Chase Young will miss the rest of the season, though the Washington Football Team did not confirm if he had torn his ACL as reported.

Defensive end Young was carted off in the second quarter of Sunday's 29-19 win over the Tamp Bay Buccaneers after appearing to suffer a knee injury.

It was soon reported that the 2020 second overall pick had suffered a torn ACL and Washington on Monday confirmed he will not return this season.

Young, the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020, will undergo surgery in a blow to Washington, who were already without Montez Sweat.

"They're big, athletic and can move. Those guys are hard to find," Rivera said of Young and Sweat.

"[Young] had some good moments early in the game. It was promising.

"You do lose the threat of that type of player coming off the edge now. We have a couple workman guys who get an opportunity. We'll see how they handle it."

Young had 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles through nine games this season.

Expectations have changed around Tampa Bay in the wake of last season's Super Bowl title, and the Buccaneers wasted no words after a stunning loss to the Washington Football Team on Sunday. 

Washington intercepted Tom Brady on successive possessions in the opening quarter and the Bucs never got on track as they slumped to a 29-19 defeat against a team that entered the game with a 2-6 record. 

Brady was in no mood to dissect the reasons behind Tampa Bay's loss, as he took only three questions from the media following the game before starting to walk out of the press conference, then hanging on to provide clipped answers to a few more queries after reporters asked him to stay. 

"We just never really played on our terms, played from behind the whole game and they played a good game. They had a good plan," Brady said. 

"Not a great day of football for us. It doesn't matter who you play. If we have a bunch of self-inflicted errors, too, we've got to eliminate those and see if we can go out and execute the plays that are there."

Asked what happened on the two interceptions early in the game, Brady responded only: "We started with the ball. They came away with it."

Brady entered the game averaging 331.3 passing yards per game but finished with just 220 against a Washington team that entered Sunday allowing an NFL-worst 286.8 yards per game through the air. 

Asked how he was feeling, Brady said quietly, "I like to win." 

The Buccaneers (6-3) were particularly frustrated with their performance given they were coming off a bye week following a loss to the New Orleans Saints. 

Head coach Bruce Arians' hopes of the team refocusing after the break were dashed immediately, as the Bucs were flagged for a false start on the first play of the game. 

"The stupidity has to go away if we're going to go anywhere," Arians said. "It has nothing to do with ability. It's all about execution and being a smart football team. We're a very dumb football team, and that's a reflection on coaches.

"It's very disappointing. It's very alarming to watch the energy we practice with, and show the lack of execution and energy that it takes to win in this league on Sunday. We've got a lot of soul-searching to do."

Defending Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers suffered a stunning second successive defeat as they were upset by the Washington Football Team in Week 10.

Despite injury issues at wide receiver and cornerback, normal service was expected to be resumed when the Buccaneers made the trip to FedEx Field having lost to the New Orleans Saints prior to last week's bye.

But a rematch from last season's Wild Card Round instead went the way of a Washington team who entered the week with just two wins to their name.

Taylor Heinicke, whose performance in that playoff matchup catapulted him to cult hero status, led a key game-winning drive in the fourth quarter to close out a 29-19 victory for Washington, who had earlier lost star defensive end Chase Young to what is believed to be a torn ACL, after the Buccaneers had pulled within one score.

Tom Brady was intercepted twice in the Bucs' first three offensive series, with Washington turning that second turnover into a touchdown as Heinicke connected with DeAndre Carter for a 20-yard touchdown pass to put the hosts 13-0 up following a pair of early field goals.

The Bucs' offense could only manage a pair of field goals, sandwiched by another for Washington from Joey Slye, in response before half-time and Tampa Bay continued to struggle to take advantage of what has been a porous defense thereafter even minus the presence of stud pass rusher Young.

They finally knocked down the door in the third quarter with a four-play, 43-yard drive that ended with Brady finding tight end Cameron Brate for the score, only for Washington to reply in kind as Antonio Gibson was pushed over the goal-line by a scrum of team-mates.

