As Premier League managers try and strengthen their squads you'll need to ensure you make the right moves ahead of another weekend of action.

Amid the comings and goings in the January transfer window, finding the right formula is crucial in order to challenge for honours or start climbing the table.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform has picked out four players who can earn you some precious points.


David Raya (Leeds United v Brentford)

Raya has kept two clean sheets in Brentford's past three top-flight games, the latest coming in a 2-0 victory over Bournemouth.

The Spain international has kept out the opposition entirely on six occasions this season in the Premier League and his tally of 81 saves is more than any other goalkeeper.

Leeds put five goals past a poor Cardiff City side in the FA Cup on Wednesday, but they have been wasteful in the top flight. A combination of a solid defence and Raya could frustrate them at Elland Road.

Dan Burn (Crystal Palace v Newcastle United)

If you have not got Burn in your defence, then it is a case of better late than never.

Newcastle have kept five consecutive Premier League clean sheets and Burn has been at the heart of their back four in all of those games.

Only team-mate Kieran Tripper (11) has more clean sheets to his name in the league this season than Burn's tally of nine.

A threat from set-pieces, the towering centre-back has also created five chanes and is due a Premier League goal after finding the back of the net against Leicester City in the EFL Cup.

Half a season is a long time in football.

At the end of the 2021-22 campaign, Liverpool had come within a whisker of becoming the first English team in history to win the EFL Cup, FA Cup, Premier League and Champions League in a single campaign.

Chelsea had reached two domestic finals, losing on penalties to Liverpool on both occasions, and finished third in the Premier League after initially threatening a title charge with their early season form.

As the two prepare to meet at Anfield on Saturday, they do so in very different places from then, sitting ninth and 10th in the league table respectively.

They both managed to win their last games 1-0, but there is a long way to go if they are to get back to where they expect to be, and Stats Perform has taken a look at where it may have gone wrong for the two stumbling giants.

Reds struggling to step up to the challenge

It has been a particularly harsh slide for Liverpool, who for the second time in recent seasons were denied the league title by Manchester City in May despite earning over 90 points, while an inspired performance from Thibaut Courtois stopped them in the Champions League final against Real Madrid.

The inevitable disappointment from those two blows has been suggested as one of the reasons why they have accumulated just 28 points from 18 Premier League games, having already lost three times as many as they did in their entire league campaign last season (6-2), and conceding just one fewer goal in less than half the games (25-26).

A lack of turnover in his previously trusted players has been another factor blamed for what has been a tired looking season from the Reds, and tired performances are understandably a significant problem for a team that thrived by overwhelming the opposition with their energy and high pressing.

Liverpool simply aren't executing as many high turnovers, averaging 9.4 per 90 this season, the fourth-most in the league, down from 11.7 last season when they produced comfortably the most (Man City second with 9.9 per 90).

One of the criticisms Klopp has been willing to make publicly of his team in recent games has been their struggle to win challenges, and he wasn't wrong as Liverpool have the worst record in the Premier League for duel success this season (47.4 per cent).

This could go some way to explaining why the number of big chances against them – defined by Opta as a situation from which a player should reasonably be expected to score – has exploded, having already allowed 54 in just 18 games, one more than the whole of last season, and 13 more than their total from the 2018-19 campaign when the team was entering its peak.

Compounding the problem, their ability to put away their own big chances has also fallen off a cliff, having led the league with a 55.3 per cent conversion rate last season.

Despite only Man City (67) creating more big chances than Liverpool's 60 this season, only Leicester City (25.8 per cent) have a worse conversion rate than their 26.7 per cent, less than half what it was last season.

The sale of Sadio Mane could be a factor given the Senegalese forward scored 14 of his 27 big chances in the league last season (51.8 per cent), while his primary replacement Darwin Nunez has only taken four of his 19 so far (21.1).

Things should settle if Nunez and new arrival Cody Gakpo can get close to their previous numbers. The Uruguayan put away 21 of his 35 in the Primeira Liga for Benfica last season, with his 60 per cent success rate the fourth-highest of players in Europe's top 10 leagues (min. 20 big chances), while Gakpo scored five of his 10 big chances for PSV in the Eredivisie before his move this season.

Blues in limbo after period of change

If the lack of squad replenishment is one of the main issues at Liverpool, it could be argued quite the opposite is true of Chelsea since their ownership change last May.

The £88.5million purchase of Mykhaylo Mudryk took the club's overall spending to £372.7m since then (according to Transfermarkt), with 13 new players coming in.

All that on top of swapping the head coach in September, with Thomas Tuchel replaced by the much-heralded Graham Potter, who had never coached a club of Chelsea's standing before.

While many put this down to same old Chelsea, changing their man in the dugout at the first sign of any trouble, it felt more like a statement of intent from Todd Boehly and co, wanting to put in place a long-term strategy with a progressive coach like Potter at the helm.

Despite a solid enough start, going unbeaten in his first nine games (W6, D3), a 4-1 humbling at former club Brighton and Hove Albion signalled the start of a prolonged wobble that has seen them lose another seven of their 11 games since. 

Potter managed to turn the Seagulls into one of the most attractive and fluent teams in the league, with one particular stand-out metric being their high turnovers.

Between the start of the 2021-22 season and leaving for Chelsea last September, only Liverpool (11.4) and Man City (9.9) averaged more high turnovers per game than Brighton (9.8) in the Premier League.

During the same period, Chelsea averaged 8.2 per game, which has gone up to 8.9 under Potter, showing there is still a way to go before his new team will be fully able to implement his style of football.

There has also been a significant struggle to score goals, having only managed 22 at the halfway point of the league campaign – four fewer than Leeds United and Leicester City – after scoring 76 last season.

It is an interesting situation considering Brighton managed just 42 goals last season, with only Wolves and the three relegated teams scoring fewer, and many pointed to the fact Potter never really had an orthodox and accomplished striker to call on.

However, at Chelsea he has had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who may not be what he once was but still scored 13 goals in 23 games for Barcelona last season. The Gabon international has found the net just three times in 16 outings for the Blues, and once in 10 games in the Premier League.

There is also the revolving door of players in and out of the side due primarily to injuries and Potter trying to ascertain his best team, making 60 changes to his starting XI already since his arrival, 21 more than any other manager in the league in that time.

With the talent and resources available to both Klopp and Potter, it would be safe to assume that this is probably just a bad patch for them and before long, the familiar figures of the Reds and the Blues will be back challenging the top four.

There are certainly issues to iron out for both though, and what better way to start than by adding further misery to the other at Anfield on Saturday?

The Memphis Grizzlies will get a chance to tie their longest winning streak in franchise history when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.

Monday's 30-point demolition of the Phoenix Suns extended the Grizzlies' streak to 10, and they are now one victory away from tying the 11-game streak from the 2014-15 campaign starring Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, which was matched last season.

Over their last 10 fixtures, the Grizzlies have been a juggernaut on both ends of the court, scoring 119.9 points per 100 possessions to sit third in offensive rating, while also boasting the best defense in the NBA, allowing just 106.5.

Meanwhile, the team the Grizzlies overtook to snatch top spot in the defensive rankings was the Cavaliers, who still sit second for the season.

