Everything you need to know as kickoff approaches...
Key game-time decisions
All players questionable unless noted
Harrison: Power Rankings, Week 4
After three weeks, three teams stand alone at 3-0 -- but only one can take the top spot in Elliot Harrison's Power Rankings. READ
Geno Smith's No. 1 target said he felt better this week after returning to practice Friday on a limited basis.
Locker threw some passes on Saturday, coach Ken Whisenhunt told SiriusXM NFL Radio. The quarterback will work out before the game to see if he can play. His favorite target, Walker was limited Thursday and Friday. UPDATE: Barring a surprise improvement, it looks like Charlie Whitehurst will start over Locker, Rapoport reported.
Marshall didn't practice all week, again. He is listed as questionable for the third straight week but has yet to miss a game. Allen missed all week with an illness. UPDATE: Marshall is expected to play, per Rapoport.
The wideout missed practice Friday. If he can't go we could get our first glimpse of the speedy rookie Jeff Janis.
The athletic tight end was limited Thursday and did not practice Friday -- that's the wrong sort of progression.
Three matchups to watch
Brooks: Key matchups to watch
What are the most intriguing Week 4 battles in games across the NFL? Bucky Brooks provides his scouting eye. READ
We can't play up this matchup enough. Not only is the feisty, talkative Smith going against his former team, it's a genuinely great matchup. The Carolina Panthers' defense is coming off a home thrashing in Week 3, so we know they'll be motivated to bounce back. The Panthershave heard all Smith's talk leading up to the game and will be amped to slow him down. However, Joe Flacco's new favorite target should have a big role in the short and intermediate passing game. If he can exploit the Carolina's secondary, Smith could get his revenge.
The Bears' rookie cornerback gets his toughest test so far this season. Fuller leads the league in interceptions and has looked fantastic in the Bears' system early in the season -- where would they be without him? However, he'll face a massive test in Nelson, who can get open against the NFL's best CBs. Aaron Rodgers is coming off a frustrating outing and will look to his favorite receiver often once again. If Fuller can slow Nelson it could disrupt a Packers' offense that has yet to get on track in 2014. This matchup will go along way in deciding the NFC North outlook after Sunday.
In reality it's the entire 49ers' defensive line verses the Eagles' mash unit up front. But let's highlight two key players. Smith continues his dominating ways (three sacks, 12 tackles and ranks No. 5 on Pro Football Focus' 3-4 defensive ends list). Meanwhile, Molk, an undersized seventh-round pick in 2012, will get his first start for the Eagles. Philly likes Molk's athleticism, but how he holds up against power attacks like Smith and others the 49ers will send remains to be seen. If the 49ers can pester Nick Foles with interior pressure, it could disrupt Chip Kelly's entire operation. If not, Foles could pick apart a banged-up Niners' secondary.
Did You Know?
For the first time since 1982, each of the first three weeks of a season has seen at least one 17-plus point comeback win.
Harbinger of bad tidings? The last two times the Bills started 2-0 or better, they finished the season below .500: 2008: 7-9; 2011: 6-10.
Note to Ryan Fitzpatrick: Bills cornerback Corey Graham, is allowing a 28.5 passer rating, thirrd-best in the NFL. Meanwhile fellow cornerback Stephon Gilmore is allowing opposing QBs a 147.9 passer rating, tied for third-worst in the NFL (min. 25 percent of snaps). Choose your targets wisely, Mr. Fitzmagic.
For the third straight season, the Packers start 1-2. The previous two seasons they've gone on to win the NFC North with an 11-5 record (2012) and 8-7-1 record (2013). However, history indicates Green Bay's luck is about to run out. No team in NFL history has been under .500 in three straight seasons -- after three games -- and made the playoffs in all three seasons.
The Lions have had the ball with third-and-4-plus-yards to go 36 times this season. Only one of those plays has been a designed run. (Joique Bell ran once / Matthew Stafford has scrambled twice and kneeled down once.) On third-down-and-6-plus-yards, the Lions are the only team to pass 100 percent of the time (excluding kneels). With the Jets' stiff run D and wobbly secondary, don't expect these stats to change.
Geno Smith has never lost back-to-back home games as starting quarterback. Despite being 7-3 as a starter at home, Smith has thrown nine touchdowns to 11 interceptions. Side note: Geno is also the worst QB in the NFL throwing on first down (zero TDs, four INTs).
Ryan Tannehill must reverse this trend: The Dolphins' quarterback is averaging 5.03 pass yards per attempt this season, which is the fewest in the NFL. Over the last 30 years, only Philadelphia's Bobby Hoying (4.29 yards per attempt in 1998), Cincinnati's Akili Smith (4.69 yards per attempt in 2000) and Washington's Mark Rypien (4.75 yards per attempt in 1993) have completed a season with fewer yards per attempt than Tannehill is currently at. In the seasons that followed, Hoying, Smith and Rypien would go on to start a combined eight NFL games.
Unnerving stat for Bucs fans: If the defense continues at this pace, their opposing passer rating of 117.2 would be the worst in NFL history, more than six points higher than the 2008 Lions (only 0-16 team in NFL history).
Toby Gerhart has 34 rushes and 82 yards this season, averaging 2.41 yards per rush -- second worst in the NFL (min. 20 attempts). Only two of those 34 rushes have been for 10-plus yards. Last season in Minnesota, Gerhart had 36 rushing attempts, 11 of which went for 10-plus yards.
Last weekDonald Brown had 31 rushes for 62 yards (2.0 yards per rush). The running back had never previously rushed the ball more than 18 times. He became the third player in NFL history to have more than 30 rushes in a game and average 2-or-fewer yards per rush (Edgerrin James, Cardinals, 1.5 YPC 2006; Eddie Prince, Giants, 1.5 YPC 1951).
Nick Foles is the only player in NFL with 300-plus passing yards in all three games this season. Four quarterbacks have started a season with four 300-yard games (five total seasons): Drew Brees, 2013; Peyton Manning, 2009 and 2013; Kurt Warner, 2000; and Steve Young, 1998. Each quarterback took his team to the playoffs in those seasons, and Manning took his team to the Super Bowl each of those two seasons.
In 2014 the 49ers are rushing on 44.8 percent of plays (10th in NFL). Last season San Francisco rushed on 52.5 percent of plays (most in NFL). Frank Gore has just 35 rushes for 139 rushing yards (4.0 yards per carry) and a touchdown in 2014. He has earned 100-plus yards rushing in three of the last four meetings against Philadelphia.
Tony Romo is completing 67.4 percent of his passes this season, which is on pace to be the second highest of his career (69.5 percent in 2010). Yet his passer rating is 86.1, which would be a career worst.
The Saints have lost five straight road games (seven of last eight). New Orleans has not lost more than six in a row since losing 14 straight from 1998-2000.
The Patriots' defense is allowing 272.7 yards per game (third in NFL). The last time the Patriots had a top-five defense was 2007, when they lost in the Super Bowl to the Giants, 17-14. Since 2003, the Patriots have had a top-nine defense (total yards) four times and have gone to the Super Bowl three of those years and the AFC Championship the other season.