The Kansas City Chiefs accounted for the Denver Broncos once again, 22-9 in a record-setting NFL victory as they continued their winning form.

Kansas City had won 11 consecutive games against Denver, a streak dating back to Week 10 of 2015 – the Chiefs had never enjoyed a longer winning streak over an opponent in franchise history.

But the in-form Chiefs eclipsed that streak in an historic victory as they also stretched their winning run in the NFL to five straight games on Sunday.

Patrick Mahomes was far from his best again, but the Chiefs still defeated the visiting Broncos in Kansas City.

Mahomes did not throw a touchdown, instead finishing with an interception on 15-of-29 passing for 184 yards, though he did rush for a TD on four carries.

The former MVP has already thrown 12 interceptions this season – matching his career high from 2018.

Kansas City used a 10-0 opening period to set the tone against the Broncos, with Daniel Sorensen's 76-yard pick-six of Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater putting the result beyond doubt with less than 10 minutes remaining in the final quarter.

In their last five games, Kansas City have allowed 17, seven, 14, nine and nine points, having given up 29, 36, 30, 30 and 38 in the team's opening five games. According to Stats Perform, they are the first franchise in NFL history to have a five-game winning streak allowing 25-plus points and a five-game victorious run allowing less than 20 points in the same season.

The Los Angeles Chargers' ability to challenge for the NFC West will be put to the test when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13. 

Los Angeles have won three straight games since a defeat to the NFC-leading Arizona Cardinals and can ill afford a slip-up against a Bengals side that are challenging in the AFC North. 

The Kansas City Chiefs have finally hit their stride but face a tough test when the Denver Broncos visit Arrowhead Stadium, while Monday sees a battle for supremacy in the AFC East between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills. 

We've run down some of the standout stats from the biggest games in Week 13. 

 

Los Angeles Chargers (6-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) 

The Bengals will be hopeful of avenging their 16-13 loss to the Chargers in Week 1 – their second straight defeat to Los Angeles. However, Cincinnati won their four other meetings since the 2010 season and are riding high after a resounding 41-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last time out. 

It was only the third time the Bengals beat the Steelers by 30 points or more, with the last occurrence being all the way back in September 1989. 

An early kick-off on the east coast will be tough for the Chargers to navigate, particularly after a 28-13 loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 12. They had three rushing first downs against the Broncos, making it the fourth game in which they have had that many or fewer this season – the third most in the NFL. 

They may continue to rely on quarterback Justin Herbert to help them get points on the board. His 438 passing attempts this season places him third in the NFL, behind only Tom Brady (457) and Patrick Mahomes (449). 

The Chargers defense will need to keep a close watch on Joe Mixon, though. The running back had a career-high 165 rushing yards and 11 first downs in Week 12. 

Denver Broncos (6-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)  

Not only have the Chiefs won four straight after a 3-4 start, but they've also come out on top in 11 straight meetings with the Broncos – a run that stretches back to Week 10 of 2015. One more victory will make it the longest winning streak against a single opponent in the team's history. 

The game will have big implications on the playoff hopes of both sides, while the Broncos could move off the bottom of the AFC West and replace the Chiefs at the summit with a victory. 

Kansas City will hope Mahomes can restore the levels of production seen previously. He did not have a rushing or throwing touchdown in the 19-9 win over the Dallas Cowboys last time out, his second such game in his past five outings. In the 51 games before this run, he had a TD in 50 of them. 

He has still led an offense that has had 30 drives with 10 or more plays this season – the most in the NFL. Though the Chiefs' ability to get the ball out of their opponents' hands (they have allowed the fifth fewest drives with 10 or more plays this season) could be counteracted by Teddy Bridgewater's excellence under pressure. 

Bridgewater has a league-best completion percentage (77.6) to go with seven TD passes and no interceptions when facing the blitz this season. 

New England Patriots (8-4) at Buffalo Bills (7-4) 

The Bills dethroned the Pats in the AFC East in 2020 and could do with a home win to boost their chances of retaining the crown this year. 

New England fell to a 24-21 loss to the Bills on their last trip to Buffalo but are 15-2 across their previous 17 visits. They are also head into Monday's matchup on the back of a six-game winning streak. 

The game appears set to be played in frigid conditions and some stingy defenses may make for tepid action too – the Bills (182) and Patriots (190) are ranked first and second respectively for fewest points allowed this season. The Bills have allowed just 182 points while the Patriots have given up 190. 

Mac Jones threw for a career-high 310 yards in last week's win against the Tennessee Titans, but Buffalo made it 21 straight games in which they have had at least 300 yards of offense when the defeated the New Orleans Saints 31-6 on Thanksgiving. 

Stefon Diggs has been key for the Bills. He had 74 receiving yards against the Saints – his ninth game with at least 60 this season, behind only Cooper Kupp (11) and Justin Jefferson (10). 

Elsewhere... 

The Cardinals (9-2) are up against the Chicago Bears (4-7) at Soldier Field on their return from their bye week. The road team has won each of the last five meetings between these teams dating back to Chicago’s 20-point comeback on Monday Night Football in Arizona in Week 6, 2006. 

The New York Giants (4-7) will be hoping to stop the Miami Dolphins (5-7) make it five wins on the bounce. The Dolphins are the only team in the NFL this season to have had both a four-game winning streak and a four-game losing streak. 

Tom Brady leads the league in passing attempts (457), completions (309) and touchdowns (30) this season and will be hoping to steer the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3) to victory at the Atlanta Falcons (5-6) 

The Seahawks (3-8) have lost eight games in a season for the first time since 2011, ending a franchise-record run of nine years with seven or fewer losses. However, they will no doubt be up for a grudge match against the San Francisco 49ers (6-5). 

The Dallas Cowboys offense stumbled badly against the Kansas City Chiefs without Amari Cooper, but Dak Prescott defended the wide receiver despite his coronavirus-enforced absence.

