Russell Wilson produced a vintage performance to lead the Seattle Seahawks past the San Francisco 49ers 28-21.

Wilson celebrated his 100th NFL victory as the Seahawks (2-2) rallied past the 49ers (2-2) in San Francisco on Sunday.

The Super Bowl champion finished 16-of-23 passing for two touchdowns, while he rushed for another TD on four carries.

Wilson joined Hall of Famer Peyton Manning as the second quarterback in NFL history to win 100 games in their first 10 seasons.

The 49ers – with Jimmy Garoppolo starting under center – took an early 7-0 lead but that was as good as it got for San Francisco on home soil.

Wilson's 12-yard pass to DK Metcalf ensured the scores were tied at half-time before the former dominated in the third period – the eight-time Pro Bowler's 16-yard run putting the Seahawks 14-7 ahead and Freddie Swain then caught a throw to stretch the lead to 14 points.

Trey Lance – who completed nine of his 18 passes for 157 yards and two TDs – replaced Garoppolo (calf) in the second half and the rookie QB kept the 49ers in the contest with a monster 76-yard TD pass to Deebo Samuel during the closing stages of the third quarter.

After an Alex Collins touchdown gave the Seahawks a 28-13 lead early in the final period, Lance combined with Samuel again at the death, but it was too little, too late.

 

Cardinals stay unbeaten behind Murray

Kyler Murray inspired the high-flying Arizona Cardinals to a 37-20 win at the previously undefeated Los Angeles Rams.

Murray passed for 268 yards and two touchdowns, while running for 39 more yards as the red-hot Cardinals improved to 4-0 this season.

Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb guided the Green Bay Packers to a third consecutive win – a 27-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rodgers and Cobb connected for two touchdowns and ran for another score at home to the Steelers.

Packers superstar Rodgers threw his 420th career TD pass – tying Dan Marino for sixth all-time.

Under-fire Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger threw his 400th career touchdown pass – the eighth player to do so.

Tom Brady is rarely not front and centre in the NFL, but it is particularly difficult to get away from football's GOAT this week.

Thursday marked the 20th anniversary of the quarterback's first NFL start. On Sunday, he needs only 68 yards to pass Drew Brees for the most passing yards in league history.

"It's definitely a special record because it speaks to the longevity that he's been able to experience and the level that he's been able to play at," Brees said at the start of the week.

Of course, that record will fall as Brady takes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back to Foxborough to play the New England Patriots for the first time.

The seven-time Super Bowl champion made history time and again in 19 years with the Pats and does not look like stopping now in the pick of the Week 4 Sunday matchups, broken down by Stats Perform.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New England Patriots

A win for the 2-1 Bucs would make Brady only the fourth starting quarterback to defeat all 32 NFL teams across their careers, joining Brees, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.

The QB comes into this game in form, having thrown for at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns through his team's first three games of the year for the second time, having also done so with New England in 2011. No other QB has achieved that feat twice.

The Pats will hope they have found a long-term successor in Mac Jones, whose 81 completions are the third-most by any QB in the Super Bowl era through three career games – after Joe Burrow (91) and Kyler Murray (84).

Tampa Bay have a poor record against New England, too. The Pats are 7-2 in this matchup all-time and have held the Bucs to 11.9 points per game – the fewest any current franchise has averaged against another.

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers

The Seahawks are in a spot of bother in the NFC West with a 1-2 record, but they are 14-3 over their past 17 games against the 49ers, making them the first team to beat San Francisco 14 times over a 17-game span since the Los Angeles Rams between 1973 and 1981.

Russell Wilson will hope his team-mates can catch up this week, having become the first QB in the Super Bowl era to complete at least 70 per cent of his passes for 250 yards and no interceptions in each of his first three games of a season. In fact, Seattle's back-to-back defeats marked the second time in franchise history they have lost consecutive games with no turnovers in either (also November 2008).

If nothing else, expect this game to be tight, with the 49ers' past seven games all decided by eight points or fewer – tying a franchise record – although San Francisco certainly have the talent to hurt the Seahawks.

The Niners have had touchdowns from 11 different players this year, tied for the most in NFL history through three games (also the 1964 Houston Oilers, 1987 Chicago Bears and 2002 Patriots). Deebo Samuel is the chief threat right now, though, with his 334 receiving yards the most by a 49er through three team games since Jerry Rice's 341 in 1995.

Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams

The four NFC West teams are playing among themselves for the coming two weeks, meaning another mammoth matchup as the division's two 3-0 starters meet at SoFi Stadium in a series the Rams have dominated with eight straight wins against the Cardinals. That is their longest winning streak against a single opponent since a run of nine against the 49ers from 1976 to 1980.

A 4-0 start brings back contrasting memories for these two teams. The Rams made the Super Bowl after winning their first four in both 2018 and 2001, but the last time Arizona jumped out to such a start in 2015 they lost 11 of their remaining 12 games to finish 5-11.

Cardinals QB Murray makes for an entertaining watch, with at least one interception and one rushing TD in each of his first three games in 2021. It is only the third time a player has done that since 1960, with Murray accounting for one of the other two examples in 2020 (also Charlie Frye in 2006).

Crucially, Murray has more options through the air this year. Arizona have a league-leading six players with 10 or more receptions, having only had eight players reach that mark in the entirety of the 2020 campaign – tied for the fifth-fewest in the NFL.

Elsewhere...

The Kansas City Chiefs visit the Philadelphia Eagles looking to avoid losing three in a row for the first time since Patrick Mahomes became a starter. Back-to-back defeats to the Baltimore Ravens and the Los Angeles Chargers already represent the Chiefs' worst run since a pair of losses in Weeks 5 and 6 in 2019.

Dak Prescott is in top form as the Dallas Cowboys prepare to host the Carolina Panthers, but that game may be decided on defense. The Panthers have allowed a league-low 3.8 yards per play this season, while the Cowboys' 6.7 yards allowed per play is fewer only than the Chiefs (7.0) and the Minnesota Vikings (6.8).

The Denver Broncos have made the most of a kind schedule to join the Panthers at 3-0 but now face a first real test against the Ravens. Teddy Bridgewater will aim to maintain his high standards, having become the fourth player in the past 60 years to complete at least 75 per cent of his passes in the first three games of a season, along with Brady (2007), Brees (2018) and Philip Rivers (2020). Brady did so in four straight.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won five consecutive regular season games against the Green Bay Packers going back to 1998, but veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger has made an unconvincing start to the campaign. He is one TD shy of 400 in the NFL – Aaron Rodgers was the seventh and most recent man to that mark.

Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Trevor Lawrence vowed to not "play timid" after his rough start to the NFL season continued against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Number one draft pick Lawrence has seven interceptions through three games following a 31-19 loss to the Cardinals in Jacksonville.

