Pep Guardiola arrived at Manchester City in July 2016 with the aim of "winning games to make the fans happy and proud".

Six and a half years on from his appointment, it is fair to say the Catalan has achieved what he set out to do in that regard.

While a lack of Champions League success continues to blight his CV, Guardiola has otherwise conquered English football.

With four Premier League titles, four EFL Cups and one FA Cup, Guardiola has won at least five major trophies more than any other City manager.

After signing a new deal on Wednesday that will keep him at the club until the end of the 2024-25 campaign, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind Pep's reign.

DOMESTIC DOMINANCE

Guardiola has managed 374 matches as City manager, winning 271 of those, drawing 49 and losing 54 for a win rate of 72.5 per cent.

Most of those games (242) have come in the Premier League, followed by the Champions League (70, inc. qualifying), FA Cup (30), EFL Cup (28) and Community Shield (4).

The 605 Premier League goals scored by City under Guardiola averages out at 2.5 per game, with less than one a game conceded over the same period.

It is in the EFL Cup that Guardiola boasts his highest win percentage (75 per cent), having won 21 of the 28 matches he has managed in that competition, losing just twice.

 

PEP OUTDOING FERGIE

Unsurprisingly given City have won the title in four of his six seasons, no manager – not even Manchester United great Alex Ferguson – can better Guardiola's win rate.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss has won 74 per cent of his games in the competition, with Ferguson, who managed 810 matches, next best on 65.2 per cent.

Among those to have taken charge of at least 20 games, Antonio Conte (65.7 per cent), Jurgen Klopp (63.2) and ex-City boss Roberto Mancini (61.7) make up the top five.

With four English top-flight titles, Guardiola needs one more to overtake Kenny Dalglish, though he has a long way to go to catch up with Ferguson, who won 13-such crowns.


PREM'S TOP DOGS

Guardiola is one of 119 managers to have taken charge of at least 50 Premier League matches, and he leads the way in a number of the top metrics.

He boasts the most points per game on average (2.4), the highest win percentage (74), most goals per game (2.5) and the fewest goals conceded (0.8).

That is reflected in an accumulated Premier League table across his six and a half seasons at the helm, which has City on 568 points – 38 more than next-best Liverpool.

Chelsea and their various managers have accrued the next highest number of points since the start of the 2016-17 season with 463, followed by Tottenham on 455.


CHAMPIONS LEAGUE NEXT?

For all of Guardiola's undoubted success on the domestic stage, though, he has been unable to add to the two Champions League trophies lifted while managing Barcelona.

Guardiola has won 44 of his 68 games in the competition for a win rate of 65 per cent, a return only Hansi Flick can better (89 per cent) from his short spell at Bayern.

However, his side have repeatedly fallen short on the continent, with their run to the final in the 2020-21 season – when defeated by Chelsea – the best they have managed.

"I still have the feeling there is more we can achieve together and that is why I want to stay and continue fighting for trophies," Guardiola said upon signing his new contract.

On course for yet another Premier League triumph, albeit with a five-point gap to make up on Arsenal, conquering Europe again is now the undoubted main aim for Guardiola.

Pep Guardiola's new contract with Manchester City will see him remain at the Etihad Stadium until 2025, when he will mark nine years at the club.

The Catalan coach has already remained in the Premier League for longer than he has at his previous roles with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, finding a home within English football and establishing a dominant force with his City side.

Throughout his six and a half years in charge so far, Guardiola has been in charge of numerous superstars and club legends, with an all-time squad that would be of envy for any manager in world football.

But how exactly do you break that down into a full XI? Stats Perform has taken on the task and done exactly that.

Ederson

Guardiola made a bold choice upon his arrival in Manchester, swiftly making it clear England international Joe Hart, a two-time Premier League winner, would not fit into his plans moving forward. After a disappointing season with Claudio Bravo, Ederson arrived in 2017 and has been number one ever since.

All of Ederson's 260 appearances across all competitions have come as a starter, higher than any other player under Guardiola, while he sits fifth in the list for total appearances under the Catalan boss.

Kyle Walker

Signed from Tottenham Hotspur in 2017, Kyle Walker has been a mainstay in the City side that has dominated domestic football over the course of the past five years, ranking fifth for the most starts under Guardiola in all competitions (207).

Walker's versatility has been a key benefit for Guardiola and England, with his attacking play also fitting into City's style of play well. Since arriving at City, Walker has contributed 17 assists across all competitions, behind only Joao Cancelo (20) among defenders.

Aymeric Laporte

Among defenders during Guardiola's spell in charge, only John Stones and Walker have started more games than Laporte (155), with both players having joined the club in the seasons before Laporte's arrival from Athletic Bilbao in January 2018.

A total of 163 appearances across all competitions puts him narrowly ahead of Nicolas Otamendi (161) for most games under Guardiola.

John Stones

Snapped up in 2016 as one of Guardiola's first signings, Stones has had to contend with incredible competition for his spot at the heart of the defence, with the likes of Laporte, Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake all drafted in.

Despite that, Stones continues to be an important player for City and has made 175 starts under Guardiola and 206 appearances overall, ranking second in both among defenders behind only Walker.

Joao Cancelo

The versatile Portuguese full-back moved to City in 2019 from Juventus and has excelled for City, tallying 149 total appearances and 135 starts in all competitions since joining the club, and provides a huge boost in the attacking third.

A total of 20 assists puts him above any defender during Guardiola's spell in charge, even those who have been at the club far longer.

Kevin de Bruyne

Few players fit the Guardiola philosophy more than De Bruyne, who has hit new heights under the former Barcelona boss to stand among the finest players in world football – with a record in front of goal that many would envy.

De Bruyne has registered 117 assists under Guardiola, way ahead of second-place Raheem Sterling (66), while he has scored 73 goals – only behind Gabriel Jesus, Sterling and Sergio Aguero.

Ilkay Gundogan

With 205 starts under Guardiola, the midfielder has been an integral part of the City side since following the Catalan from Germany to Manchester, ranking only behind Walker, David Silva, Sterling, De Bruyne and Ederson in that regard.

Only six players have scored more goals under Guardiola than Gundogan (51), who ranks ninth for the most assists (33).

Fernandinho

The rock of City's midfield for years, Fernandinho started 200 games under Guardiola and made a total of 244 appearances, the latter seeing him rank behind only Ederson, Bernardo Silva, Gundogan, De Bruyne and Sterling.

A total of 12 goals and 16 assists in those matches represents a decent return for a player renowned more for his defensive strength.

Bernardo Silva

Slotting into the attack ahead of Phil Foden and David Silva, both of whom have a stellar record under Guardiola, Bernardo Silva narrowly gets the nod due to his own impressive numbers in the final third.

Silva has 104 direct goal contributions (50 goals, 54 assists) in 273 appearances, starting in 208 of those matches. Only Sterling and De Bruyne have more assists under Guardiola, while Silva is one of eight players to hit the half-century mark for goals.

Sergio Aguero

In the future, Aguero's spot in the team is likely to be under significant threat from Erling Haaland following his blistering start to life at City, but the Argentine superstar retains the edge for the time being.

Aguero scored 124 goals under Guardiola, more than any other player, with Sterling the only other to have broken the century mark. Those goals came in just 183 appearances with Guardiola in charge, displaying his deadly ability in front of the net.

Raheem Sterling

An unsung hero of the Guardiola era, Sterling played 292 times under the Catalan boss, more than anyone else, while only Aguero scored more goals than Sterling (120).

Sterling also contributed 66 assists under Guardiola, sitting behind only De Bruyne, and is the only player to have scored over 100 goals and added over 50 assists under the Catalan boss.

