The Denver Broncos are one of five remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL, with much of their success built on the efforts of a defense that is among the most efficient in the league through three weeks.

Denver's defense ranks second in the NFL by yards per play allowed, having given up an average of 4.10 so far this campaign.

That statistic comes with the substantial caveat that the three teams the Broncos have faced in 2021, the New York Giants, the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets are a combined 0-10 on the season.

In Week 4, the Broncos will face by far their most difficult test of the season when they welcome the Baltimore Ravens to Mile High.

That may be a bemusing sentence to read in the context of the Ravens' last effort, which saw them score only 19 points and require a last-second record-breaking 66-yard field goal from Justin Tucker that bounced off the crossbar to beat the winless Detroit Lions.

Yet the Ravens have both a quarterback and a group of pass-catchers to stress the Broncos in ways they have yet to experience in 2021.

The Ravens' pass-catchers are coming off perhaps their most unconvincing performance of the season, one defined by a series of big-time drops from Marquise Brown.

However, in what has been a rollercoaster start to the year for Baltimore, their receiving weapons have excelled when it comes to creating separation.

Open on 91.3 per cent of his targets, the seventh-highest percentage of receivers with at least 10 targets, Brown appears to be a receiver on the verge of a third-year leap if he can become more consistent catching the football.

Brown has registered a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup on a play where he is targeted, on 78.3 per cent of his targets. His burn yards per target average of 19.67 is the highest in the NFL among wideouts thrown at 10 times, while his big-play percentage of 54.3 is third.

With an average depth of target of 15.6 yards, Brown is getting open on downfield routes where separation can be harder to come by, while tight end Mark Andrews leads all players at his position with at least 10 targets in burn percentage (88.2) and burn yards per target (16.18).

The Ravens' offense is also receiving a boost in the form of rookie first-round pick Rashod Bateman, who was activated from injured reserve this week. If he can reprise his form of 2019 – his last full college season – that saw him finish fourth in big-play percentage among Power 5 receivers with at least 25 targets, producing one 50.4 per cent of the time, Baltimore could have one of the most dangerous pass-catching tridents in the NFL.

In terms of defensive opponent, the Broncos represent a significant step up for Baltimore. Denver (4.31) rank first in yards per pass play allowed with the Las Vegas Raiders (5.60 - 8th) the only opponent the Ravens have faced in the top 10 to this point. The Lions (8.79) and Kansas City Chiefs (8.43) are each in the bottom three.

Of the four Denver cornerbacks to face at least 10 coverage matchups, none have allowed an open percentage above 30 per cent, with Kyle Fuller (29.79), Patrick Surtain II (28.57), Bryce Callahan (11.76) and Ronald Darby (17.65) all enjoying strong starts to the campaign.

The Broncos' ability to deal with the running threat of Lamar Jackson could be just as important as the matchup between their secondary and the Ravens' pass-catchers.

Jackson is delivering an accurate well-thrown ball on 74.1 per cent of his passes, below the NFL average of 78.9. That underwhelming accuracy is, however, partially a product of his aggressiveness — his air yards per attempt average of 12.28 is by far the highest in the NFL — and the diversity his skills as a runner bring to the Ravens' run game could prove the ideal tonic to a Broncos defense that frequently employs two deep safeties to protect against the pass.

There is no doubt that Broncos head coach Vic Fangio, one of the best defensive minds in the game, will have prepared his players for the threat of Jackson. Still, Jackson has a habit of making even the most well-equipped teams look foolish. Should the Broncos avoid that fate, then they will deserve to be taken seriously as contenders in the AFC.

The debate over whether Bill Belichick or Tom Brady was more responsible for the New England Patriots' dynasty is not one likely to die down any time soon.

But for Belichick's part, the Patriots coach has long since accepted he would not have enjoyed the same success, which saw New England win six Super Bowls in Brady's 20 seasons as quarterback, had another player been under center.

Asked at a media conference if New England would have dominated to the same extent without Brady, Belichick replied: "Of course not. We talked about that for two decades.

"I think I've been on the record dozens of times saying there's no quarterback I would rather have than Tom Brady and I still feel that way.

"I was very lucky to have Tom as the quarterback, to coach him, and he was as good as any coach could ever ask for."

Belichick's fondness for Brady did not stop him from allowing the Patriots' greatest player to leave in the offseason before the 2020 campaign.

Brady moved on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and promptly won a seventh Super Bowl ring.

While Belichick will have to plan for a game against Brady for the first time when the Buccaneers visit the Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, he will likely not have to face tight end Rob Gronkowski, whom the Patriots traded to the Bucs last season after he came out of retirement.

