Kyle Shanahan needs to get the San Francisco 49ers winning again if their playoff potential is to be fulfilled, and this Sunday looks like a major opportunity.

To snap a three-game losing streak, the Niners (2-3) must get the better of an Indianapolis Colts side who, much like San Francisco themselves, have made an inconsistent start to the season.

By contrast, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are riding a three-game run of wins and have started 5-1 for just the fifth time in the history of the franchise, heading into a tussle with the Chicago Bears (3-3). Tom Brady has been a driving force so far as the Super Bowl winners carry on where they left off last season.

Patrick Mahomes has been hit and miss for the slow-starting Kansas City Chiefs, who will hope the NFL's highest-paid player can cut out throwing interceptions as they face the Tennessee Titans.


Indianapolis Colts @ San Francisco 49ers

If coach Shanahan's 49ers are to turn around their season, then facing a Colts side who have begun 2-4 seems like a pretty good place to start. Yet the Colts have dominated this series of late, winning on their last four meetings, albeit most recently in 2017 when they snatched a 26-23 overtime success. It would not be stepping out of line to predict this could be tight, given the 49ers have played nine consecutive games that have been decided by eight or fewer points, going back to last season.

That is the longest active streak of such close games in the NFL and the longest streak in team history, and the Niners do not have the best recent return when games go close, posting a 3-6 record in this sequence.

San Francisco fell 17-10 to the Cardinals in their most recent game, two weeks ago, while the Colts hot-footed their way to a 31-3 trouncing of Houston last Sunday. That came despite Indianapolis earning just 15 first downs for the entire game. It was the first time the Colts had won by 28 or more points while only having 15 or fewer first downs since 1972 against New England.

In his 21st career game, Colts running back Jonathan Taylor rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns, meaning he surpassed 1,500 rushing yards, 500 receiving yards and chalked up his 15th rushing touchdown in the NFL. Only four running backs in NFL history have hit all three of those milestones in fewer games than Taylor, with two of those doing so with the Colts – Edgerrin James and Marshall Faulk.

San Francisco will hope to be recharged after a bye week. Deebo Samuel scored the fourth rushing touchdown of his career against the Cardinals, with Jerry Rice (10) the only wide receiver with more rushing touchdowns in 49ers history.

Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After a dispiriting loss to the Green Bay Packers last time out, the Chicago Bears encounter a Tampa Bay team in sparkling recent form. Tampa Bay have started the season 5-1, doing so for the fifth time in franchise history, and on each of the previous occasions (2005, 2002, 1997 and 1979) they backed it up by reaching the playoffs. History could be made on Sunday, given the Buccaneers have never started a season with six wins through their first seven games.

Yet this is a game in which the Bears have traditionally, and recently, had the upper hand. Chicago have stacked up 40 wins in 60 all-time meetings against Tampa Bay, which is the most wins by any team against the Bucs. The Bears have also won the last two in the series, scoring victories in 2018 and 2020.

Tampa Bay can seemingly do no wrong when Brady is pulling the strings so masterfully. Brady leads the NFL with 2,064 passing yards, the second-highest total he has ever had through six games of a season – beaten only by his 2,163 passing yards at this stage in 2011. Prior to this year, no Tampa Bay quarterback had ever thrown for more than 1,800 yards through six games.

What have the Bears got to offer? Chicago are averaging 246.2 net yards per game, which is more than 20 yards per game less than any other team. The 1,477 yards is the fewest Chicago has had through six games since the 1993 season. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields needs to make something happen, but others must step up too. In his first career start, Khalil Herbert ran for 97 yards and a touchdown against Green Bay last time out.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Tennessee Titans

"He's trying to make things happen," said Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, explaining away the two interceptions thrown by Patrick Mahomes in Week 6 against Washington. For Mahomes, that was a second straight game with at least two interceptions. He is tied with Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence in second position on the list of the most interceptions thrown this season, with his tally of eight so far only topped by Zach Wilson of the Jets.

This is only the second run that Mahomes has endured of throwing two or more interceptions in consecutive games, the previous dating back to Week 5 and 6 of the 2018 season, and Reid will hope his radar is better set for the clash with the Titans. Mahomes is still doing an awful lot right in 2021, but the fact remains he threw just six interceptions last season.

The Chiefs' unsteady 3-3 opening is their worst of the Mahomes era, and it was 2015 when they got off to a slower start. On that occasion they followed a 1-5 opening with 10 consecutive wins, a single-season record for Kansas City that was matched last season.

Tennessee's bright start has featured some notable performances. The Titans ran for 146 yards and scored four rushing touchdowns in the 34-31 win over Buffalo on Monday night, taking them to 985 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns for the season. It is the first time in franchise history that the Bills have 10 or more rushing touchdowns and at least 975 rushing yards through six games.

Running back Derrick Henry has 10 rushing touchdowns so far, beating his career best of seven through six weeks in 2020. It puts him tied for the fourth most rushing touchdowns of all time through six weeks (Jim Brown 14, Shaun Alexander 12, Emmitt Smith 11).

Elsewhere...

