Victory at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium could not have come in a more dramatic style for the Minnesota Vikings, who took the lead with 24 seconds remaining on Sunday and saw the New Orleans Saints endure a double doink with the last kick of the game.

The 28-25 result takes the Vikings to 3-1 for the season, with the last two wins coming by less than a single score, needing two fourth-quarter touchdowns against the Detroit Lions in Week 3.

In the opening weeks, Justin Jefferson's impact on the offense was limited. Two touchdowns and 184 receiving yards against the Green Bay Packers in Week 1 did not go unnoticed, with the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions often putting an extra man on him to quell his impact.

Those two games combined for just 62 receiving yards and only 50 per cent completion when Jefferson was the targeted receiver. Against the Saints, and Marshon Lattimore, the pendulum swung in the opposing direction again.

Lattimore, one of the league's premier cornerbacks, is not a player who needs an additional defender alongside him, but he lost the matchup in London against Jefferson despite numerous opportunities to stand out – Kirk Cousins targeting his receiver on 13 occasions, more than any other game this season.

Ten of those were successful, with Jefferson notching up 147 receiving yards, including a stunning 41-yard reception that teased the sort of partnership he can have with his quarterback, and punching in a touchdown run for three yards.

That was not just a targeted opportunity, though, with head coach Kevin O'Connell detailing after the game how the plan was to always get Jefferson involved as much as possible after a frustrating few weeks.

"No matter what we had to do today, within reason, within our normal offense, we were going to get him going," O'Connell said.

"We knew he was going to be matched up against a premier player at his position in Marshon Lattimore. I have a ton of respect for him, how he plays and competes. But we wanted to give Justin some more one-on-one opps when we saw them. Obviously, it allowed him to help the other guys as well on some of those early downs."

One on one, Jefferson is a player who can win his battles with the best, as shown with his matchup against Lattimore, but he needs to be brought into the game more by Cousins. While the receptions and the yards were there against the Saints, it could, and should, have been a more comfortable match.

Cousins knows as much, saying after the game: "Twice I think Justin was open for touchdowns and we didn't connect. The plays are there to make, and we didn't connect. That's disappointing."

Jefferson, for his part, needs to demand the ball and the big plays more. Now in his third year with the Vikings offense, he has taken leadership responsibilities this season and it has shown, not letting the frustrations in the past two weeks knock him out of his stride and responding in style against the Saints.

A double doink with the last kick of the game saw the New Orleans Saints fall to a 28-25 defeat against the Minnesota Vikings in London.

The Saints defence kept Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins' impact on the game limited for the majority, before crucial plays in the fourth quarter saw the game turn on its head on numerous occasions.

Justin Jefferson punched the Vikings in front, but the extra point was missed, with the Saints then stopped by the Vikings defense, though Wil Lutz struck a field goal from 60 yards to tie the game.

The Vikings pulled ahead from the following drive with Joseph kicking a fifth field goal of the game, but there was still time for more drama, Lutz striking the left upright and the crossbar with a 61-yard attempt with the final kick of the game.

The contest was tied at the two-minute warning before half-time, Chris Olave's first career touchdown cancelling out Alexander Mattison's opener on the first drive, and the Vikings pushed ahead with three field goals, including two in the final 70 seconds of the half.

The Saints finally burst into action with a 78-yard drive down the field in the third quarter, the highlight being Andy Dalton's 33-yard throw to Marquez Callaway, and Latavius Murray punched in from a yard to bring the game to within a score.

That sparked new life into the Saints, despite another Vikings field goal, Taysom Hill putting the designated home side ahead before New Orleans moved three ahead with a successful two-point conversion, though Jefferson's three-yard reception put the Vikings ahead again.

A 60-yard field goal from Lutz tied the game at the start of the two-minute warning, but Joseph stepped up again to deliver with his kick.

The Saints then faced defeat in agonising fashion as the last-gasp effort from Lutz struck the upright and bounced off the crossbar to decide the game as the Saints fell to 1-3 for the season.

The New Orleans Saints have downgraded quarterback Jameis Winston from doubtful to out for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings in London. 

Winston did not practice all week due to back and ankle injuries, leaving veteran Andy Dalton as the Saints' starter when they kick off at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. 

New Orleans are dealing with several key injuries on offense, also ruling out starting left guard Andrus Peat due to a concussion and wide receiver Michael Thomas due to a foot injury. 

Running back Alvin Kamara is listed as questionable with ailing ribs but is expected to play. 

Winston rallied New Orleans to a 27-26 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 but has thrown five interceptions to just two touchdowns in the Saints' two losses since. 

