Seahawks offensive tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini aren't ready to return from injury. Center Max Unger could be out with a concussion. Seattle's offensive line might be the worst in the league, but no quarterback is better than Russell Wilson at escaping from free rushers or the perfectly timed blitz.
Matthew Stafford is 0-4 in Chicago, but this should be a good week to break the trend. The Lions are No. 3 in scoring offense, while the Bears have the No. 26 scoring defense. Stafford probably had his worst game of the season against the Bears when the two teams met earlier this year, and the Lions still won.
No team has more explosive plays this season than Philadelphia. The Eagles' line play on both sides of the ball has improved in recent weeks. Nick Foles had all day to throw last week in Oakland. And the Eagles' defense, so embarrassing early in the year, hasn't given up more than 20 points in three weeks. It should be able to keep Seneca Wallace under that number.
The Colts could coast to the AFC South title. They face just two teams that currently have a winning record for the rest of the season. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has been criticized plenty, but the Colts' offense is averaging 4.5 points per game more than it did a year ago despite a lot of injuries.
The Jaguars became the fourth team in NFL history to lose their first eight games of the season by 10 or more points. They've scored just 36 points in the first half all year and roll into Rocky Top minus their best player, receiver Justin Blackmon, who's been suspended for the campaign. A winless season feels possible.
The Bills are the best 3-6 team in football. Their defense went from dangerous to excellent once cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety Jairus Byrd got healthy. They play with great effort every week, and running back C.J. Spiller is finally looking 100 percent again. This is a game the Bills should win; Pittsburgh can't get it together on either side of the ball.
The Panthers have won nine of their last 12 games, but the knock on Carolina? They haven't beaten anyone of note. We don't buy it. The Panthers have scored 30-plus points per game during a four-tilt win streak, and Cam Newton is playing the best football of his career. His 120.4 passer rating on third downs points to Newton making critical throws from the pocket, and he's one reason we're all aflutter for Sunday:
The Texans are on the brink of extinction, but Case Keenum has made them fun again. The rookie quarterback owns the highest completion percentage in the league on passes of 20-plus yards through the air in 2013. Andre Johnson looks reborn with Keenum winging the ball. We'll be watching to see how he fares against Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.
The playoff picture
How would your team's prospects look if the season ended today? See where each team stands in the playoff picture midway through the season. More ...
Philip Rivers is a top-five quarterback again, but nothing can touch what Peyton Manning and the Broncos have accomplished. Denver has scored more points through eight games than any team in NFL history, but if you're looking for an X-factor, how about Mike McCoy? The Chargers coach helped implement aspects of the Broncos' hurry-up attack last season and knows Manning well.
Nothing is more tedious than the criticism aimed at Tony Romo. He's thrown a touchdown pass in 22 straight games, second only to Peyton Manning (31). The problem in Dallas is a disorganized defense bleeding yardage and points. The return of DeMarcus Ware would help against the Saints, but Drew Brees remains the NFL's best quarterback against the blitz this season.
We've written plenty about the mess in Miami. In Tampa, the big question for a winless team down the stretch is whether Mike Glennon is the quarterback of tomorrow. Before he's anointed, we'd like to see the rookie stick in the pocket and deliver throws, easing his tendency of late to scramble with receivers wide open.