Everything you need to know as kickoff approaches...
Key game-time decisions
All players questionable unless noted
That's some serious firepower listed as questionable for the Cowboys. Dez will test out the knee after being limited all week. With the bye coming up next week, the Cowboys could be cautious with their star receiver. Witten, Bailey and Claiborne were all full-go Friday and should play, barring any setbacks.
New England Patriots: TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring, illness), TE Martellus Bennett (ankle), RB LeGarrette Blount (hip), RB Brandon Bolden (knee), T Marcus Cannon (calf), LB Jamie Collins (hip), WR Julian Edelman (foot), QB Jimmy Garoppolo (right shoulder), LB Shea McClellin (concussion), WR Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring), G Joe Thuney (shoulder), DT Vincent Valentine (back)
Almost 23 percent of the Pats' 53-man roster is listed as questionable. Gronk missed Friday's practice with an illness. The rest of the notables were limited to close out the week.
Chancellor tweaked his groin in Thursday's practice. He'll test it out prior to Sunday's tilt with the Falcons. Clark did not practice all week.
Reed and Cravens were both ruled out on Saturday.
Barnidge was limited all week. Haden sat out Friday. Williams was full-go Thursday and Friday.
What is the record for players being labeled questionable but not actually missing a game? Jeffery might attempt to break it. (Tom Brady probably has that record too.) Royal sat out all week again -- last week he played despite missing practices.
Ansah is on pace to return. Washington's status is one to keep an eye on. If the rookie doesn't play, newly signed Justin Forsett and Zach Zenner are the only healthy tailbacks -- Theo Riddick (ankle) was ruled out, along with TE Eric Ebron (ankle, knee), LB DeAndre Levy (quadricep, knee) and DT Haloti Ngata (shoulder).
The quartet all returned to practice as limited on Friday.
Foster will test out his hamstring pre-game. Jones returned limited on Friday after missing earlier sessions.
Fox was full-go Friday. McKelvin was limited.
Clay was limited on Thursday and Friday, indicating he should be ready to play. The tight end has been Tyrod Taylor's favorite target during the three-game win streak.
T.Y. was full go on Friday. He'll play.
Fuller was limited all week but is expected to play.
Harris has played in 112 consecutive games.
*We could be in for rain in six of our 10 outdoor games this week. We will update Sunday prognostications for all non-dome contests as we drift closer to game time. *
49ers at Bills -- 68 degrees -- chance of rain (65 percent)
Jaguars at Bears -- 67 degrees -- chance of thunderstorms (29 percent)
Steelers at Dolphins -- 82 degrees -- chance of thunderstorms (56 percent)
Bengals at Patriots -- 66 degrees
Ravens at Giants -- 67 degrees
Browns at Titans -- 78 degrees
Eagles at Redskins -- 66 degrees
Chiefs at Raiders -- 64 degrees -- chance of rain (92 percent)
Cowboys at Packers -- 67 degrees -- slight chance of rain late in contest (10 percent)
Falcons at Seahawks -- 59 degrees -- chance of rain (75 percent)
What to Watch For
The LeSean McCoy revenge game! Shady enters Sunday's tilt versus former coach Chip Kelly enjoying his best streak in Buffalo. McCoy has been unstoppable in Buffalo's past three games, averaging 110 yards per contest on the ground. On Sunday he faces the 49ers' No. 31 rushing defense (146.8 YPG allowed) that has allowed a 100-plus yard rusher in four straight games. Getting huge push from an underrated Bills interior O-line, Shady will feast again.
Colin Kaepernick will attempt to jumpstart Kelly's offense after Blaine Gabbert's scattershot stretch to open the season. We are not getting the same Kap that set the world on fire in 2013. Last year Kaepernick seemed lost, made poor decisions and lacked accuracy. It will be intriguing to see how Kelly deploys the athletic but gaunt passer. We don't expect much from Kaepernick against a Rex Ryan defense that has been swarming during a three-game winning streak. The Bills defense has forced 11 turnovers (six INT, five fumbles lost) and 17 sacks (fourth-most in NFL) after struggling to take down the passer last season. Ryan has Lorenzo Alexander leading the NFL in sacks (7.0) entering Week 6 for Pete's sake.