A Dax Milne fumble was followed by a 40-yard strike from Brady to Mike Evans to fray Washington nerves with over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. However, Ryan Succop missed the critical extra point to leave Tampa Bay four points adrift, before Heinicke led a clutch clock-killing drive that was capped with Gibson's second touchdown to drop the Bucs to 6-3 and deal their hopes of claiming the number one seed in the NFC a substantial blow.

Titans hold off Saints

The 8-2 Tennessee Titans remain the frontrunner for the top seed in the AFC, having stretched their extremely impressive winning streak to six games by edging the New Orleans Saints 23-21.

Ryan Tannehill threw for 213 yards and a touchdown while running for another, wideout Marcus Johnson emerging with a 100-yard game a day after Julio Jones was placed on injured reserve by Tennessee. The Saints pulled within two late in the fourth quarter when Trevor Siemian hit Marquez Callaway for a 15-yard touchdown, but both the two-point conversion and the subsequent onside kick came up short for New Orleans.

While the Saints lost for the second straight week, the Dallas Cowboys rebounded from a shock loss with a 43-3 rout of the Atlanta Falcons and the Buffalo Bills crushed the New York Jets 45-17 a week on from an upset in Jacksonville.

Lions finally don't lose, but don't win

The Detroit Lions' 2021 season has been one defined by gut-wrenching defeats.

They avoided such a fate on this week, but missed a golden opportunity to claim their first win since last December in a 16-16 tie against the Pittsburgh Steelers, missing starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger due to coronavirus.

Ryan Santoso had a 48-yard field goal to win the game for the Lions in overtime after a Diontae Johnson fumble, but saw his kick come up short of the goalposts.

The Steelers appeared to be driving for a game-winning kick in the waning seconds of the extra period, yet Pat Freiermuth's fumble ensured a bizarre game ended level, Pittsburgh failing to take advantage of losses for AFC North rivals the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns, whose quarterback Baker Mayfield was injured in a crushing 45-7 loss to the New England Patriots.

Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young is feared to have suffered a torn ACL in their clash with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Young was carted off in the second quarter after suffering an apparent knee injury as Washington defended a short Tom Brady pass to Leonard Fournette.

NFL Media's Ian Rapoport subsequently reported that Young is believed to have torn his ACL, an injury that would end the 2020 second overall pick's season.

Young was named Defensive Rookie of the Year for his performances last season, which saw him record 7.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles.

His efforts helped Washington win the NFC East and advance to the Wild Card round of the playoffs, where they lost to the Buccaneers.

Despite the injury to Young, Washington led 16-6 at half-time at FedEx Field.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will again be without Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski as they return to action against the Washington Football Team.

Tampa Bay had a bye last week and will be keen to atone for their 36-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 8.

Bruce Arians' team will be widely expected to bounce back against Washington, whose 2-6 record is in part down to a steep decline from their defense.

However, the defending Super Bowl champions must do so minus Brown and Gronkowski, robbing Tom Brady of two reliable targets.

Tight end Gronkowski has featured just once since injuring his back in the Week 3 defeat to the Los Angeles Rams. He returned to face the Saints but played just six snaps before leaving the game.

Brown has been out of action since Week 6 because of an ankle injury and the Bucs' receiving group could also be missing Chris Godwin, who is expected to be a game-time decision with a foot issue.

Tampa Bay's trip to FedEx Field is a rematch of last year's NFC Wild Card clash, which the Buccaneers won 31-23 en route to victory in Super Bowl LV.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar Tom Brady criticised the NFL's "terrible decision" to add a 17th game to the regular season.

For the first time ever, teams will play 17 regular-season games instead of 16 after the NFL increased the schedule for the 2021 campaign.

The move has not gone down well with record seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady, who hit out at the decision.

"I think it's pointless. I thought it was a terrible decision," the 44-year-old said on the Let's Go! Podcast ahead of Sunday's Washington Football Team matchup. "So I don't like the fact that we're playing a 17th game at all.

