DeMar DeRozan insisted the Chicago Bulls "want to win now" after opening the season 4-0 for the first time since 1996-97.

The red-hot Bulls preserved their perfect record with a 111-108 victory against the Toronto Raptors in the NBA on Monday.

Chicago – the last remaining unbeaten team in the Eastern Conference – were busy in the offseason, having recruited four-time All-Star DeRozan, former second pick Lonzo Ball and 2020 NBA champion Alex Caruso.

It came after the Bulls traded for two-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic last season.

The last time the Bulls opened with a 4-0 record, Hall of Famer and six-time champion Michael Jordan was on the team in Chicago.

"Part of the reason why I even chose to come to Chicago was everyone was eager to be successful, to want to win," DeRozan said after scoring 26 points against his former team.

"Everybody had that chip on their shoulder, from the city to the organisation to the players that I spoke to.

"That was everybody's mindset, it's all about winning now. We're not in a development stage, we want to win now."

DeRozan added: "We've got a long way to go. We've got a lot more to clean up, to learn. It's a long season, man. [The 4-0 start] is great, but we've got a lot more basketball to go.

"We can't carry this record like it's some kind of badge of honour; we've got to understand that the next game is going to be even harder."

The previous two times the Bulls started 4-0 (1995-96 and 1996-97), they went on to win the NBA championship.

"I think we have a lot of high-character guys, we all want to win and we want to win together," Ball added. "I think when you have a bunch of guys on the same team with the same common goal and the same mindset it makes it easier for the chemistry to click. That's what's going on."

Giannis Antetokounmpo came close to a triple-double as reigning NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks took down the Indiana Pacers 119-109 on Monday.

Antetokounmpo finished the game with 30 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, as well as two blocks and a steal to fuel the Bucks.

Bucks team-mate Khris Middleton provided good scoring support with 27 points, five rebounds and seven assists, including a remarkable three-pointer on the first-quarter buzzer.

Milwaukee pulled away throughout the game, leading by 15 points at the final change, having no issues in Jrue Holiday (ankle) and Brook Lopez's (back) absence.

While the Bucks improved to 3-1, the Pacers slipped to a 1-3 record despite Domantas Sabonis' 21 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.

 

Bulls maintain perfect start

The Chicago Bulls improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1996-97 thanks to a 111-108 victory against the Toronto Raptors. The Bulls led by 10 points with less than three minutes remaining before Fred VanVleet (15 points and a career-high 17 assists) missed a three-point attempt on the buzzer to send it to overtime.

Jayson Tatum posted 41 points, including six three-pointers, with seven rebounds and eight assists as the Boston Celtics outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 140-129 after overtime. The Celtics closed the extra period with a 14-0 run to storm to victory.

Paul George had a career-high eight steals along with 16 points as the Los Angeles Clippers won 116-86 against the Portland Trail Blazers. Luke Kennard added 23 points.

Jonas Valanciunas put up 22 points and a career-high 23 points as the New Orleans Pelicans snapped a season-opening three-game skid by topping the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-98.

 

Harden's radar still off

The Brooklyn Nets improved their record to 2-2 with a 104-90 win over the Washington Wizards although James Harden's shooting radar was off. The former MVP finished five of 17 from the field, including going at 12.5 per cent from beyond the arc for his 14 points.

Damian Lillard continues to struggle for the Blazers this season. The All-Star finished four-of-15 shooting against the Clippers, while he missed all eight of his three-point attempts. Lillard has made two of 24 three-pointers this season (8.3 per cent). He is shooting 34 per cent overall.

The New Orleans Saints flexed their defensive muscles in a hard-fought 13-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks in NFL action on Monday.

This was the first meeting where neither future Hall of Famer Drew Brees (retired) nor Russell Wilson (injured) started at quarterback since 2004, per Stats Perform.

Leading the Saints following Brees' retirement, Jameis Winston (19-of-35 passing for 222 yards, one touchdown and two sacks) helped New Orleans improve to 4-2 for the season against the slumping Seahawks – who dropped their fourth consecutive game – in Seattle.

But it was a defensive battle at Lumen Field, where Saints linebacker Demario Davis fuelled the visitors with five sacks and multiple tackles.

The Seahawks set the tone in the opening quarter following a stunning 84-run pass from Geno Smith (12 for 22 passes, 167 yards and one touchdown with five sacks) to star team-mate DK Metcalf.

