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.

Pete Carroll described Russell Wilson as "one of the great healers of all time" but is not yet sure how long a "badly sprained finger" will keep the Seattle Seahawks' quarterback out of action for.

Wilson damaged the middle finger of his throwing hand during Thursday's damaging 26-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams that left the Seahawks 2-3 in the NFC West.

He managed to return for one series only to be replaced by Geno Smith, who led one touchdown drive before throwing for an interception that ultimately sealed the game for the 4-1 Rams.

Seahawks head coach Carroll said he was unsure if Wilson will need surgery and added: "There is a lot of work to be done in assessing all of that. 

"Russell is one of the great healers of all time and he'll do whatever he can to get back as soon as absolutely possible."

Wilson finished with 11-of-16 passing for 152 yards, a touchdown and an interception from a tipped throw, while Smith was 10-of-17 for 131 yards and also added 23 rushing yards.

Television pictures showed Wilson's finger bent in an unnatural position, while he was examined for several minutes by medical personnel on the Seahawks' bench.

"He wasn't able to hold onto the football the way he needed to, to throw it, because we were going to throw the ball, and we needed to throw it all over the place," Carroll added.

"We didn't know what he would be able to do. He was just unsure. If he could have, he would have."

Smith entered the fray early in the fourth quarter and completed a 23-yard touchdown pass to DK Metcalf on the back of a 10-play, 98-yard drive. At that point, Smith was five-for-five and the Seahawks had trimmed the deficit to 16-14.

"Geno did a really, really good job, very much in command," Carroll said. 

"We were able to do all kinds of things with him out there. He handled all the communications beautifully and played really well. 

"We had a chance to win a football game. With all of that, we had a chance to win the football game with the ball in our hands and couple minutes to go."

Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams got back on track, overcoming the Seattle Seahawks 26-17 to open Week 5 of the NFL season on Thursday.

Bouncing back from a loss to the high-flying Arizona Cardinals, the Rams (4-1) spoiled what would have been a miraculous comeback led by Seattle backup quarterback Geno Smith with a late interception. 

It took both offences time to find their rhythm, as Seattle (2-3) entered half-time with a 7-3 lead, but Stafford led touchdown drives on the Rams' first two possessions after the interval. 

Smith came on after Seahawks starter Russell Wilson left the game with a finger injury suffered late in the third quarter and led a 98-yard touchdown drive, hitting DK Metcalf for a 23-yard score for the QB's first touchdown pass since December 3, 2017. 

That score brought the home side within 16-14, but Stafford led the Rams right back down the field and Sony Michel punched it in for a two-yard touchdown run. 

Smith then engineered a drive ending in a field goal to keep the Seahawks in the game, but after a Rams punt his pass for Tyler Lockett was picked off by Nick Scott, setting up a Matt Gay field goal that would seal the win for Los Angeles. 

Stafford finished the game 25-of-37 passing for 365 yards, while Wilson was 11-of-16 for 152 yards and Smith 10-of-17 for 131 yards, with all three QBs recording one touchdown and one interception each. 

Aaron Donald, meanwhile, became the Rams' all-time leader in sacks with number 88.5, eclipsing Leonard Little.

Kyler Murray said the Arizona Cardinals are riding a wave of confidence after emerging as the NFC's lone unbeaten team following their win against the Los Angeles Rams.

The Cardinals improved to 4-0 for the NFL season thanks to a Murray-inspired 37-20 victory over the Rams in the battle of two undefeated franchises on Sunday.

Arizona quarterback Murray passed for 268 yards and two touchdowns, while running for 39 more yards as the Cardinals dismantled the Rams at Sofi Stadium, ending a run of eight straight defeats against a Sean McVay-coached team.

Murray became just the third player in the Super Bowl era with a 4-0 record, completion percentage of 75 or better and 1,200-plus passing yards in his team's first four games of a season, after Hall of Famer Peyton Manning and Seattle Seahawks star Russell Wilson.

"I was pretty confident coming into this game with the game plan we had, the week of practice we put together, probably the best game plan that I think personally that we've had since I've been in the league," Rams star Murray told reporters.

"With that, being confident in all the guys, this team, I was just confident in going out there and letting it ride. The guys did the same and I can't be more proud of them."

