Kyle Shanahan was rightly worried the San Francisco 49ers left too much time on the clock for Aaron Rodgers in their thrilling defeat to the Green Bay Packers.

The Niners suffered their first defeat of the season in Week 3 as Mason Crosby's 51-yard field goal as time expired gave the Packers a 30-28 victory.

Thirty-seven seconds earlier, fullback Kyle Juszczyk had ploughed into the endzone to give a 49ers team that had trailed 17-0 a 28-27 lead on a 12-yard pass from Jimmy Garoppolo.

Despite having all three timeouts, Garoppolo snapped the ball with 12 seconds left on the play clock, meaning he had the chance to salt more of the clock away and diminish the odds of Rodgers leading a decisive drive.

Instead, Rodgers hit Davante Adams for receptions of 25 yards and 17 yards to set up Crosby to settle the game in Packers' favour.

Asked if he was worried about the amount of time left for the reigning MVP, San Francisco head coach Shanahan told a media conference: "You always worry with Aaron on the other side.

"That's why we didn't use any timeouts. We wanted to take it down. Hell of an effort by Juszczyk to get it in.

"I think [Garoppolo] hit the last guy in the progression and it was a hell of an effort after the catch."

Had Juszczyk been tackled short of the endzone instead of crossing the line with an extra effort, the Niners would have been able to use their timeouts to control the clock and potentially score while leaving the Packers with virtually no chance.

But curbing that instinct to score is near-impossible in the heat of the moment.

"I didn't really have a lot of time to think about it," Juszczyk said. "The entire team was swarming me. I didn't even know how much time was left on the clock to be totally honest with you.

"It wasn't really something that was on my mind during the play. We were down six so we needed a touchdown so I was trying to score."

"We were kind of in a good rhythm,” Garoppolo added. "That's when you tow the line of you have the defense on their heels, it's really hard to score down there in the red zone as it is, do you want to let them catch their breath? 

"When a guy catches it and makes a play like that you’re not going to be upset at him for scoring. It’s tough."

Aaron Rodgers believes the Green Bay Packers' dramatic late 30-28 win over the San Francisco 49ers could be a catalyst for their season and serves as proof of their credentials as Super Bowl contenders.

The Packers were seemingly heading for a 28-27 defeat, but with 37 seconds remaining, they managed to turn things around spectacularly.

Some last-drive heroics from Green Bay superstar Rodgers – without a timeout left – lifted the Packers (2-1) as Mason Crosby's game-ending 51-yard field goal condemned the 49ers (2-1) to their first loss of the season.

Rodgers finished 23-of-33 passing for 261 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, also surpassing Hall of Famer Dan Marino (51,741) for the fourth most passing yards in a player's first 200 games in NFL history – Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning are the only players with more passing yards through 200 appearances.

But the focus post-game was less about such feats and rather centred around the Packers' turnaround, how they had gone from being 1-2 to 2-1 in almost the blink of an eye.

While the importance of single victories can only be quantified later in the season, Rodgers at least feels such a display of character is evidence of the Packers' potential, as they go in search of a first Super Bowl win since 2010.

"No timeouts, from the 25, you need two chunk throws," Rodgers said. "I knew that, so that's why I wasn't dink-and-dunk. You don't have any time for that. We had to get at least 15 on the first play.

"I like to adjust some routes from time to time to get a look at what it feels like against our defense, so I just adjusted one of the routes [in practice], and we all liked it.

"Matty [coach Matt LaFleur] suggested it right before we went out there. 'What do you think about this play?' I said, 'I like that. I think that would be pretty good.'

"[The turnaround] gives some legitimacy to some of the things we've been talking about: That that was kind of an aberration and that we are a talented football team.

"The energy in the locker room postgame, that felt like a win. It felt like it was such a growth moment for us.

"I'm really happy for the guys to feel that, and it feels like, OK, now we're on our way. Now we can get into this, now we know how to win, and we can get this thing moving in the right direction."

Aaron Rodgers showcased flashes of his MVP form after leading the Green Bay Packers to a thrilling 30-28 victory at the previously unbeaten San Francisco 49ers.

The Packers were facing their second defeat of the season after Jimmy Garoppolo's 12-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Juszczyk gave the 49ers a 28-27 lead with 37 seconds remaining on Sunday.

But some last-drive heroics from Green Bay superstar Rodgers – without a timeout left – lifted the Packers (2-1) as Mason Crosby's game-ending 51-yard field goal condemned the 49ers (2-1) to their first loss of the season.

Rodgers finished 23-of-33 passing for 261 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, while team-mate Devante Adams also starred with 132 yards and a TD on 12 receptions.

Three-time MVP Rodgers also surpassed Hall of Famer Dan Marino (51,741) for the fourth most passing yards in a player's first 200 games in NFL history. Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning are the only players with more passing yards through 200 appearances.