It was the longest pass TD for the Seahawks since an 87-yard connection from Matt Hasselbeck to Ben Obomanu in 2010 and the third-longest in franchise history.

New Orleans, though, took a 10-7 leading into half-time thanks to Brian Johnson's 21-yard field goal and Alvin Kamara's 13-yard touchdown reception – the team's lone TD.

Kamara caught 10 passes for 128 yards, while he became the first running back with eight-plus receptions and 100-plus receiving yards in the first half of a game since 2004.

After Seattle kicker Jason Myers levelled proceedings with a monster 50-yard field goal in the third quarter, Johnson settled the contest by nailing his attempt two minutes from the end of the game.

The Houston Astros brushed off any suggestions that they are using 2017's sign-stealing scandal as motivation ahead of their World Series against the Atlanta Braves.

Houston will host the Braves in Game 1 on Tuesday, with the Astros featuring in the third World Series in five seasons.

Houston's 2017 World Series title remains shrouded in controversy the Astros were found to have stolen signs of opposition teams on the way to winning the championship, as well as for part of 2018.

General manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were subsequently fired by the team after they were initially suspended.

The Astros have since regularly been greeted with jeers and boos in road games but manager Dusty Baker, who was appointed in 2020, insisted they were not out to prove people wrong.

"I don't think that's their main source of motivation," Baker told reporters on Monday. "I think people are trying to make it as their main source of motivation. That doesn't motivate you nearly as much as thriving to win and thriving for excellence.

"I think this team is way past that because they know they can play. You can only be driven by 'I'll show you,' or you can only be driven by negative motivation so far."

Houston infielders Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve are both holdovers from the 2017 roster but reiterated Baker's stance.

"I don't think the outside noise motivates us at all," said Correa, who has hit .297 with five RBIs and 11 hits this postseason.

"The guys inside [the clubhouse] - we motivate ourselves to just be better every single day, and you see the results on the field.

"I don't think we're playing here in the World Series because we're motivated to prove to people that we're a really good team."

Altuve, who hit .278 with 31 home runs and 83 RBIs across the regular season, said he had not considered the sign-stealing scandal in the lead-up to the World Series.

"I haven't thought about that, but I think we have the same mindset we always have, just going out there and try to win," Altuve said.

"This is a pretty special team. Everybody just talks about winning. We all want to win. There's not a single guy who talks about something else."

Correa and Altuve were both crucial in offense for the Astros in 2017, recording 14 RBIs in the postseason, with both hitting two home runs in the World Series.

Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said the Ben Simmons situation seems to be "moving very much in a positive direction" amid the All-Star's absence.

Simmons is yet to feature for the 76ers this NBA season, sitting out games against the New Orleans Pelicans, Brooklyn Nets and Oklahoma City Thunder, having sought a trade following the team's shock playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks in 2020-21.

After being suspended for the season opener due to "conduct detrimental to the team", Simmons met with head coach Doc Rivers, star Joel Embiid and the team last week, notifying Philadelphia he was not mentally ready to play and needed time to step away.

Morey provided an update on Simmons, who has reportedly attracted interest from the likes of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers.

"Ben came in at the end of last week and said he had back stiffness, and he's dealing with some personal reasons off the court," Morey told NBC Sports.

"Both [the Sixers] take very seriously. We're working with Ben to provide every resource to help him with what is needed. And he spoke to his team-mates; things seem to be moving very much in a positive direction.

"We're gonna provide all the resources and get Ben what he needs and get him out there as soon as we can. We're taking it day by day, getting Ben what he needs.

"He'll probably be doing individual workouts while he works through this and working through everything that we can help him with and hope to get him back out there as soon as he's ready."

Simmons – an elite defender who signed a five-year, $177.2million contract extension in 2019 – and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers, who were eliminated in the semi-finals.

The 25-year-old had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs against the Hawks last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan declared Jimmy Garoppolo will start against the Chicago Bears in Week 8 as he backed his under-fire quarterback.

Garoppolo struggled in Sunday's 30-18 NFL loss to the Indianapolis Colts, completing 16 of 27 passes for 181 yards, including one touchdown, two interceptions and a lost fumble.

Shanahan said it was Garoppolo's "worst game" upon his return from a calf issue which kept him out in Week 5 before San Francisco's bye, but he threw his support behind the 29-year-old.