The Detroit Lions face a tall order on the road against the Los Angeles Rams (5-1). Detroit are 0-6 for the first time since their 0-16 season in 2008 and have not scored more than 17 points in any of their last five games. Former Rams quarterback Jared Goff, now with Detroit, has thrown zero touchdown passes and an interception in each of his last two games.

The 5-1 Baltimore Ravens have recent history on their side ahead of a clash with the Cincinnati Bengals, having won five successive games in their head-to-head series, including the last three by a brutal average of 31.7 points.

Heading into a home game against the Houston Texans (1-5), the Arizona Cardinals are on a 6-0 roll. This has only happened twice before in franchise history, but never before in Arizona. The St Louis Cardinals in 1974 and Chicago Cardinals in 1922 are the teams who both started their seasons 6-0 as well.

Philadelphia QB Jalen Hurts could match an NFL record as the Eagles (2-4) tackle the Las Vegas Raiders. Hurts has rushed for two touchdowns in each of his last two games. Billy Kilmer, for San Francisco in 1961, is the only quarterback to achieve the feat in three straight games.

The Green Bay Packers last lost at home to Washington in 1988, winning five in a row since with home-field advantage, and they put a 5-1 season record to the test when the teams meet again. Washington (2-4) are yielding an NFL-worst 31.0 points per game in 2021, matching the team's worst mark through six games of a season in the Super Bowl era (1998).

The Baltimore Ravens will be without Pro Bowler Ronnie Stanley for the remainder of the NFL season after announcing he will undergo surgery on his left ankle.

Stanley will have season-ending surgery for the second consecutive season, have missed the final 10 games of the 2020 campaign due to a broken ankle.

The high-flying Ravens (5-1) have placed Stanley on injured reserve, with the First-Team All-Pro vowing to return next season.

"At this point in time, my ankle isn't where it should be," the 27-year-old offensive tackle – who signed a five-year contract extension last October – said in a statement on Tuesday.

"This is the best decision not only for my health, but also for the team long-term. I look forward to supporting my team from the sideline this season and coming back fully healthy in 2022."

Stanley had missed five of the Ravens' six games this season, playing only in their opener against the Las Vegas Raiders.

"This is not what I wanted or expected when coming into the season," Stanley said. "Throughout the last year, I did everything I could to be 100 per cent healthy so I could be out there playing for our team and city."

The Ravens have an NFL-high 17 players on injured reserve.

Lamar Jackson did not appear to give much significance to the chapter he wrote in the NFL record books on Sunday, as the Baltimore Ravens surged to 5-1.

Jackson and the Ravens claimed their fifth straight win with a dominant 34-6 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium.

It was a victory earned more on the legs of Baltimore's running backs and the solidity of the Ravens' defense than Jackson's dual-threat skill set.

But it saw the 2019 MVP break Dan Marino's record for the most wins by a quarterback before the age of 25, claiming his 35th.

Speaking about the record after the game, Jackson said: "It's pretty cool. I don't know what to say after that. It's cool."

Asked if such records matter to him, he replied: "We're on the road to something else. If it happens, it happens. But we want something else.

"It's a lot of season left. We just want to keep winning. A game at a time. That's all."

Head coach John Harbaugh, however, did attach some meaning to a record focused entirely on the numbers in the win column.

"That's the biggest one [winning]," Harbaugh said. "Have people heard of that one? I know they said they haven't heard about all these records – they have heard of about that one.

"I promise you that's what Lamar's most proud of, and that's the one we're the most proud of, absolutely."

The Chargers dropped to 4-2 having been held to just 208 net yards of offense.

Los Angeles had managed at least 350 in each of their previous five outings, with quarterback Justin Herbert conceding Baltimore's defense confused the Chargers with different looks.

"Yeah, it was a lot of looks that we didn't see on film and stuff they constructed for us," Herbert said.

"They did a great job at disguising their looks; bringing pressure from one way and hiding from another. 

"It was looks they hadn't shown all season and stuff that you know we have to be better at to adjust to during the game. But, you know, they played a great game."

The challenge of stopping Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens has proven beyond plenty of defensive teams during his still relatively young NFL career, and one of the finest defensive minds in the league was not up to the task in Week 6.

Jackson's meeting with fellow quarterback Justin Herbert was pegged as a battle between MVP candidates as the Ravens hosted the Los Angeles Chargers, and it is the Ravens star who has the stronger case after their dominant 34-6 win in a clash of 4-1 teams.

Brandon Staley was appointed as Chargers head coach on the back of his excellent performance in his one year as defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams.

His Rams defense allowed the fewest yards per play in the NFL last season, however, the Chargers have struggled mightily against the run in 2021, making them an enticing matchup for the league's premier dual-threat quarterback in Jackson.

As it happened Jackson was able to lighten the burden on his shoulders in terms of running the ball, Latavius Murray and Le'Veon Bell each going in for rushing scores to put the Ravens 14-0 to the good in the second quarter.

Reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert responded late in the half with a one-yard touchdown throw to Jared Cook after a Jackson interception, though the Chargers still trailed 17-6 at the half.