In eight regular-season games versus the Niners heading into this matchup, Rodgers had thrown 18 touchdowns to only two interceptions, and owned a passer rating of 106.9 – the highest against San Francisco in the Super Bowl era (minimum 100 attempts).

The 49ers rallied at home to the Packers, overcoming early 10-0 and 17-0 deficits before falling behind 24-14 at the start of the final quarter.

Trey Sermon's one-yard run and the Juszczyk-Garoppolo combination during the closing stages had the 49ers on the cusp of a third straight win and a completed comeback, however, the Packers still had enough time to snatch a last-gasp victory.

Garoppolo finished 25-for-40 passing with 257 yards, a pair of touchdowns, one interception and four sacks.

The only two remaining unbeaten teams in the AFC are tied in the AFC West, but neither will be in action at Arrowhead on Sunday.

While the Las Vegas Raiders and the Denver Broncos have made strong starts to move to 2-0 in 2021, division favourites the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers were each beaten in Week 2.

Those results ramp up the pressure heading into Week 3 when leading young quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert meet.

Mahomes sat out last year's Week 17 game, which the Chargers won on the road, but he will be involved this time and hoping to bounce back.

This is one of a number of intriguing matchups to look forward to this Sunday, as explored by Stats Perform.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs

That late-season win for the Chargers last year moved them to 2-1 at the Chiefs since the start of 2018. Kansas City are 18-4 at home to every other team in that time.

The Chiefs are a little vulnerable right now, too, having allowed a league-high 938 total net yards so far this season – music to Herbert's ears – and last week lost to the Baltimore Ravens despite leading by 11 points entering the fourth quarter. It was their first defeat with Mahomes under center when leading by double digits through three quarters, having previously gone 29-0 in such scenarios.

But the Chargers have an awful knack of coming up just short. Their 20-17 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys last time out was a league-high 16th loss by seven points or fewer since 2019.

Herbert does not know when he is beaten, though. He leads all QBs in completions (19), passing yards (271) and first-down conversions (16) on third down this season, while he is a stunning five-for-six for 112 yards and four first downs on third-and-11 or more.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Los Angeles Rams

There are also two games this week that could easily be early rehearsals for the NFC Championship Game, starting with Tom Brady versus the Rams defense.

Brady threw for five touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons last week and became the fifth player – including a former Buc in Ryan Fitzpatrick (2018) – ever to toss four or more scores in each of the first two games of a season.

However, the Rams, who gave up a league-low 281.9 yards per game in 2020, recorded three sacks and two interceptions against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 2.

They pose a threat on offense, too, with Cooper Kupp's 271 receiving yards the third-most by a Ram through the team's first two games of a season in the past 60 yards. Reaching new heights alongside Matthew Stafford, Kupp had just 252 receiving yards over his final five games of 2020.

Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers

The Packers and the 49ers will consider themselves worthy challengers to the Bucs and the Rams, with Green Bay hoping they are now back on track after a dismal Week 1.

They restricted Kyle Shanahan's run game to 55 rushing yards in last year's matchup, with the Niners having averaged 176.8 yards on the ground across their previous eight meetings, going 6-2.

On offense, the Packers have obvious threats in the form of Aaron Jones and Aaron Rodgers.

Jones had four total TDs against the Detroit Lions, becoming the fifth running back in the past 25 yards to record three or more receiving scores in a game, while Rodgers has thrown 18 TDs to two interceptions in eight regular-season games against the Niners, with his 106.9 passer rating the highest versus San Francisco in the Super Bowl era (minimum 100 attempts).

Elsewhere...

The Seattle Seahawks are coming off their first loss under Pete Carroll when leading by 10 at halftime (now 31-1) but face favourable opponents in the Minnesota Vikings, who have lost the teams' past seven meetings – a joint-record including playoffs in the Vikings' history.

The Miami Dolphins also suffered a painful defeat last week and are unlikely to find any comfort in Jacoby Brissett's promotion in Tua Tagovailoa's absence at the Las Vegas Raiders. The backup QB has lost five of his past six games as a starter, while his streak of 146 consecutive passes without a touchdown in the NFL is the longest ongoing run.

Jameis Winston's regression for the New Orleans Saints in Week 2 came at a bad time, with the New England Patriots next up. The Pats have had four or more interceptions in a league-high 16 different games in the Bill Belichick era, including against the New York Jets last time out.

Beaten by both the 49ers and the Packers, the Lions' next test is against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. Jackson has rushed for 80 yards in four consecutive regular-season games, the most by any QB in the Super Bowl era.

Those numbers pale a little next to running back Derrick Henry's 182 yards and three rushing TDs in Seattle. Only Jim Brown (five) has had more 175-yard, three-score rushing games than the Tennessee Titan's four – tied with LaDainian Tomlinson. He plays the Indianapolis Colts next.

