-of-3 passing on 20-plus air-yard throws, 1 INT, 25.0 rating.
Reunion: Bruce Arians heads to Indianapolis to face his former team for the first time since becoming the Cardinals head coach in 2013. Arians was named 2012 AP Coach of the Year as he took over the Colts for Chuck Pagano, who was diagnosed with Leukemia. Arians' team beat the Colts back in 2013 in Arizona (40-11).
No one is replacing David Johnson. The dual-threat back had the highest percentage of his team's touches (47.7), scrimmage yards (34.4) and scrimmage TDs (41.7) in 2016. On the bright side, the Cards get to test-drive their Johnson-less offense on a Colts defense that got ripped apart last week and will still be without top corner Vontae Davis. With the backfield a muddled mess at this point, Arians would likely plan to use his preferred bombs-away tactic against an inexperienced Colts secondary. But can Carson Palmer execute such a game plan, especially with John Brown out? The veteran was woefully off on targets down the field last week. Was that just Week 1 rust or a harbinger of a season of struggle for the 37-year-old?
Jacoby Brissett is set to get the starting nod for Indy, Rapoport reported. It was the best of bad options for the Colts as Andrew Luck (shoulder) still appears weeks away from returning. Brissett will run a curtailed offense, as he's been with the team just two weeks. The second-year pro possesses a big arm and mobility, so look for the Colts to get Brissett out of the pocket on designed plays. Also expect several deep shots against a Cardinals secondary that was beat deep last week. Safety Tyrann Mathieu and No. 2 corner Justin Bethel were picked on incessantly in the opener. It would behoove Brissett to avoid Patrick Peterson and target Bethel heavily when he drops back.
NFL Research stat of the week:Carson Palmer struggled on third downs in Week 1 (7 for 12, 76 pass yards, 1 INT, 42.4 passer rating). He converted just five first downs on 12 pass attempts.
The Titans upgraded their passing weapons this offseason and took a different approach on offense in Week 1. Tennessee deployed in 11 personnel (3 WRs, 1 RB, 1 TE) on 35 of 63 snaps. They averaged just 25 plays per game in the grouping last season. Was the uptick in three-receiver sets an aberration based on game flow or an indicator of how Mike Mularkey plans to deploy his offense in 2017? Facing a Jaguars defense that mauled the quarterback last week will force Marcus Mariota to get the ball out quicker Sunday. Also expect him to use his feet when the pocket breaks down. If Jags CB Jalen Ramsey (questionable) sits, Mariota's receiving targets all get an upgraded matchup.
Leonard Fournette looked like the real deal in Week 1, plowing through defenders with regularity. The rookie's willingness to put his shoulder down at the end of every run is the type of old-school move that made scouts gush. Fournette's production last week wasn't a fluke. He faced 8-plus defenders in the box on 57.7 percent of his carries (highest percentage in the NFL in Week 1) and still churned out yards. Can he repeat the performance Sunday against a Dick LeBeau defense that will surely dare Blake Bortles to beat them? The last rookie running back to start his career with back-to-back 100-plus rushing yard games was Ben Tate in 2011.
NFL Research stat of the week: The Jaguars allowed the fewest total yards in the NFL in Week 1 (203), fewest passing yards (110.0) and led the league with 10 sacks.
Carson Wentz had a field day in Week 1, testing out his new receiving toys with deep shots galore. In Week 1, the second-year pro earned a 106.9 passer rating on passes of 20-plus air yards, compared to a 60.1 rating last year. Facing Marcus Peters and a Chiefs defense that shut down Tom Brady last week -- and are on 10 days rest -- is another beast. Not facing Eric Berry helps Wentz's chances for a repeat performance. With the run game likely to struggle again, Wentz will be forced to sling it often.
