Sunday NFL preview: QBs who could put up big numbers

NFL Nation reporters look ahead to what Sunday has in store for each team.


Buffalo Bills: The Bills have already ruled out running backs LeSean McCoy (hamstring) and Karlos Williams (concussion) for Sunday's game against the Titans and have turned their attention to the status of receiver Sammy Watkins (calf). Listed as questionable, Watkins said Friday that he would test his injury pregame and try to play. But his most telling comment was that he would play if there were an "emergency," which suggests he'll most likely not suit up. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins, who fired coach Joe Philbin earlier this week, are on a bye. Miami travels to Tennessee next weekend -- ESPN.com staff

New England Patriots: Running back Dion Lewis was rewarded with a two-year contract extension through 2017, and it's no coincidence, as he has emerged as the Patriots' answer to the question, "Who will replace Shane Vereen as the top passing back?" Just as Vereen played a Patriots RB-high 52.9 percent of the snaps last season, Lewis is in line for a similar output if he stays healthy. He'll still split time with LeGarrette Blount, with their snaps fluctuating on a week-to-week basis depending on the game plan, but Lewis has quickly earned the No. 1 pass-catching role, and that shouldn't be changing any time soon. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets: The Jets have a bye this week. They play the Redskins in Week 6. -- ESPN.com staff


Baltimore Ravens: With Steve Smith Sr. out, Kamar Aiken becomes the Ravens' No. 1 receiver. After Smith injured his back in Pittsburgh, Joe Flacco targeted Aiken on four of his past 13 throws. Aiken is still far from a sure bet to put up solid numbers. He has only had four games in which he has produced more than 50 yards receiving. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals: While Cincinnati's defense will most directly benefit from Marshawn Lynch's absence Sunday, the Bengals' offense could benefit too. Without Lynch, the Seahawks likely will struggle to string together long drives, given that their running game won't be as effective. If that happens, perhaps the Bengals will have opportunities to employ their own running game against a stingy Seattle defense. On what likely will be a rough afternoon to start too many Bengals players in fantasy, perhaps running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard can produce points as the Bengals' offense tries to keep the ball out of Russell Wilson's hands. -- Coley Harvey

Cleveland Browns: The Browns expect a full dose of running back Justin Forsett on Sunday in Baltimore. The Ravens back averaged 6.5 yards per carry against the Browns in 2014, and the Browns devoted the practice week to stopping the run. The question is whether the league's 31st-ranked run defense (32nd overall) has it in them. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers want to get DeAngelo Williams more carries -- he has done well when he gets the ball -- but Le'Veon Bell should still get his 20-plus touches a game. Williams can see the field more when Bell lines up wide, where he's deadly as a receiver, but those setups will depend on what the Chargers do on defense. Also, look out for Martavis Bryant, whose ability is unquestioned but who might need a week or two to regain his game form after serving a four-game suspension. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans: The Texans are off this weekend after losing to the Colts on Thursday. Houston travels to Jacksonville in Week 6. -- ESPN.com staff

Indianapolis Colts: After downing the Texans on Thursday -- led by 40-year old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck -- the Colts are off this weekend. Indy has a home test against New England in Week 6. -- ESPN.com staff

Jacksonville Jaguars: Since he had a big game in Week 2, defenses have concentrated on stopping receiver Allen Robinson. That makes wideout Allen Hurns a good play. He has caught 13 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns in the past two games. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans: Buffalo is without its top two running backs, and the Titans are getting top cornerback Jason McCourty into the lineup for the first time. The Titans haven't faced great quarterbacks, but they've done pretty well against the pass. -- Paul Kuharsky


Denver Broncos: Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas finished the week as a full participant in the team's Thursday and Friday practices after suffering a neck injury in Sunday's win over the Vikings. Thomas is expected to play, but for Sunday's game against the Raiders, coach Gary Kubiak has said all week that it's important to find a way to continue to get Emmanuel Sanders more touches. Given Thomas' sore neck and Kubiak's desire to continue to get Sanders more involved, expect Sanders to have far more than the six targets he had against the Vikings. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs: Quarterback Alex Smith has thrown 637 yards in his past six quarters, and though that pace is probably unsustainable, he will have to keep throwing as long as the Chiefs are playing as poorly as they are on defense. The Chiefs have allowed more than 30 points in each of their past three games, and they never led in either of the past two, so they were in catch-up mode early and stayed that way. If the Chiefs have to get in another shootout against the Bears, Smith might have some impressive stats at the end of the day. -- Adam Teicher

Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper has proven to be a strong fantasy play. He is averaging six catches a game, and his 339 receiving yards are the most by a rookie after four games in the NFL in four years. Cooper, however, has not been flawless. He has four drops, and his 14.3 drop rate is the highest in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. This is not a major concern because Cooper has been so productive, but it shows he is not a finished product, which is to be expected of a 21-year-old receiver. -- Bill Williamson

San Diego Chargers: Danny Woodhead is No. 10 among running backs with 347 yards from scrimmage, including 203 receiving yards through four games. Tight end Antonio Gates should receive a lot of attention from Pittsburgh's defense in his first game back, which leaves Woodhead as a nice option for Philip Rivers out of the backfield on underneath routes. -- Eric D. Williams


Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys have struggled to make plays with their outside receivers the past two weeks, which puts more pressure on Cole Beasley and Jason Witten to win inside. Beasley has 10 catches for 111 yards in Brandon Weeden's two starts at quarterback. The Patriots are among the best at taking away what offenses like to do, and without Dez Bryant, Beasley will get more attention inside from the Patriots. While he is on the same side of the formation as Witten, it is more difficult for him to face double coverage. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants: Concerns about Odell Beckham Jr.'s target volume are overblown. The Giants' game plan last week against the Bills' front four was for Eli Manning to get the ball out quickly and to his first read. Manning did that very well, and as a result, there was little chance to go downfield to Beckham or Rueben Randle for a big play. Since San Francisco's front isn't as scary as Buffalo's, expect the Giants' game plan this week to feature a couple shots downfield to their best playmaker. -- Dan Graziano

Philadelphia Eagles: Zach Ertz worked hard on his blocking this offseason to increase his playing time. That worked: Ertz is playing more than Brent Celek or anyone at tight end. But Ertz's production (10 catches, 104 yards) hasn't increased as much as expected. The further Ertz gets from his August core-muscle surgery (and the more connection he develops with Sam Bradford), the more likely it is that his numbers start to pick up. -- Phil Sheridan

Washington Redskins: Losing Jordan Reed will hurt the Redskins' offense, especially on third downs. The Redskins felt he was a money player for them on this down, and the stats back him up, as his nine receptions resulted in eight first downs. Without him in the lineup because of a concussion, the Redskins could turn more to Pierre Garcon, as well as rookie slot receiver Jamison Crowder. The Redskins love Crowder's ability to separate -- a key factor for winning on third down. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears: Don't be surprised if the Bears try to exploit Kansas City's suspect pass defense, even with Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and Eddie Royal (ankle) listed as game-time decisions. This coaching staff is all about matchups. The smart play is to attack Kansas City's secondary. The Chiefs rank 28th versus the pass (295.5) after four weeks. Jay Cutler likes to throw the football. Even potentially without Jeffery or Royal, Cutler can still work the football to tight end Martellus Bennett, tailback Matt Forte or wideout Marquess Wilson, who made a pair of clutch catches on the final drive in last week's win over Oakland. The Bears will not abandon the passing game at Arrowhead Stadium. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions: The Lions offense is all over the place -- and that isn't a good thing. This inconsistent group has not scored a touchdown in five-plus quarters and cannot be relied on to produce consistently in real life or fantasy. Calvin Johnson remains a fantasy play, but buyer beware on everyone else, including Matthew Stafford and Golden Tate. If you're in a PPR league, Theo Riddick might be a consideration if you think Arizona will be up on Detroit late. Otherwise, you can probably find better options against another top-10 pass defense. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers: Eddie Lacy described his sprained right ankle as "cool" this week, which is exactly what he said last week before he rushed for 90 yards on 18 carries against the 49ers. Whatever "cool" means, it sounds like Lacy doesn't think the lingering effects of the injury he sustained in Week 2 against the Seahawks are much of an issue any longer. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings: The 2-2 Vikings are off in Week 6, and they face the Chiefs next weekend. -- ESPN.com staff


Atlanta Falcons: Although Tevin Coleman will return to the Falcons lineup Sunday coming off a fractured rib, I don't know if I'd go with the rookie running back in fantasy play just yet. My gut says Coleman's touches will be limited, with the Falcons still riding starter Devonta Freeman's hot hand. Coleman's still capable of taking it to the house, even with limited touches, but both backs might find it more difficult to find space against the league's second-ranked rushing defense. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers: The undefeated Panthers have a bye this weekend. Carolina faces a big test in its next game, at Seattle in Week 6. -- ESPN.com staff

New Orleans Saints: Two struggling units will square off Sunday, when the Saints' 27th-ranked run defense meets the Eagles' 30th-ranked rushing offense. The Saints showed improvement in their 26-20 victory over Dallas last week, but they have allowed 17 runs of 10-plus yards this year, third-most in the NFL. Philadelphia's up-tempo zone-read scheme will put a lot of stress on New Orleans' young D. If DeMarco Murray is ever going to get off the ground, this could be the week. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Wide receiver Vincent Jackson was targeted 15 times in Week 4, and expect him to be a favorite target of quarterback Jameis Winston against the Jaguars. Jackson had a season-high 10 catches for 147 yards in the loss to the Panthers. The Bucs must find success through the air to win their first home game of the Lovie Smith era. Jacksonville's defense is fourth in the NFL against the run but 25th against the pass. Jackson needs a big day to help build momentum for Tampa Bay's offense. -- Andrew Astleford


Arizona Cardinals: For the first time this season, the Cardinals will have a full complement of healthy starters on offense, including running back Andre Ellington. Chris Johnson will remain the starter, but Ellington is expected to have a full role against the winless Lions, who are hungry for a win after last weekend's controversial ending. -- Josh Weinfuss

St. Louis Rams: The Rams are expecting big things from Todd Gurley this week against the Packers, but don't sleep on quarterback Nick Foles. Foles has only made one career start against the Packers, but he had three touchdowns with no interceptions and a 149.3 passer rating in that game. If the Rams can get the running game going and offer Foles some protection, he could take advantage with some downfield throws using play-action. -- Nick Wagoner

San Francisco 49ers: Getting deep threat Torrey Smith more involved is on the Niners' to-do list, as it should be. But they might also think about getting Reggie Bush more than the two touches he had last week, especially with tight end Vernon Davis missing his second straight game. In five career games against the Giants, Bush has averaged more than 4.7 yards per carry with two scores and has 15 receptions for 106 yards. -- Paul Gutierrez

Seattle Seahawks: Looking for a flex play today? Wide receiver Doug Baldwin might not be a bad option. Baldwin has been the Seahawks' most-targeted receiver through four games and has scored in two of the past three weeks. With Marshawn Lynch out, Seattle will have to move the ball through the air, and that could mean Russell Wilson looking Baldwin's way. -- Sheil Kapadia