San Francisco's Shanahan has a dilemma after the team's fourth consecutive loss left the 49ers 2-4 for the season, given Garoppolo's performance and with rookie quarterback Trey Lance hoping to recover from a knee sprain to push his case for selection.

"In terms of deciding who is going at quarterback, that has to do with Jimmy's health," Shanahan told reporters on Monday.

"Jimmy, I wanted to see how his calf was. It's good today and so he'll be starting and hopefully Trey will get back into practice and have a good enough week to where he can dress and if he ends up dressing then there's always a good chance he'll get some plays in there."

Garoppolo has completed 94 of 145 attempts for 1,106 yards this season, with six touchdowns, four interceptions and eight sackings.

His current completion percentage of 64.8 is his worst since the 2018 season (59.6).

"I thought Jimmy had his worst game yesterday [Sunday]. I thought Jimmy's done some good things in the three and a half games that he's played," Shanahan said.

"He did some pretty good things in our first game, getting us up to a 41-17 lead. I think he came back and made some unbelievable plays to give us the lead with 30 seconds left against Green Bay on Monday Night Football... And then he got hurt early in the game versus Seattle.

"He just got his first game back last night in that monsoon and it didn't go very good for any of us."

He added: "We didn't go into that game thinking that Jimmy was one bad game away from losing his job or anything like that."

Shanahan said Lance, who hurt his knee in his only start in Garoppolo's absence in the Week 5 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, "is on pace" to make a limited return to practice this week.

"We know Trey is the future here, and we're trying to do what's best for him and for our team," Shanahan said.

"Trey is coming off a pretty big injury, and we're going to keep bringing him along and keep getting him prepared as good as he can be to always be ready to come in and help on the plays we ask him to, always be ready to take over if Jimmy gets hurt, and being ready to be the future for us, too."

Milan forward Olivier Giroud is focused on winning Serie A with the Rossoneri as he targets league success.

A Champions League victor in 2020-21 before leaving Chelsea for Milan, Giroud has not won a league crown since conquering Ligue 1 with Montpellier in 2011-12.

Milan – without a Scudetto since 2011 – are level atop the Serie A table alongside Napoli through nine rounds after their enthralling 4-2 win at nine-man Bologna last week.

"I used to say football is an everlasting new beginning and you must always be ready for the next challenge," France international Giroud, who has three goals in five Serie A appearances this season, told Football Ramble podcast.

"That's one of my regrets in my career, it's not to have finished the job by winning the European Cup with France at home to Portugal. Another is not winning the Premier League with Arsenal or Chelsea.

"I still have a lot of hopes regarding winning another league with my new club and I am focused on it."

Stefano Pioli oversaw his 100th match in charge of Milan across all competitions following Saturday's triumph over Bologna.

He has won 56 of those games, exactly as many as Massimiliano Allegri had recorded with the Rossoneri after the same tally of games.

"This might sound like a threat for someone, but I expect to reach at least another 100 more," Milan head coach Pioli said.

Milan have won eight of their opening nine games of a Serie A season for the second time in their history – previously in 1954-55.

Pioli's Milan, meanwhile, have equalled their record of away wins in a single calendar year in Serie A thanks to 14 victories, as in 1964.

The New York Jets have reacquired former quarterback Joe Flacco as insurance following Zach Wilson's posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury.

Flacco joins the lowly Jets in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday, a sixth-round conditional NFL pick sent the opposite way.

Jets head coach Robert Saleh confirmed rookie QB Wilson will miss two to four weeks with a PCL strain sustained in Sunday's crushing 54-13 loss to the New England Patriots.

Mike White stepped in for Wilson against the Patriots and is poised to make his debut start in his absence, but the Jets have brought in 36-year-old Flacco for depth.

Flacco spent the entire 2020 season at the Jets as backup before moving to the Eagles on a one-year, $3.5million contract.

The former Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl champion was relegated behind starter Jalen Hurts and Gardner Minshew at Philadelphia, who felt he was surplus to requirements.

"Joe is just a great person to be around, a great pro to be around, had a phenomenal preseason and was really good for our [quarterback] room," Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said.

"But the opportunity arose for him to go and be able to contribute somewhere else and also for us to get a pick for that. But our time with Joe Flacco was really good."

Flacco completed 74 of 134 passes for 864 yards, with six touchdowns and three interceptions for the Jets last season.

