There has never been much room on the 'America's Team' bandwagon.

Each NFL season seems to begin with scores of pundits and observers scrambling to find a reason why this could be the Dallas Cowboys' year.

The difference in 2021 is they may actually be right.

Not since their Super Bowl win at the end of the 1995 season have the Cowboys reached the NFC Championship Game.

But riding a five-game winning streak after a thrilling 35-29 overtime victory over the New England Patriots in Foxborough, there is no doubt the Cowboys are legitimate contenders.

And, though there are supplementary factors behind their success on both sides of the ball, the primary reason for that status is clear: Dak Prescott is playing arguably the best football of his career.

A stellar three-quarter century

On his 75th career start, Prescott was once again imperious against the Patriots.

He passed for 445 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, posting a passer rating of 108.7.

It marked his 39th game with a passer rating of at least 100, surpassing Philip Rivers (38) for the third-most such games by a player in his first 75 starts.

The two players above him are the man he replaced in Dallas, Tony Romo (41), and Aaron Rodgers (43).

Should he continue performing at the standards he has displayed through five weeks, a Prescott vs Rodgers conference title game is not out of the question.

Accurate in every situation

Returning from a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle suffered in Week 5 last year and entering the season with concerns over a shoulder injury, there were plenty wondering whether Prescott could recapture the form that saw him receive a four-year, $160million contract extension from Dallas in the offseason.

Any such doubts have been emphatically dispelled.

Helming a Dallas offense that leads the NFL with an average of 6.58 yards per play, Prescott is second in the NFL with a completion percentage of 73.1, while he and Matthew Stafford are tied for the league lead in throws that have resulted in a first down, moving the sticks on 44 per cent of attempts.

Completion percentage is not necessarily connected to a quarterback's accuracy, yet in Prescott's case, the link is clear.

Prescott has delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 82.9 per cent of his attempts, according to Stats Perform data. That is fourth among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts this season, trailing Kirk Cousins (84.6), Kyler Murray (84) and Patrick Mahomes (83.3).

A quarterback who has received comparisons to Peyton Manning for his work at the line of scrimmage, Prescott's poise has allowed him to maintain his accuracy almost irrespective of the situation.

His well-thrown percentage under pressure is 77.1 per cent, the average being 70, with only Murray (78.1) and the Patriots' Mac Jones (81.4) above him among quarterbacks to have come under duress on at least 20 attempts. 

Prescott has also been precise when throwing on the move, producing an accurate pass 85.7 per cent of the time in that scenario.

The former fourth-round pick's composure under pressure and ability to deliver on the move shone through in the biggest moments at Gillette Stadium.

On second-and-11 early in the fourth quarter, Prescott connected with CeeDee Lamb for 33 yards having shuffled to his right and reset his feet before delivering with late-arriving pressure in his face.

The final drive of regulation for Dallas saw Prescott put the ball where only Cedrick Wilson Jr. could go up and get it on a critical fourth-and-five with Matthew Judon bearing down on him following a spin move on right tackle Terence Steele.

His first throw of overtime was another hookup with Lamb while rolling to his right and that drive culminated in Prescott finding the same receiver after executing a play-fake left and moving the opposite direction, hitting the second-year receiver on the over route on a throw delivered with his weight falling away to give Dallas a walk-off win.

It could be argued that the Cowboys' own miscues put themselves in such a tight game, and his own coach is perhaps Prescott's most significant obstacle to him delivering long-awaited glory to Dallas this season.

McCarthy's mistakes

The Cowboys will be glad of the upcoming bye week, having seemingly survived a scare when left tackle Tyron Smith limped off with an ankle injury on Sunday, only to return after having it taped.

Smith will have the chance to rest and nurse his ankle and a troublesome neck problem, and by the time the Cowboys are back in action they should have the entirety of their starting offensive line, with right tackle La'el Collins set to return from a five-game ban.

Dallas and head coach Mike McCarthy could also use the extra week to evaluate in-game decision-making, which made life a lot harder on Prescott in Week 6.

