Pittsburgh Steelers went 4-0 for the season as rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool ran in four touchdowns to inspire a thrilling 38-29 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

The other unbeaten record on the line on Sunday tumbled, though, with the Las Vegas Raiders stunning the Kansas City Chiefs with a 40-32 victory.

Elsewhere, interim head coach Romeo Crennel got off to a winning start with the Houston Texans, while there was an emotional return for Alex Smith as Washington continued to struggle.

 

CHASE RUNS AWAY WITH IT

Pittsburgh's unblemished start – the first time they have gone 4-0 since 1979 – owes much to the burgeoning relationship between veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and breakout star Claypool.

A stunning outing began when he ran into the end zone for a two-yard score after a seven-minute drive in the first quarter before Roethlisberger found Claypool for a third-down completion and a 14-7 advantage.

Claypool also scored on the Steelers' first drive of the third quarter and Roethlisberger targeted the Canadian youngster 11 times. He did so tellingly with Pittsburgh holding a slender two-point lead in the closing minutes, allowing Claypool to conclude a stellar performance that featured seven receptions, 110 receiving yards and six rushing yards.

Kansas City found themselves on the wrong end of a typically high-scoring affair against the Raiders, who had five plays of at least 40 yards and made 490 yards overall in offense.

The game was in the balance at 24-24 at half-time but Patrick Mahomes threw his first interception of 2020 in the final quarter – Josh Jacobs ultimately the beneficiary with his second touchdown.

Derek Carr threw three TDs as Las Vegas improved to 3-2.

CRENNEL GETS HOUSTON ON THE BOARD

A 0-4 start saw Houston fire Bill O'Brien and install Crennel as the oldest head coach in NFL history.

He was 73 years and 115 days old on Sunday, but perhaps felt half his age as the Texans compiled a 30-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are now similarly 1-4.

Deshaun Watson threw two interceptions but had a solid outing overall, finding eight different catchers and completing 25 of 35 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns.

ALLEN RETURNS BUT WASHINGTON WOES CONTINUE

Already without Dwayne Haskins, Washington's problems at quarterback were compounded when Kyle Allen took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Los Angeles Rams' Jalen Ramsey.

It meant a return for Alex Smith, making a first NFL appearance for 693 days after recovering from a career-threatening compound leg facture in 2018.

The 36-year-old was understandably rusty, getting sacked by six times as the Rams ran out 30-10 winners.

Washington have now lost four consecutive games by 14 or more points – the first such slump by a franchise since 2001.

Joe Flacco coming in for injured signal caller Sam Darnold did nothing to lift the New York Jets from their malaise as a 30-10 defeat to the Arizona Cardinals at MetLife Stadium saw them drop to 0-5.

The Cardinals' Kyler Murray passed for a career-high 380 yards and one touchdown, while also rushing for a TD of his own.

Murray completed 27 of his 37 passes, including one of 37 yards for a DeAndre Hopkins touchdown. Hopkins racked up a game-high 131 yards and five other Cardinals players broke 30 receiving yards.

Flacco was 18 of 33 for 195 yards and a touchdown, while he was sacked twice.

Week 5 scores:

Los Angeles Rams 30-10 Washington
Pittsburgh Steelers 38-29 Philadelphia Eagles
Arizona Cardinals 30-10 New York Jets
Las Vegas Raiders 40-32 Kansas City Chiefs
Carolina Panthers 23-16 Atlanta Falcons
Houston Texans 30-14 Jacksonville Jaguars
Baltimore Ravens​ 27-3 Cincinnati Bengals

An unstoppable force meets the immovable object in Week 5 of the NFL season as the Cleveland Browns host the Indianapolis Colts. 

Cleveland's offense has averaged over 200 rushing yards a game through the campaign's first quarter, while the Colts defense has been among the best run-stuffers in the league so far. 

Two of the NFL's finest young receivers will look to grab the acclaim when the 4-0 Seattle Seahawks face the Minnesota Vikings, while the Washington Football Team and Houston Texans will hope a big change can reverse their fortunes. 

Here, we look at the NFL's latest slate using Stats Perform Data.

 

FEATURE GAME

Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland Browns - Sunday 4.25pm (All times Eastern)

- Colts QB Philip Rivers enters the matchup with 4,996 career completions and he will almost certainly become the fifth player to complete 5,000 passes on Sunday. In the last 60 seasons, only three other quarterbacks have completed a higher percentage of their attempts through four games with a new team than Rivers' 72.7 per cent – that list includes Matt Schaub (74.0 per cent, 2007 Houston Texans), Teddy Bridgewater (73.0 per cent, 2020 Carolina Panthers), and Mark Herrmann (73.0 per cent, 1985 San Diego Chargers). 

- The Colts allowed just 28 rushing yards in their Week 4 win over the Chicago Bears, their fewest since Week 3 of 2009 (24 rushing yards versus the Arizona Cardinals). They have allowed just 945 total yards this season, their fewest through four games since holding opponents to 575 yards through the first four games of 1971.

- The Browns trio of Kareem Hunt (five TDs), Odell Beckham Jr. (four TDs), and Nick Chubb (four TDs) are the fifth trio of team-mates to each score four touchdowns in the first four games of the season. They are the first to do so since the 2013 Denver Broncos group of Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, and Julius Thomas.

OTHER KEY GAMES

Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans - Tuesday, 7pm 

- Buffalo have recorded 21 plays of at least 20 yards this season, second-most in the NFL behind only the Dallas Cowboys (23). Tennessee have an NFL-low nine plays of 20-plus yards this season, though neither the Titans nor the Bills have a single 20-yard running play this season. 

Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks - Sunday, 9.20pm 

- Ascending Seahawks star D.K. Metcalf leads the NFL in yards per catch (25.2 - minimum 10 receptions) and catches for 25-plus yards this season (seven). Justin Jefferson, a rookie with the Minnesota Vikings, ranks second in both these categories (21.8 average, 6 catches of 25-plus yards). 

Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs - Sunday, 1pm

- Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (1,526) and Raiders tight end Darren Waller (1,392) rank first and second in receiving yards for players at their position since 2019. Kelce's 845 career receiving yards against the Raiders are the most among active players at any position.

Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers - Sunday, 1pm

- The Steelers are looking for their first 4-0 start since 1979. Their current streak of 40 consecutive seasons without a 4-0 start is tied for the second-longest streak in NFL history behind a 48-year streak by the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans from 1960-2007.

Los Angeles Chargers at New Orleans Saints - Monday, 9.15pm

- Ahead of meeting the Justin Herbert-led Chargers, New Orleans QB Drew Brees has a 20-10 record when facing off against first-year quarterbacks, including wins in each of the last five such games. In those wins, Brees has a 75.8 completion percentage and has a 12-1 TD-INT ratio.

ELSEWHERE...

Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans - Sunday, 1pm

- The Texans fired Bill O'Brien this week. He was the seventh coach in NFL history to be replaced following back-to-back 10-win seasons with a team, though the first to be replaced after four or fewer games. O’Brien's replacement, Romeo Crennel, will be the oldest head coach in NFL history (73 years and 115 days on Sunday).

Los Angeles Rams at Washington Football Team - Sunday, 1pm

- Washington, who will have Kyle Allen starting at QB after benching Dwayne Haskins, have now lost three straight games by at least 14 points after a 31-17 defeat to the Baltimore Ravens. The last time the franchise lost four straight games by at least 14 points was in 2001.

The NFL was facing up to another coronavirus crisis on Wednesday, after it emerged two more Tennessee Titans players and New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore had tested positive for COVID-19. 

Tennessee's Week 4 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers had to be postponed because of a coronavirus outbreak within the AFC South franchise, with more than a dozen cases among players and coaches. 

There had been two straight days without a positive test, raising hopes the Titans could return to their facility, but NFL Network and ESPN both reported two fresh cases involving Tennessee players on Wednesday, throwing their Week 5 game against the Buffalo Bills in Nashville on Sunday into doubt. 

Pats cornerback Gilmore is also reported to have contracted the virus, becoming the second high-profile player in New England to test positive after quarterback Cam Newton last week.

The Patriots' Week 4 trip to Kansas City had to be pushed back a day as a result of isolated positive cases for both teams and was only allowed to proceed because everyone else had received the all-clear. 

However, given the virus' incubation period, there will now be a fear over a spread as last season's Defensive Player of the Year Gilmore played on Monday when the Chiefs won 26-10. 

ESPN reported no Chiefs players had returned a positive result during their latest round of testing. 

However, it also claimed a Las Vegas Raider player had shown to have contracted the virus. 

It comes after the NFL issued a memo to teams regarding stricter COVID-19 protocols as it aims to prevent outbreaks similar to the one seen in Tennessee.

The Philadelphia Eagles completed a dramatic comeback to upstage the San Francisco 49ers for their first win of the season on Sunday.

Philadelphia used a big fourth quarter to stun last season's Super Bowl finalists the 49ers at Levi's Stadium in Week 4.

Things got physical between Jalen Ramsey and Golden Tate as the Los Angeles Rams beat the New York Giants 17-9.

There were also wins for the in-form Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts.

 

EAGLES SHOCK NINERS

After two losses and a draw to open 2020, and with a growing injury list, Philadelphia faced an uphill battle away to the 49ers.

The Eagles (1-2-1) also trailed in the fourth quarter before back-to-back touchdowns lifted Philadelphia past San Francisco.

Carson Wentz threw a 42-yard TD pass to Travis Fulgham with less than six minutes remaining as the Eagles moved ahead 18-14.

With starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo sidelined, Nick Mullens then threw an interception that Alex Singleton returned for a TD as the 49ers (2-2) lost at home again.

Mullens, who committed three turnovers, was 18 for 26 for 200 yards and a touchdown before he was replaced by 49ers team-mate C.J. Beathard.

Eagles QB Wentz finished 18-of-28 for 193 yards, a touchdown and interception, while he rushed for 37 yards and a TD as the Eagles moved top of the NFC East.

NO LOVE LOST IN INGLEWOOD

There was not much drama between the Rams and Giants, that was until the game ended.

The Rams (3-1) claimed a hard-fought victory over the winless Giants (0-4) after Jared Goff and Cooper Kupp combined for a 55-yard TD with just under seven minutes left to play at SoFi Stadium.

After grinding out victory, things really heated up as Rams star Ramsey and Giants wide receiver Tate traded punches.

Ramsey, who has two young children with Tate's sister, and the latter were pulled apart by team-mates in chaotic scenes.

"We don't want to have happen at the end of the game what happened," Giants coach Joe Judge said afterwards. "That's not the way we want to be as a team."

 

BILLS STAY PERFECT

The Bills remain undefeated after seeing off the Las Vegas Raiders 30-23.

Josh Allen led the way, throwing two touchdowns and rushing for another as the Bills improved to 4-0 for the season.

QB Derek Carr was 32 for 44 for 311 yards and a pair of TDs after the Raiders (2-2) lost their second straight game and first at the new Allegiant Stadium.

Meanwhile, the Philip Rivers and the Colts (3-1) took down the Chicago Bears (3-1) 19-11.

Rivers was 16 of 29 for 190 yards and a touchdown as he moved within four completions of joining Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning with 5,000.

