Patrick Mahomes is looking forward to working with Josh Gordon in Kansas City after the Chiefs capitalised on "a heck of an opportunity" to sign the reinstated wide receiver.

Gordon was reinstated by the NFL this week after a series of suspensions for violations of its policies on substances of abuse and performance-enhancing substances.

Most recently, the 30-year-old saw a return with the Seattle Seahawks halted in January when the league rescinded his conditional reinstatement.

Gordon recorded 1,646 receiving yards and nine touchdowns on 87 catches with the Cleveland Browns in 2013 but has since seen his role restricted by his various absences.

After spells with the New England Patriots and the Seahawks, he is back again and hoping to play a part for AFC champions the Chiefs.

Gordon must earn his place on Kansas City's 53-man roster but is linking up with outstanding quarterback Mahomes and a highly talented receiver room.

"We like bringing in good football players," Mahomes said. "It was a heck of an opportunity to bring him in here, involve him in that receiver room, and he'll have his role.

"He's a great football player. In this offense, everybody gets a chance to make plays.

"He's a big receiver, and even when he's covered, he's not covered. I'm excited to work with him."

The Chiefs led the league in net passing yards last year (303.4 per game) and are on pace to beat that mark in 2021 (306.0), although they rank fifth through three weeks.

Tight end Travis Kelce is leading the way on 20 receptions for 289 yards and three TDs, ahead of top WRs Tyreek Hill (19 catches, 267 yards, one TD) and Mecole Hardman (11 catches, 107 yards, one TD).

Seven players have scored receiving TDs this year, while Mahomes has targeted 14 different team-mates.

Gordon is unlikely to be a primary option unless he returns to his early-career form, although he did make a competitive 15.8 yards per reception in his last season in the league in 2019 – ranking 21st among WRs with 20 or more targets.

He was targeted on a relatively low 17.0 per cent of his routes, however, and got open on just 56.5 per cent of his targets – the 12th-worst rate among the same group of players.

The 1-2 Chiefs face the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4 on Sunday.

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan insisted there is no "quarterback battle" between starter Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance as calls for the latter to be given more gametime grow.

The 49ers are 2-1 to start the NFL season, going down 30-28 to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday after wins over the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions.

Lance, who was selected at pick three in the 2021 NFL Draft, has been used sparingly, attending seven snaps in two games, including running a one-yard touchdown against the Packers.

The 49ers' offensive display against the Packers, having been held scoreless until Lance's touchdown on half-time, fuelled the calls for the 21-year-old to get more opportunities ahead of Garoppolo – who made 25 of 40 passes for 257 yards, two TDs and an interception against Green Bay.

"There's not a quarterback battle right now," Shanahan said on Wednesday heading into the Week 4 clash with the Seattle Seahawks. "We're going with our starting quarterback who I think is playing very well.

"I'm happy that he is, so Trey is not thrown into any situations he has to do too early. If he ever is thrown into that, then I know Trey will deal with that and he'll get better as it goes, but we have a luxury where we don't have to do that yet to Trey or to our team."

Garoppolo has a completion rate of 67.37 per cent this season, collecting 760 yards with four touchdowns in three games this season.

The 29-year-old has completed 64 of 95 attempts, run for a score, thrown an interception and lost a pair of fumbles.

"Trey's our backup quarterback," Shanahan said. "This isn't the preseason. We're not just going back and forth all the time."

He added: "We have put him [Lance] on the field. We do it in situations.

"You can go with whatever you want what I say in training camp and you can expand on that or not. But I think I was asked coming off the field of our third [preseason] game if we'd see this in the regular season, I said, 'probably not.'

"I've been pretty consistent with what I've said."

The 49ers' last seven games dating back to last year have all been decided by eight points or fewer, tied for the longest streak in franchise history (also in 1988).

San Francisco have had 11 different players score a touchdown this season – tied with the 1964 Oilers, 1987 Chicago Bears and 2002 New England Patriots for the most in NFL history over the first three games of a season.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick backed Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar Tom Brady to play in the NFL until he is 50 ahead of the pair's reunion.

Brady will lead Super Bowl champions the Buccaneers (2-1) against former team the Patriots (1-2) on the road in Foxborough on Sunday.