Aaron Jones has got his father's ashes back, and it's all thanks to the late-night dedication of a Green Bay Packers stalwart.

Jones lost a necklace containing the ashes in the course of scoring four touchdowns for the Packers against the Detroit Lions on Monday night.

Although he was saddened to be parted from the necklace, Jones said after the Packers' 35-17 win: "If there was any place to lose it, that's where my dad would've wanted me to lose it, so I know he's smiling."

He was optimistic it would be found and was proven right.

Alvin Jones Sr died in April from complications related to COVID-19, having been an important guiding hand behind his son's football career.

The Packers understood the significance of the necklace and long-serving head athletic trainer Bryan Engel set out shortly before 2am to scour the end zone where Jones believed it had gone missing.

"Our trainer Bryan Engel – 'Flea' – he went out there and he found it," Jones told the Steve Czaban Show on 97.3 The Game.

"It's really small. A lot of times it just sits inside my shirt. A lot of people won't even see it or recognise it."

Engel is in his 25th year on the Packers staff and is responsible for managing the team's medical care, but he went the extra mile this time.

Asked how the necklace could prove so difficult to spot on a football field, Jones said: "I'm not sure, maybe because it's so small, but Flea found it so we're perfect.

"Thank you to him. He was out there at like 1:45am. It shows how much they care about us."

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers labelled criticism levelled at his side for their Week 1 loss as "b******t" after they bounced back with a 35-17 win over the Detroit Lions on Monday.

The Packers were humbled 38-3 by the New Orleans Saints in Week 1 but Rodgers responded by throwing 22 from 27 passes for 255 yards including four touchdown passes against the Lions.

Rodgers was forthright when he spoke to reporters in his post-game news conference, after biting his tongue immediately after the game when speaking to ESPN.

The 37-year-old said it was nice to put in a good performance to "get the trolls off our back", labelling the media attention on his side as an "over-reaction".

"I think people like to say a lot of b******t and it's nice to come back in here after a game like that," Rodgers said.

He added: "I think there's even more now than when I started playing, there's so many over-reactions on a week-to-week basis.

"It's nice to come out and have a good performance and get the trolls off our back for at least a week."

Rodgers, who was the subject of a drawn-out saga about a move away from Green Bay in the off-season, admitted the Packers were "disjointed" in Week 1 but would not getting carried away with one win.

"It's one game. We're 1-1 now. We're 1-0 in the division," Rodgers told ESPN. "So we feel good about things but it's early."

The Packers trailed 17-14 at half-time against the Lions but found their "rhythm" with three second-half touchdowns.

"The rhythm was good," he said. "We got the ball to our playmakers, like this guy [Jones].

"Last week we were really disjointed on offence. The first half went the same way but the second half we came out, got into a better rhythm, got a turnover and put the game away."

The Packers will next take on the San Francisco 49ers, who have started 2-0, on Sunday.

Aaron Jones scored four touchdowns as Aaron Rodgers guided the Green Bay Packers to their first win of the new season with a 35-17 victory over the Detroit Lions in Monday Night Football.

The Packers had gone down 38-3 to the New Orleans Saints in Week 1 but bounced back although the Lions threatened an upset early on. Detroit led 17-14 at half-time, scoring two of the first three touchdowns of the game with quarterback Jared Goff completing 13 of 16 passes for 137 first-half yards.

Rodgers and Jones initiated the response, with the running-back finishing with four TDs, with 17 carries and six receives. Three of Jones' touchdowns came from Rodgers' passes, while Robert Tonyan's third quarter touchdown put them ahead of the first time in the game.

The Packers quarterback completed 22 from 27 passes for 255 yards with four touchdowns for the game, going at 9.4 yards per attendance.

Goff was excellent in the first half, finding Quintez Cephus for an early touchdown, while he delivered a pinpoint pass for TJ Hockenson, to sandwich Jones' first-quarter TD.

After Jones' second touchdown, Austin Seibert's 43-yard kick put the Lions ahead by three at the long break.

Rodgers found Tonyan with a 22-yard strike to put Green Bay in front after a 50-yard play to Davante Adams, while Jones leapt into the Lambeau Field crowd with his third touchdown with seven seconds left before the final change.

In the last quarter, Jones crossed again with one yard to run, before De'Vondre Campbell's interception from Goff's pass put an underline on a good Packers response.

The Green Bay Packers will be without edge rusher Za'Darius Smith for at least three weeks as he is set to be placed on injured reserve. 

Smith has been dealing with a lingering back injury and played only 18 of Green Bay's 60 defensive snaps in their 38-3 Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints. 

"Unfortunately, we're going to have to shut him down for a while," Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said on Friday. 

"It's a matter of just, do you keep him in a limited role? Or do you shut him down for a while, try to get him healthy and then get him up to the snap count that we'd like him to be, just like he's been in the past, because he's such an impact player. So, that's just the route that we thought was best long term." 