Murray added: "Not really too worried about what other people think. I think the guys in the locker room understand what we're doing, what we're capable of and where we can take it."

The Cardinals have not reached the playoffs since losing to the Carolina Panthers in the 2015 NFC Championship Game.

But, Arizona are attracting plenty of attention this season – the Cardinals have scored at least 30 points and had at least 400 yards of offense in every game.

"Not a statement," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "We wanted to get a week better. Division games are important. We've got to continue to play physical football and clean some stuff up."

Russell Wilson produced a vintage performance to lead the Seattle Seahawks past the San Francisco 49ers 28-21.

Wilson celebrated his 100th NFL victory as the Seahawks (2-2) rallied past the 49ers (2-2) in San Francisco on Sunday.

The Super Bowl champion finished 16-of-23 passing for two touchdowns, while he rushed for another TD on four carries.

Wilson joined Hall of Famer Peyton Manning as the second quarterback in NFL history to win 100 games in their first 10 seasons.

The 49ers – with Jimmy Garoppolo starting under center – took an early 7-0 lead but that was as good as it got for San Francisco on home soil.

Wilson's 12-yard pass to DK Metcalf ensured the scores were tied at half-time before the former dominated in the third period – the eight-time Pro Bowler's 16-yard run putting the Seahawks 14-7 ahead and Freddie Swain then caught a throw to stretch the lead to 14 points.

Trey Lance – who completed nine of his 18 passes for 157 yards and two TDs – replaced Garoppolo (calf) in the second half and the rookie QB kept the 49ers in the contest with a monster 76-yard TD pass to Deebo Samuel during the closing stages of the third quarter.

After an Alex Collins touchdown gave the Seahawks a 28-13 lead early in the final period, Lance combined with Samuel again at the death, but it was too little, too late.

 

Cardinals stay unbeaten behind Murray

Kyler Murray inspired the high-flying Arizona Cardinals to a 37-20 win at the previously undefeated Los Angeles Rams.

Murray passed for 268 yards and two touchdowns, while running for 39 more yards as the red-hot Cardinals improved to 4-0 this season.

Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb guided the Green Bay Packers to a third consecutive win – a 27-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rodgers and Cobb connected for two touchdowns and ran for another score at home to the Steelers.

Packers superstar Rodgers threw his 420th career TD pass – tying Dan Marino for sixth all-time.

Under-fire Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger threw his 400th career touchdown pass – the eighth player to do so.

Tom Brady is rarely not front and centre in the NFL, but it is particularly difficult to get away from football's GOAT this week.

Thursday marked the 20th anniversary of the quarterback's first NFL start. On Sunday, he needs only 68 yards to pass Drew Brees for the most passing yards in league history.

"It's definitely a special record because it speaks to the longevity that he's been able to experience and the level that he's been able to play at," Brees said at the start of the week.

Of course, that record will fall as Brady takes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back to Foxborough to play the New England Patriots for the first time.

The seven-time Super Bowl champion made history time and again in 19 years with the Pats and does not look like stopping now in the pick of the Week 4 Sunday matchups, broken down by Stats Perform.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New England Patriots

A win for the 2-1 Bucs would make Brady only the fourth starting quarterback to defeat all 32 NFL teams across their careers, joining Brees, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.

The QB comes into this game in form, having thrown for at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns through his team's first three games of the year for the second time, having also done so with New England in 2011. No other QB has achieved that feat twice.

The Pats will hope they have found a long-term successor in Mac Jones, whose 81 completions are the third-most by any QB in the Super Bowl era through three career games – after Joe Burrow (91) and Kyler Murray (84).

Tampa Bay have a poor record against New England, too. The Pats are 7-2 in this matchup all-time and have held the Bucs to 11.9 points per game – the fewest any current franchise has averaged against another.

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers

The Seahawks are in a spot of bother in the NFC West with a 1-2 record, but they are 14-3 over their past 17 games against the 49ers, making them the first team to beat San Francisco 14 times over a 17-game span since the Los Angeles Rams between 1973 and 1981.

Russell Wilson will hope his team-mates can catch up this week, having become the first QB in the Super Bowl era to complete at least 70 per cent of his passes for 250 yards and no interceptions in each of his first three games of a season. In fact, Seattle's back-to-back defeats marked the second time in franchise history they have lost consecutive games with no turnovers in either (also November 2008).