The 44-year-old Brady won six Super Bowls with Belichick at the Patriots before leaving for the Buccaneers via free agency ahead of the 2020 season.

With Brady showing no signs of slowing down, long-serving Patriots coach Belichick hailed the five-time Super Bowl MVP.

"Nothing Tom does surprises me," Belichick told reporters on Wednesday.

"He's a great player, works hard, takes care of himself. He's talked about playing until 50. If anybody can do it, he probably can.

"Tom's had an unbelievable career. There's not enough superlatives and adjectives to compliment him on everything that he's achieved and continues to achieve.

"It's unbelievably impressive."

Brady has thrown for at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns through his team's first three games for the second time in his career (also 2011). He is the only quarterback in NFL history to do that twice.

Tampa Bay's Brady will be looking to join Drew Brees, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning as the only starting quarterbacks to defeat all 32 teams in their careers.

Brady is also on the cusp of history, with the QB requiring just 68 yards to surpass Brees' NFL career passing yardage record of 80,358 yards.

"He's as tough as any quarterback there is or ever has been. Enough said. His numbers are incredible," Belichick added.

"He's about to pass the all-time passing record. He's done more than any other player at that position in whatever measurement you want to take – whether it's yards, completions, touchdowns, championships, you name it. Put anything out there that you want; it doesn't get any tougher than that."

The NFL season is heading towards the quarter mark and it's likely desperation time for those fantasy owners who are yet to claim a win.

Thankfully there are several matchups in Week 4 that figure to be very high scoring and deliver huge fantasy performances.

Which players should you be looking at slotting into your lineup for the upcoming slate of games?

Stats Perform looks at four offensive players and a defense that can help propel you to glory this week.

 

Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans @ New York Jets

Tannehill followed up a 300-yard performance in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks with a three-touchdown display in a win over the Indianapolis Colts.

The Jets' defense is the strength of their winless team but still ranks 17th in the NFL in yards per pass play allowed with 6.79.

Given the ineptitude of New York's offense, which has committed the second-most turnovers in the NFL (7) through three games, the Jets' defense is likely to eventually wear down and provide Tannehill with plentiful opportunities to enjoy another strong fantasy outing.

Running Back: Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders

The Chargers have their own problems with run defense, allowing the highest rushing average in the league at 5.8 yards.

However, fourth on that list are the Raiders, who have given up 4.81 yards per carry through three games.

Ekeler's yards after contact per attempt average of 2.5 is sixth among running backs with at least 10 carries and he is again a focal point in the passing game having made 15 receptions over the last two games. 

In a game likely to be dominated by high-powered offenses, Ekeler figures to play a pivotal role and, taking the favourable matchup into account, is a must-start in points per reception fantasy leagues.

Wide Receiver: Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers

Lockett has never had a 100-yard game against the 49ers, but caught 12 of 14 targets for 90 yards and two touchdowns in the regular-season finale against San Francisco last year.

Registering a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup on a play where is targeted, on 68.4 per cent of his targets Lockett is second among wide receivers that have been thrown to at least 10 times with a burn yards per target average of 19.29.

Going up against a banged-up San Francisco secondary, Lockett's ability to create consistent separation could prove pivotal in a matchup where Seattle may have to get into a shootout to prevail given the porous nature of the Seahawks' defense.

Tight End: Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Texans

Still the most difficult position in fantasy football to judge, managers can often find themselves in a difficult spot if they do not own one of Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Darren Waller.

However, those lacking a dependable option at tight end may find Knox a worthwhile pickup for this week. He has a touchdown in each of his last two games, hauling in four of his five targets last week against the Washington Football Team, and gets an extremely enticing matchup in Week 4.

The Texans are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends and, with the Bills' offense beginning to fire on all cylinders, Knox could prove an extremely astute addition to fantasy lineups if he is still available on your waiver wire.

Defense: New Orleans Saints vs. New York Giants

The Saints' defense had a field day in Week 3, picking off rookie Mac Jones three times, including one interception returned for a touchdown, in a bounce-back win over the New England Patriots.

This week, New Orleans gets to play a game at the Superdome for the first time this season, and the impact of a raucous home crowd will surely only make things more difficult for the Giants' offense and quarterback Daniel Jones.

He has been pressured 53 times already this season, the Giants allowing the 11th-most in the NFL, while the Saints' defense has racked up 56 pressures, putting New Orleans seventh in the league.