Whether it was the decision to call four successive runs from the New England one-yard line in the second quarter, a sequence that ended with Prescott fumbling at the goal-line, or McCarthy's call to settle for a go-ahead 51-yard field goal on fourth-and-two late in the final quarter, the Cowboys' game management was a problem throughout.

McCarthy was bailed out after the latter mistake, Greg Zuerlein's missed kick followed by a pick-six of Jones from Trevon Diggs, but the Cowboys cannot expect to get away with such misjudgements every week.

The Cowboys have an offense teeming with playmakers that is the most efficient in the league by yards per play and a defense second in takeaways with 14, Diggs (seven interceptions) accounting for half of those.

A potent offense and an opportunistic defense is a formula for a Super Bowl challenge, yet it can be ruined if the head coach consistently comes up short with his decisions in situational football.

Prescott has the Cowboys firmly on the path to the title push they have long since craved. It is the man they hired to lead that charge who is the biggest threat to their dreams coming to fruition.

Mac Jones conceded he is learning how the NFL works "the hard way" after the New England Patriots lost an overtime thriller to the Dallas Cowboys.

The Patriots were beaten 35-29 by the Cowboys as Dak Prescott connected with CeeDee Lamb for a game-clinching 35-yard touchdown pass.

It marked New England's fourth successive loss at home as they dropped to 2-4 on the season.

Rookie quarterback Jones has received widespread praise for his performances in his first year in the league having been picked 15th overall by New England.

And he completed over 70 per cent of his passes against the Cowboys, but lamented key errors that played a role in New England coming up short.

Jones fumbled on a sack by Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory and threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Trevon Diggs in the fourth quarter.

He responded to the latter error by connecting with Kendrick Bourne for a 75-yard touchdown that gave the Patriots a 29-26 lead on the next play from scrimmage, but New England's defense could not prevent Prescott and the Cowboys from forcing overtime.

"I left some plays on the field, but it is what it is," Jones said. "In the NFL it takes maybe three or four bad plays and you lose the game.

"The margin of error is very slim, and I guess when I have that feeling that something might be going bad, just throw it away, call a time-out or figure it out and just try not to make a bad play worse, so I could have done that tonight better.

"I think the people around me played really well and we fought really hard, and sometimes you fall short.

"When you look at the big picture, you never want to say you're close, and it's hard to do that, but the games that we've lost we've been two or three plays away, and I guess it's just how the NFL works, and I'm learning that the hard way."

Dak Prescott's game-winning touchdown pass may have been costly for the Dallas Cowboys, though the star quarterback insisted "I'll be fine" after hurting his calf.

Rolling to his right, Prescott leapt to complete a 35-yard touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb that gave Dallas a 35-29 overtime win at the New England Patriots on Sunday, but Prescott said he came down wrong on the play. 

Prescott walked into his post-game news conference wearing a protective boot and the team said he suffered a right calf strain on the final play. 

"It just came down funny and that's what it was," Prescott told reporters. "It's something we'll get checked out and I'll be fine." 

Prescott will have an MRI on Monday, but the good news for the Cowboys is they are entering their bye week and will not play again until an October 31 trip to face the Minnesota Vikings. 

That will provide valuable recovery time for Prescott, who saw his 2020 season end in Week 5 with a fracture and dislocation of his right ankle. 

There are no indications this will be a serious setback for Prescott, who did not play in the preseason this year, but the Cowboys can ill afford to lose him for any significant period. 

"Life keeps throwing punches and I'll keep throwing them back," Prescott said. "It doesn't hurt as bad when you score and win the game."

Prescott completed 36 of 51 passes for 445 yards with three touchdowns and an interception as the Cowboys beat the Patriots for the first time since December 1996 after six consecutive losses in the interim.

His yardage total is the most allowed by the Patriots in head coach Bill Belichick's 22 seasons with New England, topping a 438-yard game by Peyton Manning in November 2014. 

"I can't say enough about Dak Prescott, the way he was distributing the ball, his poise and confidence in the pocket," said Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy. 

"He never wavered. His process was the same throughout. He's on top of his game right now."

The Cowboys came from behind twice in the fourth quarter to force overtime before Dak Prescott's touchdown pass in the extra session gave Dallas a 35-29 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday. 