Another key indicator for the true contenders is net rating – which measures how much better a team's offensive rating is compared to their defense – and both of these sides have excelled through the first half of the season. The Grizzlies sit second overall with a net rating of 5.8, while the Cavaliers are third at 4.7.

Two very similar teams, both the Cavaliers and the Grizzlies utilise two defensive anchors in their starting line-up, leaning away from the more prevalent "small ball" roster constructions seen around the league.

For the Grizzlies, Steven Adams is arguably the strongest rebounder in the league while Jaren Jackson Jr leads the NBA in blocks per game at 3.3. On the Cavaliers' side, All-Star Jarrett Allen and defensive prodigy Evan Mobley roam the interior.

While these sides are almost identical defensively, the way they attack on offense, particularly through their star players, could decide their fate.

Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant is, without a doubt, one of the best guards in league history when it comes to finishing at the rim. He is averaging five makes per game within five feet of the basket – the only guard in the league to do so – while converting at a terrific 61 per cent clip.

The problem with that is how well both of these teams protect the basket, as it creates the question of what happens when an unstoppable force – Morant – meets an immovable object – the rim protection of Allen and Mobley.

On the other hand, the combination of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell for the Cavaliers are far more malleable with the way they create their offense.

Garland excels in 'floater range' from five-to-nine feet away from the hoop, sitting 15th in the league with 1.3 makes per game at an efficient 50 per cent, while Mitchell provides the long-range assault.

Mitchell is averaging 3.1 makes per game on deep threes (greater than 25 feet), which trails only the Golden State Warriors' Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry (3.8) and Klay Thompson (3.2).

It should be a mouthwatering clash between the league's best two defensive teams, who both have all their young stars healthy and ready to go as they look to strengthen their playoff positions.



Cleveland Cavaliers – Jarrett Allen

It is no secret that Morant is the driving force behind the Grizzlies' success, and for him to dominate games, he needs to control the paint.

Allen is the Cavaliers' primary rim protector and will be tasked with preventing Morant from producing more of his highlight-reel finishes, and if he can turn Morant into a jump-shooter for the night, Cleveland will consider that a massive win.

Memphis Grizzlies – Desmond Bane

Desmond Bane is the perfect counterbalance to Morant, providing the Grizzlies with a dynamic shooting threat who holds the defense's attention at all times.

Through three seasons, Bane owns a ridiculous career three-point percentage of 43.3. It is not just a strong number, it is the seventh-best career figure of all-time, and places him in the absolute top echelon of shooters in today's game.

If he can hit a couple early and force the Cavaliers' defense to divert some of their attention away from Morant, Bane could open up everything for the Grizzlies' offense.

KEY BATTLE – Can the Cavaliers figure out how to win on the road?

Heading into this contest, both the Grizzlies (19-3) and the Cavaliers (19-4) sit top-three in the NBA's best home records.

The Grizzlies will get the honour of hosting this time, leaving the Cavs as the underdogs as they try to figure out what is behind their disappointing 9-13 record away from home this campaign.


This will be the first time this season these two teams meet, although the Grizzlies have won each of the past three matchups.

The Cavaliers defeated the Grizzlies once during Morant's rookie season in 2019, but the former Rookie of the Year has not lost to them since.

The first trophy of the Italian football season is on the line on Wednesday when fierce rivals Inter and Milan face off for the Supercoppa Italiana at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.

Scudetto holders Milan and last season's Coppa Italia winners Inter appear well out of the Serie A title race at the midway point this time around, trailing leaders Napoli by nine and 10 points respectively.

Inter are still in the mix for silverware elsewhere this campaign, though, as they have a Champions League last-16 tie with Porto on the horizon and are also through to the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia.

As for Milan, they are also in the first knockout round of Europe's primary club competition – where Tottenham await over two legs – but they were eliminated from the Coppa Italia with a 1-0 defeat to Torino in extra time last week.

It is fair to say that Rossoneri head coach Stefano Pioli has a fair bit of money in the bank should this season end trophyless, having ended the club's 11-year wait for Scudetto success last season.

But defeat to neighbours Inter in Saudi Arabia, coupled with that big gap on Napoli, could lead to some questions being asked.

If that sounds extreme on the face of it, let us remember this is a club that got through seven managers in the seven years preceding Pioli's appointment.

Inzaghi has less goodwill to play with, and Italian outlet Gazzetta dello Sport reported in the build-up to the Supercoppa tie that the former striker has been told Wednesday's match must be used as a turning point in a below-par season.

The showdown between two of Italy's three most successful clubs has plenty riding on it, then, but what does recent history tell us about teams winning the Supercoppa and what it meant for the rest of their seasons? 

Inzaghi to join elite list?

The Supercoppa has now been staged midway through the season in Saudi Arabia for three of the past five years (this is the final year of the arrangement), the exceptions being in 2020 and 2021 when it was held in Italy due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, the reigning Serie A winners have prevailed against their opponents three times out of four. The anomaly in that sequence? A Lazio side managed by a certain Inzaghi that saw off Juventus 3-1.

Indeed, having also won the Supercoppa in 2019 and last year with Inter, Inzaghi could join legendary figures Fabio Capello and Marcelo Lippi as the most successful coaches in the competition's history.


Lazio also finished fourth in Serie A that season – the only time they have finished in the top four in the seven seasons either side – but they had entered the Supercoppa showdown with Juventus sitting one place higher.

From collecting 2.25 points per game across their 16 matches, Lazio's form dropped slightly to 1.91 per game in the final 22 games.

There are plenty of other factors to consider, of course, but the same was also true of Inter after winning this cup last season.

The Nerazzurri were top of the table on January 12 when beating Juventus 2-1 to lift their first piece of silverware under Inzaghi, averaging 2.45 points per game up until that point.

In the subsequent four months, that dipped to 1.94 points per game and they were pipped to the title by Milan, although they did at least win the Coppa Italia.

Familiar theme

Juve are another example of results dipping after winning the competition – as a direct consequence or otherwise – going from 2.79 points per game to 1.95 either side of defeating Milan in Jeddah.

However, given just how good they were in the first half of that season, they still retained top spot in Serie A.

Juventus in 2020-21 is the outlier in our sample as they improved on a return of 1.94 points per game on average to 2.14 either side of seeing off Napoli 2-0 on January 20, 2021.

The Bianconeri went from fifth to fourth and qualified for the Champions League, yet that was not enough to keep Andrea Pirlo in a job.

Effectively, then, teams tend to drop off after winning the Supercoppa, rather than using it as a platform to push on. And on more than one occasion, lifting the trophy has not been enough to keep a coach in place beyond that season.

So while Pioli and Inzaghi in particular will consider this an opportunity to potentially transform their respective sides' Serie A campaigns and reel in Napoli, the stats show that is highly unlikely to happen.

Mykhaylo Mudryk has become the latest mega-money acquisition in the Premier League, completing a huge move to Chelsea.

The Blues saw off competition from London rivals Arsenal to complete a move for the Ukraine international, who becomes the most expensive Premier League signing this window.

Chelsea reportedly paid £88.5 million (€100m) to add the 22-year-old to their ranks.

Arriving from his homeland, Mudryk has excelled in the past 18 months for Shakhtar and his performances in the Champions League this season gave his profile a significant boost.