Lawrence threw a pair of interceptions, including a throw that was returned for 29 yards and a touchdown, and lost two fumbles as the Jaguars fell to 0-3.

The 21-year-old became the fifth quarterback since the 1970 merger to throw multiple interceptions in each of their first three games, joining Blake Bortles (2014), Peyton Manning (1998), Troy Aikman (1989) and Jim Zorn (1976).

"You learn from all of them, but you can't let it change the way you play," Lawrence said afterwards, having completed 22 of his 34 attempts for 219 yards, a touchdown and three sacks.

"As far as making better decisions, that does need to change for sure, but I've got to be the same guy. I still have to go play. I can't play timid, and not take any shots or chances."

Lawrence's seven interceptions from his first three starts is tied for the third most in NFL history by a number one draft pick, behind only Manning (eight) and Alex Smith (eight).

"I'm the same person," he continued. "Like I said, that's not going to change. I think that's part of the reason why I'm here. I'm going to be the same person every day."

 

The Kansas City Chiefs have a losing record for the first time in over five years, suffering a second successive defeat as they were stunned 30-24 by AFC West rivals the Los Angeles Chargers.

Kansas City trailed 14-0 in the second quarter at Arrowhead Stadium and were behind 14-3 at half-time, however, a lead is rarely safe against the Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes and, when they went 17-14 ahead with fewer than four minutes left in the third quarter, the outcome seemed inevitable.

But reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert continues to polish his increasingly impressive resume and he outdueled Mahomes in a bewitching fourth quarter that could prove pivotal in their division and the AFC playoff race.

Herbert connected on the first of two touchdown passes to Mike Williams and, after Mecole Hardman found the endzone for the Chiefs, led a field goal drive to tie the game at 24-24.

Mahomes still had over two minutes to work with to potentially win it for Kansas City but threw a critical interception and the Chargers' gamble to eschew a game-winning field goal paid off as Herbert hit Williams for another touchdown and, despite a missed extra point, Los Angeles held on as a late Hail Mary from the Chiefs came up short.

That missed extra point was the second of the day for the Chargers, the first coming after Keenan Allen caught a four-yard pass from Herbert, who then found Austin Ekeler for a 16-yard score.

Harrison Butker's 34-yard field goal was all the Chiefs could muster in the first half but Jody Fortson caught a high two-yard pass from Mahomes to narrow the gap and Clyde-Edwards Helaire scampered into the endzone to give Kansas City the lead on a 10-yard reception.

Herbert and Williams responded quickly but the Chiefs were in front again after Hardman scooted in on a six-yard pop pass. Tristan Vizciano's field goal levelled matters and, after Mahomes was picked off for the second time – Alohi Gilman snatching an ill-advised throw –  the Chargers were rewarded for their aggressive approach.

A fourth down was converted via a pass interference penalty and Herbert then hit Williams on a four-yard back-shoulder throw. Vizciano's errant extra point gave Kansas City a chance but 32 seconds and a timeout was not enough for Mahomes as the Chiefs dropped to 1-2, their first losing record since Week 11 of the 2015 season.

Tucker's record kick gives Ravens remarkable win

The Baltimore Ravens, winners over the Chiefs last week, avoided a stunning loss in the most improbable fashion thanks to the leg of Justin Tucker.

Baltimore trailed the winless Detroit Lions 17-16 with 64 seconds left and faced a fourth down and 19 with 26 seconds left.

However, Lamar Jackson hit Sammy Watkins for 36 yards to keep their hopes alive and Justin Tucker's 66-yard field goal bounced off the top of the crossbar and over, his kick from an NFL-record distance sparing the Ravens in an incredible finish.

Bills roll, Steelers slump

There was no such drama in Buffalo, where the Bills routed the Washington Football Team 43-21 behind quarterback Josh Allen's 358-yard, five-touchdown performance.

The team the Bills lost to in Week 1, the Pittsburgh Steelers, suffered a second straight defeat as they were beaten 24-10 by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Justin Fields was sacked nine times in his Chicago Bears debut, which saw them lose 26-6 to the Cleveland Browns, while Jamal Agnew tied the record for the NFL's longest play with a 109-yard return of Matt Prater's missed field goal but the Jacksonville Jaguars still lost 31-19 to the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals.

Is it Week 3 already? The advent of a 17th game means the regular season will stretch further into January, but the NFL campaign always seems to fly by at breakneck speed.

In the world of fantasy football, plenty of managers may be seeing things spiral out of control in a hurry after an 0-2 start.

Or maybe you're on the other end of things, with at least one win on the board and feeling satisfied that your draft-day decisions were the right ones.

Either way, it's important to remember that fantasy is a weekly game, and success hinges on the selection calls made each weekend.

Stats Perform is here to try to help you make the correct calls. Here's this week's look at four players and a defense in strong spots to produce matchup-winning fantasy scores.

Quarterback: Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs

Herbert was frustrated in Week 2 as the Chargers let opportunities go begging in their defeat to the Dallas Cowboys, with two interceptions undermining an otherwise impressive display that saw him throw for 338 yards and a touchdown.

However, Herbert should be enticed by a matchup with a Chiefs defense that has produced turnovers but has proved extremely hospitable to opposing offenses.

Indeed, the Chiefs are allowing a league-worst 7.56 yards per play through two games. Only the Detroit Lions (9.44) are allowing more yards per pass play than the Chiefs (9.37).

Going against a porous defense and with Patrick Mahomes a near-certainty to deliver points on the other side, Herbert has a clear opportunity to record his third successive 300-yard game to start the season and put up a massive fantasy performance in a potential shootout.

Running Back: Ty'Son Williams, Baltimore Ravens @ Detroit Lions

Despite seeing their running back depth decimated by injuries, the Ravens saw their backfield get going in a huge way in their stunning Week 2 win over the Chiefs.

Baltimore gashed Kansas City for 251 yards on the ground at an average of 6.1 yards per carry. The complexity that quarterback Lamar Jackson's running threat brings to their rushing attack played a significant role, but the Ravens will have been extremely encouraged by Williams' performance.

Williams averaged 5.9 yards per carry as he put up 77 yards on 13 carries, and he now gets the opportunity to go against a Lions defense that has been relatively stout against the run but has given up a league-high nine offensive touchdowns.

For fantasy managers light at running back, Williams could be an intriguing option.

Wide Receiver: D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers @ Houston Texans

On the surface, there is not much intrigue in Thursday's primetime clash between the Panthers and Texans.

However, with Sam Darnold showing signs of improvement in Carolina following his departure from the New York Jets, potential fantasy matchup winners can be found among their passing game options.