"I think 16 is plenty. And, again, you're eight games into the year and you're not halfway through, so that's kind of a little frustrating aspect ... A lot of people know my feelings on some of these topics.

"I've been pretty vocal about NFL issues over the last couple of years and some of the things that are done that I don't necessarily think are in the best interests of the game."

Brady has thrown an NFL-high 25 touchdowns to help Super Bowl champions the Buccaneers to a 6-2 record to start the season.

The evergreen QB leads the league in attempts per game (42.9), completions per game (28.9), passing yards per game (331.3) and big plays passing (24).

Brady added: "A lot of guys probably miss games over the course of the season anyway, so they probably don't play all 16, most guys.

"But if you're fortunate to be able to make it through a season and you got to play the 17th game, I think there's a lot of things that I would adjust to, you know, the offseason, you know, the regular-season schedule."

"Usually what the owners want the owners get. So, that's just the way the business has gone," Brady said. "And we need strong union leadership from the player standpoint and a unified union in order to have the right amount of leverage to negotiate what we think is appropriate for an NFL player."

Since Brady joined the Buccaneers in 2020, Tampa Bay are 5-1 following a loss, with their average margin of victory in those five games being 15.8 points, according to Stats Perform.

This is the third time in Brady's career where his team have lost a game and then gone into a bye week. His teams are 1-1 in games following, with Brady having an average passer rating of 94.2 in those games.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have brought in tight end Darren Fells as Rob Gronkowski continues to struggle with injury.

Fells' agent Ron Slavin confirmed to NFL.com on Wednesday that the Bucs were signing the veteran to their practice squad and are set to elevate him to the main roster this week.

The Bucs later confirmed they had added Fells and also brought back their former wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who like Fells was initially added to the practice squad.

Gronkowski missed four games for the Bucs due to multiple rib fractures before attempting to return in Week 8 against the New Orleans Saints.

However, he was forced to leave the game with back spasms having not made a catch in the 36-27 loss.

The Bucs had a bye week in Week 9 but Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said on Tuesday there was still a worry over Gronkowski's fitness going into Sunday's game at the Washington Football Team (2-6).

Gronkowski had made a fast start to the season with 16 catches and four touchdowns over the first three weeks of the season before going down.

The presence of O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate meant the Bucs still had strong options at TE in his absence and the arrival of Fells – who was waived by the struggling Detroit Lions this week – will provide further depth.

The 35-year-old had 11 receiving touchdowns for the Houston Texans across 2019 and 2020, while he can also contribute as a run blocker.

New England Patriots great Gronkowski took a year out of football in 2019 before returning last season to re-join quarterback Tom Brady in Tampa and play his part in the Bucs' Super Bowl triumph.

The Bucs (6-2) are well placed for another postseason run despite losing to the Saints last time out.

They are top of the NFC South and, as things stand, are not scheduled to play a team with a winning record over the next four weeks.

We're officially past the halfway point of the NFL season, meaning we are also heading into the home stretch of the fantasy campaign.

If you're in the cellar of your league, then it's probably time to take things a little less seriously, maybe find ways to have some fun with your lineup.

But if you're still firmly in the mix, then you can ill afford to make bad decisions as to which players to slot into the starting spots.

As always, Stats Perform is here to provide a helping hand with a look at four offensive players and a defense worthy of selection in Week 10.

 

Quarterback: Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Do not let the Chiefs' performance against the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers fool you.

Yes, the Chiefs have improved somewhat on defense of late, but they are still one of the league's worst at defending the pass.

They have given up 7.49 yards per pass play this season, while the Raiders are fifth in yards per pass play on offense (7.40).

No quarterback in the NFL has attempted more passes of 21 air yards or more than Carr (41), and he is averaging 16.4 yards per attempt on those throws.

Motivated to bounce back and claim a key win in the division after a shock loss to the New York Giants, expect Carr to be aggressive and, crucially, successful in attacking a vulnerable opponent.

