The NFL kicks off on Thursday with the world champion Eagles hosting the Falcons. Fifteen teams follow on Sunday and Monday nights in a huge Week 1 slate for seasonal and fantasy football, as well as the sports betting market.
Note that players who fail to practice on Thursday and/or Friday leading into games may be listed as questionable but are in actuality closer to doubtful. Be sure to check back each afternoon to see if key players did any work in practice for clues as to their eventual status.
NFL coaches are famous for being taciturn when it comes to injuries, so nothing is set in stone when trying to predict how a player will perform, even if active.
Here are the key injuries to watch ahead of Week 1:
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (Knee, Questionable)
Wentz is just about nine months removed from ACL surgery, and it seems that with a mini-bye following this Thursday night game, the Eagles are going to play it safe and start Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles in Week 1. Foles starting should lower the Over/Under (45.5 points) a bit because of his reputation, but we saw him light it up during the postseason with similarly low expectations. The reality may be that Foles is a better option for Philly than a potentially rusty Wentz with limited contact work.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Suspension, Out)
Winston is suspended for the first three games of the season. Ryan Fitzpatrick will start, which probably means more work for underneath receivers such as Adam Humphries, Chris Godwin, and tight end Cameron Brate.
Jay Ajayi, Philadelphia Eagles (Foot, Questionable)
Ajayi was dealing with a foot injury but practiced in full on Tuesday. He should be ready to go in Week 1 and carry a heavy workload with Corey Clement (leg) questionable and Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) doubtful.
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (Personal, Questionable)
Arguably the best position player in football, Bell could make a huge difference if he’s on the field Sunday against the lowly Browns defense. Yet he didn’t show up for meetings early Wednesday morning and is still unwilling to accept the Steelers’ Franchise Tender as of Friday. If he continues his hold out, James Conner would draw the start. The Steelers offense would take a huge hit and the Browns defense would be worth consideration as a punt play.
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills (Groin, Questionable)
It appears that the Bills were mostly “erring on the side of caution” with McCoy’s groin injury. He’s avoided legal complications for now and should be considered probable for Week 1.
Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts (Hamstring, Questionable)
Mack was unable to practice early in the week, but put in limited sessions on Thursday and Friday. The Colts may have to prepare for rookie Jordan Wilkins to start or to take a leading role while Mack gets back up to speed. Christine Michael (concussion) is likely to be active but unlikely to have much of a role with limited practice time. Wilkins could make for a cheap DFS punt play if Mack can’t go. The Colts offense would likely suffer overall, making the Under a tempting bet.
Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks (Finger, Questionable)
While it seemed the Seahawks were thinking of starting the rookie, Rashaad Penny suffered a finger injury that allowed Chris Carson to grab hold of No. 1 duties. Carson is an uninspiring option in Week 1 on the road against a stout Broncos run defense. Penny is expected to play, and he’s a player to watch going forward.
Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers (Knee, Out)
Sadly, Jerick McKinnon will not play for the 49ers after signing a $30 million contract with them this offseason. Career plodder Alfred Morris should start, but Matt Breida is a far more appealing option in any PPR format.
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints (Suspension, Out)
With Ingram suspended over the first four games of the season, Alvin Kamara is expected to see a huge workload. Yet Saints HC Sean Payton loves to use two backs to keep defenses guessing, and Ingram’s absence should carve out a role for new signee Mike Gillislee. He’s a touchdown-or-bust punt play to consider in DFS.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks (Knee, Questionable)
Baldwin is fully expected to play in Week 1 but admits his knee is not 100 percent and may never be this season. Whether that’s coy talk designed to trick his opponents will be determined, but it’s a real cause for concern about the Seahawks offense in a hostile environment at Denver. Paul Richardson is gone, and Tyler Lockett has been banged up this spring. This leaves newly signed Brandon Marshall as a prime red zone target. That said, he should only be considered as a true GPP gamble.
Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles (Shoulder, Doubtful)
Jeffery is expected to miss the first two weeks of the regular season. That will force more targets toward versatile tight end Zach Ertz. Nelson Agholor (lower body) is questionable, and Mack Hollins (groin) has been ruled out for Thursday, so we might see what veteran Mike Wallace has left in the tank. Bet on the Eagles’ ground game in this contest, potentially by taking the Under on TNF.
DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins (Finger, Doubtful)
Parker suffered a broken finger during camp, and it appears he won’t be able to suit up in Week 1. That leaves Kenny Stills to function as the Dolphins’ top wideout. With Jarvis Landry gone, Danny Amendola should see a good amount of work out of the slot against a Titans team that faced the most pass attempts (605) in the NFL last year. Albert Wilson could also have a role as a versatile receiver.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jacksonville Jaguars (Core, Questionable)
The Jaguars’ new hulking TE suffered a core muscle strain early in the week and missed practice Wednesday. He should be able to play but could be less effective in a plus matchup against the Giants.
Jermaine Gresham, Arizona Cardinals (Achilles, Questionable)
While Gresham got in a limited practice Monday, the Cardinals don’t expect him to suit up in Week 1. Thus, exciting athlete Ricky Seals-Jones steps in as a potential full-time player and a great value play at TE in DFS contests.
Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers (Ankle, Out)
All three of the Steelers’ tight ends are questionable or out: McDonald, Jesse James (back), and Xavier Grimble (wrist). With McDonald out, rookie WR James Washington is a candidate to see more work in the middle of the field as a compliment to Antonio Brown.
Luke Willson, Detroit Lions (Knee, Questionable)
The former Seahawks tight end suffered a knee injury in the Lions’ third preseason game. Still, he is likely to be ready by Week 1. The Lions have a weak committee of tight ends that would see more time if Willson can’t go Monday night.
Ed Dickson, Seattle Seahawks (Groin, Out)
Dickson will not suit up in his first chance to see game action with a new team. Instead, the uninspiring Nick Vannett should lead the way.
Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys (Illness, Questionable)
The Cowboys are expected to be without their Pro Bowl center in Week 1 and have moved backup tackle Joe Looney into the starting role. Looney has a ton of talent around him in a great scheme. His presence shouldn’t hurt Ezekiel Elliott’s prospects too much.
Pat Elflein, Minnesota Vikings (Foot, Questionable)
The Vikings should also be without their starting center in Week 1. Elflein is expected to return in Week 2, and Brett Jones will start at center. The Vikings will look to run a lot of stretch plays and short passes to rookie Dalvin Cook, who is reportedly looking spry after suffering an ACL tear early in the 2017-18 season.
Jack Conklin, Tennessee Titans (Knee, Out)
Conklin is expected to miss the first few games while rehabbing his surgically repaired knee. That weakens the Titans line and makes opposing defenses more appealing as potential streamers.
Anthony Castonzo, Indianapolis Colts (Hamstring, Questionable)
The Colts could be without their big left tackle in a tough matchup against Carlos Dunlap and the Bengals. It is already advisable to take the Under on this game. Meanwhile, the Bengals defense could become a great streaming option if Castonzo can’t suit up.
Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers (Foot, Out)
Bosa was spotted in a walking boot after practice Friday and will not play in Week 1 against the Chiefs. His absence will seriously increase the prospects of inexperienced QB Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City offense.
Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams (Personal, Questionable)
Donald signed a new contract after a holdout and is expected to play in Week 1, forming a ridiculously fearsome duo on the interior with Ndamukong Suh. On a related note, Khalil Mack was traded to the Bears after holding out for a new contract from the Raiders. This is a huge shift for the prospects of both these NFC defenses.
Michael Bennett, Philadelphia Eagles (Knee, Questionable)
A big addition to the Eagles already stout front seven, Michael Bennett may not be able to play in the season opener. He didn’t participate in practice Tuesday, making it possible the Eagles pass rush will be a bit less fearsome on Thursday night.
Dion Jordan, Seattle Seahawks (Leg, Questionable)
The Seahawks could be without two key defensive linemen in Week 1. Frank Clark is rehabbing from elbow surgery, and Jordan is dealing with a shin issue. That said, the latter was activated from the PUP list on Saturday, creating some optimism that he’ll play.
Olivier Vernon, New York Giants (Knee, Out)
Vernon suffered a bad ankle injury in practice last Sunday and has been ruled out of a Week 1 matchup at the Jaguars. Leonard Fournette should reap the benefits as the Jags look to attack the Giants’ front seven on the ground.
K.J. Wright, Seattle Seahawks (Knee, Doubtful)
The Seahawks are beset by injuries across the roster. This includes one of the best young linebackers in the game. K.J. Wright should miss Sunday’s tilt against the Broncos. Rookie Shaquem Griffin will start, boosting the prospects of Denver RB duo Royce Freeman and Devontae Booker.
Thomas Davis, Carolina Panthers (Suspension, Out)
The Panthers fearsome duo of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis is a huge difference maker. With Davis out, Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys could run all over Carolina at home.
Jimmy Ward, San Francisco Giants (Quad, Questionable)
If Ward can’t go, Kirk Cousins could have a very nice debut throwing to either Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Thielen would likely benefit the most if San Francisco is missing a starting cornerback.
Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks (Holdout, Questionable)
This could be the biggest blow to the Seahawks defense. Earl Thomas is the last vestige of the “Legion of Boom” and an absolutely elite free safety. If his holdout continues through Week 1, feel free to consider Broncos wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as well as new QB Case Keenum.
Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs (Heel, Doubtful)
Berry hasn’t practiced since Aug. 11, and his status is iffy for Week 1. He’s a veteran who could suit up regardless of his practice reps, but we’ll likely need to see him log a limited session in order to play against the Chargers Sunday.
Jason Verrett, Los Angeles Chargers (Achilles, Out)
Verrett had developed into one of the best corners in the game. With him out, opposing passing offenses should feast on the side opposite Casey Hayward (hamstring, probable). That helps the prospects of Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins in Week 1.
Jimmy Smith, Baltimore Ravens (Suspension, Out)
The Ravens are missing their top cornerback but face a very weak Bills offense with arguably the worst starting QB in the league in Nathan Peterman. Stanley Jean-Baptiste (arm) is also out, opening the door for Corey Coleman to potentially pop a big gain.