White completed 20 of 32 passes for 202 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions in his debut for the Jets on Sunday.

The Houston Astros will be without ace Lance McCullers Jr. throughout the World Series due to a forearm strain.

McCullers – a World Series champion in 2017 – declared himself unavailable for the best-of-seven MLB showpiece on Monday, with the Astros-Atlanta Braves opener scheduled for Tuesday.

The starting pitcher left Game 4 of the American League Division Series (ALDS) against the Chicago White Sox due to forearm tightness and sat out the entire American League Championship Series (ALCS) clash with the Boston Red Sox.

"We're hoping that in a couple weeks, when I would pick up my normal offseason workout routine and things of that nature, that I won't have many restrictions," McCullers said as he expects to be ready for Spring Training in 2022.

"And then we can just flow into pitching in January. [Dr. Neal] ElAttrache has seen the MRI, things of that nature. He told us that he doesn't believe anything is wrong with the UCL, anything like that. Just a pretty solid forearm strain that I had there in Chicago.

"We knew that it was less than a one percent chance that I would have a role in this series, but there was no point to write me off until we had to."

An All-Star during Houston's World Series run in 2017, McCullers enjoyed the best season of his career as the 28-year-old finished with a 3.16 ERA – eclipsing his 3.22 mark in 2015.

McCullers achieved a career-high 185 strikeouts with a 13-5 win-loss record in 2021.

In his first start against the White Sox in the playoffs, McCullers kept the Chicago franchise scoreless through 6.2 innings with four strikeouts.

McCullers pitched 4.0 innings of one-run ball against the White Sox in Game 4, while striking out five batters.  

"The worst thing is I just feel like I can't be there for the team in the way they need me the most, which is on the field," McCullers said.

"…When you have a team like that, and you've been to the postseason so many times, and the World Series is your goal, Spring Training and the season is almost just something you have to do because this is where you want to be, this is where you hope to be.

"For me to not be able to pitch when I feel like these are the moments that I dream of, the moments I’m kind of built for, is probably the worst part."

New York Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson will miss between two to four weeks with a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) strain.

Jets head coach Robert Saleh announced the injury news on Monday, with Wilson facing up to a month on the sidelines following Sunday's 54-13 loss to the New England Patriots.

Wilson – the second pick in this year's NFL Draft – got hit by Patriots linebacker Matt Judon on a pass attempt early in the second quarter.

"Thankfully, it's not a serious injury," Saleh told reporters.

Saleh added: "I don't think it's a setback. I think it's always good to be able to step away and watch the offense through the lens of another quarterback."

Wilson, who was six-of-10 passing for 51 yards against the Patriots, has completed 57.5 per cent of his passes for 1,168 yards with four touchdowns and nine interceptions in six games.

His completion percentage is second-worst in league, only ahead of Chicago Bears rookie Justin Fields (57.5).

Wilson is also tied for the most interceptions in the NFL, level alongside Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes.

The Jets are 1-5 this season, third in the AFC East behind the Buffalo Bills (4-2) and Patriots (3-4).

Few things in the NFL are as important as continuity.

Teams that develop an understanding through the experience of consistently lining up with the same players have a distinctly better shot of enjoying success than those who are constantly chopping and changing.

Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase already had a well-established rapport from their time at LSU, in which they combined for 20 passing touchdowns in 2019 as a high-powered passing game helped the Tigers surge to a National Championship.

The Cincinnati Bengals banked on that partnership translating to the pro game. A year after taking Burrow with the first overall pick in 2020, they passed on the top offensive linemen in the draft, much to the bemusement of many observers, to select Chase fifth overall.

Their faith in the mind meld between quarterback and wide receiver has, to this point, been handsomely rewarded.

Burrow threw for a career-high 416 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday while Chase went for 201 yards and a score on eight catches to help the Bengals emphatically brush aside the Baltimore Ravens 41-17 and take the lead in the AFC North.

With Cincinnati sitting pretty at 5-2, doubts over whether Burrow could showcase the required progress after the knee injury that prematurely ended his rookie year are a thing of the past. Meanwhile, Chase is in hot pursuit of history and looks a near-lock for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Separated by a year, Burrow and Chase remain firmly on the same page, and they are helping a well-balanced Bengals team write an exciting new chapter in the story of a franchise that has predominantly been a tale of its shortcomings.

