After a drama-filled 48 hours between the Raiders and disgruntled receiver Antonio Brown, Oakland have decided to move on a day before the season starts.

The team officially announced his release on Saturday, just hours after the star wideout asked to be let go on Instagram.

Brown shared a message that read: "You are gonna p*** a lot of people off when you start doing what's best for you."

In the same post, he added: "And that's fine! I have worked my whole life to prove that the system is blind to see talent like mines [sic]. Now that everyone sees it, they want me to conform to that same system that has failed me all those years.

"I'm not mad at anyone. I'm just asking for the freedom to prove them all wrong." Release me @raiders #NOMore #theyputblindersonahorseforareason #NoMoreFake."

Oakland soon confirmed they had parted company with Brown. The briefest of statements, released on Twitter and their official website, read: "The Raiders have released WR Antonio Brown from the team today."

According to ESPN, the Raiders fined Brown $215,073.53 on Friday for conduct detrimental to the team - following a reported row with GM Mike Mayock - and voided his guaranteed money.

Brown told ESPN that the Raiders took away more than $29million in guaranteed money from his contract, stating there's "no way I play after they took that and made my contract week to week."

He had also been fined nearly $54,000 earlier in the week for missing practice time and a walk-through, also considered to be conduct detrimental to the team.

Brown posted his displeasure with his first fine on Instagram while taking a shot at the Raiders. Shortly after, multiple reports indicated Oakland was considering suspending the wideout.

After 24 hours of speculation and uncertainty about his status with the Raiders, Brown apologised to the team on Friday and head coach Jon Gruden said the plan was for Brown to play in Week 1 against the Denver Broncos. 

That plan has changed rather quickly.

Antonio Brown has been released by the Oakland Raiders, the team announced on Saturday.

Antonio Brown has called on the Oakland Raiders to release him as his problems with the team continue to play out in public.

Brown, who was acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers back in March, has been at the centre of much controversy in recent months, including a holdout due to a dispute with the NFL over helmet regulations.

The wide receiver was consequently fined $53,950 for missing mandatory practices and walk-throughs.

It was reported Brown faced a ban following a confrontation with general manager Mike Mayock, but he issued an apology and was back training with the Raiders on Friday, seemingly putting the myriad issues behind him.

Brown posted a video on his official YouTube page on Friday that appeared to include clips of a conversation with head coach Jon Gruden in which the player says: "I've been trying to be a Raider since day one."

"It's time for me to control my own narrative," he wrote alongside the video. "Show the world I'm not the bad guy."

But this was followed by an Instagram post from Brown on Saturday that suggested his relationship with Oakland had soured once more.

He posted a quote: "You are gonna p*** a lot of people off when you start doing what's best for you."

Brown continued in the caption, challenging the Raiders to release him: "And that's fine! I have worked my whole life to prove that the system is blind to see talent like mine.

"Now that everyone sees it, they want me to conform to that same system that has failed me all those years.

"'I'm not mad at anyone. I'm just asking for the freedom to prove them all wrong'.

"Release me, @raiders. #NOMore #theyputblindersonahorseforareason #NoMoreFake"

ESPN reported the post was in response to the Raiders fining Brown another $215,073.53 for conduct detrimental to the team, voiding the guaranteed $29.125million in his contract.

It is said Brown, who had been set to play the season opener, is not now willing to face the Denver Broncos on Monday.

We are just one day into the regular season and there is a lot to recap in the NFL.

From Antonio Brown's continued drama in his first season with the Oakland Raiders, to a few extension updates.

We run through all that is happening around the league in this edition of NFL news and notes.


Three things that matter

Brown, Gruden speak out after more drama

Well, the drama in Oakland might not be over yet but at least one saga seems to be done. After 24 hours of uncertainty around Brown's status, head coach Jon Gruden said the plan is for Brown to play in the Raiders' season opener against the Denver Broncos on Monday. Gruden's comments were a change of pace, considering just hours before it had been reported that Oakland planned to suspend the receiver after he got into a verbal altercation with general Mike Mayock. 

