Monday NFL preview: Cowboys-Redskins matchup is meaningful to NFC East race

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


Buffalo Bills: The Bills took care of business Sunday against the Texans, scoring a late touchdown to pull ahead and stay alive in the AFC playoff race. Their road to the postseason could take a hit Monday when coach Rex Ryan will likely have more information on a shoulder injury to cornerback Stephon Gilmore. He has been one of their best players this season -- and one of the best in the league at his position -- so any extended absence would be a blow to the Bills' defense. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins: Miami earned a win over the Ravens on Sunday, but the offense wasn't satisfied after producing just seven of the team's 15 points. New interim offensive coordinator Zac Taylor is committed to the running game but must still find ways to get more explosive plays out of the passing game and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who produced a season-low 88 yards against Baltimore. -- James Walker

New England Patriots: With Sunday's shocking loss to the Eagles, the Patriots are no longer in the pole position for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. They also still have yet to clinch a playoff berth. All eyes will turn to injured tight end Rob Gronkowski (right knee) and linebacker Dont'a Hightower (left knee) on the health front to see if they're ready to return. The Patriots don't look the same without them. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets: The Jets need to take a hard look at their special teams, which committed another huge blunder in Sunday's overtime win over the Giants. They surrendered an 80-yard touchdown on a punt return, the fourth TD allowed by the kicking units. Punter Ryan Quigley wasn't totally to blame, but he's on the hot seat. So is coordinator Bobby April. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens: Quarterback Matt Schaub passed the concussion protocol in the first half Sunday, but he could be evaluated further because of shoulder injury suffered in the fourth quarter. He held his left shoulder after getting slammed to the ground with 2:47 left in the game and returned to play the final drive. "We just finished up talking, so I don't really know what they have planned," Schaub said when asked if he was going to undergo more tests. "I'm sure there is going to be something. It was a physical game out there and we're going ot hvae to get ready to play Seattle." Jimmy Clausen is the Ravens' backup. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals: At 10-2, fresh off a 34-point win over their in-state, division rival, and currently holding the AFC's No. 1 seed, the Bengals are riding high. But can they sustain it? Coach Marvin Lewis is confident they can. "Our thing is play football our way, do what we need to do," he said. As they close down the regular season with these next four games, that's precisely the mantra they will need. -- Coley Harvey

Cleveland Browns: There was an empty feeling in Cleveland after the Bengals embarrassed the Browns on Sunday. San Francisco visits next. Coach Mike Pettine said he would review Monday who starts at quarterback between Johnny Manziel and Austin Davis. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers are rediscovering the touch that guided last year's 11-5 campaign. After 456 passing yards against Seattle in Week 12, Ben Roethlisberger pounced on the Colts for 364 passing yards and four touchdowns, throwing deep all over the field and showing that the Steelers are ready for a playoff run. The Steelers will get at least one day off leading into a crucial divisional game with the Bengals. That game will be personal, especially with the bad blood that boiled in the Bengals' win earlier in the season. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans: Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins only had three targets and one catch for six yards before the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against the Bills. Then he caught three passes for 71 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown on one drive. Quarterback Brian Hoyer and coach Bill O'Brien both said the Texans need to figure out a way to get Hopkins the ball more. -- Tania Ganguli

Indianapolis Colts: The embarrassing loss to the Steelers on Sunday didn't make the day all bad for the Colts. Indianapolis is still in first place in the AFC South despite the loss. The Colts got help earlier in the day when the Bills beat the Texans. Indianapolis and Houston both have identical 6-6 records, but the Colts are technically in first place in the division because they beat Houston in Week 5. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars came out of Sunday's loss to Tennessee with two possibly significant injuries: linebacker Paul Posluszny had a cast on his right hand and wide receiver Rashad Greene missed the second half with a shoulder injury. The Jaguars can weather the loss of Greene because Allen Hurns is expected to return, but losing Posluszny for any length of time would be a blow to a defense that is already down one linebacker (Dan Skuta) and is having to rely on undrafted rookie Thurston Armbrister. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans: Quarterback Marcus Mariota is healthy now, but it doesn't mean he's willing to share just how limited he was after he sprained ankle in Week 2 or after he returned from two games off following a knee sprain suffered in Week 6. But as the team spoke of his work as a dual threat in the win over Jacksonville, it emphasized how he's as healthy as he has been since the start of the season. That could se the stage for a big four-game finish to his rookie season. -- Paul Kuharsky