If nothing else, expect this game to be tight, with the 49ers' past seven games all decided by eight points or fewer – tying a franchise record – although San Francisco certainly have the talent to hurt the Seahawks.

The Niners have had touchdowns from 11 different players this year, tied for the most in NFL history through three games (also the 1964 Houston Oilers, 1987 Chicago Bears and 2002 Patriots). Deebo Samuel is the chief threat right now, though, with his 334 receiving yards the most by a 49er through three team games since Jerry Rice's 341 in 1995.

Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams

The four NFC West teams are playing among themselves for the coming two weeks, meaning another mammoth matchup as the division's two 3-0 starters meet at SoFi Stadium in a series the Rams have dominated with eight straight wins against the Cardinals. That is their longest winning streak against a single opponent since a run of nine against the 49ers from 1976 to 1980.

A 4-0 start brings back contrasting memories for these two teams. The Rams made the Super Bowl after winning their first four in both 2018 and 2001, but the last time Arizona jumped out to such a start in 2015 they lost 11 of their remaining 12 games to finish 5-11.

Cardinals QB Murray makes for an entertaining watch, with at least one interception and one rushing TD in each of his first three games in 2021. It is only the third time a player has done that since 1960, with Murray accounting for one of the other two examples in 2020 (also Charlie Frye in 2006).

Crucially, Murray has more options through the air this year. Arizona have a league-leading six players with 10 or more receptions, having only had eight players reach that mark in the entirety of the 2020 campaign – tied for the fifth-fewest in the NFL.

Elsewhere...

The Kansas City Chiefs visit the Philadelphia Eagles looking to avoid losing three in a row for the first time since Patrick Mahomes became a starter. Back-to-back defeats to the Baltimore Ravens and the Los Angeles Chargers already represent the Chiefs' worst run since a pair of losses in Weeks 5 and 6 in 2019.

Dak Prescott is in top form as the Dallas Cowboys prepare to host the Carolina Panthers, but that game may be decided on defense. The Panthers have allowed a league-low 3.8 yards per play this season, while the Cowboys' 6.7 yards allowed per play is fewer only than the Chiefs (7.0) and the Minnesota Vikings (6.8).

The Denver Broncos have made the most of a kind schedule to join the Panthers at 3-0 but now face a first real test against the Ravens. Teddy Bridgewater will aim to maintain his high standards, having become the fourth player in the past 60 years to complete at least 75 per cent of his passes in the first three games of a season, along with Brady (2007), Brees (2018) and Philip Rivers (2020). Brady did so in four straight.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won five consecutive regular season games against the Green Bay Packers going back to 1998, but veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger has made an unconvincing start to the campaign. He is one TD shy of 400 in the NFL – Aaron Rodgers was the seventh and most recent man to that mark.

Tom Brady was frustrated by a host of aspects during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 34-24 defeat by the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday and is demanding they learn from their mistakes.

Both teams went into Week 3 of the NFL unbeaten this season and all eyes were on quarterbacks Brady and Matthew Stafford.

But unfortunately for Brady, it was Stafford who stole the show as he inspired a fine victory for the Rams over the Super Bowl champions.

Stafford threw four touchdowns to lead the Rams to a 3-0 start to the campaign, with the 2014 Pro Bowler also recording 27-of-38 for 343 yards and just one sack.

That haul of four TDs improved Stafford's season tally to nine, matching Hall of Famer Kurt Warner (1999) for the most by a Rams quarterback in the first three games of a season. Warner won the NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP that season.

Brady was coming off a five-touchdown performance, making him the fifth player all time to throw four or more touchdowns in each of his first two games of a season, but the 44-year-old was limited to just one against the Rams.

Although he did rush for a score, Brady finished with 41 of 55 for 432 yards and three sacks. While those passing yards were the most he has racked up in a game for Tampa, it only served to further highlight how he struggled to get the Bucs into the end zone.

Brady touched on that, accepting he threw more than should be necessary, but his struggles were seemingly indicative of collective issues.

"They [the Rams] played the kind of game they wanted to play," Brady said. "If we're going to beat a team like that, we have to play well in all phases.