"Antonio is back today. We're really excited about that," Gruden told reporters. "We're ready to move on. He's obviously had a lot of time to think about things and we're happy to have him back and Raider nation is excited about that too."

Brown spoke to reporters briefly at Friday's practice, saying, "I'm excited to be out here with my team. I apologised to my team-mates, the organisation. Enough talk. I've decided to be out here with my team-mates, grateful for all the fans. I'm excited to be a part of the Raiders."

Rams running back Gurley won't be limited 

The Los Angeles Rams are not planning to limit Todd Gurley in week one, even though the running back is coming off a knee problem that hampered his performance last season. When asked whether Gurley would be playing a limited number of snaps against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, coach Sean McVay simply said: "Nope."

After missing last term's final two regular-season games because of inflammation and soreness in his left knee that was later reported to be arthritis, Gurley had a special training schedule during camp. He practiced every other day to ease back into a full workload and did not play in any preseason games.

"I'm excited to see Todd Gurley continue to do his thing," McVay said. "He looks good, he's feeling good and we're looking forward to Sunday."

Chiefs, wideout Hill agree to big extension

Tyreek Hill is not planning to leave the Kansas City Chiefs anytime soon. The Chiefs receiver agreed to a contract extension that was reported to be for three years and worth $54million. He was set to enter the final year of his rookie contract that will pay him a little more than $2m this season.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue my playing career here in Kansas City," Hill said in a statement on Friday. "Kansas City is my home, and I appreciate the love and support from [owner] Clark Hunt, Coach [Andy] Reid and Brett Veach along with my coaches and team-mates. To Chiefs Kingdom, you're the best fans in the world."

Hill has dealt with multiple off-the-field incidents overshadowing his playing career with the most recent being a leaked audio recording of him and his fiancee, Crystal Espinal, talking about alleged abuse of their three-year-old son. 

Hill has 223 catches for 3,255 yards with 25 receiving touchdowns throughout his three-year NFL career. He also has rushed 63 times for 477 yards with four touchdowns.

Two things that don't matter

Cowboys, Cooper aren't far in extension negotiations 

After signing Ezekiel Elliott to a new contract to end the running back's holdout, the Dallas Cowboys still have Amari Cooper hoping for an extension. But it looks like it may take some time before the wideout has a new contract.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones provided a brief update on how negotiations have been going when it comes to the 25-year-old receiver.

"There haven't been a lot of negotiations with Amari, period," Jones said. "And I'm not free to be able to share why. I think at some point we'll start that. I don't know what their parameters will be." 

This is not a huge concern because Cooper has not held out and there is plenty of time to get a deal done this season. Cooper said he would rather be with the team "running routes, catching balls from Dak" instead of sitting out. He addressed his contract status earlier this week, saying: "I don't know, to be honest."

Dallas acquired Cooper through a trade with the Raiders in October last season in exchange for a 2019 first-round draft pick, which gives reason to believe the two sides will eventually reach an agreement. 

Nagy concerned about Bears offense 

Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy was clearly frustrated with his offense after his team scored just three points against the Green Bay Packers in their season opener on Thursday, but he was willing to take most of the blame. 

"Obviously unacceptable," Nagy told reporters after the loss. "Starts with me, so this — I just told the guys in there, this is not who we are. I was proud of our defense. I thought they played their a** off tonight. Offensively, not good enough. And we're going to fix it. Our guys know that."

The Bears fell 10-3 and finished with just 254 total yards, averaging just 3.9 yards per play and going three for 15 on third-down conversions. They also were penalised 10 times for a loss of 107 yards.

One glaring concern for the Bears was quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who struggled as he completed 26 of 45 passes for 228 yards with no touchdowns and a red zone interception. Trubisky said after the game he let a lot of his team-mates down and could have been better, but Nagy admitted he did not help the QB enough.

While the Bears' week one play was concerning, it is still early in the season so Nagy and Trubisky have time to figure it out. 