Dallas dropped to 7-3 on the season with a 19-9 loss at Arrowhead Stadium, failing to find the endzone for the first time since November 2020.

The Cowboys were missing left tackle Tyron Smith because of an ankle injury and felt the impact of that absence as Prescott was sacked five times.

Cooper, meanwhile, missed out after testing positive for coronavirus, that problem exacerbated by fellow wideout CeeDee Lamb leaving the game with a concussion.

He is unvaccinated, meaning Cooper must miss 10 days and will also not be available for the Cowboys' Thanksgiving clash with the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday.

Despite facing the prospect of heading into the Raiders game without both Cooper and Lamb, Prescott refused to blame the former for his vaccination status.

"I mean, it's unfortunate not having him," Prescott said, in quotes distributed by the team. "To say the decision he made — I mean I'm vaccinated and I could get it and be out two games.

"Let's try not to knock the guy or put the guy down for a personal decision.

"I don't think there's anybody that comes back under 10 days. You give me that stat on guys that are either vaccinated or unvaccinated coming back faster than that time and tested out, then ok, we'll go from there.

"That's my team-mate; that's my brother. We're going to support him. That's his decision, as I said way back in training camp when you guys asked me this question.

"Unfortunately we don't have him, but I know he'll come back and be beneficial for us late in the season."

"It's just an opportunity for other guys to step up and make plays," Prescott added of Cooper's absence.

"We've had different guys including myself go out week after week and other guys have had to step in and make those plays.

"It's challenging when you're missing a guy like Amari who is such a playmaker and dynamic but we've got to be able to win without him."

Despite an underwhelming Patrick Mahomes performance, the Kansas City Chiefs bailed out their star quarterback in a 19-9 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

Mahomes did not throw or rush for a touchdown on Sunday, the former NFL MVP finishing 23-of-37 passing for 260 yards, an interception and a fumble.

But the Chiefs (7-4) leaned on their defence to take down Dak Prescott and the Cowboys (7-3) for their fourth successive victory.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran for 63 yards and a touchdown in his return from injured reserve in Kansas City, where Chris Jones and the Chiefs made life difficult for Cowboys QB Prescott.

Prescott was held to 216 yards passing while he was intercepted twice on the road by the Chiefs, whose defence have allowed fewer than 20 points in four consecutive games.

The last time they achieved the feat was a five-game streak from Weeks 11-16 in 2019, and just over a month after that streak they won the Super Bowl.

 

No Murray, No worries for Cardinals

Kyler Murray sat out his third straight game, however, the high-flying Arizona Cardinals still topped the Seattle Seahawks 23-13.

In the absence of their star quarterback due to an ankle problem, backup Colt McCoy stepped up in an impressive performance as he threw for 328 yards and two touchdowns away to the Seahawks in Seattle.

Russell Wilson was outplayed by McCoy in his first home start since finger surgery, the Super Bowl champion completing 14 of 26 passes for 207 yards but no touchdowns, while he sacked on four occasions.

The Cardinals improved to 9-2 as the slumping Seahawks (3-7) lost for the fifth time in their past six games.

It is rare to head into a game wondering if the Kansas City Chiefs can match the explosiveness of their opponents on offense.

But such has been the success enjoyed by the Dallas Cowboys' attack in 2021, that the issue of whether the Chiefs can keep up looms over a mouthwatering matchup on Sunday.

The Cowboys' offense is the best in the NFL by yards per play with an average of 6.33, Dak Prescott building a case for both MVP and Comeback Player of the Year in a stunning return from the grisly ankle injury that prematurely ended his 2020 campaign.

Prescott leads the NFL with a passer rating of 110.8, throwing 20 touchdowns to five interceptions and averaging 8.19 yards per attempt, good for fifth in the league.

The Cowboys scored 29 points in the second quarter of their 43-3 win over the Atlanta Falcons last week. That is the most points ever scored by the team in a single quarter.

That was Dallas' largest win since a 48-7 victory against the Arizona Cardinals in October 2000. Including the playoffs, the Cowboys are 5-2-1 all-time in games immediately following a win of at least 40 points. 

The odds of the Cowboys improving to 8-2 as they compete for the top seed in the NFC playoffs would, therefore, appear to be stacked in their favour, even on the road at Arrowhead Stadium.

Entering Week 11, the Chiefs rank 10th in yards per play with 5.88, indicating they may struggle to operate at the same efficiency as Prescott and the Cowboys.

And that average was boosted significantly by their Week 10 blowout win over the Las Vegas Raiders, which saw Patrick Mahomes throw for 406 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.

Mahomes is the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era with multiple games of 400+ passing yards, 5+ touchdown passes and no picks in a career. 

If the man many consider the most talented quarterback in the NFL can replicate that performance, then the Chiefs will obviously have little issue keeping pace with the Cowboys. 

Yet his ability to do so partially rests on Dallas' desire to adapt and avoid living in single-high safety coverages Mahomes can pick apart as he did against a Raiders defense that showed no willingness to amend the gameplan.

If Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn throws different looks at Mahomes, then the challenge could be substantially harder for a quarterback who is tied third in the NFL with 10 interceptions against a defense that has lived off turnovers, Dallas' 17 takeaways the fifth-most in the NFL.

The slight improvements a vulnerable Kansas City defense has made over recent weeks are unlikely to be enough to slow down Prescott and Co.

For the Chiefs to solidify their position atop the AFC West by moving to 7-4 and silencing more doubters in the process, Mahomes will have to prove last week was not a flash in the pan and that this offense is firmly back to its best.

The NFL is a passing league. If a team has a quarterback who can elevate those around him and an offensive line that can protect him, chances are they will be well-positioned to contend for the playoffs.

Though the elite quarterbacks in the league can fit the ball into tight windows on a consistent basis, the odds of success on that side of the ball are much higher when those signal-callers are paired with receivers who can defeat man coverage and get into open space.

Excelling at finding the soft spot in zone coverage is also important, while the top play-callers in the NFL frequently engineer space for their receivers.