Say what? Stat of the week: With Gabbert at QB, Torrey Smith had career lows in receiving yards (106), yards per receptions (11.8) and yards after the catch (13) through five games of a season.
After a disappointing start to the season, Blake Bortles hopefully used the bye week to clear his head. The enigmatic passer is averaging just 6.6 yards per pass this season. His field-stretching passes to Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns have been wayward, thanks in part to shaky footwork and protection breakdowns. Bortles faces a young Vic Fangio secondary playing better than we expected, but is still susceptible to getting toasted on occasion -- see T.Y. Hilton last week. Bortles needs to come out of the bye firing if he's going to salvage the season. The running game offering any semblance of aid might be nice.
The Chicago media has swarmed over Brian Hoyer not targeting Alshon Jeffery late last week. With risk-averse Hoyer under center, Jeffrey's targets have waned, but the Bears offense has been more efficient. Jeffery is amidst his first career five-game streak without a receiving TD in a single season. Will all the honking cause Hoyer to reconsider giving Jeffery more 50-50 opportunities? The Jags defense ranks seventh in passing yards allowed per game this season and has given up fewer than 300 total yards in three of four games. Jeffrey's battles with rookie Jalen Ramsey could be epic, but expect Hoyer to try and pick on Davon House, who has frequently been burned.
Finally, a matchup that appears in Todd Gurley's favor. The Rams rusher is getting 78.9 percent of the team's handoffs, but averaging 2.7 yards per rush this season (last in NFL among 39 qualified players). Gurley is the fifth RB since at least 1960 with 100-plus carries in his team's first five games and YPC under 3.0. But enough with the negatives. In Detroit, Gurley faces a banged-up Lions defense that will be without Haloti Ngata and DeAndre Levy, two of their top run-stuffers. The Lions give up 114.8 yards per game on the ground. If the Rams can't free up their stud runner to earn more than three yards a carry on Sunday, just end the season.
Sunday will be the latest reminder for Lions fans that their team passed on drafting Aaron Donald. The defensive tackle has been a game-wrecker this season and has a good matchup against an inconsistent, injured Lions interior. Matthew Stafford has played the best in his career, but, like all quarterbacks, gets killed with pressure up the gut. With Rams top corner Trumaine Johnson out, Stafford will have the advantage with Marvin Jones on the outside. First, the Lions offensive line needs to give the quarterback time to exploit that matchup.
When Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers' offense is on the field this week, there isn't a position where they don't enjoy the advantage. Le'Veon Bell is averaging 105.0 rushing YPG this season; the Dolphins have allowed 150.8 rush YPG this year (worst in NFL). Antonio Brown is the top route-runner in the NFL and Sammie Coates (finger; questionable) is a downfield blur; Miami has one of the worst set of corners in the NFL and star safety Reshad Jones (groin) might not play. The Dolphins have also given up the sixth-most yards to tight ends this season; Jesse James is 6-foot-7. Unless the Steelers lay an egg, it's difficult to imagine Vance Joseph's unit not getting diced up.
We could go on and on blaming the offensive line for the Dolphins' struggles, pointing out the lack of holes in the ground game and blown blocks in the passing game. At some point franchise quarterbacks need to overcome those deviances and make plays -- ask Sam Bradford in Minnesota or Andrew Luck in Indy, neither of whom gets good blocking. Ryan Tannehill has multiple giveaways in each of his last four games while taking 17 sacks (some his fault, some not). Against a Steelers defense injured up front and still prone to giving up the occasional big play on the back end, Tannehill needs to be secure with the ball and attack down field. We've seen no indications he can do either.
Say what? Stat of the week: Miami's leading rusher (Jay Ajayi) has 117 rushing yards this season. Ten NFL players have had 120-plus rushing yards in a single game this year, including two on the Steelers (Bell and DeAngelo Williams).