"We've got to get some turnovers and we've got to keep protecting the football. We've got to start fast and get a lead, run the ball well, throw the ball well, play good defense, play good special teams. It all fits together when you play good teams.

"The throwing needs to be better, the all-around offense, the red area, [we must be] better on third down. We definitely had some opportunities to help the team win, but we didn't get it done.

"Those guys up front are trying to create space, and our backs are trying to run hard. But again, when you're losing all day, you're going to get into more throwing than we probably want.

"It's just not a great complementary game by us. We've got to learn from it, but anytime you come up short it's not a great feeling.

"It's a tough loss. I'll just get through the plane trip and evaluate what we need to do. I want to win every time we take the field."

Head coach Bruce Arians struck a similar chord to Brady, adamant the Bucs fell short of their potential, but he has no concerns when it comes to learning from mistakes.

"Our locker room, they know we didn't play up to our ability," he added. "When we play up to our ability, we're a better team than this one.

"We'll make sure that we make the corrections. Everybody's eyes and ears will be open to the coaching, and our guys do a great job with it."

Matthew Stafford is "playing lights out" for the undefeated Los Angeles Rams as Aaron Donald hailed the quarterback following his performance against Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Stafford outduelled superstar Brady as the Rams beat NFL Super Bowl champions the Buccaneers 34-24 in Los Angeles on Sunday.

In a blockbuster Week 3 showdown, Stafford stole the show with four touchdowns to condemn the Buccaneers to their first loss of the season.

With his haul of four TDs, Stafford improved his season tally to nine – matching Hall of Famer Kurt Warner (1999) for the most by a Rams quarterback in the first three games of a season.

Stafford, who arrived from the Detroit Lions via a trade in the offseason, finished 27 of 38 for 343 yards and no interceptions as he earned praise from team-mate Donald.

"He's playing lights out," Rams defensive linseman Donald said. "That's why he's here, we expect that from him and I know he's going to continue doing what he's doing and even at a higher level."

"It's only three games, still got a long season, but obviously that's the ultimate goal [a Super Bowl], that's what we're chasing," said Donald. "That's the only thing I'm chasing."

Stafford – a Pro Bowler in 2014 – was also lauded by Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians post-game.

"He pushes it down the field so easily," Arians said. "You're right up in his face one time, he finds a guy wide-open down the field and gets it to him.

"A lot of guys, they see it but they can't get it to him. He's a special player."

Stafford, who threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson in the third quarter to give the Rams a 21-7 lead, added: "I was the new guy coming in and they've embraced me, which was awesome.

"I'm just trying to be myself every single day, bring my best every single day and see where that takes us."

Matthew Stafford won the battle of the quarterbacks and the Los Angeles Rams stayed unbeaten while ruining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' perfect record in a 34-24 victory.

All eyes were on Rams QB Stafford and Buccaneers superstar Tom Brady as the two undefeated teams went head-to-head in Week 3 of the NFL on Sunday.

Stafford, who was 27-of-28 for 343 yards and just one sack, stole the show in Los Angeles, where the 2014 Pro Bowler threw four touchdowns to lead the Rams to a 3-0 start to the campaign.

With his haul of four TDs, Stafford improved his season tally to nine – matching Hall of Famer Kurt Warner (1999) for the most by a Rams quarterback in the first three games of a season. Warner won the NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP that season.

Brady was coming off a five-touchdown performance, his ninth career game with five-plus passing TDs (including playoffs) – the fifth player all time to throw four or more touchdowns in each of his first two games of a season.

But the 44-year-old was limited to just one TD pass against the Rams, finishing 41 of 55 for 432 yards and three sacks though he did rush for a score as Super Bowl champions the Buccaneers fell to 2-1.

After a scoreless opening period, Stafford threw touchdown passes to Tyler Higbee and Cooper Kupp as the Rams earned a 14-7 half-time lead.

The Rams never trailed despite Brady's best efforts after the Buccaneers signal-caller rushed for a TD in between Stafford's scoring passes to DeSean Jackson and Kupp in the third period.

After Matt Gay's field goal stretched the lead to 34-17 in the fourth, Brady's first touchdown pass of the game gave the Buccaneers a glimmer of hope with just over a minute remaining but it was a mere consolation.

