"With my situation, look, it's never been about the draft pick, picking Jordan."

Aaron Rodgers this week broke his silence amid his stand-off with the Green Bay Packers, which cast a shadow over the 2021 NFL Draft as his desire for a trade was revealed last month and has left a perennial NFC contender to start their preparations for the upcoming season without the league MVP, insisting his push to leave has nothing to do with them selecting his heir apparent, Jordan Love, in the first round in 2020.

"It's just kind of about a philosophy and maybe forgetting that it is about the people that make the thing go," said Rodgers on ESPN's SportsCenter. 

"It's about character, it's about culture, it's about doing things the right way."

But whatever Rodgers' reasons for his self-imposed exile, the reality for the Packers is that the longer this episode drags on, the more it becomes about Love and the potential drop-off from a future Hall of Fame quarterback to one who did not even suit up for a game as a rookie.

Just how precipitous could the decline in play from Rodgers to Love be if the three-time MVP does not return to play the 2021 campaign? Stats Perform analysed the data to look at the scale of the challenge the Packers may face if they have to turn the keys to the offense over to Love in the coming season.

Rodgers' finest hour?

Most quarterbacks in the NFL would struggle to live up to the standard Rodgers produced in 2020, as his skill set and Matt LaFleur's offense – with its roots in the ultra quarterback-friendly Kyle Shanahan attack – coalesced to devastating effect.

Rodgers completed 70.7 per cent of his passes, the highest mark of his career in seasons in which he attempted at least 200 throws, for 4,299 yards, 48 touchdowns and five interceptions.

That equated to a TD-INT ratio of 9.60, the second-best of his career behind a 2018 season where he threw only 25 touchdowns, as Rodgers outperformed each of his prior MVP seasons in 2011 (7.50) and 2014 (7.60) in that regard.

There is a case to be made, therefore, that the 2020 campaign was Rodgers' finest to date, and it is one furthered by the advanced metrics.

Rodgers' well-thrown percentage, which measures how often a quarterback delivers an accurate, well-thrown ball, was 82.4, third in the NFL behind Philip Rivers and Ryan Tannehill.

In other words, Rodgers' completion percentage was no accident. He produced on-target throws at an extremely high rate and did an excellent job of avoiding turnover-worthy passes.

Indeed, Rodgers was also third in the NFL in pickable pass percentage, which analyses how often a throw is interceptable by the defense. Only Alex Smith (2.12%) and Tom Brady (2.20) threw a lower percentage of interceptable passes than Rodgers (2.23).

Rodgers has not thrown double-digit interceptions since the 2010 season, when he led Green Bay to Super Bowl glory, and he suffered only 19 sacks for negative yardage in 2020. At this stage in his decorated career, Rodgers possesses a masterful knowledge of how to maximise his offense's potential to produce positive plays and limit defenses' opportunities for game-changing takeaways.

Without any NFL experience, Love's ability to do the same is questionable at best after a turnover-laden end to his collegiate career.

A bemusing bet on Love

The Packers' decision to trade up in the first round in 2020 to select Love as Rodgers' eventual successor was a contentious one not just because they eschewed the chance to boost the supporting cast of wide receivers in a historic draft at the position. Planning for the future at the game's most important spot is advisable but making that move for a quarterback coming off the 2019 season Love endured was always likely to raise eyebrows.

After an impressive 2018 in which he threw 32 touchdowns to just six interceptions for Utah State, Love experienced a hugely underwhelming 2019.

Love's 17 interceptions were the most in the FBS in a year that saw his touchdown total dip to 20, while his completion percentage of 61.9 was only good enough for 54th in the FBS.

And his struggles in connecting with his receivers and issues with turning the ball over were a consequence of Love's consistent failure to produce accurate throws.

Love's 2019 well-thrown percentage of 66.74 was well below the average of 73.20 for Power 5 and Group of 5 quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts.

Thirty-eight of his passes were considered interceptable, giving him a pickable pass percentage of 8.21 that was the third-worst among signal-callers to meet that 100-throw threshold. 

When under pressure his well-thrown percentage declined further to 54.89 per cent and his pickable pass rate increased to 12 per cent.

A quarterback struggling when he feels the pressure is no surprise, but the shortcomings Love displayed when operating from a clean pocket and when under duress while playing against largely non-Power 5 opposition makes the prospect of him facing NFL defenses after a season on the bench a very alarming one.

Should he start in 2021, Love will have the benefit of something he lacked during his final year at Utah State, a supporting cast capable of elevating his game.

Stellar safety nets

While much has been made of the lack of investment in Rodgers' receiving weapons, whoever plays under center in 2021 will be playing with arguably the premier wideout in the NFL in Davante Adams.

He racked up 1,374 yards, the second-highest mark of his career, while leading the league in yards per game (98.1) and receiving touchdowns (18). Adams was also top of the charts in burn yards per route (3.9) among receivers to play at least 50 snaps in 2020.