Aside from Christian McCaffrey, Moore is the top threat on the Panthers' offense. He had eight catches for 79 yards and a touchdown last week against a New Orleans Saints defense that is superior to that of the Texans, which allowed Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield to complete 90 per cent of his passes in Week 2.

Targeted 19 times across his first two games, if Moore gets a double-digit share as he did versus New Orleans, he will be set up perfectly to deliver another productive performance.

Tight End: T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions vs. Baltimore Ravens

While the Lions may be in a rebuilding year, Hockenson is constructing an excellent case for him to be considered among the NFL's premier players at the tight end position.

He has 163 yards and two touchdowns in his first two games and now gets to face a Ravens defense giving up the most fantasy points per game in the league to opposing tight ends.

Shredded for 109 yards and a touchdown by Travis Kelce in Week 2 and for 105 yards and a score by Darren Waller in Week 1, the odds of the Ravens preventing Hockenson from producing a similar statline appear slim.

Defense: Arizona Cardinals @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Backing a defense to excel after a game in which that unit gave up 26 points in a 34-33 shootout win may seem foolhardy.

While the Cardinals' defense is certainly vulnerable, as the Minnesota Vikings proved last week, Arizona could hardly ask for a better matchup in which to bounce back on that side of the ball.

Rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence is tied for the league lead in interceptions having tossed five already this season. His air yards per attempt average of 10.49 is second among quarterbacks with at least 10 passes, but he is delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball just 66.3 per cent of the time.

That combination of aggressiveness and inaccuracy is a recipe for a bounce-back performance from the Arizona defense.

There isn't much time for patience in the NFL, and the ownership of the Arizona Cardinals would have been forgiven for running out of it after an opportunity to end their postseason drought in 2020 was passed up. 

Year two of the Kliff Kingsbury-Kyler Murray experience was a rollercoaster, with explosive offensive performances and last-gasp Hail Mary plays giving way to an uneven and uninspiring stretch run that raised questions about Kingsbury's ability to get the best out of the 2019 first overall pick, as well as piling pressure on a general manager in Steve Keim who had been given the rare luxury of selecting a first-round quarterback in successive years. 

Two weeks into the 2021 season, the Cardinals have reason to believe the partnership of Air Raid disciple Kingsbury and their diminutive dual-threat quarterback is one that can yield the dominant offensive season many have expected and, in the process, propel them to the playoffs. 

Playing in the hyper-competitive NFC West, which would still be undefeated as a division if not for the Seattle Seahawks' bizarre home collapse against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, the Cards should not get too far ahead of themselves, particularly with memories of last season's 6-3 start that ultimately proved a false dawn still fresh. 

Sunday's captivating 34-33 triumph over the Minnesota Vikings was far from perfect and owed to Greg Joseph shanking a last-second field goal that would have condemned Arizona to defeat. 

However, it served as a scintillating showcase of what the Cardinals' offense can do when firing on all cylinders and a vindication of the offseason moves made with an eye on elevating Murray, with his diverse skill set perfectly suited to the modern NFL, to another level. 

History-maker Murray

After throwing four touchdown passes and running for another score in the Cardinals' blowout win over the Titans in Week 1, Murray tossed three touchdowns and registered another on the ground against Minnesota. In doing so, he became the first player with at least three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown in each of his team's first two games of the season in NFL history. 

He now has 12 career games with both a passing and rushing touchdown, the fourth-most by a quarterback in his first three seasons, behind only Cam Newton (20), Josh Allen (16) and Dak Prescott (13). 

Those new entries into the record books were a product of what defenses have come to expect from Murray, who frustrated the Vikings by making magic happen with his legs on a 15-yard touchdown throw to DeAndre Hopkins and a 77-yard bomb to a wide-open Rondale Moore, and also demonstrated his still underrated ability to stand in the pocket and deliver with unerring accuracy. 

Through two weeks, Murray has produced an accurate, well-thrown ball on 88.7 per cent of his passes, according to Stats Perform data, putting him fourth among quarterbacks to attempt at least 10 passes. For quarterbacks with an air yards per attempt average of at least eight yards, Murray's well-thrown percentage is second only to Jalen Hurts (89.1%). 

Murray's accuracy shone through on a pinpoint completion to Christian Kirk between two defenders on 3rd and 16 in the second quarter. The same receiver was on the end on a perfectly lofted fourth-down pass to set up what proved the game-winning field goal, Murray putting the ball in the ideal spot despite having to deliver off his back foot with two defenders in his face. 

Yet the Cardinals' approach was not simply one where they relied on Murray to pull rabbit after rabbit out of his hat. There was a clear effort from Kingsbury to make Murray's life easier, much of which centred around rookie receiver Moore. 

Moore help

Arizona selected Moore in the second round this year despite doubts over an extremely spotty injury history, and his explosiveness has weaponised the Cardinals' short passing game. Kingsbury has regularly utilised screens and pop passes to Moore - and they will remain staples of Arizona's passing attack in 2021 so long as the former Purdue star continues to maximise their upside, as he has done in the first two weeks. 

Registering a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on plays where he is targeted, on 69.2% of targets, Moore's average depth of target is just 4.3 yards, the joint-seventh lowest in the NFL. However, he leads the league in burn yards per route with 16.5. 

The Cardinals have managed to get similar efficiency out of receivers with more experience in the offense. Kirk (15) and Hopkins (14.6) are each in the top 15 for wide receivers in burn yards per target and are above the league average of 4.7 for burn yards per route with 7.5 and 5.7 respectively. Ninth in the NFL with an average depth of target of 17.7, Kirk is producing at a level that suggests he could blossom into a premier deep threat in his fourth year. 

The numbers are not as pretty for veteran free-agent addition A.J. Green (8.38 burn yards per target), but a touchdown on a screen pass in the third quarter and a 29-yard completion that saw him get a step on Bashaud Breeland downfield, selling an inside move before drifting back outside, offer hope he could enjoy an unexpected late-career renaissance. 

Imperfect vision

That is not to say there are no concerns, though. Murray's pickable pass percentage of 4.84 is above the league average of 3.44 and each of his interceptions against Minnesota hinted at issues seeing the field. 

His pick-six saw him fail to spot linebacker Nick Vigil lurking underneath as he attempted to find Kirk in the soft spot in the zone, while his second interception was a poor decision on which he tried to force the ball downfield against a two-deep safety look. 

Those valleys are ones Kingsbury can live with, however, when the peaks Murray frequently delivers belie a stature that had plenty questioning whether he could make it at the highest level. Murray will need more than two remarkable showings against defenses each ranked in the bottom 10 in the league in yards per play allowed to make a convincing argument that the Cardinals are ready to contend and he is worthy of MVP consideration. 

Still, the evidence to this point has been pretty compelling. The Cardinals' offense boasts the explosive element that was present in the first half of last season but, with the addition of Moore and to a lesser extent Green, has also grown more diverse.