While the Giants' signal-caller has only committed one giveaway in 2021, that is a recipe for a disastrous day for a quarterback known for his lack of ball security. Should this go to form, the Saints will make life miserable for a quarterback named Jones for the second successive week.

Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers are refusing to panic amid their slow start to the NFL season and Ben Roethlisberger's offensive woes.

The Steelers are 1-2 to open the 2021 campaign following last week's surprise 24-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Doubts over two-time Super Bowl champion Roethlisberger have emerged after the 39-year-old quarterback threw two interceptions, finishing 38-of-58 passing for 318 yards and a touchdown.

Through three games, Roethlisberger – a seven-time Pro Bowler – has completed 83 of 130 attempts for three TDs, three interceptions and eight sacks.

Despite the poor start, Steelers head coach Tomlin is refusing to panic heading into Week 4 against the Green Bay Packers (2-1).

"We're not going to push the panic button," Tomlin said during Tuesday's news conference. "What do I mean by the panic button? We're not going to dramatically change who and what we are at this juncture.

"We're not resistant to change for the purposes of getting better, but we're not going to be so unsteady that we move away from our compass, our identity that we've worked hard to develop.

"We will continue to work hard to develop and the emphasis on the style of play, whatever that may be in all three phases."

Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a franchise-best 11-0 start to the season in 2020 and an AFC North crown before losing to the Cleveland Browns in the Wild Card round.

This season, only Miami Dolphins signal-caller Jacoby Brissett (67.8), Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Trevor Lawrence (60.3) and first-year New York Jets QB Zach Wilson (51.6) have a worse passer rating than Roethlisberger (79.0).

Roethlisberger's completion percentage (63.8) is only good enough for 25th, well adrift of Dallas Cowboys star and NFL leader Dak Prescott (77.5).

"This guy has a body of work over the course of not only what we've done in preparation this season, but over the course of 18 years that has us taking that approach," Tomlin said of Roethlisberger and his ongoing rest days on Wednesday.

"That is a global approach. It rests him and rightfully so. He's an older guy, and the wear and tear of plays affects him differently than younger guys. But also, he's an older guy and he has a volume of plays that most guys can't pull from that probably requires more physical work in an effort to be ready to play.

"Also, you've got to look at the totality of the journey. We're going into Game 4. We've got many games that lay ahead, and I don't want to be fielding questions late in the year about the quality of his throwing arm, for example."

Future Hall of Famer Drew Brees welcomed the possibility of Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar Tom Brady breaking his NFL record on Sunday.

Brady is on the cusp of history, with the 44-year-old Buccaneers quarterback requiring just 68 yards to surpass Brees' NFL career passing yardage record of 80,358 yards.

Brees retired at the end of last season following 14 years with the New Orleans Saints and 20 years in the NFL, and the 42-year-old is all for Brady eclipsing his feat.

"I'm a firm believer that records are meant to be broken," Brees said, with seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady due to face former team the New England Patriots in Week 4.

Brees set the record in 2018 with a 62-yard touchdown and he added: "I'd be all for Brady just launching the first play of the game, just go ahead and get it out of the way.

"You said he needs, what? Sixty-eight yards? Let's have New England kick it in the end zone, start at the 25 and have him launch one to Mike Evans and let's just be done with it.

"There's no doubt I think that's gonna get knocked down pretty quick. I can't think of a guy who has invested more into his career and his preparation and kind of what he's meant for the game. It's definitely a special record because it speaks to the longevity that he's been able to experience and the level that he's been able to play at."

Brady leads the NFL this season in attempts (141), completions (97), passing touchdowns (10) and completions per game (32.3) for the Buccaneers (2-1).

"You're so locked into the game. You really can't allow yourself to go there too much," Brees said of Brady being able to enjoy the record. "It's really something that you try to get out of the way emotionally prior to the game.

"I'll be honest with you. ... I know the way I felt, leading up to games like this, whether it was playing an old team or chasing a record, I would visualise being in that moment, I would visualise breaking the record, I would visualise everything that was gonna happen.

"I would always get the tears and the emotions out of the way on a Monday or a Tuesday. Like literally cry it out on a Monday or a Tuesday, so that by the time it got to Sunday, it was all about business, it was all about the game, it was all about getting the job done."

