Brian Robinson Jr. made his NFL bow on Sunday, as the Washington Commanders rookie played his first game just six weeks after he was shot twice.

The running back survived an attempted robbery in the capital on August 28 and has not played since, but was activated from the non-football injury list ahead of this weekend's game with the Tennessee Titans.

Brought on to a hero's welcome at FedExField, the third-round pick was unable to prevent another loss, which leaves the Commanders' record at 1-4 after a 21-17 defeat.

But Robinson nevertheless notched solid numbers for the NFC East outfit, posting 22 yards from nine carries with an average 2.4 gain.

The 23-year-old will hope his performance earns him further game-time over the coming weeks, with Washington set to travel to the Chicago Bears on Thursday night.

Jonathan Taylor's knee injury is reportedly not thought to be serious, though the Indianapolis Colts' star is a doubt for their clash with the Denver Broncos on Thursday.

Taylor was injured as the Colts' uneven start to the season continued with a 24-17 defeat to AFC South rivals the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

The defeat dropped the Colts to 1-2-1, with Indianapolis once again struggling to justify considerable offseason hype.

An extended absence for Taylor, who last year led the NFL with 1,811 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground, would deal another substantial blow to the Colts' hopes of returning to the postseason.

NFL Media's Ian Rapoport calmed fears of Taylor being out for the long term, but pointed out that the tight turnround could make it difficult for him to feature in Week 5.

The Colts are only half a game back in the AFC South race, but another defeat to a conference opponent in the Broncos would leave them in a potentially much more significant hole.

For Taylor's part, he was unsure whether he would be healthy to feature in Denver.

He told reporters of his ankle injury: "It just tweaked up a little bit, but I'm feeling good now.

"It was a lot of commotion going on. Things just happen so fast on the field. It's crazy."

Asked about his status for the meeting with the Broncos, Taylor replied: "I'm not sure yet, but we'll see how things are tomorrow [Monday] morning."

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.

Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Bobby Hart has been suspended for one game after hitting a Tennessee Titans coach.

The NFL confirmed the ban for an action at the end of the Bills' 41-7 victory over the Titans on Monday.

Hart was deemed to have taken a swing at an opposing player and missed, making contact with a coach instead, although the NFL did not identify either Titan.

In a letter to Hart, NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan wrote: "As both teams were heading to the tunnel, you walked directly across the field to seek out your opponent.

"You approached him near the end zone and a coach had to hold you back as others shook hands.

"Once you and your opponent were in the end zone near the tunnel, you confronted him and immediately swung at him with a closed fist, striking the head of a Tennessee coach.

"Your aggressive conduct could have caused serious injury and clearly does not reflect the high standards of sportsmanship expected of a professional."

ESPN reported Hart, who played three games for Tennessee last year before joining the Bills, would appeal against the suspension.

Having played in a quarter of Buffalo's offensive snaps during Monday's game, Hart is eligible to return to their active roster following Week 3, in which the Bills play the Miami Dolphins.

Coach Sean McDermott said he and his team were praying for Dane Jackson after the Buffalo Bills cornerback suffered a worrying neck injury in Monday's win over the Tennessee Titans.

The 25-year-old Jackson was taken away in an ambulance for scans at the Erie County Medical Center.

He suffered the injury in a collision with a team-mate, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, near the end of the first half.

McDermott said in a post-game press conference: "We're still waiting word. We're praying for Dane. Dane Jackson has, I think, full movement in his extremities, which is good.

"You go from being a coach to being a human when you're watching him being loaded into the ambulance. That's a real moment. It's an unfortunate situation.

"The game's important and trying to win a game is important, but there's bigger things, especially at that moment when their team-mate's down there.

"I saw him in the ambulance at half-time. I had a chance to talk to him real quick before they headed out."

The blow to Jackson took some of the attention away from a fine win for the Bills, which saw Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs connect for three touchdowns.

Wide receiver Diggs had 12 receptions for 148 yards, and he savoured seeing the Bills move to 2-0 for the third time in the past four seasons.

He said: "As a receiver, you want to be able to do everything, especially if you consider yourself a wide receiver one.