The menu of options available to Murray has expanded and while tougher tests lie in wait, the early signs are that Arizona's burgeoning offensive arsenal can finally satisfy the appetite for playoff football.

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer felt Greg Joseph's missed field goal in their 34-33 loss to the Arizona Cardinals should have been an "easy one".

The Vikings dropped to 0-2 in heartbreaking fashion as Joseph sent a potential game-winning kick wide of the right upright from 37 yards at the end of a captivating see-saw encounter at State Farm Stadium.

Joseph also missed an extra point in a one-point defeat and Zimmer did not hold back in airing his thoughts on his kicker.

"I felt good about that kick," said Zimmer. "I knew he had missed the extra point earlier, but he has been kicking good, we are indoors, perfect surface.

"I am thinking this should be an easy one here. He just has to continue to be more consistent."

Asked in his post-game media conference if he was willing to stick with Joseph, Zimmer replied: "I don't think you should make a decision today on things like that."

The Cardinals are 2-0 following another spectacular showing from Kyler Murray, who threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns while adding a further score on the ground.

Having tossed four touchdown passes and scored on the ground in Week 1, Murray became the first player with at least three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown in each of his team's first two games of a season in NFL history.

He also has 12 career games with both a passing and a rushing touchdown, the fourth-most by a quarterback in his first three seasons behind Cam Newton (20), Josh Allen (16) and Dak Prescott (13).

Yet Murray was also intercepted twice, with one of those picks returned for a touchdown, and head coach Kliff Kingsbury accepted the Cardinals were fortunate to prevail.

"I've got to tip my hat to Minnesota," Kingsbury said. "We knew we would get their best shot and they were awesome. Offensively, defensively, I thought they played their tails off and we just got fortunate at the end.

"We lost the turnover margin, throw one pick going in, throw a pick-six and then rough the punter on a fourth down that extends the drive and still find a way to win, that's hard to do in this league.

"I was proud of their fight. We have a lot we've got to clean up; it wasn't nearly good enough. But they fought hard."

Kyler Murray's magic touch and a stunning field goal miss at the death gave the Arizona Cardinals a 34-33 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

While Murray's latest series of highlight-reel plays were the talk of the game, the Vikings had a chance to win it on the final play as Greg Joseph set up for a 37-yard field goal. 

But Joseph, who had hit twice from 52 yards earlier in the game, sent his kick wide right to set off a wild celebration in Arizona as the Cardinals remained unbeaten. 

Arizona had trailed 20-7 midway through the second quarter after three Kirk Cousins touchdown passes, but Murray took control of the game with his legs and his arm. 

The quarterback started the rally with a 12-yard touchdown run, then delivered a scrambling, 77-yard bomb to a wide-open Rondale Moore less than two minutes later to give the Cardinals the lead. 

Nick Vigil picked off Murray on the second play of the second half and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown, but the Cardinals star marched his team right back down the field and hit A.J. Green as Arizona went back on top. 

After the teams traded field goals in the fourth quarter, the Vikings had a chance to win it on Joseph's leg, but it was not to be.

Murray completed 29 of 36 passes for 400 yards and three touchdowns as he got the better of Kirk Cousins, who was 22 of 32 for 244 yards and three TDs. Minnesota's Dalvin Cook had 22 carries for 131 yards. 

 

Cowboys edge Chargers on last-second field goal

Greg Zuerlein's 56-yard field goal as time expired gave the Dallas Cowboys a 20-17 victory at the Los Angeles Chargers. 

It was a welcome bounceback for the Cowboys after their season-opening defeat at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it came with a starring role for a surprising player. 

Tony Pollard carried just three times for 14 yards in the opener but exploded for 109 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries against the Chargers. 

Ezekiel Elliott added 71 yards and a score on the ground while Dak Prescott completed 23 of 27 passes for 237 yards. 

Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim insists his team are "not in the business of getting rid of good players", amid speculation over the future of Chandler Jones.

Former New England Patriots pass-rusher Jones sat out OTAs and minicamp as well as reportedly requesting a trade as he entered this season, the last of his current contract.

Last season, three-time Pro Bowler Jones suffered a torn bicep in Week 5 ending his campaign early.

But the 31-year-old started 2021 with a bang, recording an astonishing five sacks as the Cardinals opened with a big 38-13 win at the Tennessee Titans.

Ahead of the Cardinals playing the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Keim was asked whether the team would be able to tie Jones down to a new deal.

"We are not in the business of moving on and getting rid of good football players," Keim said to Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

"You always want to get good players under contract, but there are always a million different moving parts. 

"I have to continue to look at the roster moving forward, generally from a three-year standpoint."

Per Stats Perform data, Jones' five-sack showing was just the eighth time this century a player has recorded that number in a single game. 

The last player to achieve the feat was in fact Haason Reddick, also for the Cardinals, in Week 14 of last season against the New York Giants.

Reddick has since moved on to the Carolina Panthers, but having Jones back with a point to prove should be of huge benefit.

While Jones is focused on what takes place on the field, he acknowledges the contract situation is hard to ignore entirely.

"I'm just playing football, honestly," Jones said. "I just let my agent take care of that – the contract situation – but it is the last year of my contract and I just let that take care of itself.

"Is it something that, I mean, [I think about] off the field? Yeah, I mean, of course. I don't know where I'm gonna live next year. 

"But in the same situation, I think, when the season starts, I tell my agent let's put all that to a side, you take care of that.

"If you want to talk about it, you talk about it. As far as for me, I'm going to play, and I'm going to play my best football, and we'll see what happens then.

"When it comes to the season, I think doing your job is essential, putting the team first, ignore the noise and just managing expectations.

"I think I play best when I don't go in thinking about the deal or the contract."

The Cardinals' Week 1 win was their second largest victory since Kliff Kingsbury became head coach in 2019. 

They play a Vikings team who suffered a disappointing overtime defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals to begin the season.

Trey Lance threw his first NFL touchdown and Jimmy Garoppolo excelled but the San Francisco 49ers were forced to hold off a near-miraculous rally from the Detroit Lions in a 41-33 thriller.

Rookie third overall pick Lance was not able to win the starting quarterback job from Garoppolo, yet he still made his regular-season debut at Ford Field on Sunday, and he took his first snap with the Niners on the Detroit 16-yard line on their second drive of the day.

His second snap saw him hit Trent Sherfield for a five-yard touchdown pass and, though Detroit responded with Jared Goff connecting with tight end T.J. Hockenson, Garoppolo's 314-yard performance, which included a 79-yard touchdown throw to Deebo Samuel, scores on the ground from rookie Elijah Mitchell and JaMycal Hasty and a Dre Greenlaw pick-six appeared to have put the game beyond all doubt.

