It is the one question that has dominated the 2021 NFL season: what is wrong with the Kansas City Chiefs?

The Chiefs, expected to return to juggernaut status after completely remodelling their offensive line in the wake of their blowout Super Bowl loss, have lurched from one unconvincing performance to another this campaign.

They sit at 4-4 heading into a matchup with the 7-1 Green Bay Packers that has lost a significant amount of its prestige due to Aaron Rodgers being ruled out after testing positive for coronavirus.

A 20-17 victory over the New York Giants on Monday did nothing to calm concerns about Kansas City and this weekend's visit of Green Bay may provide the answer as to how broken this Chiefs team really is.

Heading into a clash that could play a critical role in determining the direction of the 2021 Chiefs, Stats Perform assesses whether a contender that has often looked more like a pretender is as broken as many believe.

Explosives in short supply

The offense was expected to be at its devastating best in 2021 following the reconstruction of the offensive line.

That has not come to pass. The Chiefs have moved the ball efficiently for the most part of the season, they are ninth in yards per play with 5.99, but have seen turnovers continually undermine their production, which has tailed off to 4.84 yards per play over the last two weeks.

Patrick Mahomes has thrown a league-leading 10 interceptions, though a deeper dive into his performances this year strongly indicates he should not have thrown anything close to that number.

Indeed, Mahomes has delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 80.5 per cent of his passes this season, down from 81.1 in 2019 but significantly up from 76.7 in 2020, while his pickable pass percentage of 1.99 is the seventh-best among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts.

Mahomes has thrown six turnover-worthy balls in 2021 with those numbers reflective of a series of accurate passes that have clanked off the hands of his receivers and into the arms of grateful defenders.

Does that mean the receiving corps is to blame for the Chiefs' struggles?

Not necessarily.

Star wideout Tyreek Hill has been credited with five drops and has played a part in some of those Mahomes' interceptions but the speedster is still consistently creating separation.

Hill has produced a burn, which is where a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted, on 71.9 per cent of his targets. That is well above average among receivers (minimum five targets) of 61.1. With his 3.0 burn yards per route superior to the league-wide average of 2.3 for his position, Hill is still a huge problem for opposing defenders along with tight end Travis Kelce.

The metrics suggest Kelce's play has tailed off a little. His burn percentage has dropped from 72.3 in 2020 to 67.6 this year and he is putting up 2.6 burn yards per route compared to 3.1 last year. He is still on the right side of the ledger in each of those categories, however.

Where there has been a clear drop-off from Kansas City's chief offensive weapons, is in explosive plays.

Hill delivered a big play on 35.6 per cent of his targets last season but is doing so 23.8 per cent of the time this year, comfortably below the league average of 29.1 for receivers. Kelce's dip is less dramatic, going from a big play rate of 36 per cent in 2020 to 28.9 in 2021.

That is compounded by the lack of depth the Chiefs have at receiver. Their investment in Mecole Hardman as a second-round pick in 2019 continues to look ill-advised. He is averaging a disappointing 1.7 burn yards per route while Demarcus Robinson (0.8) has also struggled when it comes to creating clear separation.

Byron Pringle is third among receivers with at least 10 targets with a big-play rate of 49.8 but with a relatively small sample size of 22 targets. He has a strong case for a greater role in a Chiefs offense that is turning the ball over and getting a declining rate of explosive plays from its top weapons.

And yet it is still not their biggest problem.

Dismal defense

The Chiefs not living up to their extremely high standards would not be receiving the same level of scrutiny if Kansas City did not also possess the worst defense in the NFL.

That defense is allowing a league-high 6.43 yards per play, they are third-worst in the NFL against the pass (7.79) in that regard and fifth-worst (4.64) versus the run.

Kansas City's defense is one with problems in essentially every area. Their front has found it difficult to generate pressure, ranking 29th in pass rush win rate according to Stats Perform data.

Their issues in that regard forced their hand in trading for Melvin Ingram, who through seven games with the Steelers had a win rate of 30 per cent, above the average of 21.88 for edge rushers.

Yet there are also glaring concerns in the secondary.

Of the four Chiefs' cornerbacks to have been targeted at least 10 times, only Rashad Fenton (1.71) has a burn yards allowed per snap rate that is the right side of the league average of 1.97.

Perhaps an even bigger problem is the play of much-maligned safety Daniel Sorensen, who has given up a big play on 37.8 per cent of his targets, the third-highest rate among players at his position.