One video you have to see

The Atlanta Falcons put together a video compiling the reactions that offensive and defensive linemen would have if they moved positions and scored a touchdown. Their reactions are pretty priceless.

Friday's tweet of the day

In case you got lost with all the Brown news, here is a recap.

Antonio Brown is set to play for the Oakland Raiders in their Week 1 game against the Denver Broncos, according to head coach Jon Gruden.

The wide receiver was absent from practice on Thursday amid reports he was facing a ban following a confrontation with general manager Mike Mayock the previous day.

Brown had previously expressed his displeasure over being fined $53,950 for missing mandatory practices and walk-throughs while filing two grievances against the NFL in an attempt to get clearance to wear his outdated helmet this season.

However, after issuing an apology prior to the practice session, the 31-year-old was back working with his team-mates on Friday ahead of the season opener against the Broncos on Monday.

"Antonio is back today. We're really excited about that," Gruden told reporters. "We're ready to move on.

"He's obviously had a lot of time to think about things and we're happy to have him back and Raider nation is excited about that too."

Brown appeared briefly to speak to reporters at the workout, saying: "I'm excited to be out here with my team. I apologized to my team-mates, the organisation.

"Enough talk. I've decided to be out here with my team-mates, grateful for all the fans. I'm excited to be a part of the Raiders."

Oakland acquired Brown in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers back in March, sending picks in the third and fifth rounds of the 2019 draft in the opposite direction.

They immediately signed the seven-time Pro Bowler to a new contract, reportedly for three years and worth a guaranteed $30.125million.

Antonio Brown's agent said he had been in touch with Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock trying to heal the wide receiver's relationship with the team.

Brown's saga with the Raiders took another wrong turn on Wednesday when he and Mayock had an altercation, which prompted the team to make plans to suspend him, according to ESPN.

Brown's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told NBC Sports he was trying to work things out with the Raiders.

"I think there's been a lot of speculation," Rosenhaus said.

"The reality is that we're still talking through many scenarios. There has yet to be a suspension. Nothing is final yet. I've been in touch with coach Gruden, Mike Mayock. We're doing our best to work this out. Trying to keep this relationship moving in a good direction again."

Mayock did not elaborate on the situation when he spoke to reporters on Thursday.

"Antonio Brown is not in the building today. He's not going to be practising," Mayock said.

"I don't have any more information. When we do, I'll get it to you. That's it for today."

ESPN also noted that if the Raiders suspend Brown with the intention of voiding the $30.125million of guaranteed money in his contract, they could successfully dump the receiver, ending his time with the team.

As to whether Brown still wants to play for the Raiders, Rosenhaus said he believes so.

"I believe he does. I can't speak for him, but in my conversations with him, he's willing to honour his contract and play for the Raiders," Rosenhaus said.

The agent said if it were up to Brown, he would play on Monday in the season opener against the Denver Broncos.

But can the two sides mend fences before then?

"I'm not optimistic that I can give you an answer to that right now," Rosenhaus said. "If it were up to me, if it were up to Antonio, he would play. But there's a lot of people involved who have to make that decision."

Brown missed the first part of training camp due to frostbite on his feet from not wearing the proper footwear in a cryotherapy machine, and he then held out from practice as he filed two grievances against the NFL in an attempt to wear his outdated helmet.

The 31-year-old receiver recently voiced his displeasure over being fined nearly $54,000 for missing mandatory practices and walk-throughs and the Raiders sent him a letter saying his conduct was becoming "detrimental to the team".

The 2019 NFL season is officially upon us, but not all eyes are on Chicago as the Bears-Green Bay Packers opener looms.

The attention has instead been diverted to Oakland, where one of the offseason's most intriguing storylines took an even more dramatic turn.

Three things that matter

Antonio Brown on his way out of Oakland already?

The saga just keeps getting stranger. The Oakland Raiders receiver seemingly resolved his helmet issue, but called his team out on Instagram after he was fined for missing mandatory team activities during the preseason. That did not go over well with Raiders general manager Mike Mayock, and ESPN reported that he and Brown "got into it" on Wednesday.