Gronkowski was listed as doubtful on the Bucs' injury report, having suffered a rib injury during Tampa Bay's Week 3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Running back Giovani Bernard and cornerback Jamel Dean have both been ruled out, the latter's absence potentially meaning playing time for a new signing in five-time Pro Bowler Richard Sherman.

There probably won't be too much focus on Mac Jones come Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.

In the ranking of cast and characters as Tom Brady makes his return to Foxborough, having left New England after 20 seasons and six Super Bowl rings and gone on to add another in his first year away from the Patriots, Jones might struggle to even be considered a supporting actor.

Indeed, the dominant narrative as Brady brings the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the place where he built a legend that stands above all others in the NFL will be one of quarterback versus former coach.

This is a chance for Brady to get one over on Bill Belichick and, for many, to prove that he was the chief reason for the two decades' worth of success the Patriots enjoyed. In a landscape where hot takes rule over balance and nuanced conversation, the most obvious explanation that New England's dominance was a product of a quite beautiful marriage between the greatest quarterback and greatest coach of all time is drowned out.

Talk of Brady claiming a narrative-winning triumph over Belichick ignores the fact that the deck is firmly stacked against New England. In almost every area, the Patriots enter this one shorthanded compared to their opponents and the reality is the Bucs should win handily regardless of who is coaching the opponent.

But for most this is a game where that narrative trumps analysis and, with Brady almost certain to break Drew Brees' record for all-time passing yards at the home of his former team, little importance is likely to be assigned to the Patriots' first-round pick and how he performs with a team ill-equipped to topple the Bucs.

Yet in terms of the long-term outlook, that is the most important aspect of Sunday's game for New England. Belichick will not care about Brady breaking records. His focus will be on how Jones meets the challenge of facing the team that entered the season as the class of the NFL.

Coincidentally, that test comes three days after the 20th anniversary of Brady's first start for the Patriots in 2001, a season that saw him improbably lead New England to Super Bowl glory. The NFL has changed so much in those two decades that a direct comparison between Brady's first games as a starting quarterback and those of Jones is difficult to make.

However, the timing of the most challenging and most significant game of Jones' career to this point provides an opportunity to answer the question: is he on track to be the long-term successor to Brady?

A superior start?

Having used the 15th overall pick on Jones, the Patriots will hope the answer is an emphatic yes.

On the surface, the difference in his numbers from his opening three games and those from Brady across the same limited sample size provides reason for encouragement.

Brady completed 57.4 per cent of his passes across his first three starts for 618 yards and two touchdowns. Through Week 3 of this season, Jones has completed 67.5 per cent of passes for 737 yards and two touchdowns. He has six passing plays of 25 yards or more so far in his career, Brady had only three in his first three starts.

Yet Jones' advantage in those raw numbers is more than likely a reflection of a modern NFL that is far more hospitable to the passing game than it was in 2001.

And in the one area where Jones and the young Brady could be considered comparable, it is the latter who has the edge. Brady did not throw an interception across his first three starts, Jones has already thrown three.

They all came in last week's loss to the New Orleans Saints, a performance that lent credence to the argument that, while Jones has arguably been the most composed of the rookie quarterbacks to start a game this season, his poise and decision-making is not on the same level as Brady's was back in 2001.

Cleaning up the decision-making

Jones cannot be considered at fault for all those picks. He certainly takes some share of the blame for the first, which saw him step up into the arms of Kaden Elliss, who hit Jones as he delivered the ball, producing a wobbly pass that landed in the grateful arms of P.J. Williams.

The second, which was returned for a touchdown by Malcolm Jenkins, saw a well-thrown ball bounce off the hands of Jonnu Smith, while the third appeared to be the product of a miscommunication with Nelson Agholor, the throw behind the receiver with the game well out of hand.

Only the first interception could potentially be ascribed to Jones and poor decision-making in the pocket, but the numbers offer an insight into when his turnover-worthy plays are coming and provide some cause for concern.

Jones has thrown a pickable pass, per Stats Perform data, on 2.56 per cent of his attempts, putting him the right side of the league-wide average of 3.13 per cent. The modern-day Brady, a seemingly ageless behemoth content to see how close to 50 he can continue playing, has thrown an interceptable pass 1.49 per cent of the time.

The statistics indicate that Jones has been unperturbed by pressure. He has thrown three pickable passes in total this season, but none have come when under duress. Instead, they have all been thrown from a clean pocket.

Only two other quarterbacks, Dak Prescott (4) and Zach Wilson (6) have thrown more interceptable passes from a clean pocket. Brady has thrown one, with his other pickable pass coming under pressure.

The split speaks to Jones' composure under pressure but raises doubts about his overall decision-making when he has the chance to properly scan the field, and further potential issues become apparent when looking at the Patriots' quarterback under pressure versus when he has time.