As such, Sorensen can expect to be attacked consistently by the Packers' offense, which should still have plenty of confidence of moving the ball despite Rodgers' absence.

All you need is Love?

The Packers have not been efficient, ranking a disappointing 20th in yards per play, but may have found a winning formula on the ground, having rushed for at least 100 yards in five of their last six games. 

Given the Chiefs' deficiencies in stopping the run, Kansas City can expect to see heavy doses of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon.

Yet at some point, the Packers must put their faith in Rodgers' backup Jordan Love in his first start, providing Steve Spagnuolo's defense with cause for optimism.

In his final season at Utah State in 2019, Love delivered a well-thrown ball just 66.74 per cent of the time, putting him significantly shy of the average of 73.20 per cent for Power 5 and Group of 5 quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts. His pickable pass rate of 8.21 per cent was the third worst.

And he deteriorated under pressure, his well-throw rate dropping to 54.89 and his pickable pass percentage increasing to 12.03 when under duress.

With limited NFL experience to his name, the Chiefs will hope the accuracy issues and his troubles against pressure continue at the NFL level.

But the impact of any inability to deal with the pass rush from Love will not be felt if the Chiefs cannot drastically improve their success in defeating opposing pass protectors.

The Chiefs are clearly a long way short of their usual standards but, with Mahomes more accurate than in recent years and their top receivers still getting separation from defenders, to label them broken may be a stretch.

However, if they cannot get the job done in a high-profile matchup that has, at least on paper, drastically tilted in their favour due to the controversy surrounding Rodgers, then it will be a fitting adjective for a team long since associated with much more complimentary language.

The Green Bay Packers head into Week 9 with a 7-1 record, though coach Matt LaFleur will have to figure out a way past the Kansas City Chiefs without his star quarterback.

Aaron Rodgers – who has thrown for 1,894 yards and made 17 touchdown passes this season – will miss his first Packers game since 2017 after testing positive for COVID-19.

The Arizona Cardinals are also now at 7-1 after losing their unbeaten record with a defeat to the Packers last week, and will be looking to get back to winning ways against the San Francisco 49ers.

The Los Angeles Rams are the only other team in the NFL that sits at 7-1 going into Week 9, and are set for a fascinating contest with the 6-2 Tennessee Titans.

 

Green Bay Packers (7-1) @ Kansas City Chiefs (4-4)

Overcoming Rodgers' absence will be no easy feat for Green Bay. Since the 37-year-old took over as the starter in 2008, the Packers are 133-64-1 with him, and 6-11-1 without.

The Packers knocked off the last unbeaten team in Week 8 with a 24-21 win at Arizona and are now on a seven-game winning streak, their longest within a single season since going 13-0 in 2011 on their way to a 15-1 record. Their only loss that season came in Kansas City.

The Chiefs hold a 7-4-1 record over Green Bay, but the Packers have won three of the last four meetings. They most recently played in Week 8 in 2019, with the Packers triumphing 31-24 at Arrowhead. Kansas City went 10-1 following that game on their way to winning the Super Bowl.

Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs to that championship and since he took over as the starting quarterback in 2018, Kansas City have had just six games with 20 or fewer points, including the postseason. Three of those games have come this season (Weeks 5, 7 and 8).

Wide receiver Tyreek Hill had 12 receptions in the Chiefs' 20-17 win against the Giants on Monday, one shy of tying a career high (set in Week 12, 2020 at Tampa Bay). The Chiefs are 15-2 (regular and postseason) when Hill has at least eight receptions.

Arizona Cardinals (7-1) @ San Francisco 49ers (3-4)

This will be the second meeting in the NFC West for these two teams this season, with Arizona already enjoying a 17-10 home win over San Francisco in Week 5. It is, though, the only game in which the Cardinals have not scored at least 21 points this year. The Cardinals have won five of their last six road games against the Niners, with three of those wins coming by at least 10 points.

The 24 points scored against the Cardinals by the Packers in Week 8 in their first loss of the campaign was the second most allowed by Arizona this season (33 against Minnesota in Week 2). Their average of 17.3 points allowed per game ranks third in the NFL.

San Francisco beat the Chicago Bears 33-22 last week, breaking a four-game losing streak and scoring their most points since a 41-33 win over the Detroit Lions in Week 1. Since the start of last season, the Niners are 1-10 at home and 8-4 on the road.

Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 322 yards and ran for two touchdowns in Chicago. The only 49ers player with more passing yards in a game while also rushing for multiple scores is Steve Young, who had games with 355 yards (1994), 348 (1991) and 331 (1998).