Pep Guardiola's wildly successful reign as Manchester City manager is set to continue until 2025 after he agreed a two-year contract extension at the Etihad Stadium.

Since swapping Bayern Munich for the Premier League in 2016, Guardiola has enjoyed incredible success, winning four league titles, as many EFL Cups and the FA Cup.

However, not everything has gone to plan for Guardiola in the past six years, and his desire to end a long wait for continental glory was likely a key factor in his decision to stay with the club.

Guardiola has undoubtedly enjoyed more highs than lows during his time with City, but there have been a few bumps in the road along the way.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look back at Guardiola's major triumphs with the Citizens, as well as some of his rare failures.

Low: An underwhelming start, 2016-17 

When Guardiola agreed to take the reigns at City in 2016, hopes were high that he would make an immediate impact – his three years at Bayern had seen him deliver three Bundesliga titles, posting two of the club's three highest points tallies in their history (90 in 2013-14, 88 in 2015-16). 

However, Guardiola's focus on instilling his possession-based style attracted criticism from some, particularly when he opted to replace two-time Premier League winner Joe Hart with the more cultured if erratic Claudio Bravo.

City racked up 78 points as they finished third in 2016-17, an improvement of one place and 12 points on Manuel Pellegrini's final campaign in charge, but more was expected from the former Barcelona coach.

In a sign of things to come, City saved their most disappointing display for the Champions League, exiting on away goals after a wild 6-6 aggregate draw with Monaco in the last 16.

High: City's centurions, 2017-18 

If Guardiola's first season with City was largely forgettable, his second campaign at the helm was memorable for all the right reasons.

Most points (100), most away points (50), most wins (32), most consecutive victories (18) and best goal difference (+76) were among the Premier League records City claimed during an incredible season.

Buoyed by the signings of future stalwarts Kyle Walker, Ederson, Bernardo Silva and Aymeric Laporte, City ultimately finished some 19 points clear of Jose Mourinho's Manchester United.

Guardiola did not even have to wait until May to get his hands on silverware, leading City to an EFL Cup final thrashing of Arsenal in February 2018.

Low: Champions League final heartache, 2021

The main criticism levelled at Guardiola throughout recent years has been his failure to win the Champions League since leaving Camp Nou in 2012.

City's nearest miss to date came in Porto in May 2021, as Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea produced a defensive masterclass to frustrate the Premier League champions en route to a 1-0 win. 

Kai Havertz's goal handed the Blues their second European crown at the Estadio do Dragao, but one of the defining images was that of Kevin De Bruyne leaving the field in tears following a heavy collision with Antonio Rudiger.

The defeat was Guardiola's first in a final with City, and just the second major final loss of his entire coaching career – after a 2011 Copa del Rey reverse to Real Madrid.

High: Domestic cup dominance, 2018-2022

While Guardiola's success is best measured in league titles, City have made several superb memories by dominating the cup competitions under his management.

Under Guardiola, City have captured the FA Cup once and the EFL Cup four times – for context, the club had only won the latter competition three times in their history before his arrival.

Guardiola's lone FA Cup triumph – sealed with a 6-0 final win over Watford in 2019 – made City the first English team to lift both domestic cups and the top-flight title in the same season.

Their rout of the Hornets also represented the biggest margin of victory in an FA Cup final since Bury beat Derby County 6-0 in 1903.

Low: Collapse at the Bernabeu, 2022

The final defeat in 2021 may be the closest Guardiola's City have come to European glory, but last season's collapse against Real Madrid was undoubtedly their most painful failure in the competition.

Holding a 5-3 aggregate lead over Madrid as the second leg entered stoppage time at the Santiago Bernabeu in May, it seemed impossible for City to fall short of a place in the final.

However, Rodrygo's incredible last-gasp brace was followed by an extra-time penalty from Karim Benzema, teeing Madrid up to claim their 14th European crown later that month.

The result handed Guardiola his sixth semi-final elimination from the Champions League – the joint-most of any coach, alongside Jose Mourinho.

High: Edging out Klopp's Reds, 2018-19 and 2021-22

All great teams need a great rival, and in Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool, Guardiola's City have certainly had one.

Since the start of the 2016-17 campaign, City have amassed an incredible tally of 568 Premier League points, putting them 38 clear of Liverpool's own impressive total.

The closest title battles between the duo came in the 2018-19 and 2021-22 seasons, with City edging out the Reds by just a single point on the final day of both campaigns.

Two of Guardiola's four league titles have thus come at the end of close-run races with Liverpool, helping him become the most decorated manager in City's history with nine major trophies.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have quietly built an elite championship profile with a top-five offense and a top-five defense, and they were too good for fellow Eastern Conference playoff contenders the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.

Against the Hawks, the Cavaliers rode the offensive brilliance of their two All-Star guards. Darius Garland, who the team drafted fifth overall back in 2019, had an efficient 26 points on nine-of-14 shooting, while their offseason trade acquisition Donovan Mitchell top-scored with 29 points on 11-of-22 shooting.

While having two terrific scorers in the backcourt is one thing, having two elite playmakers unlocks a whole new level of play.

Both Garland and Mitchell finished with nine assists each, with Mitchell averaging a career-high 5.8 assists since arriving from the Utah Jazz, while Garland's 7.7 assists per contest ties him for the sixth-most in the league.

When factoring in that they both play close to 40 minutes a night, coach J.B. Bickerstaff can stagger his rotation in a way where one of them is always on the floor, giving them 48 minutes of structured, competent offense, regardless of who the four surrounding players are.

While their dynamic duo are the heartbeat of their offensive success – producing the fifth-best offensive rating in the league at 114.8 points per 100 possessions – they have an equally impactful pairing in the frontcourt with seven-footers Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley.

Allen, along with Garland, was honoured last season as a first-time All-Star, while Mobley came into the league as one of the greatest defensive prospects in the history of college basketball.

It is the brilliance of that combination that has allowed the Cavaliers to concede the third-fewest points per 100 possessions (108.2) despite starting two small guards, making them the only team in the top-five of both offensive and defensive efficiency.

After Monday's win against the Hawks, Garland spoke about how their defense was able to deliver a 12-point win despite committing 20 turnovers as a team.

"We're just trying to cut the turnovers down, really – even though we had a lot tonight, we made it up on defense," he said.

"That's how we got easy buckets and got out in transition – got us a couple lay-ups, a couple lobs, and that's really what got us going.

"Our team is just unselfish – everybody sees it. We all love each other, we just want to win, we're just competitors."

Coach Bickerstaff expanded on what makes their defense so good during his postgame press conference, pointing to it as a driving force of their offense, as well.

"We've shown what we're capable of defensively," he said. "We know when we're at our best we can create stops, we can force turnovers, we can create easy opportunities for ourselves.

"In that fourth quarter, holding them to 17 points until that last three – that's how you win basketball games against good teams. You lock down defensively, and that helped our offense.

"When you're getting stops, you're playing in the flow and not against a set defense as much. All of our stuff works together – our offense helps our defense, and our defense helps our offense

"We need to be able to slow the game down and control the game. If you have to go against our half-court defense, you're going to be in for a tough time."

He went on to discuss how special the Allen and Mobley connection is, and why it is such a stark difference when Allen is out injured. The Cavaliers have a woeful defensive rating of 126.6 in the two games Allen has missed this season, and what would be a league-leading figure of 104.0 in the 15 games he has played.

"Jarrett is a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber player," he said. "When you take that away, it's obviously going to have an impact. 

"But when he's on the floor, we're a different team, and when our two big guys are on the floor together, and they're working as a pair, they're hard to score on.