Running Back: James Conner, Arizona Cardinals vs. Carolina Panthers

Conner leads the NFL in touchdowns with 11 after his hat-trick in the Cardinals' win over the San Francisco 49ers last week.

He will likely get the bulk of the workload in the run game for at least the next few weeks, Chase Edmonds having gone down with an ankle injury at San Francisco.

His next assignment is a Panthers defense that has given up 100 yards rushing in three of their past four games. Back him to produce and find the endzone again at home.

Wide Receiver: Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Washington Football Team

Back off the bye and ready to mount a charge for the one seed in the NFC, the Bucs could hardly ask for a better opponent.

Washington's pass defense has conceded 109 plays of 10 yards or more this season. Only the Indianapolis Colts (110) and Miami Dolphins (112) have been more generous in that regard.

Leading Tampa Bay with 69 targets so far this season and with Antonio Brown unlikely to feature, Godwin is the top candidate to be the latest wideout to capitalise significantly on Washington's unexpected defensive frailties.

Tight End: Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Detroit Lions

Freiermuth may be the answer to fantasy managers' prayers when it comes to the famously top-heavy tight end position.

He has emerged as a key weapon for Ben Roethlisberger in recent weeks, scoring three touchdowns in his past two games.

A matchup with a Detroit defense giving up the most yards per pass play in the NFL (8.28) could provide a recipe for a career day.

Defense: Cleveland Browns @ New England Patriots

The Browns defense did an excellent job frustrating Joe Burrow and Co. in their thumping win over the Cincinnati Bengals last week.

This week, they get a favourable matchup in the form of the Patriots. Yes, the Pats are 5-4, but they rank 20th in yards per play (5.46), are tied sixth for the most giveaways (14) and lead the league with 60 negative plays on offense.

Look for Cleveland's defense to enjoy another successful day on the road.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians is unsure if star duo Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski will return for Sunday's NFL showdown with the Washington Football Team.

Brown has missed Tampa Bay's last two games due to an ankle injury, while Gronkowski is battling to overcome back spasms that flared up in the loss to the New Orleans Saints on October 31.

Super Bowl champions the Buccaneers are coming off the bye and practiced on Monday, though neither Brown nor Gronkowski were involved.

"I think you still have to worry a little bit about Gronk and I don't know if AB is going to be back," Arians told reporters.

"And Carlton [Davis III] will stay on IR [injured reserve]. We'll see if those other two guys are game-ready.

"It's one thing to practice, it's another thing to throw them out there in a game."

Gronkowski had four touchdown receptions in the season's first two games and 16 grabs overall prior to suffering his initial rib injury in Week 3 before missing four games.

Brown's average of 83.6 receiving yards per game is highest among all Buccaneers pass-catchers.

The Buccaneers (6-2) lead the NFL in points scored per game (32.5) and passing yards per game (327.5).

Jameis Winston has been ruled out for the remainder of the NFL season with a torn ACL.

The New Orleans Saints starting quarterback suffered the injury during Sunday's shock win over his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Saints coach Sean Payton said after the game the damage done was "significant" and has since confirmed reports over the injury diagnosis, meaning Winston will miss the second half of the 2021 campaign.

Winston sustained his knee injury in the second quarter during a horse-collar tackle by Buccaneers linebacker Devin White and was carted off the field with the score tied at 7-7, later leaving the stadium on crutches.

The Saints still went on to complete a shock 36-27 Week 8 win that thrust them into contention to challenge the Bucs in the NFC South.

Winston had completed six of 10 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown while scrambling for 40 yards before exiting the game.

This season he has thrown for 1,170 yards, 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions, his passer rating of 102.8 being far and away the best of his career to date.

The injury will come as a bitter blow to Winston as he attempts to rebuild his career after being replaced by Tom Brady with the Bucs after the 2019 season and then spending last season as a backup to Drew Brees.

With fellow QB Taysom Hill ruled out of the Bucs game due to a concussion, it was third-string Trevor Siemian who replaced Winston and helped the Saints (5-2) top the Bucs (6-2).

Siemian threw a touchdown and finished 16-of-29 passing for 159 yards.