 

Burrow joins exclusive group

Burrow, having racked up 406 yards and three scoring throws in a meeting with the Cleveland Browns last year, became the fourth player with two games with at least 400 yards and three touchdown passes within his first 20 career outings. 

He joins a select club also featuring Patrick Mahomes, Nick Foles and Billy Volek.

Given the contrasting careers experienced by those three quarterbacks, that achievement is no guarantee of future success.

However, the displays Burrow has put on show through seven games suggest he is on the right path to vindicating his selection as a first overall pick and becoming a top-tier NFL quarterback.

Burrow does not have the strongest arm in the league, but he can beat defenses with his accuracy and his poise, both of which came to the fore against the Ravens.

He delivered an accurate well-thrown ball on 80.6 per cent of his passes against the Ravens, according to Stats Perform data. That was only just above the league average of 79.8 for the week but it was the highest among quarterbacks who threw 10 passes to have averaged at least nine air yards per attempt.

Burrow finished the game with 11 air yards per attempt, illustrating his willingness to push the ball deep regardless of his perceived deficiencies in arm strength compared to some of the league's best.

And he remained accurate and aggressive in the face of pressure, his composure and intelligent movement in the pocket allowing him to excel even with Ravens pass rushers in his vicinity.

Burrow's well-thrown percentage under duress was 81.8 per cent, while he averaged 13.55 air yards on his 11 pass attempts with pressure.

Frustrating the Ravens with his ability to evade defenders in the pocket, Burrow's cool was exemplified by the Bengals' first touchdown of the game, which saw him shuffle to his left to avoid the monstrous figure of Calais Campbell after a play-action fake and uncork a perfect deep ball to an open C.J. Uzomah.

His prowess in that area has enabled Burrow to thrive while negating the issues on a still problematic offensive line, and having a receiver on a record-setting pace who has put concerns over his skill set to bed has significantly aided the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner's cause.

 

Chase on course for history

The Bengals selected Chase after a pre-draft process that saw plenty of pundits voice their doubts about a player who opted out of the 2020 college football season and who often relied more on physicality than his route-running to defeat the coverage of opposing cornerbacks.

Yet across the first seven games, Chase has made the Bengals' selection look astute by posting 754 receiving yards and scoring six touchdowns.

Chase's total puts him second in the league in receiving yards and means he has surpassed Harlon Hill (685 in 1954) for the most such yards by a player in his first seven career games all-time.

Averaging 107.7 yards per game, he is on track to smash the rookie receiving yards record set by former LSU team-mate Justin Jefferson, who finished the 2020 season with 1,400.

Chase is on pace for 1,830 yards and he is producing at such a rate in part because of the prowess he has displayed as a route-runner.

Going against an All-Pro cornerback in Marlon Humphrey, who went into Week 7 having allowed receivers to get open on only 19 of his 72 coverage matchups, Chase excelled at creating separation.

With 32 seconds left in the first half, Chase beat Humphrey's press coverage through selling an outside release and cleverly using his hands to render the corner's attempt to jam him immaterial as he got free over the middle for a 26-yard catch and run, setting Cincinnati up for a go-ahead field goal.

But Chase saved his best for the game-breaking play of the contest. Initially stemming outside as he lined up against Humphrey again, Chase showed his lower-body flexibility with a fluid break back to the inside on the slant. He then adjusted to a pass thrown slightly behind him before using his balance and body control to avoid three tackle attempts and proceeded to gallop free for an 82-yard score from which the Ravens never looked like recovering.

Announcer Kevin Harlan's description of Humphrey being "in a blender" could hardly have been more accurate and it encapsulated what Chase has blossomed into at the next level.

Producing a big play on 41.1 per cent of his targets – the sixth-highest rate among receivers with at least 25 targets – Chase is a wideout who can discombobulate even the most accomplished NFL corners, and more defenders seem likely to suffer the same fate as Humphrey as the Bengals plot a long-awaited return to the playoffs.

Defense defying expectations

Cincinnati's rise back to prominence is not all about Burrow and Chase, though.

They have played the most substantial role in the Bengals putting up 6.22 yards per play on offense, the third-best average in the league.

Yet a Bengals defense that held the Ravens to their lowest points total of the campaign is also worthy of significant praise.

Cincinnati's defense is allowing 5.14 opponent yards per play, the fourth-fewest in the NFL, the Bengals doing an excellent job of putting their opponents behind the sticks.