Yet receivers who can win one-on-one are a tremendous help to quarterbacks, especially those who can defeat the blitz regularly with their ability to efficiently read the field and find the open man.

While determining the 'best' receiver in the NFL is a subjective process that can hinge on an affinity for certain styles of play, success in beating defenders in coverage can be quantified.

Stats Perform has done so with its open percentage metric, which tracks how often a receiver gets open when they're matched up against man coverage and have enough time to run a route. Plays that break down before a matchup with a defender can take place or scramble drills where a receiver uncovers after running his initial route are discounted.

So who are the best and worst in that regard? Here we look at the top performers, some surprise names uncovering more often than perhaps expected and those who rarely separate from defenders.

THE ELITE

A year in which Cooper Kupp leads the NFL with 1,141 receiving yards has seen him established as arguably the premier route runner in the NFL.

That is reflected by his open percentage of 57.75, which is the highest of any player with more than 10 coverage matchups.

Getting open on 41 of his 71 matchups, Kupp has consistently excelled at creating separation. His burn percentage, which measures how often a receiver wins his matchup with a defender when he's targeted, of 65.2 is above the average of 60.3 for wideouts (min. 10 targets), while he is fourth in the NFL in burn yards per route (4.2).

Joining Kupp near the top of the tree is Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings. Proving his record-breaking rookie year was no fluke, Jefferson has faced 108 coverage matchups and got open on 55 of them, good for an open percentage of 50.93. 

Eleventh among receivers with a burn percentage of 73.4 and averaging 3.3 burn yards per route, there has been no sign of a sophomore slump from Jefferson, whose combination of separation ability and prowess at the catch point has turned him into one of the most dependable and dynamic receivers in the league.

Keenan Allen (53.16) is Kupp's closest challenger, the Los Angeles Chargers veteran underlining his status as one of the NFL's most underappreciated receivers by getting open at a rate that may only heighten frustrations around his team's underperforming offense.

Kansas City Chiefs star Tyreek Hill (47.78) boasts an elite open percentage that belies his underwhelming big play rate of 28.0 per cent, with Stefon Diggs' (47.62) success at getting open dispelling the notion of a drop-off from last year's receiving leader. Davante Adams (45.65) is unsurprisingly also among the league's best, yet he is accompanied by some eyebrow-raising names.

SURPRISE STUDS

It has been tough to watch an uninspired Pittsburgh Steelers offense this season and think anyone is getting open.

Almost every passing play the Steelers run seems to end in a contested catch, yet a wideout who thrives in those situations is also winning the vast majority of his coverage matchups.

Indeed, second-year wideout Chase Claypool ranks behind only Kupp and Allen in open percentage, uncovering from a defender on 35 of his 68 matchups (51.47). 

However, a burn yards per route rate of 2.5, just above the average of 2.3, and his struggles in the burn yards per target metric (10.30) indicate that, while Claypool is separating from coverage, he is not putting significant distance between himself and defenders. He will likely need to continue relying on his superiority at the catch point.

As with the Steelers, you won't find too many people who draw a sense of excitement watching a Teddy Bridgewater-led Denver Broncos offense.

There is no doubting the talent on Denver's attack. With Jerry Jeudy hurt and Noah Fant so far failing to take the second-year leap many expected, Courtland Sutton has shone brightest and is on course for a 1,000-yard season, though Tim Patrick's impact has been comparable.

Save for Kendall Hinton (47.83 on 23 matchups), it is the relatively unheralded Patrick who has proven Denver's best at separating, his open percentage of 44.44 from 90 matchups level with Dallas Cowboys star Amari Cooper.

A below-average burn yards per route of 2.0 speaks to a paucity of substantial separation, but Patrick is using the distance he is able to put between himself and defenders to create explosive plays, his big-play rate of 36.7 per cent comfortably above the average of 29.2.

Again leading tight ends in receiving yards (747), most would expect Travis Kelce of the Chiefs to top the list at that position for open percentage. Instead, it is a former AFC West standout in ex-Charger Hunter Henry.

Scoring seven touchdowns in as many games prior to being kept out of the endzone in Thursday's win over the Atlanta Falcons, Henry possesses an open percentage of 48.15. However, he has not been double-teamed this season.

Darren Waller has a double-team percentage of 17.2 and has still managed to get open 46.75 per cent of the time. The attention the Las Vegas Raiders star draws and his ability to succeed despite it illustrate his position as one of the league's biggest matchup nightmares and arguably the gold standard at tight end.

NO ROOM FOR MANOEUVRE

The Packers' offense has stuttered by its own high standards in recent weeks, with their underwhelming numbers not just a product of Jordan Love's struggles against the Chiefs.

Since Week 6, the Packers are averaging 213.2 net passing yards per game – 20th in the NFL. For the season, they are 16th in yards per pass play (6.46).

That mediocrity can, in part, be attributed to a lack of receiving depth beyond Adams, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling's issues getting open encapsulate that problem.

Valdes-Scantling is supposed to be the Packers' deep threat who can stretch defenses with his ability to separate vertically.

Open on only five of his 38 coverage matchups – a percentage of 13.16 – Valdes-Scantling is not fulfilling his role. The Packers will likely need to be more explosive in the playoffs if they are to go all the way, meaning Valdes-Scantling must up his game.

Bryan Edwards is in a similar situation in Las Vegas. Scarcely utilised last season, Edwards has seen a bump in targets in 2021, the Raiders often going to him downfield. 

Edwards' average depth of target is 17.2 yards, but he has found deep separation hard to come by, uncovering on 17 of his 111 matchups (15.32 per cent). Yet with a gaudy burn yards per target average of 15.01 and a big-play rate of 50.7 per cent that is third among receivers (min. 10 targets), Edwards is a player who takes full advantage of the little separation he gets when Derek Carr looks his way.

Edwards' former South Carolina team-mate San Francisco 49ers star Deebo Samuel is performing at the highest level of his young career. Samuel is second behind Kupp with 979 receiving yards and already has seven total touchdowns this season.