Tight end and gadget quarterback Taysom Hill could see a larger share in the Saints' offense with Winston sitting.

The Saints' opponents received good injury news on Friday when Vikings running back Dalvin Cook was cleared to play despite a shoulder injury. 

Sunday's contest will be the first of three NFL games in London this year. The New York Giants and Green Bay Packers play at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on October 9, and the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars will play at Wembley on October 30.

The NFL returns to London on Sunday with Tottenham Hotspur Stadium playing host to the Minnesota Vikings' clash with the New Orleans Saints.

Back-to-back defeats against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers have left the Saints looking for a response in their trip across the pond, with those losses coming despite impressive defensive performances. The Saints have held their opponents to fewer than 250 net passing yards and no more than one TD pass in nine straight games.

This season, the Saints have allowed a total of 551 passing yards (183.7 per game), which stands as the fifth-best record in the NFL. On the ground though, the story is far different – allowing 418 yards total (139.3 per game), the seventh-most.

Offensively, no team has lost more fumbles (4) than the Saints this season or thrown more interceptions (5), resulting in a turnover differential of minus 6 – again more than anyone else.

On the opposing side, the Vikings have allowed a total of 413.3 total yards per game, sitting behind only the Ravens (458) for the highest total of yards allowed per game. However, the Ravens have only allowed 18.3 points per game this season – enough to slot them into the top 10 for the fewest conceded this term.

Kirk Cousins will fancy his chances against the Saints, as he boasts a career passer rating of 126.7 against New Orleans in the regular season; the highest of any quarterback against a single opponent in the Super Bowl era (minimum 125 attempts).

In his four career matches against the Saints, Cousins has thrown 12 TD passes and just one interception, though he has lost each of his last three matchups against New Orleans.

Week 4 of the NFL season promises plenty of excitement following a blistering start to the 2022 season.

The season has so far been defined by close finishes. Through three weeks, there have been 18 games decided by three points or fewer this season, the most such games through the first three weeks of a season in NFL history. 

A packed crowd at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will hope to see another tight game as the NFL returns to London with the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings facing off.

The Washington Commanders travel to face the Dallas Cowboys in a fierce rivalry and the Philadelphia Eagles will look to extend their winning streak against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With plenty more on the agenda, Stats Perform has used its data to preview this week's games.

Minnesota Vikings (1-2) @ New Orleans Saints (1-2)

A high-scoring affair should be on the cards in London, as the Vikings and Saints have put up 700 points (53.8 per game) over their last 13 regular season matchups dating back to 1995 – more than any other game with at least a dozen meetings.

The Vikings are in very capable hands with Kirk Cousins, who has a career passer rating of 126.7 against the Saints in the regular season, the highest by any QB against a single opponent in the Super Bowl era (minimum 125 attempts).

However, they face a Saints defense that has held opponents to fewer than 250 passing yards and one touchdown pass for nine straight games, a franchise record, while the only team in the last 10 years to enjoy a longer streak was the New England Patriots in 2019.

Chris Olave boasts 268 receiving yards in his first three career games but is yet to score a touchdown, a record which stands as the most since Charlie Wade's 315 yards without a TD in his first three games for the Chicago Bears in 1974.

Washington Commanders (1-2) @ Dallas Cowboys (2-1)

The Cowboys host the Commanders having won both matchups last season, including a 56-14 triumph in Week 14 that stands as the highest margin of victory for either team in the all-time series.

With six sacks in the Week 2 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals and five sacks last weekend against the New York Giants, the Cowboys have recorded five or more sacks in consecutive games for the first time since a four-game streak in November/December 2008.

That will be of particular concern to Carson Wentz, who was sacked a career-high nine times in the Commanders' home loss to the Eagles last week – the most of any QB for the franchise since John Beck was sacked 10 times by the Buffalo Bills in 2011.

Fourth-quarter offense has been a highlight for Washington, though, totalling 455 scrimmage yards (342 passing, 113 rushing) and standing third in the NFL for the most fourth-quarter yards in 2022 behind the Saints (541) and the Indianapolis Colts (456).

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1) @ Philadelphia Eagles (3-0)

The only 3-0 side to play on Sunday, the Eagles have held the Jaguars to under 20 points in the last four matchups between the two sides stretching back to 2006, tied for the second-longest active such run for Philadelphia behind the six-game streak against the Jets.

In the past two weeks, the Eagles have kept their opponents to under 10 points (8 vs Washington, 7 vs Minnesota) and are the only NFL team this season to achieve the feat in consecutive games, while Philadelphia last went three in a row in that regard in 1980.