However, with inexperience in a strong domestic league, questions may be asked as to why Mudryk was signed ahead of other targets. 

With the help of Opta data, Stats Perform has assessed why Chelsea have gone all out for Mudryk.

The Antony benchmark

The fee paid for Mudryk's services was driven up by Manchester United's signing of Antony from Ajax last year, with Shakhtar's sporting director Carlo Nicolini telling Calcio Napoli 24 that this was the benchmark for a sale of Mudryk.

"Given that we have no need for transfers, we said in due time that we evaluate the player stronger than some other profiles, such as Antony. This is the benchmark," he said.

United splashed a reported £85m (€95m) to land the Brazil international and, while it can be argued that they overpaid, it is fair for Shakhtar to assess that they see Mudryk as a "stronger" profile than Antony.

Since the start of the 2021-22 season, Mudryk has contributed to a goal (by either scoring or assisting) every 70 minutes in the Ukrainian Premier League.

That compares favourably to Antony, who has recorded a goal contribution every 144 minutes in the Eredivisie and Premier League.

A tally of 22 direct goal contributions (nine goals and 13 assists) comes from just 23 appearances, 11 less than Antony, who has 12 goals and six assists.

Given the pair have featured in different leagues, a comparison in the Champions League is fairer, where Mudryk has three goals and two assists in 12 matches, while Antony has two goals and four assists in the same number of games.

Mudryk has played over 200 minutes less than Antony though, leading to an average of 139 minutes per direct goal contribution which ranks him ahead of the Brazilian, who averages 153 minutes.

Another attacking option, but is it the right move?

In the Premier League this season, Chelsea have scored just 21 goals in 18 matches, which stands as the lowest tally in the top 10 of the division.

The struggles in the final third have come due to a lack of a reliable option in attack, with Kai Havertz and Raheem Sterling their joint top-scorers in the league with four goals each – and only three other players have scored more than once. 

This season, Mudryk has seven goals in the Ukrainian Premier League and has a minutes-per-goal or assist average of 65 minutes, showing that he can be the key to spark life into Graham Potter's attacking ranks.

An issue, however, is that Mudryk is not a central striker, an area where Chelsea are crying out for reinforcements, and the signing does beg questions as to what Todd Boehly's plan for the squad is – having spent an audacious amount since completing his takeover at Stamford Bridge next year.

While Mudryk can add goals to Chelsea's game, his contribution from the left may rely heavily on who is in the centre to tuck home the chances he created, though he can create a deadly partnership with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, should the former Arsenal man find his best form.

Chelsea are dealing with a long injury list, yet they have so many players who are forwards but not out-and-out strikers. Where will Mason Mount fit in? What about Havertz, or Sterling? Let's not forget Joao Felix, who only last week joined on loan from Atletico Madrid. He looked sharp on his debut against Fulham, before he then went and got sent off for a rash tackle.

Mudryk fits the profile of a high-quality young player that Chelsea are focusing on following Boehly's takeover, but he is another piece to a complicated puzzle that Potter has to solve at Stamford Bridge.

Marcus Rashford hit the winner and played a part – some might say – in Manchester United's first goal as the Red Devils beat City in Saturday's derby.

The in-form England international moved into early-career Cristiano Ronaldo territory by scoring in a seventh consecutive game for United, who have won nine in a row across all competitions.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Liverpool's campaign continued to unravel as they were battered 3-0 at Brighton and Hove Albion, and their neighbours Everton remain in deep relegation trouble after a home loss to fellow strugglers Southampton.

Another derby saw Nottingham Forest get the better of Leicester City, with Steve Cooper's team beginning to get a foothold in mid-table.

With the help of Opta data, Stats Perform examines key statistics from the Saturday's standout Premier League games.

Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City: Making his Marc again

Rashford has been a shining light for United since returning from the World Cup, scoring in all seven games for Erik ten Hag's team.

He is the first United player since Ronaldo in March-April 2008 to put together such a streak, while his run of goals in nine consecutive games at Old Trafford makes him the club's first player since Teddy Sheringham in September-November 2000 to enjoy that level of home form.

Bruno Fernandes got the equaliser, after an opener from City's Jack Grealish, with Rashford not flagged offside in the build-up after chasing the ball but not getting a touch prior to his Portuguese team-mate lashing past Ederson.

Rashford's close-range winner soon after, in the 82nd minute, was set up by Alejandro Garnacho, who at 18 years and 197 days became the youngest player to provide an assist in a Premier League Manchester derby.

City had just one shot on target, their joint-fewest in a Premier League match under Pep Guardiola.

Kevin De Bruyne set up Grealish's headed opener, reaching double figures in Premier League assists for a fifth season, with only Cesc Fabregas (6) doing so in more campaigns, but that was of no consolation as City saw their title hopes dented.

Brighton and Hove Albion 3-0 Liverpool: Worth the wait for Seagulls

Jurgen Klopp's reaction summed it up, when he said: "I think everybody with a Brighton shirt on or a Brighton heart enjoyed the game a lot and I don't think anybody with a Liverpool heart enjoyed it for a second."

This was a horror show for the Reds, suffering their first league defeat at Brighton since January 1961 (3-1). Liverpool had gone 10 unbeaten away to the Seagulls in the league before Solly March's double and Danny Welbeck's sublime goal left them reeling.

Liverpool have suffered six defeats now in 18 games in the competition this term, three times as many losses as they incurred in the entire 2021-22 Premier League campaign. It was a fifth league loss away from Anfield, their worst season total since also losing five in 2017-18. This season is not yet at its halfway point for Liverpool, who sit ninth.

This game kicked off at 3pm locally. It was the first Saturday 3pm league game Liverpool have lost since going down 2-0 to Hull in February 2017, ending a 32-game undefeated streak in that slot.

March has four goals in his last four games, which is as many as he managed in his first 156 in the Premier League.

Everton 1-2 Southampton: Ward-Prowse piles on misery for Lampard

Sitting second-bottom now, Everton are having a dismal time of it under Frank Lampard's leadership, losing four league games in a row at home for the first time since a seven-game streak in 1958. They are winless in seven in the league, their worst run since an eight-game sequence under Rafael Benitez in October-December 2021.

Amadou Onana put the hosts ahead, becoming the fourth Belgian player to score for Everton in the Premier League, after Romelu Lukaku, Kevin Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini.

But Saints captain James Ward-Prowse then took over, netting twice including the 16th direct free-kick goal of his Premier League career, putting him just two behind David Beckham's competition record.

It was his 12th such goal in away games, more than any player has managed in the Premier League, and only Matt Le Tissier (44) has managed more away goals in the Premier League era for Southampton than Ward-Prowse's haul of 28.

Nottingham Forest 2-0 Leicester City: Johnson's derby delight

Brennan Johnson hit both goals in the East Midlands showdown, doubling his Premier League tally for the season and becoming the second-youngest Forest player to score twice in a Premier League game (21y 236d). Roy Keane, who struck a double against Leeds in December 1992 (21y 117d), remains the youngest.

Morgan Gibbs-White, at 22 years and 352 days, became the youngest to have two assists in a Premier League game for Forest.

Leicester are free-falling, with this a fourth consecutive league defeat. Remarkably, it is not yet their worst run of the campaign, having lost six in a row in August and September.