"You've got to be everything for your quarterback. If your quarterback wants to throw a bomb, you better be able to catch it. [Same for] if he wants to carve things up in the middle.

"I've got a quarterback that can do everything, so I've just got to do everything. If I do my job, I'm all right, giving my quarterback that comfortable feel, that safety play, so he's out there not thinking too much, just trusting I'm going to be open and I'll make a play for you."

Week 3 will see the Bills tackle the Miami Dolphins, AFC East rivals who have also begun with two wins.

"That's definitely going to be another test for us, and it's something we look forward to," Diggs said. "They're in our division, so we've got to get a win.

"I feel like they're a good-ass team, they've got a hell of a defense, they call on the right plays on offense, and they're having a lot of success."

Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs connected for three touchdowns as the Buffalo Bills moved to 2-0 for the third time in the past four seasons with a 41-7 win over the Tennessee Titans on Monday.

The Bills blew away the Titans after leading 10-7 in the second quarter, with Allen finishing the game with four touchdown passes, completing 26 of 38 passes for 317 yards with no interceptions.

Diggs got on the end of three of those, including a 46-yard third-quarter hand cannon, having 12 receptions for 148 yards. Allen has contributed to four or more TDs in each of his past four games, including playoffs.

Buffalo's win means they have won six straight regular-season games, which is the longest active streak in the NFL. It is also the Bills' NFL-best 13th 14-point-plus win over the past two seasons, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next best with eight.

Titans QB Ryan Tannehill, who was benched late, threw 11 of 20 passes for 117 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions, including a Matt Milano pick six. The Bills face the 2-0 Miami Dolphins in Week 3, with three of their next four games on the road.

The Philadelphia Eagles joined the Bills with a 2-0 record after a 24-7 triumph over the Minnesota Vikings led by Jalen Hurts who had a major hand in all three of their touchdowns.

Hurts threw for one touchdown (finishing with 26-of-31 passing for 333 yards), while he ran in two TDs (57 yards from 11 carries), helping the Eagles open up a 24-7 half-time lead, with neither side scoring in the second half. Hurts landed a 53-yard pass for Quez Watkins' TD.

The Eagles defense managed three interceptions from Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who completed 27 of 46 passes for 221 yards with one touchdown to Irv Smith Jr.

The Minnesota Vikings earned an important divisional win at home in Week 1, defeating the Green Bay Packers 23-7 after a massive game from star receiver Justin Jefferson on Sunday.

Jefferson was named second-team All-Pro last year in his second season in the league, and he showed against the Packers why many feel he could be the top wide receiver in the entire league.

He had three catches for 47 yards and a touchdown on the first drive alone, before going on to finish with gaudy figures of nine catches for 184 yards and two scores.

While Jefferson was the offensive star, the Vikings' defense was the reason they won the game, holding the Packers scoreless in the first half to head into the long break leading 17-0.

With Aaron Rodgers' former top target Davante Adams traded to the Las Vegas Raiders in the offseason, he struggled to move the ball downfield. While Adams racked up 10 catches and 141 yards from 17 targets in his Raiders debut, no Green Bay receiver finished with more than Romeo Doubs' four catches for 37 yards from five targets, although running back A.J. Dillon did reach 46 receiving yards after some garbage-time action.

Coming off back-to-back league MVP awards, Rodgers finished a disappointing 22-of-34 for 195 yards, throwing one interception and no touchdowns. He was also sacked four times by the impressive Vikings pass rush, including one by former Packers edge rusher Za'Darius Smith.

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins enjoyed a clean start to the season, going 23-of-32 for 277 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions, while top running back Dalvin Cook was strong with 20 carries for 90 yards.

Barkley announces return to form in Giants win

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley had not scored a touchdown since Week 4 of last season, but he found form again in style as he carried his side to a 21-20 win on the road against the Tennessee Titans.

Barkley, the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, had been questioned about if he would ever return to his best, but he looked like the old Barkley against the Titans as he piled up 164 yards and a touchdown from 18 carries, while adding six catches for 30 yards through the air.

As well as dominating through the middle stages of the contest, he also delivered in a big spot to decide the game, converting a two-point conversion after Daniel Jones threw what ended up being the game-winning touchdown with one minute to play.