 

Week 4 scores:

Seattle Seahawks 31-23 Miami Dolphins
Cincinnati Bengals 33-25 Jacksonville Jaguars
Minnesota Vikings 31-23 Houston Texans
Cleveland Browns 49-38 Dallas Cowboys
Baltimore Ravens 31-17 Washington Football Team
New Orleans Saints 35-29 Detroit Lions
Carolina Panthers 31-21 Arizona Cardinals
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38-31 Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Rams 17-9 New York Giants
Buffalo Bills 30-23 Las Vegas Raiders
Indianapolis Colts 19-11 Chicago Bears
Philadelphia Eagles 25-20 San Francisco 49ers

The Atlanta Falcons set an unwanted NFL record on Sunday as they suffered another fourth-quarter collapse to lose to the Chicago Bears.

Under-fire Dan Quinn saw his men surrender a 16-point lead to lose 30-26 a week after a humiliating last-gasp loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

There were big wins for the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns, while the Tennessee Titans once more had Stephen Gostkowski to thank for a narrow victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

The New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers also won, with the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals playing out the first tie of the season.

 

FALCONS FELLED BY FOLES

Falcons coach Quinn looks to be in trouble after another fourth-quarter collapse by Atlanta, this time leading to a four-point loss to the Bears.

Nick Foles threw three touchdown passes in the final quarter, the latter connecting with Anthony Miller with two minutes remaining, as Chicago recovered from 16 points down to move to 3-0 for the season.

The Falcons are the first team in NFL history to blow a lead of 15 points or more in the fourth quarter and lose in back-to-back matches.

Matt Ryan was intercepted by Tashaun Gipson late on as a miserable day for the Falcons was compounded by the losses of Russell Gage (concussion) and Grady Jarrett (hip).

RAMS FALL SHORT IN SPECTACULAR COMEBACK, PATRIOTS SIX IN A ROW AGAINST RAIDERS

The Los Angeles Rams almost completed the third-biggest comeback ever in the regular season, only to be denied by a Tyler Kroft touchdown with 15 seconds remaining.

The Bills had squandered a 25-point advantage but were bailed out by Kroft's second of the game following good work from Josh Allen.

Elsewhere in the East, the Patriots moved to 2-0 at home as three touchdowns from Rex Burkhead led them to a 36-20 defeat of the Las Vegas Raiders.

 

TITANS BUOYED BY GOSTKOWSKI SIX APPEAL

The Titans downed the winless Minnesota Vikings 31-30 thanks to the boot of Stephen Gostkowski.

A career-high six field goals, including a 55-yarder with less than two minutes on the clock, helped to banish memories of some wayward kicking in his first two Titans outings.

Dalvin Cook rushed for a career-high 181 yards and scored for the Vikings, but they are 0-3 for the first time in seven years.

The Steelers are still perfect, though – they moved to 3-0 for the first time since 2010 by defeating the Houston Texans 28-21, Ben Roethlisberger throwing for 237 yards and two touchdowns in a franchise-record 221st appearance.

Week 3 scores:

Atlanta Falcons 26-30 Chicago Bears
Buffalo Bills 35-32 Los Angeles Rams
Cleveland Browns 34-20 Washington Football Team
Minnesota Vikings 30-31 Tennessee Titans
New England Patriots 36-20 Las Vegas Raiders
New York Giants 9-36 San Francisco 49ers
Philadelphia Eagles 23-23 Cincinnati Bengals
Pittsburgh Steelers 28-21 Houston Texans

Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson will do battle on Monday Night Football in Week 3 as the Kansas City Chiefs face the Baltimore Ravens.

Mahomes, the Super Bowl LIV MVP and 2018 season NFL MVP, and fellow quarterback Jackson, the 2019 season's NFL MVP, will hope to get the W that moves their team to 3-0.

That clash, one of a number of enticing Week 3 matchups, will provide an early indication of which franchise might be in the best shape to be the AFC's Super Bowl LV representative too.

Here, using Stats Perform data, we break down that game and the other top Week 3 showdowns.

 

FEATURE GAME

Chiefs at Ravens - Monday, 8.15pm (All times Eastern)

- There have been 13 games featuring the reigning and previous NFL MVPs starting against each other at the quarterback position (including playoffs). The reigning MVP has led his team to victory in eight of the last 10 such matchups, and is 8-5 overall.

- Mahomes hooked up with Tyreek Hill for a 54-yard touchdown in the win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2. That was Mahomes' 11th career touchdown pass of 50-plus yards (most in the NFL since 2018). The Ravens as a team have only had nine such touchdowns since 2015, four coming from the arm of Jackson.

- The Chiefs are 6-3 against the Ravens, including wins in each of the three most recent matchups and they have a 4-1 record in Baltimore.

OTHER KEY GAMES

Texans at Steelers - Sunday, 1pm

- The Steelers are 2-0 for the seventh time since 2000. They made the playoffs in each of the previous six seasons, reaching three Super Bowls and winning two titles. Pittsburgh's last 3-0 start was in 2010, when the Steelers made their last trip to the Super Bowl.

Raiders at Patriots - Sunday, 1pm

- New England are tied for ninth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (142.0) and are eighth in passing offense (268.5 yards per game). They are one of three teams in the league's top 10 in both categories, joining the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams. In Sunday's loss at the Seattle Seahawks, Cam Newton passed for 397 yards, including 312 in the second half.

Rams at Bills - Sunday, 1pm

- Buffalo are attempting to start 3-0 for a second straight season, a feat they have accomplished only twice previously in franchise history (1964-65, 1991-92). The Bills have won 10 straight games since December 2018 when scoring 20 or more points, the longest active streak in the NFL. 

Cowboys at Seahawks - Sunday, 4.15pm 

- Dak Prescott enters this weekend with 99 career touchdown passes in 66 career games. With another touchdown pass on Sunday, Prescott would be the fastest Cowboy to reach 100 TD passes – Tony Romo currently holds the record at 79 games.