The Jaguars are 2-1 at the start of the season for the first time since 2018 and have scored 84 points, the third-most by the team in the opening three games of the season in franchise history (98 in 1997 and 89 in 2017).

Both teams rank in the top five in the NFL for total first downs this season, with the Eagles (73) third and the Jaguars (70) fifth.

Elsewhere…

The Los Angeles Chargers travel to face the Houston Texans having being held to just 26 yards on the ground against the Jaguars last week and have 177 rushing yards in the NFL this season, the fewest in three games in team history.

A total of 572 rushing yards this season places the Cleveland Browns as the NFL's best on the ground this season and they visit the Atlanta Falcons having amassed their highest total through their first three games of a campaign since 1963.

The Seattle Seahawks tackle the Lions boasting seven wins in the last eight matchups against Detroit dating back to 2003, the third-best record by an NFC team against a conference opponent over the past 20 seasons.

The Titans have won each of the last three games against the Colts, including a 34-31 win in overtime last season. A victory this weekend would make this Tennessee's outright longest winning streak against Indianapolis (also three straight wins between 1988 and 1992).

Two weeks down in the NFL and the action has been sensational so far.

Late comebacks were the name of the game last week and Week 3 promises to bring even more excitement.

Sunday sees the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins battle it out to remain undefeated, the Baltimore Ravens will aim to respond to a Week 2 defeat against the New England Patriots, while the Las Vegas Raiders and Tennessee Titans fight to pick up a first win of the season.

There's plenty more on the agenda and Stats Perform has used Opta data to preview the action.

Buffalo Bills (2-0) @ Miami Dolphins (2-0)

The Bills travel to Florida having won their past seven games against the Dolphins, outscoring them by better than a two-to-one margin (258-123). That marks Buffalo's longest winning streak against Miami, beating a run of six consecutive victories from 1987 to 1989.

Buffalo have outscored their opponents 72-17 so far this season to stand 2-0, with the +55-point differential their second-best through the first two games of a season. In 1981, they won their opening two matches by a combined score of 66-3 (+63 points).

The Dolphins overcame a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit (35-14) in last week's 42-39 win at Baltimore, marking the sixth time since 1925 that an NFL team has won a game in regulation time after trailing by such a margin in the fourth quarter. The last such comeback win was in 2010, when the Eagles beat the Giants 38-31 in Week 16, having trailed 31-10.

Tua Tagovailoa threw six touchdown passes, including four in the fourth quarter, against the Ravens last week. Since 2001, the only other player to throw four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter of an NFL game was Sage Rosenfels for the Texans against the Titans in Week 7 of the 2007 season, though Houston lost 38-36.

Baltimore Ravens (1-1) @ New England Patriots (1-1)

The Patriots have a 9-2 record against the Ravens in the regular season, the best record by any team against Baltimore in their history – though they have split four postseason matches.

Lamar Jackson became the first player in NFL history to have a 75+ yard passing touchdown and a 75+ rushing touchdown in the same game during last weekend's defeat to the Dolphins.

In week 2, the Patriots beat the Steelers 17-14. Since Bill Belichick became head coach in 2000, the Patriots are 42-23 in games decided by three of fewer points, the best such record in the NFL.

Nelson Agholor recorded 110 receiving yards in Week 2, becoming the first Patriot with a 100-yard game since Jakobi Meyers in Week 15, 2020. That brought an end to a 20-game streak without a 100-yard receiver for the Patriots, which was the longest spell in the Belichick era.

Las Vegas Raiders (0-2) @ Tennessee Titans (0-2)

The Raiders have won their past three games on the road against the Titans. The last time the Raiders won four straight road games against a single opponent was a six-game streak against the Chiefs from 2007 to 2012.

An 29-23 overtime loss to the Cardinals in Week 2 came despite them holding a 23-7 lead in the fourth quarter, marking the biggest fourth-quarter blown lead for a loss in franchise history.

The Titans are 0-2 for the first time since 2012 and last started a season 0-3 in 2009. The 41-7 loss to the Bills last week was the largest defeat suffered by the Titans under Mike Vrabel.

Both the Raiders and Titans are 0-2 this season after making the playoffs a season ago. Neither franchise has ever started a season with two defeats and rallied to make the playoffs, while the last NFL teams to do so being the Texans and Seahawks in 2018.

Elsewhere…

Chicago host the Texans with just 432 offensive yards to their name so far this season, the worst in the NFL and the fewest yards the Bears have gained in the opening two weeks of a campaign since they had 335 net yards at the same stage in 2003.