The apparent telepathy Rodgers and Adams enjoy powered the Packers' run to the NFC Championship Game last season, but Marquez Valdes-Scantling also displayed intriguing progress.

With 45 burns – which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted regardless of whether the pass is catchable or not – on 61 targets, Valdes-Scantling was eighth in burn percentage (73.8), second in burn yards per target (18.96) and fourth in big-play percentage (46.1) while recording the third-highest average depth of target (18.1) of all receivers with 50 snaps to their name.

Running back Aaron Jones was re-signed this offseason and could offer an extremely valuable safety net for a young quarterback having flourished in the zone-running scheme employed by LaFleur, posting a career-high rushing yards total of 1,104 and leading all running backs in yards before contact per attempt with 3.65.

Though Adams and Jones are unquestionably elite weapons, a lack of depth at receiver has long since been an issue. The third-round selection of Amari Rodgers this year was a belated attempt to address it but was obviously a pick made with giving Rodgers a dependable slot option in mind.

Rodgers' incredible consistency in delivering accurate balls to all levels of the field has helped Adams to grow into one of the NFL's most feared players at the receiver position and unquestionably played a role in Valdes-Scantling's recent development.

With Love bereft of experience and the ball-placement proficiency that has contributed significantly to Rodgers becoming an all-time great, it is highly debatable whether he could build the same kind of rapport with Adams and Valdes-Scantling or help Amari Rodgers quickly blossom in the slot.

The Packers are a team for whom the Super Bowl has frustratingly proven a step too far in the past two years. Rather than enabling them to take that leap in 2021, a switch from Rodgers to Love is more likely to put them in reverse in the short term. For Green Bay to realise the potential of a loaded roster, it is imperative Rodgers is the first to blink in this most public of staring contests.

Bryson DeChambeau told Brooks Koepka "it's nice to be living rent free in your head" as the two PGA Tour stars traded barbs on social media.

There is no love lost between DeChambeau and Koepka, particularly after footage of the latter emerged during a post-round interview at the US PGA Championship.

In a leaked viral video, four-time major champion Koepka was seen rolling his eyes at reigning U.S. Open winner DeChambeau and cursed in frustration during the interview.

'The Match' was announced on Wednesday, with DeChambeau partnering Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in an exhibition battle against PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson and Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar Tom Brady.

Afterwards, Koepka and DeChambeau continued their growing feud as the former tweeted: "Sorry bro @AaronRodgers12."

DeChambeau responded by tweeting: "@BKoepka It's nice to be living rent free in your head!"

Amid the exchange, six-time major winner Mickelson wrote: "I feel like I'm in the middle of something and should step aside. [Except they want the CURRENT PGA champ:]."

There has been tension since 2019 after Koepka called out DeChambeau for slow play, while the later responded by taking aim at his fellow American's physique in 2020.

"I don't think his genetics even make him look good," DeChambeau said. "Did you see The Body Issue? He didn't have any abs. I have abs."

'The Match' will take place on July 6 at Moonlight Basin in Big Sky, Montana.

Mickelson has been a regular at this event since the first instalment in 2018, where he defeated Tiger Woods in a one-on-one match up to earn a lucrative $9million payout.

In May 2020, Mickelson first partnered NFL legend Brady – who earned a seventh career Super Bowl ring by leading the Buccaneers to glory in February – where they were beaten by Woods and Peyton Manning.

Lamar Jackson said he wants to remain with the Baltimore Ravens for the long term, saying he "would love to be here forever".

The Ravens already exercised their fifth-year option on Jackson's contract, which will see the star quarterback paid just over $23million in 2022, though the two parties are in talks over a contract extension.

It remains to be seen when the former NFL MVP will sign a contract extension, but Jackson is happy in Baltimore, where he was drafted in 2018.

"I would love to be here forever," Jackson said on Wednesday. "I love Baltimore. I love the whole organisation.

"I love everybody in the building. Hopefully, we'll be making something happen pretty soon whenever."

Jackson, who will make $1.8m this season – the final year of his rookie contract – was a unanimous choice as the NFL's Most Valuable Player two years ago.

His performance slipped a bit in 2020 but he remains the NFL's premier dual-threat quarterback, rushing for more than 1,000 yards and scoring seven touchdowns on the ground in each of the past two seasons in addition to his work in the passing game. 

Jackson has won more games (30) than any other quarterback since taking over as Baltimore's starter midway through the 2018 season and became the fastest QB in NFL history to reach 30 regular-season victories (37 games).

The 24-year-old is also the first in league history to produce 5,000 passing yard and 2,500 rushing yards in his first three NFL seasons.

Jackson had 242 completions for 2,757 yards – at 64.4 per cent – 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 15 appearances for the Ravens last season.

In total, Jackson has tallied 606 completions, 7,085 yards, 68 touchdowns and 18 interceptions since entering the league.