Packers at Saints - Sunday, 8.20pm

- Since 2018, Davante Adams - who could miss this game through injury - has accounted for 27.8 per cent of Green Bay's receiving yards, the fifth-highest mark in the NFL. The player with the highest percentage during this span is Saints star Michael Thomas (34.5 per cent), who is out this week with an ankle injury.

ELSEWHERE...

Titans at Vikings - Sunday, 1pm

- Ryan Tannehill threw for four touchdowns and no interceptions in the win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, extending his streak of regular season games with multiple touchdown passes to a franchise-record nine games. Tannehill has a 118.1 passer rating since joining Tennessee in 2019, the best mark in the NFL over that span (minimum 250 attempts).

Buccaneers at Broncos - Sunday, 4.25pm

- Melvin Gordon has tallied 148 rushing yards on 34 attempts this season, 124 more than the Broncos' next-leading rusher (Phillip Lindsay, 24). Gordon also has five receptions and has accounted for 41.9 per cent of the Broncos' touches this season, fifth highest in the NFL.

The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks were among the most impressive teams in Week 1 - now they meet at CenturyLink Field on Sunday Night Football.

Cam Newton, Tom Brady's replacement at quarterback, led New England to a 21-11 victory over the Miami Dolphins, while Russell Wilson put on a passing clinic when completing 31 of his 35 attempts in Seattle's 38-25 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

A repeat of Super Bowl XLIX is the standout game of Sunday's slate, though there are plenty more mouth-watering encounters, including the Baltimore Ravens facing the Houston Texans.

Here we break down the big matchups using Stats Perform data.

 

FEATURE GAME

Patriots at Seahawks - Sunday, 8.20pm (all times Eastern)

- This will be the first game in NFL history in which both teams will have a head coach aged 68 or older. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is 69, while Patriots coach Bill Belichick is 68.

- Newton led the Patriots with 75 yards rushing on a game-high 15 carries in his Pats debut last week. Should he finish as New England's leading rusher again in Seattle, Newton will be his team's leading rusher for a 37th time - a new record for the most such games by a quarterback in the Super Bowl era (since 1966).

- New England have won eight straight games against NFC opponents, including their Super Bowl LIII win over the Los Angeles Rams, dating back to a loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 3 of the 2018 season.

OTHER KEY GAMES

Rams at Eagles - Sunday, 1pm

- The Eagles have won the last six meetings between these teams, including one-score wins in Los Angeles in 2017 (43-35) and 2018 (30-23). They have averaged 32.2 points during the win streak, with at least 30 points in each of the last five meetings.

Broncos at Steelers - Sunday, 1pm

- The Broncos have won four of the last five games against the Steelers, including two playoff wins. Four of those five games were decided by seven points or fewer.

Chiefs at Chargers - Sunday, 4.25pm

- After starting last season 6-4, Kansas City have won 10 straight games - regular season and playoffs. The streak began last November with a win over the Chargers in Mexico City. Each of the last seven victories have come by a double-digit margin; since 2000, only the 2007 Patriots (eight games) have had a longer streak of wins by 10 or more points.

Ravens at Texans - Sunday, 4.25pm

- The Ravens have gone 12 straight regular-season games without trailing in the second half, the longest streak by any NFL team since the Chicago Bears had a 12-game streak from 1933-34. The last team to have a streak longer than 12 games was the Green Bay Packers from 1929-30 (18).

Saints at Raiders - Monday, 4.15pm

- Josh Jacobs had three rushing touchdowns in Week 1, becoming the first Raider to do so since Latavius Murray, who is now with New Orleans, had three in Week 9 of 2016. Only two Raiders have rushed for three touchdowns more than once – Marcus Allen (five times) and Pete Banaszak (twice).

ELSEWHERE...

Falcons at Cowboys - Sunday, 1pm

- Dak Prescott has not been intercepted in his last 223 pass attempts going back to last November, the longest streak in Cowboys history. Troy Aikman held the previous mark at 216 passes in 1999.

Lions at Packers - Sunday, 1pm

- Green Bay have won seven straight home openers since a 30-22 loss against the San Francisco 49ers in 2012. That is the second-longest active streak of its kind, behind the Seahawks (11 straight).

NFL Sundays are back with a bang this weekend as Tom Brady and Drew Brees duel in New Orleans.

The two future Hall of Famers are set to face each other twice this year following ex-New England Patriots quarterback Brady's decision to join the Saints' NFC South rivals the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason.

Six-time Super Bowl winner Brady - the league's most decorated quarterback - will be aiming to bring the success he enjoyed in New England to a Bucs team deprived of postseason action in recent years.

Here, using Stats Perform data, we take a look at some of the most intriguing Week 1 matchups.

 

FEATURE GAME

Bucs at Saints - Sunday, 4.25pm (all times Eastern)

- Tampa Bay have gone 12 straight seasons without making the playoffs, the second-longest drought in the NFL (Cleveland Browns, 17 straight). The Buccaneers have not won a playoff game since defeating the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003.

- Brady has joined the Buccaneers after 20 seasons and 285 career games played with the Patriots – the most games with a franchise all-time by a player who subsequently played for another team. Brady has an all-time best .774 career win percentage as a starting QB (minimum 100 starts); the Bucs' .387 all-time win percentage is the worst among current franchises.

- The Saints have won the NFC South three straight years, posting a 13-3 record in each of the last two. They are the fourth NFC team since the merger to have back-to-back seasons of 13-plus wins, joining the 1985-86 Chicago Bears, 1989-90 San Francisco 49ers and 1996-97 Green Bay Packers; no NFL team has ever had three straight 13-win seasons.