Patrick Mahomes rallied the Chiefs offence to a 27-24 victory against the Chargers last week, overcoming a 17-7 second-half deficit, and are eyeing a third-straight win this season against the Colts. Since his first NFL season (2018), the Chiefs have more comeback victories after trailing in the second half (17) than any other NFL side.

The Saints travel to Carolina on the back of a 20-10 home defeat to the Buccaneers last week. Dating back to last season, New Orleans have scored 17 or fewer points in five of their past nine games (1-4). When they have scored 18 or more, they stand at 4-0.

The Cincinnati Bengals have plenty to do offensively against the Jets, with Joe Burrow having been sacked 13 times so far this season and thrown four interceptions. The last QB to be sacked that many times while throwing as many picks in the opening two weeks of a season was Danny White of the Cowboys in 1987.

Tom Brady has brushed off concerns about an injury to the ring finger of his throwing hand despite the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback appearing in discomfort at practice on Thursday.

The 45-year-old has had a slow start in the first two games of the season, throwing for fewer than 225 yards in back-to-back games for the first time since Week 14 and 15 of the 2019 season.

Brady has thrown two touchdown passes for 402 yards with a 59 per cent completion rate, but despite that the Bucs have a winning record at 2-0, largely due to their defense.

The seven-time Super Bowl winner revealed earlier this week he had injured his right ring finger in Sunday's 20-10 win over the New Orleans Saints.

Brady appeared in discomfort at practice on Thursday, too, but downplayed any issue ahead of Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers.

"Great. I feel great," Brady told reporters with a hint of sarcasm. "It's football season."

Brady was not named on the Buccaneers' injury report earlier this week.

He had told the 'Let's Go!' Podcast on Monday: "I banged it up pretty good, but it didn't affect me at all in the game. It's just going to be sore throughout the week. But it's one of those bumps and bruises that comes along with playing.

"Different things – you get hit and you get kicked and you get kneed – all these things that come up. It's demolition derby out there.

"It's who can recover fast enough in order to put yourself in position to practice, prepare and then go play the next week, so lots of bumps and bruises to take care of over the season."

Former Super Bowl-winning head coach Sean Payton says he would be interested in returning to the NFL as a head coach in 2023 if the "right situation presented".

Payton, 58, led the New Orleans Saints to victory in Super Bowl XLIV in the 2009 season but stepped down from the franchise at the end of last season after 16 campaigns at the helm.

The 2006 AP Coach of the Year is working in the media with Fox Sports as an NFL analyst in 2022, but revealed he remains interested in coaching.

"If the right situation presented itself, I would definitely be interested," Payton told the NewOrleans.Football podcast.

"And there's no utopia, if you will, when it comes to teams, but if I felt like it was the right situation, I would have an interest in that. That all being said, that could come in a year, that could come in two years.

"The most important element is functional ownership [and] front office… because there's a handful of teams that aren't, and those teams, regardless of what takes place, they can win on Sunday but they have trouble winning long term.

"The opportunity to win consistently and the willingness to build the correct culture and all those things."

Payton's record with the Saints was 152-89 – the 13th-best of all time (minimum 100 games) – along with a 9-8 postseason record, forming a great partnership with quarterback Drew Brees with the highlight being the Saints' 31-17 Super Bowl win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season after the Saints' 'Bountygate' scandal blew up, with players said to have been rewarded by fellow team members for injuring and knocking opponents out of games. He returned to lead the team with distinction again, albeit unable to secure a return to the Super Bowl.

The 58-year-old is under contract through 2024 with the Saints, meaning any new franchise hiring him would need to pay compensation to New Orleans.

Mike Evans has been suspended for one game without pay by the NFL after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver clashed with the New Orleans Saints' Marshon Lattimore.

Evans and Saints cornerback Lattimore were engaged in a physical battle throughout the Buccaneers' 20-10 victory at the Superdome on Monday.

It boiled over in the fourth quarter when the latter got in the face of Tom Brady as the Buccaneers' quarterback appealed for a penalty flag on an unsuccessful third-down play.

Evans came in and knocked Lattimore to the turf, prompting a melee that resulted in both players being disqualified.

The pair have history, with Evans previously being suspended for one game for a cheap shot on Lattimore in 2017. 

Evans spoke to the media after the game and did not expect to receive any kind of suspension, though that confidence was clearly misplaced.