However, Samuel ranks near the bottom of the league in open percentage (15.07), with the difference between that number and his overall production a reflection of how he is used by San Francisco.

His average depth of target is 8.6 yards, below the NFL average for receivers of 11.0, speaking to the Niners' reliance on him on screens and short passes that are an extension of the run game.

Third in burn yards per route and leading all wide receivers with an average of 9.6 yards after catch per reception, Samuel takes advantage of those short targets with his speed, elusiveness and power, while he can win at the catch point downfield even without separation. The 49ers often get Samuel in space in the backfield but, for one of the league's most unique players, separation is not always a requirement.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and will miss his side's next two games at a minimum.

Cooper tested positive to COVID-19 and has been definitely ruled out of Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

After that, the Cowboys have a short week with a Thanksgiving Game against the Las Vegas Raiders on the following Thursday, which Cooper will miss as he is unvaccinated.

Under the NFL's COVID-19 protocol, unvaccinated players must spend a mandatory 10 days away from the team if they test positive.

As a result, the earliest Cooper can link up again with the Cowboys is November 29, three days after the Raiders game, putting him in doubt also for the Week 13 game against the New Orleans Saints on December 2 as well.

The wide receiver has caught 44 passes for 583 yards and five touchdowns in nine games this season.

The Cowboys boast a 7-2 record and have the top-ranked offense in the league, led by quarterback Dak Prescott.

Will the NFL return to some form of normality this week? Maybe... or maybe not.

Even in this season of shock results without any clear Super Bowl favourite, Week 10 stood out for its sheer number of upsets.

The defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers were stunned by the Washington Football Team, the Miami Dolphins overturned the Baltimore Ravens and the short-handed league-leading Arizona Cardinals lost to the Carolina Panthers.

When the San Francisco 49ers then beat NFC West rivals the Los Angeles Rams in Monday Night Football, it became the first week in NFL history in which four teams had won by double-digits having entered the week at least four wins behind their opponents.

Week 11 looks no easier to call, and there are plenty of intriguing matchups before even considering the potential for further setbacks for some favourites.

Dallas Cowboys (7-2) @ Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)

With Patrick Mahomes back on form, two of the best teams in the NFL should be set for a titanic tussle at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

Mahomes, setting aside his shaky displays to that point, threw for 406 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions against the Las Vegas Raiders last week, becoming the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to have two games of 400-plus passing yards, five-plus TD passes and no picks in his career.

The 41-14 win represented the league-leading 10th time the Chiefs have scored 40 points in a game since the start of the 2018 season, yet they were topped by the Cowboys, whose 43-3 defeat of the Atlanta Falcons was their biggest since a 48-7 victory over Arizona in 2000.

The Cowboys have gone 5-2-1 all-time previously in games following a win of at least 40 points (including playoffs), but this was an unprecedented success. The team's 29 points in the second quarter in Week 10 were their most in a single quarter of any game in their history.

Indianapolis Colts (5-5) @ Buffalo Bills (6-3)

Neither the Chiefs nor the Cowboys can match the Bills' average winning margin of 26.3 points this year. That is the highest mark in the NFL, having been boosted by last week's 45-17 victory over the New York Jets, their NFL-leading sixth win by 15 or more points.

The Cowboys are ahead of the Bills in points per game, but Buffalo have given up the fewest points per game. The last team to lead on both offense and defense in this regard were the 2005 Colts.

The achievements of this year's Colts team have been rather more modest. Their five wins have come against teams with a combined record of 13-34 (.261).

Still, Jonathan Taylor has excelled, scoring a rushing touchdown in seven straight games – the last NFL player to reach eight was DeAngelo Williams in 2008. In fact, there is rushing talent on both sides of the ball, with the Bills last week having four different players score rushing TDs for the first time in team history.

Arizona Cardinals (8-2) @ Seattle Seahawks (3-6)

Another week, another big NFC West game. The Cardinals' form has tailed away a little since Kyler Murray's injury, but they are still unbeaten on the road and looking to start 6-0 away from home for only the second time in franchise history.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks have their starting QB back, but Russell Wilson did little to help their offense against the Green Bay Packers. He was shut out for the first time in his NFL career in his 166th start (including playoffs).

Seattle's problems on that side of the ball did not end there, though. They were held to under 100 rushing yards for a third consecutive game for the first time since the end of the 2016 season, while only twice in the 21st century have they seen such a streak extended to four games.

Whether or not the Seahawks recover this week, history suggests they are likely to be able to stick with the Cardinals. Six of the past 10 meetings between the teams have been decided by three points or fewer.

Elsewhere...

Cam Newton's Panthers face Ron Rivera's Washington, their first meeting since both left Carolina (Newton returned last week). This is the third time since 2010 a former MVP QB has faced the coach he won his award with, following Peyton Manning versus Jim Caldwell in 2015 and Tom Brady against Bill Belichick earlier this season.

The 49ers are now 4-1 when Jimmy Garoppolo's passer rating is above 100.0 this year (141.7 vs. the Rams) and 0-3 when it is not. He was helped last week by a season-high 156 rushing yards, keeping San Francisco's offense on the ball for just over 39 minutes. They should expect more of the same against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have failed to force a turnover in six games this season.

The Cincinnati Bengals need both of their former LSU stars to rediscover some form at the Raiders. Joe Burrow has thrown an interception in five straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL, while Ja'Marr Chase – surely not helped by his QB's struggles – has fallen short of 50 receiving yards in consecutive games after making that mark in his first seven appearances.

The Detroit Lions will hope to learn from next opponents the Cleveland Browns, who have returned to contention since in 2018 becoming the first team in the Super Bowl era to end a losing streak of 10-plus games with a tie. Last week, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Lions became the second.

Patrick Mahomes believes the Kansas City Chiefs have their "swag back" after he inspired a 41-14 win at the Las Vegas Raiders with one of the most devastating performances of his career.