Denver Broncos: The Broncos' depth on defense, especially at safety, will be tested to the limit. T.J. Ward didn't even make the trip to San Diego because of an ankle injury that is expected to keep him out of the lineup for a time, while David Bruton Jr. left Sunday's win over the Chargers with a left knee injury that will be evaluated more Monday. Omar Bolden also left the game with a hamstring injury that will be evaluated more as well. It all meant Josh Bush, signed this past week, played almost the entire second half in a variety of personnel groupings for the Broncos. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs will work to get their placements down after they were unable to get the ball right on one PAT attempt against the Raiders and kicker Cairo Santos missed another try later in the game. Santos has now missed two PATs from the new line of scrimmage at the 15-yard line. -- Adam Teicher

Oakland Raiders: Cornerback D.J. Hayden was back in the Raiders' plans Sunday. He played in nickel defense packages. Hayden, the No. 12 overall draft pick in 2013, lost his starting job last week after playing poorly for much of the season. -- Bill Williamson

San Diego Chargers: Chargers coach Mike McCoy benched rookie running back Melvin Gordon for the second time this season due to fumbling issues. Gordon fumbled twice during the game, losing a fumble in the third quarter when Broncos linebacker Von Miller stripped him. Gordon has fumbled six times this season, losing four of them. But opposing teams have not scored on any of Gordon's miscues. "You can't put the ball on the ground," McCoy said. "You're not going to play if you put the ball on the ground." -- Eric D. Williams


Dallas Cowboys: Somehow the Cowboys remain alive in the playoff chase despite losing eight of their last nine games. With a win Monday night against Washington the Cowboys would be a game out with a month to play. Of course the Cowboys have lost nine straight games without Tony Romo as their starter. But quarterback Matt Cassel feels more comfortable in the offense as he gets his second run as Romo's replacement. What will help him most is a healthy Dez Bryant. The receiver was able to practice fully twice during the week for the first time since the opening week of the season. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants: The Giants will hope for some positive news Monday on left tackle Ereck Flowers, who sprained his ankle and left Sunday's game in the third quarter. Flowers left the stadium on crutches and in a walking boot and is obviously in danger of missing next week's game. But he has played on a sprained ankle for much of this season, and the Giants do have an extra day this week since they don't play until next Monday night. They can ill afford to lose Flowers after losing right guard Geoff Schwartz for the season last week. -- Dan Graziano

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles' improbable victory in New England breathes life into the team, but only if they follow it up with an equally strong performance next Sunday against Buffalo. After the Eagles' last victory, in Dallas, Chip Kelly said it wouldn't mean anything if the Eagles lost their next few games. They did just that, losing three in a row. So this will be a big week for Kelly's team. -- Phil Sheridan