A lack of aggression

Criticism of Jones to this point in his NFL career has surrounded an apparent inability to push the ball downfield. However, his air yards per attempt average of 8.24 is actually slightly superior to that of Brady (8.13).

But when he has the opportunity to assess his options, Jones eschews the more aggressive throws. His air yards per attempt average from a clean pocket is 7.38, only just above the average of 7.28 and below Brady's 8.13.

It is when he is pressured that Jones appears more comfortable going deep. With the time to think taken away, Jones' air yards average is 10.03, again above the average (9.97) but on the lower end of the scale.

Delivering a well-thrown ball 81.6 per cent of the time under pressure, Jones stands above Brady (78.8) as the joint-third most accurate quarterback under duress.

It is his overall accuracy that gives the Patriots their primary cause for optimism with Jones. His well-thrown percentage of 80.3 is above the 78.9 per cent average, though below Brady's 82.1, and Smith's drop that turned into an interception was illustrative of the lack of help he has received from his pass-catchers despite heavy investment from New England this offseason.

Receivers Agholor (66.7), Kendrick Bourne (57.1) and Jakobi Meyers (72.4) are all below the average for open percentage on plays where they are targeted among wideouts with at least five targets, speaking to a lack of separation from New England's receiving weapons.

Jones might not be getting the best of assistance, but a blend of questionable decision-making and lack of aggressiveness from a clean pocket is not a winning strategy in today's NFL. It is also not a combination Brady could be accused of ever possessing during his career, even if he did average fewer than seven yards per attempt across his first three seasons as a starter.

Stepping into Brady's shoes after Cam Newton's failed bid to become the successor was always going to be a tall ask for a rookie, so it is important not to make definitive judgements on a player whose NFL career is still firmly in its infancy.

But the early signs for Jones are mixed and if he is to snatch some of the limelight in primetime, he will need to do a better job of taking advantage of protection and making the right reads and, in the process, keep the man who has built the NFL's greatest resume off the field for as long as possible.

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark has been ruled out indefinitely with a broken ankle.

Chark was injured early in the Jaguars' 24-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football.

Jags head coach Urban Meyer suspected Chark had suffered an ankle fracture after the game and NFL Network have reported the diagnosis has now been confirmed.

"Tough one," said Meyer. "I heard it's a broken ankle. He was starting to play well - that's a big one."

Chark suffered the injury on what was just Jacksonville's third offensive play of the game and had to be carted off the field.

As he was being tackled, running back James Robinson inadvertently rolled on top of Chark's leg. The wide receiver had been attempting to set a block for Robinson.

It is a big blow to the struggling Jags, who fell to 0-4 despite leading 14-0 at the interval. They have now suffered 19 straight losses dating back to last season.

Chark, who is in the final year of his contract, racked up 1,714 receiving yards across 2019 and 2020, with Trevor Lawrence now losing a top target for the foreseeable future.

Number one overall pick Lawrence has had a rocky start but produced his most solid game so far against the Bengals, rushing for one touchdown and having no turnovers as he completed 17 of 24 passes for 207 yards.

But he was hurt that a first NFL win was taken away from him, with the Bengals launching a comeback before kicking a 35-yard field goal as time expired to go 3-1 for the season.

"We'll have to regroup a little bit, this one hurts," said Jaguars quarterback Lawrence. "We're up 14-0 at half-time and come back out and just somehow come up on the wrong side of it, that's tough. 

"We're going to bounce back, no doubt, I know what we're made of. 

"Just seeing how we've handled the first three weeks, I know nothing is going to change but damn, I really want to get a win with these guys. 

"We've just got to finish, collectively. It's everybody. It's not one side of the ball or anything like that. 

"It's all of us finishing. I'm not even going to say it's going to take time, we're right there and you guys have seen it the last few weeks."

One year later, the Cincinnati Bengals are getting exactly what they had hoped for out of Joe Burrow. 

The top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Burrow led a second-half comeback that gave Cincinnati a 24-21 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday. 

The Bengals are now 3-1, their best start since 2018, and their second-year quarterback is looking more confident with every game he plays. 

He put up his best numbers of the young season Thursday, completing 25 of 32 passes (78.1 per cent) for 348 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. 

"I think I've gotten better and better each week," Burrow told reporters. "Last week, the defence played so well that I didn't have to do a lot and then tonight, you know, there's going to be games like that where you have to step up and make plays. 

"I'm really happy with my performance tonight, I'm just going to keep building on this and keep getting better and better."

After the Bengals went into the locker room at half-time trailing 14-0, all four of their second-half drives ended in points.