An NFL statement read: "NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan issued the suspension for a violation of Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8(g) which prohibits 'unnecessarily running, diving into, cutting, or throwing the body against or on a player who is out of the play or should not have reasonably anticipated such contact by an opponent, before or after the ball is dead,' as well as Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 which prohibits any act which is 'contrary to the generally understood principles of sportsmanship'."

Runyan also personally wrote to Evans explaining the decision, which is still subject to a potential appeal.

He said: "After a play had ended, you were walking toward your sidelines. When you noticed your team-mates engaged in a confrontation with Saints' players, you ran toward that area on the field and violently threw your body into and struck an unsuspecting opponent who was part of that confrontation.

"You knocked your opponent to the ground and a melee ensued involving players from both teams. Your aggressive conduct could have caused serious injury to your opponent and clearly does not reflect the high standards of sportsmanship expected of a professional."

Evans can return to the Buccaneers' active roster on September 26, the day after their game against the Green Bay Packers.

Mike Evans is not concerned about potentially receiving a suspension from the NFL following his ejection in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' win over the New Orleans Saints for his confrontation with Marshon Lattimore.

The Buccaneers capitalised on three interceptions from former Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston to emerge from the Superdome with a 20-10 win.

It snapped a seven-game regular-season losing streak for the Buccaneers against their NFC South rivals.

Wide receiver Evans and Saints cornerback Lattimore were engaged in a physical battle throughout and it boiled over in the fourth quarter when the latter got in the face of Tom Brady as the Buccaneers' quarterback appealed for a penalty flag on an unsuccessful third-down play.

Evans came in and knocked Lattimore to the turf, prompting a melee that resulted in both players being disqualified. The pair have history, with Evans previously being suspended for one game for a cheap shot on Lattimore in 2017. Despite that previous episode, Evans does not expect to receive similar discipline this time around.

"It gets spicy when you come to New Orleans, they're a good team, physical team, we matched that today," Evans said

"All I seen was, I know we were trying to get a flag called and it wasn't called, all I see was Lattimore punch Lenny [Fournette] in the face or something like that and then like push Tom, that's all I saw. I just pushed him."

Asked about the potential for a ban, he replied: "Nah, that was 2017, I didn't even get ejected in that. That was really a cheap shot, this wasn't."

Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan had a very different view of events.

"It hurts to lose your best corner," Jordan said. "Guys gun at him because they know he is one of the best corners in the league.

"When I saw the replay, [Lattimore] didn't go after anybody. Somebody came after him. What do you want him to do in that situation?"

Brady was visibly annoyed for much of the game as the Bucs laboured before pulling away with 17 fourth-quarter points, at one point taking out his frustration on a tablet after a disappointing end to an offensive series.

"It's an emotional game," Brady said. "A little bit of execution helps all the way around. I thought the defense played well again and the offensive line fought hard.

"Tough game all around. That is a really good team, really well coached — a team we really struggle with. So, it feels good to win."

Three turnovers in the fourth quarter propelled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 20-10 victory against the New Orleans Saints in a frustrating game for Tom Brady.

The seven-time Super Bowl champion angrily tossed a tablet on the sidelines as both offences struggled to get going, with just a field goal apiece at the end of the third quarter.

A Jamel Dean interception proved to be the turning point though, setting up Brady for an 11-play drive, which was capped off by a 28-yard pass to Breshad Perriman.

Dean struck again in the following drive for the Saints, intercepting Jameis Winston in back-to-back possessions for the Saints and putting the Buccaneers in a solid position on the opposition 29-yard line.

Brady was unable to capitalise, the Buccaneers instead settling on a field goal to extend their lead. The visitors would hold firm despite Michael Thomas giving the Saints hope with a seven-yard touchdown reception.

Having suffered four consecutive regular season losses to the Saints since joining the Buccaneers, Brady's run came to an end, but it was not a vintage performance for the veteran, who completed 18 of 34 attempts for a total of 190 yards.

Tagovailoa shines in comeback victory

Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens had a fine start against the Miami Dolphins, Devin Duvernay taking the opening kick-off for a 103-yard return and Jackson having three touchdown passes in the first half, as well as a 79-yard rushing touchdown.

When Jackson completed a 75-yard touchdown pass to Rashod Bateman, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to have 75-yard passing and rushing touchdowns in the same game.

Trailing by 21 points heading into the fourth quarter, Tua Tagovailoa threw four touchdown passes to secure a remarkable 42-38 comeback victory – finishing the game with six touchdown passes and 469 yards, completing 36 of 50 attempts.