OTHER KEY GAMES

Browns at Ravens - Sunday, 1pm

- Since the franchise returned in 1999, the Browns are 1-19-1 in season openers, with the lone win in 2004 versus Baltimore (20-3). Every other team has won at least seven season openers in that span. 

Seahawks at Falcons - Sunday, 1pm

- Ten of the Seattle Seahawks' 11 wins last year – and two of their five losses – came by eight points or fewer. They joined the 1978 Houston Oilers as the only teams in NFL history to win 10 one-score games in a season (defined as seven points when there was no two-point conversion rule, and eight points when there was).

Chargers at Bengals - Sunday, 4.05pm

- Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow will be trying to become the first Heisman-winning QB drafted first overall to win his first start in the NFL since Jim Plunkett in 1971.

Cardinals at 49ers - Sunday, 4.25pm

- In their three-game postseason run in the 2019 campaign, the 49ers outrushed their opponents 612 yards to 212 yards, the best playoff differential for any team since Washington in 1982 and the best all-time by a non-champion.

Cowboys at Rams - 8.20pm

- The 2019 Los Angeles Rams finished third in the NFC West with a 9-7 record. Los Angeles were 7-0 when allowing fewer than 17 points last season, but just 2-7 when allowing 17 or more.

ELSEWHERE...

Dolphins at Patriots - 1pm

- When Cam Newton starts for the Patriots on Sunday, it will snap a streak of 471 consecutive games – regular season and playoffs – in which the Pats have started a QB that they drafted. This is the longest such streak in NFL history.

Bears at Lions - 1pm

- Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is set to make his 150th career start on Sunday. His 41,025 career passing yards are already the most by any QB through 150 career starts, with only Aaron Rodgers (40,715) also reaching the 40,000 mark.

The road to Super Bowl LV starts this week when the 2020 NFL season begins.

However, some franchises would be wise to treat the Lombardi Trophy and Super Bowl confetti like lava and stay as far away as possible from Tampa Bay on February 7.

That is because the 'consolation prize' for the worst team this year will likely be Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, perhaps the most complete quarterback prospect to enter the draft since Andrew Luck nearly a decade ago.

So, while 'tanking' isn't considered the done thing in the NFL, a season of struggle might be a shrewd price to pay for years of prosperity with Lawrence.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, who reached the 2017 season's AFC Championship game, seemingly already have a head start in the 'race' to land Lawrence having torn down their roster, but who else should consider joining them in 'Tanking for Trevor'?

WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

If any team could do with a reason to be optimistic about the future, it's the Washington Football Team.

Washington, who went 3-13 last year, ditched their controversial 'Redskins' moniker this offseason but the regime remains under the spotlight – and an NFL investigation – following allegations of sexual harassment from former team officials.

They drafted Dwayne Haskins in the first round of last year's draft and in his nine games, he completed only 58.6 per cent of his 203 pass attempts – the 33rd and worst percentage in the NFL for quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts – and, among QBs with at least 200 dropbacks, he had the highest sack percentage (12.5 per cent).

New head coach Ron Rivera has no ties to Haskins and Lawrence would fit the bill in the nation's capital for a team that will be starting afresh with a likely new nickname in 2021.

CHICAGO BEARS

The sight of Patrick Mahomes lifting the Lombardi Trophy in Chiefs red in February was particularly sore for Bears fans given Chicago traded up and drafted Mitch Trubisky instead three years ago.

Had Mahomes wound up in the Windy City – where his former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy is the head coach – they would probably be set for the next decade plus.

Instead, they are rolling the dice on Trubisky again – even though he ranked last among qualifying QBs in yards per attempt last season – for a 2020 campaign that will likely end with general manager Ryan Pace being ousted if his chosen QB toils once more.

Trubisky isn't under contract for 2021 and free agent pickup Nick Foles is no long-term answer, so the Bears will almost certainly be in the market for another QB in the offseason. After whiffing on Trubisky, why not aim for the 'can't-miss' prospect in Lawrence?

CAROLINA PANTHERS

The Cam Newton era is over in Carolina, and former Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will get another starting shot after going 5-0 last year when Drew Brees went down.

Bridgewater has made 34 careers starts and thrown for over 300 yards on just six occasions – and half of those came in his rookie year, before his serious knee injury – and only 11 of his 196 pass attempts in 2019 were of 21 or more air yards, which was fewer than the likes of Josh Rosen, David Blough and Eli Manning.

Safe and steady is fine when you're with an uber-talented team like the Saints, but the Panthers are set to have the youngest starting defense in 10 years this season so Carolina, whose new head coach Matt Rhule has a seven-year contract, need a quarterback who can throw caution to the wind.

NEW YORK JETS

The Jets, like the Bears, have spent decades seeking a franchise passer – ever since Joe Namath departed in the 1970s having 'guaranteed', and delivered, what remains Gang Green's only Super Bowl.

They may still have one on their roster. Former first-rounder Sam Darnold, just 23, has shown flashes of brilliance in his first two years but he also had a 2.9 per cent interception rate in 2019 – worse than all but five qualifying quarterbacks – and is entering a critical juncture of his career.

With the Jets talented-starved at receiver and facing a tricky schedule, Darnold could feasibly endure another season of inconsistency. Then the Jets will have a 'Trubisky conundrum' – do they persist with a guy who has shown he can't quite be 'the guy'? 

General manager Joe Douglas did not draft Darnold – or appoint head coach Adam Gase – and may want his success to be determined by men he has selected in the key roles.

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

A wildcard, perhaps, but does Derek Carr really scream 'face of the franchise' for a Jon Gruden team now based in Sin City?

Carr supporters will note he had the second best completion percentage (70.4) in the NFL last year and was the best third-down passer in the league (127.4 quarterback rating, 14 touchdowns and one interception), yet the Raiders have still gone 39-55 in Carr's starts across his six years in the league.