Now, Brown is facing a possible suspension and the Raiders could discipline him with the idea of trying to void the $30.125million of guaranteed money in his contract.

Stay tuned.

Cowboys won't rush Ezekiel Elliott up to speed

The star rusher impressed when he returned to practice, and while Jason Garrett said it was "too early" to tell if Elliott will be on a pitch count in Sunday's opener against the New York Giants, the Cowboys coach did say he will be worked back in slowly.

"You just want to have a plan and you recognise where he's been," Garrett told reporters. "There's no question he's been working out, he's in good shape, his weight's good, all of that. But again he hasn't been practising against pro football players so you just work your way back into it.

"He's an experienced guy. He's played a lot of football for us so we just use our best judgement based on what we see, his feedback, what he says to us, how he feels, all of that. You just take it step by step."

Elliott has averaged 25 touches per game over 40 contests in his career, so we will see if his holdout affects those numbers.

Julio Jones backtracks comments about week one availability

The Atlanta Falcons receiver began his media availability by saying everything is going great concerning contract negotiations, then insisted he "doesn't know" if he will play on Sunday if he does not have a new contract before declaring he does want to be on the field.

Clearly Jones is getting frustrated, but will it affect his performance in Minnesota if he is in fact active? He hinted he is sore from the turf, so that is another factor to consider.

Two things that don't matter

Tyler Higbee gets 4-year extension

The tight end joined quarterback Jared Goff by extending his stay in Los Angeles through the 2023 season. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the deal reportedly makes Higbee among the top-10 highest-paid tight ends.

He had 24 receptions for 292 yards and two touchdowns in 2018, and he has 60 catches for 672 yards and four scores for his career.

Patriots aren't favourites to win Super Bowl LIV

The Kansas City Chiefs beat out the New England Patriots, as well as the New Orleans Saints, in Las Vegas as the team most likely to hoist the Lombardi Trophy this season.

Interestingly, the overhauled Cleveland Browns received the biggest number of bets overall around the country.

A lot can change over the next five months, but it is certainly an interesting start to the season.

One video you have to see

Football is back, and so are the Bud Light victory fridges. We'll see if Cleveland fans have to wait until week three like last season to get in them.

Thursday's tweet of the day

In true centennial celebration fashion, Hall of Famer Brett Favre faced off against young gun Patrick Mahomes in a no-look throw challenge ahead of the Bears-Packers showdown to kick off the NFL's 100th year.

Antonio Brown was absent from Oakland Raiders practice on Thursday amid reports he is going to be suspended by the team.

According to ESPN, the star wide receiver is facing a ban from the Raiders after he and general manager Mike Mayock "got into it" on Wednesday.

In a short statement to the media, Mayock said: "Antonio Brown is not in the building today. He won't be practicing.

"I don't have any more information for you right now, and when I have some, and it becomes appropriate, you guys will all get it. I promise you, but that's it for today."

Brown this week expressed his displeasure over being fined $53,950 for missing mandatory practices and walk-throughs and was given a letter from the Raiders that stated he could face further punishment if he continued to display "conduct detrimental to the team".

The wideout missed the first part of training camp due to frostbite on his feet from not wearing the proper footwear in a cryotherapy machine, and then held out from practice as he filed two grievances against the NFL in an attempt at wearing his outdated helmet.

While his feet have healed and he chose new headgear for the season, Mayock said recently Brown had to decide if he was "all in" with Oakland.

The day before the start of the NFL regular season was all about contracts, and there could be more to come this week.

Meanwhile, one player is taking the opportunity to remind people he will still looking for a job.


Three things that matter

Elliott ends holdout after getting Cowboys extension

Just hours after Jared Goff signed a record-breaking deal with the Los Angeles Rams, Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott got the contract he has been holding out all offseason for — a six-year deal worth $90million in new money that included $50m guaranteed to make him the NFL's highest-paid running back. 

The 24-year-old returned to Dallas on Tuesday and was back at practice with the team on Wednesday for the first time this year.