"Evan [Mobley] is an All-Defensive player himself, we're extremely fortunate to have two guys who can defend the way they can defend. When they're working together, you're hard-pressed to find easy looks out there."

With the win, the Cavaliers are now 7-1 at home and 11-6 overall, occupying the third seed in the Eastern Conference – a position they will be aiming to maintain all season.

When asked to evaluate the New York Jets' offensive performance in the second half against the New England Patriots, Robert Saleh was succinct.

"Dog s***,"  was his reply.

It is an assessment that was as accurate as it was curt, having come after the Jets managed just two yards of offense in the final two quarters of their 10-3 loss to the Patriots.

The defeat came in heartbreaking fashion as Patriots rookie Marcus Jones returned a punt 84 yards in the dying seconds for the game's only touchdown and saw the Jets fall to the bottom of AFC East at 6-4. Had they prevailed, New York would have been top at 7-3.

From an offensive standpoint it was a fitting end to a game where they averaged a meagre 2.1 yards per play.

Yet, in the sense that quarterback Zach Wilson did not hand the Patriots the game with a string of backbreaking interceptions as he did three weeks prior, this outing arguably represented an improvement for the Jets' quarterback.

But for a player the Jets drafted second overall in 2021, choosing between curbing his off-schedule plays but delivering no offensive production or allowing him to create at the risk of disastrous turnovers is a dreadful position to be in, and it raises the question whether it is time for New York to already be thinking about moving on from Wilson.

Anything but accurate

For as anaemic as the Jets' offense was in Week 11, the case could be made that this was one of Wilson's cleaner games as he threw only one interceptable pass, according to Stats Perform data.

But that it is even possible to make such a suggestion speaks to how low Wilson's floor is. At his worst, he is a quarterback who struggles significantly with accuracy and is prone to head-scratching throws that often result in gift-wrapped turnovers for the defense.

While he had only one such turnover-worthy throw on Sunday, which Patriots safety Devin McCourty inexplicably dropped, Wilson was painfully inaccurate when attacking New England's pass defense. His well-thrown rate, which measures the number of accurate, well-thrown balls delivered by a quarterback, was just 60 per cent, the worst among all signal-callers with at least 10 pass attempts in Week 11 as of Monday.

And the evidence indicates his relatively careful performance in New England was an aberration, with his tendency for off-target throws in keeping with what he has produced in his second season as a pro.

Indeed, his well-thrown rate of 70.6 per cent is the worst in the NFL while his pickable pass rate of 6.47 per cent is only an improvement on that of Taylor Heinicke (7.35 per cent) and Jameis Winston (7.27 per cent) for quarterbacks with a minimum of 100 attempts.

There is, though, an argument the blame should not be entirely on Wilson, who has struggled while playing behind a banged-up offensive line.

Pressure a problem, but no excuse

The Jets can count Mekhi Becton, George Fant and Alijah Vera-Tucker among their offensive linemen on the sidelines, robbing them of two starting tackles and a guard.

Their pressure rate allowed of 42.3 per cent is well above the league average of 38.7 per cent but, though Wilson is one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL under pressure, he and the Jets cannot pin all of his woes on the pass protection.

Among quarterbacks with at least 50 throws under pressure, Wilson is last in the NFL with a well-thrown rate of 54 per cent and a pickable pass percentage of 18.

Wilson has only thrown two pickable passes when he is not pressured, but Carson Wentz is the sole quarterback with at least 100 such attempts with a worse well-thrown rate when kept clean than the Jets' starter's 77.5 per cent.

In other words, while Wilson is a better quarterback when not pressured, he is still among the least accurate passers in the league even when the offensive line does its job.

Wilson has not been supported by an overly efficient run game. The Jets' run success rate of 30.1 per cent is the second-worst in the league, yet their average gain on the ground of 4.4 yards is in line with the NFL average. 

The Jets have won just one game since sensational rookie running back Breece Hall suffered a season-ending injury, but their efforts on the ground in his absence have not been bad enough to justify Wilson's evident lack of year two growth, which is wasting an excellent season from the defense.

A playoff calibre defense

Saleh's defense ranks ninth in the NFL with a success rate allowed of 37.1 per cent and has excelled against the run and the pass without having to commit significant resources to defending either.

The Jets are allowing an average of four yards per play on the ground (the average is 4.4) while only playing with a heavy box on 36.5 per cent of defensive snaps. Similarly, they have the fourth-highest pressure rate (43.2 per cent) in the NFL but the lowest blitz rate (15.6 per cent). 

New York's defense is containing the ground game without having to bring defenders down from the secondary to do so and gets consistent pressure on quarterbacks while only sending four defensive linemen as pass rushers.

In essence, the Jets possess a defense ideally suited to stopping modern-day offenses, one that should be spearheading their playoff challenge.

Instead, the defense and the Jets as a whole are being limited by a quarterback whom they drafted to elevate the offense.

The Jets' victories this season have often come in spite of Wilson, who next campaign will enter the third year of his rookie deal. That would normally be the time for a team to consider starting discussions with their young quarterback about a contract extension, but Wilson has given the Jets no reason to be motivated to enter such conversations.

Unless Wilson turns things around down the stretch and ensures the Jets' season is one reflective of the plethora of talent they possess across the rest of the roster, the internal discussions around the man they picked to be the face of the franchise will likely be focused on how they replace him.

Kyrie Irving is never too far away from making himself the headline.

The 30-year-old returned on Sunday from the suspension imposed by the Brooklyn Nets after social media activity that appeared to promote a book and film with anti-Semitic tropes.

Following eight games on the sidelines before an eventual apology arrived, Irving was back on the court in the 127-115 win against the Memphis Grizzlies, scoring 14 points along with five rebounds.

Playing just 26 minutes at Barclays Center, he could feature more against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday as he clears off some of the rust.

However, as far as the Sixers are concerned, it will be more about those missing in action.

Former Net James Harden remains out with a foot injury, and he has now been joined by Joel Embiid, who will miss the upcoming clashes with the Nets and the Charlotte Hornets.

The Cameroonian will be a huge miss for Doc Rivers, having been in sensational form of late.

Embiid has an average of 32.6 after 12 outings this season, with his 4.6 assist average also higher than he has managed before in his career.

The 28-year-old had scored over 30 in five of his last six games, including a monstrous performance against the Utah Jazz where he put up 59 points as well as eight assists and 11 rebounds, showing just what a big hole he will leave.

Philadelphia are also still missing Tyrese Maxey, the only player other than Embiid and Harden (22.0) to be averaging over 20 points this season (22.9).

The Sixers had won three on the bounce before defeat last time out against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and face a Nets side that have experienced a bit of resurgence under coach Jacque Vaughn.

Having lost two of his first three games after replacing Steve Nash, including conceding 153 in the loss at Sacramento, Vaughn has seen his team overcome the Portland Trail Blazers and the Grizzlies in their last two.

With no Embiid, Maxey or Harden on the other side of the court, this will surely be an ideal opportunity for the Nets to build some much-needed momentum.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Philadelphia 76ers - Tobias Harris

Recent talk of a potential trade for Harris needs to be pushed to one side as the only available Sixers player to have an average in double figures this season (14.9).

He is another who has suffered recent injury problems having missed the last two games with a hip issue, but he practiced on Monday and surely will be used if possible given all the other absences.

Harris stepped up to support Maxey when Embiid and Harden were both out against the New York Knicks earlier this month, scoring 23 with nine rebounds.

Brooklyn Nets - Kevin Durant

Of course, many eyes will be on Ben Simmons against his former team, especially after his performance against Memphis, but Durant remains Brooklyn's danger man.

