There are a handful of key game-time decisions to track today. Some of them -- including a potential juicy matchup for Paul Worrilow on Monday Night -- won't be settled until well after the 100 ET early game start. Here's a look at the major IDP situations around the league, including an update on the Bruce Carter situation in Dallas.
NOTE: This column is a living document and will be updated throughout the morning. Major changes to the content will be in red. Check back often for additions as gameday inactives are announced and lineup / depth chart changes are reported. I'll also be retweeting those reports with quick bits of analysis, so make sure you're following @JeneBramel and checking my timeline on Twitter.
Baltimore at Miami
Arthur Brown may miss his third consecutive week with a pectoral strain. The Ravens have used more six defensive back sets over the past two weeks, with Josh Bynes sitting for 15-20 snaps each week. Lardarius Webb didn't practice much this week and is listed questionable. Consider him a game-time decision
Cameron Wake continues to be limited by his MCL sprain. He's reportedly closer to playing this week, but he may only see situational pass rusher duty. He's an option in big play leagues only and probably won't be full strength for another week or two. Dion Jordan will continue to be used in a situational role as long as Derrick Shelby holds his own on base downs. Don't expect much more than 25 snaps from Jordan until later in the season.
Detroit at Green Bay
Chris Houston (hamstring) and Glover Quin (groin) are questionable. Quin is more likely to play than Houston. Both are solid fantasy options if active. Ezekiel Ansah is still limited by an abdominal injury but will play.
The Packers get Morgan Burnett back today. He's safe to use in fantasy lineups immediately. M.D. Jennings will start at free safety and should see the majority of snaps there. Clay Matthews also fully practiced this week and will play.
Jacksonville at St. Louis
Dwayne Gratz, Dwight Lowery and Jeremy Mincey are out today. None of their replacements are viable fantasy options. Geno Hayes is dealing with a hip injury but he's probable to play and should keep his every-down role.
The Rams brought Jo-Lonn Dunbar back this week after his four week suspension. He's no threat to Alec Ogletree's nickel spot but Dunbar could cut down on some of Ogletree's range opportunities. Dunbar's return will put even more variance in the safety stat lines. The matchup and home stat crew make Ogletree and James Laurinaitis, who's no longer on the injury report with his foot problem, the only viable starters in the back seven. Robert Quinn could have a monster day against the Jags and Chris Long is a viable play in sack-heavy leagues, too. Cortland Finnegan will likely sit with a thigh injury today.
Kansas City at Tennessee
The Chiefs could again be without Brandon Flowers, who continues to be limited by a knee injury. Kendrick Lewis is also limited by an ankle injury. There have been no other depth chart changes across the defense.
The Titans again used a dime defense often last week, with Zach Brown sitting for about 15 snaps. That's likely to continue this week, but Brown is tough to sit given his usually strong per-snap production. Moise Fokou played every down despite missing practice with a neck injury in Week 4. Colin McCarthy was a healthy scratch in the base defense again.
New England at Cincinnati
No news of note for the New England defense. Dont'a Hightower and Jerod Mayo are on the injury report but won't be limited today. Brandon Spikes continues to be a base defensive player only. The secondary does not have an every-week, matchup-independent fantasy starter.
The Bengals used Taylor Mays in the base defense heavily with Reggie Nelson injured last week. That put Rey Maualuga into a near every-down role. Nelson is back healthy this week and it's hard to see Cincinnati using Maualuga in subpackages against the New England offense. However, the Bengals could be without three cornerbacks today, making it hard to use a dime package. We'll not know Maualuga's role until the first series, so he's a risky start today. Michael Johnson did not practice on Friday with a concussion and is likely well on the doubtful side of questionable.
New Orleans at Chicago
The Saints are again without Roman Harper. There's no major ripple effect, with New Orleans likely to use a dime package again rather than David Hawthorne. The remainder of the Saints' depth chart is the same. The Chicago offensive line and scheme have protected Jay Cutler much better this year, but Cam Jordan is a solid DL2+ start.
Charles Tillman is questionable but likely to play. He's not been able to play a full complement of snaps in any game this season, so his upside is limited despite the strong matchup. Julius Peppers is playing through a chest injury, but the defensive line rotation should be the same. Drew Brees is often a tough sack, but a little easier to get to on the road.
Philadelphia at New York Giants
Patrick Chung is questionable and was limited all week in practice. He's probably a rotational body at best today with Earl Wolff. The rest of the Eagles' starters and rotational players are healthy.
The Giants acquired Jon Beason from Carolina this week. He could work into some packages today but won't be a fantasy option unless and until he (a) plays the majority of downs at middle linebacker and (2) shows he's capable of running and staying healthy for more than a week. Spencer Paysinger and Jacquain Williams are likely to see the most snaps today. Paysinger has LB2 upside. Jason Pierre-Paul is back on the injury report with a knee injury that he's said is a low grade MCL strain but fully practiced all week. He has DL1 upside against Michael Vick at home today. Linval Joseph and Corey Webster are unlikely to play.