But a 12-play, 52-yard drive ended with Jackson hitting Mark Andrews for a nine-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and there was never a hint of a Chargers comeback thereafter.

Jackson's stat line, 19 of 27 passing for 167 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions with 51 yards on eight rushes, was pedestrian by his standards, but it was enough to give the Ravens the best record in the AFC as he claimed his 35th win, breaking Dan Marino's record for the most by a quarterback before his 25th birthday.

Chiefs remain unconvincing

Plenty wondered whether it was time to panic for the Kansas City Chiefs following their Week 5 loss to the Buffalo Bills in primetime last Sunday, which dropped them to 2-3.

Concerns about the two-time defending AFC champions were furthered after a first-half performance against the Washington Football Team that saw them trail 13-10 at the half.

Patrick Mahomes threw two interceptions, one off the hands of Tyreek Hill and another with an inexplicable decision to toss the ball up for grabs after fumbling the snap.

However, a touchdown pass to Hill and Darrel Williams' second rushing score of the game put Kansas City in command before Mahomes found Demarcus Robinson in the endzone to secure a 31-13 win that moves them within striking distance of the Chargers in the AFC West.

Five in a row for Packers

The Packers are far from the finished product at this stage of the season, but it is now five wins in a row for Green Bay after their 24-14 victory over NFC North rivals the Chicago Bears.

Aaron Rodgers averaged 8.5 yards per pass play and threw for two touchdowns, with the Packers quarterback reminding the Bears' fans at Soldier Field of his hold over the division after running for a score that effectively put the game to bed.

The Los Angeles Rams are also 5-1 after Matthew Stafford threw four touchdown passes in a 38-11 rout of the New York Giants.

The Green Bay Packers head into Week 6 on the back of a remarkable overtime victory over the Cincinnati Bengals last time out.

Mason Crosby was the hero with a match-winning field goal, though his successful punt came on the back of three misses, not to mention the Bengals' Evan McPherson twice clipping the post with efforts in both regulation time and overtime.

The win took the Packers to 4-1 for the season, and next up are old rivals the Chicago Bears on Sunday. 

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens (also 4-1) will look to build on their Lamar Jackson-inspired comeback against the Indianapolis Colts on Monday by beating the similarly in-form Los Angeles Chargers, and the Arizona Cardinals will look to continue their perfect start to the season as they travel to Cleveland.

 

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

One of the fiercest rivalries in the NFL rears its head in Week 6, with Green Bay travelling to Chicago. The foes share 22 championship titles between them, and this divisional contest in the NFC North is sure to serve up a treat.

The Packers are 21-5 in regular-season games against the Bears since 2008, when Aaron Rodgers became Green Bay's starting quarterback - indeed, Rodgers has started 25 of those meetings and is 11-2 in the 13 games he has started against Chicago since 2014, throwing 33 touchdown passes and no interceptions in 11 wins. There are three other matchups in which one team has beaten the other 21 times since 2008: Baltimore over the Cleveland Browns (22-4) and the New England Patriots over the New York Jets (22-5) and the Buffalo Bills (21-5).

This is the Packers' first road game against a division rival this season. Green Bay won all three of their away games against NFC North rivals in each of the past two campaigns.

Chicago are 3-2 for the season, though they have a league-low 728 passing yards. The Saints, with 904, are the only other team below 1000. If the Bears are to get anything from this game, they may well rely on the defensive prowess of Khalil Mack, who led the team with seven tackles in Week 5's 20-6 win over the Las Vegas Raiders.

Rodgers will be looking to pick out Davante Adams, meanwhile. He caught 11 passes for 206 yards in the win in Cincinnati. It was the third time since 1997 that a Packers player had 200 or more receiving yards in one game. 

Los Angeles Chargers @ Baltimore Ravens

This will be the first meeting between the Chargers and Ravens since the 2018 Wild Card round – Los Angeles claiming a 23-17 win on that occasion.

The Ravens are 3-1 in the regular season at home against the Chargers, though the last three games have been decided by seven points total. Baltimore go into the game on the back of a brilliant comeback win over the Colts. They trailed by 19 points with less than one minute remaining in the third quarter but came back to win 31-25 in overtime - their largest second-half comeback victory in franchise history.

Quarterback Jackson threw for 335 of his 442 passing yards in the second half and overtime, while completing 90.6 per cent of his passes (29/32). Over the last 30 seasons, there have been 635 quarterbacks to attempt at least 30 passes in the second half/OT of a game – he is the only one with a completion percentage over 90 per cent.

Los Angeles QB Justin Herbert, meanwhile, accounted for five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) along with 427 total yards in just his 20th career start in the Chargers' 47-42 win in Cleveland. For any quarterback in his first 20 career starts, Herbert ranks first in completions (535), second in pass yards (5912) and third in total touchdowns (50).

Arizona Cardinals @ Cleveland Browns

The Cardinals' dream start to the season continued with a 17-10 triumph over the San Francisco 49ers. Arizona is the only unbeaten team in the NFL. This is the fifth time the Cardinals, an original NFL franchise, have won their first five games but first time since moving from St. Louis in 1988.