Mahomes himself has been deemed to be in the midst of the first major slump of his NFL career, with the Chiefs' inability to light up the scoreboard being blamed on him by many.

Ahead of the meeting with the Raiders, the Chiefs were only ranked 15th for scoring offense at 24.6 points per game, a decrease from sixth and 29.6 last season.

Similarly, Mahomes was on 10 interceptions and 17 sacks prior to Sunday, while his seven yards per throw was a career-low record, but there appeared to be an awakening in Las Vegas.

Mahomes threw for 406 of Kansas City's 516 total yards, while the Raiders managed just 299 in total as they went one of nine on third-down conversions.

Sunday was the second time Mahomes has thrown for 400-plus yards with five or more touchdowns and no interceptions in a game. According to Stats Perform, he is the only quarterback in NFL history to have two such games in his career.

Earlier in the week, the re-circulation of a viral video from 2014 made it to the Chiefs' locker room – in the clip, a high school player says: "I think I've got my swagger back!"

"That was something that was kind of my motto this week," Mahomes said after leading the Raiders demolition, with the Chiefs now 6-4.

"I think the whole team got that swag back. We're going to try to keep that thing rolling."

Nevertheless, Mahomes insists he never doubted the Chiefs would find their groove again.

"We've done [this] before. We've done it these last few seasons, we were doing at the beginning of this season," he continued.

"We were moving the ball and making a lot of stuff happen. We were just turning the ball over. Then we kind of went through a little spell where we weren't making these drives and we were still finding ways to win.

"I knew that we're going to click back into it."

Chiefs coach Andy Reid had a similar line of thought regarding Mahomes himself.

While in the past couple of years he may not have been hitting the heights that saw him become only the second QB in NFL history to throw 50 touchdowns and more than 5,000 yards in a single season back in 2018, Mahomes still led the Chiefs to consecutive Super Bowl appearances.

"It's going to happen," Reid said of Mahomes' apparent slump. "There's going to be a little something that doesn't go your way, and it's important you power through it, stay confident and keep firing.

"That's how he's wired, and you knew he was going to get through the ups and downs just by the way he handles himself."

When the Kansas City Chiefs have won this season, it has often been ugly, the defending AFC champions finding a way to eke out a victory even if they did not play their best. 

That was not the case on Sunday, as the Chiefs went to Las Vegas and rolled over their division rivals the Raiders 41-14 behind five touchdown passes by Patrick Mahomes. 

It was the third consecutive win for the Chiefs (6-4), who kept pace in the impossibly tight AFC West, where all four teams now stand between 6-4 and 5-5. 

After a pair of short Mahomes touchdown passes to Tyreek Hill helped give Kansas City a 17-7 half-time lead, Derek Carr needed less than three minutes to bring the Raiders (5-4) back within a field goal as he hit Bryan Edwards for a 37-yard score early in the third quarter. 

That was the last highlight of the evening for Las Vegas, though, as the Chiefs reeled off 24 unanswered points to close the game with Mahomes finding the end zone three more times. 

Mahomes threw for 406 of Kansas City's 516 total yards, while the Raiders managed just 299 in total as they went one of nine on third-down conversions. 

It was the third time Mahomes has compiled at least 400 passing yards and five passing touchdowns in a game, tying an NFL record shared by Hall of Famers Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Joe Montana. 

Sunday was also the second time Mahomes has thrown for 400-plus yards with five or more touchdowns and no interceptions in a game. According to Stats Perform, he is the only quarterback in NFL history to have two such games in his career.

Kansas City had a pair of receivers top the century mark, as Darrel Williams caught nine passes for 101 yards and Travis Kelce had 119 yards on nine receptions. 

Even at the midway point of the NFL season, it is difficult to make definitive judgments about many teams in the 2021 campaign.

The AFC is a jumbled mess with no clear frontrunner, though the Tennessee Titans may feel differently after surging to the top of the conference with a 7-2 record. 

In the NFC, it is easier to discern the elite, but picking the teams who will claim the last two Wild Card spots from a crowded field is not a simple task.

What we can do, however, is look at the standings and see which teams are either over or underperforming.

Stats Perform has done just that by assessing the records of every team compared to their power rating, a model that, using X-info data, looks at seven different facets of each team: quarterback, offensive skill players, run blocking, pass blocking, pass rush, run defense and pass coverage, and the player rates associated with each.

These seven facets are weighted according to modelled importance, and then aggregated to a team-level rating.

And that process has produced some clear standouts who either have more wins than the model suggests they deserve or are failing to live up to its expectations.

Overperforming

New Orleans Saints – Power rating: 29th

If Sean Payton isn't getting Coach of the Year hype come the end of the season, something has gone severely wrong.

Payton has the Saints in position to claim an NFC Wild Card berth at 5-3 despite a quarterback situation most would struggle to overcome, with Trevor Siemian stepping in to replace the injured Jameis Winston.

The Saints' most pressing issue beyond signal-caller is at wide receiver. Their most targeted receiver, Marquez Callaway, is registering a burn – or, in other words, winning his matchup with his defender when targeted – 56.4 per cent of the time, below the average of 60.6 for wideouts (min. 10 targets).

That has led New Orleans to lean on running back Alvin Kamara and the defense.

Kamara is unsurprisingly making the most of his significant opportunities as a receiver, his big-play percentage of 23.6 fourth among backs with at least 10 targets.

The defense is allowing a league-low 3.19 yards per carry and leads the NFL in run disruption rate, but comparative struggles against the pass (6.92 yards per play) and in getting after the quarterback could spell trouble if Siemian cannot maintain a surprisingly strong start to his time under center.

Cincinnati Bengals – Power rating: 23rd

The Bengals have been brought back down to earth with a bump over the past two games, losing to the New York Jets before being blown out by the Cleveland Browns.

First in the AFC before that slump, they are now last in the AFC North but, with a 5-4 record, they can still be considered to be outperforming expectations.