Prescott hit a wide-open CeeDee Lamb from 35 yards out with just under four minutes to play in overtime for the victory, the final strike in a game that saw the Dallas quarterback complete 36 of 51 passes for 445 yards and three TDs. 

The final touchdown capped a wild final few minutes in Foxborough, where Trevon Diggs momentarily stunned the New England crowd by intercepting rookie quarterback Mac Jones and returning it 42 yards for a score to give Dallas a 26-21 lead with 2:27 remaining in the fourth quarter. 

Diggs has intercepted a pass in every game this season, with seven picks overall, and has returned two of them for touchdowns. He is the first NFL player in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to intercept at least seven passes with multiple touchdowns in his team's first six games of the season. 

But Jones answered on the very next play, hitting Kendrick Bourne for a 75-yard touchdown and passing for the two-point conversion to give New England a 29-26 lead with 2:11 to play. 

That was too much time to leave Prescott, though, and he drove the Cowboys (5-1) downfield to set up kicker Greg Zuerlein – who had missed from 51 yards minutes earlier – for a 49-yard field goal that sent the game to overtime. 

After the Dallas defence forced New England (2-4) to punt in the first possession of overtime, Prescott completed all five of his pass attempts on the game-winning drive. 

The Cowboys racked up 567 yards of total offence on the day, the first time the Patriots allowed at least 500 yards in a game since surrendering 538 to the Philadelphia Eagles in losing Super Bowl LII four years ago. 

Murray, Cardinals stay unbeaten

Kyler Murray threw four touchdown passes as the Arizona Cardinals remained the NFL's only unbeaten team with a 37-14 rout of the Cleveland Browns. 

Murray completed 20 of 30 passes for 229 yards and did not throw an interception as Arizona – without head coach Kliff Kingsbury due to COVID-19 – built a 20-0 lead, then saw Cleveland come back before half-time before pulling away after the interval. 

Baker Mayfield tossed a pair of touchdowns in the final 5:06 of the opening half before suffering a shoulder injury as the Cardinals' defence held Cleveland scoreless after the break on the way to their first 6-0 start since 1974.

In Denver, the Las Vegas Raiders held off the Broncos 34-24 in Rich Bisaccia's first game as interim head coach after Jon Gruden's resignation Monday. 

Week 6 of the NFL season sees the first byes of the campaign, meaning fantasy managers may need to start utilising their bench.

Though the starters picked in the early rounds of the draft often lay the foundations for a championship-winning season, the players selected to fill the void when they are not available can be the difference between claiming and missing out on the title.

With that in mind, this week's edition of fantasy picks features three players who can fill the void for fantasy managers with holes in their line-up.

A second-year wide receiver primed to play an even bigger part in an underperforming offense also features in Stats Perform's look at four players and a defense worthy of fantasy selection this week. 

Quarterback: Taylor Heinicke, Washington Football Team vs. Kansas City Chiefs

If you have a quarterback on a bye, or you are unfortunate to be in a position where the injured Russell Wilson is your starter, then you may be in scramble mode at quarterback.

Heinicke presents a solution to fantasy owners in such a bind. Yes, Washington will be underdogs against Kansas City, but Heinicke has thrown for multiple passing touchdowns in three of his last four games and should have little difficulty moving the ball against a defense allowing 7.08 yards per play, the most in the NFL.

With a high-scoring affair likely on the horizon, Heinicke is a leading option for fantasy owners in need of a quarterback fill-in.

Running Back: Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins @ Jacksonville Jaguars

There isn't much reason to get excited about the Dolphins but fantasy owners of Gaskin should be extremely intrigued by this matchup in the second and final London game of the year.

Gaskin had only five carries for 25 yards last week in the Dolphins' 45-17 loss to the Buccaneers but found the endzone twice as a receiver as he hauled all 10 of his targets for 74 yards.

Against a Jacksonville defense that has been stout against the run but is allowing a league-worst 8.79 yards per pass play, there is scope for another big day for Gaskin as the Dolphins seek their second win of an underwhelming campaign.