Tennessee Titans (6-2) @ Los Angeles Rams (7-1)

Including their win in Super Bowl XXXIV, the Rams have an all-time record of 8-5 against the Titans/Oilers franchise. The Titans' last game at the Rams in southern California came in Week 9, 1990, which saw a 17-13 Rams win over the then-Oilers in Anaheim.

Tennessee beat the Indianapolis Colts 34-31 in overtime last Sunday. It was their third overtime game this year, tying the franchise record for most overtime games in a single season (1983).

The Rams, meanwhile, defeated the Houston Texans 38-22 after leading 38-0 heading into the fourth quarter. They are one of two teams (along with the Dallas Cowboys) to score at least 20 points in every game this season.

Cooper Kupp had 115 receiving yards and a touchdown in that win in Houston, his third straight 100-yard game. Kupp has 10 touchdown catches from the first eight games of the season, second in Rams history only to Elroy Hirsch (12 TDs in 1951).

Elsewhere...

The New England Patriots travel to Carolina to face the Panthers on Sunday, where Mac Jones is set to make history. The rookie quarterback has 1,997 passing yards in his eight games in the NFL so far. Drew Bledsoe currently holds the record for fewest games needed to reach 2,000 passing yards with the Patriots (11). Butch Songin and Tom Brady managed it in 12 games.

The Minnesota Vikings will be hoping to end Lamar Jackson's impressive record against NFC teams. The Baltimore Ravens quarterback is 11-0 all-time as a starter in those meets, throwing for 1,901 yards and 17 touchdowns while running for 995 yards with six scores. 

Despite differing seasons, it could be a close contest in Jacksonville. Including the playoffs, the Bills (5-2) and Jaguars (1-6) have split eight all-time encounters when the Jags are the home team, with both teams scoring exactly 161 points. 

A clash in the AFC North sees the Cincinnati Bengals (5-3) host the Cleveland Browns (4-4), where Joe Burrow will be trying to become the first quarterback in Bengals history to throw three or more touchdown passes in four straight games. Andy Dalton also had three straight games of three or more TD passes in October 2013.

The Green Bay Packers have been boosted by the return of star wide receiver Davante Adams from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Adams missed last week's 24-21 NFL win over the previously unbeaten Arizona Cardinals after testing positive for coronavirus on October 25.

The four-time Pro Bowler is now set to be available for Green Bay's showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, music to the ears of the Packers as reigning MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers is sidelined due to COVID-19.

"It's great to see those guys," Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said before Thursday's practice. "They were fired up to be back. It's a huge benefit to this team."

Adams leads the Packers (7-1) with 52 catches and 744 yards with three touchdowns this season.

The Packers are on a seven-game winning streak – their longest within a single season since opening the 2011 campaign 13-0 on their way to a 15-1 record. Their lone loss that season came in Kansas City, per Stats Perform.

Rodgers will miss his first game since the 2017 season when he broke his right clavicle. Since he took over as the starter in 2008, the Packers are 133-64-1 (67.4) with Rodgers, and 6-11-1 (36.1) without him.

The Packers have been at their best in the second quarter, posting an NFL-best -plus 36-point differential (scored 77, allowed 41). Kansas City's minus-40-point differential (scored 51, allowed 91) in the second quarter ranks 28th in the league, and is their worst mark in any quarter this year.

Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur has no explanation for why Aaron Rodgers described himself as "immunised", with Patrick Mahomes disappointed to miss out on a meeting with the reigning NFL MVP.

Reports on Wednesday revealed Rodgers has tested positive for coronavirus and will miss a minimum of 10 days as he is not vaccinated.

Before the season, the quarterback said he was "immunised", causing some confusion as the Packers now face being without him for two key games.

Rodgers will certainly miss this week's matchup with Mahomes' Kansas City Chiefs and is only set to be cleared for practice the day before Green Bay play the Seattle Seahawks next week.

Asked about Rodgers' contentious wording, coach LaFleur said: "That's a great question for Aaron – I'm not going to comment on it."

The shock development means Rodgers' wait for a first game against Mahomes will go on, with Jordan Love instead in line for his first career start under center.

Mahomes, whose Chiefs are a hugely underwhelming 4-4, said: "It's definitely disappointing [not to play Rodgers].

"I've watched his game for a long time. I feel I play a similar style. You always want to compete against the best.

"Hopefully he's healthy and it's not too bad. I'm sure he'll come back from it stronger than he was before."