The problem area for the Bengals continues to be the trenches. Joe Burrow has been sacked eight times over the past two games, Cincinnati's struggles up front reflected by a ranking of 21st in pass protection win rate.

Things have been worse up front on defense, the Bengals 30th in pass rush win rate despite the best efforts of Trey Hendrickson, who has beaten a pass blocker on 28 of his 43 pressures.

Burrow has the best percentage of well-thrown balls among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts. He is delivering an accurate pass on 84.4 per cent of attempts.

His second-year leap is no mirage and has been aided by the outstanding rookie season of former LSU team-mate Ja'Marr Chase, eighth among receivers (min. 50 targets) with 3.5 burn yards per route. Yet, without improvement in other areas, elevating the Bengals back to the postseason could prove too much of a challenge for that truly dynamic duo.

Arizona Cardinals – Power rating: 16th

The Cardinals being this low down the list may be difficult to reconcile given they are 8-1 and just convincingly beat the San Francisco 49ers with their backup quarterback.

Yet holes have emerged on a defense now without J.J. Watt, whose addition had proven so critical to the interior of the D-line.

Arizona's defense is allowing 4.81 yards per rush, the second-most in the NFL, with the Cardinals in 22nd in run disruption rate.

Their pass rush win rate position of 24th belies the production of Markus Golden (nine sacks) and Chandler Jones (six), with those numbers suggesting the Cardinals' strength against the pass is more a product of the impressive play of a secondary that has surpassed expectations.

Though there is reason for doubt when it comes to the Cardinals' defense, this is a team that will go as far as Kyler Murray and the offense.

Murray is firmly in the MVP mix with a well-thrown percentage of 81.3, and receivers DeAndre Hopkins (80.9) and Christian Kirk (79.2) are each in the top five among wideouts (min. 10 targets) for burn rate.

With an offensive line ranked eighth in pass protection win rate doing an excellent job of keeping Murray clean, the Cards have an offensive recipe well suited to winning in 2021.

Yet their power rating and performance on defense indicates this team is not as complete as their record suggests.

Tennessee Titans – Power rating: 18th

Five straight wins, including victories over the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams, and the Titans are only 18th?!

It may be difficult to believe, but Tennessee's position in the bottom half of the NFL by power rating is one mirrored by the Titans' spot in Stats Perform's Efficiency Versus Expected (EVE) rankings.

EVE looks at several factors to train a model to predict yardage output for any game situation and then compares the projected yards to the actual yards gained or prevented in those situations.

The Titans are a disappointing 17th in EVE, despite Ryan Tannehill enjoying a season that has seen him deliver an accurate well-thrown ball on 83.5 per cent of his passes.

But Tannehill is now without his security blanket with Derrick Henry, who was threatening Eric Dickerson's rushing record and averaging 3.05 yards per carry on disrupted runs, and is throwing to a receiving corps that has just one member, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (63.6), with a burn percentage above 60.

Their stunning primetime win in Los Angeles was largely a product of turnovers and a startling amount of pressure from the defensive front, and the latter appears unlikely to be sustainable.

In the bottom half of the league in pass rush win rate (31st) and run disruption rate (27th), the production the Titans have got from the likes of Harold Landry, Denico Autry and Jeffery Simmons has not been the result of consistent dominance up front.

The story is the same for an offensive line ranked 29th in pass protection and 17th in run block win rate. Beyond Tannehill and Henry, areas where the Titans consistently excel are not obvious. The receivers will need to step up or the defense will need to prove a breakout performance against the Rams was not an anomaly for Tennessee to turn the doubters into believers.

Underperforming

Kansas City Chiefs – Power rating: 3rd

The uneven nature of the Chiefs' performances to this point makes them moving to 5-4 last week actually seem pretty impressive.

Yet, for all their issues on defense, and the doubts about an offense lacking the explosiveness of years gone by, the Chiefs should have fared even better over the first nine games, at least according to their power rating.

Though Kansas City only managed 13 points in their win over the Green Bay Packers, it is the Chiefs' offense that provides the most cause for optimism.

Patrick Mahomes' well-thrown percentage of 79 is above the league average of 78.5 for quarterbacks with a minimum of 10 attempts, and he is being well protected by the Chiefs' reworked offensive line.

The Chiefs rank fourth in pass protection win rate and first in run block win rate, with their rushing average of 4.62 yards per play the eighth-best in the NFL.

It is those game-changing downfield shots that are conspicuous by their absence for the Chiefs, with Tyreek Hill's underwhelming big-play percentage of 24.8 illustrating their struggles in that regard.

But this remains a team set up for offensive success, and if a defense that has not allowed a 300-yard passing game since Week 5 can continue making incremental improvements, Kansas City could yet enjoy the season many envisioned.

San Francisco 49ers – Power rating: 8th

A route to contention is not as easy to plot for the 3-5 49ers, who continue to beat themselves with mistakes that negate their overall efficiency.

The 49ers are eighth in EVE, with their position in offensive yards over expected (eighth) and yards allowed under expected (14th) painting the picture of a top-half team on both sides of the ball.

Yet a turnover differential of -9 that is superior to only that of the New York Jets (-12) makes a losing season a more realistic possibility for the Niners than a playoff push.

The offense is the primary source of hope. Deebo Samuel is on pace for over 1,800 receiving yards and his 4.1 burn yards per route are second for receivers with at least 50 targets, while George Kittle had a 100-yard game on his return from injury last week and ranks second among tight ends (min. 10 targets) with 3.1 burn yards per route.

With rookie Elijah Mitchell impressing at running back, Brandon Aiyuk emerging from Kyle Shanahan's doghouse and a line ranked in the top 10 in pass protection and run block win rate, the Niners theoretically have the offense to compete with anyone.

Poor execution has prevented them from doing so. If the Niners are to somehow stay in the hunt, the turnovers must stop, but change is also required on defense.