Wide Receiver: Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Seattle Seahawks

Claypool has 296 receiving yards and a touchdown over his last three games playing for a Steelers offense that had struggled mightily prior to their Week 5 win over the Denver Broncos.

With Juju Smith-Schuster out for the season, Claypool should claim even more of a featured role in the offense and in Week 6 has the inviting prospect of a matchup with a Seahawks defense ranked 28th in the NFL in opposing pass yards per play (7.49). Claypool is well worthy of being in your starting lineup come Sunday.

Tight End: Mo Alie-Cox, Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans

Alie-Cox was not able to find the endzone in Week 5 after catching two touchdown passes a week earlier, however, he is averaging 13.8 yards per reception, illustrating his big-play threat.

Facing a Texans defense allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, Alie-Cox should have an opportunity to make a significant impact in Week 6. Alie-Cox could prove an astute pickup for fantasy owners struggling for options at tight end.

Defense: Dallas Cowboys @ New England Patriots

The Cowboys' defense was not expected to be one of the top fantasy units in the league going into the season, however, through five games they have forced 12 takeaways, the second-most in the NFL.

Facing a quarterback in Mac Jones who has thrown a pickable pass on 4.89 per cent of his attempts, well above the average of 3.16, a meeting with the Patriots presents the Cowboys with the chance to add to that total and rack up fantasy points.

The New York Giants watched one offensive playmaker after another fall by the wayside in a 44-20 loss to rivals the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL on Sunday. 

Giants running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and wide receiver Kenny Golladay (knee) were injured in the first quarter – though the latter continued to play through half-time – and quarterback Daniel Jones (concussion) went down late in the second period. 

Golladay, who has battled a series of lower-body injuries this year, said he hyperextended his knee in the opening quarter and tried to play through it but could not continue after the break. 

Initial reports indicated Barkley could end up missing the most time, with ESPN saying he is expected to be sidelined for at least a couple of weeks with a sprained left ankle. 

Any extended absence would be a cruel setback for the former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in Week 2 last season. 

The injury to Jones may have been the most concerning to watch, however. 

The third-year quarterback was running the ball towards the goal line late in the first half when he lowered his head to meet oncoming Dallas defender Jabril Cox. 

The pair hit helmet-to-helmet as Jones was dragged down and the quarterback lay prone in the end zone for a few moments before getting up, but he was shaky on his feet and had to be helped off the field by medical personnel before being taken to the locker room on a cart. 

Giants head coach Joe Judge had little to share about Jones when he spoke to reporters after his team fell to 1-4 for the season.

"I'm not going to get into any medical diagnosis," Judge said. "I saw him in the locker room afterwards right there. Just checked on him

"In terms of where he'll go next week, I don't have an answer for you right now. We'll see where he goes. Obviously we're all hopeful that he'll be back and he'll be healthy."

Mike Glennon finished the game at quarterback, completing 16 of 25 passes (64 per cent) for 196 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. 

Jones has completed 66.7 per cent of his passes this year, with four touchdowns and just one interception. 

While he had no specific details to offer about the injured players, Judge said he was pleased that the Giants' backups stepped in and did what they could.

"We'll check on the status of the guys who left, see where they're at, I couldn't give you any answers in terms of next week at this point right now," he said. 

"But in terms of how our team responded, that's exactly what I expect. I expect whoever's in the game to play, I expect the entire team to come down here ready to go.

"I tell you guys all the time, whoever's at the game I expect to play and I expect to be productive."

Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers took another step in establishing themselves as NFL Super Bowl contenders as they pulled out a wild 47-42 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

The lead changed hands seven times as Herbert and Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield led their teams downfield almost at will, but the Chargers (4-1) scored last and the Browns (3-2) could not respond on Sunday.

Herbert continued building his MVP case as he went 26-of-43 passing for 398 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions and ran for another score. 

The Chargers trailed 27-13 after a spectacular 52-yard touchdown run by Nick Chubb on the opening drive of the second half, but Herbert led them back to take a 28-27 lead and the teams exchanged touchdowns from there. 

Los Angeles thought they had tied the game when Herbert hit Austin Ekeler for a 19-yard touchdown with 3:15 to play but Tristan Vizcaino missed his second extra point of the game to leave the Chargers trailing by a point. 