With a stagnant run game, the Bengals have relied on Andy Dalton to guide the offense through the air. That trend should continue in Week 6, especially with Jeremy Hill coming off an injury. The Bengals offense has been dependent on production from A.J. Green this season, with the stud receiver garnering at least eight targets a game and averaging 176.5 receiving yards per game in Cincy's two wins. Bill Belichick usually shuts down an opponent's best player. The Pats have only allowed two 100-yard receivers this season -- Jarvis Landry (135) and DeVante Parker (106) in Week 2 after the Dolphins got down big early. Only four Bengals players have ever had 100-plus receiving yards versus the Patriots, and none have been Green. Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd and Giovani Bernard must step up to fill the void when New England blankets Green.
With Tom Brady back, the Pats predictably returned to the passing attack to churn out yards last week. That should continue against a Bengals defense that has allowed 11 passing TDs in five games this season -- it allowed 18 pass TDs all of last season (second-fewest in NFL). The Pats' use of tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett is lethal. Against the Bengals' linebackers, the duo will wreck havoc again. New England used 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR) 39.0 percent of plays in Week 5 and are averaging 6.8 yards/play in that formation this season. When teams begin to overcompensate to cover the Gronk/Bennett duo, Brady will strike to Julian Edelman. This Pats offense is just beginning its ascent.
Say what? Stat of the week: Edelman has fewer than 40 receiving yards in each of his last three games -- his last 100-yard game was Week 5, 2015 vs. Cowboys (120). Edelman has eight straight games without a TD reception, including playoffs.
Cam Newton (questionable) expects to return from concussion protocol in time to meet a leaky Saints secondary ranked 29th against the pass, last in points allowed per game and 31st in total yards. It's a good matchup for Newton to get right after a shaky start to the season -- even before the concussion. In his last nine games, including the playoffs, Newton has averaged just 241.1 passing yards per game, 11 touchdown tosses, 11 turnovers and an 87.1 passer rating. After a brutal loss to fall to 1-4, Carolina needs its MVP to raise his level of play if the Panthers are going to salvage a floundering season.
Drew Brees hasn't shown any chinks in the armor, despite the losses. Against a sagging Panthers defense in the Superdome, the future Hall of Fame quarterback can put up fireworks coming off the bye week. The Panthers defense hasn't pressured the quarterback and the back end is a mess with inconsistent play and injuries (CB Robert McClain has been ruled out). Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead and Michael Thomas all have mismatches against Carolina's secondary.
Say what? Stat of the week:Mark Ingram has one 100-yard rushing game in his last 20 contests and fewer than 60 rush yards in 15 of those 20 games.
When your former boss gets fired for not running the ball enough, the first thing you're likely to do after taking over is RUN THE BALL. Despite averaging 6.7 yards/carry in the first quarter in Week 5, the Ravens ran just eight rush plays in the final three quarters. That should change with Marty Mornhinweg calling the plays, and Terrance West will benefit. If the Giants' front four has a strength, it's stopping the run (ranking 12th in the NFL, allowing 96.6 YPG) but the unit has been gashed the past two weeks. When Joe Flacco does drop back to pass, we expect more deep shots than under Marc Trestman. Pounding the ball on the ground and taking shots to Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace fits the Ravens' personnel better than the dink-and-dunk strategy of the previous play-caller.
Eli Manning has been a mess during the Giants' three-game skid, completing 57.6 percent of his passes with a 2-3 TD-INT ratio and 73.8 passer rating. Manning has looked gun-shy and skittish in the pocket. On Sunday he faces a pocket-pushing defensive line. The Ravens have only compiled 10 sacks on the season but forces quarterbacks off their spot. The Ravens rank in the top 10 in rushing and passing yards per game allowed, scoring defense and total yards given up. Manning has particularly struggled targeting Odell Beckham Jr. this season (73.0 passer rating with just one touchdown), especially downfield. That must change Sunday for the Giants to end their losing streak.
With a less-than-100-percent Cody Kessler under center, the Browns will rely on Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson heavily out of the backfield. Crowell should shoulder the load after getting stymied last week versus New England. The bruising back is one of the best surprises this season, churning out 5.6 yards per carry (second in the NFL). Facing the Titans' No. 14 ranked rush defense, Cleveland needs the chain-mover to have a big day in a very winnable game for the winless Browns.