They have yet to win a point this season from a losing position, the only Premier League team to fail on that count.

The Dallas Cowboys headed into Week 18 still in contention for the number one seed in the NFC, but a desperate display from quarterback Dak Prescott saw them instead end the regular season on a bum note.

Although wins for the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers elsewhere meant the Cowboys would have finished as the fifth seed regardless, any optimism and momentum built up over the second half of the season was sapped by a stunning loss to the Washington Commanders.

The Commanders, already eliminated from the playoff race, crushed the Cowboys 26-6, helped by the worst performance of Prescott's career.

His completion percentage of 37.8 (14 of 37) was a career low, as was a yards-per-attempt average of 3.46. Only twice had the QB previously dipped below his Week 18 passer rating of 45.8.

"There's a lot we can learn from and get better and use this tape," said Prescott afterwards, and past experience at least suggests that is likely.

On the previous four occasions Prescott has completed under half of his passes in a game, he has guided Dallas to a win in his next outing. Across those four subsequent games, Prescott has completed 80.7 per cent of his passes for six touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Cowboys have won by 22.3 points on average.

A repeat against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card round would represent a significant turnaround from the start of this season, however.

Prior to the Commanders game, Week 1 against the Buccaneers – a 19-3 loss – saw the most recent example of Prescott's pass completion dipping alarmingly, completing 14 of 29 attempts for 48.3 per cent.

On that occasion, a thumb injury ruled him out of the end of the game and then a chunk of the season before he was able to respond on his return.

The Cowboys went 8-2 over Prescott's next 10 starts, with both defeats coming in overtime. Dallas scored 351 points across that period, the highest-scoring 10-game span in team history.

Between Weeks 7 and 17, Prescott's 71.0 per cent pass completion led all QBs with 100 or more attempts. As only Patrick Mahomes (23) topped his 22 TD passes, the two-time Pro Bowler led the way for TD percentage (6.7).

But the Cowboys remained reluctant to rely too heavily on Prescott, running passing plays only 53.5 per cent of the time over this stretch – the sixth-lowest rate in the NFL.

This reluctance was understandable, too, given the clear warning signs ahead of that Washington game. Even without the ball regularly in his hands, Prescott threatened to derail his team.

His 13 interceptions were also a league high over those 11 weeks, meaning a pick six against the Commanders saw him end the year tied for the lead for picks (15) and pick sixes (three). Prescott played only 12 games to co-leader Davis Mills' 15.

Now, heading into the playoffs, Prescott is on a run of seven straight games with at least one interception. It is the longest such streak of 2022, while only five players have endured worse runs since he entered the league in 2016.

Prescott's careless aggression was already prompting murmurs from Jerry Jones before a Week 18 in which he averaged 10.9 air yards per attempt, up on his season mark of 8.2 air yards per attempt to that point.

He at least retains Jones' support heading into the playoffs, but the Cowboys owner will now want to see some return on a contract that pays Prescott $40million a year – in line with the deal signed by last season's Super Bowl-winning QB Matthew Stafford.

To this point, Prescott's playoff experience is made up of only four games and a single win.

In that regard, he stands at odds with his opponent this week. Tom Brady may have been unconvincing this year, too, with his 25 pickable passes third in the NFL, but he is the master when it comes to the playoffs.

Brady's 13,049 postseason passing yards dwarf not only Prescott's total (1,048) but that of every other playoff QB combined. The 13 other projected starters have a total of 9,184 playoff career passing yards.

The Buccaneers have looked likely to be accommodating postseason opponents for much of this year; they limped to the NFC South title at 8-9 and rank 17th by Stats Perform's efficiency versus expected model, with the 12-5 Cowboys seventh in EVE. There should be a clear favourite in this matchup.

But Brady has spent his entire career delivering in big moments, whereas Prescott crumbled last week.

The Cowboys may only ask their QB not to single-handedly cost them this game, yet Prescott still must prove even that is not beyond him.

All eyes will be cast towards north London on Sunday for a derby that could have significant implications in the tussle for the Premier League title and the hunt for a top-four finish.

Arsenal's lead at the top of the Premier League will be just two points if Manchester City beat Manchester United on Saturday, while victory for Erik ten Hag's side would put them five ahead of Spurs in the quest for Champions League football.

Having so much at stake is nothing new for clashes between Arsenal and Spurs, with a meeting at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last May being decisive in the two sides' battle to clinch fourth spot, where a 3-0 win for the hosts saw the Gunners miss the chance to secure a return to Europe's elite club competition.

Arsenal then lost to Newcastle United and saw Spurs leapfrog them to secure a top-four spot on the final day of the season, but Mikel Arteta's side have responded superbly.

Gunning for glory

Arsenal's pursuit of a first league title since 2003-04 has caught many by surprise this season, as has Tottenham's inability to kick on having beaten their arch-rivals to Champions League football last term.

Since that loss to Spurs in May, Arsenal have won 15 of their 19 Premier League matches, picking up 47 points out of a possible 57, with losses coming in the aforementioned trip to Newcastle last season and at Old Trafford against United in September.

Spurs, meanwhile, have won 12 of 20 Premier League fixtures since the win against Arsenal, picking up 39 points from a possible 60 – six of which came in back-to-back victories to finish the 2021-22 season.

In attack, the two great rivals boast a similar record, with Arsenal scoring 45 goals in 19 matches and Spurs finding the net on 43 occasions, having played a game more, though five came in a 5-0 thrashing of Norwich City on the final day of last season.

Defence is where Arsenal have shown the biggest improvement, conceding 17 goals in 19 matches – just 14 of which have been this season – while Spurs have conceded 25 goals in the same period,

Those improvements for Arsenal have put them 15 points better off than they were at the same stage last season, while Spurs have exactly the same points total as they did at the halfway mark last year.

Kane leading the way as Arsenal come of age

Unsurprisingly, England captain Harry Kane has the best goalscoring record since the two sides met at the back end of last season, scoring 17 goals in 20 games – 15 of which have come this season, only Erling Haaland (21) having more.

A lack of goals from alternative sources has been an issue, however, with Son Heung-min scoring six in the Premier League since May 13, 2022, and Richarlison yet to find the net for Spurs in his 10 Premier League appearances.

Arsenal's top-scorer in the same period is Gabriel Martinelli (eight goals in 19 appearances), though Bukayo Saka is closely behind with six and Eddie Nketiah's fine run since stepping up to replace the injured Gabriel Jesus leaves him with three goals in 17 appearances, only five of which have been as a starter.

Saka (seven) and Martinelli (three) both have more assists than Kane, Richarlison and Son (two), though the England captain's tally of goals gives him the best minutes per goal/assist average of 105 minutes, with Arsenal's best being Nketiah (189 minutes).

Nketiah (17 per cent), Saka and Martinelli (both 15 per cent) have been similarly efficient in front of goal, while Kane's 21.8 per cent shot conversion rate is significantly higher than Son (11.5 per cent).

The fairly even spread of Arsenal's attacking options displays the shared responsibility that Arteta's side have in the final third, whereas Kane continues to carry his team-mates.

Kane stands as the highest-scoring player of all-time in the north London derby with 14 goals, scoring in all but one of his eight home Premier League games against the Gunners as he stands one away from matching Jimmy Greaves' all-time record for the club of 266.