The Cowboys open the regular season against the New York Giants on Sunday.

Brown has his helmet, but is still left with fines

Oakland Raiders receiver Antonio Brown will wear a Xenith Shadow after previously sporting a Schutt AiR Advantage, which was no longer approved by the NFL because it was deemed outdated. Brown said the new helmet makes him feel "agile and comfortable" while also allowing for "better visibility."

Brown had filed two grievances against the league as he hoped to avoid wearing a new model, but he lost both hearings. Given he did not have proper headgear until now, he is left with more than $50,000 in fines he racked up for missing mandatory team activities while the equipment debacle was ongoing.

Foles dealing with abdominal soreness

Nonetheless, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles is still expected to be under center for Sunday's opener against the Kansas City Chiefs, but his status is something to be monitored when the team resumes practice on Thursday.

Foles was held to just 19 snaps in the preseason, all of which came during the third game against the Miami Dolphins. Should his limited availability continue, though, the Jaguars only have rookie Gardner Minshew and second-year quarterback Chase Litton on the depth chart.

Two things that don't matter

Gordon trade market lukewarm

Maybe it is the high asking price, as the Chargers are rumoured to be seeking a first-round pick and a fifth-round pick. But the running back has not garnered much interest beyond the Philadelphia Eagles. 

The Eagles reportedly proposed sending Jordan Howard to the Chargers in exchange for Melvin Gordon and a swap of mid-round picks. However, this would cause the Chargers to take on some of Gordon's salary, so naturally, the team declined the lopsided trade.

Gordon will miss week one against the Indianapolis Colts since he failed to report to the Chargers' facility this week, so we will have to wait and see what happens in week two.

Atlanta "very, very close" to agreement with Jones

The Atlanta Falcons receiver never had plans to hold out but team owner Arthur Blank offered some assurance, saying he has every reason to believe the two sides will reach a deal soon.

"I'd be surprised and disappointed if we didn't get it done this week. ... I think it's very reasonable to assume it will get done this week," Blank told The Athletic.

Julio Jones, who is set to earn $9.6m in 2019, has two years remaining on the five-year deal worth $71m he signed in 2015. But the expectation has long been that Jones will have a new contract in place before Atlanta kick off the regular season against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

One video you have to see

A shirtless Odell Beckham Jr. caught passes — including a couple one-handed beauties — from Colin Kaepernick in a video the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback tweeted.

Wednesday's tweet of the day

Brown let the Raiders know exactly how he felt when he shared a screenshot of his fines to his Instagram story with the caption that read, in part, "when your own team want to hate but there's no stopping me now."

The 2019 NFL season is a celebration of the century - and such an occasion requires lots of attention.

The league returns on Thursday as the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers renew the NFL's oldest rivalry, opening its 100th season with an NFC North showdown.

But it's just the beginning of a season with many intriguing games and narratives that are sure to follow as the New England Patriots chase a record-breaking seventh Super Bowl win, the Indianapolis Colts deal with the aftermath of Andrew Luck's retirement and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz continues a(nother) comeback campaign.

We take a look at the key storylines.


Will Antonio Brown's season be as turbulent as his offseason?

It seems hard to top, but the 31-year-old did lead the league in receiving touchdowns last season and has plenty of other eye-popping stats on his resume. Still, the Pittsburgh Steelers' disastrous 2018 campaign is proof that distractions can be divisive, and Brown has dealt with a number of diversions this offseason, from his frostbitten feet to his helmet holdout. Will business boom or bust in Oakland? Keep your popcorn full.

How will quarterbacks on the mend fare?

Cam Newton (shoulder) and Jimmy Garoppolo (knee), Andy Dalton (thumb) and Marcus Mariota (foot, rib, shoulder, neck, back, nerves). Need we go on? There are a number of signal-callers seeking retribution after their 2018 campaigns were interrupted or cut short due to injury. Can these prominent passers prove they still have it or will it be next man up on the depth chart?

Are the Browns contenders?