San Francisco led 41-17 with under five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but a Jamaal Williams short-yardage plunge followed by a two-point conversion provided Detroit a glimmer of hope that grew brighter when George Kittle was unable to field an onside kick.

The Lions subsequently drove down the field and Goff found Quintez Cephus for a two-yard touchdown and another two-point conversion. They then had a chance to tie the game following a fumble from Samuel, but Detroit could not complete an incredible comeback to force overtime.

Samson Ebukam's pressure forced Goff into an errant throw, allowing the Niners to breathe a huge sigh of relief.

It was, however, a pyrrhic victory for San Francisco, who lost cornerback Jason Verrett to what head coach Kyle Shanahan believes is a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Though the 49ers took defensive starters out of the game following Verrett's injury with what eventually proved an insurmountable lead, the ease with which the Lions moved the ball late in the game should be of concern to San Francisco, especially with two of their NFC West rivals enjoying excellent days.

The Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks each won comfortably. Kyler Murray threw for four touchdowns and ran for another while defensive end Chandler Jones had five sacks in the Cardinals' easy 38-13 win over the Tennessee Titans, while Russell Wilson had four touchdown passes for the Seahawks as they saw off the Indianapolis Colts 28-16.

Steelers stun Bills

While not quite as dramatic as events in Detroit, the Pittsburgh Steelers' win over the Buffalo Bills at Orchard Park was certainly unexpected.

The Bills led 10-0 at the end of the first half, but Josh Allen was sacked three times as the Steelers held a usually explosive offense in check.

And, after a pair of field goals from Chris Boswell, Diontae Johnson's spectacular catch at the back of the endzone in the fourth quarter gave them a lead they would not relinquish.

Ulysees Gilbert III recovered a blocked punt to make it 19-10 Steelers, Mike Tomlin's men going on to close out a 23-16 win that deals an early blow to a Bills team seen as Super Bowl contenders.

Burrow makes winning return

Last year's number one overall pick Joe Burrow made his return from a serious knee injury in the Cincinnati Bengals' clash with the Minnesota Vikings, and it proved a successful one in a thriller at Paul Brown Stadium.

He connected with college team-mate Ja'Marr Chase, the fifth overall pick by the Bengals this year, for a 50-yard touchdown in the first quarter to give Cincinnati a lead that they eventually let slip late in the fourth quarter when Vikings kicker Greg Joseph tied matters at 24-24 with a 53-yard field goal.

That forced overtime, but a Dalvin Cook fumble in Bengals territory handed Burrow and the Bengals the chance to clinch it, and he did just that with a drive that set up Evan McPherson's 33-yard field goal and sealed a 27-24 success.

This year's number one overall pick, Trevor Lawrence, endured a very different day. He threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions as the Jacksonville Jaguars were beaten 37-21 by the Houston Texans.

The 2021 NFL season began on Thursday as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers started their quest for a second straight Super Bowlw title with a thrilling victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

Having won his seventh ring in his first season with the Bucs playing in front of at best sparsely populated crowds amid the coronavirus pandemic, Brady and Tampa Bay claimed a 31-29 victory in front of a packed house at Raymond James Stadium.

While the return of fans and full stadiums will give this season a different look, once more it is the Bucs and the Kansas City Chiefs who go into the year as the teams to beat.

However, there are a host of other high-profile teams who could be set to improve on their 2020 win-loss records, as well as those who could be poised to decline from postseason contention.

With the help of Stats Perform data, here are some of the more intriguing teams to keep eye on as the NFL makes its much anticipated return.

With Dak back, Cowboys hope to contend

A gruesome ankle injury suffered by Dak Prescott in Week 5 ended Dallas' hopes of challenging last season.

As it turned out, further injuries on the offensive line and a miserable defense would have made it tough for the Cowboys to contend even if Prescott had been on the field to lead the offense, as their wait for a first Super Bowl since 1995 goes on.

But Prescott is back with the security of a lucrative new contract as Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup remain part of an explosive supporting cast and he delivered a compelling reminder of his upside in defeat to Tampa Bay, throwing for 403 yards, three touchdowns and an interception off the hands of Lamb.

Prescott has averaged 8.26 yards per attempt over the last two seasons, third best among NFL QBs, and there are huge hopes for the offense, particularly if the highly rated Lamb (74 catches for 935 yards in 2020) can kick on from a fine rookie season. Despite Lamb's drop leading to a turnover, the early signs were good as he caught seven passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, helping Prescott average 6.95 yards per attempt and post a 101.4 passer rating.

If new Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn can get the defense – which allowed 158.8 rushing yards per game last season (31st in the NFL) but just 52 against the Bucs - somewhere towards the middle of the pack, the Cowboys should soar well clear of their 6-10 mark from 2020 and will be justified favourites to win the NFC East.

Pats look to pressure Bills in AFC East

The Bills and Josh Allen were so good last season that they may decline from their 13-3 mark even without doing too much wrong.

Allen made an astonishing leap from year two to three – posting career highs in passing yards (3,089 to 4,544), passing touchdowns (20 to 37) and completion percentage (58.8 to 69.2), plus eight rushing scores - and was rewarded with a huge offseason contract extension.

Allen's numbers and rate of improvement are hard to sustain, and even a marginal decline could lead to a worse record in a competitive division.

Stefon Diggs was incredible with league-leading figures of 127 catches and 1,535 receiving yards, while Cole Beasley (82 catches for 967 yards) was a crucial complementary piece.

Allen and Diggs played all 16 games last season while Beasley only missed one, so there was good fortune on the health front, while the Bills were able to win close games last season – boasting a 5-1 record in one-score contests – a metric that often reverts to the mean.

Their divisional rivals, meanwhile, look threatening. The New England Patriots have spent big in free agency to revamp the supporting cast for rookie QB Mac Jones.

New England's tight end situation has been among the league's worst since the departure of Rob Gronkowski, but they doubled down at the position to land Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.

Henry ranks sixth among tight ends with 1,265 yards since the start of the 2019 season, while only five TEs have more than the 11 TDs grabbed by the athletic Smith over that period.

Wide receiver Nelson Agholor arrived after a career year (896 yards) for the Las Vegas Raiders as the pass-catching options were significantly boosted.

A down year for the Patriots – in which their offensive weapons looked woeful and several defensive players opted out - still produced a not disastrous 7-9 record, with four of those losses coming by eight points or fewer.

The Miami Dolphins (3-4 in one score games) are another ascending team in the division after going 10-6 and allowing only 21.1 points per game (ried-fifth in the NFL).

Even the New York Jets, buoyed after selecting BYU QB Zach Wilson at number two overall, look poised to be more competitive than their 2-14 misery a season ago.

From worst to (somewhere nearer) first?