The Browns went three and out on the next possession and Herbert led the Chargers to the three-yard line, where the Cleveland defence helped Ekeler cross the goal line on purpose with 1:31 to play so the Browns could get the ball back. 

But Mayfield could not finish the job, throwing three successive incompletions from the Cleveland 47-yard line to give the Chargers the ball and end the game. 

Murray, Cardinals remain unbeaten

The Arizona Cardinals improved to 5-0 and remain the only unbeaten team in the NFL after pulling out a 17-10 win against the San Francisco 49ers. 

Kyler Murray's explosive Arizona offence entered the game averaging 35 points per game but had to scrape out the win as they were out-gained 338 to 304 by Trey Lance and the 49ers (2-3). 

Murray completed 22 of 31 passes for 239 yards and a key nine-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins with 5:13 to play that effectively put the game out of reach. 

Rookie quarterback Lance made his first start for San Francisco and completed just 15 of 29 passes for 192 yards with an interception, though he led all rushers in the game with 89 yards on the ground. 

Cowboys run away from battered Giants

The Dallas Cowboys took advantage of injuries to the New York Giants' two most important players on offence, rolling to a 44-20 home victory. 

The Giants lost quarterback Daniel Jones to a concussion and running back Saquon Barkley to an ankle injury and were outscored 27-7 after Graham Gano hit a field goal on the first drive of the second half. 

Dak Prescott completed 22 of 32 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns for Dallas, while Ezekiel Elliott ran for 110 yards and a score. 

So far, so good, Dak Prescott. At least from a personal perspective, though, it was a similar story through four weeks in 2020.

The Dallas Cowboys quarterback set a record-breaking pace last year, his 1,690 passing yards comfortably the most by any player over the first four weeks of a season since 1960. In fact, in at least the past 40 years, no QB can match that total across any four-game span.

Going back to 1960, only Jameis Winston had previously thrown for 450 yards in consecutive games. Prescott became the first to do so in three in a row against the Atlanta Falcons (450), the Seattle Seahawks (472, a career high) and the Cleveland Browns (502, another career high) in Weeks 2, 3 and 4.

Yet the Cowboys were only 1-3, and when Prescott went down for the year against the New York Giants in Week 5, any hopes of recovering their season were dashed. Dallas went from averaging a league-leading 509.5 total net yards and third-ranked 31.5 points per game through Week 4 to 325.9 yards and 22.5 points over the rest of the year — ranking joint-21st and 25th.

In 2021, however, they are 3-1 heading into another Week 5 matchup with the Giants, despite having played three other 3-1 teams. And although Prescott has again been outstanding, this year's Cowboys do not look quite so fragile.

'The best I've ever played'

Of course, Dallas' excellent start begins with the man under center. Prescott is back this season having finally signed a four-year, $160million extension, and he is quickly proving worth that investment.

Although his 1,066 yards pale next to last year's early efforts, the 28-year-old has thrown 10 touchdown passes, up on 2020's nine and the second-most ever at this stage of a season by a Cowboys QB, behind Tony Romo's 11 in 2007. Only Don Meredith (twice — in 1966 and 1968) has bettered Prescott's 116.9 passer rating to this point.

After three TDs and no interceptions in the Week 3 win against the Philadelphia Eagles, Prescott said he had gained "a different perspective" from his spell on the sidelines. "I feel like I'm playing the best I've ever played," he added. He then had four TDs and no interceptions versus the Carolina Panthers in Week 4.

Prescott is undoubtedly excelling — he has delivered a well-thrown, accurate ball with 84.7 per cent of his passes this year, third among QBs with 100 or more attempts — but he is also getting help. In the Panthers game, he did not take a single sack. His seven for the year are fewer than 21 other QBs through four weeks.

Indeed, the Dallas number four said coming into the season offensive linemen Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, who all missed at least large chunks of 2020 through injury, were "the most important" members of the offense.