Seattle at Indianapolis
All hands are finally on deck for the Seahawks. Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril should be near full strength now and Seattle gets Bruce Irvin back off suspension. The plan this preseason was to use Irvin at strong side linebacker and move him around formations on passing downs, with Cliff Avril the primary Leo rusher opposite Chris Clemons. I still think Michael Bennett will see enough snaps to hold DL2 matchup value. Be mindful of the assist-happy stat crew in Indianapolis today.
LaRon Landry is out again today. The Colts have no linebackers listed on the injury report. That doesn't necessarily mean that Pat Angerer will play every-down. There's a chance that Kavell Conner may snag some snaps in rotation. The matchup is strong, but the possible rotation and troublesome stat crew will put Angerer at risk of a 2-4 line today. Consider him a matchup LB3 / LB4 only.
Carolina at Arizona
The Panthers traded Jon Beason to the Giants this week. That won't affect their defense much; Chase Blackburn had replaced Beason in the base defense and Thomas Davis was entrenched as the nickel outside linebacker. Quintin Mikell is out with an ankle injury, giving Mike Mitchell another week as a full time strong safety. He'll play alongside Robert Lester. The matchup isn't great for either safety, but Mitchell is a marginally better option in tackle-heavy scoring systems. It's a very good matchup for both Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy.
Daryl Washington is back for Arizona this week and is expected to immediately resume his usual every-down role. Karlos Dansby should also play every down at the other inside linebacker position. Jasper Brinkley goes back to a reserve role. Rashad Johnson has been cleared to play through his finger injury today, which pushes Tyrann Mathieu back into a slot role. This will be the first week Mathieu's fantasy value will be tested. The Panthers don't use many mutli-wide receiver sets. Don't bench Mathieu, but watch his stat line closely for evidence of matchup-based variance.
Denver at Dallas
Danny Trevathan was carted off the field with a knee injury on Wednesday but back on the practice field in full on Thursday. He's good to go and should be a solid start against the Cowboys, who shouldn't use enough spread sets to force a heavy dime rotation from Denver. Dallas is likely to use enough 11 personnel, however, that Nate Irving may be a weak start. Champ Bailey was limited all week with a foot sprain. He's getting closer to returning. Duke Ihenacho looked fully recovered from his ankle injury last week and is no longer on the injury report.
The local media clarified a report that Bruce Carter had been benched for Ernie Sims late this week. Sims looks to be starting in the nickel package only, with Carter still likely to see the majority of base defensive reps. Carter hasn't been bad in coverage, but he's not yet grasped the correct zone drops in Kiffin's Tampa-2 defense. It's a scheme that Sims has played in previously. Sims' issues have always been poor fundamental tackling and durability. Still, the Denver matchup should skew the snap count heavily in Sims' favor. Carter should be out of your lineup today. Sims is a boom-bust LB3 in all formats. We could see our first solid snap count for DeVonte Holloman today with Justin Durant unlikely to play with a groin injury. George Selvie is questionable after last week's concussion but practiced in a helmet on Friday. That's a good indication that he's been cleared for contact and likely to play.
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Houston at San Francisco
Brian Cushing fully practiced on Friday and is cleared to return after last week's concussion. J.J. Watt is also probable with a groin injury. Expect to see the same base and subpackage defenses this week.
The Niners hope to get Patrick Willis back from a groin injury tonight. There's a chance he'll be inactive, however, or that he'll be unable to finish the game so use him with caution. A hedge from the Monday Night game would be helpful. The strong matchup against Houston is the only reason he's worth considering at all.
San Diego at Oakland
The Chargers are healthy. Unfortunately, it's not clear how they'll deploy their linebackers. Last week, Donald Butler and Manti Te'o started, with Butler and Reggie Walker in a few spare nickel packages and the majority of passing down snaps going to Walker in a nickel package. Butler is probably a solid start tonight, but there's a wide range of expectation for all three backers.
Oakland is still without Tyvon Branch. Charles Woodson will continue to be your best fantasy option from the secondary. Kevin Burnett was banged up a bit last week but isn't on the injury report. Jason Hunter is probable to return from his quad injury today.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
New York Jets at Atlanta
Dee Milliner is out with a hamstring injury. The rest of the New York defense is healthy and the rotation should be the same.
The Falcons have multiple issues at linebacker. Akeem Dent is out with an ankle injury. Paul Worrilow is limited with a knee injury. Sean Weatherspoon remains on the IR / return list with his foot sprain. As usual, there's little information in the local media here. I think Worrilow has a better than questionable shot at starting and playing every-down with Joplo Bartu. We'll likely see some of Omar Gaither at middle linebacker whether Worrilow is active or not, with Jonathan Massaquoi seeing more snaps if Worrilow is down. If you can hedge Worrilow with Gaither, it's a reasonable plan. If not, Bartu is your only certain fantasy option.
Best of luck in your fantasy games this weekend. Reading the Defense returns on Tuesday with an early look at the top tiers by position. Follow me on Twitter @JeneBramel for breaking news and analysis during the games today.