It's a legitimate question after the overhaul offseason that saw the addition of new targets for second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield in Odell Beckham Jr and Kareem Hunt - who will begin the season suspended - but like first-year coach Freddie Kitchens, the team is still young. The Cleveland Browns improved to 7-8-1 after their infamous 0-16 season in 2017, and the team's offseason acquisitions give reason to believe the long-suffering fanbase is finally in for a treat this year. The AFC North is ruthless, but this could be the year Cleveland return to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

How long will Eli Manning last as the Giants' starter?

There's a reason the New York Giants drafted Daniel Jones out of Duke with the sixth overall pick in April, but how quickly will that backup plan will be put into action? While the rookie impressed in preseason, it's said the starting job will remain Eli Manning's as long as the team is in contention. But it's hard to forget the veteran's irregularity last season. Manning completed 66 per cent of his passes for 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as the Giants missed the playoffs for a second straight year. Do they have the patience for another year?

Can Le'Veon Bell stay healthy after nearly 600 days away from the game?

The star rusher has remained relatively quiet since leaving the Steelers for the New York Jets, but could it just be the calm before the storm? Le'Veon Bell does have 5,336 rushing yards, 2,660 receiving yards and 42 touchdowns through his first five NFL seasons, but practice isn't the same as in-game action - and it's been a while since he's seen any. Still, the Jets running back appears ready to let his performance this season do the talking.

How will Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury adjust with the Cardinals?

The rookie quarterback and first-year NFL coach face the tall task of turning around a team that finished with their worst record in nearly two decades as the Arizona Cardinals went 3-13 in 2018. Arizona will still need to be cautious with Kyler Murray, as the dual-sport star continues to get comfortable following his preseason inconsistencies, but Kliff Kingsbury is expected to be more aggressive. The duo should be able to shake their nerves fairly quickly.

Will the Raiders bid farewell to Oakland with a winning season?

The Raiders have had only one winning season since 2002, but they have plenty to be optimistic about after selecting four rookies in the top 40 picks of this year's Draft in addition to acquiring Brown, Richie Incognito and Vontaze Burfict. They could even advance in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, something that would certainly be a sweet send-off to Sin City ahead of the team's 2020 relocation.

Can the Steelers still thrive without the 'Killer Bs'?

Bell and Brown left Pittsburgh in dramatic fashion this offseason, leaving only Ben Roethlisberger after a turbulent 2018 season in which the Steelers finished 9-6-1 and outside the playoffs for the first time since 2013 amid myriad distractions. Now it's time for third-year stars James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster to shine in their stead - if they can stay healthy. As for the team's Ryan Shazier-sized void on defense, there are high hopes first-round pick Devin Bush can bring back Blitzburgh.

How will the new pass interference rule play out?

Just don't ask a New Orleans Saints fan, because it will always be too little too late for them. Now that coaches can challenge pass interference calls and non-calls as part of the replay review system, such catastrophes like the infamous no-call in last season's NFC championship game can be avoided. But the new rule could also open a can of worms and change the strategies for using challenges in general. To see how it plays out, you'll just have to stay tuned.

Will the NFL negotiate a new CBA?

The league has been hinting that a new collective bargaining agreement could be finalized as early as September, but an ominous "work stoppage ready" plan distributed in July, urging players to be prepared for "loss of income, loss of health insurance, increased training costs and loss of camaraderie and structure", suggested otherwise. The current CBA is set to expire after the 2020 season, so the clock is ticking.

Antonio Brown is unhappy with the fines he received from the Oakland Raiders for missing mandatory team activities during the offseason. 

The Raiders wide receiver posted on his Instagram story a letter he received from general manager Mike Mayock that stated he has been fined $13,950 for missing the team's walk through on August 22.

The correspondence also said Brown was previously fined $40,000 for missing preseason training camp on August 18, and Oakland could take further action if he continues to miss mandatory team activities. 

Brown was not afraid to share his thoughts, as he wrote alongside an image of the letter: "When your own team want to hate but there's no stopping me now devil is a lie. Everyone got to pay this year so we clear."