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are dealing with significant injury issues at cornerback and may be about to turn to one of the best to play the position to solve those problems.

According to multiple reports, the Bucs are hosting five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman for a visit with a view to adding him to an ailing secondary.

Sunday's defeat to the Los Angeles Rams saw the Buccaneers lose Jamel Dean to a knee injury.

Reports suggest Dean has avoided a serious injury but, with nickel corner Sean Murphy-Bunting on injured reserve with a dislocated elbow, the Bucs require help at cornerback.

That may now come in the form of veteran Sherman. However, if he is to truly be an asset to the Bucs, he will need to bounce back from his performance in limited action in 2020.

Injuries restricted Sherman to five games for the San Francisco 49ers last year and, in his 150 pass coverage snaps as an outside corner, he allowed a burn – which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where is targeted – 72.2 per cent of the time.

That was the fourth-worst rate among outside corners with a minimum of 200 total snaps. Sherman allowed an average of 12.11 burn yards across his 18 targets, above the average of 10.51 and gave up a big play on 34.1 per cent of his targets (the average for outside corners was 27.2).

However, his burn yards per snap average of 1.45 yards was tied for 20th with Dean, speaking to the respect opposing quarterbacks still gave to Sherman through their unwillingness to test him in coverage. Indeed, Dean was targeted on 16.1 per cent of his coverage snaps compared to 12 per cent for Sherman.

And Sherman would likely point to his 2019 season as evidence he can still perform at the highest level.

A Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro two seasons ago as he helped the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV, Sherman still gave up a burn on 50.9 per cent of targets, just above the average of 50.4 for outside corners with at least 200 snaps.

Yet his burn yards per snap rate of 1.17 was sixth-best for outside corners and his burn yards per target average of 7.54 over 55 targets was also sixth.

Seventh among outside corners with a big play percentage allowed of 16.9, Sherman has recent history of helping a contender come within touching distance of climbing the mountain.

Since then, he has endured injury issues and off-field troubles this offseason. However, if those problems are behind him and the Bucs feel he can get close to his 2019 levels, then Sherman is worth a low-risk signing for a Buccaneers team aiming to remain at the summit.

Jalen Hurts took ownership after the Philadelphia Eagles crashed to a poor 41-21 loss at NFC East rivals the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

Quarterback Hurts completed 25 of 39 passes for 326 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, adding 35 yards from nine carries on the ground.

Much of his production, though, came with the game out of reach. The Cowboys led 27-7 just a minute into the second half when Trevon Diggs intercepted Hurts for a pick-six and the Eagles ultimately fell to 1-2.

"I didn't execute and I didn't do a good enough job of leading," said second-year pro Hurts after the game. 

"I didn't do a good enough job of running our offense and doing the things that I need to do. This one is on me.

"I like to see me play better, that is something I can control. I'll learn from this.

"I learn from it and move on. I take responsibility for how this game went. I'm learning from it and we're gonna be a better team from it. I believe that."

The Eagles now have a short week before a difficult home game on Sunday with the Kansas City Chiefs.

They will face Patrick Mahomes and a Chiefs team who have the same record, reeling with a point to prove after losing consecutive games to the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers.

"We're on a short week and no one's going to feel sorry for us," added Eagles coach Nick Sirianni.

"The Chiefs aren't going to feel sorry for us. We got to rest our bodies, get our bodies right.

"We're going to have to watch this tape on the way home, get the corrections to our guys written down, and they're going to have to look at them on their own because we're going to have to be moving on to the Chiefs really quick."

While Hurts led an impressive offensive showing in Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons, the Eagles are yet to get much production from their pass-catchers.

Quez Watkins – who has caught all seven of his targets for 186 yards – is the Eagles' receiving yards leader but that total is good enough for just 37th in the NFL through three weeks.

Dak Prescott loved his home return with the Dallas Cowboys on Monday and felt his three-touchdown display continued a career-best run of form.

Quarterback Prescott sustained a compound fracture and dislocation to his right ankle in Week 5 in 2020, keeping him out of the rest of the year.

The two-time Pro Bowler had been setting a record-breaking pace, his 1,690 passing yards through four weeks comfortably the most by any player over the same period since 1960 – although the Cowboys went 1-3.