The Saints, who are well placed to push for a place in the playoffs, have another home divisional match against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 9.

Winston will be forced to watch on and is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the campaign, having only re-signed for the team on a one-year extension in March.

Brady, meanwhile, passed for 375 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions in the Bucs' defeat.

The MVP candidate now has 38 games in his career with four or more TD passes, surpassing Brees for the most in NFL history.

The veteran also became only the fourth player to record at least 2,500 passing yards and 25 TD passes through the first eight games of an NFL season.

Brady joined Peyton Manning (2013), Patrick Mahomes (2018) and Russell Wilson, who achieved the feat for the Seattle Seahawks last year.

Tom Brady shouldered the blame after throwing a pick-six in Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 36-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

The NFL Super Bowl champions incurred the wrath of coach Bruce Arians, who described the display as "embarrassing".

And Brady did not hide from his part in what was the Bucs' first loss in five as he lamented his uncharacteristic lapse.

"I think I just threw it to the wrong guy," Brady said, having thrown an interception before watching on as it was returned for a 40-yard touchdown by P.J. Williams.

"I had Mike [Evans] open. It cost us the game.

"It's tough to win when you turn the ball over like we did. So, I have to not throw interceptions. That's the key."

Coach Arians was angered by the performance at the Superdome against a Saints side who lost Jameis Winston to a serious-looking injury.

"I thought that it was an embarrassing display of football," Arians said.

"Of all the things that we talked about coming down here about what it takes to win, and to play like that, it starts with me.

"Obviously, we weren't ready to play, penalties, turnovers, you're not beating anybody that way.

"Sean [Payton] did a hell of a job bringing in [Trevor] Siemian; and, did a hell of a job winning the game. And, we didn't make the plays."

On Brady, Arians added: "He forced the one at the end. That was not characteristic of him."

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton fears quarterback Jameis Winston suffered a "significant" knee injury in the team's shock 36-27 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

The Saints stunned Tom Brady and the reigning NFL Super Bowl champions in New Orleans, however, the win was overshadowed by Winston's injury.

Facing his former team, Winston was carted off the field in the second quarter after sustaining a knee injury during a horse-collar tackle by Buccaneers linebacker Devin White.

Winston had completed six of 10 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown while scrambling for 40 yards before exiting the game with the score tied 7-7.

Afterwards, Payton told reporters of the two-time Pro Bowler: "I think it's significant.

"He felt something and he's on crutches right now. I don't want to say until I have a chance to talk with the doctors."

Payton added: "I cried when I saw him coming in. It's hard."

Veteran backup Trevor Siemian replaced Winston and helped the Saints (5-2) top the Buccaneers (6-2).

Siemian threw a touchdown, finishing 16-of-29 passing for 159 yards.

P.J. Williams sealed the win after picking off seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady for a late 40-yard interception return.

"First I want to say how gutted I am for Jameis. This win was for him," said Siemian. "I just feel for the guy, I love him so much. Just being around him, you can't help it, he's got this infectious personality.

"And you're just frickin' gutted when you see anybody hurt. But watching him get hurt was tough."

Tampa Bay's White, who played alongside Winston before the QB joined the Saints in April last year, added: "He's a great guy. I'm gonna put an emphasis on that. All last year when they was playing and we was playing, he was texting -- I don't know if he was texting everybody, but me and him was close.

"When I came in, he kinda showed me around -- and just telling me how proud he was of me. Even when we won a Super Bowl, he was one of the first texts, like, 'Congratulations, man. I wish I could be a part of that, but y'all deserve it. You put a lot of work in, and we always talked about how special you all could be.'

"He's a great guy. You hate to see that happen. I hope it's not serious, man. I'm just praying for him. But it's a long season. [I] hope he can come back and fight with his team."

Tom Brady threw a costly pick-six to ice a 36-27 win for the New Orleans Saints over NFL Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

All eyes were on Saints quarterback Jameis Winston in his reunion with the Buccaneers, having moved to New Orleans in April last year following five mixed seasons with Tampa Bay.