Rodgers has been at the forefront of NFL discussion throughout this season, having pushed for a trade away from his only professional team before the campaign begun.

He was then awful in the stunning 38-3 Week 1 defeat to the New Orleans Saints, throwing two interceptions with a passer rating of 36.8 – the fourth-worst of his career.

However, Rodgers has since led the Packers to seven straight wins, a run they will attempt to continue in his absence.

Aaron Rodgers has been ruled out of the Green Bay Packers' clash with the Kansas City Chiefs after testing positive for COVID-19.

NFL Media's Tom Pelissero reported Rodgers had returned a positive test, meaning he will not go head to head with Kansas City Chiefs superstar Patrick Mahomes in a blockbuster quarterback matchup.

Instead, Rodgers' backup and heir apparent Jordan Love, controversially drafted in the first round in 2020, will get the start for the 7-1 Packers.

Rodgers, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo, is not vaccinated against coronavirus, meaning he is out for a minimum of 10 days. Asked about his vaccination status back in August, Rodgers said he was "immunised".

The news comes after the Packers prevailed in their Week 8 matchup with the Arizona Cardinals despite COVID issues that meant they did not have the services of wide receivers Davante Adams and Allen Lazard as well as defensive coordinator Joe Barry.

Now the onus is on Love to prevail against the odds in his first start on the road at Arrowhead Stadium.

In Love's favour is the form of the Chiefs' defense, which is giving up a league-high 6.43 yards per play.

Mahomes and the Chiefs have also struggled mightily on offense by their usual high standards. He has thrown a league-leading 10 interceptions and was unconvincing in Monday's 20-17 win over the New York Giants that saw the Chiefs improve to 4-4.

Rodgers is still yet to face Mahomes, the 2018 MVP and MVP of Super Bowl LIV, in his storied NFL career.

Three-time MVP Rodgers and the Packers last faced the Chiefs in 2019, but Mahomes was sidelined with a knee injury. Green Bay prevailed 31-24.

Mike Tomlin said it is better for the Pittsburgh Steelers to have volunteers than hostages after they traded Melvin Ingram to the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Steelers sent Ingram to the Chiefs in exchange for a sixth-round pick in next year's draft.

Ingram was in his first season with the Steelers, having spent nine years with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers.

He tallied 25 pressures for the Steelers this year, third on the team behind Cameron Heyward (42) and T.J. Watt (27).

However, Ingram had reportedly stated a desire for more playing time, which he will now hope to get for a Chiefs defense that has struggled for much of 2021.

Asked about the deal, Steelers head coach Tomlin said: "I enjoyed working with Melvin. it just didn't work out the way we envisioned, the way he envisioned.

"What the team needs is first and foremost. But from a team perspective, it's better to have volunteers than it is to have hostages."

In the zero-sum world of the NFL, no one apologises for a win, but the Kansas City Chiefs know plenty of work remains after they pulled out a 20-17 victory over the New York Giants on Monday. 

Though head coach Andy Reid acknowledged the "good, hard-fought win – one that we needed", the defending AFC champions were left to puzzle over their 12 penalties and two more turnovers that elevated their NFL-worst season total to 19. 

For a team that went 38-10 over the last three regular seasons, clawing back to 4-4 against the struggling Giants was more a cause for relief than celebration. 

"Everything's not beautiful right now, but we're fighting through it," Reid told reporters. "You've got to fight. They didn't give up on each other. ... We'll build on that. Let's keep going."

Though Kansas City's defence played well down the stretch, the offence remains the primary source of concern. 

Through his first 48 regular-season games with the Chiefs, Mahomes averaged fewer than six yards per pass attempt only twice. He has failed to reach that mark in four of his last six games, finishing at 5.73 yards per attempt Monday after completing 29 of 48 passes for 275 yards.

The former league MVP was left searching for answers even in victory, though it sounds like it will not be a simple fix. 

"It's execution," Mahomes said. "I know I say it all the time, but we have guys open and if we're on the same page, me and the receivers with the routes, and I throw it and hit the right spot, we can move the ball on on pretty much any coverage. We have answers versus everything.

"But you've seen in every game pretty much that there's been times where we kind of stall out and we don't execute or I throw the ball and I don't hit the right spot or the receiver doesn't see it the same way that I do, or penalties or turnovers. ... 

"But I think we're going to snap out of it and we'll find a way to start executing when we do will be a tough offense to stop."

The path forward does not get any easier for the Chiefs, who host the 7-1 Green Bay Packers on Sunday. 

