Thursday NFL preview: Is Big Ben ready to play?

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


Buffalo Bills: Buffalo got a boost at Wednesday's practice in London as cornerback Leodis McKelvin participated in his first day eligible since being placed on the non-football injury list at the start of the season. McKelvin hasn't played since November 2014, when he broke his ankle in a game against the Dolphins. It's not a lock that McKelvin will play Sunday against the Jaguars, and even if he is activated to the roster, rookie cornerback Ronald Darby still figures to hold down the starting role that McKelvin lost midway through last season. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are very concerned with how to block Houston's defensive line led by J.J. Watt and Vince Wilfork. Miami interim coach Dan Campbell said that's an issue the offense must solve to be successful. The Dolphins have allowed 2.4 sacks per game this season (20th in the NFL). -- James Walker

New England Patriots: With rookie guard Shaq Mason (knee) landing on the injury report (he didn't practice Wednesday), the Patriots now have health/depth concerns on the interior of the line as well as at tackle. Guard Josh Kline (shoulder) was also limited. This means the Patriots might need to start counting on veteran Ryan Wendell, last year's starter at right guard who has missed the first five games with an undisclosed illness. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets: Ex-Patriot RB Stevan Ridley -- who's on the PUP list still recovering from a torn ACL last season -- practiced fully on Wednesday for the first time this season, and could be activated for Sunday's game against his old team. "It'll be a tough call" as to whether he is activated, Jets coach Todd Bowles said of Ridley. "We'll see what kind of shape he's in; we'll see what we need, if we need him, and we'll go from there. It'll be a day by day thing." -- Colin Stephenson


Baltimore Ravens: Even though TE Dennis Pitta (who is still on PUP) has begun practicing, Crockett Gillmore remains the starting tight end for the foreseeable future. Gillmore is Joe Flacco's No. 2 target behind Steve Smith Sr. because of his ability to break tackles and generate yards after the catch. There are no guarantees that Pitta, who is coming back from his second hip surgery, will play this season. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals: With their players now in the middle of a much-needed midseason break, Bengals coaches used the first part of the bye week to evaluate themselves. The idea was to go back through the first six games to see which schemes and play calls worked and which didn't. They also focused on their lineup rotations, and tried to see how their players performed. Next week, they will get back into preparing for an opponent, as the division rival Steelers loom on Nov. 1. -- Coley Harvey

Cleveland Browns: The Browns have focused on run defense this season, unsuccessfully. Sunday in St. Louis they're sure to get a full dose of Todd Gurley. "If we don't go out there wanting to stop the run and wanting to play that street fight with them, ... then we will get embarrassed defending the run," coach Mike Pettine said. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers: The quarterback spot is heating up in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are ready to play Landry Jones but are waiting to see how much Ben Roethlisberger's health improves. Roethlisberger threw several passes Wednesday, graduated to 11-man work and is expected to increase his workload Thursday. Roethlisberger's apparent progress deepens the intrigue for Sunday's game against Kansas City. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans: J.J. Watt still doesn't know how to throw a screen pass. During the "E:60" feature on Watt, he revealed that was his downfall as a quarterback as a kid. On Wednesday, he shared more on that topic. "I can throw the deep ball and that's about it," Watt said. "Andy Bernwerger stole the job from me. That was all. I still can't throw short passes. I can throw a 70-yard ball all day long. But I can't throw a bubble screen to save my life. I was very sad that day. I'm very happy today. It's OK." Watt said the feature, which ended with him discussing his grandfather, who passed away last year, moved him to tears. -- Tania Ganguli