The 49ers have struggled to disrupt the run, and disappointing secondary play has limited the impact of a stellar season from Nick Bosa, whose adjusted pass rush win rate of 41.09 per cent is way above the average of 21.88 for edge rushers.

Time is running out for San Francisco to figure it out; if the Niners cannot do that, it will be another frustrating year for a team too talented to be struggling this much.

Minnesota Vikings – Power rating: 10th

It has been a typical Vikings season, with a talented and potent offense seeing their efforts go largely unrewarded as they have flirted with both triumph and disaster late in games on a near-weekly basis.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins might have an MVP case were the Vikings in a better position to contend. He has been extremely accurate, posting a well-thrown percentage of 81.8, and has generally avoided turnover-worthy plays, throwing just four pickable passes on 285 attempts.

Dalvin Cook's missed tackle per touch rate of 0.269 is the best among running backs with at least 50 carries, and Justin Jefferson is again one of the league's elite separators at receiver, as evidenced by his burn rate of 72.1 per cent.

Yet the Vikings are only 13th in offensive yards over expected, speaking to an issue that continues to hold this team back, with Minnesota again in the lower reaches of the league in pass protection win rate.

It has been a different story on the other side of the trenches, the Vikings seventh in pass rush win rate, though the absence of Danielle Hunter with a torn pectoral muscle may see them lose that position.

Soft against the run, allowing the third-highest yards per rush (4.77) in the NFL, the Vikings are a team whose lofty power rating is easily explained through a loaded passing game and a pass rush that has excelled through their first eight games.

But their 3-5 record is reflective of an incomplete team that maintains an obvious weakness in the trenches and lacks the defensive solidity to put games to bed. The Vikings may be a top 10 team on paper, but it is tough to trust them to perform to that standard consistently.

The New England Patriots and the Cleveland Browns head into week 10 off the back of impressive wins as both look to further improve their playoff chances when they face each other on Sunday.

Bill Belichick, who was the Browns' head coach from 1991 to 1995, has a 7-2 record against Cleveland since he became the Patriots' head coach in 2000, including winning all five home games against them.

The Arizona Cardinals boast the outright best record in the NFL right now at 8-1 after beating the San Francisco 49ers, and welcome the Panthers to State Farm Stadium as they seek to make it nine wins out of 10.

There has been a lot of talk about form, or lack thereof, when it comes to star quarterback Patrick Mahomes but he will be betting on himself to silence the critics as his Kansas City Chiefs make the trip to Las Vegas.

 

Cleveland Browns (5-4) @ New England Patriots (5-4)

The Patriots moved to 5-4 after a 24-6 win at the Panthers last week, while the Browns have an identical record following their emphatic 41-16 victory against the Bengals.

The Browns' 25-point margin of victory was their second largest in any game since the Cleveland franchise was revived in 1999. The Browns' biggest winning margin over the past 23 seasons was 38 points, in a 44-6 rout of the Cardinals in 2003.

Running back Nick Chubb has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of his past three road games for the Browns. Jim Brown is the only other player in the franchise's history with three consecutive 100-yard rushing games on the road in one season, although he managed that feat three times (1961, 1963 and 1964).

The Patriots won their last home game 54-13 against the Jets in Week 7 after losing their first four at Gillette Stadium this season. The 41-point margin of victory was the Patriots' largest in a home game since 2010, when they beat the Jets 45-3.

Baker Mayfield will have to keep an eye out for J.C. Jackson, who made two interceptions in the Patriots' game at Carolina, including an 88-yard touchdown return. Jackson has a league-high total of 22 interceptions in his four seasons in the NFL.

Carolina Panthers (4-5) @ Arizona Cardinals (8-1)

The Cardinals will go into this one as heavy favourites but the Panthers have actually won their previous five meetings, including in the 2015 Wild Card and 2016 NFC Championship games.

After throwing three interceptions last week against the Patriots, Carolina have now turned the ball over in six consecutive games. The only team with a longer active streak of games with a turnover is the New York Jets (nine games, going back to last season).

However, with Sam Darnold out for the next few weeks with a shoulder injury, the Panthers are expected to start P.J. Walker at quarterback, despite Thursday's announcement that Cam Newton has re-signed with the franchise.

Walker has previously started just one game for Carolina, which was a 20-0 win over Detroit in Week 11 last season where he completed 24 of 34 passes (70.6 per cent). The only other Panthers QB to have their first start with the team and complete a higher percentage of their passes was Steve Beuerlein in 1996 (71 percent).

The Cardinals' victory over the 49ers was the third time this season they have gone on the road and gained 350+ yards without turning the ball over. Over the past 70 years, the Cardinals have never had more than two such road games in any season.

Arizona have completed 73.9 percent of passes this season. No team in the Super Bowl era has ever held a completion percentage that high over the course of an entire season, with the 2018 Saints coming the closest (73.4 percent). 

Kansas City Chiefs (5-4) @ Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)

All eyes will be on Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who finished with 166 passing yards in last week's 13-7 win against the Green Bay Packers, the second-lowest total in his career. Interestingly, Kansas City are 6-0 when Mahomes has thrown for 200 yards or fewer.

Since 2013, the Chiefs are 13-3 against the Raiders. Two of the losses were on the road (2014 and 2017), and one came at home last season.

The Chiefs home victory against the Packers last week saw their fewest points in a win since a 10-3 success over San Diego in 2015. Having allowed an average of 32.6 points against in their first five games (2-3), they have averaged just 16 points against in their previous four (3-1).

The Raiders lost to the New York Giants 23-16 on the road last week. They have lost all three games in which they have managed fewer than 20 points this season.

Raiders QB Derek Carr threw one touchdown pass and two interceptions last week. It was his first game with more interceptions than touchdown passes since Week 13 of the 2019 season, which was a 40-9 loss in Kansas City.

 

Elsewhere...