Trevor Lawrence has been billed as a generational talent at QB and there were few questions he would be selected at number one overall in the draft.

With Lawrence being paired with college coaching great Urban Meyer and an intriguing array of pass-catchers including Laviska Shenault (691 scrimmage yards, five TDs last year) and D. J. Chark (1,714 receiving yards since 2019), the Jags could be set for rapid improvement.

Even in their awful season that led to the chance to select Lawrence at the top of the draft, the Jags were 1-6 in one score games and slightly better than their 1-15 record suggested.

By the same metric, divisional rivals the Indianapolis Colts (5-2) and the Tennessee Titans (7-2) claimed many of their victories in close games.

With the Colts negotiating some uncertainty at QB as they look to revive the career of Carson Wentz – who is dealing with a foot injury – and the Houston Texans in disarray and full rebuild mode, the Jags could emerge as surprise challengers to the Titans.

Other teams who could rise and fall

Other teams who look likely to ascend include the San Francisco 49ers (6-10), who were ravaged with injuries last season and now have two viable options at QB with Jimmy Garoppolo and exciting draft pick Trey Lance. Five of their losses last season came by one score or less despite a depleted roster. 

The Denver Broncos (5-11)  have a stacked roster with their only concerns coming at the QB position, where they hope Teddy Bridgewater can provide more stability than the volatile Drew Lock (16 TDs and 15 INTs in 2020), despite coming off a poor season with the Carolina Panthers, who opted to replace him with Sam Darnold.

The New Orleans Saints (12-4) could be trending in the opposite direction, though. While Drew Brees was not at his peak in his final NFL season, a combination of Jameis Wilson and Taysom Hill must now try to replace the future Hall of Famer while keeping pace with the formidable Bucs and an Atlanta Falcons team that has added dynamic tight end Kyle Pitts.

New Orleans' offseason was defined by a roster overhaul enforced by the Saints' salary cap woe, leaving them with a wide receiver depth chart that looks alarming with Michael Thomas (missed nine games in 2020) starting the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

The NFL is back and, for so many across the globe, that means it's time to examine the matchup data and prepare fantasy rosters for Week 1.

Unless you've left it remarkably late, fantasy drafts are in the rear-view mirror and it's time to set the best line-up to deliver an opening-week win.

But which players are ideally positioned to help fantasy managers start the year with a victory?

Here, Stats Perform looks at four players and a defense poised to deliver big fantasy points.

Quarterback – Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals @ Tennessee Titans

The pressure is firmly on Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury and Murray to deliver in year three of their partnership after they collapsed from 6-3 to miss the playoffs.

But if the Cardinals make a disappointing start to 2021, it is more likely to be because of their defense than Murray, who can do great damage against a Tennessee defense vulnerable to the ground game and to what the Arizona quarterback can do with his legs.

Tennessee gave up the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks last season. The Titans' 6.84 yards per pass play allowed was the 11th-worst rate in the NFL, while they were tied for the 10th-most rushing touchdowns conceded with 18.

Murray, who had 31 passing plays of 25 yards or more, ninth-most in the league, and averaged the second-most yards per carry (6.15) last season, is ideally equipped to take advantage of those vulnerabilities and put together a substantially productive fantasy day.

Running Back – James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans

Robinson's stock looked to have been dealt a major blow when the Jaguars drafted Travis Etienne in the first round having selected his former Clemson team-mate Trevor Lawrence first overall.

But a season-ending foot injury to Etienne ruled him out for the year, meaning Robinson will get the bulk of the carries in the Jacksonville backfield.

He is coming off a tremendous rookie year that saw him rack up 1,070 rushing yards while averaging 2.34 yards after contact per attempt, the sixth-best rate in the NFL.

And he has the perfect matchup to carry that momentum into the new season, facing a Texans team in disarray amid the Deshaun Watson saga that gave up a league-worst 5.2 yards per rush last season.

If you have Robinson, start him.

Wide Receiver – Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers @ Detroit Lions

Week 1 often delivers some weirdness but, on paper, the Niners could not have asked for a better matchup than the rebuilding Lions.

The Lions gave up 7.85 yards per pass play, the most in the NFL last season, and their young secondary is one San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan should have little trouble exploiting.

Jeff Okudah, the Lions' first-round pick from 2020 and starting cornerback, gave up a burn – when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted – on 68.2 per cent of his targets. He conceded 15.28 burn yards per target, the third-most in the NFL.

As the 49ers' top wideout, Aiyuk will be frequently matched up with Okudah and, after producing a big play on 33.1 per cent of his targets – the third-most among rookie wideouts with at least 50 targets – in his first season, this extremely gifted route-runner has a clear opportunity to make a hot start to a potential breakout year.

Tight End – Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles @ Atlanta Falcons

It's difficult to get too excited about the Eagles offense, given it averaged 224 net passing yards per game since Jalen Hurts took over as the starting quarterback in Week 14 last year, 21st in the NFL.

But the two players who averaged the most targets per game for the Eagles in that time were their tight ends, Zach Ertz and Goedert. Ertz averaged 5.8 targets and Goedert 5.7 while playing a game fewer.

Goedert is the younger and more explosive of that pair and should command a higher share of the targets going forward. Facing a Falcons team that gave up 7.18 yards per pass play last year and conceded the third-most fantasy points per game to tight ends, Goedert's role in the offense is a recipe for him opening the season in stunning fashion.

Defense – Los Angeles Rams vs. Chicago Bears

Justin Fields will not be starting for the Bears against the Rams, and the first-round rookie might consider himself fortunate given the discrepancy between the talent on the Rams' defensive front and the Bears' offensive line.

The Chicago O-Line is 30th in Stats Perform's rankings, which is a poor position to be in at any point of the season but is especially troubling ahead of a matchup with a Los Angeles team that tallied 50 sacks for negative yardage in 2020.

Chicago allowed 23.8 per cent of points on giveaways last season and, with their O-Line facing reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, who beat a pass protector on 94 of his 103 pressures last term, the Bears appear poised to concede more points in that manner and reward fantasy players who invested in the Rams' defense.

There will be plenty of nerves around NFL locker rooms this week, with career-altering seasons lying ahead.

Many players will get second chances if the coming year does not go as planned, but some will not.

In a league where there are only 32 starting berths for quarterbacks and a further 32 openings for head coaches, the competition is brutal.

Coming off testing campaigns, Stats Perform picks out the QBs and coaches who cannot afford another slip-up in a make-or-break 2021.

Sam Darnold

New Carolina Panthers QB Darnold is still just 24, but so poor were the former third overall pick's performances across three years in New York that the Jets moved him on to take Zach Wilson with the second selection in 2021.