Will Alex Smith's Week 1 blastoff come shattering back to earth or was it an indication of what we'll see from the veteran in 2017? The Eagles boast an immensely better defensive line than the one Smith faced last week, so expect the QB to be under more pressure. Expect Smith to use his feet and dump offs to Kareem Hunt with more regularity. Philly was beat by running backs out of the backfield last week, so look for Reid to scheme Hunt and Tyreek Hill matchups on linebackers and safeties.
NFL Research stat of the week:Alex Smith had two 75-plus yard TD passes in Week 1 (78-yd TD to Hunt, 75-yd TD to Hill). The K.C. QB had two 75-yard passing TDs in his career prior to Week 1. Smith has never had back-to-back games with 300-plus pass yards (142 career games).
Tom Brady owned the worst completion percentage in the entire NFL in Week 1 (44.4 percent). Yes, even worse than Scott Tolzien and Andy Dalton. A peeved Brady versus a Saints secondary that was picked apart by Sam Bradford last week has the recipe for a big-play Patriots day. The New Orleans defense allowed the second-most total yards (470) and second-most pass yards (341) in Week 1. The question is where Brady's targets will go. Cooks is likely to see a bevy of shots deep, with Chris Hogan working out of the slot. Rob Gronkowski against Saints linebackers and safeties remains a big mismatch in Brady's favor. With all the new pieces, it's bound to take the Pats a few weeks to find their offensive rhythm. We aren't panicking after one week, and facing the Saints on the in-door track in New Orleans is a good formula for getting right.
Like Brady, Drew Brees is coming off a sub-par (for him) performance. Facing a defense that got torched by Alex Smith last week, expect Brees to light up the scoreboard and force a track meet. The matchup I want to watch is Saints receiver Michael Thomas versus the Patriots corners. Will Bill Belichick deploy Stephon Gilmore one-on-one or will Malcolm Butler take turns (even though the latter struggled in the opener)? Thomas has the chance to be a mismatch nightmare for New England if it can't pressure Brees. Belichick is known for taking away the opponent's best weapon, so it will be interesting to see how he decides to handle Thomas.
Sam Bradford played the best game of his career last week. Can he back it up outside in Pittsburgh? The Steelers did give up some big plays to the Browns last week and we still have questions about their secondary. The matchup of receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen against corners Artie Burns, Joe Haden, and Co. will be key. For Bradford to repeat his performance, the Vikings' offensive line must keep him clean again. Facing the Saints' pass rush is child's play compared to what the Steelers will deploy. If Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers stand out in Pittsburgh, Bradford should have another big day.
Last week in this space we hypothesized that Le'Veon Bell's participation would be curtailed after he was away from the team all summer. Expect the script to flip this week. While the Steelers face a stout Viking defensive front, Bell should eat in the passing game. With Harrison Smith occupied helping on Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, Bell should get advantageous matchups against linebackers. We saw Alvin Kamara find space last week against Minnesota. Bell should see even more grass in the passing game this week.
NFL Research stat of the week: Bell struggled in Week 1 after missing most of the preseason: 10 carries, 32 rushing yards (3.2 yards per carry). The 32 rush yards tied for the fourth-fewest in a game in Bell's career and was the second time the back was held under 40 rushing yards in the last three seasons.
The Bears hid Mike Glennon last week, utilizing running backs Jordan Howard and jitterbug rookie Tarik Cohen as the motor of the offense. Expect the tactic to continue this week. Glennon's receiving corps is as barren as any in the league, so he must rely on his two backs to carry the load. Cohen is a slippery matchup nightmare. It will be interesting to see how the Bucs combat the rookie. Tampa did a good job against satellite backs last season and have a speedy linebacker group. How Tampa does against Cohen will be a sign of how things could go when it faces Christian McCaffrey later.
What will the Bucs' offense look like with DeSean Jackson on the field? With the postponement of last week's game, we have yet to see Winston with his new deep target and how Jackson's presence might open things up for Mike Evans. The Bears' front seven showed they can pressure the quarterback. The Bucs' O-line will need to protect Winston for those deep shots to materialize. Chicago also had several coverage breakdowns against tight ends last week, so watch to see if Winston takes advantage of Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard in space.