Carlson lifts Raiders in OT

The Las Vegas Raiders won their third straight game to open the season thanks to a thrilling 31-28 overtime victory against the Miami Dolphins.

Daniel Carlson was the hero for the high-flying Raiders in OT, his 22-yard attempt seeing off the Dolphins in Las Vegas.

Derek Carr completed 26 of his 43 attempts for 386 yards, two touchdowns and an interception with three sacks as the Raiders improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2002.

The third week of the NFL season is not short of enticing matchups.

A divisional showdown between two high-powered AFC West offenses in the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers headlines the early slate of games, while Sunday's primetime matchup sees a rematch of the NFC Championship Game as the Green Bay Packers visit the 2-0 San Francisco 49ers.

Sandwiched in between those fascinating contests is an encounter that most will see as the game of the week, one that could have a pivotal impact on the NFC playoff picture come the end of the season, as Tom Brady plays in Los Angeles for the first time in his professional career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers going out west to take on the Rams.

Beyond being a battle of unbeaten teams, it is an encounter that pits one of the game's most celebrated quarterbacks against one of its most underappreciated, who is thriving in his opening weeks playing for the Rams having been freed from the shackles of a listless Detroit Lions franchise.

Both Brady and Matthew Stafford have started the season as most expected them to, operating at a level to suggest they can propel their respective teams to deep postseason runs.

However, they each will take on defenses stacked with the talent to shut down even the most prolific offenses when at their best. It promises to be a tremendous spectacle at SoFi Stadium, one that should provide an early barometer as to who is the class of the NFC.

Little to separate stellar QBs

Brady is ancient by NFL standards, but his remarkable longevity has turned the fact he continues to excel at age 44 into old news. Nobody is surprised by his continuing brilliance, which sees him lead the league with nine passing touchdowns in two games, four more than Stafford.

Yet a man who has turned performing when the pressure is at its highest in the playoffs into an art is essentially neck and neck with a quarterback yet to taste a postseason victory when it comes to accuracy so far this season.

Stafford has a well-thrown ball percentage of 81.5, putting him just below Brady on 81.7, though it is the former Lion who has the edge when it comes to delivering accurately under pressure.

The Rams' signal-caller ranks fifth among quarterbacks with at least 10 attempts under duress this season with a well-thrown percentage of 80 when pressured. Brady has a less impressive ratio of 75 per cent, though that is still well above the average of 69.2 per cent.

Stafford also has a string to his bow that is not a part of Brady's arsenal, as he has settled superbly into Sean McVay's offense and quickly adapted to an attack that consistently relies on the play-action bootleg.

On his nine throws where he has been on the move, Stafford has produced a well-thrown ball 88.9 per cent of the time, compared to 75 per cent on four such attempts for Brady.

That difference reflects the contrasts in offensive approach, but the opportunity to get on the move and outside of the pocket gives Stafford a potentially pivotal avenue to avoid an often ferocious Buccaneers defensive front.

Compelling cases for the defense

Stafford may find encouragement in that a Buccaneers pass rush that pressured Patrick Mahomes 33 times in their Super Bowl win last season has been, for the most part, held in check through two weeks.

Edge rusher Shaquil Barrett, who led the Bucs with 13 pressures of Mahomes, has won just 11 of his 44 pass rush attempts so far, according to Stats Perform data. Things have gone even worse for veteran Jason Pierre-Paul with a solitary win on 34 attempts.

Pierre-Paul's struggles may mean more of rookie Joe Tryon, who has won four of his 12 rushes, but Tampa can at least be fairly confident of pressuring Stafford up the middle, with defensive tackle Vita Vea prevailing on nine of his 25 attempts.

Despite the lack of pressure, Stafford – who has thrown an interceptable pass on 3.7 per cent of his attempts – must be wary of a defense that has already produced four turnovers, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns, with starting cornerbacks Carlton Davis III and Jamel Dean each enjoying strong starts to the campaign. Davis has allowed a receiver to get open on five of his 22 coverage matchups, with Dean (6/21) also proving difficult for pass-catchers to separate from.

The primary threats on the Rams' defense are easy to identify.

Three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald has won a massive 65.63 per cent of his pass rushes despite being double teamed 19 times.