Fit again for the start of this season and now tied to a four-year, $160million contract, Prescott has returned in similarly impressive fashion.

His 403 passing yards and three TDs in the curtain-raiser against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came in a losing effort, but a slightly more modest Week 2 performance contributed to victory against the Los Angeles Chargers.

On Monday, against NFC East rivals the Philadelphia Eagles, Prescott completed 21 of 26 passes for 238 yards, three scores and no interceptions in a 41-21 win he described as "definitely special", in front of home support for the first time since his injury.

The 28-year-old's primitive passer rating for the year is at a career-high 110.1, and he feels he is reaching new heights in 2021.

"I said it earlier in the year, and I'll say it again: I think just getting hurt last year and having to sit back and watch football, [he gained] a different perspective and just different ways people play this game," Prescott said.

"Going back, the experience obviously has helped but just studying and preparing myself and then all the work that I've put in just to get back healthy, not only the leg but the shoulder... I feel like I'm playing the best I've ever played."

Dallas now lead the division with a 2-1 record, and coach Mike McCarthy feels Prescott is benefiting from leading a more competitive team this year.

While the QB has completed at least 80 per cent of his passes in the past two games (85.2 versus the Chargers, 80.8 against the Eagles), the Cowboys have also put up more than 150 rushing yards on each occasion (198 and 160).

Ezekiel Elliott has run for three TDs across those games, while Dallas' 139.3 rushing yards per game across the year rank fourth in the NFL.

The last team to complete 80 per cent of their passes and rush for 150 yards in consecutive games were the 1984 San Francisco 49ers, led by Joe Montana.

McCarthy said: "I think [Prescott] is clearly playing better now [than last year], in my opinion.

"Last year, we were in track meets. This is a clearly a different football team than last year. You're seeing three games where I felt like we've been very complementary both on offense and defense.

"He's doing a lot in the run game as far as handling the checks and things like that. Yeah, I feel like he's playing better this year than last."

Tom Brady does not anticipate getting caught up in nostalgia when he returns to New England to face the Patriots on Sunday. 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback spent 20 years with the Patriots, leading them to six Super Bowl titles. 

Gillette Stadium holds countless memories for Brady, but he will do his best to push them aside as the Bucs enter the game on the heels of their first loss since November 29, 2020. 

"I'm not going to necessarily reminisce. I don't think this is the moment for that," Brady said on his SiriusXM podcast Monday. "I'll have plenty opportunities to reminisce about my football career – none of it, none of which I really care to do right now because I'm so much in the moment.

"I'm not going to be thinking about 20 years of history. I'm going to be thinking about one night of football, a Sunday night game coming off a really tough loss."

The reigning Super Bowl champions had won 10 in a row before being derailed in a 34-24 defeat to the Los Angeles Rams. 

Brady undoubtedly will receive a warm welcome from the fans in New England, but he knows that support will not last. 

"I wouldn't expect that -- a homecoming," said Brady. "I mean, I think they're there to root for their team, and their team is the Patriots.

"I think they're gonna cheer for their team as I would expect them to, and I think if they know anything about me, they're gonna know that I'm going out there to try to win the football game, so I think they'll respect that about me."

That mindset will come as no surprise to the home fans, who watched Brady work his magic for two decades. 

Sunday, he will go head-to-head with his heir apparent, rookie Mac Jones, who beat out Cam Newton for the starting job in the pre-season. 

The 23-year-old had a dose of NFL reality in Sunday's 28-13 home loss to the New Orleans Saints, as he completed only 30 of 51 passes (58.8 per cent) and threw three interceptions on the heels of a pair of solid starts to open his career. 

Brady, meanwhile, keeps chugging along. He threw for 432 yards but just one touchdown in the loss to the Rams after combining for nine TDs in wins over the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons as he eases into his 22nd NFL season. 

Josh Gordon is set to begin his latest attempt at an NFL comeback with the Kansas City Chiefs. 

The receiver was reinstated Monday by the league after serving his sixth suspension for violating the NFL's policies on performance-enhancing substances and substances of abuse. 

Gordon said on Twitter he is joining the Chiefs, and multiple media outlets reported he was expected to start on the team's practice squad before being promoted to the active roster when he gets up to speed. 

The 30-year-old missed all of 2020 while under suspension and applied to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstatement in July. 