NFL Research stat of the week:Bears rookie RB Tarik Cohen (fourth-round pick) exploded in his NFL debut: 66 rushing yards, 47 receiving yards, 45 punt return yards (158 all-purpose yards). Cohen had a similar rookie debut to Matt Forte (2008 at IND) despite only half as many offensive touches: Forte: 26 touches, 141 scrimmage yards, 1 TD; Cohen: 13 touches, 113 scrimmage yards, 1 TD.
I'm excited to see if the Jay Cutler-DeVante Parker deep-shot connection continues in Week 1. The duo looked to be in sync during the preseason. The Chargers DB got beat a few times last week in Denver, so there is a chance for Parker to hit a few deep. You know Cutler is willing to sling it if he's got the slightest opening. First the offensive line will need to keep Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram off his back for those shots to develop.
Will this be the week that Antonio Gates breaks the NFL record for career touchdowns for a tight end? The future Hall of Famer has 111 career scores. He faces a Dolphins defense that allowed 10 TDs to tight ends last season, third-most in the NFL. With Miami not playing last week, we don't yet know if those struggles against tight ends will continue. When the Chargers get in the red zone, expect Philip Rivers to force the ball toward Gates so he can set the record at home.
NFL Research stat of the week:Jay Cutler's one season under Adam Gase: 64.4 completion percentage, 243.9 passing yards per game, 21-11 TD-INT ratio (career-best), 92.3 passer rating (career-best).
Bilal Powell needs to touch the ball more in Week 2. The running back had just seven rushes and five catches in the opener. The Jets lack playmakers all over the field, and Powell at least brings fresh legs and big-play ability. The running back should have a mismatch against Raiders linebackers and safeties in coverage Sunday. With Josh McCown likely to see Khalil Mack in his face often, dumping the ball to Powell in space could be the Jets' best option.
Marshawn Lynch plays in front of his hometown fans for the first time. It should be a joyous occasion Sunday afternoon. Beast Mode didn't look like he's lost a step, barreling over defenders in the opener. He should be extra juiced in his home debut this week. The Jets' front is solid, but gave up a bevy of big runs last week. When Lynch isn't in the game, the Raiders will spread out the Jets and toss a bombs-away attack down the field that would make Al Davis proud.
Ezekiel Elliott has a matchup to drool over. The Broncos run defense was porous last year and didn't appear to plug the leak last week. The Cowboys should be able to shove the ball down the gut of the Broncos defense, taking the pressure off edge rushers. Elliott should have lanes to the second level with regularity. The potential Dez Bryant-Aqib Talib matchup (if Denver allows the CB to shadow Dez) could offer some fireworks.
Trevor Siemian proved last week, he's a better passer than most give him credit for when protected. The key again this week for the Broncos offense, however, will be the running game. When C.J. Anderson churns out yardage on early downs it allows the entire operation to run smoother. We saw last week how the Cowboys' defense was able to take advantage of a team that couldn't run the football. Dallas' secondary is banged up (Orlando Scandrick is out and Byron Jones is questionable). If Anderson and Jamaal Charles are providing pop in the ground game, keeping Dallas linebackers occupied, Siemian's play-action game should open up Sunday.
NFL Research stat of the week:Dak Prescott was terrific against Top 10 pass defenses in 2016, winning all three starts, completing 74.4 percent of his passes, for 229.3 yards per game, 5-0 TD-INT ratio and a 122.2 passer rating. Quarterbacks in their 20s, however, have gone 2-7 against the Broncos since the start of last season with 2 TDs, 7 INTs and a 58.4 passer rating.