Jets stun Browns with huge comeback

Victory for the Cleveland Browns at home against the New Yorks Jets would have secured a 2-0 record to start a season for the first time since 1993, and Kevin Stefanski's side looked to be set for a historic win, leading by two scores heading into the final stages.

Nick Chubb had starred with three touchdowns, totalling 87 yards from 17 carries, putting the Browns on the brink, but the Jets responded valiantly to score two touchdowns inside the two-minute warning.

Joe Flacco combined with Corey Davis for a 66-yard touchdown, before the Jets then recovered an onside kick and pulled ahead through a Garrett Wilson touchdown catch to win 31-30.

Jameis Winston started for the New Orleans Saints against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday despite having four fractures in his back.

The Saints were without star running back Alvin Kamara against their NFC South rivals due to a rib injury, but Winston was cleared to play.

The former Bucs quarterback was known to have a back injury, and the severe nature of the issue was reported ahead of kickoff.

FOX Sports' Jay Glazer revealed the four fractures, saying Winston was "dealing with an awful lot of pain" but had "no risk of further damage".

Winston was influential in the Saints' 27-26 Week 1 win over the Atlanta Falcons, throwing for 269 yards and two touchdowns.

Both scores and 213 yards came in the fourth quarter, with Winston the first Saints QB to have 200 fourth-quarter passing yards in a game since Drew Brees' 294, also against the Falcons, in Week 10 in 2008.

George Kittle's status for the San Francisco 49ers' Week 2 clash with the Seattle Seahawks is up in the air, with conflicting reports over whether he will play.

Pro Bowl tight end Kittle missed the 49ers' shock Week 1 loss to the Chicago Bears with a groin injury.

Kittle returned to practice on Friday, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reported he is not expected to play as the 49ers look to avoid an 0-2 start in Trey Lance's first season as the starting quarterback.

However, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport labelled Kittle as a "game-time decision". According to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, Kittle is pushing to play despite the 49ers preparing to once again be without him.

The highlight of the early window of games is the NFC South clash between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints.

Tampa Bay will be without one wide receiver as Chris Godwin misses out because of a hamstring injury, but Mike Evans (calf) is expected to play. Veteran Julio Jones (knee) is questionable and the Bucs reportedly do not expect to know if he will be available until pre-game warm-ups.

Running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring) is set to play, but left tackle Donovan Smith is doubtful with an elbow injury.

For the Saints, running back Alvin Kamara is likely to miss out due to a rib injury, but his backup Mark Ingram (ankle) is expected to play, as is quarterback Jameis Winston (back).

In the Sunday night game, the Green Bay Packers are set to welcome back wide receiver Allen Lazard (ankle) for their encounter with the Bears at Lambeau Field.

Despite an offseason of considerable change, the New Orleans Saints went into this season with plenty of supporters backing them for a return to prominence in the NFC.

The Saints saw head coach Sean Payton step away from the game and replaced by defensive coordinator Dennis Allen while they also lost key pieces on defense and on the offensive line.

Yet New Orleans had some tipping them not only to win the NFC South, but to go into the playoffs as the number one seed in the conference.

Such predictions did not raise eyebrows because of the quality of the Saints' roster – it remains one of the better all-round groups in the NFC – but because of the number of unknowns surrounding the Saints.

It is a mystery whether Allen will have what it takes to be a successful head coach and whether quarterback Jameis Winston, who saw a promising seven-game stretch ended by injury last year, can finally be a success at the highest level after years of failing to live up to his status as the top pick in the 2015 draft.

The Saints' 27-26 comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 was far from convincing, but it seemingly removed one key unknown from the equation as Michael Thomas enjoyed a superb return from injury.

One game, one in which the Saints needed a huge fourth-quarter comeback to avoid an upset, is not enough to definitively answer questions about coach or quarterback, though.

A much larger sample size will be needed to make an assessment of Allen, but Winston faces a litmus test of his credentials as the answer for the Saints when he goes against the team that drafted him, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in Week 2.

The Saints have won their last seven regular-season games against the Buccaneers, matching the longest winning streak by either team in this rivalry.

Winston was injured in a home win over the Bucs last year, and his ability to continue that run could provide a significant indication whether he is the man to help the Saints wrest the NFC South from Tom Brady's Buccaneers and put New Orleans on the path to one of the top seeds in the conference.

Accurate and aggressive

Winston displayed why the Saints were willing to keep the faith in him in the comeback against Atlanta, illustrating his upside as a downfield passer with six completions of 20 yards or more, which as of Friday were the fourth-most in the NFL.

He also displayed impressive accuracy, delivering a well-thrown, accurate ball on 87.1 per cent of his pass attempts, according to Stats Perform data.