While the Nets have struggled for consistency, Durant has been an ever-reliable figure, having not scored fewer than 26 in any of his 17 games this season, at an average of 30.4.

KEY BATTLE - Can Sixers defense keep them in the game?

With so much attacking talent unavailable, it will inevitably mean Philadelphia's ability to keep the opposition's scoring to a minimum will be crucial.

Despite the efforts of Embiid, the Sixers have one of the worst records in the league for scoring this season, with only the Los Angeles Clippers (105.2) averaging less than their 108.6 (level with the Wizards, the Heat and the Rockets).

They do indeed have the third-best record for points against, with only the Clippers (105.4) and the Dallas Mavericks (105.3) conceding fewer than their 106.6 per game. 

HEAD TO HEAD

The Nets won three of their four meetings with the Sixers last season, although Rivers' men were victorious in their last contest in Philly, winning 110-102 at the end of December at Wells Fargo Center.

Three weeks ago, the New York Jets looked to have their best shot to beat the New England Patriots for a long, long time.

The end result of their home game with their hated AFC East rivals: a 22-17 win for the Patriots that would have been more emphatic if not for a Zach Wilson touchdown pass with under two minutes remaining.

It was a defeat that marked the Jets' 13th successive loss to the Patriots, who have won every game in this matchup since the beginning of the 2016 season.

The Patriots' run of dominance over the Jets has them tied for the longest active win streak against a single opponent for any team (Kansas City Chiefs over Denver Broncos).

However, after recovering to beat the Buffalo Bills the week after and then seeing the Bills lose at home to the Minnesota Vikings, the Jets are second in the AFC East at 6-3, just one game in the win column behind the Miami Dolphins.

With the Dolphins on bye, a win for the Jets on the road against the Patriots this week will move them to the top of the AFC East at 7-3. Lose, and the Jets may find themselves bottom of the pile at 6-4.

Their ability to finally overcome the Patriots could define how far the Jets go in an unexpectedly successful 2022 campaign to this point.

But can they finally get over their arch nemesis?

History clearly says no. The Jets have not beaten New England in Foxborough since a 34-31 overtime win in the 2008 season.

On that day, Brett Favre was the quarterback for New York while Matt Cassel was under center for the Patriots in place of an injured Tom Brady.

The Jets' hopes of ending their wait for a road win over the Patriots may hinge on current signal-caller Wilson avoiding Favre-esque gunslinging tendencies.

Back in Week 8, the Jets outgained the Patriots by nearly 100 yards, averaging 6.7 yards per play to New England's 3.8.

However, they were hamstrung by a tragicomedic three-interception showing from Wilson, who displayed a baffling aversion to throwing the ball away when there were no receiving options open.

For the season, Wilson has thrown 10 turnover-worthy passes, accounting for 6.67 per cent of his throws, the fourth-highest ratio among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts. 

Against the Bills, however, he did not throw a single interceptable pass, Wilson responding to his coaches' message of accepting a throwaway as a positive play.

In that 20-17 win over Buffalo, the Jets emerged victorious by relying on the formula they will likely need against New England, one which involves their quarterback staying largely within the structure of the offense and making sensible throws to a group of playmakers that have the talent to do damage, even in a matchup with an impressive Patriot defense.

That formula is reliant on the Jets' defense putting Wilson and the offense in advantageous positions. It did just that in Week 9 and the numbers suggest they should do so again in a matchup with Patriots signal-caller Mac Jones.

Jones' pickable pass rate of 7.41 per cent is the worst in the NFL (min. 100 pass attempts) and he struggles significantly when pressured, delivering an accurate ball just 71.4 per cent of the time under duress (the average for quarterbacks with at least 25 such attempts is 73.1%) and throwing a turnover-worthy pass on five of his 49 attempts under pressure this year.

The Jets' defense ranks second in the NFL by pressure rate (44.1 per cent) and, though the Patriots possess one of the better pass-blocking lines in the league, New York will surely look to lean on their fearsome defensive front to wreck New England's gameplan and significantly ease the burden on Wilson by creating turnovers that tilt the field in their favour.

New England's defense ranks third in defensive pressure rate and the Patriots will surely employ a similar approach in the hope of inducing another meltdown from Wilson, who has spent much of the season playing behind a banged-up offensive line.

But if Wilson is careful and decisive with the football, the Jets, as they showed in a home game with the Patriots that could have been markedly different if not for his turnovers, have the talent edge on both sides of the ball to dominate the Patriots statistically and on the scoreboard.

The Jets drafted Wilson in part because of the incredible improvisational skills he displayed in college at BYU. Those have not translated effectively to the NFL, however, and their hopes of finally ending a tortuous wait for a win over the Patriots may depend on Wilson's success in curbing his creative tendencies.

The NFL season has reached the point where the playoff picture truly starts to take shape.

Many players have proven themselves in an unpredictable 2022 campaign while others have fallen below expectations.

Stats Perform has focused on the former, selecting a pick for every position in Week 11, including the defense/special teams slot, for players that deserve to be in your consideration.

If you have any of these rostered, or they are somehow available on the waiver wire, now is the time to make your move!

Quarterback – Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills vs Cleveland Browns

Questionable for the entire week leading up to Week 10 against the Minnesota Vikings, Allen was not at his best as he threw two interceptions and had a critical late fumble in the fourth quarter, but still racked up the points.

A tally of 29 completions was Allen's highest since Week 2 against the Tennessee Titans (42), with a total of 330 yards his third-highest of the season. Cause for concern, however, is the fact Allen has thrown more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (three) over the past three weeks.

The Browns' defense has struggled to defend the pass, though, conceding 11.91 yards per completion on average, the sixth-worst in the NFL. Look for Allen to bounce back here.

Running back – Saquon Barkley, New York Giants vs Detroit Lions

No player has more rushing yards in the NFL this season than Barkley (931), who had 152 against the Houston Texans in Week 10, his highest return since 164 yards in Week 1 against the Titans.

With rushing touchdowns in seven of his nine games this season, including four in his last five, Barkley is almost guaranteed to yield a strong return of fantasy points – especially against a vulnerable Lions defense.

Only the Texans (1,636) have allowed more rushing yards this season than the Lions (1,448), while an average of 5.34 yards allowed per carry is third worst in the league – both numbers that will encourage Barkley to run riot.

Wide receiver – CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys @ Minnesota Vikings

The Cowboys' trip to Minnesota is a matchup where elite receivers will be the focus, with Justin Jefferson of the Vikings and the Cowboys' CeeDee Lamb top of the agenda – the latter being our pick for the week.

In the Week 10 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Lamb caught 11 of 15 targets and racked up 150 yards, reaching three figures for the first time this season, with two receiving plays of 25 or more yards.

Opponents against the Vikings have racked up a total of 2,537 yards, giving the Minnesota defense the sixth-worst record in that regard. The Vikings are also allowing 32 plays of at least 20 yards – with only five teams in the NFL conceding more.

Tight end – George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals

Utilised predominantly as a blocker in Week 10, George Kittle should see more of the ball against a Cardinals defense that has allowed a total of 2,619 passing yards this season, behind only the Atlanta Falcons and the Titans, and 17 passing touchdowns, the fourth-most across the NFL.

When targeted, Kittle is a reliable option to get the ball moving downfield, catching 29 of 41 targets and securing a first down on over half of them (15). A total of 340 yards this season has seen 165 yards after catch, illustrating his power when he gets moving.

Kittle boasts a burn rate, which is when a receiver wins his matchup against a defender on a play where he is targeted, of 65.9 per cent – ranking seventh among tight ends who have been targeted at least 30 times.

