Monday NFL preview: Steelers, Patriots, Packers facing injury concerns

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


Buffalo Bills: After the Bills' 33-17 win over the Dolphins on Sunday, coach Rex Ryan's attention now turns to preparing for Thursday night's game against the Jets. It will be Ryan's first time back at MetLife Stadium since being fired as the Jets' coach, but asked Sunday about any special meaning to the game, he said the Jets are just another opponent -- although he might have something to say about the reunion after the game. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are simply trying to get their confidence back after consecutive blowout losses to the Bills and Patriots. At 3-5, the season appears to be going nowhere, but interim coach Dan Campbell and quarterback Ryan Tannehill both said there is plenty of football left to play and it takes only one win to get momentum going their way. Yet, the margin for error is now extremely thin. -- James Walker

New England Patriots: Patriots running back Dion Lewis is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of his left knee injury. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that the positive part was that there was no swelling, but the concern was that the ACL felt loose. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady echoed the remarks of others when he said the team was hoping for the best. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets: The Jets may have to sign a new kicker on Monday. Nick Folk felt something pop in his right quadriceps during Sunday's pregame warmups, and he wasn't able to do any kicking. He will go for an MRI, but logic suggests he won't be ready on a short week for the game Thursday night against the Bills. That would give the Jets only two days to break in a new kicker. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco, who faces the Jaguars in Baltimore on Sunday, is 6-1 in games following a bye, including 4-0 at home. He has thrown eight touchdowns and four interceptions in those games. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals: Fresh off a weekend away thanks to their game last Thursday night, the Bengals return to Paul Brown Stadium on Monday to begin preparations for next Monday's game against the Texans. It will be the coaches' first chance to see how injured players have progressed after they picked up a couple of bumps and bruises in Thursday's game. Keep an eye on the status of linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who missed a few plays in the Browns' game. -- Coley Harvey

Cleveland Browns: Players have their final day off following the 31-10 loss to Cincinnati on Thursday night. The team will not get back together again until Tuesday. Will we find out more about Cleveland's plan at quarterback then? Johnny Manziel, who returned to Texas A&M over the weekend to serve as honorary captain for the Aggies' game against Auburn, started against the Bengals, but Josh McCown might be healthy again. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers: Players have Monday off, but the Steelers will begin formulating a plan for Landry Jones -- again -- as the starting quarterback. The Steelers, who face the Browns on Sunday, are eyeing a 6-4 record entering the Week 11 bye, after which they hope Ben Roethlisberger can return from a mid-foot sprain. The Steelers will monitor Roethlisberger's progress, but luckily Jones has gotten good experience as Roethlisberger's backup because of Big Ben's previous knee injury. He'll rely heavily on Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant on the outside. The locker room is confident in Jones, who appears to be a better game player than a practice performer. That's a good thing. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans: The Texans' biggest challenge as they return from their bye week is figuring out how to improve their running game. Houston won't have Arian Foster in the second half of the season. Even with him, their running game struggled behind a constantly shifting offensive line that has had trouble developing chemistry in run blocking. The Texans' 3.29 yards per rush rank last in the NFL, and their 340 yards before contact also rank last. An improved run game will help the offense as a whole. The Texans have relied on throwing the ball more than they want. -- Tania Ganguli

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts are hoping to have more information on the injury status of two defensive starters Monday. Safety Mike Adams left Sunday's game against Denver with an ankle injury. Rookie defensive tackle Henry Anderson left with a knee injury. Anderson's injury sounds more severe, as coach Chuck Pagano referred to it as a "pretty significant knee injury." -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars: One of the big questions facing the Jaguars this week is how to get tight end Julius Thomas more involved in the offense. He was targeted eight times against the Jets but caught just three passes for 14 yards. He was out for the first four games with a broken bone in his hand but has caught just 16 passes in four games. Seven of those came in one game. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans: The Titans scored 36 points combined in their previous four games before a 34-point outburst in their overtime win in New Orleans. Interim coach Mike Mularkey's next job is to find ways to help quarterback Marcus Mariota and the offense sustain what they did in New Orleans against the tougher defense Carolina will bring to Nissan Stadium on Sunday. -- Paul Kuharsky