The Titans got the ball back and worked their way into field goal range, but with a chance to hit a walk-off game winner, Randy Bullock pulled the 47-yard kick left to gift the win to the Giants.

The idea of "any given Sunday" is what makes the NFL so compelling.

Any one team can beat another, and that means at this stage of the season, with the first snap still to be taken, every team can have Super Bowl aspirations.

Sort of.

The Cincinnati Bengals, for example, may have been slightly surprising contenders in 2021, but there remain some teams whose title hopes are so remote as to be non-existent.

For some, this is because they have missed their shot at glory in recent years; for others, the plan is to challenge in seasons to come.

So, this leads us to draw up a preseason tier system, ranking all 32 teams by their Super Bowl windows with the help of Stats Perform AI predictions...

Nowhere near

This is unlikely to be a season to remember for the teams grouped in this category, for a variety of reasons.

The Houston Texans won the AFC South in 2018 and 2019, but the Deshaun Watson saga and two down years have them looking at a rebuild, with the data forecasting just 4.8 wins this year. That at least ranks them ahead of the Atlanta Falcons (3.6 projected wins) and the New York Giants (4.2), while the Texans did gain draft assets in the Watson trade.

The Chicago Bears are the fourth and final team projected to earn fewer than six wins (4.9), with second-year quarterback Justin Fields receiving little help on offense and playing behind an offensive line ranked 31st in pass protection.

Meanwhile, the Washington Commanders rank 31st in terms of skill players – better only than the Falcons – with faith in Carson Wentz long since having diminished. In Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, the Carolina Panthers have two high-draft-pick QBs unlikely to trouble the postseason. The New York Jets are in a similar boat, even if Zach Wilson is still young.

The Detroit Lions might argue they do not deserve to keep such company after a 3-3 finish to last season, but nobody could seriously argue they are title contenders.

Entering contention

If that first group was a mixed bag, so too is the second.

Anyone who has paid any attention to the New England Patriots' preseason would suggest they are very fortunate to be given any hope of success in the near future, but they finished with 10 wins in 2021 – even if that number is projected to shrink to 7.7. Despite a trade for Tyreek Hill, that still ranks the Patriots comfortably ahead of the Miami Dolphins (7.0), although the losing team in their Week 1 meeting will face a long slog of a season.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Philadelphia Eagles are forecast to have 11.9 wins – the second-most in the NFL – after a very strong offseason. But Jalen Hurts, for now, is unproven in the postseason, so Philly fans may have to stay patient.

The San Francisco 49ers are even younger at QB after promoting Trey Lance to a starting role, which explains why the prediction model looks so unfavourably on a team many consider contenders right now. Just 7.1 projected wins speaks to the potentially low floor Lance brings.

NFC West rivals the Arizona Cardinals have to be considered among this group of future hopefuls, with Kyler Murray hugely talented and now committed long term but frustratingly inconsistent, while the Jacksonville Jaguars will hope Trevor Lawrence can follow in the footsteps of the Bengals' Joe Burrow – the number one pick the year before him.

The Los Angeles Chargers, with 9.8 projected wins, have Justin Herbert to lead their charge, while the Cleveland Browns might have been contenders already if not for Watson's suspension, which is enough to limit them to a still strong 9.3-win forecast.

In their prime

The Chargers may have Herbert, but they also have three division rivals who intend to win and intend to win now. Indeed, all four AFC West teams rank in the top half of the league in terms of projected wins, with the Chargers second – behind the Kansas City Chiefs (11.5) and just ahead of the Denver Broncos (9.7) and the Las Vegas Raiders (9.2).

The Chiefs lead the AFC in this regard, although their playoff win over the Buffalo Bills last season came down to a coin flip, and the two are set to be similarly tough to separate this year. Buffalo are down for 11.1 wins.

The two teams coming off a Super Bowl run are of course prominent among the contenders, even if the model has far greater optimism for a Los Angeles Rams repeat than for another Bengals charge. The Rams are backed for a league-leading 12.4 wins and given a 15.3 per cent shot at defending their title, while the Bengals are actually projected to dip below .500 with 8.2 wins.