Manchester City will attempt to celebrate a landmark game for Pep Guardiola by securing a fourth consecutive win over Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday.

The eagerly awaited derby will be Guardiola's 500th match as a top-flight manager in an incredible trophy-laden career.

Of more importance for the City boss will be claiming a victory that would leave the champions only two points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal, who face a derby of their own at Tottenham on Sunday.

The Red Devils were hammered 6-3 when the two sides met at the Etihad Stadium in October, with Guardiola's men having done the double over their fierce rivals last season.

Fourth-placed United are flying under Erik ten Hag, though, and a win over City – who suffered a shock EFL Cup defeat to Southampton on Wednesday – would leave them only a point behind their neighbours.

Stats Perform has used Opta data to preview a huge derby showdown.

Another huge milestone for Pep

Guardiola has long since established himself as one of the best managers in the world, achieving great success with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City.

He took charge of 152 LaLiga games during his Barca tenure, 102 in the Bundesliga with dominant Bayern and this will be his 246th Premier League match as City boss.

Guardiola has won 379 of the 499 top-flight encounters he has overseen, suffered 52 defeats and drawn 68 games. 

With a win percentage rate of 76, he has the most victories and highest win rate - for managers who have taken charge of at least 100 games - of any boss in Europe's big-five leagues since his first top-flight season in 2008-09.

United on a roll

Ten Hag has lifted the gloom and there is more of an air of optimism at Old Trafford, with United having won eight consecutive games in all competitions.

Since and including their win over Liverpool on August 22, no team has earned more Premier League points than United's tally of 35, winning 11 of their 15 games during that time.

The Red Devils have won all three Premier League games since the World Cup without conceding a goal and reached the EFL Cup semi-finals with a 3-0 win over Charlton Athletic on Tuesday.

City to add insult to injury by breaking scoring record?

Erling Haaland and Phil Foden scored hat-tricks as City put United to the sword just over three months ago.

Guardiola's men could break their record for the number of goals scored against United in a season, which stands at eight established by 5-0 and 3-2 victories way back in the 1954-55 campaign.

The most goals the Red Devils have conceded against an opponent in a Premier League season is nine against Liverpool in 2021-22.

Rashford can do no wrong

Marcus Rashford can do no wrong at the minute, scoring in every game since the World Cup.

He came off the bench to help himself to a late double in the win over Charlton, making it seven goals in six matches since returning from England duty in Qatar.

Rashford, who found the back of the net twice for the Three Lions in the World Cup, has scored 15 times this season for United – who are certainly not missing Cristiano Ronaldo.

After a week's break for the FA Cup, the Premier League is back with a full round of fixtures this weekend – in fact, some teams have midweek games too.

As such, fantasy football managers turn their attention back to team selections, transfers and captain choices.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform has picked out four options that might be worth your consideration…

Dean Henderson (Nottingham Forest v Leicester City)

Forest endured a pretty brutal reality check upon their long-awaited return to the Premier League, but things have started looking up in the past few weeks.

Henderson has undoubtedly been a shrewd addition between the posts and his recent form reflects Forest's general improvement.

Four of his five Premier League clean sheets this term have come in his seven most recent appearances, while Forest have collectively restricted their opponents to two or fewer shots on target in four of their past five outings.

Sven Botman (Newcastle United v Fulham)

Newcastle have excelled in many areas this term, hence their position in the top four. Defensively they have been solid, and Botman has more than played his part.

Eddie Howe's men have kept a clean sheet in each of their past four league games, with Botman playing at least 87 minutes in all of them.

Only four players have contributed to more clean sheets than his seven this season, and another will see the Magpies record five successive top-flight shutouts for the first time.

Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United v Manchester City)

Granted, Fernandes is not exactly an "out there" selection, so this is more of a reminder of the value he can represent.

For starters, he is in good form having provided an assist in each of his past two league games, and for the season only Kevin De Bruyne (41) has created more chances in open play (40).

While he only has three assists, his 4.3 expected assists is the third best in the division, suggesting his team-mates have not fully made the most of his craft.

But with Marcus Rashford in such form and a big game against City – following by a midweek trip to struggling Crystal Palace – up next, Fernandes will be a leading candidate to be decisive.

Evan Ferguson (Brighton and Hove Albion v Liverpool)

From a slightly obvious pick to a real wildcard, but bear with us.

Ferguson has made a big impact at Brighton over the past few weeks. The 18-year-old has been involved in three goals across his past two games (two goals, one assist).

If he gets another goal against Liverpool at the weekend, he will be the youngest player (18 years and 87 days on Saturday) to score in three consecutive Premier League games since Michael Owen (18y, 12d).

Is it written in the stars?

Erik ten Hag's arrival at Manchester United last year began a process of culture reset. For years, the club allowed big egos to inflate, and the team's mentality to shrink, while an arrogant hierarchy seemingly assumed waving big cheques guaranteed success.

Ten Hag has taken steps to fix all of the above, and in the roughly eight months since he began working in May, the difference has been significant.

"There was no spirit," Ten Hag said last week. "I saw no team dynamic in the squad. The mental resilience was very low. I saw that as an outsider – and also noticed it in my first weeks at the club.

"I looked at the culture of the club. I asked, 'how did Manchester United become great?'. The club has bought an unimaginable number of players in recent years who have not been good enough. Most purchases have been average – and at United average is not good enough. United's shirt weighs heavily."

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and you can't say Ten Hag's impact has come without "waving big cheques". But the problem with previous eras was how the money was spent.

Casemiro, who cost £60million, is the prime example. At 30 years old, there's no doubt some fans were unsure he was the man to reinvigorate a midfield that had quite literally been a problem for over a decade, but he's been exceptional and a big part of United's transformation.

From slow start to key man

Saturday's Manchester derby will be a true litmus test of not only United's progress under Ten Hag, but also the influence Casemiro has.

Let's not forget, City crushed United 6-3 at the start of October. Pep Guardiola's men were even 6-1 up for about 11 minutes before a late Anthony Martial double.

Their midfield of Scott McTominay, Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes simply couldn't handle City's dynamism, and then Erling Haaland and Phil Foden were irresistible in front of goal.

That was, unsurprisingly, the last game before Casemiro took ownership of the holding midfield role at United. Casemiro has played 1,330 minutes across all competitions since, second only to Fernandes (1,349), while Scott McTominay has managed just 439.

Over the same period, only Newcastle United (24) have claimed more points than the Red Devils (23) in the Premier League, with November's 3-1 reverse at Aston Villa their sole defeat.

Of course, it's difficult to attribute United's improvement to Casemiro alone, but there's no doubt his effective blend of destructiveness and creative subtlety have made Ten Hag's midfield a completely different proposition.

Not only is he so adept at reading the game and snuffing out attacks, Casemiro's long-underrated technical abilities suit Ten Hag's style of play down to the ground.

More than meets the eye

Anyone who regularly watched Real Madrid during Casemiro's long stay will have already known there's more to him than simply kicking people. Admittedly, frequent viewers of arguably the most popular team on Earth is hardly a niche group, yet there was certainly a lack of awareness from fans and pundits alike regarding Casemiro's 'other' talents when he joined United.