Arizona have won their last four games against the Browns, dating back to 2007. Before this streak, they had never won more than two consecutive games versus Cleveland. The Browns lead the all-time series, 33 wins to 15, with three ties.

The Browns, however, have won their last six games against NFC teams, including wins against the Bears and Vikings this season. Cleveland’s last loss against an NFC opponent was to the Cardinals in Arizona in 2019 (38-24).

Cleveland's Nick Chubb has 4080 yards rushing in his 49-game NFL career, and will likely become the third active player who had at least 4000 rushing yards through his first 50 games in the NFL, joining Ezekiel Elliott (4881) and Le'Veon Bell (4225).

Elsewhere...

The Patriots have endured a difficult start for the season, going 2-3 through the opening five games. The 4-1 Cowboys are next up, though New England have history on their side, having won six straight games against Dallas, a run dating back to 1998.

London calls for the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars, as the Florida rivals go head-to-head at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Jaguars' 37-19 loss at home to the Tennessee Titans last week extended their losing streak to 20 games. It is just the second 20-game losing streak in NFL history (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost 26 straight between 1976 and 1977).

It has been a difficult week for the Raiders, whose coach Jon Gruden resigned due to the emergence of offensive emails. Las Vegas take on the Denver Broncos, who they have more wins against than any other opponent in their history.

Cincinnati will look to bounce back from their defeat to the Packers when they take on Detroit. They have won six consecutive games against the Lions, going back to 1998, and a win on Sunday would see the Bengals equal a team record for the most successive victories against a single opponent, matching seven-game streaks against the Houston Oilers (1981- 1984) and the Browns (2014-2017).

Lamar Jackson is honoured to have matched Dan Marino's record for the most wins by a quarterback before the age of 25 in NFL history after inspiring the Baltimore Ravens to a 31-25 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday. 

The All-Pro quarterback, who does not turn 25 until January 7, accounted for all but 19 of Baltimore's 523 yards of total offence, completing 37 of 43 passes for a franchise-record 442 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 62 more.

In doing so, Jackson became the first player in NFL history to post at least 400 yards passing, 50 yards rushing and four TD passes with no interceptions in a single game.

Jackson led four straight touchdown drives to erase a 19-point deficit against the Colts as he overtook Drew Bledsoe (33) to join Marino on 34 wins before turning 25.

"I'm up there with the guys – those legends," Jackson said. "I appreciate that. It's an honour to be up there with those guys, but I'm focused on winning."

Jackson's effort was described as "one of the greatest performances I have ever seen" by head coach John Harbaugh, the 2019 MVP hitting six straight passes on the drive in overtime.

Despite his side falling 22-3 behind with 3:11 left in the third quarter, Jackson insists he was always confident of fighting back to make it 4-1 for the season.

"To be honest, it wasn't a doubt in my mind," he said. "Our team, we hit that peak that we needed at the right time in the second half. We just knew it was one play at a time – that's all we kept saying in the huddle.

"I was just locked in. I was just calm, everything was moving slow. I was just taking it a play at a time."

Jackson is now fifth in the NFL in passing yards this season with 1,519 through five games, while his 241 rushing yards ranks him eighth.

But Monday's performance was not quite flawless, as he threw his helmet so far into the air after the overtime win that somebody else had to help retrieve it.

"I shouldn't have done that – for real," Jackson said. "I've got to have more restraint, but I was just excited. We had an overtime win in the league and stuff like that. It was pretty cool."

The Baltimore Ravens were left struggling for words to describe their star quarterback after Lamar Jackson led his team to a 31-25 overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday. 

Head coach John Harbaugh called Jackson's effort "one of the greatest performances I've ever seen" after Jackson led four straight touchdown drives to erase a 19-point deficit. 

Jackson's career-best 442 passing yards set a franchise record and with 62 additional yards on the ground he accounted for all but 19 of Baltimore's 523 yards of total offence. 

It was a breathtaking effort that left team-mates in awe. 

"He's amazing," said Marquise Brown, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime after hauling in a 43-yard TD to start the comeback.

"I think he's just 24 years old? It's crazy what he can do," said veteran defensive end Calais Campbell. 

A significant part of Jackson's allure stems from his ability to get the team out of jams, as he did once again Monday with Baltimore down 22-3 late in the third quarter and 25-9 with 12 minutes remaining in the fourth. 

"It wasn't easy," Harbaugh told reporters. "I mean, it wasn't like we came out up and down the field. We had to overcome and fight through some things.

"[Jackson] just came alive like all of our guys did. All of the guys made plays, but it starts with Lamar. He deserves the credit."

The quarterback insisted he never doubted the Ravens' ability to come back in the game. It was just a matter of time before they got their offence going. 

"Our team, we hit that peak that we needed at the right time in the second half," Jackson said. "We just knew it was one play at a time – that's all we kept saying in the huddle."

Down by 16 points early in the fourth quarter, Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens rallied to beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-25 in overtime Monday. 

The All-Pro quarterback accounted for all but 19 of Baltimore's 523 yards of total offence in the game, completing 37 of 43 passes for a franchise-record 442 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 62 more. 