It means Smith is poised to miss not only Monday's home game with the Detroit Lions, but also difficult clashes with the San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Signed as a free agent in 2019, Smith racked up 13.5 sacks in his first season before registering 12.5 last year, with the Packers reaching the NFC Championship Game in each of those campaigns. 

However, his overall pressure rate tailed off from 27.4 per cent, fourth among edge rushers, in 2019 to 16.5 per cent in 2020. 

With Smith on the sideline, the onus will be on his namesake Preston Smith (10 per cent pressure rate in 2020) and Rashan Gary (19.1 per cent) to provide the pass rush and help the Packers prevent their opening-game disappointment stretching into the coming weeks as they aim to go one better than in the previous two seasons. 

Week 1 can be strange. Not everything goes to plan and, for NFL coaches and fantasy owners alike, it's best not to overreact to the weekend just gone.

However, avoiding falling 0-2 is just as important as keeping your cool. In the high-pressure world of the NFL and amid the considerably lower stakes of fantasy football, nobody wants to fall into a hole early in the season.

And, in both cases, identifying the players who can be relied on to produce a big performance is the key to victory.

In this week's edition of Fantasy Picks, Stats Perform looks at the players who should be considered sure things to deliver the goods.

QB: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks vs. Tennessee Titans

Wilson could hardly have been more impressive as the Seahawks swept aside the Indianapolis Colts on the road in Week 1.

Continuing his remarkable rapport with Tyler Lockett, who had two receiving scores, Wilson threw for 254 yards and four touchdowns as his marriage with new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron got off to a spectacular start.

Second in air yards per attempt (10.43) among quarterbacks with at least 10 attempts, Wilson carries substantial upside as one of the best deep-ball throwers in the NFL and should receive ample opportunity to demonstrate that prowess against an extremely vulnerable Titans defense shredded by the Arizona Cardinals for 280 net yards passing and four touchdowns through the air in their opener.

RB: Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions

Nothing went right for the Packers in their 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints, with Jones held to nine yards on five carries on a miserable day for the entire offense.

Yet a Week 2 clash with the Detroit Lions should prove the perfect tonic. Detroit gave up 131 yards on the ground to the San Francisco 49ers in the opener, with sixth-round rookie Elijah Mitchell gashing the Lions for 104 yards and a touchdown at a rate of 5.5 yards per carry.

The Packers operate a zone running game akin to that of the Niners, so Jones should be confident of finding room to rack up similar numbers. Jones has topped 100 yards in two of his past three games against the Lions, including a 168-yard, two-touchdown effort at Lambeau Field last year.

WR: Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers vs. Dallas Cowboys

Justin Herbert's rapport with a receiver who has a case for being the premier route runner in the NFL continues to blossom, with the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year going to Allen time and again as the Chargers edged out the Washington Football Team in their opener.

Allen was targeted 13 times and caught nine passes for 100 yards in a 20-16 victory. He registered a burn, which is when a player wins his matchup with a defender on plays where he is targeted, on 12 of those 13 targets.

He did that against a Washington defense that allowed the second-fewest yards per pass play (5.33) in the NFL last season. Now he gets to face a Cowboys defense that ranked 21st in that same metric with 6.69 yards and gave up 7.58 per play in their opening loss to the Buccaneers. Book in Allen for another big day.

TE: George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles

Deebo Samuel overshadowed Kittle in the Niners' win in Detroit, but the top all-round tight end in football still produced with four catches for 78 yards and should be salivating at the prospect of facing the Eagles.

Last season, in a home loss to the Eagles, Kittle hauled in all 15 of his targets from Nick Mullens for 183 yards and a touchdown.

He might not see the same level of targets at Lincoln Financial Field this year but, with a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo under center, he should see enough of the ball to excel in a matchup with an Eagles defense that has consistently struggled to defend tight ends.

Defense: New England Patriots @ New York Jets

The Patriots may have come up short against the Miami Dolphins, but there was much to admire about their performance on defense.

With the likes of Matthew Judon and Josh Uche excelling at getting pressure on Tua Tagovailoa, New England's front is likely to have great success against the Jets' offensive line, which will be without left tackle Mekhi Becton.

Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson was sacked six times in their loss to the Carolina Panthers, which saw him throw an interceptable pass on 5.56 per cent of his attempts, according to Stats Perform data.

Expect New England's defense to create more interception opportunities and make it another long afternoon for Wilson and the Jets.

Jameis Winston starred as the New Orleans Saints opened the season with a "home" game played more than 500 miles away from the Superdome. 

In discussing his team's 38-3 pounding of the Green Bay Packers in Jacksonville, Florida, the quarterback's thoughts kept returning to New Orleans and the surrounding area.

Asked about his feelings regarding Sunday's game, Winston answered by illuminating the challenges facing the Saints' home community in the wake of Hurricane Ida, which forced the team to relocate its operations to Dallas two weeks ago. 