The game script got away from the Reskins in their opener, leading to 40 passes from Kirk Cousins. Washington needs more than 13 carries from Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson this week. Keeping Wade Phillips' defense off balance is the only way to stop a swarm of pass rushers from enveloping Cousins. The Redskins running game, however, must face All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who returns after sitting out Week 1. We'll see how many snaps the game-wrecker gets in his debut.
Was Jared Goff's Week 1 performance a mirage buoyed by a punchless Colts defense or will the No. 1 overall pick continue to look calm and decisive in the pocket? Goff set career-highs in passing yards (306), yards per attempt (10.6), completion percentage (72.4), and passer rating (117.9) last week. The Redskins' defense gave up plenty of deep shots last week, so we hope to see Goff take several big shots to Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp.
NFL Research stat of the week:Kirk Cousins finished 0-of-6 passing on throws of 20-plus air yards in Week 1. In 2016, Cousins had the second-best passer rating on throws of 20-plus air yards (121.7).
Kyle Shanahan's offense struggled against a good Panthers defense in Week 1 and gets no reprieve heading to Seattle in Week 2. Carlos Hyde averaged five yards a carry last week, but only got nine totes. He'll need a bigger workload if the 49ers are going to stay within striking distance in Seattle. Expect a heavy dose of Hyde early in the game and as a pass-catcher out of the backfield as an outlet for Brian Hoyer.
The story this week in Seattle is how the offensive line performs after a poor performance in Week 1. The group gave up three sacks and seven QB hits in the season opener. The 49ers didn't rattle Cam Newton much last week, which should be a positive sign for Russell Wilson heading into Sunday. We also need to see how the Seattle running back situation plays out with Thomas Rawls returning. After Eddie Lacy and Chris Carson struggled last week, we could see the tackle-breaking Rawls carry the load.
NFL Research stat of the week: September has traditionally been Russell Wilson's worst month. Wilson's passer rating by month in his career -- September: 90.4; October 95.0; November 106.9; December/January 103.5. (Week 1, 2017: 69.7 passer rating).
The Aaron Rodgers-Matt Ryan showdown will get the headlines, but I expect Ty Montgomery to be a workhorse of the Packers offense Sunday. The Falcons allowed Bears running backs to break tackles and gobble up yards on the ground and through the air last week. That combination sets up Montgomery for a good night. The running back rarely gets taken down by the first defender and is a matchup nightmare for linebackers in the passing game. Expect Rodgers to rely on his running back often as the Packers churn the clock to keep Ryan on the sideline.
Julio Jones versus the Packers secondary is the big story after the All-Pro receiver torched Green Bay in the playoffs. Jones had a fairly quiet opening week (four catches, 66 yards). Expect those numbers to skyrocket Sunday night. Matt Ryan tortured Dom Capers' defense in two meetings last season, averaging 340 yards passing and 3.5 TDs. The Packers defense played well in the opener, thanks mostly to the pressure from Mike Daniels discombobulating the Seahawks' operation. If Ryan has time, will the Pack secondary hold up to Jones and Mohamed Sanu?
Golden Tate torched the Giants' secondary for eight catches and 122 yards in last season's meetings. Moving back to his primary slot position this year, Tate put up 10 receptions for 107 yards in the opener. Expect Matthew Stafford to look Tate's way often Monday night in a matchup versus Big Blues slot corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The Lions running game is likely to struggle again against the stout Giants defense front, meaning quick screens to Tate will likely supplement the lack of ground attack.
Signs point to Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) playing this week, but we might not know until game time. Beckham admitted he still isn't 100 percent, but even his presence on the field could help open an offense that looked miserable in Week 1. Evan Engram should see a positive boost in production against a Lions team that annually struggles to cover tight ends. The Giants getting better protection for Eli Manning is paramount. Lions defensive lineman Anthony Zettle is a player to watch. The second-year player broke out in Week 1 and could be a force against a turnstile Big Blue offensive line. If Beckham sits again, it could be another primetime nightmare for the Giants offense.