It was the third full season Gordon has forfeited since entering the league with the Cleveland Browns in 2012. 

He was an All-Pro selection the next season after leading the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards, but that remains the high point in a career filled with lows. 

Gordon missed all but five games in 2014 due to league and team suspensions, then sat out all of 2015 and 2016 before returning for the final five games of the 2017 season. 

The Browns traded Gordon to the New England Patriots in September 2018, and he was claimed off waivers by the Seattle Seahawks in November 2019 but he has not been able to stay on the field consistently since his first year in New England. 

All told, Gordon has played in 63 NFL games across nine seasons and has made 247 receptions for 4,252 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy has stated that all three of his quarterbacks - Justin Fields, Andy Dalton and Nick Foles - are in contention to start against the Detroit Lions. 

Veteran Dalton missed the 26-6 defeat to the Cleveland Browns bn Sunday due to a knee injury suffered in the Week 2 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, while rookie Justin Fields is a doubt with a hand issue, meaning Foles could get the nod if neither recovers in time. 

Nagy revealed that an X-ray on Fields' injury came back negative, while Dalton is being assessed on a week-by-week basis. 

"They're all under consideration right now in regard to where they're at," Nagy said when speaking to the media on Monday.  

"We'll just have to see the next couple days where they're all at. 

"We know where Nick [is] at, health-wise, but we just want to keep an eye on Justin and Andy and for us to just stay on that and make sure that we have a plan for any of those." 

The Bears have started the season poorly, dropping to 1-2 following the heavy defeat to the Browns in which they managed just 47 total yards of offense. They have also scored just 40 points through three games. 

Fields underwhelmed after replacing Dalton against the Bengals and did not improve against the Browns, completing just six of his 20 pass attempts for 68 yards while taking nine sacks. 

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has been released from hospital and is expected to return to work on Monday or Tuesday.

On Sunday, the Chiefs said Reid left Arrowhead Stadium in an ambulance following their 30-24 defeat to the Los Angeles Chargers having felt ill.

He was taken to The University of Kansas Health System for further evaluation.

In an update on Monday, the Chiefs said Reid was in "great spirits" and "doing well" after being released.

Taking Reid's Monday media conference, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said: "The most important thing is coach Reid, so we're glad that he's feeling better."

Kansas City's loss dropped them to 1-2, their first losing record since the 2015 season.

The Chiefs will attempt to bounce back in Week 4 on Sunday when they visit Reid's former team the Philadelphia Eagles.

'It's too early to talk about the MVP!', you might think when the NFL's most prestigious individual award is brought up in discussion in September.  

On the surface, that is reasonable logic three weeks into an extended 17-week season. There are many twists and turns to come that will ultimately decide the identity of this year's Most Valuable Player.  

Yet the reality is that talk of who is most deserving of the game's top solo prize plays a critical role in forming the narrative of a season.  

Conversation over which quarterback – sorry, Aaron Donald – is most deserving of the award at certain points of the campaign and what impressive performance does for a player's hopes consistently captures attention and creates heated debate, regardless of whether we think such talk is premature.  

By the end of last year, Aaron Rodgers had rendered any suggestion of alternative candidates pointless with a stunning 2020 season for the Green Bay Packers.  

While Rodgers did his prospects of retaining the award no harm by making 37 seconds seem like an eternity in the Packers' last-gasp win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, the opening stages of the season suggest he will have intense competition.  

And perhaps his biggest threat plays his home games several hours south of Levi's Stadium, where Rodgers unsurprisingly was the leading man in the theatre the Packers and Niners produced in primetime.  

Indeed, long before Mason Crosby was sending a 51-yard field goal into the Northern California night to settle a fierce NFC battle, Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers took a similarly dramatic AFC contest off the leg of their kicker, with Brandon Staley's faith in Herbert and the passing game rewarded with a win that alters the complexion of the playoff race.  

Herbert's four-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams, the second time in the game he hooked up with the former Clemson star, sealed a 30-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs that solidified the Chargers' status as a threat to the two-time defending AFC champions, who dropped to a losing record for the first time since 2015.  

It was just reward for a display in which Herbert furthered his MVP credentials, the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year outshining Patrick Mahomes on a day where the man most regard as the game's most talented and most explosive quarterback made history. 