"We did that for them," Winston said. "We knew how much it would mean to get a victory. They've been through so much, and for us to celebrate this victory with them is amazing.

"Hats off to [the people of New Orleans] for their resilience. They inspired us to go out there and ball."

No one balled quite like Winston, who had five touchdown passes in the New Orleans rout as he made his first start for the Saints after serving as the backup to Drew Brees last season.

Winston said the Saints remained composed despite the many distractions thrown their way in recent weeks, and it paid off Sunday. 

"We were prepared. That was the message today," he said. "My trainer texted me this morning that 'pressure is for the unprepared'.

"I think that one thing we consistently did as a unit with Sean [Payton, the head coach] and with [administrative director] Jay Romig, along with our entire organization, is that despite the adversity of being in Dallas and all that we're dealing with at home, our mindset stayed the same.

"We prepared to play against Green Bay and prepared to play the best football that we could, and we did that."

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers starter from 2015-19, Winston refused to revel in his return to the spotlight after outshining Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. 

"Coach [Payton] says all the time that we're in a race to get better," Winston said. "We are going to celebrate this game today, but there are people dealing with way worse than me right now. There are still people in Louisiana without power.

"I'll probably reflect on it after our season is over, but right now we have to keep getting better. There's some things that I won't like when I watch the film tonight, so we still have to get better."

Next up for the Saints: a true road game Sunday at the Carolina Panthers followed by a trip to New England to face the Patriots in Week 3.

Aaron Rodgers is hoping the Green Bay Packers can regroup following a "good kick in the you-know-where" in their blow-out loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Rodgers suffered the heaviest loss of his illustrious NFL career as the Packers – who have reached the NFC Championship Game in each of the last two campaigns – opened their season with a 38-3 rout at the hands of the Saints on Sunday.

After a tumultuous offseason, dominated by Rodgers' desire to leave the Packers, the reigning MVP had one of the worst outings of his career.

The superstar quarterback finished with just 133 passing yards (lowest since 2015), two interceptions and a 36.8 passer rating (lowest since 2014).

That passer rating is the lowest by a reigning NFL MVP in his first game of the subsequent season.

After the 35-point demolition, Rodgers said: "This is a good kick in the you-know-where to hopefully get us going in the right direction."

Rodgers added: "They beat us. They played way better than us. We played bad. I played bad.

"Uncharacteristic of how we've practiced in training camp, obviously how I've played over the years. This is hopefully an outlier moving forward. We'll find out next week."

"I don't even know how many stops we had on their offense the entire day," Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said.

"It was just an all-around poor performance. That starts with myself. Obviously didn't get these guys ready to play."

Just when the Cleveland Browns thought they were in position to open the NFL season with a statement win, Patrick Mahomes did what Patrick Mahomes does. 

The Kansas City Chiefs star threw for a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter as the reigning AFC champions edged the Browns 33-29 on Sunday.

Mahomes completed 27 of his 36 passes for 337 yards and three interceptions as the former MVP made more NFL history.

The 25-year-old broke the record for most passing yards in NFL history through first 50 games, while he also boasts the most passing touchdowns ever through the same amount of appearances.

Cleveland had built a 22-10 half-time lead, with Baker Mayfield directing three scoring drives that led to Nick Chubb finding the end zone twice and Jarvis Landry running in another touchdown before the break. 

Mayfield finished 21 of 28 passing for 321 yards, but had one critical mistake late. With the Browns near midfield and just over a minute to play, the Chicago quarterback scrambled to avoid pressure before throwing a pass up for grabs to the left sideline. Mike Hughes leaped to intercept the ball and the Chiefs ran out the clock from there. 

Mahomes, meanwhile, was poised as ever as he led the Chiefs to their ninth win in the last 11 games in which they trailed by double digits. 

It started with a 14-play drive to open the second half, capped by an 11-yard TD pass to his favourite target Travis Kelce. 

The signature moment, though, was a stunning 75-yard deep strike to Tyreek Hill that brought the Chiefs within two early in the fourth quarter. 

The Browns botched a punt deep in their own territory on the ensuing drive and Mahomes hit Kelce for the go-ahead touchdown three plays later. 

It was the kind of turnaround Cleveland fans have grown all too accustomed to over the years, particularly in season openers. 

The Browns have not won in Week 1 since 2004 and are now 0-16-1 since. 

Winston, Saints crush Packers

Aaron Rodgers dominated the headlines throughout the NFL offseason but he was upstaged in a big way as the season began. 

Jameis Winston threw for five touchdowns as Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers were kept from the end zone altogether in a 38-3 New Orleans Saints rout. 

Rodgers completed just 15 of 28 passes for 133 yards and threw two interceptions. He had only five interceptions all of last season on the way to being named NFL MVP for the third time.