The former Florida State star also averaged 9.65 air yards per attempt, with Ryan Tannehill (90.3 per cent and 9.42 air yards) the sole quarterback to average at least nine air yards and record a superior well-thrown rate than Winston.

Winston having success pushing the ball deep is nothing new. His 154 passing plays of 25 yards or more since he entered the league are the 13th-most in the league in that span. Last season, he averaged 9.14 air yards per attempt.

Yet his performance in Week 1 represented a stark improvement in terms of accuracy over what he produced in 2021. Indeed, Winston's well-thrown rate of 75.7 per cent last season was below the league average of 77.9.

Winston also excelled in delivering the ball accurately under duress, with six of his seven pass attempts when pressured considered to be well-thrown.

Whether he maintains that level of play in the face of the Tampa Bay pass rush will reveal a lot about his chances of steering the Saints to a division title.

Holding on too long?

Winston was sacked four times against the Falcons. While on the surface that may appear an indictment of the Saints' offensive line, the reality is that, for the most part, New Orleans did a very impressive job in pass protection.

The Saints ended Week 1 ranked fourth in Stats Perform's pass protection win rate. Two of their sacks were a result of individual brilliance from Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, while one was an effort sack from rookie Arnold Ebiketie and another came on a delayed blitz from the second level by Mykal Walker.

The theme across those plays where the Saints quarterback was brought down in the backfield was clear – Winston holding the ball for over three seconds.

On his seven attempts that came under pressure, Winston held the ball from snap to release for an average of 3.15 seconds.

Against a Tampa Bay defense that registered the seventh-most sacks for negative yardage (45) in the NFL last season and had no shortage of success against Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1, Winston is unlikely to get away with hanging onto the ball for so long. 

Winston's length of time holding the ball is in part connected to his aggressiveness in targeting receivers on deep routes, and he and the Saints will need the offensive line, which lost the services of three-time Pro Bowler Terron Armstead in the offseason, to hold up to facilitate those downfield shots in Week 2.

However, if it does not, Winston will need to efficiently read the field and get the ball out quickly to prevent the Saints' offense from being sunk by a fearsome Tampa Bay defense. Fail to do so, and it may be difficult to take New Orleans seriously as legitimate contenders. Thankfully for Winston, he has weapons who can offer him the safety nets he needs to frustrate opposing pass rushes with the quick game.

Winning weaponry

Having played only seven games across the last two seasons, there were substantial doubts over Thomas' ability to return and perform at the level that saw him set the NFL record for receptions in a season (194) in 2019.

Thomas emphatically answered his doubters with a two-touchdown display, his second score coming on a stunning back shoulder catch that cut the Falcons' lead to two points late in the fourth quarter.

Among wide receivers with at least five targets in Week 1, Thomas was fourth with a big-play rate of 52.9 per cent.

Between Thomas, Jarvis Landry – who went for 114 yards on his Saints debut – and rookie Chris Olave, the first-round pick who caught three passes for 41 yards, the Saints have three receivers who can all create the separation to give Winston easy answers against pressure.

Running back Alvin Kamara had little influence as a pass-catcher in Week 1, but a receiving big-play rate of 21.3 per cent that was fifth among running backs (min. 100 carries) in 2021 is indicative of just how dangerous he can be when he is a featured part of the passing game.

There is no doubt Winston has the offensive talent around him to succeed and he proved what he can do when he harnesses that talent in Week 1, becoming the first Saints player to throw for 200 or more passing yards in the fourth-quarter since 2008 as they won a game after trailing by at least 16 points in the final period for the first time.

He also has the support of defense that last year recorded one of only three shutouts of a Brady team in his 317 regular-season and 47 postseason starts.

Sitting 11th in Efficiency Versus Expected (EVE), which measures yardage gained in expected passing situations against the predicted yardage in those same scenarios, Winston made an encouraging start to what he hopes will be his first full season as the Saints' starter.

But the fact he was required to produce a late comeback against one of the NFL's least-talented teams speaks to an inconsistent offensive performance.

Volatility defined Winston's career in Tampa, but New Orleans will be substantially easier to trust as contenders if he can maintain his level while facing the quarterback who embodies consistency more than any other and help the Saints continue their hoodoo over the Bucs.

What a first week of the NFL season that was.

So much drama, so many late twists, and it's almost time to do it all over again as Week 2 looms on the horizon.

Sunday sees Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looking to follow up their opening win against the Dallas Cowboys when they head to New Orleans, the Los Angeles Rams will aim to get on the board when they host the Atlanta Falcons, while Russell Wilson's first home game for the Denver Broncos sees them welcome the Houston Texans.