Neither Gruden nor general Mike Mayock were around when Carr was drafted and his contract means a parting of the ways in 2021 would be easy to facilitate.

The Raiders have the misfortune of being in a division with Mahomes so they need offensive firepower. Lawrence would certainly provide that.

Antonio Brown has been suspended for the first eight games of the NFL season, the league announced on Friday.

Brown is a free agent after being cut by the New England Patriots after just 11 days and one game in September.

Reports have claimed Brown will not contest the punishment, meaning should he sign for a team he would miss half of the regular season.

Wide receiver Brown was found to have breached the NFL's personal conduct policy.

The official NFL website said Brown's suspension stemmed "from his no contest plea to burglary and battery charges from a January incident in Florida" and accusations regarding allegedly intimidating text messages sent to a woman.

An NFL statement read: "Antonio Brown was notified today by NFL special counsel for conduct Todd Jones that he has been suspended without pay for the first eight regular-season games of the 2020 season for multiple violations of the NFL's personal conduct policy.

"Brown, who played one game in the 2019 season for the New England Patriots before being released, is an unrestricted free agent and may sign with any team. If he is signed before the start of the 2020 season, Brown would be eligible to participate in all of his club's preseason activities. Brown's suspension would take effect as of the final roster reduction on September 5. He would be eligible to return after the team's eighth game.

"As part of the discipline, Brown was directed to continue his programme of counselling and treatment, and that he is expected fully to cooperate with his clinicians.

"Brown was advised that any future violation of the personal conduct policy will likely result in more significant discipline."

The NFL.com website said the league is looking into civil claims of sexual assault against the 32-year-old, accusations that Brown has strenuously denied.

Injuries are common in the NFL, but there is nothing conventional about how Las Vegas Raiders rookie Henry Ruggs III hurt himself.

Ruggs – the 12th pick in this year's NFL Draft – injured his thigh while helping a friend move. 

The injury is not considered serious and the Raiders are not commenting out of respect to the 21-year-old wide receiver's medical privacy. 

Ruggs' father, Henry Ruggs Jr., said his son is fine but is using crutches to avoid putting weight on the injured leg. 

"He was trying to move a trailer or something - move furniture or something - and the trailer just kind of pinned him against a car or a wall or something," Ruggs Jr. told AL.com.

"He's pretty much OK … It was just like a little open wound on his leg, a little incision. Like something had stuck him right there on his thigh a little bit." 

The first receiver selected in April's NFL Draft, Ruggs finished his three-year career at Alabama with 98 receptions for 1,716 yards. His 24 touchdown receptions are third most in program history.

 

Eli Apple is once again off the free-agent market, agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers. 

This is the second time Apple has agreed to terms with a team this offseason after the 24-year-old cornerback reportedly had a deal in place with the Las Vegas Raiders in March before it ended up falling through. 

Apple now joins a Panthers team that are light on experience at cornerback after Carolina selected two in last month's NFL Draft to add depth to the position. 

The 10th overall pick in the 2016 draft by the New York Giants, Apple has appeared in 55 games and has made 48 starts in his four-year career, totalling 197 tackles and three interceptions.

Apple started the first 15 games last season for the New Orleans Saints before an ankle injury sidelined him for the regular-season finale and playoffs. 

The Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints will each enter the 2020 season with high-profile backups.

Dallas signed Andy Dalton to a one-year, $7million contract on Saturday, the former Cincinnati Bengal following Jameis Winston in finding a new home.

Winston signed with the New Orleans Saints on a deal worth only $1.1m, a meagre sum for the NFL's passing yards leader in 2019.

They are excellent options to have in reserve and feature on our list of the best backups in the league.

 

Nick Mullens - San Francisco 49ers

Key Stat: Mullens' yards-per-attempt average of 8.31 ranked fifth in the NFL in 2018.

Mullens couldn't rescue San Francisco's 2018 season, which fell apart when Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL in Week 3. However, after he replaced an injured C.J. Beathard in Week 9 he kept the starting job for the rest of the campaign.

He impressed with his poise and his ability to run Kyle Shanahan's offense, keeping the Niners competitive down the stretch and winning three of his eight starts. Mullens was arguably the premier backup in the league going into the 2019 season but was not needed to step in as Garoppolo helped the 49ers to the Super Bowl.

Jacoby Brissett - Indianapolis Colts

Key Stat: Brissett was tied for 11th in touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2019, throwing for 18 scores and just six picks. 

The starter for the Colts last season after Andrew Luck's shock retirement, Brissett looks set to return to the backup role for the last year of his contract.

Indianapolis signed Philip Rivers to a one-year deal in the offseason, with the Colts deciding to upgrade after Brissett failed to elevate a team that struggled with injuries to the playoffs last season.

Brissett, however, has an extremely strong arm, can make plays on the move and took care of the football in 2019. His 12-20 record as a starter should not discourage teams from trying to sign him next offseason or acquire him in a trade ahead of the 2020 campaign.

Marcus Mariota - Las Vegas Raiders

Key Stat: Mariota had his best statistical season in 2016, ranking in the top 10 in passer rating (95.6), TD-INT ratio (2.89) and yards per completion (12.41)

Mariota declined in 2019 and surrendered his starting role with the Tennessee Titans to Ryan Tannehill, who led them to the AFC Championship game.

The second overall pick in the 2015 draft, Mariota unquestionably has the right pedigree, having guided the Titans to a playoff win in the 2017 season.

He has the skill set as a thrower and a runner to push starter Derek Carr and it would be no surprise if the Raiders' first season in Las Vegas is marked by a quarterback controversy.

Andy Dalton - Dallas Cowboys

Key Stat: Dalton was second in the NFL with a passer rating of 106.3 in 2015, only Russell Wilson (110.1) was superior in that regard.