Winston took over the starting role in New Orleans from another future Hall of Famer, the retired Drew Brees, and was brilliant at the Superdome. He completed 14 of 20 passes for 148 yards without an interception or a sack. 

In a matchup of two young quarterbacks, Tua Tagovailoa got the better of his former Alabama team-mate Mac Jones as the Miami Dolphins edged the New England Patriots 17-16 on the road.

While the rookie Jones had the better numbers of the two with 29 of 39 passing, 281 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, the Patriots repeatedly had to settle for field goals. 

Tagovailoa, meanwhile, ran one touchdown in himself and threw for another in the third quarter that provided the eventual winning margin.

The NFL returned in spectacular fashion on Thursday as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers edged the Dallas Cowboys in a thriller.

It is a remarkable appetiser to the main course of Week 1, which sees 14 more games on Sunday and another on Monday between the Baltimore Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders.

There is a mouth-watering playoff rematch to behold at Arrowhead Stadium, while a clutch of rookie quarterbacks will attempt to make sure their first steps in the league are successful ones.

Ahead of what should be an enthralling opening week, Stats Perform looks at some of the most interesting facts from Sunday's biggest games.

Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs

Revenge will be on the minds of the Browns in the most enticing matchup of the opening week, Cleveland aiming to upset the odds after falling short against the Chiefs in the Divisional Round of last season's playoffs.

History, though, is firmly against Cleveland. The Chiefs have won three straight games against the Browns dating back to 2013, while Andy Reid is 7-0 in his career as a head coach versus the Browns, one of three teams he is undefeated against. The others are the Chiefs (3-0) and his former team the Philadelphia Eagles (2-0).

Kevin Stefanski led the Browns to an 11-5 record in 2020, his first year as an NFL head coach. It was the most wins in a season by the Browns since 1994 (also 11 wins). The last time the Browns won at least 10 games in back-to-back seasons was 1986 to 1988 (three straight).

The Chiefs set a franchise record with 14 wins in 2020 and played in the Super Bowl for the second straight season, with Kansas City the favourites to be the AFC's representative in the February showpiece yet again. Only three teams have ever made the Super Bowl in three straight seasons – the Buffalo Bills (four, 1990-93), New England Patriots (three, 2016-18) and Miami Dolphins (three, 1971-73).

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Buffalo Bills

The Bills were a game away from the Super Bowl last season and enter this clash between a new AFC heavyweight and a seemingly fading force on a regular-season winning streak.

In a campaign that saw them go 13-3 and post their best record since 1991, the Bills finished the regular season with six straight wins averaging an NFL-best 38.2 points during that span.

Pittsburgh began last season 11-0, then dropped four of their last five games, finishing with an opening-round exit to the Browns in the playoffs. The Steelers were the first team to start 11-0 since the 2015 Carolina Panthers.

And the Steelers will be looking to avoid a third straight defeat to the Bills, who made it two successive wins over Pittsburgh with last season's 26-15 victory in Week 14. The Steelers had won nine of the previous 10 meetings dating back to 1993. 

Green Bay Packers @ New Orleans Saints

The Drew Brees era is over for the Saints, who have selected Jameis Winston as his successor at quarterback. The Packers have a talented defense but the often-erratic Winston's past form suggests he should move the ball against them. Winston has averaged 12.62 yards per completion over his career, the highest mark by any QB who has debuted in the past 30 years (minimum 1,500 completions).

Two perennial NFC powers, games between New Orleans and Green Bay have been consistently high-scoring affairs. The Saints and Packers have combined to average 52.0 points per game in their 26 all-time meetings, the highest average between any two NFL teams who have met at least 20 times.

Green Bay won 13 games in each of the last two seasons but failed to make the Super Bowl in either one. The Packers joined the 2018-19 Saints as the only teams in the Super Bowl era to win 13+ games in back-to-back seasons but miss the Super Bowl in both.

Elsewhere...

It will be a season partially defined by the performance of the rookie quarterbacks, with four of the five drafted in the first round seemingly set to feature in Week 1.

The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with their first-ever number one overall pick. When he lines up against the Houston Texans, Lawrence will be the eighth different QB to start a season opener for the Jaguars since 2010, tied for second most in the NFL behind the Browns (nine). 

Second overall pick Zach Wilson is set to become the 49th starting quarterback in New York Jets history when they face the Carolina Panthers and his predecessor Sam Darnold. No Jets quarterback has started every game of a season since Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2015, which happens to be the last time the Jets had a winning record (10-6).

Trey Lance will likely see sporadic action for the San Francisco 49ers versus the Detroit Lions. However, if Jimmy Garoppolo's spotty injury history continues in 2021, Lance could soon become the undisputed starter. Garoppolo was limited to six games last season. In three of the games, Garoppolo passed for multiple touchdowns with no interceptions. In the other three, Garoppolo had no touchdown passes and at least one interception.