The Kansas City Chiefs still bear very little resemblance to the team that reached the Super Bowl in February, but they got back to even this season with a much-needed 20-17 victory over the New York Giants on Monday. 

Two fourth-quarter field goals from Harrison Butker were the difference as the Chiefs improved to 4-4 despite another sloppy display at Arrowhead Stadium. 

Kansas City turned the ball over twice, increasing their NFL-worst total to 19 this season, and nearly had another on their critical final drive before a Patrick Mahomes interception was negated by an offsides penalty on the Giants (2-6). 

Speaking of penalties, the Chiefs incurred 12 of them for 103 yards but still managed to prevail as they twice got close enough to the end zone in the final period for Butker's leg to get points on the board. 

They were fortunate to do so after losing a 14-7 second-quarter lead that came courtesy of a Mahomes-to-Tyreek Hill touchdown pass and running back Derrick Gore's first career TD in the opening half. 

After a Graham Gano field goal late in the half, Daniel Jones hit Evan Engram for a touchdown on the opening play of the fourth quarter to put the Giants on top 17-14 but that was the end of the scoring for New York. 

Mahomes completed just 29 of 48 passes for 275 yards with a touchdown and an interception while Jones was 22-of-32 passing for 222 yards with two TDs and one interception. 

 

Patrick Mahomes frankly told his Kansas City Chiefs team-mates he has "got to be better" after enduring a nightmare outing in a defeat to the Tennessee Titans last Sunday.

Mahomes left a 27-3 Week 7 defeat midway through the fourth quarter after taking an inadvertent shot to the head from Tennessee's Jeffery Simmons while being dragged down by Denico Autry. 

The star quarterback cleared the NFL's concussion protocol, but he did not return to the field as the Chiefs slumped to 3-4 in the AFC West.

Mahomes had a career-low 62.3 passer rating before his exit, while he also lost a fumble and threw his ninth interception of the season, tying him for the league lead.

He threw just 11 interceptions across 29 games over the past two regular seasons combined.

The 2018 MVP has made four fumbles, as well as being sacked nine times in the past three weeks and he knows he must raise his game ahead of a showdown with the New York Giants at Arrowhead Stadium on Monday.

"You can just watch the tape and know that I need to play better in order to have success,"' Mahomes said on Thursday.

"There were plays [against the Titans] where guys were open. There were plays where we had matchups down the field that I didn't hit, that I usually would give those guys opportunities to make plays.

"I've said something to them that I've got to be better. At the same time, they have that mindset that they're going to try to build me up.

"It's a thing where you're not going to play your best game every single game, and that's when you have to rely on your other guys to kind of step up and make plays for you."

Since Mahomes became the full-time starting QB in 2018, Kansas City have not had more than 18 giveaways in a full season, but they are only one shy of that tally already.

Mahomes knows what he must do in order to get back to the peak of his powers.

"It's just stuff that I've always got to work on and I kind of lose sometimes during the season and have to get better with," the 26-year-old said.

"It's hanging in the pocket, working on my footwork, staying on time, all that stuff like that.

"You see it kind of get me in certain games every single year, and it's something I have to go back to and learn from and be better at. There were times where I maybe could have stepped and found a soft spot in the pocket where [instead] I kind of got out of there and tried to make something happen.

"Whenever we don't get going as an offense, it's usually because I'm doing little things like that."

After another disastrous outing, at least the Kansas City Chiefs can take solace in knowing Patrick Mahomes does not appear to have been seriously injured in Sunday's 27-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans – but all is not well, either. 

The Chiefs' star quarterback left the game midway through the fourth quarter after taking an inadvertent shot to the head from Tennessee's Jeffery Simmons while being dragged down by Denico Autry. 

Mahomes did not return to the game, as Chad Henne took the reins for Kansas City's final possession, but Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said Mahomes cleared the NFL's concussion protocol and it was his decision not to send him back into the lopsided game. 

The most prominent indicator that Mahomes does indeed "feel fine" as he told reporters post-game was that he spoke to the media at all. If he was still in the concussion protocol he would not have been compelled to do so. 

"Y'all saw the hit," Mahomes said. "I took my time getting up, but I felt fine. I did everything I needed to do to be here."

The overriding question now is what Mahomes and the Chiefs can do to get back on track moving forward.

Since Mahomes took over as Kansas City's starting quarterback for the 2018 season, the Chiefs have never lost more than four regular-season games. Sunday's ugly defeat dropped them to 3-4. 

While Mahomes was hardly the only man at fault, he turned in one of the worst games of his career, including an all-time low 62.3 passer rating. 