Herbert joins exclusive club

By throwing for 260 passing yards, Mahomes took his career tally to 15,092, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to reach 15,000 in 50 games or fewer, doing so in his 49th appearance. 

Herbert is not quite on the same pace, averaging 294 passing yards a game through the 18 he has played so far in his still embryonic career. Last year's sixth overall pick is on track to reach 15,000 in 51 games. 

But he outshone the 2018 MVP in Week 3, finishing with 281 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions while Mahomes threw for three scores but with two picks, including one with the game tied that set the Chargers up to go for the game-winning score. 

His performance saw Herbert become the fifth player in the Super Bowl era to record five games with at least three touchdown passes and zero interceptions in his first two seasons. 

Herbert joins Lamar Jackson (six), Dan Marino (six), Mahomes (five) and Dak Prescott (five) on that list. Three of the other four members of that exclusive club have all won the MVP. 

Fourth in passing yards with 956 but 17th in yards per attempt (7.59), tied-10th in touchdowns (six) and 18th in passer rating (97.9), the raw numbers do not fully support the argument that Herbert is a candidate to join Jackson, Marino and Mahomes this season. 

However, an understanding of why Herbert deserves to be firmly in the mix through three games requires a deeper look at his statistics and an examination of the high-level throws he is making look ridiculously routine.

Unerring accuracy

Herbert finished Week 3 with a well-thrown ball percentage of 91.7. Only one quarterback, Kirk Cousins (91.9), to attempt more than one pass was superior in that regard going into Monday Night Football. 

He did much of his best work when under pressure too, delivering a perfectly thrown jump pass to Keenan Allen for Los Angeles' opening touchdown with defensive tackle Khalen Saunders in his face, and putting a pass down the right sideline to where only Williams could get it, the duo connecting for the first of two fourth-quarter scores despite Chris Jones screaming off the edge. 

More exquisite placement came on the decisive drive, Herbert finding Williams on a lofted back-shoulder throw to put the Chargers close, a pass he delivered with his weight falling away from it. He then hit the same receiver for the game-winner. 

Those plays will be the ones most remember from Herbert's contribution to an engrossing encounter that ended with a failed Hail Mary from Mahomes, the Chargers having inexplicably left him with over half a minute to produce a reply. 

Yet just as impressive from Herbert were the plays that came up short, including a second-quarter missile from his own 45-yard line - one he uncorked after escaping pressure and rolling left - which was broken up in the endzone to prevent Jalen Guyton hauling in a spectacular touchdown, but that incompletion served as yet more evidence of Herbert's near-boundless ceiling. 

The first three games of the year have seen Herbert consistently demonstrate that upside. His well-throw percentage of 84.4 is fifth in the NFL to attempt multiple passes, with Kyler Murray (84.5) the only player to have averaged seven or more air yards standing above him on the list. 

While Murray provides a greater running threat than Herbert, the Chargers' signal-caller has done a superior job of taking care of the ball. He has thrown an interceptable ball on 2.46 per cent of passes, compared to 4.12 per cent for Murray. 

Though Murray has one more win than Herbert this season, he does not yet have the signature moment the former Oregon man produced at Arrowhead. 

Kyler playing catch up

With already 1,005 passing yards to his name to go with seven touchdowns and a further three scores on the ground, Murray is building a strong case of his own for MVP. 

Yet wins over the Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars are unlikely to move the needle to the extent that Herbert's victory over Mahomes should. 

Murray's MVP stock could receive a bump when the Cardinals face fellow unbeaten division rivals the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4. However, for now, he is playing catch-up to Herbert in terms of a potential season-defining win that permeates the consciousness of the wider NFL public. 

Anybody who has taken even a passing interest in a Chargers franchise known in recent years for letting opportunities slip through their grasp should recognise Herbert will have a plethora of hurdles to overcome before he can claim to be an MVP frontrunner. 

But across the first three games, he has the production, at least in terms of overall yardage, and has showcased the accuracy to stand as the top challenger to succeed Rodgers at this extremely early juncture. 

Herbert enters Week 4 in a position of which few quarterbacks have experience, having gone blow for blow with Mahomes and come out on top. 

If he maintains the level that saw him achieve that feat, Herbert will have an excellent shot of replicating Mahomes and Jackson in winning the MVP in his second season.

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