"I'm really focused on the season, and I'm focused on trying to win," Jackson said midweek. "I'm not really worried about if it gets done this year or next year. We're going to see. We don't know yet."

Adam Vinatieri is to retire from the NFL after 24 seasons.

The former New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts kicker is the league's all-time leading points scorer.

Vinatieri, 48, amassed 2,673 points across his career, which saw him three Super Bowl titles with the Patriots and one win with the Colts.

He kicked the game-winning field goals for the Patriots in Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII and made 29 decisive three-pointers in his career.

Announcing his decision on 'The Pat McAfee Show' on Wednesday, Vinatieri said: "By Friday, if paperwork goes in, you heard it here first."

Vinatieri holds the records for most career field goals made (599) and most consecutive field goals converted (44).

He will have a strong case to become the third outright kicker in the Hall of Fame, with Jan Stenerud and Morten Andersen already enshrined in Canton.

Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson will reunite for 'The Match' in a blockbuster showdown with Aaron Rodgers and Bryson Dechambeau - and the playful trash talk has already begun.

Mickelson made history on Sunday by becoming the oldest major winner of all time with a two-shot victory at the US PGA Championship.

The 50-year-old has been a regular at this event since the first instalment in 2018, where he defeated Tiger Woods in a one-on-one match up to earn a lucrative $9million payout.

In May 2020, Mickelson first partnered NFL legend Brady – who earned a seventh career Super Bowl ring by leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to glory in February – where they were beaten by Woods and Peyton Manning.

And six months ago, 'Lefty' partnered NBA legend Charles Barkley to overcome Manning and Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry.

Once the announcement for the latest version, which will take place on July 6 at Moonlight Basin in Big Sky, Montana, was made Brady could not help but take a light-hearted dig at the Green Bay Packers' star quarterback Rodgers.

"Two old guys against the young bucks @PhilMickelson. @b_dechambeau better get used to laying up because we know @AaronRodgers12 isn't going for it," Brady wrote on Twitter.

Mickelson also took to social media, posting: "It's game time! My partner @tombrady and I are back and ready to settle some unfinished business. See you in Montana @AaronRodgers12 @b_dechambeau."

It was revealed on the PGA Tour's official website that 'The Match' will "include donations made to Feeding America, among additional charitable beneficiaries", and the competition format will be modified alternate shot match play.

Matt LaFleur is clinging to hope of Aaron Rodgers returning to the fold with the Green Bay Packers, now the NFL MVP has said he has no gripe with playing or coaching staff.

Reigning NFL MVP Rodgers is eager to leave the team he has represented since 2005, in what would be a seismic trade.

Coach LaFleur finds himself having to deal with Rodgers being absent – the quarterback has missed the start of this week's voluntary organised team activities (OTAs) – but also tasked with keeping the rest of his players focused.

"Aaron definitely knows how we feel about him, how he's such an important part to our football team," LaFleur said on Tuesday.

"[He is] such an important part to our organisation. We're just going to continue to try to work through this and hopefully we can get him back in the building at some point."

Rodgers last season had his highest completion percentage since becoming a starter (70.7) and achieved a passer rating of 121.5 – keeping Jordan Love waiting for his chance.

Love is the young quarterback the Packers acquired with their first-round pick in the 2020 Draft. While Rodgers rose to the challenge, the 37-year-old has also become disenchanted with life at Green Bay.

LaFleur has told his players to avoid allowing the rift to become a distraction.

"We kind of talked about this with our football team," LaFleur said, quoted on nfl.com.

"Right now there's things that are in your control and there are certain things that are out of your control. I think that just our mindset right now is to focus on each individual. [Each individual] is focused on the things that they can control and we need everybody to be at their best for us to continue to progress as a football team. So that's kind of been the focus throughout."

Rodgers said his gripe centres on the Packers' philosophy, offering a rather oblique explanation of the reasons behind his absence in an interview on Monday with ESPN SportsCenter. Reports have pointed to a possible contract dispute.

Rodgers said: "I love the coaching staff, love my team-mates, love the fan base in Green Bay. [It has been] an incredible 16 years.

"It's just kind of about a philosophy and maybe forgeting that it is about the people that make the thing go. It's about character, it's about culture, it's about doing things the right way.

"A lot of this was put in motion last year, and the wrench was just kind of thrown into it when I won MVP and played the way I played last year.

"This is just kind of, I think, a spill-out of all that. But it is about the people, and that's the most important thing. Green Bay has always been about the people."

If Rodgers has issues with the Packers front office, he may find his people – those in the locker room – are willing to lend an ear. The longer the impasse persists, however, the more the business of the approaching new season may mean team-mates have to set aside his issues.

According to reports, there were 79 of the Packers' 89 rostered players present on Tuesday as the OTAs continued.

Safety Adrian Amos told packers.com: "Everybody has to focus on themselves as far as getting ready to play. Because regardless of what happens, we've got to go out there and the show goes on.