In Darnold's third and final miserable season with the Jets, he threw just nine touchdowns to 11 interceptions – numbers that could have been even worse as he threw 22 pickable passes, his pickable pass percentage of 6.51 the fifth-worst among QBs with 100 or more attempts.

Only the run-heavy Baltimore Ravens averaged fewer net passing yards than the Jets last year (174.8 per game), a metric in which the Panthers ranked a mediocre 18th led by Teddy Bridgewater.

If Darnold cannot even reach those standards, his career as a leading man could be over already. Of course, Carolina start against Wilson and the Jets.

Daniel Jones

Playing in the same city as Darnold, Jones might have got off a little lightly. He is after all eight days older than Darnold, albeit he came into the league a year later.

There were signs of promise for the New York Giants in 2019, but Jones has not progressed as hoped. The clock is ticking, with opportunities elsewhere likely to be scarce given he was a surprise pick at number six two years ago.

Sacked 45 times in 2020, Jones might argue he has lacked protection from a poor Giants offensive line.

Sadly, the QB has looked best running for his life, averaging a league-leading 9.70 yards when the designated ball-carrier – and a slightly above average 4.62 when scrambling – but still scoring only a single rushing TD last year.

Kliff Kingsbury

Appointed in 2019 and handed first overall pick Kyler Murray, Kingsbury's first task in Arizona was to make the Cardinals more effective and exciting on offense – something he achieved by delivering the second-highest season-to-season improvement in total net yards in franchise history (+1,602).

But the Cards still finished last in the NFC West with only five wins, missing the playoffs for the fourth successive season. A further year down the line, that drought is ongoing thanks to a desperate 2020 collapse from 6-3 to finish 8-8.

With the talent on this team, 2021 needs to bring tangible results. Failure to deliver again could spell trouble for Kingsbury or general manager Steve Keim – an unenviable position to be in at the helm of still the worst team in football's best division.

Carson Wentz

Wentz is slightly different to the other names on this list in that he has enjoyed success in the NFL already. A Week 14 ACL tear in 2017 meant he watched the Philadelphia Eagles' Super Bowl win from the sidelines, but his 33 passing TDs had already set a franchise record.

Those performances felt a long way away in an awful 2020 campaign, though. Statistically, he could hardly have been worse.

Wentz threw a joint-high 15 picks and led the way with 28 pickable passes, making up 6.78 per cent of his attempts while just 68.8 per cent were accurate, well-thrown balls – a league low among QBs with 100 or more passes. Given he also lost 326 yards to his NFL-leading 50 sacks, there was very little that went well when Wentz had the ball in his hands.

The 28-year-old is now on the Indianapolis Colts, reunited with the man who helped inspire his superb 2017 campaign in Frank Reich, but has already suffered with a foot injury and a COVID bout. With Reich as his head coach, Wentz has to return a better player or his days as a starter in this league are done.

Matt Nagy

The mood music around Chicago is not great heading into the new season. The arrival of Justin Fields in the 2021 draft should provide cause for optimism, but it appears unlikely the rookie will play right away to the frustration of fans.

Mitchell Trubisky is at least gone after a dismal run as the Bears' QB – last year comparable to Wentz by a number of advanced metrics but also averaging a below-par 7.94 air yards – but coach Nagy is starting with Andy Dalton, rather than Fields.

Nagy is also calling plays again, having given up that duty as the offense failed last year.

There has been plenty wrong on that side of the ball for the Bears in recent years, but Nagy is running out of excuses. Either his approach has to work or he must adapt fast.

Jameis Winston

Nobody on this list can be as motivated as Winston, who must have feared he had already used up his NFL lives as he watched the versatile Taysom Hill fill in for Drew Brees last season. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Winston's former team, won the Super Bowl.

But the erratic deep passer has won the New Orleans Saints' starting job ahead of Hill this year. His haphazard style might have to change if he is to keep the role, however.

Winston threw 33 TD passes in 2019, but he also had 30 interceptions – that combination a league first. His 10.70 air yards ranked second, yet 46 pickable passes led the NFL by some distance.

His play is at complete odds to the safer approach from the retired Brees, who last year threw to an open target with 81.8 per cent of his attempts and dispatched an accurate, well-thrown ball 81.0 per cent of the time but only averaged 6.41 air yards.

As in Tampa, Winston should be fun to watch. As in Tampa, he will do well to stick around... and a third chance feels unlikely.

It's a passing league. You hear it said so often these days about how the NFL has become all about throwing the ball, rather than running it.  

Quarterbacks have dominated the MVP award in recent years, with the last player from another position to scoop the honour coming back in 2012. 

In the 2020 regular season, 18 players topped 1,000 receiving yards. That was actually a decrease from the previous campaign, when no fewer than 29 achieved the feat, but does not necessarily reflect a reverse on recent trends.  

Stefon Diggs led the way in the previous campaign with 1,535 yards. The Buffalo Bills receiver will be expected to be a key component for his team on offense again in 2021, yet no individual has topped the list for two straight years since Calvin Johnson, who managed to do so in 2011 and again in 2012.  

So who are the top contenders to lead the way this time around? Stats Perform takes a look... 

 

Stefon Diggs 

Acquired by the Bills through a trade with the Minnesota Vikings, Diggs enjoyed an outstanding first campaign in Buffalo. He not only led the way for receiving yards but also catches (127) and targets (166), aided by him playing in all 16 games in a year where COVID-19 impacted so many rosters. His 95.9 yards per game ranked second, even though he had just seven plays that went for 25 yards or more. Emmanuel Sanders has arrived during free agency to bolster the receiving group in Buffalo, yet the former Maryland Terrapin undoubtedly remains top of the depth chart and has established a rapport with starting quarterback Josh Allen.  

Calvin Ridley 

Ridley's third year as an Atlanta Falcon saw him emerge as a pass-catching superstar. The 26-year-old had 90 catches from 143 targets, resulting in 1,374 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. According to Stats Perform data, Ridley recorded a big play of 45.1 per cent of his targets, the fifth-highest rate in the NFL among wide receivers. New head coach Arthur Smith got his chance at a top job after impressing in charge of a run-heavy Tennessee Titans offense, but by no means does that mean a receiver cannot prosper in his system. The main reason for Ridley hoping to improve on his previous numbers is the departure of Julio Jones, the franchise legend who did miss games through injury in 2020 but still had 51 catches.   

Justin Jefferson 

Rookie receivers are not meant to settle into NFL life as quickly as Jefferson did with the Minnesota Vikings. The first-round pick selected with the intention of replacing the departed Diggs had 88 receptions for 1,400 yards - surpassing the single-season record by a rookie in the Super Bowl era, set by Anquan Boldin (1,377) back in 2003. That is a particularly impressive achievement when you consider he had just 70 yards combined in his first two games, yet he made up for lost time with seven 100-yard outings in the weeks that followed. Yards after the catch (YAC) will likely need to rise for him to surpass those numbers, considering he averaged 4.6 yards per reception in 2020, putting him down at 27th among receivers. 