He also lost a fumble and threw his ninth interception of the season, tying him for the league lead. He threw just 11 interceptions across 29 games over the last two regular seasons combined. 

"Today, it was probably me," he told reporters. "Just pressing a little bit too early in the game. And then we got down, and we were in that mode where you’re no-huddle, which you don’t want to be in the NFL. You can execute it a little bit, but it’s hard to sustain drives."

The pressure of defending their AFC title appears to have been a strain on the Chiefs in general and Mahomes in particular. Sunday was the second game in his NFL career in which he did not lead a touchdown drive, the other being the 31-9 Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in February. 

"I want to win," Mahomes said. "At the end of the day, I want to win. So I try to do whatever I can to win. But you have to believe in the guys around you. You have to know you can go the long way. You can take a short pass, and guys will make guys miss. You can hang in the pocket and make throws. "

"But at the end of the day, I just want to win. Whatever that takes, I’m going to try to do. I’ll look at this film, learn from it, and try to come out better Monday night this week."

Kyle Shanahan needs to get the San Francisco 49ers winning again if their playoff potential is to be fulfilled, and this Sunday looks like a major opportunity.

To snap a three-game losing streak, the Niners (2-3) must get the better of an Indianapolis Colts side who, much like San Francisco themselves, have made an inconsistent start to the season.

By contrast, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are riding a three-game run of wins and have started 5-1 for just the fifth time in the history of the franchise, heading into a tussle with the Chicago Bears (3-3). Tom Brady has been a driving force so far as the Super Bowl winners carry on where they left off last season.

Patrick Mahomes has been hit and miss for the slow-starting Kansas City Chiefs, who will hope the NFL's highest-paid player can cut out throwing interceptions as they face the Tennessee Titans.


Indianapolis Colts @ San Francisco 49ers

If coach Shanahan's 49ers are to turn around their season, then facing a Colts side who have begun 2-4 seems like a pretty good place to start. Yet the Colts have dominated this series of late, winning on their last four meetings, albeit most recently in 2017 when they snatched a 26-23 overtime success. It would not be stepping out of line to predict this could be tight, given the 49ers have played nine consecutive games that have been decided by eight or fewer points, going back to last season.

That is the longest active streak of such close games in the NFL and the longest streak in team history, and the Niners do not have the best recent return when games go close, posting a 3-6 record in this sequence.

San Francisco fell 17-10 to the Cardinals in their most recent game, two weeks ago, while the Colts hot-footed their way to a 31-3 trouncing of Houston last Sunday. That came despite Indianapolis earning just 15 first downs for the entire game. It was the first time the Colts had won by 28 or more points while only having 15 or fewer first downs since 1972 against New England.

In his 21st career game, Colts running back Jonathan Taylor rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns, meaning he surpassed 1,500 rushing yards, 500 receiving yards and chalked up his 15th rushing touchdown in the NFL. Only four running backs in NFL history have hit all three of those milestones in fewer games than Taylor, with two of those doing so with the Colts – Edgerrin James and Marshall Faulk.

San Francisco will hope to be recharged after a bye week. Deebo Samuel scored the fourth rushing touchdown of his career against the Cardinals, with Jerry Rice (10) the only wide receiver with more rushing touchdowns in 49ers history.

Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After a dispiriting loss to the Green Bay Packers last time out, the Chicago Bears encounter a Tampa Bay team in sparkling recent form. Tampa Bay have started the season 5-1, doing so for the fifth time in franchise history, and on each of the previous occasions (2005, 2002, 1997 and 1979) they backed it up by reaching the playoffs. History could be made on Sunday, given the Buccaneers have never started a season with six wins through their first seven games.

Yet this is a game in which the Bears have traditionally, and recently, had the upper hand. Chicago have stacked up 40 wins in 60 all-time meetings against Tampa Bay, which is the most wins by any team against the Bucs. The Bears have also won the last two in the series, scoring victories in 2018 and 2020.

Tampa Bay can seemingly do no wrong when Brady is pulling the strings so masterfully. Brady leads the NFL with 2,064 passing yards, the second-highest total he has ever had through six games of a season – beaten only by his 2,163 passing yards at this stage in 2011. Prior to this year, no Tampa Bay quarterback had ever thrown for more than 1,800 yards through six games.