"Everybody has their personal situations, and you support everybody's personal situations, but I'm getting paid to go out there and perform. Regardless of what's going on around me, I'm getting judged by what I do."

Aaron Rodgers' discontent in Green Bay dates back to last year but centres around the Packers' philosophy rather than Jordan Love, he said on Monday.

Reigning NFL MVP Rodgers is pushing to leave the team he has represented since 2005.

Reports of his unhappiness first emerged on draft day this year, but there was no late trade as five quarterbacks went in the first round – including three in the top three.

While Rodgers is a three-time MVP, one-time Super Bowl MVP and one-time champion, he had a career-high 48 touchdowns en route to individual recognition in 2020.

The 37-year-old also had his highest completion percentage since becoming a starter (70.7) and a passer rating of 121.5 that he only previously surpassed in 2011 (122.5).

This came after a draft in which the Packers selected QB Love with their first-round pick, rather than providing support to Rodgers.

However, discussing his desire to depart Green Bay on SportsCenter, the veteran said: "With my situation, look, it's never been about the draft pick, picking Jordan.

"I love Jordan; he's a great kid. [It has been] a lot of fun to work together."

Love did not take a single snap last year but is widely considered the man to take the reins when Rodgers eventually moves on.

The Packers great hopes that will be sooner rather than later.

Rodgers, who spent the offseason working on quiz show Jeopardy! and reportedly has an interest in keeping the role long-term, explained his reasoning as he confirmed a report he was skipping voluntary organised team activities.

"I love the coaching staff, love my team-mates, love the fan base in Green Bay," he said. "[It has been] an incredible 16 years.

"It's just kind of about a philosophy and maybe forgetting that it is about the people that make the thing go. It's about character, it's about culture, it's about doing things the right way.

"A lot of this was put in motion last year, and the wrench was just kind of thrown into it when I won MVP and played the way I played last year.

"This is just kind of, I think, a spill-out of all that. But it is about the people, and that's the most important thing. Green Bay has always been about the people."

Rodgers, who has three years left on his contract and will count for $37.2million against the cap in 2021, ranks 11th all-time for passing yards, although he is only 230 shy of catching John Elway and breaking into the top 10.

Meanwhile, his 412 TDs rank seventh, with Rodgers having thrown more than 1,500 passes fewer than every other QB with over 400 scores.

A touchdown percentage of 6.3 ranks fifth among players with 50 or more games, with Rodgers' next regular season appearance set to be his 198th.

The Packers start the new season at the New Orleans Saints on September 12.

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver and seven-time Pro Bowler Julio Jones said he is set to leave the NFL franchise.

Jones signed a three-year contract extension with the Falcons in 2019, reportedly worth $66million.

However, the two-time NFL receiving yards leader – who has called Atlanta home since being drafted sixth in 2011 – has been the subject of trade talks this offseason.

Amid links with the Dallas Cowboys, Jones told FS1's "Undisputed" show: "I'm outta there."

Jones played in nine games last season after suffering a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined for majority of the second half of the campaign as the Falcons (4-12) finished bottom of the NFC South.

The 32-year-old caught 51 passes for 771 yards and three touchdowns in 2020.

Jones added: "Right now I wanna win."

Since entering the NFL with the Falcons, Jones has led the league in receiving twice (1,871 yards in 2015 and 1,677 yards in 2018) and three times in yards per game (2015, 2016 and 2018).

Overall, Jones has amassed 948 receptions for 12,896 yards and 60 touchdowns throughout his career.

Tim Tebow expressed his gratitude to the Jacksonville Jaguars after being given the chance to reboot his NFL career.

Reports that the Jaguars had signed the former Denver Broncos quarterback surfaced last week and were confirmed on Thursday.

Tebow is set to play tight end as he seeks to prove he has what it takes to make it at the top.

"I want to thank the Jaguars for the opportunity to compete and earn the chance to be part of this team," the 33-year-old said.

"I know it will be a challenge, but it is a challenge I embrace.

"I am dedicated to taking the direction of our coaching staff and learning from my team-mates.

"I appreciate everyone's support as I embark on this new journey."

An ill-advised first-round pick of the Broncos, Tebow took his last NFL snap on December 30, 2012 for the New York Jets.

Since that game Tebow has spent the bulk of his time as a college football analyst and playing minor league baseball for the New York Mets organisation.

However, he retired from baseball in February and is now back in the NFL, where he is poised to reunite with the coach with whom he enjoyed a remarkably successful college career at Florida, Urban Meyer.

Meyer became the Jaguars' head coach in January. He won two of his three National Championships in college with Florida, with Tebow helping them to glory in 2006 and leading the Gators to the title in 2008 having won the coveted Heisman Trophy in 2007.

But Tebow's success in college did not translate to the NFL.