The first three resulted in touchdowns – two of them on passes from Burrow to tight end C.J. Uzomah – and the last produced a game-winning field goal by Evan McPherson as time expired. 

Burrow was 17-of-20 passing after the break and completed all five of his pass attempts on the crucial final drive. 

For a player who missed the end of his rookie season after suffering a serious knee injury last November, the progress has been remarkable. 

"Joe is just seeing the field really well right now," said Bengals head coach Zac Taylor. "You just kind of put it in his hands."

That is exactly what Burrow wants, and he is pleased with what he is seeing from everyone around him after four games. 

"It's not gonna be perfect," Burrow said. "You're gonna have to find ways to win when everything's against you, your back's against the wall, and that's what we did today and I'm proud of the way we fought."

A matchup of the last two number one overall picks in the NFL Draft went to the veteran Thursday, as Joe Burrow led the Cincinnati Bengals to a 24-21 victory over Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Rookie kicker Evan McPherson's 35-yard field goal at the buzzer gave Cincinnati the win after the Bengals went the entire game without a lead. 

Burrow completed 25 of 32 passes for 348 yards and a pair of touchdown passes to C.J. Uzomah as the Bengals improved to 3-1. 

Lawrence was 17-of-24 for 204 yards as he and first-year head coach Urban Meyer will have to wait at least another week for their first NFL victory after falling to 0-4. 

Jacksonville took a 14-0 lead on touchdown runs by James Robinson and Lawrence in the first half, and just missed another TD after they were stopped on fourth-and-goal at the Cincinnati one-yard line just before the break. 

The momentum swung the Bengals' way after the break, though, as Burrow hit rookie receiver Ja'Marr Chase for a 44-yard gain, then found Uzomah for a 22-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the second half. 

Cincinnati's next two drives also ended in TDs, on a one-yard run by Joe Mixon and a 31-yard Burrow-to-Uzomah strike.

After the Bengals' defence got the ball back with 5:40 to play, Burrow bled out the rest of the clock on a 10-play, 73-yard drive that culminated in McPherson's game-winning field goal. 

 

The Super Bowl half-time show has long been a global stage for the biggest stars in music, and the NFL has lined up a formidable cast for this season's showcase event.

Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar will perform at Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles on February 13, the NFL announced Thursday.

The five artists have combined for 43 Grammy Awards during their careers, which date to Dre's role as a foundational member of the West Coast hip-hop scene in the late 1980s.

Jay-Z's Roc Nation is in its third season of a collaboration with the NFL to help organise and produce the 12-minute half-time show, and the mogul called this year's lineup "history in the making".

While all five performers have deep and impressive catalogues, the fact that Dre, Snoop and Lamar are all Los Angeles-area natives is an added bonus for the first Super Bowl to be played in LA since 1993.

"The opportunity to perform at the Super Bowl half-time show, and to do it in my own backyard, will be one of the biggest thrills of my career," Dre said in a media release.

The star-studded gathering figures to have a much different feel than the Super Bowl LV performance in Tampa, a solo effort by The Weeknd.

LeSean McCoy will bring an end to his 12-year NFL career as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday. 

The Eagles selected McCoy in the second round of the 2009 draft and he will sign a one-day contract so he can finish his career with Philadelphia. 

McCoy spent four years with the Buffalo Bills after leaving the Eagles in 2014 and won back-to-back Super Bowls with the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the previous two seasons. 

"After 12 years in the NFL, I've decided to retire an Eagle because this is home to me. I still have that green inside my heart," McCoy said in a statement. 

"There are times when I'd see the Eagles on TV, and it just felt weird not wearing that uniform. I instantly think back to all of those big games and the roar of the fans; I've just always seen myself as an Eagle. It's only right to come back home and retire an Eagle." 

McCoy will be honoured at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday when the Eagles take on a Chiefs side overseen by his long-time coach in Philadelphia Andy Reid. 

"I've been texting with him all week. I'm so thankful for him. He took a shot on a 20-year-old kid who people said wasn't big enough, wasn't explosive enough. I thank him so much for that," said McCoy. 

"We've always maintained a strong relationship. I love him. When he left, it was very tough for me because of my belief in him. It all worked out. He helped me get a championship. He's doing great things in Kansas City. I'm happy I'll be able to see him as well as the coaches and trainers and former teammates." 

McCoy became the Eagles' all-time leading rusher (6,792 yards) during his six seasons in Philadelphia. 

The six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro selection set single-season franchise records for the Eagles with 17 rushing touchdowns in 2011 and a league-leading 1,607 rushing yards in 2013. 

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It's unbelievably impressive."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans @ New York Jets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defense: New Orleans Saints vs. New York Giants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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