The Bengals' route to the Super Bowl will be complicated not just by the AFC West and the Bills but also by any return to form for the fit-again Lamar Jackson's Baltimore Ravens, who are counted among nine teams on course for 10 or more wins (10.4).

Also in that group are NFC pair the Dallas Cowboys (11.0) and the Minnesota Vikings (10.9), who may not even be the best teams in their divisions but might be nearing a point when they must seriously challenge or start again, which brings us to...

Last chance saloon

As long as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are the QBs for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Green Bay Packers, those teams are in with a chance. The question is how long that will remain the case.

Brady is 45, briefly retired this offseason and then missed a chunk of the preseason. Rodgers is 38, has repeatedly been linked with a move away from Green Bay and lost top target Davante Adams ahead of the new season. Still, the Buccaneers rank eighth for projected wins (10.7), with the Packers up in third (11.5).

They are not the only ageing teams in the NFL, however.

The Indianapolis Colts hope they have upgraded in moving from Wentz to Matt Ryan, yet the former MVP is now 37 and last played in the postseason in 2017 – when Wentz's Eagles took the title.

Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill is a little younger at 34, but of greater concern would be Derrick Henry's durability after the injury that limited to eight games last regular season. The Titans need to make the most of any seasons they have left of the superstar running back going at full tilt.

Missed their chance

Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees won Super Bowls with the Seattle Seahawks, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New Orleans Saints respectively, but with all three having now moved on, it is difficult to see those teams plotting a path to the title.

For the Seahawks and the Steelers, this will be their first year without their stalwart QBs, even if things had already gone stale in 2021. Wilson dipped below the .500 mark for a season for the first time in his career, while Pittsburgh were attempting to stay competitive in spite of Roethlisberger rather than because of him.

Still, with both gone – Wilson to Denver and Roethlisberger to retirement – there is a void under center that has not been suitably filled. Seattle also rank 32nd in pass protection, likely leaving Geno Smith hopelessly exposed.

The Saints have had another 12 months to come to terms with Brees' exit, albeit they spent it juggling Jameis Winston, Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill at QB. Winston's season-ending injury doomed the Saints' hopes of contention last year, and New Orleans' outlook for 9.5 wins with the entertaining but erratic former number one pick is at least far more positive than that of the Seahawks (6.2) or the Steelers (7.0).

Regardless, each of these three teams have provided an example in how not to do succession planning. They all could have won additional honours with their departed veterans and now face long waits for further title tilts.

The Tennessee Titans have lost their best pass-rushing threat and one of their top overall defenders before the 2022 season has begun.  

Outside linebacker Harold Landry III will miss the entire season after suffering a torn ACL in practice Wednesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.  

Landry set career highs last year with 75 total tackles, 12 sacks and 14 tackles for loss.  

A second-round draft pick in 2018, Landry signed a contract extension with the Titans earlier this offseason worth up to $87.5million over five years.  

Landry has 31 career sacks, more than double any other Tennessee player since 2018.  

Landry’s loss will put more pressure on Bud Dupree to pressure opposing quarterbacks, although the former Pittsburgh Steeler had a disappointing first season in Tennessee in 2021, starting six games and managing just three sacks.  

Ola Adeniyi and Rashad Weaver are the other outside linebackers who made the Titans’ 53-man roster, but that pair has just 2.5 career sacks combined.  

The Baltimore Ravens extended the NFL record for longest preseason winning streak with their 21st consecutive victory Thursday night, 23-10 over the visiting Tennessee Titans. 

No team has ever been better in the preseason than the Ravens. What exactly that means in the grand scheme of things is open to debate.  

Backup Tyler Huntley was 16-for-18 with a touchdown pass and Justin Tucker kicked three field goals for Baltimore, which last season eclipsed the Vince Lombardi-coached Green Bay Packers, who won 19 straight preseason games from 1959-1962. The Ravens last loss an exhibition game on September 3, 2015.  

Baltimore’s streak is in no danger of being matched anytime soon, with the Buffalo Bills owning the second-longest active preseason winning streak at eight in a row.  