Denver Broncos: Whatever gains the Broncos felt like they had made in the running game with 152 yards rushing against the Cleveland Browns and 160 yards rushing against the Green Bay Packers -- in back-to-back games -- went by the wayside Sunday. The Broncos left the run game behind in the play-calling and didn't construct much in the runs they did try. Ronnie Hillman had one yard on seven carries while C.J. Anderson had 34 yards on his seven carries, though 12 came on one play. The Broncos will have to reassess things once again, because they need a run game to protect Peyton Manning. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs: Andy Reid's teams are 14-2 in the game after a bye during his head coaching career. Reid, as he always does, gave the Chiefs all week off after the Week 8 win over the Lions. The Chiefs are back to work this week, and Reid's sterling post-bye record gets a challenge on Sunday when Kansas City is at the 7-1 Broncos. -- Adam Teicher

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders' offense is clicking at a high level. Quarterback Derek Carr has thrown 11 touchdown passes and just one interception in the past three games. Oakland has scored a total of 106 points during the stretch. The fewest it has scored in the stretch is 34 points. -- Bill Williamson

San Diego Chargers: With vocal leaders including Manti Te'o and Eric Weddle out because of injuries, Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano said he has asked younger players such as cornerback Jason Verrett to be more vocal on the field. Verrett was an honorary captain against the Ravens last week. "You always look for young players to be able to step up," Pagano said. "Jason is a guy who leads by example, by his work ethic and ability on the field to make plays. At times you see him more vocal in those roles." -- Eric D. Williams


Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys depth at linebacker was tested Sunday when they lost Sean Lee (concussion) and Anthony Hitchens (ankle) on the same drive to start the second half. The Cowboys wanted to keep Rolando McClain's snaps in check a little bit as he works his way back into shape, but he took over as the dime linebacker for Lee. Andrew Gachkar took over for Hitchens, who was able to return to the field with his ankle heavily taped. If Lee and Hitchens are slowed at all, the Cowboys will need McClain to play like he did in 2014. So far he has had a somewhat slow start in his return from a four-game suspension. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants: After winning a game they had to win Sunday in Tampa, the Giants turn their attention to their toughest test so far -- Sunday's home game against the unbeaten Super Bowl champion Patriots, You can bet Tom Coughlin, Steve Spagnuolo and the coaching staff will be talking a lot this week about past glories and the times the Giants have beaten the Patriots in the biggest of games -- even when New England was undefeated. -- Dan Graziano

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles have gotten lucky with third-round draft choice Jordan Hicks. Injuries at inside linebacker forced Hicks to play much more than anticipated. Sunday night, he started in place of injured DeMeco Ryans. Hicks' 67-yard interception return for a touchdown broke a 14-14 tie in the fourth quarter. When all the linebackers are healthy, Hicks is going to have stay in the rotation. He did, however, leave the game late in the fourth quarter with an injury, but he said afterward that he is OK. -- Phil Sheridan

Washington Redskins: The Redskins just can't get their run game fixed, and Sunday's 27-10 loss to New England provided more reasons why. Matt Jones lost his third fumble, just when he was starting to find a rhythm. And Alfred Morris can't get going -- he's not getting a lot of room, nor is he creating any space for himself. In the past four games, he has carried the ball 29 times and his longest run is six yards. He needs more carries to get a rhythm, but he also needs to do more to get those extra attempts. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears: It has been a frustrating year for Eddie Royal. The veteran receiver will miss Monday night's game in San Diego because of a knee injury; the latest physical setback for Royal, who signed a three-year, $15 million contract with $10 million guaranteed. Royal suffered an ankle injury earlier in the year that caused him to miss time. Third-year wideout Marquess Wilson is expected to play a larger role Monday night with Royal sidelined, but Chicago also needs to highlight tight end Martellus Bennett. Bennett is unhappy with his lack of touches. Bennett caught 11 passes against the Raiders in early October, but since then has been a non-factor on offense. "I've been open," Bennett said last week. "I don't fee like anybody in the NFL can check me." -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions: Players return to Allen Park on Monday with everything much different than when they left. The front office that brought most of them in is gone and there are more questions than ever about the future of their coach, Jim Caldwell, and many of the players themselves considering there will be a new regime in a few months. However Caldwell addresses the team -- and a lot of the other employees -- will likely set the tenor for how the final eight games of the season go. But a lot of people will be playing and coaching for their futures starting today. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers: It's not going to be any easier to get running back Eddie Lacy out of his slump now that he has a groin injury. The two-time 1,100-yard running back is stuck on 308 yards rushing at the midway point of the season and couldn't finish Sunday's 37-29 loss at Carolina. Before his injury, Lacy carried just five times for 10 yards and lost a fumble. At this point, James Starks is healthier and more productive. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings: In addition to Teddy Bridgewater, who suffered a concussion against the Rams, the Vikings will have to hope some of their linebackers get healthy this week before Sunday's game against the Raiders. Eric Kendricks didn't play Sunday with a rib injury -- though coach Mike Zimmer sounded confident he'd return soon -- and Anthony Barr had his left arm in a cast following Sunday's game. With backup middle linebacker Audie Cole done for the year with a fractured ankle, the Vikings' linebacker depth could be tested. -- Ben Goessling


Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have a bye coming this week which gives them a chance to reflect on all that has gone wrong lately, particularly with three losses in the past four games following Sunday's 17-16 loss to the 49ers. The offense continues to sputter and hasn't scored a touchdown in the first quarter since a 48-21 win over Houston in Week 4. Veteran receiver Roddy White, who has not been a major part of the offensive game plan, promised the Falcons would play faster after the bye. We'll see if that translates into more up-tempo, no-huddle scenarios moving forward. The Falcons have averaged 17 points per game the last four games after starting the season averaging 34.3 points the first four weeks. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers escaped Sunday's game injury-free, although there were a couple of scares when linebacker Luke Kuechly and cornerback Josh Norman went down. Kuechly suffered an ankle injury that didn't appear serious. He returned and played the rest of the game. Norman had the wind knocked out of him. But the Panthers have played two physical games in six says, so they'll take most of Monday and Tuesday recovering before beginning preparation for Tennessee. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints: For better or for worse, Saints offensive tackle Zach Strief explained that Sunday's overtime loss at home to the Titans wasn't really a letdown game after a three-game winning streak, since New Orleans started fast and went up 14-3. The problem was execution. The Saints (4-5) have proven to be resilient this year, so this won't kill their season. But they have also proven to be inconsistent, which might. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs' red zone woes were to blame for their loss in a winnable game against the Giants. They settled for nine points on three drives in the first half that reached New York's 10-yard line or deeper Sunday. Quarterback Jameis Winston has confidence that the issue can be corrected, saying afterward, "Eventually, we're going to break through." Still, the result was proof that Winston needs help from top playmakers around him. Doug Martin had just 31 yards on 11 carries, and Mike Evans had costly drops despite finishing with 152 yards receiving. -- Andrew Astleford


Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals tried out two kickers during their bye week, but neither Billy Cundiff nor Randy Bullock have as impressive stats as Arizona's current kicker, Chandler Catanzaro. Catanzaro's career field-goal percentage is 87.5 whereas Cundiff's is 76.2 and Bullock's is 80.3. The Cardinals have Monday off before returning to practice Tuesday. -- Josh Weinfuss

St. Louis Rams: Against the Vikings on Sunday, the Rams missed a huge opportunity to get to 5-3 for the first time since 2003 in no small part because of an old problem: penalties. They had 12 for 87 yards, including five offside infractions on the defensive line. They have more penalties than any team in the league since coach Jeff Fisher arrived in 2012, and in close games like Sunday, it can make a difference. Moving forward, cutting down on such errors must be a focus. -- Nick Wagoner

San Francisco 49ers: Having helped lead the Niners to an improbable 17-16 victory over the Falcons, the Blaine Gabbert era is up and running in Santa Clara, right? Well ... coach Jim Tomsula stuck to his guns, saying Gabbert was his starting quarterback for this week's game and was not going to comment on anything beyond this game. At least the Niners can now embark upon their bye week chewing on whether Gabbert, who completed 15 of 25 passes for 185 yards and had two TDs and two INTs, or Colin Kaepernick gives them the best shot at success. -- Paul Gutierrez

Seattle Seahawks: A big question facing the Seahawks in the second half of the season is: Can they do a better job of protecting quarterback Russell Wilson? According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Wilson has been sacked on 10.4 percent of his dropbacks, the highest rate in the NFL. The coaches knew there would be growing pains with the inexperienced offensive line, but their expectation is that this group will improve down the stretch. -- Sheil Kapadia