But Winston was carted off the field in the second quarter against his former team, suffering a knee injury during a horse-collar tackle by Buccaneers linebacker Devin White.

Winston had completed six of 10 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown while scrambling for 40 yards before exiting the game with the score tied 7-7.

Led by veteran backup Trevor Siemian, the Saints (5-2) still held on to sink Brady's Buccaneers (6-2) on home turf, despite the latter becoming the all-time leader for most three-plus passing TD games in NFL history (98).

Four touchdown passes from seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady helped the Buccaneers overturn a 23-7 deficit – Tampa Bay moving ahead 27-26 following a 50-yard throw to Cyril Grayson just over five minutes from the end.

But Brian Johnson's field goal with less than two minutes remaining restored New Orleans' lead, albeit by two points, before P.J. Williams picked off Brady – his second interception of the contest – for a 40-yard interception return to seal the win.

 

Broncos block two field goals

The Denver Broncos and their defence held firm to see off the lowly Washington Football Team 17-10.

Denver blocked two field goals en route to their fourth win of the season, snapping a four-game skid.

Dre'Mont Jones (in the fourth quarter) and Shelby Harris (in the second period) each blocked field-goal attempts from Chris Blewitt as the Broncos avoided going winless in October for the first time since 1967.

Even in the wake of their Super Bowl LV loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Kansas City Chiefs entered the 2021 NFL season viewed by many as favourites to get back to the grandest stage and regain the Lombardi Trophy.

A banged-up offensive line that was dramatically overmatched against the Buccaneers' defensive front in their chastening February defeat in Tampa had been seemingly fixed by what looked an astute investment in both youth and experience in the trenches. Kansas City appeared poised to reassert themselves as a dominant power.

Yet the issue with using your resources primarily on one area is that other concerns can be swept under the rug, only to rear their head when attention turns back to competitive action.

That has proven the case for the Chiefs, who at 3-4 look anything but Super Bowl contenders, with a disappointing pass rush and the consistently poor play of an extremely vulnerable secondary resulting in a defensive performance that has seen them give up a league-high 6.57 yards per play.

Their defensive struggles have come combined with turnover problems for Patrick Mahomes and Co, meaning the Chiefs are some way short of the team that reached three successive AFC Championship Games.

Indeed, Kansas City entered Week 8 ranked 27th in Stats Perform's efficiency versus expected (EVE) model, which looks at down, distance, yards from goal, quarter, time remaining, and score difference and uses those six factors to train a model to predict yardage output for any game situation. From there, the projected yards are compared to the actual yards gained or prevented in those situations.

With the Chiefs performing at the level of a bottom-half team and arguably facing a make-or-break game against the New York Giants on Monday to even stay in the mix, who are the lead contenders for the Super Bowl? Stats Perform looked at the EVE rankings to identify the two AFC and NFC favourites.

AFC

1. Buffalo Bills

The Bills entered Week 8 ranked second by overall EVE, their drop from the top spot a result of them having a bye in Week 7.

At 4-2, the Bills have work to do to secure the top seed in the conference, but they have a compelling case for being the most complete team in the AFC.

Eighth in yards over expected on offensive plays, their average of 0.593 yards over the projected was bettered by only three AFC teams ahead of Week 8.

Meanwhile, on defense, the Bills are allowing 0.788 yards under expected, which put them second in the league behind the New Orleans Saints prior to Thursday Night Football.

Their ranking and their performances have served as a reflection of quarterback Josh Allen's ability to prove his gargantuan year-three leap was no fluke and the significant strides made by the defense through six games.

Six of the Bills' final 11 games are against teams ranked in the bottom half of the league via EVE, giving them a clear opportunity to recover from early slip-ups against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans and establish themselves as the cream of the AFC crop.

2. Cincinnati Bengals

However, the gold standard of the AFC and - according to EVE - of the league as a whole are the Cincinnati Bengals.