Jackson is the first player in NFL history to post at least 400 yards passing, 50 yards rushing and four TD passes with no interceptions in a game.

While Jackson was a one-man show for the Ravens, he did get a bit of help – from Rodrigo Blankenship of the Colts. 

The second-year kicker played through a hip injury Monday and wrapped up a miserable weekend for kickers around the NFL by missing an extra point early in the third quarter before having a field goal blocked late in the fourth and missing a 47-yarder that would have won the game in regulation.

He did not get another chance at redemption, as Jackson and the Ravens took the ball in overtime and marched all the way down the field until the QB hit Marquise Brown for a five-yard touchdown pass to win it. 

Before the Baltimore comeback, Carson Wentz and the Colts had built a 25-9 lead with 12 minutes to play in the game. Wentz finished the night with 402 passing yards, including 76- and 42-yard touchdowns in the first half. 

But it was the Ravens who found a way to win once again, improving to 4-1 with their only loss coming in overtime to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1, while the Colts fell to 1-4. 

Baltimore Ravens star Lamar Jackson called for all quarterbacks to be protected, insisting he is not seeking any special treatment from referees in the NFL.

Jackson was on the end of some late hits during Baltimore's 23-7 win over the Denver Broncos last week.

Former MVP Jackson was 22-of-37 passing for 316 yards, a touchdown and three sacks on the road in Denver, where the Ravens QB showed no signs of a sore back to snap the Broncos' unbeaten start to the season.

"I just feel we should be protecting all quarterbacks in the league, not just myself," Jackson said Thursday, ahead of the Week 5 clash with the Indianapolis Colts.

"Everyone should be included in that, especially while we're in the pocket – our leg area and stuff like that.

"Football is football. Guys get aggressive sometimes. Stuff happens. Probably don't mean it. I'd like the ref to throw the flag, though, if they catch it."

Against Denver, Jackson had his highest passing yardage total since Week 1 of 2019 (324) – the 2019 Pro Bowler has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 13 consecutive home games.

The Ravens have the chase to break the record for consecutive 100-yard rushing games – Baltimore are currently level on 43 alongside the Pittsburgh Steelers (1974-77).

Baltimore have won their last two games against Indianapolis, including a 24-10 road win last season.

The Ravens have never won three straight games against the Colts, the franchise which began in Charm City before moving to Indianapolis in 1984.

We're at the point of the season where clear opinions can be formed of NFL teams, whether they be real life or fantasy.

Much can change in the coming weeks but, with four weeks in the books, a divide between the contenders and pretenders is starting to emerge in the NFL, and that will also be the case in fantasy leagues around the globe.

But whether you're looking to maintain a strong start or recover from an underwhelming one, the need to make the right lineup decisions remains. This is no time to get complacent or to get too downhearted and take picking your starters more lightly.

With that in mind, Stats Perform has picked four offensive players and a defense who should be starting in Week 5.

 

Quarterback: Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens vs. Indianapolis Colts

Having thrown for over 300 yards and a touchdown against a stout Denver Broncos defense last week, Jackson now gets to come home to face a Colts defense allowing 7.35 yards per pass play.

With the turnover-prone Carson Wentz quarterbacking the Colts' offense, Jackson should find plenty of opportunities to pad his stats. Always a must-start, this is a week to be especially excited about owning Jackson in fantasy.

Running Back: Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions

Held to 34 yards on nine carries on his return from injury last week against the Cleveland Browns, Cook gets a much more inviting matchup in Week 5.

Only two teams, the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs, have allowed more rushing touchdowns than the winless Lions. Don't hesitate if Cook is on your roster, slot him into a starting role and back him to return to the endzone.

Wide Receiver: Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals

There may be some reluctance to start Samuel given the uncertain situation surrounding the 49ers at quarterback and their Week 5 opponent, the unbeaten Cardinals. However, it is not merited.

Samuel leads the NFL in receiving yards with 490, putting him on pace for over 2,000. Maintaining that is unlikely but, averaging 10.5 targets per game, Samuel stands as the clear number one target in the Niners' offense regardless of who is under center.

Each of Trey Lance's touchdowns last week in relief of Jimmy Garoppolo were thrown to Samuel. His target share and the challenge the Niners will likely face in having to keep up with an extremely potent Cardinals offense means any concerns over the quarterback and the matchup should be ignored.

Tight End: Hunter Henry, New England Patriots @ Houston Texans

Henry and Jonnu Smith have yet to deliver on the lucrative contracts they signed with New England in the offseason, but a trip to face the lowly Texans should be just the tonic they need.

Former Los Angeles Charger Henry found the endzone for the first time as a Patriot against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week.

Now he gets the chance to face a Texans defense allowing the second-most fantasy points in the league to opposing tight ends. It's time for the Patriots' investment in him to start paying dividends.

Defense: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos

Not much is going right for the 1-3 Steelers, but their defense, while not at its 2020 levels, is still a tough one to crack and is tied fourth with 29 opponent plays for negative yardage.

With Teddy Bridgewater in the concussion protocol, the likelihood is Drew Lock will get the start at quarterback for Denver. Lock was tied for the league lead with 15 interceptions last season and threw his first of this year in relief of Bridgewater last week versus the Ravens. 