What have the Bears got to offer? Chicago are averaging 246.2 net yards per game, which is more than 20 yards per game less than any other team. The 1,477 yards is the fewest Chicago has had through six games since the 1993 season. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields needs to make something happen, but others must step up too. In his first career start, Khalil Herbert ran for 97 yards and a touchdown against Green Bay last time out.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Tennessee Titans

"He's trying to make things happen," said Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, explaining away the two interceptions thrown by Patrick Mahomes in Week 6 against Washington. For Mahomes, that was a second straight game with at least two interceptions. He is tied with Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence in second position on the list of the most interceptions thrown this season, with his tally of eight so far only topped by Zach Wilson of the Jets.

This is only the second run that Mahomes has endured of throwing two or more interceptions in consecutive games, the previous dating back to Week 5 and 6 of the 2018 season, and Reid will hope his radar is better set for the clash with the Titans. Mahomes is still doing an awful lot right in 2021, but the fact remains he threw just six interceptions last season.

The Chiefs' unsteady 3-3 opening is their worst of the Mahomes era, and it was 2015 when they got off to a slower start. On that occasion they followed a 1-5 opening with 10 consecutive wins, a single-season record for Kansas City that was matched last season.

Tennessee's bright start has featured some notable performances. The Titans ran for 146 yards and scored four rushing touchdowns in the 34-31 win over Buffalo on Monday night, taking them to 985 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns for the season. It is the first time in franchise history that the Bills have 10 or more rushing touchdowns and at least 975 rushing yards through six games.

Running back Derrick Henry has 10 rushing touchdowns so far, beating his career best of seven through six weeks in 2020. It puts him tied for the fourth most rushing touchdowns of all time through six weeks (Jim Brown 14, Shaun Alexander 12, Emmitt Smith 11).

Elsewhere...

The Detroit Lions face a tall order on the road against the Los Angeles Rams (5-1). Detroit are 0-6 for the first time since their 0-16 season in 2008 and have not scored more than 17 points in any of their last five games. Former Rams quarterback Jared Goff, now with Detroit, has thrown zero touchdown passes and an interception in each of his last two games.

The 5-1 Baltimore Ravens have recent history on their side ahead of a clash with the Cincinnati Bengals, having won five successive games in their head-to-head series, including the last three by a brutal average of 31.7 points.

Heading into a home game against the Houston Texans (1-5), the Arizona Cardinals are on a 6-0 roll. This has only happened twice before in franchise history, but never before in Arizona. The St Louis Cardinals in 1974 and Chicago Cardinals in 1922 are the teams who both started their seasons 6-0 as well.

Philadelphia QB Jalen Hurts could match an NFL record as the Eagles (2-4) tackle the Las Vegas Raiders. Hurts has rushed for two touchdowns in each of his last two games. Billy Kilmer, for San Francisco in 1961, is the only quarterback to achieve the feat in three straight games.

The Green Bay Packers last lost at home to Washington in 1988, winning five in a row since with home-field advantage, and they put a 5-1 season record to the test when the teams meet again. Washington (2-4) are yielding an NFL-worst 31.0 points per game in 2021, matching the team's worst mark through six games of a season in the Super Bowl era (1998).

The challenge of stopping Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens has proven beyond plenty of defensive teams during his still relatively young NFL career, and one of the finest defensive minds in the league was not up to the task in Week 6.

Jackson's meeting with fellow quarterback Justin Herbert was pegged as a battle between MVP candidates as the Ravens hosted the Los Angeles Chargers, and it is the Ravens star who has the stronger case after their dominant 34-6 win in a clash of 4-1 teams.

Brandon Staley was appointed as Chargers head coach on the back of his excellent performance in his one year as defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams.

His Rams defense allowed the fewest yards per play in the NFL last season, however, the Chargers have struggled mightily against the run in 2021, making them an enticing matchup for the league's premier dual-threat quarterback in Jackson.

As it happened Jackson was able to lighten the burden on his shoulders in terms of running the ball, Latavius Murray and Le'Veon Bell each going in for rushing scores to put the Ravens 14-0 to the good in the second quarter.

Reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert responded late in the half with a one-yard touchdown throw to Jared Cook after a Jackson interception, though the Chargers still trailed 17-6 at the half.

But a 12-play, 52-yard drive ended with Jackson hitting Mark Andrews for a nine-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and there was never a hint of a Chargers comeback thereafter.

Jackson's stat line, 19 of 27 passing for 167 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions with 51 yards on eight rushes, was pedestrian by his standards, but it was enough to give the Ravens the best record in the AFC as he claimed his 35th win, breaking Dan Marino's record for the most by a quarterback before his 25th birthday.