Because Ten Hag wants his team to generally dictate possession, players without excellent technique will stick out like a sore thumb, which is presumably one explanation for Aaron Wan-Bissaka featuring so irregularly until the past couple of weeks.

The fact Casemiro has become so influential speaks volumes.

Every 90 minutes he averages 6.3 involvements in open-play passing sequences that end in a shot, a record bettered by only five central midfielders in the Premier League this term (min. 500 minutes), including more recognised creators like Fernandes (7.3) and Kevin De Bruyne (8.0).

Additionally, just five players in the entire league (min. 500 minutes) have been involved in more shot-ending build-up sequences (48) without creating or taking the shot. Both of these highlight how central Casemiro's playmaking skills are from his deeper role, even if he's not necessarily the one playing the key pass.

But he is proving extremely effective without the ball as well, and his powers of ball recovery combined with smart distribution make him such an asset, with only Rodri (32, from 1,391 minutes played) initiating more shot-ending open-play sequences after winning possession than Casemiro (22, from 979 minutes played).

It's arguably that hard-working, destructive nature that makes him so refreshing for United, though. The only other central midfielder they've had over the past 15 years who has recorded at least three tackles and eight duel wins (3.8 and 8.1) on a 90-minute basis over a season is Marouane Fellaini in 2013-14 (3.1 and 9.3) and 2016-17 (3.0 and 10.8).

Fellaini's stats will be boosted by his aerial effectiveness, and obviously the Belgian never had the same technical grasp Casemiro has, with his two brilliant passes in the build up to Marcus Rashford's goals in the EFL Cup win over Charlton Athletic earlier this week prime examples of his class in that respect.

He's probably the most complete midfielder they've had since Roy Keane, and the fact Ten Hag so emphatically filled a void that's been gaping throughout the post-Alex Ferguson era is proof enough of the manager's culture shift at Old Trafford.

Beating City will be another major statement.

Joao Felix has moved to Chelsea as the latest acquisition in the Todd Boehly era, with the Blues looking to respond after a poor start to the season.

Eliminated from both domestic cup competitions by Manchester City, Graham Potter's side sit 10th in the Premier League and 10 points adrift of Manchester United in the hunt for a top-four finish.

Joao Felix arrives as yet another attacker in the quest to find a reliable outlet in the final third, joining on loan from Atletico Madrid until the end of the season.

Having failed to fully establish himself in Diego Simeone's plans after a €126million (£113m) transfer from Benfica in 2019, Joao Felix has a point to prove – though there are questions to be asked as to whether he is the addition Chelsea truly need.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform has delved into the numbers to assess whether Joao Felix can be the man Potter's side are crying out for or whether he is further evidence of a scattergun transfer market approach by the Blues.

Atletico's restrictions

Although never scoring more than 10 goals or contributing more than five assists in a single season for Atletico, Joao Felix's impact has been steadily growing since his first campaign in the Spanish capital.

In 2019-20, the Portugal international averaged a direct goal contribution every 207 minutes, reducing to 157 minutes in 2020-21, 137 minutes last season and 120 minutes this term – where he was already halfway to last season's mark of 10 goals and had three assists.

Given Simeone's style does not suit expressive players like Joao Felix, such a return can be taken as a positive sign of his ability in the final third, though a shooting accuracy of 47.29 per cent in LaLiga since 2019-20 ranks him near the bottom of forwards who have scored at least 10 goals in that period.

Atletico create significantly fewer shooting opportunities than many of their European counterparts, however, ranking outside the top 25 for most shots across all competitions in Europe's top-five leagues since Joao Felix joined. In comparison, Chelsea are fourth.

As Joao Felix has a low conversion rate, the 23-year-old needs more chances in order to increase his goal tally, which Atletico have not been able to provide on a regular basis.

Chelsea's creative void

Chelsea fans have celebrated just 20 goals in the Premier League this season, with only supporters from the bottom six and Crystal Palace having fewer opportunities to cheer, though that only scratches the surface of the Blues' issues in the final third.

A shot conversion rate of 10.75 per cent this season is only narrowly behind top-four chasing Manchester United (11.1) and Liverpool (11.6), showing that converting chances is not the issue, but instead lies with the lack of opportunities being created.

Chelsea have had 186 shots in the Premier League this season, only Brentford, Everton, Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth have had fewer, identifying the Blues' lack of creativity is perhaps a bigger cause for concern than a reliable scorer.

Raheem Sterling stands as Chelsea's most potent outlet this season with 22 chances created, a figure lower than the highest total of a single player from any of their rivals in the established top-six and European-chasing Newcastle United.

Converting those chances has been another big issue for Chelsea this term, with no player hitting the five-goal mark in the Premier League yet this season and only four players having scored twice or more this term.

Fix it Felix?

With a need to improve creativity and their record in front of goal, Chelsea will look to Joao Felix as a potential fix for both issues – though four goals and 10 chances created in LaLiga for Atletico this season does not suggest an immediate solution.

The biggest question mark over the deal, though, is where exactly Joao Felix fits into Potter's starting line-up, as neither he nor Kai Havertz are recognised centre-forwards but would likely have to adopt a false nine role.

At Atletico, Joao Felix has had the biggest impact down the left, with 53.95 per cent of his touches this season down that side, while Havertz has been more influential on either flank than he has through the middle.

Perhaps surprisingly, it is Havertz who shows the better capability of being transformed into a more natural option through the middle. Since he arrived at Stamford Bridge in September 2020, he boasts more goals and a higher shooting accuracy than Joao Felix.

The Portuguese's conversion rate of 15.82 per cent in that period is slightly better than Havertz's 14.07 per cent but the Germany international has had 20 more attempts at goal, benefitting from Chelsea's higher volume attacking approach compared to Atletico's.

On the face of it, Joao Felix does not stand out as the fix that Chelsea are crying out for this season, though the ability for Potter to chop and change his forward three with either Havertz or his new addition through the middle should yield more effectiveness in the final third.

In the 2022 NFL season, there have been few stories as remarkable as that of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, who heads into the postseason with a golden opportunity to become the first rookie quarterback to lead a team to Super Bowl glory.

Purdy has been a revelation since being thrust into the spotlight as the starting quarterback in the wake of the fractured foot suffered by Jimmy Garoppolo in the Week 13 win over the Miami Dolphins.

This was supposed to be Trey Lance's team in 2022, but with the third overall pick in 2021 removed from the equation with a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2, there are pertinent questions asking if it is now Purdy's for the long term, and they are merited given how he has performed in an extraordinary start to his career.

Belying his status as the last pick in the 2022 draft, Purdy has confidently piloted one of the best offenses in football, with the 49ers averaging a league-leading 33.6 points per game since he became the full-time starter.

In addition to Purdy ensuring the 49ers beat the Dolphins following Garoppolo's first-quarter departure, he has since won each of his first five starts, helping the NFC West champion Niners finish the regular season on a 10-game winning streak.

With the 49ers' win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 18, in which he threw three touchdowns, Purdy became the third rookie quarterback to win his first five starts, following Ben Roethlisberger (won first 13 starts in 2004) and Mike Kruczek (first six in 1968).

He is the third player in NFL history with at least two touchdown passes in each of his first five starts, joining Dan Marino and Billy Volek, while he is only the second rookie with at least two touchdown throws in six consecutive games. The other was Justin Herbert in 2020.