With starter Ryan Tannehill getting the night off for the Titans, rookie quarterback Malik Willis played the entire first half and went 6-of-11 for 107 yards while rushing five times for 38 yards and a touchdown.  

The third-round draft pick out of Liberty scored on seven-yard run early in the second quarter. After running towards the right side on a designed sprint-out concept, Willis felt pressure and spun away from danger, slipping between two defenders before reaching the end zone.  

After being projected as first-round picks in the NFL Draft, quarterback Malik Willis and linebacker Nakobe Dean finally heard their names called in the 80s.

Willis, 22, came out of nowhere in 2021, throwing for 2857 yards with 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and was the most impressive athlete in this year's quarterback class, rushing for 878 yards and 13 touchdowns.

During the pre-draft process, Willis was discussed as potentially the second overall pick, but did not hear his name called until the 22nd pick of the third round, when the Tennessee Titans traded up and selected him at 86. 

He went three picks later than Dean, who was the leader of arguably the greatest defense in college football history in the Georgia Bulldogs' National Championship team.

In the conversation for first linebacker to be selected, information emerged during the second round that Dean's medicals were not as clean as he would have hoped after suffering a pectoral injury in the pre-draft process.

The medical red flags scared teams off until the Philadelphia Eagles selected him at 83.

Treylon Burks is not looking to draw comparisons with A.J. Brown but took the Tennessee Titans' trade with the Philadelphia Eagles as a show of faith.

Burks is in line to be the Titans' leading wide receiver in 2022 after Brown, previously the top man, was moved to the Eagles on the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Tennessee used the pick they received in return to select Burks at number 18, for now a far cheaper option than Brown, who was immediately handed a lucrative contract in Philadelphia.

The former Arkansas wideout has big potential, having been likened to wantaway San Francisco 49ers 'wide back' Deebo Samuel with his varied skillset and threat in the open field, averaging 9.3 yards after the catch in 2021 and also contributing 38 carries across three seasons with the Razorbacks.

Derrick Henry is in charge of the run game in Tennessee, though, and the pressure will be on Burks to replace Brown's production. The former second-round pick passed 1,000 receiving yards in two of his three seasons with the Titans – a mark Burks only topped in his final college season.

But the new man said on Friday: "I'm myself, I'm Treylon Burks. Usually I don't compare myself to anyone because I'm myself.

"There's no other person like me and I handle my business the right way, and that's what I'm going to do."

Rather than be daunted by the responsibility of replacing Brown, who was targeted on 33.5 per cent of his routes last season (second-most among wide receivers with 100 or more routes), Burks was emboldened.

"I'm just thankful for the opportunity that they believed in me to make that trade and believe in me to go out there and represent the organisation like it's supposed to be represented," he said. "That's what I'm going to do."

When Burks was linked to the Titans prior to Thursday, it was imagined he would line up alongside Brown, and he added: "That was one of my dreams, to also play with Brown. But I'm going to do what I do best and just go out there and play football."

Perhaps the biggest storyline entering the 2022 NFL Draft did not concern a prospect, but one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL. Deebo Samuel of the San Francisco 49ers was not traded during Thursday's first round but, if there were any doubts that wideout is now a premium position, they were extinguished emphatically in Las Vegas.

Six wide receivers came off the board in the first 18 picks amid a flurry of trades, including two involving established receivers who at least have one 1,000-yard season in their first three years in the NFL.

There was mild surprise when the Atlanta Falcons made USC's Drake London the first receiver picked with the eighth overall selection, but significantly more eyebrow-raising moves were to follow.

The New Orleans Saints jumped from 16 to 11 to pick Ohio State's Chris Olave one pick after his former college team-mate Garrett Wilson was taken by the Jets with a 10th pick that was reportedly offered to the Niners as part of a package for Samuel.

It was the Detroit Lions who made the most ambitious receiver trade of the night, jumping 20 spots up the board from 32 to 12 in a deal with the Minnesota Vikings to make Jameson Williams their second selection of the first round despite doubts over when he will be ready to play after tearing his ACL in the final game of his college career.

Williams' appeal is obvious, the former Alabama star a dynamic speedster who registered a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted, on 74.6 per cent of his targets in 2021.