Long story short, start the Steelers' defense.

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown made one of the most visually spectacular plays of Week 4 in the NFL. Watching a second-quarter moonball from Lamar Jackson threaten to fly out of his reach, Brown dived to reel in a stunning catch in the back of the endzone for a 49-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead over the Denver Broncos that they would not relinquish.

It was a play that typified what the 3-1 Ravens have been in 2021, as it was a catch that came from a wide receiver who committed a pair of killer drops on potential big plays in their narrow Week 3 win over the Detroit Lions.

Stone hands one week, expert ball tracker the next. Brown exemplified the Ravens this season. Brilliant in overturning an 11-point deficit to stun the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2, then unconvincing and undoubtedly fortunate in needing a record-breaking field goal to beat the winless Lions, they are consistently inconsistent, with their week-to-week performance seemingly impossible to predict.

The historic aspect of their 23-7 defeat of the Broncos provided a further illustration of this. With a five-yard carry from Lamar Jackson on the final play of the game, the Ravens tied the record the most consecutive 100-yard team rushing performances with 43. They did so while averaging only 3.4 yards per carry. An inconsistent performance from a usually consistent rushing attack, and an achievement entirely in keeping with their identity under John Harbaugh.

Yet, with an opening overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders firmly in the rearview mirror, the Ravens are again doing what has typically come natural to them during Harbaugh's tenure, winning.

They are doing so while failing to put together a complete performance through four weeks of the season. The victory in Denver was perhaps the closest they have come to such a display, and the fact the Ravens now stand atop the AFC North without truly clicking as a team should strike fear into a conference they unquestionably have the talent to win.

Lamar not limited by inaccuracy

In terms of accuracy, Jackson is the picture of inconsistency.

Through the first four games of the season, Jackson is producing an accurate, well-thrown ball on 74.1 per cent of attempts, according to Stats Perform data.

However, what he continues to do with reliability is deliver the explosive plays on which NFL games often hinge.

Jackson leads the league in air yards per attempt with 12.21 and is third in the NFL in completions of 20 yards or more, his 19 trailing only Tom Brady (23) and Derek Carr (21) prior to the Raiders' Monday Night Football clash with the Los Angeles Chargers.

He is also third with 12 passing plays of 25 yards or more, putting him on pace to surpass the 25 he produced last season.

More impressively, he is having success attacking downfield while generally avoiding turnover-worthy throws.

Jackson has been intercepted three times this season, yet he is only credited with two interceptable passes on 116 attempts, his pickable pass ratio of 1.72 per cent the eighth best among quarterbacks with a minimum of 20 attempts, pointing to a quarterback who has taken care of the ball for the most part but has been ruthlessly punished for his poor throws.

Averaging 6.64 yards per carry, Jackson's abilities as a runner have played a critical role in the Ravens' ground game continuing to excel despite a swathe of injuries at running back. His eight runs of 10 yards or more are the joint fifth-most in the league.

But, in the modern NFL, the passing game is king, and it is Jackson's apparently improving rapport with a group of pass-catchers showing promising signs of progress that is fuelling a surge in the Ravens' production through the air.

Marquise making the leap

The Ravens finished the 2020 season top 10 in yards per pass play with 6.25. In 2021, they are seventh with 7.57. The Chiefs, the Raiders and the Cincinnati Bengals are the only AFC teams above them on the list.

Standing out as a primary reason for this improvement are the strides made by Baltimore's receiving weapons, with Brown chief among them.

Producing a burn, which is where a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted, on 71.4 per cent of his targets, Brown is blossoming from pure speedster into a number one receiver with the upside to flip the field in an instant.

His burn yards per target average of 18.33 ranks second among receivers with at least 10 targets while Brown's burn yards per route average of 6.1 is seventh. Put into the context of Brown having the seventh-highest average depth of target (16.4 yards) of such wideouts, those numbers are even more admirable.

Brown is getting crucial separation while running longer routes where it is typically more difficult to escape from defenders, and his big-play percentage of 48.2 — third among receivers with 10 targets — reflects his explosiveness that has been critical to the Ravens' improved passing game efficiency.

Meanwhile, tight end Mark Andrews remains an excellent complement to Brown. He leads tight ends with at least 10 targets with a burn percentage of 84 and is second among that group in burn yards per target (14.02) and third in burn yards per route (4.2).

The efforts of Brown and Andrews have arguably turned the pass-catchers into the most consistent element of the team, with that duo supported by the increasing contributions of Devin Duvernay and James Proche.

Rookie first-round pick Rashod Bateman is back practicing after being activated from injured reserve following a groin injury, and Baltimore will look for Bateman to replicate the impact that saw him finish fourth among Power 5 receivers with at least 25 targets in his last full college season in 2019 with a big play percentage of 50.4.

That will be a challenge at the highest level but on the surface the Ravens are set to add more potency to help the offense potentially provide further support to a defense of which the numbers paint a fittingly mixed picture.