Purdy's passer rating over his first five starts of 119.0 is second only to Kurt Warner (131.4) in 1999. Though Warner was not a rookie, he went on to lead the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl title, winning Super Bowl MVP in the process.

The support system for Purdy as he looks to make league history is excellent. San Francisco's offense is stacked with playmakers, with the addition of Christian McCaffrey to a group that already included Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle having a transformative impact on Kyle Shanahan's attack.

San Francisco's plethora of weaponry is a significant reason why Purdy went into Week 18 ranked fourth among quarterbacks with at least 100 plays in expected passing situations in Efficiency Versus Expected (EVE). Prior to the blowout of the Cardinals, Purdy was averaging 1.47 yards over expected in anticipated passing situations.

With a defense led by Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner Nick Bosa establishing itself as the NFL's best, the 49ers went into Week 18 ranked first overall in EVE.

By that measure, the 49ers are the best team in the NFL, but history is firmly against Purdy having success in his quest to guide them to a sixth Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.

Nineteen rookies have started in the playoffs in the Super Bowl era, posting a 9-19 record across 28 games.

While no rookie quarterback has lifted the Lombardi, the performances of a selection of those to have entered the heat of the postseason battle in their first season offer a glimpse into what may lie ahead for Purdy, as he prepares to start his playoff career against the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday.

Ben Roethlisberger (2004)

Roethlisberger may be the best parallel we can draw for Purdy given their shared place in the NFL history books.

The Pittsburgh Steelers great enjoyed an entirely different draft experience in 2004, playing the role of frustrated spectator until the 11th pick as the famous Eli Manning-Philip Rivers saga took its course.

Roethlisberger made the San Diego Chargers and New York Giants initially look foolish for not valuing him higher, helping a juggernaut Steelers team to a 15-1 record and the number one seed in the AFC.

Yet his first postseason proved a difficult one for Big Ben, with Roethlisberger completing only 57.4 per cent of his passes for 407 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions, recording a passer rating of 61.3.

Three of his five picks came in the AFC Championship Game loss to the New England Patriots, whose opportunistic defensive performance inspired them to a third Super Bowl appearance – and ultimately a third Super Bowl title – in four seasons.

Purdy has the benefit of having the league's premier defense on his side, and the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles would appear to be the only team in the 49ers' way who possess the capability to pose him problems akin to those Roethlisberger experienced back in January 2005.

The NFL has changed significantly since Bill Belichick's defense denied Roethlisberger a chance at history, but the Steelers' Conference Championship game woes of 18 years ago are a scarcely needed reminder of the value of protecting the football.

Purdy, who has 13 touchdowns to four interceptions, has done a largely impressive job in that sense, and if he continues in the same manner, the 49ers will be excellently positioned for a deep run. If the Niners do fall short, Purdy may take heart from Roethlisberger's second season, which saw him lead the Steelers to victory in Super Bowl XL against the Seattle Seahawks.

Joe Flacco (2008) & Mark Sanchez (2009)

Flacco and Sanchez are also decent examples that could be a guide to how Purdy's playoff journey may go.

Unlike Purdy, they were both highly drafted quarterbacks, but they are comparable in that they had the benefit of supporting casts built for January success. Both made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game.

Flacco did not have to do much to get to that point with the 2008 Baltimore Ravens. Across his three postseason games, Flacco completed just 44 per cent of his passes for 437 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, giving him a passer rating of just 50.8.

Yet the Ravens were able to succeed by leaning on a third-ranked defense and a fourth-ranked run game, taking the pressure off Flacco. Indeed, Baltimore gave up just 19 points across the first two rounds of the playoffs. It was only when the Ravens faced a top-ranked Pittsburgh Steelers defense in the title game that Flacco's shortcomings as a rookie proved decisive.

A year later, Sanchez fared better with the New York Jets, hitting on just over 60 per cent of his passes for 539 yards, four touchdowns and a pair of picks, posting a passer rating of 92.7.

Though his numbers were better, the formula was the same, the Jets riding Rex Ryan's dominant defense and a ground attack that led the NFL in yards per game to the Conference Championship.

Flacco went on to enjoy one of the great postseason runs in the 2012 season in leading the Ravens to glory, beating the 49ers in the Super Bowl, but Purdy will have designs on comfortably surpassing Sanchez's achievements following the electric start to his career.

He has thrived throwing the ball to the intermediate area of the field. On throws between 10 and 20 yards, Purdy has a delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball 83.7 per cent of the time. That is second only to Andy Dalton (85.6) among quarterbacks with at least 20 such attempts.

But with McCaffrey, Samuel and Elijah Mitchell giving the 49ers arguably the most versatile backfield in the NFL, one in which both McCaffrey and Samuel are threats to run the ball, catch it out of the backfield or line up in the formation as a receiver, San Francisco can significantly ease the pressure on Purdy by leaning on the ground game and short checkdown throws that always have the potential to be turned into big plays.

On top of that, the defense, which finished the season with the second-best success rate (35.9 per cent) in the league, has consistently shown its ability to put the team on its back despite some signs of vulnerability in recent weeks.

Purdy's early success points to him having a career superior to that of Flacco and Sanchez, but the 49ers could manage him in much similar fashion to how they were handled in the playoffs in his first postseason experience.

Russell Wilson (2012)

One of the best rookie quarterback performances in the playoffs came from a player who was previously the thorn in the 49ers' side with the Seahawks.

Wilson won the Super Bowl in only his second season, but the groundwork for that run was laid during a superb rookie year.

The Seahawks star was excellent in his first postseason, completing 62.9 per cent of his passes for 572 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He posted a passer rating of 102.4, leading the Seahawks to a win over Washington at FedEx Field in the Wild Card round before falling short against the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional round.

Wilson had the benefit of a full regular season under his belt and was a better athlete than Purdy is at that point in his career.

Yet the 49ers will hope the repetitions Purdy has to his name in calmly leading them through the stretch run will be enough for him to perform at a level akin to that of Wilson, albeit with expectations of significantly better results.

Cautionary tales

As the overall record indicates, starting a rookie quarterback in the playoffs typically ends badly. Matt Ryan threw two interceptions in his postseason debut in 2008 and Dalton was picked off three times as he and the Cincinnati Bengals suffered Wild Card round heartache in 2011. Andrew Luck led the Colts to the playoffs in 2012, but his postseason bow saw him post a passer rating of just 59.8.

Robert Griffin III's sole playoff appearance in 2012 ended in a knee injury as he was beaten by Wilson and the Seahawks in a battle of the rookies, while in 2018 Lamar Jackson was confounded by a Los Angeles Chargers defense that frequently deployed seven defensive backs to hold the dual-threat in check and restrict him to a completion percentage of 48.3.

Mac Jones was the last rookie to start a playoff game, doing so last January, but was intercepted twice in trying in vain to help to the Patriots keep up with a Buffalo Bills team that blew them away 47-17.

Even if Purdy maintains his stellar level of play, there is a chance that, in the lottery of the postseason, it still may not be enough.

Indeed, Dak Prescott threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns for the Dallas Cowboys in his playoff debut in the 2016 Divisional round and still came up short as he was outdueled by Aaron Rodgers in a 34-31 thriller.

