Everything you need to know as kickoff approaches...
Key game-time decisions
All players questionable unless noted
It was a surprise to see Carr listed as questionable. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported there is a small "chance" Carr plays. It sounds like the quarterback is going to try to convince the team to give him a shot.
Mariota was listed as limited all week. He will likely be a game-time decision. Matt Cassel will start if Mariota sits.
Lee sat out all week and could miss his second straight game. Smith also sat out Thursday and Friday and will likely be a game-time decision.
All three were limited all week.
Glenn was full-go on Friday. Hyde was limited in practices. And Gaines sat out Friday's session.
Davis was limited in practice and could return after missing the last two weeks.
Williams was full-go all week in practice.
Prosise missed practices this week, which means J.D. McKissic should remain as the pass-catching back out of the backfield.
Wilkerson was limited all week.
Goodwin was limited on Friday. Of note: RB Carlos Hyde (hip) was not on the teams injury designation list, meaning he'll play.
Brown was limited on Friday.
Maxwell was a full participant all week.
Bradford was limited all week after missing three games. Mike Zimmer said Saturday, "We'll see,' when asked about Bradford's availability on Monday night.
Kwiatkoski, Young and Cooper did not practice on Saturday. Grasu was limited all week. After being limited earlier in the week, Akiem Hicks (foot) is good to go.
Bills at Bengals -- 69 degrees, chance of rain (20 percent)
Jets at Browns -- 65 degrees, mostly cloudy
Panthers at Lions (dome) -- 67 degrees, partly cloudy
49ers at Colts (dome) -- 71 degrees, partly cloudy
Titans at Dolphins -- 87 degrees, mostly cloudy, slight chance of rain (11 percent)
Chargers at Giants - 75 degrees, overcast, winds 10 mph
Cardinals at Eagles -- 75 degrees, overcast, winds 13 mph
Jaguars at Steelers -- 73 degrees, chance of light rain (24 percent)
Seahawks at Rams -- 70 degrees, clear
Ravens at Raiders -- 73 degrees, sunny
Packers at Cowboys -- 84 degrees
Chiefs at Texans (SNF) -- 82 degrees, clear
Vikings at Bears (MNF) -- 64 degrees, clear, winds 11mph
What to Watch For
The Tyrod Taylor to Charles Clay combo has powered the Bills the past three weeks. The tight end leads Buffalo in receiving yards (227) -- Jordan Matthews is the closest wide receiver with 162 yards. The Bills need LeSean McCoy to get back on track against a good Bengals run defense that got thumper Vontaze Burfict back last week. McCoy has averaged 35.3 rushing yards per game the past three weeks and has not scored a touchdown this season. Look for McCoy to do damage in the passing game against a Cincinnati defense that let Duke Johnson get loose last week.
Andy Dalton is playing much better in offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's system, tossing six touchdowns with zero interceptions and a 138.2 passer rating (0 TDs 4 INTs and a 47.2 pass rating over the first two games). Dalton, however, faces the NFL's stingiest defense, allowing a league-low 13.5 points per game. Sean McDermott's defense has smothered offenses this season. A.J. Green finding open spaces in the zone-heavy scheme will be key for Dalton on Sunday. Buffalo's secondary led by safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, along with first-round corner Tre'Davious White has been among the NFLs most unheralded groups in this young season.
NFL Research stat of the week: The Bills rank last in the NFL in percentage of pass plays and 31st in passing yards per game.
The Josh McCown REVENGE GAME! The New York quarterback has been solid, if unspectacular, leading Gang Green to back-to-back wins. The former Browns quarterback has a good matchup against a Cleveland defense that has given up copious amounts of big plays. The Jets will again rely on the ground game with Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire, but look for McCown to take several shots downfield to Robby Anderson.
The Browns offense is a mess. DeShone Kizer has had massive valleys and few peaks through four weeks. The running game is almost nonexistent. And the receivers are either injured or ineffective. Hue Jackson needs to get Isaiah Crowell rolling Sunday versus a Jets defense that has given up the fourth-most rushing yards per game in the NFL this season (143.8) to take some pressure off Kizer. Without the threat of the run, defenses have keyed in on the quarterback, knocking him around and getting creative in coverage packages. Play action doesn't work when no one believes you can (or will) run the ball.