Meanwhile, on the back end, cornerback Jalen Ramsey has yet to allow an open receiver in 18 coverage matchups, further illustrating his status as one of the league's most dominant cornerbacks.

For the Bucs to prevail, Brady must avoid both.

Stacked supporting casts

For as much as the two defenses each possess the calibre of player to make a quarterback's life misery, both Brady and Stafford have the luxury of extremely strong offensive lines.

Indeed, the Rams have allowed only 16 pressures of Stafford this season, the fewest in the NFL. Tampa Bay's offensive line has given up 10 more, yet that still puts the Buccaneers tied fifth in the league.

And, should the theme of the two O-Lines giving their quarterbacks time continue, Brady and Stafford will have the opportunity to find some excellent pass-catching options.

Buccaneers receiver Chris Godwin has recorded a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup on a play where he is targeted, 88.9 per cent of the time. That is the most among wide receivers with at least 10 targets. His big-play percentage of 46.7 is third among such wideouts.

Antonio Brown's presence on the reserve/COVID-19 list may see even more targets go to Godwin while tight end Rob Gronkowski should play a featured role with a burn percentage of 84.6 and four touchdowns through two games.

The change from Jared Goff to Stafford has not changed the identity of the two most important receivers for the Rams.

Robert Woods' burn percentage of 76.9 is sixth for wideouts with a minimum of 10 targets, and Cooper Kupp's burn yards per target average of 13.94 is second among receivers who have been targeted at least 20 times.

With two extremely accurate quarterbacks, weapons all over the field and a pair of elite defenses, there is little to choose between two teams that for now appear destined to be playing in January. Home advantage, a Rams offensive line that the numbers suggest is slightly superior to that of Tampa Bay and Stafford's greater mobility tip the scales in Los Angeles' favour on paper. Yet, if there is one player who can redress the balance, it is Brady.

The only two remaining unbeaten teams in the AFC are tied in the AFC West, but neither will be in action at Arrowhead on Sunday.

While the Las Vegas Raiders and the Denver Broncos have made strong starts to move to 2-0 in 2021, division favourites the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers were each beaten in Week 2.

Those results ramp up the pressure heading into Week 3 when leading young quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert meet.

Mahomes sat out last year's Week 17 game, which the Chargers won on the road, but he will be involved this time and hoping to bounce back.

This is one of a number of intriguing matchups to look forward to this Sunday, as explored by Stats Perform.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs

That late-season win for the Chargers last year moved them to 2-1 at the Chiefs since the start of 2018. Kansas City are 18-4 at home to every other team in that time.

The Chiefs are a little vulnerable right now, too, having allowed a league-high 938 total net yards so far this season – music to Herbert's ears – and last week lost to the Baltimore Ravens despite leading by 11 points entering the fourth quarter. It was their first defeat with Mahomes under center when leading by double digits through three quarters, having previously gone 29-0 in such scenarios.

But the Chargers have an awful knack of coming up just short. Their 20-17 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys last time out was a league-high 16th loss by seven points or fewer since 2019.

Herbert does not know when he is beaten, though. He leads all QBs in completions (19), passing yards (271) and first-down conversions (16) on third down this season, while he is a stunning five-for-six for 112 yards and four first downs on third-and-11 or more.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Los Angeles Rams

There are also two games this week that could easily be early rehearsals for the NFC Championship Game, starting with Tom Brady versus the Rams defense.

Brady threw for five touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons last week and became the fifth player – including a former Buc in Ryan Fitzpatrick (2018) – ever to toss four or more scores in each of the first two games of a season.

However, the Rams, who gave up a league-low 281.9 yards per game in 2020, recorded three sacks and two interceptions against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 2.

They pose a threat on offense, too, with Cooper Kupp's 271 receiving yards the third-most by a Ram through the team's first two games of a season in the past 60 yards. Reaching new heights alongside Matthew Stafford, Kupp had just 252 receiving yards over his final five games of 2020.

Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers

The Packers and the 49ers will consider themselves worthy challengers to the Bucs and the Rams, with Green Bay hoping they are now back on track after a dismal Week 1.

They restricted Kyle Shanahan's run game to 55 rushing yards in last year's matchup, with the Niners having averaged 176.8 yards on the ground across their previous eight meetings, going 6-2.