The Green Bay Packers (7-2) will be hoping to get back on track against Seattle (3-5) after a rare defeat last time out and will be confident of doing so having won nine straight home games against the Seahawks dating back to 2003 (including playoffs). It is the Packers' longest home winning streak against any opponent since 24 straight against the Lions (1992 to 2014). The Hawks' last win in Green Bay was in 1999.

The Los Angeles Chargers (5-3) will be hoping for another big performance from quarterback Justin Herbert when they host the Minnesota Vikings (3-5). Herbert tallied 356 passing yards in last week's 27-24 win against the Eagles, going 32-for-38 (84.2 percent). It was the highest completion percentage all-time by any Chargers QB to throw for at least 350 yards.

The Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) picked up a shock 9-6 win against the Buffalo Bills last week but may need to score more points against the Indianapolis Colts (4-5) if they want to succeed again. Last week's victory was the first time since the beginning of last season that a team was held under 10 points in a game and still won. Teams are now 1-59 in the past two seasons when scoring single digits.

After a bye week to clear their heads, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2) will be looking to bounce back from their 36-27 defeat in New Orleans as they travel to Washington (2-6). Since Tom Brady joined the Buccaneers in 2020, Tampa Bay are 5-1 following a loss.

Patrick Mahomes believes the Kansas City Chiefs are close to being "the team everybody knows and loves" despite another poor performance on offense in Week 9.

The Chiefs improved to 5-4 in what has been a thoroughly unconvincing season from a team looking to win their third successive AFC Championship and atone for their Super Bowl LVI loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last term.

Andy Reid's team have endured struggles on both sides of the ball in 2021 but, while an often-porous defense stepped up to hold the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers to seven points, Mahomes and the offense continued to sputter. 

Mahomes was held to 166 passing yards, the second-lowest total of his career behind the 76 he had against the Denver Broncos in a 2019 game in which he suffered a knee injury.

But the 13 points the Chiefs scored proved enough for Kansas City to hold on and claim a crucial win and Mahomes does not think a return to the kind of explosive offensive performances that helped them become a juggernaut is far away.

"I feel like we're close," Mahomes said. "You can see drives here and there where we're the team everybody knows and loves, but you've got to consistently be able to do that throughout every single drive in a game. We're just not executing at a higher level. 

"I'm still extremely confident, I know we're going to find it as an offense.

"We have too many good players, we have too special of coaches in this organisation to not find it.

"The offensive line, I'm really confident in them, they're playing really good football these last few weeks. I expect us to start making plays here soon."

Though he is hopeful the offense will eventually resume normal service, Mahomes made it clear he is unconcerned with his individual yardage.

"I'd rather be walking away with a win than with a lot of yards, so I'm glad we got the win," he added.

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur shouldered the blame for Jordan Love's struggles in the 13-7 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Love made his first start for the Packers after reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers was left on the sidelines having tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday.

The Rodgers-less Packers (7-2) fell short on Sunday with Love under centre in Kansas City, where Green Bay's seven-game winning streak came to an end.

Love – the 26th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft – was 19-of-34 passing for 190 yards, a touchdown and interception, while the 23-year-old rushed for another 23 yards on five carries.

"This one falls on me, squarely," LaFleur said when discussing Love's woes against the blitz. "Certainly, for us to be two for 12 on third down, obviously didn't have a good enough plan for some of the zero pressures that they brought on us.

"But I thought our guys battled. I thought Jordan, I was really proud of the way he played. He hung in there, he was taking hits and delivering the ball.

"I thought he did a really good job. But I think that, ultimately, I've got to be better and this one falls squarely on me."

Regarding his own performance, Love added: "Obviously not good enough. I think we started off a little slow, I started off a little slow personally.

"I think we got into a bit of a rhythm later. Obviously, it was too late. Just not good enough."

"I think we started having a better answer in the end, but yeah, they were bringing the all out, they were eating us up and we just weren't able to execute on those plays that we had against it," Love said.

"I think all it took was maybe one big play against it, and it wouldn't have been coming as much. Obviously, we weren't able to execute it, so that's why they kept bringing it."

The Green Bay Packers' first look at life without Aaron Rodgers was not a pleasant one, as their offence sputtered with backup quarterback Jordan Love at the helm and the Kansas City Chiefs held on for a 13-7 victory. 

The Packers (7-2) had averaged 27 points during the seven-game winning streak that ended on Sunday after reigning MVP Rodgers missed the game following a positive coronavirus test during the week. 

The visitors did not get on the scoreboard until Love hit Allen Lazard for a 20-yard touchdown pass with five minutes remaining for his first career NFL TD.

That gave Green Bay some hope after their previous drive had ended with L'Jarius Sneed picking off a Love pass on Kansas City's five-yard line, but the Packers ran out of time. 

While the Chiefs (5-4) were not about to complain about the victory that got them back over .500, their season-long concerns about their offence continued as Patrick Mahomes had another unimpressive game. 

Former league MVP Mahomes completed 20 of 37 passes for just 166 yards but avoided throwing an interception for the first time since the season opener. His 54.1 completion percentage was his worst in a regular-season game since completing 51.2 per cent in a loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 5 last season. 

 

Cardinals cruise past 49ers without Murray

The other red-hot team playing without their star quarterback fared better, as the Arizona Cardinals rolled to a 31-17 defeat of the San Francisco 49ers despite Kyler Murray's absence through an ankle injury. 

Veteran Colt McCoy stepped in for the Cardinals and completed 22 of 26 passes for 249 yards, while James Conner rushed for 93 yards and a pair of scores as Arizona improved to 8-1. 

Three turnovers proved critical for San Francisco (3-5) as the 49ers lost two fumbles in the first half and had trouble sustaining drives throughout the game, with only 23:13 of possession compared to 36:47 for Arizona. 

Jimmy Garoppolo completed 28 of 40 passes for 326 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for San Francisco. 

In Philadelphia, Dustin Hopkins' 29-yard field goal with two seconds to play gave the Los Angeles Chargers (5-3) a 27-24 victory over the Eagles (3-6). 

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