Defense/Special teams – Philadelphia Eagles @ Indianapolis Colts

Defeat to the Washington Commanders in Week 10 brought an end to the Eagles' eight-game winning streak but the 4-5 Colts should be an easier proposition for the NFC favourites to deal with.

The Eagles defense has allowed just 1,813 passing yards overall, the second-best record behind the Denver Broncos (1,769). Philadelphia's 13 interceptions is the joint-best tally in the NFL along with the Bills – intercepting 4.1 per cent of passing attempts they have faced.

Only three teams have recorded more sacks than the Eagles (29) this season, with opponents losing a total of 214 yards in the process – only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (217) and Cowboys (225) have seen opponents lose more yards on sacks.

The Portland Trail Blazers pulled out a 117-110 home win against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday to bring their record to 9-4, having finally constructed a winning formula around centrepiece Damian Lillard.

While their defense was nothing special against the Spurs – winning despite allowing the visitors to shoot 51.8 per cent from the field – they are currently rated as the seventh-best defense in the league.

Having ranked 29th out of 30 teams in defensive rating last season, giving up an average of 116.3 points per 100 possessions, it was the continuation of a three-year stretch as one of the league's worst defenses. They were also 29th in the 2020-21 season (115.3) and 27th in the 2019-20 campaign (114.3).

Across those three seasons, the Trail Blazers put together a combined record of 104-124 and were floundering, despite the presence of arguably the franchise's greatest ever player, Lillard, still in his prime.

Lillard has career averages of 24.7 points and 6.6 assists per game, and at that pace he will pass Clyde Drexler as the franchise's all-time leading scorer in 12 games, as he trails by 279 points.

This season, with the addition of big wing Jerami Grant – who has averaged at least 19.2 in each of his past two seasons with the Detroit Pistons – as well as last season's arrival of jack-of-all-trades Josh Hart from the New Orleans Pelicans, and all of a sudden the Blazers may have surrounded Lillard with the best defensive cast of his career.

They now boast a 109.9 defensive rating in a year when scoring is up league-wide. 

The last time they managed a defensive rating below 110 was the 2018-19 season, where their mark of 109.5 had them 16th, but they were solid enough to give Lillard and his brilliance a chance to win them games.

That 2018-19 season was Lillard's deepest playoff run, making it to the Western Conference Finals. They had C.J. McCollum as their second scorer back then, but now have a two-pronged punch behind Lillard with Grant and 23-year-old Anfernee Simons.

Simons was the 24th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft after choosing a non-traditional route to the league, opting against playing any college or professional basketball, instead training at the famed IMG Academy.

After only playing sparingly in his first three seasons, Simons raised his average from 7.8 points per game in the 2020-21 season to 17.3 last campaign, starting 30 games as Lillard missed extended time through injuries.

He has again taken a leap this year, posting career-highs in points (22.3), assists (4.1) and made three-pointers (3.8).

As much as anything, this is a Trail Blazers team that finally makes sense when building around a star player and second-scorer who are both small guards. They have flanked them with two strong wing defenders in the starting line-up, and have committed to using a physically imposing bench brigade.

Against the Spurs, the four players to come off the bench were Nassir Little, who is a stocky six-foot-five, as well as long-armed six-foot-six rookie Shaedon Sharpe, six-foot-eight Trendon Watford and six-foot-nine Drew Eubanks.

They all have one thing in common – they know their job is to defend, and make Lillard's life as easy as possible on that end of the floor.

Lillard is still undoubtedly at a level required to lead a team deep into the playoffs, and now, in his 11th season, after years of calls for him to leave Portland and head to a powerhouse where he could be more widely seen and appreciated, he may finally have a team capable of coming along for the ride.

The Golden State Warriors have a chance to reaffirm themselves as the heavyweights in the Western Conference on Wednesday when the defending NBA champions visit the Phoenix Suns.

Steve Kerr's team have endured a difficult start to their bid to win back-to-back titles, going 6-8 across their opening 14 games.

But they produced one of their best performances of the season on Monday, crushing the San Antonio Spurs 132-95.

A meeting with the Suns, seen as one of the primary challengers to Golden State in the West going into the season, my provide a more accurate indication of whether the Warriors have turned things around.

Phoenix lost a thriller with the Miami Heat on Monday, losing 113-112 on the road to drop to 8-5 but had little issue knocking off the Warriors in their first meeting this season on October 25, prevailing 134-105.

Veteran point guard Chris Paul has missed the last three games with a heel problem, and it remains to be seen if he will be healthy to play against the Warriors.

However, even without Paul the Suns possess one of the most talented rosters in the league, and with Devin Booker continuing his outstanding form from last season, they are well-equipped to trouble a Warriors team that has yet to win on the road this campaign.
 

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Phoenix Suns - Devin Booker

Through 13 games, Booker has the highest offensive rating of his career (117.2) while his effective field goal percentage of 53.5 is his best since the 2019-20 season (54.4).

His 26.5 points per game rank 11th in the NBA, and his ability to maintain that efficiency will be key against a Warriors team whose problems have predominantly been on defense.

Golden State Warriors - Jordan Poole

Poole scored 36 points after being inserted into the starting lineup as Klay Thompson was rested against San Antonio, making a compelling argument for becoming a permanent fixture in the Warriors' starting five.

Kerr is not ready to make the that move, but, after the spark he gave Golden State last time out, Poole could play a more prominent role in a game that may yet be a preview of the Western Conference Finals if the Warriors can get back on track.
 

KEY BATTLE - Can Warriors find a winning bench combination?

The main issue with the Warriors does not concern their starting five, but their youthful bench.

Indeed, the Warriors' bench has an average plus-minus of minus 4.9, the worst in the NBA, their issues in that regard exemplified by Golden State sending former second overall pick James Wiseman to the G-League.

By contrast, the Suns' bench ranks sixth in the league with an average plus-minus of plus-1.5. If the Warriors cannot find a way to narrow that gap, it could be another difficult night for the champions.


HEAD TO HEAD

The Warriors and Suns split the season series in 2021-22, each winning once at home and once on the road. Recent history favours the Suns, though, with the Warriors having lost five of their last seven against Phoenix on the road, including the blowout defeat in Arizona last month.

Only a small percentage of players that enter the NFL get to climb the mountain and win the Super Bowl.

The difficulty level surrounding the challenge of lifting the Lombardi Trophy is too often forgotten and too often impressive seasons are written off and quickly consigned to history after a team falls short.

It is not unusual for players to take about their exploits throughout a season being meaningless when they fall short of the ultimate goal. Yet in a league that is so tough to win, it is important to cherish the dramatic victories and moments that spark the greatest joy in the long journey that is an NFL season.

No fanbase understands this more than that of the Minnesota Vikings, who have continually had their hearts broken throughout a tortured history.

The Vikings have gone to four Super Bowls without winning any and have a long history of playoff agony.

Yet they are also responsible for one of the great postseason finishes, Stefon Diggs' last-gasp touchdown in the Divisional Round against the New Orleans Saints at the end of the 2017 season quickly coming to be known as the 'Minneapolis Miracle'.

With Diggs providing the opposition as a member of the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson produced another of those indelible moments for the franchise and the fans to cling on to in their astonishing 33-30 overtime win at Orchard Park.

The Vikings were firmly in the last chance saloon, trailing 27-23 with two minutes remaining and faced with fourth-and-18 from their own 27-yard line. Minnesota's hopes of victory were seemingly about to end, but Jefferson literally plucked some new life out of the air, bending backwards as he leapt to take a desperation Kirk Cousins throw away from the grasp of Bills defender Cam Lewis, producing a catch that instantly joined the discussion as arguably the best of all-time.