That game serves as a perfect illustration as to why the playoffs are a different animal. The stakes go up, and the standard can also rise to a point where a player's best is often not good enough. In a Wild Card game against a Seahawks team he had little issue beating in the regular season, it will soon become apparent whether Purdy has what it takes to give this Cinderella quarterback story a fairytale ending.

Gareth Bale announced his retirement on Monday, bringing an end to a trophy-laden and eventful career spanning 17 seasons.

Southampton product Bale made a name for himself at Tottenham, but it was in nine years at Real Madrid he truly rose to stardom – although he had a turbulent time in the Spanish capital.

Despite playing starring roles in two Champions League finals and winning 16 trophies, Bale's time in Madrid turned sour long before he departed last June.

The versatile attacker famously paraded with a banner that read "Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order" in 2019 and that understandably did not go down well with Los Blancos fans.

Playing time continued to be limited at Los Angeles FC, but Bale scored an extra-time leveller in the MLS Cup final against Philadelphia Union, which his side won on penalties.

Yet for all his success at club level, it was arguably with Wales that Bale enjoyed his proudest moments, not least reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016.

Bale also played a huge part in ending Wales' 64-year wait to qualify for the World Cup last year, with their group defeat to England proving to be his final game as a professional.

As the curtain comes down on Bale's playing days at the age of just 33, Stats Perform breaks down the numbers from a remarkable career.

Bale played 664 matches for club and country and scored 226 goals, the majority of those unsurprisingly coming for Madrid (106).

He also netted 41 times in 111 games for Wales, becoming his country's record goalscorer and cap holder in the process.

The Cardiff-born forward also netted five goals for Southampton and three for LAFC at either end of his career, while bagging 71 in 237 matches for Tottenham.

It was his superb form for Spurs, particularly in the 2012-13 season, that saw Bale make a then-record €100.8million (£85.1m) switch to Madrid.

That would prove to be Bale's best season in terms of goals as he netted 21, nine of those from outside the box in the Premier League – a single-season record that still stands.

Add his four assists into the mix and only Robin van Persie (35) and Luis Suarez (28) played a direct part in more goals than Bale's 25 during that campaign.

As impressive as Bale was for Spurs, though, he did not have any silverware to show for it. That would all soon change at the Santiago Bernabeu.

He is the only player to score a match-winning goal in two Champions League finals, doing so in 2013-14 against Atletico Madrid and in 2017-18 to break Liverpool's hearts.

Bale scored twice against Liverpool, aided by a horror shown from Loris Karius, making him the first substitute to score more than once in a single Champions League final.

Those three combined final goals are second only to Cristiano Ronaldo (four), who it is fair to say will be far better remembered by Madrid supporters than Bale.

While his part in some of Madrid's triumphs in more recent seasons was limited, Bale does at least deserve his place in club folklore.

His 258 appearances for Los Blancos are more than the likes of Luis Figo (245) and Zinedine Zidane (227) made, and just short of the great Ferenc Puskas' tally of 262.

Furthermore, Bale is one of only 22 players in Madrid's esteemed history to have reach the 100-goal mark, his 106 strikes more than Brazil legend Ronaldo (104) managed.

When Fernando Santos called time on his eight-year stint as Portugal head coach after their 2022 World Cup quarter-final elimination, few would have correctly predicted his replacement.

Roberto Martinez also left his national team role after the tournament in Qatar, with Belgium disappointingly falling at the group stage.

The former Everton and Wigan Athletic boss took the Red Devils to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018, before reaching the last eight of Euro 2020, being eliminated by the eventual winners in both.

Martinez finds himself in charge of A Selecao now after his appointment was confirmed on Monday, and there is plenty of work to be done.

Qualifiers for the 2024 European Championships get underway in March and with the talent at their disposal, Portugal must be fancied to be among the favourites for the tournament in Germany.

Stats Perform has taken a look at five things in Martinez's in-tray that he will need to consider if he is to find success with his new team.

Solve the Ronaldo conundrum

"Decisions have to be made on the pitch. I won't rush into decisions. I want to meet everyone, and from today I want to talk and meet all the players," Martinez said at his first press conference as Portugal coach.

"Cristiano [Ronaldo] is part of that list. He's had 19 years in the national team and deserves respect, let's talk. From there, it's up to me to make the best list for the European Championships."

Ronaldo has 118 goals in 196 caps for Portugal, undeniably an international record to be proud of, but he will be 38 years old when Martinez takes charge of his first game.

One of the new boss' biggest issues with Belgium was getting the best out of ageing stars, and with Portugal arguably looking far sharper when Ronaldo was benched in Qatar – hat-trick hero v Switzerland Goncalo Ramos in particular – perhaps now is the perfect time to allow the former Real Madrid and Juventus man to fully focus on his new adventure in Saudi Arabia and call time on his international career.

Getting the best out of Joao Felix

This is a problem Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone is all too familiar with, hence why Joao Felix is being linked with a loan move to the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal instead of lighting up LaLiga on a weekly basis.

The 23-year-old has plenty of talent, but a lack of consistency belies the nine-figure fee Atletico paid Benfica for him back in 2019.

If Martinez chooses to move on from Ronaldo though, Joao Felix could find the space and responsibility to thrive at international level as part of a team where everyone would be expected to chip in.

Of players to have featured in at least 14 LaLiga games this season, only Mikel Merino, Antoine Griezmann, Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele average more than Joao Felix's 0.42 assists per 90.

Utilise Dias to build solid foundation

Arguably Martinez's main struggle by the end of his time with Belgium was managing a defence filled with players who were several years past their prime.

He will need to make sure that Portugal maintain freshness there as a good defence will always give you a chance in international competitions, such as when Portugal conceded just once in four knockout games on their way to winning Euro 2016.

One key decision could be taken out of his hands, with Pepe expected to announce his retirement from international football, but in Ruben Dias, Martinez has the perfect figure to build his defence around.

The Manchester City centre-back is one of the best in Europe and has shown under Pep Guardiola he can also be relied upon in a backline that pushes high to close space and allow the attack to press from the front, something Martinez has often favoured when he has had the tools to do so.

Build around Bruno

Since his move to Man Utd in January 2020, Bruno Fernandes has proven himself to be one of the premier midfielders in Europe, and at the World Cup, he began to show that he can lead for his national team as well.

Only Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi (both 10) had more goal involvements than Fernandes' five (two goals, three assists) in Qatar, while no-one produced more than his three assists.

In the Premier League this season, only Kevin De Bruyne (41) has created more chances from open play than his 40, with the Manchester City man having played a game more, and with plenty of attacking firepower to aim for with Portugal, Fernandes can in theory fill his assist boots over the coming years under Martinez.

Make the most of Leao

One of those talents Fernandes should be working with is Rafael Leao, one of the most exciting attackers in Europe right now.

While Santos had plenty of other fine players to choose from, it was surprising to see Leao reduced to just substitute appearances in all five games at the World Cup, though he still produced two goals before Portugal were eventually eliminated by Morocco in the quarter-finals.

The Milan forward should really be Martinez's primary weapon on the left of the attack, especially if he can replicate the form that saw him win Serie A's player of the season award as the Rossoneri claimed the Scudetto in 2021-22.

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