NFL Research stat of the week: The Jets are one of six teams with 100-plus rushing yards in each of its last 3 games: NYJ, HOU, ATL, PHI, DEN and KC.
Cam Newton finally found his groove last week. The Panthers' quarterback improved the quick pass game (75.9 percent completion rate), finding targets on short routes, getting the ball out of his hands, and mixing in runs in the second half. When Newton is a dual-threat, Carolina's offense is still a beast to handle. Expect another heavy dose of Christian McCaffrey against Lions linebackers, who can struggle in space. The Panthers should be able to move the ball between the 20s Sunday. The key for Newton will be not turning the ball over, as he has five times this season. Detroit is tied for the league-lead with 11 takeaways this season.
Matthew Stafford's pocket movement this season has been an underrated storyline in the Lions' 3-1 start. The quarterback has been under siege this season. Detroit's O-line has given up 12 sacks, and Stafford has escaped at least 10 more. Against a Panthers team that can bring waves of defenders up the gut (Kawann Short is in for a big day), Stafford must be elusive once again. There are holes in the Panthers secondary that can be exploited for big plays from Marvin Jones and Golden Tate, but first Stafford must find time to let routes develop.
NFL Research stat of the week: The Lions have run the ball on 42.1 percent of plays this season -- highest rush percent for DET since 2005 (42.3 percent). Ameer Abdullah set career highs with 20 carries and 94 rush yards in Week 4. The Lions have gone 56 consecutive games without a 100-plus yard rusher, the third-longest such streak since the 1970 merger.
The temperature on Brian Hoyer's seat is rising as his inefficient play continues. The 49ers quarterback earned a 49 percent completion percentage last week, and many of those misses didn't give receivers a chance. Hoyer needs to take advantage of a Colts defense that continually gives up big plays, allowing 283.5 passing yards per game (3rd-most in the NFL). Hoyer's receiving corps is a mishmash of mostly third-fiddles behind Pierre Garcon, but the real struggles start with the quarterback off-target tosses to open wideouts. That needs to change Sunday or the calls for rookie C.J. Beathard to get a shot might reach loud enough levels Kyle Shanahan can't ignore.
Sunday marks the first game for Frank Gore against his former team. Universally liked by both Indy and 49ers fans and media, Gore is off to a painfully slow start without Andrew Luck under center. The running back is averaging 47.8 rushing yards per game, lowest since his rookie year, and a career-low 3.1 yards per carry. Jacoby Brissett needs Gore on Sunday against a 49ers defensive front that can crush the pocket, led by DeForest Buckner. Indy getting center Ryan Kelly back should be a huge boon for both Gore and Brissett. If the Colts can run the ball, the threat of play-action should aid the big-armed Brissett.
NFL Research stat of the week:Frank Gore is just four yards shy of passing Eric Dickerson for 7th on the all-time rushing list.
Marcus Mariota is questionable due to a hamstring. If he sits, the decaying passer known as Matt Cassel will take over. Tennessee will struggle to move the ball if Cassel is forced to play. Regardless of who is under center, the Titans need their running game to reemerge from the wilderness. Outside one long run in Week 3, DeMarco Murray has been slowed and looks like a runner shuffling his feet. Derrick Henry has fared no better the past two weeks, including a dreadful seven yards on six attempts last Sunday. It will be tough sledding against a Dolphins defense that has given up just 77.7 yards on the ground through three games. But if Cassel starts, Mike Mularkey will need to get back to "exotic smashmouth" to have a chance on the road.
It's an understatement to say the Dolphins offense has been unwatchable. Miami is averaging 8.3 points per game this season. EIGHT. POINT. THREE. Adam Gase's offense ranks dead last in total yards per game (249.0) yards per play (4.2), third down percentage (21.2) and red zone percentage (20.0). Jay Cutler has been putrid thus far. On a sunnier note, perhaps he can bust out of the slump against a Titans secondary that has been torched this season. If (IF) Cutler can find any semblance of accuracy, Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker should have good afternoons.