The 31-year-old's public displeasure adds to the eventful offseason he has already had in Oakland.

The receiver started the Raiders' training camp on the non-football injury list. It was believed he was recovering from a "minor injury" he sustained after using a cryotherapy machine "without the proper footwear", resulting in frostbite.

However, it was later revealed Brown's holdout was related to a dispute with the NFL over his helmet. Brown wanted to wear his old headgear, which is no longer on the NFL's approved list, and reportedly threatened to quit if he could not. He filed two grievances against the league as he hoped to avoid wearing a new model, but he lost both hearings. 

Despite the distractions, Raiders coach Jon Gruden has insisted that Brown is "all in and ready to go."

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs took the AFC West by storm last year.

The reigning NFL MVP had a history-making season in his first year as a starter and ended 2018 near the top of almost every statistical category after transforming the Chiefs and their offense.

Mahomes' list of accomplishments is long, but what is arguably the most impressive is how many times he was connecting with his receiving corps. He threw 50 touchdown passes - five short of Peyton Manning's single-season touchdown record — to lead the Chiefs to the AFC championship game.

But Mahomes was not the only player in Kansas City to have a breakout season. The Chiefs saw tight end Travis Kelce emerge as one of the best in his position. Then there are wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins, leaving Kansas City poised to see off the Los Angeles Chargers, the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders for top spot in the division again.

"The sky is the limit for this offense," Kelce said in August. "The guys who have been here, that have been here the last couple years, especially last year; we're taking it up a level that we have in years past. You can just tell from the coaches’ excitement to their attention to detail, to how guys are reacting to their coaching. This team is going to be awesome and we're going to have a lot of fun on the offensive side of the ball."

However, the Chiefs potential 2019 run could be halted with some stiffer competition in the West.

The Chargers returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and are still looking to get Hall of Fame candidate Philip Rivers to a Super Bowl, the Raiders added Antonio Brown and the Broncos have another veteran on offense in Joe Flacco. There are loaded rosters throughout the division, which could make for another exciting battle.

Player to watch 

Hunter Henry, Chargers tight end

The Chargers were without Hunter Henry last year after he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury that ruined his third season in the NFL. Now, though, Henry is back and fully fit. 

He gives Rivers a reliable option after totalling 45 catches for 579 yards and four touchdowns in 2017 and 36 catches for 478 yards and eight scores during his rookie campaign in 2016.

"With Hunter Henry, we can stretch the field in the seams more," coach Anthony Lynn said during June's minicamp. "He's one of the better combo tight ends in the game because he blocks well. So just him back on the field, one of our biggest and better threats, it's going to open things up outside for Keenan Allen a little bit and Mike Williams."

Impact rookie 

Josh Jacobs, Raiders running back

Josh Jacobs was the highest-rated running back of the entire 2019 draft class and already has high expectations coming out of Alabama as the 24th overall pick. His size and power have been enough to impress quarterback Derek Carr.

"You know I've been able to hand the ball off to some really good running backs. I've played with some fun ones - Latavius [Murray], Marshawn [Lynch], Doug [Martin], and that's just the guys that've carried most of the footballs," Carr  said in mid-August. "I've played with a lot of good backs [and] watching [Jacobs'] vision was really impressive because I have the best seat in the house. I'm sitting back there playing 'Madden' tell him to cut back and trying to run for him. He's right up there with those guys."

Jacobs had four carries for 21 yards in his first - and only - preseason game.

Coach under pressure

Jon Gruden, Raiders

The coach turned analyst turned coach famously said, "If I can't get it done, I'm not going to take their money" last season after re-joining the Raiders on an eye-popping 10-year, $100million contract. Oakland went on to finish 4-12. 

Now, Gruden has some new talent and has regained his footing on the sideline. The Raiders are through the first of their rebuilding years and, with Las Vegas in the team's sights, Gruden has to try and put together a winning season if he wants to start a successful franchise in a new city in 2020.