Indeed, only the Carolina Panthers (48) have forced more negative plays from their opponents than the Bengals (47).

The combination of an efficient offense boasting a receiver adept at delivering explosive plays and a defense that excels at creating plays where their opponents lose yardage is a winning formula that can lift the Bengals to stunning upsets over well-established contenders like the Ravens.

It remains to be seen whether it can be sustained, but a franchise that at regular intervals in its history has been known for poor personnel decisions and underwhelming performances is being rewarded for making the right choice in this year's draft and seeing its roster compete with rivals that entered the season viewed as existing on another level altogether.

It's way too early to declare the Bengals a complete team. Seven weeks of evidence is not enough for an organisation that has not enjoyed a winning season since 2015. However, what can be said with some certainty is Burrow, Chase and a defense performing well above expectations have put the Bengals in a position where results akin to what they produced in Baltimore will not be a surprise for much longer.

Davante Adams could miss the Green Bay Packers' meeting with the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday after being placed onto the team's COVID-19 list.

Adams has been in exceptional form for the Packers this season, who moved onto 6-1 with a 24-10 win over the Washington Football Team on Sunday.

He scored one of the Packers' three touchdowns and finished the game a team-high 76 receiving yards. 

The wide receiver has gone over for three TDs so far in 2021, tallying up 744 receiving yards in total and recording 52 receptions.

However, there is now a big chance the 28-year-old may be out against the 7-0 Cardinals.

Green Bay could already be without defensive coordinator Joe Barry for the game in Arizona, with the coach having tested positive for coronavirus.

Barry is vaccinated, meaning he will be able to resume contact with the team once he has recorded successive negative tests. However, that is not expected to happen before Thursday and it seems Adams is in a similar position.

Per agreed-upon NFL-NFLPA policy, clubs are not permitted to comment on a player's medical status. If a player is placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, they have either tested positive for coronavirus or have been in close contact with an infected person or persons.

According to ESPN, Adams will be able to play on Thursday if he is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, shows no symptoms of the virus and returns two negative results, with a spacing of at least 24 hours between each test.

The Athletic reported that Adams is fully vaccinated, though there are still several hurdles the wide receiver would have to overcome in order to be available. 

Thursday's game sees the top sides in the NFC West and NFC North meet. Arizona and Green Bay have not played against each other since 2018, when the Cardinals triumphed 20-17.

Adams scored a touchdown in that game, finishing with eight receptions and 93 receiving yards.

Marco Rose is under no illusions as to the importance of Erling Haaland to his team, but insisted Borussia Dortmund will not "whine" about the star striker's absence.

Dortmund coach Rose confirmed last Friday that Haaland would be out for several weeks due to a hip flexor injury.

Haaland has scored 13 goals in 10 appearances across all competitions so far this season, having missed three matches due to a muscular problem. He returned to feature in a 3-1 win over Mainz on October 16, netting twice.

The 21-year-old's absence was not felt as Dortmund claimed a 3-1 win at Armenia Bielefeld on Saturday, with Rose's team sitting second in the Bundesliga.

A home match against Ingolstadt in the DFB-Pokal comes up next on Tuesday, though Haaland was the main subject of Rose's pre-match news conference.

"Erling is incredibly important for us and we miss him, no question," said Rose.

"I once said that we would have to reinvent ourselves [in his absence]. But we don't have to do so by that much. We will not start all over again.

"We might not have Erling's physique up front now, but we have other types of players. In Bielefeld, we played with three strikers and had different ideas.

"We'll be happy when Erling does come back. But again, we have to get used to [his absence] for a few games now. So we shouldn't whine about it but find solutions and we are currently working on that right now."

Replacing Haaland?

Haaland has scored nine league goals already this season, averaging a strike every 60 minutes in the Bundesliga.

The Norway international has had 30 shots, registering a 30 per cent conversion rate, outperforming his xG of 6.13 by some distance. Haaland has also stepped up creatively, already providing three assists, the joint-highest in Rose's squad alongside Marco Reus.

Donyell Malen replaced Haaland up top against Bielefeld, though failed to get on the scoresheet from two attempts, one of which was a missed opportunity in the eighth minute from what was Dortmund's second-best chance of the game from open play, according to Opta (xG value of 0.232).

Malen arrived from PSV in the close-season, but in nine Bundesliga games, he is yet to find the net, from 11 attempts in total. 