Chiefs remain unconvincing

Plenty wondered whether it was time to panic for the Kansas City Chiefs following their Week 5 loss to the Buffalo Bills in primetime last Sunday, which dropped them to 2-3.

Concerns about the two-time defending AFC champions were furthered after a first-half performance against the Washington Football Team that saw them trail 13-10 at the half.

Patrick Mahomes threw two interceptions, one off the hands of Tyreek Hill and another with an inexplicable decision to toss the ball up for grabs after fumbling the snap.

However, a touchdown pass to Hill and Darrel Williams' second rushing score of the game put Kansas City in command before Mahomes found Demarcus Robinson in the endzone to secure a 31-13 win that moves them within striking distance of the Chargers in the AFC West.

Five in a row for Packers

The Packers are far from the finished product at this stage of the season, but it is now five wins in a row for Green Bay after their 24-14 victory over NFC North rivals the Chicago Bears.

Aaron Rodgers averaged 8.5 yards per pass play and threw for two touchdowns, with the Packers quarterback reminding the Bears' fans at Soldier Field of his hold over the division after running for a score that effectively put the game to bed.

The Los Angeles Rams are also 5-1 after Matthew Stafford threw four touchdown passes in a 38-11 rout of the New York Giants.

Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes is not pointing the finger at the team's defence for their turnover troubles in the NFL.

The turnover-prone Chiefs were beaten 38-20 by the Buffalo Bills last week after a series of self-inflicted mistakes on Sunday.

Mahomes and the Chiefs turned the ball over four times in the AFC title game rematch, with the quarterback intercepted on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter.

Micah Hyde took the first of those 26 yards for a touchdown after plucking a tipped ball out of the air – it was just the second pick-six of Mahomes' career after Week 11 of the 2018 season.

As the Chiefs (2-3) gear up for Sunday's clash with the Washington Football Team (2-3), Mahomes discussed Kansas City's struggles.

"Not at all," Super Bowl champion Mahomes – the NFL MVP in 2018 – told reporters on Wednesday when asked if the team's turnovers were due to their defensive problems.

"We try to score every single time we touch the football. That's how it's been my entire career here, and that was the precedent that was set before I even started here.

"That's kind of how I have my mindset going into every single game is that, when we get an opportunity to go out there and have success and be successful, we have to capitalise on that.

"It has nothing to do with whatever is happening on the other side of the ball. It's just our job as an offense on this team."

Kansas City's defeat to Buffalo was just the second time the Chiefs have lost by double digits with Mahomes at quarterback, per Stats Perform. The other was Super Bowl LV against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this year.

The Chiefs have allowed the most points per game in the NFL (32.6), while Washington have allowed the second most (31.0). The most points allowed in the Super Bowl era is 33.3 per game by the 1981 Baltimore Colts.

Kansas City own a seven-game winning streak against Washington dating back to the 1992 season. Only two active winning streaks in the NFL started at an earlier date – the Green Bay Packers over the Las Vegas Raiders back to 1990 and the Philadelphia Eagles over the New York Jets back to 1973.

Patrick Mahomes conceded he needs to re-evaluate his decision-making after his turnover-laden display in a painful loss to the Buffalo Bills for the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs are looking to win their third successive AFC Championship this season as they bid to atone for last campaign's 31-9 defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV.

But a month into the season the Chiefs stand at 2-3 following a 38-20 home loss to the Bills, the team they beat in last term's AFC Championship Game, which saw Mahomes commit three turnovers.

Mahomes was intercepted twice, including a third-quarter pick-six following a drop from Tyreek Hill, and lost a fumble as the Chiefs failed to click on offense, their star quarterback taking full responsibility for their unexpected shortcomings. 

"It starts with me," Mahomes said. "It's something I've not usually done in my career, but I have to re-evaluate where I'm at, what decisions I'm making.

"I've been a crazier player as far as scrambling and making throws. But in my career I've never been someone who throws a lot of interceptions.

"I have to look at it now, re-evaluate what I'm doing, and I have to cut it out.''

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said afterward that he did not see their mistake-prone display coming, and he will have to deal with more he did not anticipate after several key Kansas City players suffered injuries.

Hill and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire sustained knee injuries, guard Joe Thuney fractured his hand and tight end Travis Kelce suffered a stinger.

"We weren't on the same page with the receivers and where they were going and with Pat," Reid said of the offense's struggles. 

"Gotta do better with that. Got to make sure that takes place.

"We know we can do better on turnovers, big plays — I know what we are capable of. I see that. We just have to get that done."

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