The New England Patriots have used just four starting quarterbacks in their season openers since 2000, with Mac Jones poised to be the fifth as he looks to become the long-term successor to Tom Brady. Only the Packers (two) and Saints (three) have had fewer season-opening starters in that span – the NFL average in that time is 7.5 quarterbacks.

The consensus in recent years has become that the very best in the NFL predominantly reside in the AFC. It is a claim that is difficult to argue, given the Kansas City Chiefs' emergence as the most explosive team in the league, the rise of the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns and the consistency of the Baltimore Ravens with their dynamic running game.

Yet, in terms of sheer depth, the NFC might have the edge. It may be tough to look beyond the reigning champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and too many find teams that can legitimately hope to be lifting the Lombardi Trophy come February, but this is a conference swimming with playoff calibre competitors.

That plethora of contenders will all be hoping to topple Tom Brady and the Buccaneers after they crushed the Chiefs 31-9 in Super Bowl LV to claim their second title in franchise history.

The Bucs are still the unquestioned class of the conference, but who are teams with the best shot of usurping them and playing in Super Bowl LVI in February? Stats Perform attempts to answer that question as we preview the NFC ahead of Tampa Bay's season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

Favourites

With Brady's arm seemingly somehow getting stronger in his mid-40s – he averaged 9.5 air yards per attempt, the fourth-most in the NFL, in 2020 – and the Bucs doing an excellent job of retaining a host of free agents that formed the core of their championship roster, Tampa Bay stand as the clear favourites to be the NFC's Super Bowl representative.

Yet it is important to remember the Green Bay Packers and MVP Aaron Rodgers were perhaps just a fourth-down conversion in the red zone away from knocking off Brady and the Bucs in last year's NFC title game. Save for departed center Corey Linsley and injured left tackle David Bakhtiari – not insignificant absentees – Rodgers will have predominantly the same supporting cast as he had last year, including Davante Adams, who led the NFL in receiving touchdowns (18) last term.

The pressure is on defense that forced only 72 negative plays (tied 26th) last term to provide assistance reflective of the talent the Packers have on that side of the ball.

Sean McVay's Los Angeles Rams have rarely had to worry about getting impactful defensive contributions. Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald is coming off a year that saw him post a monstrous pressure rate of 28.2 per cent while Jalen Ramsey is still one of the most feared cornerbacks in the league.

If the defense can continue to thrive without coordinator Brandon Staley – who will coach in the same stadium but as the head man with the Chargers – and the marriage of new quarterback Matthew Stafford and innovative play-caller McVay proves successful, the Rams could be the team that defies Brady having failed to do so against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.

In the mix

The San Francisco 49ers were seven minutes away from ending the 2019 season with triumph in Super Bowl LIV, only to be undone by a stunning late barrage from Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

Their hopes of going one better were decimated by a relentless wave of injuries, however, the Niners are healthy going into this season and offer one of the deepest rosters in the NFL along with the league's most compelling quarterback situation.

It is unclear when rookie third overall pick Trey Lance – an exciting dual-threat quarterback who tallied 42 total touchdowns and no interceptions in his only full season of college football at North Dakota State – will be ready to take over from Jimmy Garoppolo. Yet, as long as one of their quarterbacks can elevate a talented cast of skill-position players and an extremely well-stocked defense that gets edge rusher Nick Bosa – 28.3 per cent pressure rate in 2019 – back from a torn ACL can stay in the league's top 10, San Francisco will be a threat.

The Niners do have the inconvenience of being in the same division as the Rams and the Seattle Seahawks, whose head coach Pete Carroll may be starting to feel the pressure to deliver with his team having consistently reached the playoffs but failed to go beyond the Divisional Round since their Super Bowl loss at the end of 2014 season.

Seattle do not possess a roster as well-rounded as that of the Niners, yet quarterback Russell Wilson is one who can keep them in any game. Wilson, and therefore the Seahawks, cannot be counted out.

The Dallas Cowboys are more of a longshot and their defense is one ill-prepared to go deep into the postseason. Still, in a league where offense is king, the Cowboys have the attack – provided Dak Prescott is healthy – to outduel opponents having put up 509.5 net yards per game before their quarterback's 2020 season was ended by injury in Week 5.

Sleeper team to watch – Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons appear to be a franchise resisting the reality staring them in the face. Having replaced Dan Quinn with former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, the Falcons had the chance to get a jump-start on a rebuild by taking a quarterback with the fourth overall pick in the draft as the successor to the 36-year-old Matt Ryan.

Instead, the Falcons settled on Florida's stud tight end Kyle Pitts, a move more in keeping with a team ready to win now. With Pitts, who won his matchup with a defender on 70.1 per cent of targets in 2020, joining Ryan and an already talented cast of pass-catchers, the Falcons arguably have an offense that can score at a rate to keep them in the mix.