Fire up the Marcus Mariota-Delanie Walker combo for a big day. The Browns have given up 43 receptions for 501 yards to tight ends this season, most in the NFL. When he's healthy, Walker is Mariota's security blanket and should be open plenty over the middle, especially off play-action fakes. After a four-touchdown game last week, Mariota will stack back-to-back big performances against the only defense to allow 25-plus points in every game this season.
Say what? Stat of the week: We could be in for a throwback, pound-it-out matchup. Both offenses rank in the top five in rushing -- TEN: 148.6 rush YPG (2nd), CLE: 124.8 rush YPG (5th) -- and struggle to pass -- CLE: 224.6 pass YPG (26th), TEN: 209.4 pass YPG (28th).
The Redskins' run defense is abysmal, ranking 30th in the NFL, giving up 130.0 yards per game. The question is will the Eagles be able to take advantage? Lane Johnson's suspension takes away a massive blocking edge. Ryan Mathews got most of the work last week but averages just 3.3 yards per rush this season. Darren Sproles is the most efficient back but doesn't carry the load. After getting just one snap in Week 5, rookie Wendell Smallwood could see his role increase this week. Expect Carson Wentz also to do more damage with his legs this week against Washington.
Versus an Eagles defense that has earned at least three sacks in every game, Kirk Cousins needs to keep his mettle. The Eagles are susceptible to getting picked on in the quick-pass attack, where Cousins is at his best. The Redskins have the pass-catchers to pick apart Philly's secondary, even if Jordan Reed (concussion; questionable) is out. Expect a big day from Jamison Crowder on quick tosses. The shifty receiver can be deadly in space. Cousins will get pressured, but if he can avoid getting discombobulated and making game-killing mistakes, there will be opportunities to be had through the air, especially on misdirection plays.
Say what? Stat of the week: Only Dan Marino (103.6) earned a higher passer rating as a rookie through his first four career games than Carson Wentz (103.5).
The matchup between Marcus Peters and Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree will be fascinating. Derek Carr fearlessly goes after any cornerback -- it's what makes him so fun to watch. Last season Peters held both receivers to four catches on eight targets each. The Chiefs picked off two passes targeted at Cooper while allowing Crabtree to score a touchdown with Peters in coverage. Carr has thrown only two interceptions all year but might do well to pick on the opposite side of the field Sunday and avoid the NFL's leading interception artist.
Jamaal Charles says he's "110 percent" and ready to roll, while offensive coordinator Brad Childress said he plans to "sprinkle" the back into the offense. Expect Spencer Ware to retain a major role in the offense, but the Chiefs need the playmaking Charles provides in both the run and passing game to open up the defense. The Raiders give up 4.9 yards per attempt on the ground (30th), so it's a good matchup for both Ware and Charles. Jeremy Maclin could have a big day picking on Sean Smith. Week after week, Oakland has been susceptible to downfield passes and coverage breakdowns. Can Alex Smith take advantage?
Say what? Stat of the week: Among active head coaches, Andy Reid has the best winning percentage following a bye week (15-2, .882). He's 2-1 following a bye with K.C.
Here is the major question heading into Sunday's showdown at Lambeau Field: Is the Packers' run defense as impressive as it's looked in four games? Green Bay has allowed a minuscule 42.8 rushing yards per game, and 2.0 yards per carry, both best in the NFL (for comparison's sake: last season they allowed 4.5 yards per carry; 26th). The Packers' front seven has been impressive, but do the otherworldly stats have more to do with their opponents? In four games, they've faced the Jaguars (30th in rushing offense), Vikings (32nd), Lions (23rd -- and sans their top rusher) and Giants (27th). On Sunday they face the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL. The Cowboys boast a road-grading offensive line and rookie tailback Ezekiel Elliott, who leads the NFL with 546 rushing yards. Elliott has been more impressive by the week, displaying patience hitting the hole. If the Packers hold down Zeke, that will be an accomplishment, but don't expect another week of under 50 yards on the ground versus Green Bay.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have looked like two totally different offenses from one half to the next. The Packers are getting great blocking and solid support in the run game, but the passing attack continues to raise eyebrows. Rodgers should have plenty of time to find targets against the Cowboys' front seven this week but needs his receivers to find space. Cowboys corner Morris Claiborne has been stellar this season. He should clamp down on Jordy Nelson, which means Randall Cobb could be in for another big day. Cobb hasn't posted back-to-back 100-plus-yard receiving games since Weeks 7 and 8 in 2014.