Davante Adams 

A contract year, plus a quarterback with a point to prove (again) are potentially the added ingredients required for Adams to have a record-breaking year in what could potentially be his last for the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers is still around after an offseason full of intrigue - and the reigning MVP already fed his top option relentlessly in 2020. Indeed, Adams' average of 10.6 targets and 8.2 receptions per game were the best for any receiver in the NFL, as well as leading the way with 18 touchdown catches and 98.1 yards per outing. His total yardage of 1,374 was tied for fifth, but it should be remembered he played in only 14 games. He recorded a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup on a play where he is targeted regardless of whether the pass is catchable, 70.1 per cent of the time and led all receivers with 3.9 burn yards per route. With the benefit of three more games than he had in 2020, Adams is perhaps the favourite to usurp Diggs at the top of the leaderboard.   

Tyreek Hill 

Hill averaged a healthy 14.7 yards per catch and 9.0 receptions a game as part of a high-powered Kansas City Chiefs offense. His final total of 87 catches came from 135 targets, showing how he remains a prominent option for quarterback Patrick Mahomes, helping him top 1,000 receiving yards for a third time in four years (he had 860 while playing in 12 games in 2019) and average 3.3 burn yards per route. The Chiefs are coming off a painful Super Bowl loss and may feel they have a point to prove, yet the main concern for Hill's hopes is the presence of a dominant tight end on the roster (more on him to come...). 

DeAndre Hopkins 

In his first year with the Arizona Cardinals, Hopkins set a franchise record for receptions in a season, finishing up with 115 (matching his best season with the Houston Texans, by the way) for a total of 1,407 yards. His 7.2 catches per game ranked third behind only Adams and Diggs, aided by 13 plays that went for 25 yards or more. His YAC number (510) also ranked in the top 10 for all positions, helping him secure a fifth trip to the Pro Bowl. The 29-year-old has missed just two games in his entire career and while he is set to head into his ninth season, there has been little sign of him slowing up in terms of overall output.  

DK Metcalf 

Having gradually emerged in 2019 before making having a noticeable impact in the postseason, Metcalf made a further leap in his second year with the Seattle Seahawks. His big-play ability was demonstrated by his 15.7 yards per catch – Jefferson (15.9) was the only receiver to be targeted at least 120 times and finish with a higher average. Likewise, the Vikings rookie had 16 receptions that went for 25 or more yards, one more than Metcalf managed while working with Russell Wilson. His offseason included a spell on the track, he clocked 10.36 seconds in his 100m heat at the Golden Games and Distance Open in California, but now the focus is back to football, and Metcalf will hope to use that speed to help him improve on his gaudy average of 13.31 burn yards per target from 2020 and take the Seattle offense to the next level.

Best of the rest 

Who else could emerge from the pack? Michael Thomas led the league for receiving yards in 2019 with the help of Drew Brees, only to then endure an unexpected down year last time out. His early trip to the PUP list has likely ended his hopes of regaining the crown before Week 1 has even kicked off. Terry McLaurin had similar numbers to Hill (87 receptions on 134 targets), as well as 486 yards after the catch – a number only topped by four receivers. 

Meanwhile, A. J. Brown topped 1,000 yards for a second straight season with the Titans and trailed only Adams with 3.6 burn yards per route, though he now has former Falcon Jones for company on the roster. Allen Robinson should not be dismissed after having 151 targets on a struggling Chicago Bears offense, while Justin Herbert's emergence with the Los Angeles Chargers helped Keenan Allen average 10.5 targets per outing, second most in the NFL. If a long shot is more your fancy, Diontae Johnson had 88 receptions for 923 yards, but those figures came on 144 targets and Johnson's big-play percentage was a disappointing 21.3.  

Dak Prescott's return to fitness should help the Dallas Cowboys' plethora of receiving options, including Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, while Matthew Stafford's move to Los Angeles will be expected to pad the numbers for Rams duo Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp.  

The year of the tight end? 

Blocking is still part of the job but catching balls has become a key aspect of life as an NFL tight end: Travis Kelce had the second-most receiving yards (1,416) and Darren Waller (1,196) also made the top 10. Waller actually had more targets out of the pair, while his 576 yards after the catch put him second behind only running back Alvin Kamara in the entire league. George Kittle made it to four figures in 2018 and 2019, only to then see injury ruin his fourth campaign with the San Francisco 49ers, one in which he was open on 90.5 per cent of targets and led all tight ends with 3.9 burn yards per route. Expect him to try and make up for lost time. 

Then there is Kyle Pitts, the rookie selected fourth overall by the Falcons. Despite playing only eight games, he led the FBS in receiving yards (770) as he racked up 96.3 yards per game, averaging 17.9 yards per catch. If he can translate those ridiculous numbers to the pro game, Pitts will become immediately become prominent in Atlanta's offense, potentially taking away some opportunities that could go to Ridley. 

Saturday's scheduled NFL pre-season game between the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals has been cancelled as Hurricane Ida churns into the Gulf of Mexico. 

The Saints announced Friday afternoon they had called off the game at the request of Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.

They had previously moved the game up from a scheduled 7 p.m. kickoff Saturday to noon local time in an attempt to get it in ahead of the storm. 

"Due to the intensification of the hurricane throughout the day and after the most recent tropical update, the team's leadership has made the decision in the best interests of all personnel that may have been directly and indirectly affected by the storm," the Saints said.

The Cardinals were en route to New Orleans when the game was cancelled, and online flight-tracking services showed the team plane turned around over Texas to head back to Phoenix. 

The team confirmed on social media they were returning home, adding: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those preparing for Hurricane Ida."

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) update on the storm shortly after the cancellation was announced projected Ida would make landfall on the Louisiana coast as a major hurricane – meaning it would have sustained winds exceeding 110 miles per hour – by Sunday afternoon. 

"Ida is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane when it reaches the coast of Louisiana," the NHC said. "Hurricane-force winds are expected Sunday in portions of the hurricane warning area along the Louisiana coast, including metropolitan New Orleans, with potentially catastrophic wind damage possible where the core of Ida moves onshore. Actions to protect life and property should be rushed to completion in the warning area."

The cancellation was announced while Edwards was in the middle of a news conference encouraging Louisiana residents to take the storm seriously. 

"I did not believe it was appropriate for an NFL pre-season game to take place on Saturday afternoon," he said. 

Sunday is the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's devastating landfall in Louisiana. 

The Saints will open the regular season at home against the Green Bay Packers on September 12, with the Cardinals travelling to the Tennessee Titans for their opener that day.

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