Picked 25th overall in the 2010 draft, his limited arm strength proved a significant hindrance to his hopes of becoming Denver's long-term starting quarterback.

He replaced Kyle Orton as the starter in 2011 and led Denver to a playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, throwing for 316 yards and two touchdowns, including a game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime in a 29-23 Wild Card round triumph.

Yet he finished that season with a completion percentage of 46.5 that was the lowest of any quarterback to attempt at least 100 passes and was released by the Broncos in 2012 following their trade for Peyton Manning.

Fruitless spells with the Jets, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles followed but, after failing to make the grade as a quarterback, Tebow will hope his athleticism can allow him to enjoy a prolonged second act as a tight end.

The Philadelphia Eagles have bolstered their defense with the signing of Ryan Kerrigan.

Defensive end Kerrigan has spent 10 seasons with the Washington Football Team after being picked in the first round of the 2011 draft.

A four-time Pro Bowler, Kerrigan holds the Washington franchise record for sacks with 95.5, which are the fifth-most in the NFL since 2011.

"I'll never be able to sum up what these past 10 years have meant to me in an Instagram post, but what I can say is that they have been some of the best of my life," Kerrigan wrote in a farewell message to Washington on Instagram. 

"I hope you had as much fun watching me as I did playing for you. Thank you, Washington, for everything."

In a subsequent post announcing his signing with Washington's NFC East rivals the Eagles, he wrote: "I know I probably wasn't your favourite player over the past decade, but @philadelphiaeagles fans I'm fired up to be playing for you guys now!"

He joins a Philadelphia defense that was seventh in the NFL in forcing negative passing plays in 2020 with 53 for minus 349 yards.

The Eagles are not short on talented pass rushers. Brandon Graham was fifth in the league among edge rushers last season with a pressure rate of 23.5 per cent, while Josh Sweat's adjusted sack rate of 4.4 per cent was marginally better than that of Kerrigan (4.3) in 2020.

Interior defensive lineman Fletcher Cox had 6.5 sacks and has at least 5.5 sacks in five of his past six seasons.

The Eagles will hope the addition of Kerrigan to an already talented defensive front will help them bounce back from a 4-11-1 season under new head coach Nick Sirianni.

The Green Bay Packers continue to make it clear they want star Aaron Rodgers to remain as their quarterback, despite reports the reigning NFL MVP is unhappy. 

Rumours have swirled around Rodgers since reports on the first day of the NFL Draft claimed the QB wanted out of Green Bay after 16 seasons with the Packers.

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has already said the team would not trade Rodgers and president and chief executive Mark Murphy reiterated Green Bay's commitment to Rodgers.

Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur echoed those sentiments as the Packers opened their rookie mini-camp on Friday.

"I've got nothing new to update, and we still obviously feel the same way," LaFleur said of Rodgers' future.

"We want him back in the worst way. I know he knows that, and we'll continue to work at it each and every day."

Last season, Rodgers amassed 48 touchdowns, five interceptions and a completion rate of 70.7 per cent for the Packers – who lost to eventual Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game.

Rodgers' quarterback rating of 121.5 puts him second on the all-time list among qualifiers, behind only his 2011 campaign (122.5).

In total, Rodgers completed 372 of 526 attempts for 4,299 yards as the Packers topped the NFC North with a 13-3 record to clinch home-field advantage and the top seed in the NFC playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Rodgers is level with Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Johnny Unitas and Jim Brown with three MVP honours – only Peyton Manning (five) has more in NFL history.

The Packers begin organised team activities on May 24 and Rodgers is not expected to be present, pending a resolution in the meantime. 

That leaves LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to work with the quarterbacks on hand: Rodgers' heir apparent Jordan Love and new signing Blake Bortles. 

Bortles, who signed with the team on Thursday, previously worked with Hackett on the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2015-18. 

"This is a guy that's started a lot of games and had a lot of success -- shoot, he led his team to the AFC Championship Game [in 2017], and they were close to knocking off the Patriots in New England," LaFleur said.

"He's got a lot of experience, and that's something you can never take for granted."

Love was the Packers' first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft but did not play last season. 

LaFleur deflected a question about whether he would use the off-season to prepare Love for a starting role in case Rodgers does not return, saying he expects every player on the team to have that mind-set.

The Packers will open their season at the New Orleans Saints on September 12.

The 2021 NFL season may still be months away, but fans can begin eagerly circling their calendars in anticipation of some truly mouth-watering fixtures after Wednesday's schedule release.

There are some obvious standouts. The Week 4 meeting of Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Bill Belichick's New England Patriots should capture the entire league's attention as Brady returns to Foxborough for the first time since saying a shock farewell to his home of 20 seasons last offseason, and then going on to win a seventh Super Bowl ring in his maiden season with the Bucs.

A potential duel between Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs and Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Week 9 hinges on Rodgers blinking in his staring contest with the Packers' brass and returning for the season.