What made that reception more remarkable was the fact it did not result in points and was only a prelude to the utter chaos of the finale to the unquestioned game of the year. The Vikings drove to the Buffalo one-yard line but were stopped on fourth down, only for the Bills to cough up what looked to be certain victory when a fumbled snap on their goal-line allowed Eric Kendricks to recover a fumble and give Minnesota the lead.

It was quickly snatched away when Josh Allen, with a little under 40 seconds remaining to do so, guided the Bills in position to kick a game-tying field goal and force overtime, achieving that feat in part thanks to a controversial completion to Gabe Davis, officials electing not to review his catch despite replays indicating he had dropped the ball.

The Vikings kicked a go-ahead field goal in the extra period after again failing to convert from inside the Buffalo five-yard line, but their profligacy in the red zone was not punished as Allen ended an off-colour showing with a poor decision to throw over the middle, his pass intercepted by Patrick Peterson in the endzone to clinch a thrilling comeback triumph for Minnesota.

Allen's fumble and his red-zone interception were the decisive plays, but it is Jefferson's exploits that provided the defining image of the game, with his unbelievable fourth-down reception the highlight of one of a domineering display from a player who has swiftly ascended to the elite at the wide receiver position.

Jefferson had two receptions for first downs on the overtime drive that ensured the Bills would have to score a touchdown to win, the second another leaping grab on a corner route to haul in a perfectly placed ball from Cousins against a two-deep safety coverage.

For the game, he finished with 10 catches for a career-high 193 yards and a touchdown, another history-making display for a receiver who has made a habit of rewriting the record books since entering the NFL in 2020.

This was his 20th career game with at least 100 receiving yards, surpassing Odell Beckham Jr. (19 games) and Randy Moss (19) for the most such games by a player in his first three career seasons in NFL history. 

Jefferson now has seven games with at least 150 receiving yards, overtaking Moss and fellow Hall of Famer Lance Alworth (both six) for the most by a player in his opening three seasons, while he is up to 4,076 receiving yards in 42 games, tying Alworth and Beckham for the fewest games to reach 4,000 career receiving yards in NFL history.

Following his efforts against Buffalo, Jefferson has 18 completions of at least 20 yards or more this season, trailing only Tyreek Hill (20). Jefferson's Stats Perform big play rate of 36.3 per cent puts him fifth among receivers with at least 50 targets, his explosiveness a product of his ability to manufacture separation with his route-running and make superb plays at the catch point.

Registering a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted, on 66.7 per cent of targets, Jefferson is fourth in burn yards per route (4.2), further illustrating how adept he is at breaking free from coverage.

The Vikings trade with Buffalo in 2020 saw them part with the man at the heart of one of the greatest plays in franchise history as the Bills acquired Diggs in exchange for a first-round pick. Minnesota used that first-round pick on Jefferson, with that exchange now deservedly viewed as a huge win for both sides.

By producing a physics-defying catch with the game on the line in a matchup seen as a referendum on the Vikings' credentials as a contender, Jefferson has followed in Diggs' footsteps in delivering a moment that will live in franchise folklore.

The wild nature of the victory may lead some to hit the pause button on declaring the Vikings to be a team in contention to win the Super Bowl, even with an 8-1 record and a win over one of the AFC's best now on their resume.

But discussion over Super Bowl chances should be secondary in this instance. Regardless of whether the Vikings go on to make it deep into the postseason, Jefferson's play is one that the Vikings fanbase will talk about forever. The Vikings may not be holding the Lombardi Trophy come the end of the season in Arizona, but Jefferson's heroics in this bewitching chapter of their 2022 campaign will still be worth celebrating.

The final round of Premier League fixtures before the World Cup break produced a huge shock at the Etihad Stadium.

After missing out on England's World Cup squad, Ivan Toney struck twice to give Brentford a sensational 2-1 victory over Manchester City.

That result confirmed Arsenal would be top heading into the World Cup interval, and they increased their lead to five points by cruising past Wolves at Molineux as Martin Odegaard scored both goals in a 2-0 triumph.

Tottenham and Leeds United played out a seven-goal thriller at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with the hosts eventually running out 4-3 winners.

Elsewhere, Chelsea fell to a third straight league defeat as they were beaten 1-0 by in-form Newcastle United.

Here, Stats Perform looks through the best facts of the day.

Manchester City 1-2 Brentford: Toney double stuns Citizens

City had previously been unbeaten for 20 home matches in all competitions since a 3-2 defeat against Spurs in February, winning their last 16 at the Etihad.

But Toney, fresh from his England disappointment, scored his 21st and 22nd Premier League goals to end City's streak in dramatic fashion.

His winner came after 97 minutes and 16 seconds, the latest winning goal scored against City in the Premier League since exact goal times started being recorded in the 2006-07 campaign.

The Bees were made to do a lot of defending to earn the three points, with City's 29 shots their most in a Premier League home game they failed to win since a 2-1 defeat to Leeds United in April 2021.

Phil Foden's equaliser in first-half injury time was his sixth home goal in all competitions, his joint-best return in a Premier League season. Six of his eight goals (75 per cent) this season have come at the Etihad, compared to 43 per cent last term (six of 14).

Wolves 0-2 Arsenal: Odegaard fires Gunners to five-point lead

Odegaard's double puts him up to six Premier League goals this season, the most of any Arsenal player, while only Kevin de Bruyne, James Maddison and Leandro Trossard have been involved in more away goals than the Norway international (five, four goals and one assist).

The three points, combined with City slipping up, gives Arsenal their biggest lead at the top of the Premier League since December 2013.

Mikel Arteta's men are the only team to have scored in every Premier League game this season and they will be top of the league on Christmas day for the first time since the 2007-08 campaign.

Another defeat for Wolves means new boss Julen Lopetegui has much work to do, with the Molineux club bottom at Christmas for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

They are seriously out of form, only winning one of their last 22 Premier League games, failing to score in 11 matches over that run.

Tottenham 4-3 Leeds United: Bentancur strikes twice as Spurs come from behind

Antonio Conte's side completed yet another turnaround to beat Leeds and have now rescued 13 points from losing positions, more than any other team.

Rodrigo Bentancur's late double was the first time he has scored twice in the same game within the main five European leagues, on what was his 164th such appearance.

Spurs were made to do it the hard way, as Rodrigo and Crysencio Summerville became the first pair of team-mates to both score in four straight Premier League games.

But Leeds ultimately succumbed to defeat, their fifth straight league loss against London sides since thumping Chelsea 3-0 in August.

Spurs meanwhile have now scored 31 goals in 15 Premier League games this season, only bettering that tally at this stage of the competition in one season, when they netted 35 in 15 to kick off the 2009-10 campaign.

Newcastle United 1-0 Chelsea: Willock wonder strike downs Blues

Joe Willock scored a superb winner to earn Newcastle a fifth straight Premier League victory for the first time since 2014.

On the flip side, Graham Potter becomes the first Chelsea boss to lose three consecutive league matches since Jose Mourinho in 2015 as his side's poor form continues.

A key reason for the defeat was a dismal attacking display, registering just seven touches in the opposition box, their lowest since January against Manchester City.

The closest Chelsea went to scoring was Conor Gallagher forcing an acrobatic save from Nick Pope. No other goalkeeper has kept more clean sheets in the Premier League this season than Pope, with five of his seven coming at St James' Park.

The three points ensure Newcastle will be in the top three at Christmas for the first time since the 2001-02 campaign, when they were top.

The midpoint of the NFL season is tougher to discern following the move to a 17-game campaign but, with Week 10 off and running, it's fair to say we are into the second half.