Indianapolis Colts: Thursday will give a better indication of where safety Mike Adams is with his injured hamstring. Adams didn't practice Wednesday and is listed as day-to-day. The Colts usually want their injured players to have a couple of days of practice so they have an idea of how they'll play. Adams has four of the Colts' six interceptions this season. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars: RB T.J. Yeldon did not practice on Wednesday because of a groin injury, and if he doesn't practice on Thursday, it would be a clear indication that he's not likely to play on Sunday against Buffalo in London. He missed last week's game against the Texans after not practicing all week. With a bye next on the docket, the Jaguars may be planning on having Yeldon sit out this week so he can be fully healthy entering Week 9. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans: The Titans could have injury issues in the secondary Sunday against Atlanta. Free safety Michael Griffin (knee) and cornerback Perrish Cox (hamstring) didn't practice Wednesday. Neither did receiver Harry Douglas (ribs), and if he can't play, the Titans will have to add a fourth receiver to replace him. That could be Rico Richardson or Tre McBride from the practice squad. -- Paul Kuharsky


Denver Broncos: The Broncos must be optimistic about Juwan Thompson's recovery. The team waived running back Kapri Bibbs, who had been added to the roster for last week's game against Cleveland. Thompson is only running back on roster who can play fullback so his return following the team's bye would enable the Broncos to use that part of the playbook again. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs: Veteran linebacker Tamba Hali might be playing a lot on Sundays this season without practicing much if at all during the week. Hali was withheld from practice on Wednesday because of a sore knee. He missed the final two days of practice last week but played against the Vikings. "Tamba's not getting any younger,'' coach Andy Reid said. "We understand that. When he can [practice], he'll [practice]." -- Adam Teicher

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders held Denver's tight ends catchless in Week 5 after giving up 32 catches to tight ends in the first four games. Oakland has to hope that wasn't a one-game anomaly. With nine catches in each of the past two games, San Diego tight end Antonio Gates has been on fire since returning from suspension. Oakland is expected to use rookie LB Neiron Ball in coverage again. We'll see how he handles the wily veteran Gates. -- Bill Williamson

San Diego Chargers: San Diego finally is healthier up front, with starting left tackle King Dunlap (concussion), left guard Orlando Franklin (ankle) and center Chris Watt (concussion/groin) returning to practice on Wednesday. The trio missed three consecutive starts. Slot receiver Stevie Johnson also returned to practice after missing two games with a hamstring injury. So the Chargers are getting key players back at the right time, with the division rival Raiders traveling to Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday. -- Eric D. Williams


Dallas Cowboys: The last time the Cowboys played, they sacked Tom Brady five times with two coming from Greg Hardy. On Sunday they have to get after Eli Manning, who they sacked just once in the season opener. The Eagles were able to do just that against Manning on Monday night, shutting down the Giants' offense. With Randy Gregory returning from injury, this Sunday should mark the first time the Cowboys will have their full complement of pass rushers available this season. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants: The Monday Night Football cameras caught usually-soft-spoken rookie Ereck Flowers giving an impassioned plea to his teammates to pick up their play during the Giants' loss to the Eagles. Expect a similar sense of urgency with week as the Cowboys loom. The Giants are well aware that they let the season opener against Dallas slip away. As Flowers says, the Giants "got a lot of hungry dudes right now." -- Ohm Youngmisuk

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles had a shorter-than-normal Wednesday session because of playing on Monday night. So Thursday will be big as far as preparing for Carolina, as well as for figuring out which injured linebackers will be available. Mychal Kendricks appears closest to returning, with DeMeco Ryans next and Kiko Alonso unlikely to play this week. -- Phil Sheridan