Should he do so, it will pit the reigning MVP against the 2018 MVP and Super Bowl LIV MVP in a matchup of two quarterbacks who have each recently finished in the top five in well-thrown ball percentage. Rodgers was third in the NFL with 82.4 per cent last season while Mahomes was fourth with 81.1 per cent in 2019 as he led the Chiefs to the Lombardi Trophy.

But the games with the best narratives on the surface do not always produce the best matchups. Here, using Stats Perform data, we look at five other games on the schedule that are in the mix to be among the most exciting games of the 2021 campaign.

 

Packers @ 49ers - Week 3

The Packers trounced a 49ers team decimated by injuries last season, though that was probably hollow revenge for Green Bay's NFC Championship Game humbling at the hands of San Francisco in the 2019 season.

Typically, when Rodgers has visited the team he idolised in his youth, things have gone poorly for the Packers. He has won two of his four regular-season meetings with the Niners in the Bay Area but has lost to San Francisco on each of the three occasions he has faced them in the playoffs, with two of those defeats on the road.

Still, if Rodgers acquiesces in his stand-off with Packers management and plays for Green Bay in 2021, it promises to be a fascinating duel of NFC contenders, with the Niners potentially starting a rookie quarterback in dual-threat Trey Lance.

Should Rodgers remain with the Packers, the key matchup in this one could well be the reigning MVP against a Niners defensive line that should get back edge rusher Nick Bosa after he missed most of the 2020 season with a torn ACL.

Rodgers' well-thrown percentage under pressure was 71.0 per cent in 2020, the ninth-best in the NFL, and he will likely have to maintain that accuracy under duress if Bosa is back to his best. The 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year had a pressure rate of 28.3 per cent in his first season in the league, trailing only Adrian Clayborn and elder brother Joey, and sacked Rodgers in the regular season and the NFC title game.

Buccaneers @ Rams - Week 3

Yes, Brady v Belichick is the game everybody in Tampa will be most excited for, and the season opener between the Super Bowl champions and the Dallas Cowboys will be a primetime ratings monster, but perhaps the best duel involving the only player with seven Super Bowl rings will take place when Tampa head west.

The Rams edged the Buccaneers 27-24 in Tampa last season and should provide a stern test again at SoFi Stadium with Matthew Stafford set to be under center for Los Angeles.

But Stafford is not the person Brady will be concerned with when it comes to the Rams. Instead, it will be three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.

Brady was phenomenal when it came to avoiding interceptable passes last season.

He threw a pickable pass on just 13 of 590 pass attempts in 2020, a percentage of 2.20 that only Alex Smith (2.12) could better. When under pressure, it increased to 3.45 per cent, but that was still the fourth-lowest pickable pass rate in the NFL under duress.

But no defender in the league strikes fear into the heart of quarterbacks quite like Donald, who led all defensive tackles in 2020 with a pressure rate of 27.7 per cent and an adjusted sack rate of 5.5 per cent.

Donald can destroy the best-laid plans of any offense, and surviving the challenge he and the Rams will pose will be one of the biggest tests for Brady and the Bucs in their bid to repeat as champions

Bills @ Chiefs - Week 5

This is a rematch of last season's AFC Championship Game in which the Bills did not produce an effort reflective of their outstanding 2020, and Buffalo look like the team best placed to challenge Kansas City again in the AFC in 2021.

The headline act of this clash is the battle of the quarterbacks, with Mahomes and Josh Allen leading the revolution of athletic, cannon-armed quarterbacks who have taken the league by storm.

But an underrated aspect of this game will be Stefon Diggs' performance against a Chiefs secondary that does not get the credit it deserves.

Diggs was held to six catches for 77 yards in the playoff matchup but recently revealed he played through the postseason with an oblique tear.

When healthy, Diggs has the ability to do significantly greater damage. He led the NFL with 1,535 receiving yards in his first season in Buffalo and trailed only Davante Adams (3.9) in burn yards per route as he averaged 3.6.

However, the Chiefs' projected starting cornerbacks have the means to slow him down. L'Jarius Sneed was fifth among all corners in preventing big plays, allowing a play of 20 yards or more on just 14.5 per cent of his targets. 

Meanwhile, Charvarius Ward was fourth among corners in burns allowed, giving up a burn on 32.7 per cent of his targets.

Bears @ Seahawks - Week 16

The Bears have rarely been high on the list of teams to look out for when it comes to intrigue in recent years, but that all changed when they traded up to draft Justin Fields 11th overall.

Once Chicago ends the charade of committing to Andy Dalton as starting quarterback and goes with the high-upside rookie, the Bears have the potential to be an extremely interesting watch.

That will certainly be the case if Fields is under center when they travel to Seattle's Lumen Field, with the Bears set to face the quarterback they reportedly pursued before picking Fields, Seahawks star Russell Wilson.