On offense, the Packers have obvious threats in the form of Aaron Jones and Aaron Rodgers.

Jones had four total TDs against the Detroit Lions, becoming the fifth running back in the past 25 yards to record three or more receiving scores in a game, while Rodgers has thrown 18 TDs to two interceptions in eight regular-season games against the Niners, with his 106.9 passer rating the highest versus San Francisco in the Super Bowl era (minimum 100 attempts).

Elsewhere...

The Seattle Seahawks are coming off their first loss under Pete Carroll when leading by 10 at halftime (now 31-1) but face favourable opponents in the Minnesota Vikings, who have lost the teams' past seven meetings – a joint-record including playoffs in the Vikings' history.

The Miami Dolphins also suffered a painful defeat last week and are unlikely to find any comfort in Jacoby Brissett's promotion in Tua Tagovailoa's absence at the Las Vegas Raiders. The backup QB has lost five of his past six games as a starter, while his streak of 146 consecutive passes without a touchdown in the NFL is the longest ongoing run.

Jameis Winston's regression for the New Orleans Saints in Week 2 came at a bad time, with the New England Patriots next up. The Pats have had four or more interceptions in a league-high 16 different games in the Bill Belichick era, including against the New York Jets last time out.

Beaten by both the 49ers and the Packers, the Lions' next test is against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. Jackson has rushed for 80 yards in four consecutive regular-season games, the most by any QB in the Super Bowl era.

Those numbers pale a little next to running back Derrick Henry's 182 yards and three rushing TDs in Seattle. Only Jim Brown (five) has had more 175-yard, three-score rushing games than the Tennessee Titan's four – tied with LaDainian Tomlinson. He plays the Indianapolis Colts next.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz will undergo further evaluation on an ankle injury he suffered in Sunday's home loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

The Colts fell to 0-2 for the 2021 season after a narrow 27-24 loss to the undefeated Rams.

Wentz arrived at the Colts in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles and had a disrupted offseason due to a foot injury that required surgery.

And a frustrating start continued as backup Jacob Eason ended up finishing the game for the Colts after Wentz went down, twisting his ankle when he was tackled by Aaron Donald in the fourth quarter.

"He rolled it up pretty bad," said Colts coach Frank Reich, per ESPN. "I had a sense when he walked off the field. It didn't look good. 

"Sometimes if you go back in right away when it's still warm you can maybe gut out a few more plays. 

"The longer we were off the field, it stiffened up and he tried, but there was no chance."

Indianapolis are on the road against AFC South rivals the Tennessee Titans in Week 3, looking to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2011.

Eason is expected to step in for Wentz – who completed 20 of his 31 passes for 247 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Rams – if the starter is not fit to play.

"Felt it right away," explained Wentz, already sacked six times this season, after the game.

"I tried to tape it up and do everything I could to finish the game. I've sprained my ankle probably 100 times since I was a kid. This one I just couldn't play on it.

"There was not enough stability to get out there and go. It was definitely not fun to watch the last two-minute drives."

As well as the Titans, there are testing road games against the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens to come in a pivotal stretch for the Colts.

One positive from the Rams loss for the Colts was the play of second-year wide receiver Michael Pittman, who caught eight of his 12 targets for 123 yards, with five of those catches going for first downs.

But Cooper Kupp was the difference maker for the Rams, with nine catches for 163 yards giving him back-to-back 100-yard games.

The Buffalo Bills got their 2021 NFL season up and running with a sixth straight win over the Miami Dolphins, who lost Tua Tagovailoa to a rib injury.

Tipped by many to make the Super Bowl this year, the Bills endured an underwhelming start in defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but a 35-0 success in Miami got them back on track.

Buffalo benefited from Tagovailoa's departure early in the game, as he had to be carted back to the locker room after a hit from A.J. Epenesa when he attempted a short-range pass on fourth down.

By that point, the second-year Dolphins quarterback had been sacked twice on a three-and-out opening drive before seeing Devin Singletary run 46 yards for the Bills' first touchdown.

Josh Allen threw to Stefon Diggs for a second score, but Buffalo failed to add to their advantage in the remainder of a chaotic first half, epitomised by Levi Wallace's pick from back-up Miami QB Jacoby Brissett moments after receiving a penalty for taunting.