Washington Redskins: A big reason for Washington's recent success at home -- the Redskins have won five straight games at FedEx Field -- has been the play of quarterback Kirk Cousins. In the home winning streak, Cousins has thrown 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. This will be his fourth prime-time game: He threw two touchdown passes in a Monday night loss to Seattle last season, but he threw a combined six interceptions in two Thursday night defeats to the Giants in 2014 and '15. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears: With their playoff dreams practically crushed, the Bears head to work Monday determined to pick up the pieces before their next game against Washington. From an injury standpoint, the Bears got through the 49ers game relatively unscathed. The club will need to monitor tight end Martellus Bennett, who briefly left the field for an undisclosed injury. The Bears did not make Bennett available to the media after the game. Chicago could also use Eddie Royal, Antrel Rolle and Marquess Wilson against Washington. All three were inactive in the overtime loss to San Francisco. And the Bears will continue to gauge the progress of rookie receiver Kevin White. The team has until Dec. 15 to either activate White or place him on injured reserve. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions: Some Lions players and coaches -- including Jim Caldwell, Haloti Ngata and Darius Slay -- took in Kobe Bryant's final trip to Michigan on Sunday when the Lakers faced the Pistons. It was a brief respite after Thursday's no-time-left loss to Green Bay. The Lions return to practice Monday to prepare for St. Louis and for the final four games of their season. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers: The Packers' offensive linemen needed the mini bye following Thursday's win at Detroit as much as anyone. At one point against the Lions, Josh Sitton was their only regular starter on the field. Bryan Bulaga and T.J. Lang didn't play. Corey Linsley couldn't finish the game, and David Bakhtiari missed the end of one series. It's still unclear who will be available Sunday against the Cowboys. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have no time to wallow in a defeat against the Seahawks on Sunday; they travel to play the Cardinals on Thursday night, and they'll either have to get four injured defensive starters -- Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo -- ready to play quickly, or figure out how to play without them after allowing 433 yards to the Seahawks. Barr aggravated his groin injury on Sunday, Zimmer said, and Smith went to the locker room with a hamstring injury. -- Ben Goessling


Atlanta Falcons: Coach Dan Quinn said "absolutely" when asked if the Falcons can make the playoffs despite being 6-6 and losers of sixth straight. Well, the Falcons have to win out over their last four, including two matchups against undefeated NFC South champ Carolina (12-0). "We can't worry about who it is that we are going against," quarterback Matt Ryan said. True, the Falcons have to be more worried about getting a win, period. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers typically get Monday off after a win, but there were so many mistakes in Sunday's victory at New Orleans that linebacker Thomas Davis said this would be a normal work day. That's been one of the strengths of this team. They're focused on getting better as much as they are on winning each week. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints: The Saints' loss to the Panthers had to be both discouraging and somewhat encouraging for a 4-8 team trying to hold it together for the rest of this season. The way they lost proved once again what a flawed team it is (way too many coverage breakdowns for an injury-riddled secondary that gave up 5 TD passes, and too many missed opportunities on offense). But the Saints didn't throw in the towel after their three-game losing streak and almost knocked off their unbeaten division rivals. We'll find out if they can muster that energy again next Sunday at another division rival that's in the playoff hunt, the 6-6 Buccaneers. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Running back Doug Martin was glad his fourth-quarter fumble didn't cost his team the game. He had a game-high 95 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries, but his fumble stopped a drive. Atlanta went on to take a 19-16 lead before the Buccaneers' 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive to stay in the NFC playoff race. -- Rick Brown


Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals ran for 175 yards in Sunday's 27-3 win over the Rams -- including 99 from rookie running back David Johnson -- for their third-highest run total in Bruce Arians' three seasons coaching the Cardinals. And the only rushing touchdown came from Kerwynn Williams, who was promoted from the practice squad on Tuesday. -- Josh Weinfuss

St. Louis Rams: The Rams will hand the quarterback reins back over to Case Keenum this week after he passed the concussion protocol and was good enough to be the No. 2 in Sunday's 27-3 loss to the Cardinals. Keenum replaces Nick Foles, who was once again abysmal in the latest loss, posting a 43.3 quarterback rating. The Rams continue to seek answers at the game's most important position but it would seem that none are coming anytime soon. -- Nick Wagoner

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers got their first road win of the season with Sunday's 26-20 overtime victory at Chicago when Blaine Gabbert hit Torrey Smith for a 71-yard score and, suddenly, it looks as though they can put together a winning streak of some sort with a roadie at the woeful Browns next week. Of course, getting some injured guys back might help after the Niners lost tight end Vance McDonald and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch to concussions and linebacker Michael Wilhoite to an ankle injury. -- Paul Gutierrez

Seattle Seahawks: In his last three games, quarterback Russell Wilson has completed 76.7 percent of his passes, averaged 10.2 yards per attempt and accounted for 12 touchdowns without an interception. With Wilson playing the best football of his career, the Seahawks suddenly look like a viable threat in the NFC playoff picture. -- Sheil Kapadia