The Cowboys' decision to invest in another quarterback may raise eyebrows given they are still to sign starter Dak Prescott to a new deal.

However, the expectation is that Dallas will eventually get a deal done with their franchise quarterback, and Dalton gives them an insurance policy who is worthy of having a starting job.

Dalton played at an MVP level in 2015, when a broken thumb derailed his and the Bengals' Super Bowl aspirations. He never recaptured that form in Cincinnati but his availability to serve as a backup for the Cowboys is indicative of the surplus of quarterback talent in the league.

Jameis Winston - New Orleans Saints

Key Stat: Winston's 5,109 passing yards led the NFL in 2019, he racked up 54 passing plays of 25 yards or more.

Winston was once thought to be seeking a contract in the region of $30million a year as his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers neared its end.

However, his proclivity for turning the ball over - he threw 30 interceptions in 2019 - was undoubtedly a factor in him having to settle for a substantially less lucrative deal in New Orleans after the Bucs opted to sign Tom Brady.

The first overall pick in 2015, Winston carries considerable upside as a downfield passer and is the most talented reserve in the NFL.

He has yet to channel that talent into consistency but, with Drew Brees approaching perhaps the final season of his decorated career, Winston has the perfect opportunity to transform his fortunes under head coach Sean Payton.

The first round of the 2020 NFL Draft returned some normalcy to the sports world, even if commissioner Roger Goodell's basement does not quite exude the same glitz as the Las Vegas Strip. 

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing the draft to be held remotely with NFL general managers, coaches and scouts isolated in their homes instead of inside team complexes, the virtual draft ran smoothly – and without much drama early on Thursday.

In what has been widely expected for weeks, and possibly months, the Cincinnati Bengals selected LSU Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow with the first overall pick.

Burrow led LSU to the national title last season, completing 76.3 percent of his passes for 5,671 yards and an FBS-single season record 60 touchdowns to just six interceptions. 

The second pick also went exactly like how many draft experts had predicted for weeks, with the Washington Redskins drafting Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young. 

Young led the FBS with 16.5 sacks and six forced fumbles in 2019, and was regarded to be the most talented player in the draft class – even ahead of Burrow. 

If not for Burrow's incredible 2019 season and because of Tua Tagovailoa's injury concerns, the latter may have challenged for the top spot in the 2020 draft. 

Tagovailoa became the second quarterback off the board when he was selected by the Miami Dolphins with the fifth pick.

One pick after Tagovailoa, the Los Angeles Chargers took Oregon QB Justin Herbert – just the third time since the 1970 merger three quarterbacks were chosen in the top six picks. 

Three teams that had selected quarterbacks in the first round of the last two drafts, used the 2020 draft to beef up their offensive lines to protect their young, franchise QBs. 

The New York Giants (Daniel Jones at six in 2019) picked Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas at fourth overall, the Cleveland Browns (Baker Mayfield at one in 2018) selected Alabama tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. with the 10th pick, and the New York Jets (Sam Darnold third in 2018) used the next pick to select Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton. 

After this run on tackles, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took part in the first trade of the draft to insure their new – and aging – quarterback would also stay upright. They moved up one spot in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers to select Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs at 13 to shore up the offensive line in front of Tom Brady. 

The next trade came 10 picks later as Brady's old team, New England Patriots, dealt pick 23 to the Chargers – who selected Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray. The Patriots received a second and third-round pick from the Chargers and now have five of the first 100 picks of the 2020 draft and 13 overall. 

While it is possible New England could use one of those picks to draft Brady's replacement, the Green Bay Packers have chosen the heir apparent to 36-year-old Aaron Rodgers, trading up from 30th to 26th to select Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. 

The opening round concluded with the defending Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs selecting the first running back to bookend the first round with LSU picks, taking Clyde Edwards-Helaire – the 14th player drafted out of the SEC. 

Wide receiver is considered to be the deepest position in the draft, and six went in the first round – but none until 12, when Alabama's Henry Ruggs III became the first player ever selected by the Raiders in their new home of Las Vegas. 

While Las Vegas was not able to host the draft festivities this year, Goodell announced that the city has been awarded the 2022 draft, with the commissioner saying, "We think you deserve another shot".

 

First round selections:

1. Joe Burrow (Cincinnati Bengals)
2. Chase Young (Washington Redskins)
3. Jeff Okudah (Detroit Lions)
4. Andrew Thomas (New York Giants)
5. Tua Tagovailoa (Miami Dolphins)
6. Justin Herbert (Los Angeles Chargers)
7. Derrick Brown (Carolina Panthers)
8. Isaiah Simmons (Arizona Cardinals)
9. CJ Henderson (Jacksonville Jaguars)
10. Jedrick Wills Jr. (Cleveland Browns)
11. Mekhi Becton (New York Jets)
12. Henry Ruggs III (Las Vegas Raiders)
13. Tristan Wirfs (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
14. Javon Kinlaw (San Francisco 49ers)
15. Jerry Jeudy (Denver Broncos)
16. A.J. Terrell (Atlanta Falcons)
17. CeeDee Lamb (Dallas Cowboys)
18. Austin Jackson (Miami Dolphins)
19. Damon Arnette (Las Vegas Raiders)
20. K'Lavon Chaisson (Jacksonville Jaguars)
21. Jalen Reagor (Philadelphia Eagles)
22. Justin Jefferson (Minnesota Vikings)
23. Kenneth Murray (Los Angeles Chargers)
24. Cesar Ruiz (New Orleans Saints)
25. Brandon Aiyuk (San Francisco 49ers)
26. Jordan Love (Green Bay Packers)
27. Jordyn Brooks (Seattle Seahawks)
28. Patrick Queen (Baltimore Ravens)
29. Isaiah Wilson (Tennessee Titans)
30. Noah Igbinoghene (Miami Dolphins)
31. Jeff Gladney (Minnesota Vikings)
32. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Kansas City Chiefs)

The NFL Draft is a crucial part of the team-building process, with this year as important as ever even though selections will be made remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With a dramatic free agency period now largely complete, contenders for Super Bowl glory in the 2020 season have already emerged.

The Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints are expected to feature prominently in the playoffs once more, with Tom Brady's arrival putting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the mix as well.

All 32 teams understand the draft's importance, though while some of the top rosters may only need to fill one or two needs and ideally select the best player available, others are facing critical decisions that could alter the future of their franchise.

For the following eight teams, the pressure is on ahead of a 2020 draft that could impact their postseason chances, and the job security of those in charge, for many years to come.
 

Las Vegas Raiders

Armed with two first-round selections thanks to the Khalil Mack trade, the Raiders will pick at 12 and 19. Head coach Jon Gruden has had two losing seasons since signing his big-money contract, while Mike Mayock's first draft as general manager, that included three 2019 first-round picks, received mixed reviews on the evidence of last season. 

With question marks over whether Derek Carr will be the long-term quarterback, the Raiders need to give him weapons and will desperately hope to land one of the star receivers, CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs.

Secondary help with their other top pick could address another key need, with the Raiders in need of tangible progress in their first year in Vegas following the departures of Mack and Amari Cooper in exchange for draft assets over recent seasons.

New York Giants

The Giants will pick at number 4 this year, having selected at 2 and 6 over the past two years – a sign that all has not been well on the field. Running back Saquon Barkley and QB Daniel Jones have been their previous premium selections. An offensive tackle or versatile safety-linebacker hybrid Isaiah Simmons are seen as the most likely options this time around.

After the firing of head coach Pat Shurmur, pressure is on GM Dave Gettleman to hit with that pick and his selection at 36 for a roster still needing a significant injection of talent under Joe Judge. With no playoff win since their 2011 championship season, fans are growing impatient.

Miami Dolphins

After stripping the roster bare in 2019, free agency saw the Dolphins begin to use the salary cap space they had freed up, with Byron Jones lured from the Dallas Cowboys to be made the NFL's highest-paid cornerback. 

Now it is time for the Dolphins to start making the most of their masses of draft capital. They have three picks in the first round - 5, 18 and 26 – and three more across rounds two and three (39, 56 and 70).

They face a key decision regarding their long-term future at QB, with current starter Ryan Fitzpatrick only a bridge option. If they are happy with his medical reports, the Dolphins could trade up for Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa, stay at five to see if he drops, or instead go down a different route by taking Justin Herbert or Jordan Love with one of their three first-rounders.

That is a decision of paramount importance and with so many other selections in a deep class at tackle and receiver, it is a draft that, if they get it right, could catapult the Dolphins into being perennial AFC East contenders after the New England Patriots lost Brady.

Detroit Lions

Just nine wins in two seasons since arriving from the Patriots has Matt Patricia under pressure in Detroit. After trading Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Lions have been strongly linked with cornerback Jeffrey Okudah at number three overall.

With picks near the top of the second and third rounds too, and number 85 picked up as part of the deal for Slay, Lions GM Bob Quinn has options, including trading down from three. This is a pivotal draft in the team's rebuild.

Atlanta Falcons

The Saints have won the NFC South for three straight seasons and Brady's arrival with the Bucs gives the division another powerhouse. 

That leaves the Falcons in a difficult spot, given they have underwhelmed since their Super Bowl collapse at the end of the 2016 season. The Falcons are not rebuilding, and the clock is ticking for them with QB Matt Ryan now 34 and star wideout Julio Jones 31. 

Unlike many of the other teams in this list, the Falcons are not blessed with extensive draft capital, with only number 15, 47 and 78 in the top 100. GM Thomas Dimitroff may have to pull off something special if his team are to keep pace with divisional rivals led by Brady and Drew Brees.

New England Patriots

All eyes are on the Patriots after Brady's departure. Bill Belichick has given little away, this draft will tell us if he plans to draft an immediate successor, with his other options being rolling with Jarrett Stidham at QB in 2020, and potentially beyond, or signing a free agent like Cam Newton.

The Patriots have a pick at 23 that is prompting huge debate, given they are not scheduled to make another selection until number 87. If they go QB in the first round, it will leave the roster without star offensive weapons, one of the factors that frustrated Brady towards the end of his tenure.

Belichick has praised the depth and quality of the QB class and could wait to see if a developmental option under center is available in the middle rounds while selecting an immediate contributor at another position in round one. Or, he could do nothing and build around Stidham or a veteran recruit.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are one of the most intriguing teams in this year's draft with picks at nine and 20, as well as a second-round selection at 42. Trading away Nick Foles appeared to indicate Gardner Minshew will be unchallenged at QB, but would that remain the case if the team have a high grade on Herbert or Love and either fall into their lap?

Jacksonville's defense is in a complete rebuild after last season's Jalen Ramsey trade was followed by the offseason exits of A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell, while more receiving options for Minshew are also needed.

Two frustrating seasons have followed their AFC Championship berth and the pressure is on - this draft must set foundations to move the team towards contending again.

Minnesota Vikings

While Kirk Cousins' big-money contract extension removes any questions about the Vikings' future at quarterback, they go into the draft with some glaring needs.

The evaluations on whether they were wise to trade away Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills will be based on how they replace him with a historic class of a receivers to choose from. Cornerback reinforcements are a key requirement on the defensive side of the ball.

Having renewed their commitment to Cousins and with the Green Bay Packers to chase down in the NFC North, the Vikings - who pick at 22 and 25 in the first round - need to hit at those priority positions if they are to compete this year.

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