Allen found his range again at the start of the third quarter as Dawson Knox made a low catch in the end zone – this the QB's seventh consecutive start against the Dolphins with multiple TD passes. Only Philip Rivers (against the Houston Texans) had previously enjoyed such a run against a single team.

Miami were never in the game thereafter and Zack Moss added a pair of rushing scores with two bruising runs, the second after Allen was called just short.

Super Cooper rescues Rams

NFC West rivals the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers survived scares against the Indianapolis Colts and the Philadelphia Eagles respectively, each coming through to move to 2-0.

The Rams were grateful to Cooper Kupp for his nine catches for 163 yards and two TDs – following 108 yards and a score last week – after a botched snap for a punt had gifted the Colts their first lead early in the fourth quarter. Carson Wentz ended the game on the sideline.

Wilson woeful for Jets

Zach Wilson's home debut for the New York Jets was a miserable one as he threw four interceptions in a defeat to the New England Patriots.

Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals paid the price for Joe Burrow's three interceptions from three consecutive passes – including a pick six – against the Chicago Bears, who were not punished for a shaky Justin Fields display after Andy Dalton's injury.

Wilson's Jets predecessor Sam Darnold threw for 305 yards, two TDs and a pick in the Carolina Panthers' win over the New Orleans Saints.

The Chicago Bears played both quarterbacks in their season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Rams, but Justin Fields was the only one to score a touchdown in a game that will increase calls to start him over Andy Dalton.

Dalton saw the vast majority of the snaps as the Bears were swept aside 34-14 by the Rams on Sunday, throwing for 206 yards and an interception.

However, Bears fans saw an exciting glimpse of their future as Fields scampered in for a three-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. He also completed a pair of passes for 10 yards.

Head coach Matt Nagy confirmed using both quarterbacks was always in their plans, despite him having declared Dalton the starter, but did not offer any hint as to whether Fields will see more game time in the coming weeks after his intriguing cameo.

"We had the plan and we stuck to our plan," Nagy said. "We knew where and when we were going to use him and we stuck to that.

"And so, we'll see where that goes and how we do it. But I think we all understand that for us, strategically, we'll see where we go with that — without giving anything away.

"Really, the very first play when he went out there and was able to make a throw — and that was an RPO. So he made a decision to throw the ball off of a look that we had.

"So right there to start the game, I thought that was great. And then he was involved on the sideline. And then when we got down into the red zone at times, we had a couple things in for him that worked and some that didn't work. But when he got down in the red zone, he did some great things there, too.

"So we've just got to keep having him grow and keep staying positive. But he's certainly a weapon."

Sean McVay "loved everything" Matthew Stafford did in his spectacular debut for the Los Angeles Rams as he led them to a 34-14 win over the Chicago Bears.

In the first regular-season game with fans at SoFi Stadium, Stafford delighted a packed house with a display of why the Rams traded two first-round picks to acquire him from the Detroit Lions.

Stafford completed 20 of 26 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns, posting a passer rating of 156.1, the highest ever by a player in his debut with a new team. 

And McVay could hardly have been more effusive in his praise of his new quarterback.

"I think it was just his steady demeanour throughout the course of the game," McVay said. "Just like you had seen in practice and seen from afar, but I think the first drive of the second half I thought was most impressive.

"But then I'm thinking about what an unbelievable job he did progressing, finding Robert Woods on the last touchdown, so there were multiple things but I think the overall game management and I think the expectation. You could just see there was a look in his eye. He had confidence in his team-mates.

"He expected to play well and he did a great job. It's hard to say there was one thing. I loved everything he did tonight."

Stafford's second throw of the game saw him hit Van Jefferson on a 67-yard touchdown throw on which he booted to his left off the play-fake, flipped his hips back to the right sideline and unfurled a perfect ball to find the second-year receiver on a deep post route.

"I think it was a great job by him being able to flip his hips and make an unbelievable throw," McVay added.

"I think that's kind of one of those things – he's gifted. He's got a great ability to be able to change his arm slot and make all types of throws, whether it be short, intermediate or down the field.

"You're not limited in anything you can do in the pass game. Hopefully, we'll continue to build on options and opportunities that we have moving forward."

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