Defensive development

The Ravens' defense ranks 16th in opponent yards per pass play allowed (6.62) and 14th in opponent rushing average (4.13). In other words, up and down, middle of the pack, inconsistent. You get the theme by this point.

But after allowing the Lions to average only 4.8 yards per play in Week 3, the Ravens restricted the Broncos to 4.3 in Week 4.

Indeed, this is a defense with an intriguing blend of youth and experience that appears to be rounding into form.

The Ravens only managed 15 pressures of Broncos quarterbacks, 10 fewer than they recorded against the Raiders, but you would be forgiven for thinking they produced double that number.

Save for a drive that ended in a three-yard touchdown for Broncos tight end Noah Fant in the second quarter, Baltimore's defense dictated terms, registering five sacks.

The Ravens have tallied 23 opponent negative plays for minus 111 yards. That is the tied for the sixth-most opponent negative yardage produced by a defense this season.

Up front, the development of defensive tackle Justin Madubuike and edges Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh has been key, with the that trio undoubtedly benefiting from the veteran influences of Calais Campbell and Justin Houston.

In the defensive backfield, All-Pro Marlon Humphrey is leading the way for a secondary managing to survive the loss of cornerback Marcus Peters to a season-ending injury.

The progress of recent weeks can partially be attributed to going from facing the Raiders and Chiefs, each in the top 10 in yards per play, to meeting with two offenses in the bottom half of the league in that category in the Broncos and Lions.

And, with the win over the Broncos the first the Ravens have claimed by double digits this season, talking up Baltimore as challengers to Kansas City and the Buffalo Bills in the AFC may seem premature at this point.

However, the blend of explosive offense and an imperfect defense that lives on creating negative plays is one that has delivered a Super Bowl title as recently as the 2019 season when the Chiefs lifted the Lombardi Trophy.

The presence of that formula is apparent for a Ravens team that has gone from staring at an 0-2 start to reeling off three straight wins without fully clicking across the board. Though far from perfect, it is a turnaround that should leave the rest of the AFC hoping Baltimore's consistency never comes.

The Baltimore Ravens tied the NFL record for most consecutive 100-yard rushing games after head coach John Harbaugh made a conscious decision to keep a "meaningful" streak alive.

With a 23-7 win over the Denver Broncos already in hand, the Ravens could have taken a knee in the final seconds but, three yards shy of tying the Pittsburgh Steelers' record of 43 successive games with at least 100 rushing yards, Baltimore elected to call a designed run for quarterback Lamar Jackson, who duly picked up five to keep their run intact.

Though moving to 3-1 on the season was of chief importance, Harbaugh felt the achievement of equaling the rushing record had a significance that influenced his decision.

"One hundred per cent my call," Harbaugh said. "That's one of those things that's meaningful.

"It's one of those things that, as a head coach, you've got to be mindful of your team and your players and your coaches and what it means to them.

"It's a very, very tough record to accomplish and it's a long-term record. I'm not going to say it's more important than winning the game, for sure. It's certainly not.

"But as a head coach, I think you do that for your players and you do that for your coaches and that's something they'll have for the rest of their lives."

Jackson, who threw for 316 yards and a touchdown, had a relatively quiet day on the ground, finishing with just 28 yards rushing.

Despite his coach's words, statistics and records clearly mean little to the 2019 MVP.

"I'm happy we got the [win]," Jackson said. "I'm not going to lie. I didn't even care about the record."

The Ravens can break the record next Monday when they host the 1-3 Indianapolis Colts in Week 5.

Le'Veon Bell is in line to make his Baltimore Ravens debut in Week 4 of the NFL season after being activated from the practice squad.

Bell – a multi-time All-Pro and Pro-Bowl running back – joined the Ravens on September 7 and is set to play for Baltimore for the first time when they face the unbeaten Denver Broncos on Sunday.

If Bell does matchup against the Broncos, it would be his first game since appearing for the Kansas City Chiefs in their Divisional Round clash with the Cleveland Browns last season.

Bell had two carries for six yards in a Kansas City win, while he was also active for Super Bowl LV but did not play as Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers reigned supreme.

The former Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets RB tallied 64 carries for 254 yards and two scores, as well as 13 receptions for 99 yards, in nine regular-season appearances for the Chiefs.

Baltimore (2-1) defeated the Detroit Lions 19-17 last week behind Justin Tucker's record-setting, 66-yard field goal as time expired.

Tucker is a perfect 21-for-21 in his career when kicking to tie the game or take the lead in the last minute of the fourth quarter or in overtime – six of his last seven such kicks have come from over 45 yards.

Baltimore and Denver (3-0) have split their 12 meetings all-time, but the home team is 10-2 in this series.

The Ravens' lone road win against the Broncos came in Week 3 of 2001 (20-13), which happened to be Hall-of-Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe's only career game played in Denver as an opposing player.

The Denver Broncos are one of five remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL, with much of their success built on the efforts of a defense that is among the most efficient in the league through three weeks.

Denver's defense ranks second in the NFL by yards per play allowed, having given up an average of 4.10 so far this campaign.

That statistic comes with the substantial caveat that the three teams the Broncos have faced in 2021, the New York Giants, the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets are a combined 0-10 on the season.