Key matchup 

Chargers at Chiefs, December 29

This will not be the first time these two teams play. The Chargers and Chiefs will go head-to-head November 18 but the later matchup could have bigger playoff implications. Los Angeles punched their playoff ticket last season with a key win over Kansas City and this final regular-season game could again be crucial.

Predicted finish

It could be a close race to the top of the standings, but if Mahomes has a year close to last season it is hard to see any team in the division dethroning the Chiefs, who have won it for the past three years.

1. Chiefs

2. Chargers

3. Broncos

4. Raiders

Friday was an eventful day in the NFL, as the deadline to finalise rosters approaches.

Teams will have to fill out their rosters on Saturday.

But quite a few other notable things happened aside from a number of franchises already beginning to trim their numbers.

We saw some surprising injury updates, hierarchies being established on depth charts and record contracts.

Three things that matter

The Raiders cut Brandon Marshall

Brandon Marshall may have been recovering from a knee injury this offseason, but many projected the 29-year-old linebacker to become a starter for the Oakland Raiders in 2019. However, it appears he was not able to return to his old form in the five months he was with the team.

Marshall's departure makes the Raiders look weaker on paper and it now opens the door for other teams to swoop in and sign him once he is in better shape.

He could turn out to be a huge mid-season acquisition.

Carolina place Graham Gano on the IR

Graham Gano has been a part of the Carolina Panthers' special teams since 2012, but this could be the end of his seven-year run.

The veteran kicker, who earned a Pro-Bowl nod in 2017, missed the last four games of 2018 with a plant leg injury that has not recovered, and now rookie Joey Slye will get a chance to win the job.

Oakland make Rodney Hudson league's highest paid center

While Oakland lost some steam on the defensive end, they are shoring up their front line by giving Rodney Hudson a three-year, $34million deal.

One of the Raiders' top priorities is to protect quarterback Derek Carr, so it might be best for them to lock up Hudson now and promote a positive environment for the signal-caller and wide receiver Antonio Brown to flourish.

If the Raiders believe they have the best center and offensive tackle in the league, they are in good shape.

Two things that don't matter

Rolando McClain returns to the NFL after missing past three seasons

Rolando McClain has not played in the NFL since he was suspended in 2016.

While the league has granted him reinstatement, the former Dallas Cowboy likely will not fill a starting role if he does sign with a team in 2019.

The linebacker's professional football journey has certainly been interesting, though.

Geno Smith wins Seattle's backup quarterback job 

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson does not miss games.

The signal-caller has played in all 16 regular-season games for the Seahawks since being drafted in 2012 and inked a massive contract this offseason.

Wilson has not given Seattle any reason to worry about his health, and that should not be subject to change in 2019. But if it does, Geno Smith will be the next man up after it was reported he will step into the role as QB2 next week.

One video you'll have to see

You probably already knew this, but Chicago's Tarik Cohen is freakishly athletic.

Friday's tweet of the day

Colin Kaepernick shared some reading he is doing via Twitter, a possible jab at the recent announcement from the NFL and its newest partner in Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, as he awaits another shot at the NFL.

The Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders played their preseason matchup on a shortened 80-yard field because of poor conditions at IG Field in Winnipeg.

IG Field typically serves as a Canadian Football League (CFL) venue and when the field's goalposts were moved to accommodate an NFL game, a hole was left in the end zone. 

Team and league representatives examined the hole alongside officials before deciding on the modified conditions for Thursday's game.

They ultimately decided to eliminate kick-offs from the contest. Both teams will start with the ball at the 25-yard line instead.

An NFL spokesman said in a statement: "Tonight's game is being played on a reconfigured field. The field met the mandatory practices for the maintenance of surfaces for NFL games based on an inspection yesterday.

"Concerns arose today surrounding the area where the Blue Bombers' goal posts were previously located. The 10-yard line will function as the goal line at this game. In lieu of kick-offs, the ball will be placed at the 15-yard line."

Some thought star Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers would make his preseason debut against Oakland. 

However, the Packers announced their decision to hold Rodgers and 32 other players out of the contest prior to their start, likely because of the field conditions.

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