He led all receivers in burn yards per target, his average of 19.34 nearly five full yards better than that of his nearest challenger, Cincinnati's Alec Pierce (14.74), and was also the cream of the crop in burn yards per route (4.9).

But it is the scale of the move up the board that is illustrative of just how determined NFL teams have become to add big-play receivers to their offensive arsenal, and the message was further hammered home as, after the Washington Commanders used the 16th pick on another wideout in Jahan Dotson, the Philadelphia Eagles made the defining move of the first round with their trade with the Tennessee Titans, sending the 18th pick and a third-rounder to acquire A.J. Brown.

Brown, a Pro Bowler in 2020 before injuries disrupted his 2021 campaign, was promptly reported as having received a four-year extension with Philadelphia worth up to $100million, with $47m guaranteed, the $25million average annual value of that deal reportedly what Samuel was looking to be paid before he requested a trade from San Francisco.

The choice for teams wanting to keep a playmaking receiver on the roster seems to be clear. Pay over $20m a year for one or spend a premium pick on a rookie. The Titans, in trading Brown and then selecting a rookie with a comparable playing style in Treylon Burks out of Arkansas, elected to do the latter.

"We got to a spot where it was going to be hard to get a deal done," Titans general manager Jon Robinson said of Brown after the first round.

The Ravens ran into difficulty with his namesake Marquise Brown, who was said to have requested a trade after the season and was also dealt on draft night to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for the 23rd overall pick.

While the Titans caved in and parted with Brown, the Niners remained steadfast in refusing to trade Samuel, even with a top-10 pick seemingly on the table, their resoluteness in itself reflecting the massive value of a player who was the heart and soul of the San Francisco offense as the 49ers made the NFC Championship Game last season.

Also running the ball out of the backfield consistently in a dual role, Samuel labelling himself a 'wide back', the 2019 second-round pick is a unique case. Yet the message that was definitively reiterated through the Niners refusal to part ways with him and the hive of activity surrounding receivers in the first round is clear, receivers who can make field-flipping momentum-changing plays are firmly among the most valued assets in the NFL.

Of the top 10 receivers with the most receptions of 20 yards or more in 2021, only two – Justin Jefferson and Tyler Lockett – did not feature on playoff teams. Four – Cooper Kupp (30), Samuel (23), Ja'Marr Chase (22) and Tee Higgins (17) – played on Conference Championship Sunday, as did the 11th-placed wideout in the category, Samuel's Niners team-mate Brandon Aiyuk (16).

Quarterback is king in the NFL, and tackle, edge rusher and offensive tackle have long since been viewed as next on the hierarchy as 'premium positions'. The 2021 season encapsulated the value of explosive wideouts and, with that campaign followed by an offseason in which Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill were both traded and received mega-deals and Thursday's first-round chaos brought on by the high demand for receivers, there can be little room for argument the position now carries the same importance as those other non-quarterback spots that have traditionally had the highest billing.

Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson called the decision to trade star receiver A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles a "tough one".

Brown, 24, is one of the best young wide receivers in the NFL, and plays at a premier position, but Robinson indicated the franchise was not willing to pay him the contract he desired.

Despite his immense talent, Brown had the least productive season of his career in 2021 as he was restricted to 13 games, while the Titans opted to buck the league trend of increasing pass attempts, instead running the ball at a high rate.

Tennessee's number one target finished the season with 869 yards and five touchdowns from 63 catches – a career-low in yards and touchdowns.

Speaking to Titans beat writer Jim Wyatt after the first round, Robinson said it was a tough decision, but that Brown's contract demands were too much.

"The decision we made on A.J. Brown was a tough one," he said. "We appreciate everything he did on the team and in the community.

"We got to a spot where it was going to be hard to get a deal done… the gap [in contract extension value] was too big."

Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said it was painful to part ways with a player he cares deeply about.

"I love A.J. Brown personally," he said. "We went to the extreme to keep A.J. Brown here. 

"I was involved in the entire process. It was a difficult one to get through, and the gap was big."

Speaking about Treylon Burks, whom they acquired with the 18th overall pick received in exchange for Brown, Vrabel said: "We liked Treylon Burks even when A.J. was on our roster."

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