That is not a sentence many will have expected to read after Cincinnati's first seven games but, in a tightly packed conference, they are worthy of consideration as genuine contenders to go all the way.

Their position atop the league by EVE is built on an offense that is fifth overall with a yards-over-expected average of 0.699, the best in the AFC, and a defense ascending earlier than anticipated.

The Bengals are third in the NFL in yards allowed under expected, though they figure to be sternly tested on both sides of the ball down the stretch.

Indeed, the Bengals have two games against a Browns team ranked third overall as well as meetings with another top-10 team in the Las Vegas Raiders and a 2-4 San Francisco 49ers team whose ranking of 13th is not reflected by their record.

A rematch with the Baltimore Ravens and an offense that entered the week seventh in yards over expected looms in Week 16 and that slightly more difficult road compared to the Bills makes it tough to install the Bengals as AFC favourites.

There can ill-afford to be any let-up from Joe Burrow - fifth among quarterbacks with 100 pass attempts with a well-thrown ball percentage of 82.4 - and dominant rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase if the Bengals are to emerge as a legitimate threat to win it all, but their Week 7 win thrashing of the Ravens suggests they will be undaunted by the challenge.

NFC

1. Los Angeles Rams

The Rams' bet that Matthew Stafford's arrival would take them to the next level is proving a successful one to this point, with Los Angeles 6-1 and looking every bit a team ready to make a concerted push to play in a Super Bowl in their home stadium.

Sean McVay's team went into Week 8 fourth in EVE and as the class of the NFC, despite their heavy home defeat to the Arizona Cardinals back in Week 4.

After the malaise of Jared Goff's final year as quarterback, Stafford has elevated the offense to one that trailed only the Dallas Cowboys in yards over expected with an average of 0.965 pre Week 8.

That lift has been crucial in a year where the defense has, perhaps unsurprisingly, taken something of a downturn following offseason losses in the secondary and the departure of coordinator Brandon Staley.

Yet the Rams remain a top-half team on that side of the ball (11th in yards allowed under expected) and face a schedule that sees them take on just two top-10 teams by EVE the rest of the way.

They do have two games with a 49ers team the Rams have not beaten since 2018 but, analysing what they have produced so far and the tests to come for the Rams, it is difficult to envision an NFC Championship Game in which they do not feature.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Cardinals are the second-highest ranked NFC team after the Rams by EVE, occupying fifth spot overall prior to their defeat to the Green Bay Packers on Thursday.

Despite their 7-1 record, it is tough to make a case for the Cardinals over the defending champion Buccaneers, who approached Week 8 only just behind Arizona in sixth and have the benefit of an easier run-in.

In addition to facing those strange but potentially dangerous – if they ever put it together – 49ers in Week 9, the Cardinals must face the Rams again and have a meeting with a Cowboys team whose league-leading offensive effort had them ninth in EVE following the last slate of games.

While the Buccaneers have the significant challenge of facing the Bills in Week 14, a New Orleans Saints team 24th in offensive yards over expected are the only other remaining opponent on Tampa Bay's schedule in the EVE top 10.

The Bucs are 20 places higher than New Orleans on that side of the ball, with Tom Brady in the MVP conversation having thrown a league-leading 21 touchdowns through seven games.

Trust in the 44-year-old Brady and this Bucs offense continues to grow. By contrast, there are likely to be plenty of questions about the Cardinals after they fell short against a Packers team missing their three top wide receivers on Thursday.

The Rams and the Bucs are the best the NFC has to offer at this stage and, come the end of Week 8, the EVE rankings will likely reflect that.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head into Week 8 with a 6-1 record, though their form will be tested against the New Orleans Saints.

Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns and 211 yards in the Bucs' 38-3 thrashing of the Chicago Bears last week, though Tampa Bay's recent record against the Saints is poor.

The Los Angeles Rams are also 6-1, and are looking to extend their strong start when they take on the Houston Texans, who are out to avoid a franchise first.

Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase, meanwhile, have been linking up to superb effect for the Cincinnati Bengals, who are at the New York Jets on Sunday. 