A quarterback battle between Fields and Wilson has the potential to be an absorbing encounter featuring two signal-callers who each excel with their accuracy throwing the deep ball.

Of quarterbacks with at least 25 throws of 25 or more air yards, only three players (Ryan Tannehill, Philip Rivers and Derek Carr) had a higher well-thrown percentage than Wilson's 63.0 per cent on those attempts last season.

Fields was similarly proficient attacking downfield in his final year for Ohio State, posting a well-thrown percentage of 76.47 per cent on throws of 15 or more air yards that was superior to that of Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Mac Jones.

If his success in that regard quickly translates to the NFL, the Bears' trip to the Pacific Northwest could turn into a scintillating showcase of the deep passing game. For the first time in a while, the Bears have the potential to be must-see TV.

Ravens @ Browns - Week 14

The balance of power in the AFC North is shifting towards the Ravens and Browns and their Monday Night game in Cleveland last year was among the most entertaining of the 2020 campaign.

In the end, the Browns' inability to stop Lamar Jackson, even after his apparent 'comfort break', from making the big plays in Baltimore's thrilling comeback was the decisive factor in the Ravens' 47-42 triumph.

Cleveland took steps to stop such a scenario from playing out again, using their first-round pick on a cornerback in Greg Newsome II who allowed a big play on just 4.2 per cent of his 36 targets in an abbreviated final season at Northwestern.

His addition, and that of versatile second-round linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who allowed a big-play percentage of 11.0 when covering from the slot and had an overall pressure rate of 25.0 per cent, should help the Browns do a better job of slowing down opponents.

But whether those arrivals are enough to make the difference against Jackson and the Ravens is another matter.

An underrated downfield thrower whose well-thrown percentage of 60.0 on throws of 25 or more air yards was seventh in the NFL last year, Jackson has another dynamic weapon to target in the form of first-round receiver Rashod Bateman.

Sixth among Power 5 wideouts with at least 50 targets in burn yards per target (16.15) in his stellar 2019 season, Bateman can be the number one receiver Jackson has long since lacked.

Bateman excelled at creating separation two years ago while having an average depth of target of 16.2. With him and speedster Marquise Brown in the mix, Jackson does not lack big-play weapons, and Cleveland's ability to keep them under wraps could be critical in deciding an ultra-competitive division in 2021.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will kick off the new NFL season against the Dallas Cowboys on September 9, while Sam Darnold is to be quickly reunited with the New York Jets.

Ahead of the full schedule release later on Wednesday, the Week 1 slate was confirmed with Tom Brady's Bucs the highlight.

After winning the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs last season, seven-time champion Brady is in the Thursday night game against the Cowboys in Tampa.

The Bucs have brought back the entirety of their title-winning team and face a Dallas outfit aiming to improve on an awful 2020 after signing Dak Prescott to a long-term contract.

Elsewhere, quarterback Darnold will make his Carolina Panthers debut against the Jets team he left this offseason.

In three miserable years in New York, Darnold threw for 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions across 38 games with a 59.8 completion percentage – the third-worst rate in the league over this period.

The former third overall pick was traded to the Panthers last month for a sixth-round pick this year and a second and fourth-rounders in 2022, with the Jets then using the second selection in 2021 to take Zach Wilson.

Among Wilson's fellow first-round QBs, Mac Jones could potentially make his bow against the man he succeeded at Alabama.

Jones, who is competing for the starting spot on the New England Patriots with Cam Newton, will hope to face Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins in a big AFC East matchup.

Trevor Lawrence is likely to go straight into the Jacksonville Jaguars team against the Houston Texans, while Trey Lance will hope to get his chance under center for the San Francisco 49ers at the Detroit Lions and Justin Fields for the Chicago Bears at the Los Angeles Rams in the late Sunday game.

The NFL also confirmed Wilson and Lawrence would be in line for appearances in the London games in October, with the Jets facing the Atlanta Falcons and the Jaguars taking on the Dolphins on consecutive weekends.

Another of the more intriguing Week 1 games sees the Green Bay Packers travel to the New Orleans Saints.

As the Saints begin the post-Drew Brees era, the Packers will hope wantaway MVP Aaron Rodgers is still on the team and able to improve his 3-2 career record as a starter against New Orleans.

The Seattle Seahawks, who have kept hold of Russell Wilson, face the Indianapolis Colts, and Patrick Mahomes' latest title tilt sees the Kansas City Chiefs host the Cleveland Browns.

Mahomes went down with a toe injury and then a concussion in an epic Chiefs win over the Browns in the 2020 postseason, with 35-year-old backup Chad Henne making his playoff debut and having a pick and a sack but completing six of eight passes to complete the job.

In the first Monday Night Football of the season, Lamar Jackson's Baltimore Ravens will go to the Las Vegas Raiders.