The Someone's Gotta Win Bowl. (Insert snarky comment about this game ending in a tie here.)
Melvin Gordon expressed frustration this week following a 22-yard, 10 carry performance last week. It was Gordon's second game averaging fewer than 2.3 yards per carry this season. The Chargers running back wants the ball more. Anthony Lynn should oblige in New Jersey on Sunday. The Giants run defense has disappeared, cratering from 3rd ranked in 2016 to 28th this year (allowing 142.8 yards per game). With Philip Rivers turning the ball over at an alarming rate, Lynn needs to give his young running back the chance to put the game on his shoulders.
Speaking of struggling offenses, the Giants found some rhythm the past two weeks with the quick passing game. Getting the ball out of Eli Manning's hands quickly on Sunday will be vital. Big Blue's offensive line can't block Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. If Manning is forced to hold the ball at all it could be lights out for the Giants' ironman quarterback. A bevy of early screens to Shane Vereen and Wayne Gallman could help stem the Chargers' relentless pass rushers.
NFL Research stat of the week:Eli Manning has not had his usual efficiency targeting Odell Beckham Jr., compiling a passer rating of 86.0 and 6.2 yards per attempt on throws to the receiver. Each of the previous three years, Manning had a passer rating of more than 100 and over 8 yards per attempt on tosses to Beckham.
Carson Palmer has been battered this season, under pressure on an NFL-high 36.5 percent of pass plays. The QB has been sacked 17 times more and hit 43 times more than any other passer. With Bruce Arians' philosophical repudiation of adding additional blockers to the scheme, Palmer is likely to get pulverized again this week by the Eagles penetrating defensive front (Fletcher Cox missing another week does give the QB some reprieve). If Palmer can find time, he should see receivers running open in a banged-up secondary that gives up big plays. John Brown and J.J. Nelson should have room to roam deep. The question is whether Palmer will have time to find them.
LeGarrette Blount channeled his inner Beast Mode last week and should see more carries Sunday with Wendell Smallwood (questionable) dealing with a knee injury (Corey Clement should also see his snaps increase). The big-bodied Blount has run with a purpose the past two weeks, showing power to the hole and menacing tackle-breaking on the second level. Credit Doug Pederson flipping his game plan around, allowing the running game to keep Carson Wentz on schedule. The Cardinals own a stout, top-10 run defense, but will suffer with Markus Golden suffering an ACL tear. Look for Wentz to take advantage of Arizona's leaky set of No. 2 corners deep off play action.
NFL Research stat of the week:Carson Wentz has been one of the most aggressive QBs in the league this season with 11.0 average intended air yards, the 3rd-highest in NFL (Jameis Winston: 11.7, Tom Brady: 11.2). However, Wentz is just 5-20 on passes of 20-plus air yards (25.0 comp percent) this season.
Can the Jaguars run the ball against Cameron Heyward and Ryan Shazier? Leonard Fournette will get his touches (one of three backs with 20-plus carries per game), but if he's stymied at the line of scrimmage the Jaguars will be in trouble against a Steelers pass defense that ranks second in the NFL in yards allowed (154.0) and second in sacks (15). Blake Bortles has been serviceable in games in which Fournette blasts off and the Jags get a lead. He's been dreadful when they fall behind. It what could be a defensive battle Sunday, can he make enough plays to move the chains on the road?
The matchup to watch is Antonio Brown versus Jaguars corners Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. After AB threw a sideline hissy fit last week, it will be interesting to see if Ben Roethlisberger force-feeds his No. 1 receiver this week (closed mouths don't eat, right?) Brown's matchups against Ramsey and Bouye should be physical battles. Ramsey is allowing just 2.5 yards per target. Bouye is allowing 7.5 yards per target but only a 40.1 passer rating against. The Steelers could move Brown into the slot to try and avoid the fierce duo, but it's not something he's done regularly this season (just 30 snaps -- 13 percent -- this season, per Next Gen Stats).