It is in these final nine weeks when the games will become increasingly important and the onus will be on the game's best to deliver and make sure their respective teams are in position to reach the postseason.

The performances in this half of the campaign will have a significant influence on the end of year awards and on the identity of players named to the All-Pro team.

But which players are most deserving of the latter honour following the opening half of the season?

Stats Perform dug deep into its advanced metrics to help fill out its All-Pro team at the midway point of the year.

Quarterback: Patrick Mahomes - Kansas City Chiefs

Mahomes is second in the NFL in Efficiency Versus Expected in expected passing situations among quarterbacks. He trails Josh Allen, however, having produced 36 completions of at least 20 yards compared to 30 for Allen. He has also been the more accurate quarterback, posting a well-thrown percentage of 82.7 compared to 82.2 for Allen.

Running Back: Tony Pollard - Dallas Cowboys

Among running backs with at least 50 designed runs, Pollard leads the NFL in yards per carry (6.25), is second in yards after contact per attempt (2.94) and first in yards per carry when there is a disruption by a defender (5.27). Pollard is also sixth in yards before contact per rush (3.46).

Wide Receiver: Tyreek Hill - Miami Dolphins

Hill is third in big-play rate among wide receivers with at least 50 targets. His rate of 39.5 per cent trails only Amari Cooper (40.4) and team-mate Jaylen Waddle (39.7). In terms of registering a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup on a play where he is targeted, he leads all qualifying wideouts with 5.0 burn yards per route and is on pace to finish with over 2,000 receiving yards.

Wide Receiver: Stefon Diggs - Buffalo Bills

Diggs leads the NFL in open percentage against man coverage, winning 74.42 per cent of his matchups and reaffirming his status as one of the NFL's elite route-runners.

Slot Receiver: Justin Jefferson - Minnesota Vikings

No receiver with at least 25 targets from the slot is averaging more burn yards per route (5.0) or burn yards per target (16.32) than Jefferson.

Tight End: Mark Andrews - Baltimore Ravens

When he has been healthy, no tight end has done a better job of creating separation than Andrews, who leads all players at his position (min. 25 targets) in burn rate (78.1 per cent), big play rate (39 per cent) and burn yards per route (3.7).

Left Tackle: Laremy Tunsil - Houston Texans

The Texans' struggles are nothing to do with Tunsil, who leads all linemen with a pass block win rate of 94.64 per cent and all left tackles with a pressure rate allowed of 1.5 per cent.

Left Guard: Landon Dickerson - Philadelphia Eagles

With the Eagles' Jason Kelce succession plan in place at center, Dickerson can focus on playing guard, which he is doing outstandingly. He leads all left guards with a pressure rate of 3.3 per cent and his stunt-adjusted pass block win rate of 88.69 per cent is second among all guards.

Center: Creed Humphrey - Kansas City Chiefs

Humphrey's pass-block win rate of 87.96 per cent is second to Rodney Hudson of the Arizona Cardinals (90). However, Humphrey has played 253 pass block snaps compared to Hudson's 107. Humphrey has a double-team adjusted run-block win rate of 76.36 per cent, Hudson's is just 53.33.

Right Guard: Wyatt Teller - Cleveland Browns

An outstanding run-blocking guard with a win rate of 80 per cent in that area of the game, Teller's pass-block win rate of 90.74 per cent trails just Tunsil among all offensive linemen.

Right Tackle: Tristan Wirfs - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The problems on the Bucs' offensive line are on the interior, not at tackle, where Wirfs has been exemplary. Wirfs has allowed three pressures in 277 pass-blocking snaps and is third in adjusted win rate (90.56 per cent) among linemen behind Tunsil and Teller.

Edge Rusher: Myles Garrett - Cleveland Browns

Garrett's pressure rate of 29.7 per cent is tied for the best among all edge rushers, while his pass-rush win rate is a phenomenal 68.3 per cent. Winning 48 of his 70 rushes, no edge defender can match him for disruption this season.

Interior Defensive Line: Aaron Donald - Los Angeles Rams

The Rams' hopes of retaining the Lombardi Trophy look to be hanging by a thread, but Donald is still Donald and once again playing at a ridiculously high level. Only two players (Derrick Brown and D.J Jones) have a higher run disruption rate among defensive tackles than Donald (40.5 per cent) while Quinnen Williams is the sole interior defensive lineman with a better pressure rate than his 24.2 per cent. No defender, however, can match Donald's remarkable pass-rush win rate of 73.66 per cent.

Interior Defensive Line: Quinnen Williams - New York Jets

The two players closest to Donald's level both reside in New York. Dexter Lawrence of the Giants has a better pass-rush win rate (72.8 per cent) than Williams (70.5 per cent) but Williams has been the slightly superior all-round defender, winning his run defense matchup 62.5 per cent of the time, adjusted for double-teams, compared to 54.67 per cent for Lawrence.

Edge Rusher: Von Miller - Buffalo Bills

Miller has been worth the extremely lofty price of admission for the Bills so far this season, posting a pass-block win rate of 57.33 and winning 62.96 per cent of his run defense matchups.

You may be screaming 'where is Micah Parsons?!' about the absence of the man seen as the Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner. Parsons is fourth in pressure rate among edge rushers (28.3 per cent), but 16 of his pressures have been unblocked, illustrating a role in the Dallas defense in which he often takes advantage of stunts as the looper. 

Athleticism and quickness creates a tougher situation for the linemen who are being gamed, but it also relies on the penetrator half of the stunt to pick two defenders. In other words, he's creating pressure because a different lineman is blowing a hole through the protection, giving Parsons a free rush on the QB.

In terms of traditional pass rushing, Parsons' impact has not quite been significant enough to make the cut.

Linebacker: Fred Warner - San Francisco 49ers

Warner remains the gold standard for coverage linebackers, allowing a combined open percentage across man and zone of just 15.49 that is second only to Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (13.95 per cent). Warner has also displayed improvement as a blitzer in 2022, his pressure rate of 43.8 per cent second among inside linebackers with at least 20 pass rushes.

Linebacker: Demario Davis - New Orleans Saints

At 33, Davis continues to demonstrate impressive longevity. His combined open percentage allowed of 17.64 trails only Warner among linebackers with at least 100 total plays, while he has also won 23.21 per cent of his run defense opportunities, well above the average of 17.72 for the position.

Nickel Cornerback: Bryce Callahan - Los Angeles Chargers

While the Chargers' run defense has continually struggled, their play in the defensive backfield has been impressive, with Callahan a clear standout. He has lost just six of his 74 coverage matchups across man and zone for a combined open percentage of 17.57 that is the best among corners with at least 50 matchups.

Cornerback: Patrick Surtain II - Denver Broncos

In his second year in the NFL, Surtain already has an extremely strong claim for being considered the best corner in the league. He is third in combined open percentage (21) and his burn rate of 28.9 per cent is first among corners with at least 25 targets.

Cornerback: Darius Slay - Philadelphia Eagles

Second behind Callahan for open percentage (20.21), Slay is once again thriving as part of an Eagles defense that is continually taking the ball away. He has eight pass breakups and three interceptions this season to go along with his superb coverage numbers.

Safety: Derwin James - Los Angeles Chargers

The flexibility of James has been critical to the aforementioned success in the secondary for the Chargers. His burn rate allowed of 35.7 per cent is the third-best for his position while James has also proven an asset rushing the passer, registering three sacks.