With all that and more, Stats Perform has used Opta data to preview the weekend's action in the NFL.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) @ New Orleans Saints (1-0)

The Saints have won their last seven regular-season games against the Buccaneers, matching the longest previous winning streak by either team in this rivalry, a run of seven consecutive wins by New Orleans from 2011 to 2014. Tampa Bay did beat the Saints in a Divisional Playoff game following the 2020 season.

Tampa Bay had one interception (by Antoine Winfield Junior) in their season-opening win at Dallas. The Bucs were 11-0 last season in games in which they intercepted at least one pass. The Green Bay Packers (also 11-0) were the only other NFL team to go unbeaten last season in games in which they recorded one or more interceptions.

New Orleans won their season opener in Atlanta, 27-26, after trailing 26-10 in the fourth quarter. It was the first time in franchise history that the Saints won a game in which they trailed by 16 or more points in the fourth quarter, and only the third time they won a game in which they were behind by 16 or more points in the second half.

Tom Brady and the Bucs lost their last game against the Saints, 9-0 (Week 15 last season). That is one of only three times that Brady's team has been shut out in his 317 regular-season and 47 postseason starts in the NFL. The other shutouts were in 2003 (Patriots at Buffalo, 31-0 in Week 1) and 2014 (Patriots at Miami, 21-0 in Week 14).

Atlanta Falcons (0-1) @ Los Angeles Rams (0-1)

Including their original stint in California and time in St. Louis, the Rams are 28-8-2 (.778) at home against their former NFC West rival, Atlanta Falcons. That is the best home record of any franchise against a single opponent (minimum of 30 games) in NFL history.

Cordarrelle Patterson rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown in Atlanta's season opener. At 31 years old, Patterson is the second-oldest player in team history to have 100+ rushing yards and a touchdown run in a game, behind only Warrick Dunn, who had two such games.

The Rams started the season with a 31-10 loss to the Bills, the largest home loss in a season opener ever by a defending Super Bowl champion. The team has not started a season at 0-2 since 2011 when they were in St. Louis and have not lost their first two games as the Los Angeles Rams since 1987.

Cooper Kupp tied a career high with 13 catches in the opener against Buffalo. Including playoffs, Kupp has at least five receptions in each of the Rams' last 22 games. Only Antonio Brown has a longer such streak of team games with five or more catches in the Super Bowl era (37).

Houston Texans (0-0-1) @ Denver Broncos (0-1)

The Texans opened their season with a 20-20 tie against the Indianapolis Colts, despite being outgained by 218 yards in the game. Prior to Houston on Sunday, the last team to tie a game while having 200+ yards less than their opponent was the Packers against the Broncos in 1987.

In his first game with the Texans, O.J. Howard scored touchdowns on each of his two receptions. Howard joins Jaelen Strong as the only players to ever have two TD catches in their team debut for Houston.

Denver committed 12 penalties in their 17-16 loss to the Seahawks on Monday. It was the most penalties the Broncos have ever committed in a season opener, surpassing the 11 penalties they had to kick off the 1970 season against the Bills.

Russell Wilson threw for 340 yards against the Seahawks in his Denver debut. It was the most passing yards by a Broncos QB on their debut with the team and Wilson's 12th career game with 340+ passing yards (his teams are 5-7 in those games).

Elsewhere...

The New England Patriots travel to the Pittsburgh Steelers after suffering a 20-7 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, and have not started a season with consecutive double-digit losses since losing three straight games by such a margin to begin the 1969 campaign.

Baltimore's Lamar Jackson threw for three touchdowns against the New York Jets after throwing three or more TDs just twice all of last season. Before they host the Dolphins, it is notable that, in his career, the Ravens are 13-1 when Jackson has three or more pass TDs, the second-best team record among active players behind Josh Allen at 14-1 (minimum 10 such games).

Starting with their 2013 NFC Championship game success over the 49ers, the Seattle Seahawks are 15-2 in their last 17 games against San Francisco, which includes season sweeps in 2020 and 2021. The 15 wins since January 2014 are tied with the Patriots (vs. Jets) for the most by an NFL team against a single opponent in that span (including playoffs).

The Arizona Cardinals will need to watch Davante Adams, who had 10 catches for 141 yards on 17 targets in his Las Vegas Raiders debut. That is the most targets for any player in their first career game with the Raiders in the past 30 seasons. The only other with player with 15+ targets in their Raiders debut over that span is Randy Moss in 2005 (15).

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