Wide receiver Calvin Ridley is one of the most dynamic weapons in the conference who racked up 1,374 receiving yards (tied fifth in the NFL) last year. Having to defend both Ridley and Pitts will present a massive dilemma for opposing defenders and, if blitz-heavy new Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees can improve a unit that was tied-20th in the NFL last year with 29 sacks for negative yardage, Atlanta could have the ingredients for a successful season.

The Falcons are stuck in a void between wanting to contend and needing to rebuild. Should the success Smith had as a play-caller in Tennessee continue in Atlanta, their dreams of contention could be realised.

Best Division – NFC West

The biggest barrier to the Rams, Seahawks and 49ers posting a record to put themselves in the conversation for the number one seed in the conference is that they all reside in the same division, one which also contains an Arizona Cardinals team that was 6-3 at one point last campaign before collapsing to an 8-8 record.

With the Cardinals possessing one of the most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks in the league in the form of Kyler Murray and an All-Pro wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, the NFC West is a division that houses four playoff calibre teams as well as arguably the two best play-callers in the game in McVay and 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Blowouts in the division are rare and all four have proven in recent times that they can deal damaging blows to each other. As this quartet feels the pressure to make the postseason, they promise to produce some of the most fascinating matchups of 2021.

Worst Division – NFC East

The East is the antithesis of the West, with four flawed teams and questionable quarterback situations for every team except Dallas.

Prescott's injury helped the Washington Football Team reach the playoffs with a 7-9 record in 2020, illustrating just how far what was once seen as the league's glamour division has fallen.

Washington will have the entertaining but erratic Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback while New York Giants signal-caller Daniel Jones and his offensive line look ill-prepared to propel them to the playoffs. Jalen Hurts brings dual-threat intrigue for the Philadelphia Eagles, yet theirs is a roster that likely has too many holes for him to overcome.

This is a division that will likely hinge on Prescott's ability to stay healthy and the performance of Washington's young and talented defense, but do not expect it to be an entertaining battle.

MVP Candidates

His offseason staring contest with the Packers in the rearview mirror, Rodgers will be in the running for his fourth MVP award should Green Bay again go deep into the playoffs and he replicates a 2020 campaign that saw him deliver an accurate well-thrown ball on 82.4 per cent of attempts, the third-highest ratio in the league.

Aaron Donald perennially loses out to quarterbacks, and it is tough to see what else the Rams' All-Pro defensive tackle can do to put himself over the top. Donald led the league with a remarkable pressure rate of 28.2 per cent in 2020 as he took home Defensive Player of Year honours.

His new team-mate Stafford could be in the mix if the former Detroit Lion proves the major upgrade on Jared Goff many expect him to be while Wilson will surely have a compelling claim if the Seahawks offense can sustain the level that saw Seattle lead the league with 298.1 net passing yards per game last year from Week 1 to Week 9 in 2020 for the entire season.

The elephant looming over the conference, though, is Brady and the Bucs, whose offense took over the league in the final four weeks of last season season, Brady enjoying a deep-ball renaissance that, if it carries into 2021 and Tampa remain best in the NFC class, will make him a tough candidate to beat.

Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers said there are a lot of "unknowns" heading into his 17th season with the NFL franchise.

Rodgers will play for the Packers this upcoming NFL campaign after the quarterback and franchise came to an agreement to ensure the 37-year-old remained in Green Bay for another season, having initially pushed to leave.

The reigning MVP and Super Bowl champion had considered retirement during his stand-off with the Packers before the two parties found common ground, though there is not much certainty beyond this season.

As Rodgers and the Packers gear up for Sunday's season opener against the New Orleans Saints, the veteran was asked if the 2021 campaign had a different feel.

"Yeah, it does; it definitely does," Rodgers told reporters on Wednesday. "There is a lot of unknowns."

Rodgers amassed 48 touchdowns, five interceptions and a completion rate of 70.7 per cent for the Packers – who lost to eventual Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game.

His quarterback rating of 121.5 puts him second on the all-time list among qualifiers, behind only his 2011 campaign (122.5).

In total, Rodgers completed 372 of 526 attempts for 4,299 yards as the Packers topped the NFC North with a 13-3 record to clinch home-field advantage and the top seed in the NFC playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Rodgers is level with Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Johnny Unitas and Jim Brown with three MVP honours – only Peyton Manning (five) has more in NFL history.

"I think we don't feel pressure ... I'm speaking personally and I can't speak for everybody," Rodgers said. "But the feel that I get with the energy in the locker room is not pressure. It's focus. I think it's the right perspective and the right type of focus.

"We know we have a talented team. We know what the expectations are. We're just focusing on accountability and holding each other accountable because regardless of what happens with any of our situations, this group will not be together the way it is now in years down the line.

"So we're going to enjoy this year for all that it has to offer, and each other, and I think that's the right perspective to have when you get in this situation."

Page 1 of 5
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.