In Week 4, the Broncos will face by far their most difficult test of the season when they welcome the Baltimore Ravens to Mile High.

That may be a bemusing sentence to read in the context of the Ravens' last effort, which saw them score only 19 points and require a last-second record-breaking 66-yard field goal from Justin Tucker that bounced off the crossbar to beat the winless Detroit Lions.

Yet the Ravens have both a quarterback and a group of pass-catchers to stress the Broncos in ways they have yet to experience in 2021.

The Ravens' pass-catchers are coming off perhaps their most unconvincing performance of the season, one defined by a series of big-time drops from Marquise Brown.

However, in what has been a rollercoaster start to the year for Baltimore, their receiving weapons have excelled when it comes to creating separation.

Open on 91.3 per cent of his targets, the seventh-highest percentage of receivers with at least 10 targets, Brown appears to be a receiver on the verge of a third-year leap if he can become more consistent catching the football.

Brown has registered a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup on a play where he is targeted, on 78.3 per cent of his targets. His burn yards per target average of 19.67 is the highest in the NFL among wideouts thrown at 10 times, while his big-play percentage of 54.3 is third.

With an average depth of target of 15.6 yards, Brown is getting open on downfield routes where separation can be harder to come by, while tight end Mark Andrews leads all players at his position with at least 10 targets in burn percentage (88.2) and burn yards per target (16.18).

The Ravens' offense is also receiving a boost in the form of rookie first-round pick Rashod Bateman, who was activated from injured reserve this week. If he can reprise his form of 2019 – his last full college season – that saw him finish fourth in big-play percentage among Power 5 receivers with at least 25 targets, producing one 50.4 per cent of the time, Baltimore could have one of the most dangerous pass-catching tridents in the NFL.

In terms of defensive opponent, the Broncos represent a significant step up for Baltimore. Denver (4.31) rank first in yards per pass play allowed with the Las Vegas Raiders (5.60 - 8th) the only opponent the Ravens have faced in the top 10 to this point. The Lions (8.79) and Kansas City Chiefs (8.43) are each in the bottom three.

Of the four Denver cornerbacks to face at least 10 coverage matchups, none have allowed an open percentage above 30 per cent, with Kyle Fuller (29.79), Patrick Surtain II (28.57), Bryce Callahan (11.76) and Ronald Darby (17.65) all enjoying strong starts to the campaign.

The Broncos' ability to deal with the running threat of Lamar Jackson could be just as important as the matchup between their secondary and the Ravens' pass-catchers.

Jackson is delivering an accurate well-thrown ball on 74.1 per cent of his passes, below the NFL average of 78.9. That underwhelming accuracy is, however, partially a product of his aggressiveness — his air yards per attempt average of 12.28 is by far the highest in the NFL — and the diversity his skills as a runner bring to the Ravens' run game could prove the ideal tonic to a Broncos defense that frequently employs two deep safeties to protect against the pass.

There is no doubt that Broncos head coach Vic Fangio, one of the best defensive minds in the game, will have prepared his players for the threat of Jackson. Still, Jackson has a habit of making even the most well-equipped teams look foolish. Should the Broncos avoid that fate, then they will deserve to be taken seriously as contenders in the AFC.

The Baltimore Ravens might not get a well-rested Justin Tucker in Week 4 after he rescued them with a miracle field goal against the Detroit Lions.

Baltimore trailed the winless Lions 17-16 with 64 seconds left and faced a fourth down and 19 with 26 seconds remaining.

However, Lamar Jackson hit Sammy Watkins for 36 yards to keep their hopes alive, setting up Tucker for an improbable 66-yard game-winning field goal.

Tucker's effort from an NFL-record distance bounced off the top of the crossbar and over in a remarkable finish that sparked jubilant Ravens celebrations.

The Ravens are now 2-1 and face a tough road game with the Denver Broncos next week, one that Tucker may have to tackle with little sleep.

"When you're that far away, it's just not a normal kick where you treat it like any other kick," Tucker said.

"You do have to kind of juice it a little bit. You gotta let adrenaline just take over. The technique may change just a little bit. It was actually more like a kick-off, where you just lay into it, like you're a competitor in a long-drive contest.

"You just let it rip and you kind of hope it stays straight. And that ball stayed straight as an arrow.

"I did see it hit the crossbar, and I thought that it might have just gone straight up and then fallen short. But when I saw that it did clear the goal post, I can't even tell you how excited I was to get that result.

"Everything just went perfectly. It had to – the snap, the placement, the kick, the ball went exactly how far it needed to go. Exactly.

"I am floating. I won't be able to sleep for days."

There was controversy on the play prior to Tucker's field goal, which saw the Ravens avoid being assessed a delay of game penalty despite the play clock expiring.

It means Lions head coach Dan Campbell is still waiting for his first win, and he was in no mood to discuss that lapse from the officials.

"There's nothing I can say to that, because it's the same thing," Campbell said.

"Tomorrow, you'll get an apology, and it doesn't mean anything. That's life, and that's the hand we were dealt.

"We still had an opportunity to – that was fourth-and-long, a long way to go, and we gave it up."

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