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-1) @ New Orleans Saints (4-2)

Tampa Bay may have picked up from where they left off last season, but their recent run against New Orleans has not been at all profitable.

New Orleans have won five straight games against NFC South rivals Tampa Bay, which is the longest active losing streak for the Buccaneers against any single opponent.

However, the Bucs did set franchise records for points in a first quarter with 21, and points in a first half with 35, in their 38-3 win over the Bears. The 21 first-quarter and 35 first-half points are also the most scored by any NFL team this season.

Mike Evans caught three touchdowns against the Bears with all of them coming in the first half. He joined Marvin Harrison, Marvin Jones Jr, Jerry Rice, and Sterling Sharpe as the only players since the merger to have multiple games with three first-half touchdown catches.

The Saints beat the Seattle Seahawks in their last outing, and had 35 passing attempts in that win. Both teams have combined to win 76.9 per cent of their games this season, the highest combined winning percentage that the teams have ever had when facing each other.

Los Angeles Rams (6-1) @ Houston Texans (1-6)

This will be only the fifth all-time meeting between the Texans and the Rams, and just the second game since the latter moved back to Los Angeles.

The Rams have outscored the Texans by an aggregate of 71-20 over the last two meetings, and, at 6-1, Los Angeles are enjoying their equal second-best start to a season this century, behind the 7-0 run in 2018.

They are also looking to win each of their first four road games of a season for the fourth time since 2000, having also done this in 2001, 2017 and 2018.

Matthew Stafford has thrown for 2,172 yards this season, the most by any Rams player in the team's first seven games of the season since Kurt Warner threw for 2,445 yards in the first seven games of 2000.

Houston, meanwhile, have lost six straight, with each of the last two losses coming by over 25 points. The Texans have not lost three straight games by at least 25 points in franchise history – the only team to do so in a single season in the last 25 years were the Miami Dolphins in 2019.

Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) @ New York Jets (1-5)

The Bengals have won each of the last three meetings between these teams, matching their longest-ever win streak over the Jets (1973-81). Cincinnati's 23-22 win in New York in 2016 snapped a nine-game losing streak when visiting the Jets.

Cincinnati only managed four wins in 2020, but they surpassed that figure with a brilliant 41-17 victory in Baltimore last week, with quarterback Burrow and wide receiver Chase turning in stellar performances.

Burrow passed for a career-high 416 yards and tied a previous career high with three touchdown passes. It was his seventh consecutive game with multiple TD passes, tying a franchise record set twice before by Carson Palmer (2004-05 and 2010).

Chase, meanwhile, had 201 receiving yards, the most all-time by a Bengals rookie and the most by any rookie since Mike Evans had 209 in 2014. Chase's 754 receiving yards in 2021 ranks are the most by any player through seven career games in NFL history.

The Jets' 54-13 loss to the Patriots last week was their largest defeat since a 45-3 loss in Week 13 of the 2010 season, which also happened in New England. The 54 points are the fourth-most that New York have allowed in a single game and the most since 1980.

Elsewhere...

The Detroit Lions are still winless, going 0-7 so far, but could snap the losing streak against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Lions have won three straight against Philadelphia, with each of the last two games being decided by three points or fewer. 

Strugglers the Miami Dolphins travel to Buffalo. With two receiving yards on Sunday, Stefon Diggs will reach 2,000 as a Bill in just his 23rd game with the team. That would be tied for the second fewest games needed by any player with any single team in the Super Bowl era (Odell Beckham Jr. – 21 with the Giants, Vincent Jackson – 23 with Tampa Bay, Brandon Marshall – 23 with Chicago).

Fresh from their win over the Jets, the Patriots will aim to maintain the momentum against the Los Angeles Chargers, against whom they have five straight wins and are 16-3 in the last 19 meetings.

An AFC North clash sees the Browns (4-3) host the 3-3 Steelers. Pittsburgh have not won in Cleveland since 2017, as the teams tied in 2018 before the Browns won in 2019 and 2020.

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