NFL Research stat of the week:Ben Roethlisberger has struggled with the deep pass this season. He is 4-20 on passes of 20-plus air yards (0-5 in Week 4). In 2016, Roethlisberger led the NFL in TD passes of 20-plus air yards (35 of 85).
Thomas Rawls should return to the lineup and see carries over an ineffective Eddie Lacy Sunday against a Rams defense that can be carved up on the ground. The Seahawks need to run the ball to help keep Aaron Donald and the rest of L.A.'s defensive line from destroying Russell Wilson, as they have the past several seasons. Wilson has opened up the offense the past two weeks, averaging 334.0 passing yards as the Seahawks have earning 400-plus total yards in back-to-back games. Jeff Fisher teams snuffed out Wilson's offense in the past. Can Wade Phillips do the same Sunday?
The Rams hype train is rolling fast down the Hollywood Hills. Can Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and Sean McVay continue to steer, or is L.A. due to hop the rails at some point? The NFC West division leader has been a scoring machine, leading the NFL with 35.5 points per game. Goff is the key. The last few weeks he's displayed calmness in the pocket and spread the ball around. But he hasn't faced a test like the one Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom will bring. Sunday is a big litmus test for Goff's progression.
NFL Research stat of the week:Todd Gurley joined an impressive list of players to record 575-plus scrimmage yards and 7-plus touchdowns in a team's first four games of any season: Emmitt Smith (1995), Jim Brown (1958 and 1963).
The Bounce Back Bowl. (Both teams started 2-0 before losing their past two games.)
The Ravens have been outscored 70-16 the past two games, with Joe Flacco ranking last in the NFL in yards per attempt (5.1), passing yards per game (150.3), and 31st in passer rating (65.0). The Raiders have the sixth-worst pass defense in the NFL, so on paper, he should come out of his funk. However, with the struggles connecting with his wide receivers bogging down the offense, expect John Harbaugh to implore his offense to pound the ball on the ground with Alex Collins early. The running back was the Ravens' best offensive player last week and should be given an opportunity to show it wasn't a fluke (if he can quit fumbling).
With EJ Manuel expected to start for Derek Carr (questionable), it's anyone's best guess what we might get from a Raiders offense that has been stuck in the mud. Manuel looked OK in relief last week. He wasn't afraid to pull the trigger and knew where he wanted to go with the ball before the snap -- two things he struggled with in Buffalo. Entering in comeback mode, however, isn't the same as starting against a defense with a game plan. Manuel will need playmakers to step up around him to move the ball against the Ravens' secondary. Amari Cooper has been the biggest enigma this season. The talented receiver has caught just 12-of-31 targets (38.7 percent), the lowest catch rate among 80 qualified receivers, and has dropped a plethora of passes. Manuel will need Cooper and Michael Crabtree to make plays for him Sunday if the Raiders are to avoid a three-game slide.
NFL Research stat of the week:Marshawn Lynch is averaging a career-low 3.36 yards per carry this season. He is averaging 11.3 carries per game and just 37.8 rushing yards per game.
Aaron Rodgers has a matchup against an injured Cowboys defense that was carved up by Jared Goff last week. Get ready for some fireworks. The Packers' offense is dealing with injuries of their own (notably running back Ty Montgomery who is doubtful to play), but Rodgers has been a marvel behind a makeshift offensive line. If Sean Lee misses another game, it will open the middle of the field for Rodgers to find Randall Cobb and tight end Martellus Bennett. Bennett is due for a breakout game against a Cowboys defense vulnerable to the tight end (reminder: Jared Cook had 103 yards receiving and Rodgers threw two touchdowns to tight ends in the playoff win over Dallas last season).
Dez Bryant torched the Packers defense in the Cowboys playoff loss, going for nine receptions, 132 yards, and two touchdowns. Can he duplicate the performance? Dak Prescott has force-fed Dez the ball this season to inconsistent results. Prescott has a 53.3 passer rating when targeting Bryant this season, fourth-worst in the NFL among all QB-WR combinations with 25-plus targets. The young players in the Packers secondary have been an improvement, especially rookie Kevin King. However, Green Bay has given up 100-plus-yard receiving days to Julio Jones and A.J. Green so far this year. Can Dez add his name to that list?