Safety: Talanoa Hufanga - San Francisco 49ers

You can't watch a 49ers game without Hufanga being compared to Troy Polamalu. He has unquestionably earned such plaudits, though, giving up the second-fewest burn yards per target (5.68) among safeties and recording the best big-play rate (8.0 per cent). With three interceptions, six pass breakups, five tackles for loss, four stuffs and a sack, he is setting the standard for splash plays at safety.

In recent years, the notable absentee at the ATP Finals has been Roger Federer, with his last appearance in the tournament coming in 2019.

The lack of Federer at the showpiece event will be felt even more apparent this year after the Swiss maestro retired from tennis in September, though it is the absence of a player at the other end of his career that is more relevant in Turin.

World number one Carlos Alcaraz had to withdraw from the tournament after suffering an abdominal tear, which means his status at the top of the men's game is in jeopardy.

Rafael Nadal has spoken well of his 19-year-old compatriot in the past, but is not ready to pass the torch just yet, and could even topple Alcaraz from his number one spot.

The 22-time grand slam champion has finished as year-end number one five times previously, most recently in 2019. Should he accomplish the feat again this year it would put him in joint-second for most year-end finishes at the top of the ATP Rankings (since 1973) along with Pete Sampras (six).

In order to do so, Nadal will need to win the tournament, something he has never done before.

However, he comes into his 11th appearance in good form, and has won 32 per cent of his return games in 2022, the highest percentage by any player this year, and has converted 43.8 per cent of his break points in 2022, the third best amongst all players.

 

Stefanos Tsitsipas, meanwhile, is the other competitor who can knock Alcaraz off top spot, though his task to do so is a little more complicated as he needs to win every match on the way to the title in Turin. 

No player has played more matches in 2022 than Tsitsipas (80), 21 on clay, 11 on grass and 48 on hard courts; he has won 59 of them and lost 21.

Should neither man win at the Pala Alpitour, Alcaraz will breathe a sigh of relief and earn his first year-end number one finish, having taken his place after winning the US Open in September.

Nadal has been drawn into the Green Group with Casper Ruud, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Taylor Fritz, while Tsitsipas will be in the Red Group alongside Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic can equal Federer record

One man surprisingly unable to end the year as number one is Djokovic, despite having done so on more occasions than anyone else in history (seven).

However, the 21-time grand slam champion can still make his mark in Italy.

Djokovic has had an up-and-down year, only playing in two of the four grand slams due to his vaccination status, though he was able to win Wimbledon for the seventh time, beating Nick Kyrgios in the final.

Should the Serbian go all the way and lift what would be his sixth ATP Finals title, he will go level with Federer for most victories since the tournament began in 1970.

Among the eight participating players in this year's tournament, Djokovic has won 87 per cent of his service games in 2022, the best percentage among these players and the sixth overall.

It would be quite the ending to the year for Djokovic, who finds himself in the unusual position of sitting eighth in the world rankings, and at the age of 35, who knows how many more appearances he will make at the event?

 

Strong field promises fireworks

As is the intent of the format, the ATP Finals should be a tightly-contested few days as the best men's players in the world come together.

Ruud will be looking to add to an already impressive season, having reached two grand slam finals and winning three tour-level titles, while Fritz is aiming to carry on the fine lineage of American players to have won the tournament.

Players from the United States have won the ATP finals 16 times, with Sampras and Ivan Lendl winning five of them each. It is the most by any country and 10 more than next best Switzerland (six, all Federer) and Germany (also six, three wins for Boris Becker, one for Michael Stich and two for last year's champion, Alexander Zverev).

Auger-Aliassime has had a strong end to the year, beating Djokovic at the Laver Cup before winning three titles in as many weeks in Florence, Antwerp and Basel.

Only John Isner (895) has recorded more aces in 2022 than Auger-Aliassime, who has registered 852 in total, averaging 10.9 per match.

"All the players who participate [at the ATP Finals], I have already faced them, I have beaten them," the Canadian recently said. "So for me, there's no reason why I can't show up to this tournament with the aim of winning it."

Medvedev was world number one as recently as September but enters this tournament in fifth, though he did win the Vienna ATP 500 event last month, while his first opponent in Turin, Rublev, enters with a 2022 record of 49-18, looking for his second straight 50-win season.

Whoever comes out on top at this year's ATP Finals, the race for supremacy in 2023 promises to be as delightfully chaotic.

For Newcastle United and Chelsea, their respective outlooks heading into the final fixture before the World Cup couldn't be much more different.

While Eddie Howe's side are enjoying a brilliant season that at this point looks set to end with a European spot at the very least, Chelsea have endured a difficult few weeks and are on the slide.

Essentially, the World Cup break comes at the worst possible moment for Newcastle, but for Chelsea it's perfectly timed as it can potentially act as a circuit-breaker.

Nevertheless, there's still time for Chelsea to improve their collective mood heading into the break – though Saturday's trip to St James' Park is going to be a real test.

Newcastle a different beast

In the world of football, people love to look back for omens. Chelsea and their fans might be able to trick themselves into some confidence if they reflect on the club's record against Newcastle.

The Blues have won three of their past four Premier League away games against the Magpies – if they rack up another, they'll make it three victories in a row at St James' Park for the first time since 1958.

Similarly, Chelsea have won seven of their previous eight league games against Newcastle (L1), including the past four in a row without conceding.

But this Newcastle is obviously a rather different proposition. They'll be playing a Premier League game after starting the day in the top three for the first time since November 2011, and it'll be the first time they've faced Chelsea while above them in the table in 12 and a half years.

Newcastle also head into the game knowing a win will see them tally five top-flight triumphs in a row for the first time in eight years. 

Chelsea have the blues

Graham Potter made history after going unbeaten in his first nine games at the Chelsea helm, but since then they've lost three out of four matches.

Wednesday's 2-0 loss to Manchester City in the EFL Cup third round was hardly a major shock, but it'll have done little to improve their state of mind after the team's confidence took a battering – literally and figuratively – in the 4-1 defeat to Potter's former side Brighton and Hove Albion and a 1-0 reverse at home to Arsenal.

The latter two were both in the league and were only separated by a slender Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb, meaning defeat on Saturday would see them lose three top-flight games in a row for the first time since November 2015 when Jose Mourinho was in charge.

Shot-shy Chelsea

Part of Chelsea's problem has been their struggles in front of goal, which perhaps shouldn't be seen as hugely shocking given they let two strikers in Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku leave in pre-season.

Only five clubs have had fewer shots in the Premier League this term than Chelsea (151), with their average of 11.6 shots per game their lowest on record in a single campaign (since 1997-98).

By comparison, their hosts are having no such issues.

Only Liverpool and Manchester City have had more shots than Newcastle (208), with their average of 14.9 attempts per game their highest since 2013-14 (15.2).

Chelsea do at least have two players who've enjoyed facing Newcastle in the past. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been involved in nine goals in as many meetings with them in all competitions, his best return against one team in English football, while Raheem Sterling has recorded six goal involvements in his past six league games against the Magpies.

However, neither could be considered in a rich vein of form – that's certainly not something you could say about Newcastle's Miguel Almiron.

Almiron's on fire

Almiron's turnaround at Newcastle has genuinely been quite heart-warming, particularly against the backdrop of those disparaging comments made by Jack Grealish earlier this year.

The Paraguayan has been utterly lethal for Newcastle this season, and his form received the recognition it deserved on Friday when he was announced as the Premier League's Player of the Month for October.

But his excellence hasn't just been localised to October. Almiron has eight goals in 14 Premier League games this term, just one fewer than he managed in his first 110 in the competition combined.

Clearly, though, he's really found his groove in the past few weeks, as a goal against Chelsea will see him become the first player to net in five successive league games for the club since Joe Willock's remarkable run of seven at the end of the 2020-21 season.

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