Week 1 schedule in full:

Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Sep 9, 8:20pm ET
Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills – Sep 12, 1:00pm ET
New York Jets at Carolina Panthers – Sep 12, 1:00pm ET
Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts – Sep 12, 1:00pm ET
Los Angeles Chargers at Washington Football Team – Sep 12, 1:00pm ET
San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions – Sep 12, 1:00pm ET
Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans – Sep 12, 1:00pm ET
Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons – Sep 12, 1:00pm ET
Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals – Sep 12, 1:00pm ET
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans – Sep 12, 1:00pm ET
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs – Sep 12, 4:25pm ET
Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints – Sep 12, 4:25pm ET
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots – Sep 12, 4:25pm ET
Denver Broncos at New York Giants – Sep 12, 4:25pm ET
Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams – Sep 12, 8:20pm ET
Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders – Sep 13, 8:15pm ET

Green Bay Packers star Davante Adams said he would "definitely have to do some extra thinking" if reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers did not suit up for the franchise next season.

Rodgers is reportedly unhappy and seeking a Packers exit, though Green Bay have made it clear they are unwilling to trade the three-time MVP and Super Bowl champion.

It remains to be seen what the future holds for Rodgers, 37, heading into the 2021 season after leading the Packers to the NFC Championship Game.

All-Pro team-mate Adams is into the final year of his contract and admitted his fate could potentially hinge on the superstar quarterback.

"Potentially, potentially; that's my guy," Packers wide receiver Adams told Fox Sports Radio. "That's the only guy that I've had -- other than that 2017 season, when he got hurt. That's the only guy that I've played with.

"We've built up a special connection over the years that has put us both in really good positions in our career. Not that he needed me to come along for it, because he was already in that spot, but we've established a lot together.

"So, it would change a lot. Doesn't mean potentially I'd be gone, but I'd definitely have to do some extra thinking if my guy wasn't here."

Adams caught 115 passes for 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, while Rodgers amassed 48 TDs, five interceptions and a completion rate of 70.7 per cent for the Packers – who lost to eventual Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rodgers' quarterback rating of 121.5 puts him second on the all-time list among qualifiers, behind only his 2011 campaign (122.5).

In total, Rodgers completed 372 of 526 attempts for 4,299 yards as the Packers topped the NFC North with a 13-3 record to clinch home-field advantage and the top seed in the NFC playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Rodgers is level with Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, Favre, Johnny Unitas and Jim Brown with three MVP honours – only Peyton Manning (five) has more in NFL history.

"A lot is still being figured out on his end, so it's tough for me to get into the specifics and speak on it," Adams said. "Obviously, I would love to. Can't wait until I can tell you he's back and we're back doing our thing we've been doing. But for now, you've got to iron out a few things. Hopefully I'll be back on the show and we'll be celebrating taking shots and whatnot."

Adams – a four-time Pro Bowler – added: "We all know this is a pretty intense business, there's a lot that happens, a lot that goes on here. Just like any other job, you want to be happy, and once you've gained that respect, you want to be treated with that type of respect.

"There's certain things that I can't speak on specifics, but there are certain things that he wants, and maybe the club wasn't so excited about living up to right away.

"And that can affect a guy who's done so much for an organization. He's put his body and really laid his life on the line out there for that team, for his teammates. So I've been behind him 100 per cent throughout the whole thing.

"Obviously I'm praying everything works out and we get him back and we can continue to go out there and continue to do stuff like we did [last season] because it's a lot of fun doing that."

Tim Tebow is set to get a second chance at an NFL career with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

According to multiple reports, the Jaguars plan to sign the former Denver Broncos quarterback, who will reportedly play tight end.

An ill-advised first-round pick of the Broncos, Tebow took his last NFL snap on December 30, 2012 for the New York Jets.

Since that game Tebow has spent the bulk of his time as a college football analyst and playing minor league baseball for the New York Mets organisation.

However, he retired from baseball in February and now has his sights set on an NFL return, which he is poised to make with the coach with whom he enjoyed a remarkably successful college career at Florida, Urban Meyer.

Meyer became the Jaguars' head coach in January. He won two of his three National Championships in college with Florida, with Tebow helping them to glory in 2006 and leading the Gators to the title in 2008 having won the coveted Heisman Trophy in 2007.

But Tebow's success in college did not translate to the NFL.

Picked 25th overall in the 2010 draft, his limited arm strength proved a significant hindrance to his hopes of becoming Denver's long-term starting quarterback.

He replaced Kyle Orton as the starter in 2011 and led Denver to a playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, throwing for 316 yards and two touchdowns, including a game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime in a 29-23 Wild Card round triumph.

Yet he finished that season with a completion percentage of 46.5 that was the lowest of any quarterback to attempt at least 100 passes and was released by the Broncos in 2012 following their trade for Peyton Manning.

Fruitless spells with the Jets, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles followed but, after failing to make the grade as a quarterback, Tebow will hope his athleticism can allow him to enjoy a prolonged second act as a tight end.

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