NFL Research stat of the week:Ezekiel Elliott has fewer than 90 rushing yards in three straight games for the first time in his career.
To all who scoffed at this Sunday night matchup in April when the schedule was announced, the game-makers own the last laugh. We get the NFL's last unbeaten team. We get two of the most dynamic rookies in the NFL in Kareem Hunt and Deshaun Watson. We get J.J. Watt and Justin Houston. Travis Kelce and DeAndre Hopkins. Ohhhhhhhhh Sunday NIGHT!!!!
Can Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and company slow the Kareem Hunt show? The rookie running back leads the NFL in rushing by 140 yards. That is a great games worth more than the next back. It's not as if Hunt gobbles up fluke stats with massive carry-rates either. The rookie ranks first in the NFL with 7.4 yards per carry, during most of which he runs over or through a defender. Watt & Co. are Hunts stiffest test to date. Houston smothered a good offensive line last week in Tennessee.
The rookies are the storyline Sunday night. The Texans have averaged 34.3 PPG in Deshaun Watson's first three career starts, the most of any starting quarterback under Bill O'Brien by 10 points. Credit O'Brien for opening up his playbook. Houston is utilizing Watson's sublime running skills to keep defenses off balance. The threat of the play action and zone-reads is opening receivers in the secondary. What new wrinkle will O'Brien add this week? Watson, however, hasn't faced a defense that can bring such force and flexibility up front. If the Chiefs defense drops eight into coverage and changes up their looks, will Watson be able to fit the ball into tight windows?
NFL Research stat of the week: The Chiefs have been dominant in the fourth quarter of games this season. KC has outscored opponents 54-13 in the fourth quarter, owns the NFL's highest scoring offense in the fourth quarter (54), has the NFL's most sacks in the fourth quarter (8; Justin Houston with 4), Alex Smith leads all qualified QBs in fourth quarter pass yards per attempt (10.0), and Kareem Hunt is the league-leader in fourth quarter rushing yards (240).
Sam Bradford could return for the Vikings after practicing on a limited basis late in the week. It would be a boost, but Case Keenum hasn't been the problem (coughing up three fumbles last week was the reason Minnesota lost, not the quarterback). The looming question for the Vikings is how to replace Dalvin Cook (ACL). Latavius Murray is a low-grade answer who is neither a dynamic runner nor expert pass catcher. Murray will take what the offensive line gives him and make a few decent runs, but he's not a big-play threat. Jerick McKinnon is a pass-catching back but at least brings athletic burst, but isn't a workload back. If neither runner poses a danger to the defense, how much more difficult will life become for the top receiving duo in the NFL, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen?
MITCH-A-PALOOZA!!! Win, lose, or draw, Bears fans will finally get what they've been clamoring for since the preseason. Mitchell Trubisky makes his first start in Chicago. For a little history perspective: Monday will mark 4,299 days since the Bears last started a rookie QB in a game (January 1, 2006 -- Kyle Orton at Vikings). Trubisky not only brings hope to beleaguered Bears fans. His skill set meshes better with Chicago's offense. The rookie's mobility and accuracy on the run will open the playbook in ways Mike Glennon physically never could. We expect to see rollouts and zone reads added to the arsenal to keep the Vikings defense off balance. Facing a Mike Zimmer D in his first game will be no picnic. I expect Minnesota to challenge the rookie with constant A-gap blitzes, coupled with blitz fakes and a variety of coverages. How Trubisky reacts under the lights will tell us how long the Mitch-A-Palooza party might last.
NFL Research stat of the week: The Minnesota defense has limited opposing offenses on the ground and on 3rd down this season: 71.3 rushing yards per game (3rd fewest in NFL), 3.06 yards per carry (4th) and 25.6 percent third-down rate (1st in NFL).