Washington Redskins: The Redskins should be in better shape at running back than a week ago as Matt Jones practiced in full despite a big toe injury. The Redskins want Jones' speed and explosiveness in the lineup to complement Alfred Morris. But there is some concern about Morris, who is averaging a career-lows in both yards per carry (3.5) and yards after contact (1.42). They're hoping Jones can help kickstart in the ground game. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears: Players have Thursday through Sunday off, but coaches are expected to stick around and discuss the roster. One key decision the club needs to make is at left tackle, where Jermon Bushrod is expected to be healthy enough to play next week. The Bears may opt to stick with Charles Leno, who's done a nice job filling in for Bushrod the past three games. The team will also re-evaluate the health of safety Antrel Rolle (ankle) and inside linebacker Shea McClellin (knee) upon returning to practice on Monday. John Fox told the players to stay under the radar during the bye week. Fox famously tells his guys that he only wants to read about them if they win the lottery. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions: Calvin Johnson believes the key to sustaining offensive success for the Lions is to continue finding "explosive pass plays." Detroit did that last Sunday -- often to Johnson -- and it opened up the entire offense. The Lions had season-best rushing and passing numbers, along with their first win of the season. It'll be trickier Sunday against Minnesota because quarterback Matthew Stafford has historically thrown the ball shorter against the Vikings than any other team. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers: The Packers coaches are finishing their bye-week self-scout before taking the weekend off. They will return on Monday, when the players come back from their week off and start preparations for the Nov. 1 game at Denver in a matchup of unbeatens. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater had a modest completion rate of 54.8 percent on Sunday, and blamed himself for overthrowing receivers several times against Kansas City. Bridgewater said he's continuing to work on his mechanics. "Each week you come to practice, you just strive to get better. Fix those areas of weakness and try to make them strengths." -- Ben Goessling


Atlanta Falcons: Good news for the Falcons: Julio Jones is no longer on the injury report after previously dealing with hamstring and toe ailments. Atlanta did have three other receivers limited Wednesday in Roddy White (knee), Leonard Hankerson (hamstring/ribs) and Eric Weems (knee). White, who had his left knee drained in the offseason, told ESPN.com he's fine. Could the injuries to Hankerson and Weems mean an opportunity for rookie Justin Hardy, who has been inactive the first six games? We'll see. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers: Defensive end Jared Allen was in full pads on Wednesday after missing Sunday's game with a pinched nerve in his lower back. He doesn't plan to be on the couch cheering on the Panthers during Sunday's prime-time game against Philadelphia. Barring a setback, the NFL's active sack leader plans to be on the field. He's even more excited after watching defensive tackle Kawann Short collect two sacks and the NFC Defensive Player of the Week Award for his effort against the Seahawks. In Allen's words, "I've got to get in on some of that.'' -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints: The Saints had extra time to assess their team following Thursday's win over Atlanta, and coach Sean Payton said two of the biggest areas of emphasis are one and the same: "We have to be able to run the ball better and our run defense has to be better, or it's going to be an up-and-down ride." Payton pointed out that the Saints have allowed more than 100 rushing yards in 15 of their last 16 games. And if they hadn't blocked a punt and stolen three fumbles away from the Falcons, their struggles to contain RB Devonta Freeman would have been much more costly. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Left guard Logan Mankins didn't participate in practice on Wednesday. Despite the Bucs' improving health after their bye, Mankins' groin injury remains a concern. He didn't appear in the Bucs' Week 5 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, snapping a streak of 40 consecutive games played. Tampa Bay would benefit from having his veteran leadership back on the offensive line as soon as possible. -- Andrew Astleford


Arizona Cardinals: After the Cardinals' first padded practice of the week, coach Bruce Arians was feeling good about moving on from Sunday's loss in Pittsburgh. The Cardinals still have three days of practice left this week before Monday night's game against Baltimore. -- Josh Weinfuss

St. Louis Rams: The Rams have an off day Thursday, which will actually be much-needed for a team coming off a bye. St. Louis has key players like Robert Quinn (knee), Tavon Austin (hamstring) and Janoris Jenkins (concussion) working back from injuries. -- Nick Wagoner

San Francisco 49ers: It was not that long ago when a Niners-Seahawks game was a battle for first in the NFC West. Thursday night's affair is to stay out of the division's basement. It's the first time since Week 13 of the 2009 season that both teams are under .500 playing each other. -- Paul Gutierrez

Seattle Seahawks: One area where the Seahawks' offense needs to improve is red-zone efficiency. According to ESPN Stats & Information, they are scoring touchdowns just 28.6 percent of the time when inside the opponents' 20. That's dead last in the NFL. If Seattle can't convert Thursday against the 49ers, it could be sitting in sole possession of last place in the NFC West. -- Sheil Kapadia