Reus is another option in a central role, though the Dortmund captain is usually at his best deployed as one of the wide attackers in Rose's 3-4-3 or 4-3-3 systems.

The experienced forward leads Dortmund for chances created (16) but has scored just two goals, slightly underperforming his xG (2.26) in his eight Bundesliga appearances so far.

Youssoufa Moukoko could be utilised, however, he has only played 78 minutes across five league matches under Rose. The teenager became the youngest ever Bundesliga player when he made his debut in November last season, before becoming the competition's most junior scorer the next month.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta believes that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has taken his game to the next level and "prefers" this version of the striker.

After a poor campaign by his standards in 2020-21, Gunners captain Aubameyang is the club's top scorer in the Premier League with four goals from eight appearances, but his manager has been equally as impressed with the 32-year-old's improved all-round game.

The Gabon forward ranks second at the club for possession won in the final third in the Premier League (four) behind only Emile Smith Rowe (nine).

Aubameyang has also outperformed his expected goals (xG) value of 3.08, suggesting his finishing has been above the standard that would be expected from the chances he has been presented with.

He ranks fifth in Arsenal's squad for chances created (eight), providing one assist from those opportunities. 

Arteta feels that Aubameyang is giving off an energy that he has never done before and is becoming a more complete player in the process.

"I have never seen Auba transmit what he is doing now," Arteta told Arsenal's official website ahead of Tuesday's EFL Cup tie with fellow Premier League side Leeds United, against whom Aubameyang netted a hat-trick last season.

"Apart from the goals, the celebration when they put the ball in the net, do you see the way he runs, the purpose he has to press the ball, and when he takes it his movement, his link, how is leading the game - that is when he is changing the rest, not when he is static and then he puts the ball in the net. I prefer this Auba.

"It is clicking. It is a combination of realising that his role has to go well beyond [scoring]. What was good, or very good, two or three years ago, with his role in this team, at this club, it is not enough. He had to take a step forward."

Arteta explained that both Aubameyang and fellow striker Alexandre Lacazette have a responsibility to lead a young squad on and off the field.

"I would say the same with Laca, look what he is transmitting, not just doing or playing, what he is transmitting," Arteta continued. "For me, that is really, really important.

"They lead by example and not only there but as well at the training ground. Certain things, a role they could have had three years ago in the squad, now it has changed.

"The group's age is a little bit closer [together] so they are experiencing most of the same things and they talk a lot about it. Then we have the senior players that they have to lead and they have to take that role, and they are doing that in a different way.

"There are players now that on that pitch that they are able to transmit something and change certain behaviours and attitudes in other players. That is contagious, and for me that is leadership."

Lacazette has played a bit-part role so far this season but was handed his first league start of the campaign as Arsenal beat Aston Villa 3-1, producing an impressive display despite not getting on the scoresheet himself.

Afghanistan started their T20 World Cup Super 12 campaign in style with a 130-run rout of Scotland.

Having stunned Bangladesh en route to topping Group B to qualify for the Super 12, Scotland will have had hope of causing an upset in Sharjah.

However, any prospect of them doing so quickly diminished as Afghanistan dominated with bat and ball.

Hazratullah Zazai (44), Rahmanullah Gurbaz (46) and Najibullah Zadran (59) propelled Afghanistan to a total of 190-4 that always looked well beyond Scotland, who quickly wilted in the face of a mammoth chase.

Mujeeb Ur Rahman took career-best figures of 5-20 and Rashid Khan claimed 4-9 to bowl Scotland out for just 60.

The victory sees Afghanistan surge to the top of Group 2 at this early stage.

 

Afghanistan reach new heights

Scotland were swiftly on the back foot as Afghanistan piled on 55 runs for the loss of just one wicket in the powerplay and Mohammad Nabi's side did not let up.

Zazai and Zadran each cleared the rope three times and Gurbaz hit four sixes, the stand of 87 between the latter duo pivotal in Afghanistan posting their highest T20 World Cup score.

Scotland in a spin

Scotland's highest successful chase is 181 but they saw a promising early start fade badly as Afghanistan's spinners took hold.

George Munsey (25), captain Kyle Coetzer (10) and Chris Greaves (12) were the only players to reach double figures as Mujeeb and Rashid ripped through the line-up. A meeting with Namibia is Scotland's most realistic chance of a Super 12 win.

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