Matt Ryan and the soaring Falcons offense passed their first two big tests of the season (Carolina, Denver). Now comes the mid-term exam. Atlanta ranks first in points, total yards, passing yards per game and yards per play this season. This week in Seattle is actually a stiffer test than Week 5 in Denver -- no disrespect to the Broncos. Unlike last week, the Seahawks linebackers are much better in coverage than Denver's, meaning those tosses to Tevin Coleman won't be so easy. What game plan will Kyle Shanahan deploy this week? Can Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu pick on Deshawn Shead, who has played well opposite Richard Sherman? In the last six meetings between the No. 1 total offense and No. 1 total defense (yards per game allowed), the defense has won five times -- the Seahawks' D won two of those contests.
Russell Wilson has shown no ill effects of ankle or knee injuries in his past two games. Coming off a bye, don't expect the injuries to slow his pace. In the last two games, Wilson is completing 69.1 percent of his passes for 276 yards per game, a 4-0 TD-INT ratio and 125.7 passer rating. Jimmy Graham's emergence has helped escalate Seattle's passing attack. Against a decimated Falcons linebacking corps, Graham should be in for another big day. Doug Baldwin also stacks up as a candidate to rack up yards against Falcons rookie slot corner Brian Poole. Atlanta needs Vic Beasley to take advantage of a weak Seattle offensive line, or Wilson will pick the secondary apart.
Can the Colts protect Andrew Luck long enough for him to make plays down the field? Luck has been sacked 20 times this season (most in the NFL) and taken 42 hits (second-most). The Colts have allowed five-plus sacks in back-to-back games for the first time since Weeks 2 and 3, 1997. The Texans' front seven, led by Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus, have 35 QB hits (third-most) and 13 sacks (T-6th). If Luck has any time, he can hit T.Y. Hilton (170-plus receiving yards in two of his last three games) downfield against a Texans secondary that got burned by the Sam Bradford-Adam Thielen combo last week.
A lifeless Texans offense needs to show some semblance of spirit versus a talent-poor Colts defense. It's one of the few times the Colts' D will head into a game ranked higher than the opposing offense this season. Vontae Davis has been fantastic since overcoming injury to open the season. He won't be solely lined up on DeAndre Hopkins, but the duo should match up plenty. This will be a physical battle worthy of prime time. If Davis is blanketing Hopkins, Brock Osweiler needs to prove he can work through his progression and get others, aside from Will Fuller, involved. If Brock can't move the ball against an Indy defense allowing a 104.9 passer rating (30th in NFL), it will be a long, long, long year in Houston.
Say what? Stat of the week:T.Y. Hilton has been targeted 10-plus times in every game this season (only player in NFL).
With Eric Decker on IR and Brandon Marshall getting the Patrick Peterson treatment, Quincy Enunwa becomes the linchpin of the Jets' passing attack this week. Enunwa has the big body and hands to be a playmaker, but he's done his best work as the third fiddle. Now that he's permanently moved up a chair, can he boost his play? Ryan Fitzpatrick also needs to utilize Bilal Powell heavily in the passing game to keep the Cards' linebackers honest. Powell has been more impressive than Matt Forte the past several weeks (a sentence I would never have thought I'd write).
If Carson Palmer can get his deep ball accuracy under control, this is a great matchup for a John Brown blow-up game. The Jets' secondary consistently gets burned deep, with or without Darrelle Revis in the lineup. Brown has had a schizophrenic start to his season, with fewer than 15 yards in three games. Expect Palmer to give the speedy receiver plenty of chances against Jets defensive backs that have the propensity to get out of position.
Say what? Stat of the week:Markus Golden is a beast (6.0 sacks this season; T-3rd most in NFL). Golden is the only player in NFL with at least one sack in each of his team's games this season.