Of the 32 pressures Prescott has faced this season, 20 came in the opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when Martin was on the COVID list. He has won 57 of 58 pass protection attempts, allowing only a single hurry. Smith has won 90 of 93 attempts, giving up a sole adjusted sack. The Cowboys still have the suspended Collins to come back in.

Even when Prescott is pressured, he is performing well, getting the ball out quickly and accurately, his 2.84-second release time the fourth-fastest under duress (minimum 10 attempts) and his 81.3 well-thrown percentage the fourth-best.

Having top-level talents to give the ball to makes the job easier, though.

Sharing the ball around

Prescott completed at least 80 per cent of his passes in consecutive weeks against the Los Angeles Chargers (85.2) and the Eagles (80.8), while the Cowboys also put up more than 150 rushing yards in both matchups (198 and 160). The 1984 San Francisco 49ers, led by Joe Montana, had been the last team to achieve that feat in back-to-back games.

That statistic speaks to the threat Dallas pose on offense this year.

Through the air, Prescott has had three outstanding weapons to target at the start of this season. Wide receivers Amari Cooper (22) and CeeDee Lamb (20) and tight end Dalton Schultz (20) have each made at least 20 catches, making the Cowboys the only team to have three players reach this mark through four weeks in 2021.

In just Lamb's second season in the league, he and Cooper have already established themselves as one of football's premier wide receiver duos — they are one of seven pairs of team-mates to each have 250 receiving yards at the position through Week 4 (258 for Cooper, 264 for Lamb).

Against the Panthers, when Lamb was limited to just two catches, four other Cowboys caught TD passes — among them breakout star Schultz, who has three scores in four games after four in his first three years in the league.

Two of those prior four TDs came in the first four games of 2020, though, with Prescott targeting Schultz with 28 passes, leading to a career-high four-game span of 219 receiving yards. Of those, 105 yards came after the catch, showing his power as he ranked fifth at TE in the NFL. So far this year, his 131 yards after the catch trail only Travis Kelce and George Kittle — good company to be keeping.

Crucially, however, Dallas also have multiple options on the ground. Ezekiel Elliott looks back to his best and is boosted by having Tony Pollard emerge as an effective alternative.

"We've got some younger guys who can play and produce, so it's not necessary for Zeke to run the ball 25, 30 times a game," head coach Mike McCarthy said in July. "When you get to December, January football, you want him to be in top form to be able to run the ball 25, 30 times if needed."

Elliott is certainly being used more efficiently; his 342 rushing yards fall well short of the Week 4 marks set in 2016 (412) and 2018 (426), but only in the latter year (5.84) has he averaged more yards per carry than this year's 5.34. The 26-year-old's four rushing scores are his most at this stage of a season. He still played a key role against Carolina, with 143 rushing yards his most in a game since 2018.

The Cowboys are difficult to stop, with Pollard (4.29) and Elliott (4.00) ranking third and fourth among running backs for yards per carry on plays where run disruption occurs and defenders get the better of the O-line. It is easy to see why Dallas are now running the ball on 47.0 per cent of plays, fifth-most in the league, easing the burden on Prescott.

Young defense delivering

This outstanding offensive production would all count for little if the Cowboys were not also showing improvement on the defensive end. The reasons for their 1-3 start in 2020 were the 430.5 total net yards (third-most) and league-high 36.5 points allowed per game.

Happily, with Prescott returning and faith in the offensive options, the Cowboys were able to focus almost solely on defense in the draft. Their first six picks, including 12th overall selection Micah Parsons, were on that side of the ball.

Linebacker Parsons has quickly established himself, leading the team with 2.5 sacks and 32 sack yards while registering 13 pressures on 46 pass rush attempts — a strong 28.3 per cent. At defensive tackle, third-round pick Osa Odighizuwa has been similarly impressive, pressuring at a 21.4 per cent rate and registering an adjusted sack on 7.1 per cent of plays when lined up on the interior. With Jaylon Smith released, fourth-rounder Jabril Cox could also now get an opportunity.

The undoubted star of the season so far, however, is second-year cornerback Trevon Diggs. Dallas have registered 10 total takeaways, only behind the Buffalo Bills, and Diggs' five interceptions — at least one in each game, including a pick-six against the Eagles — account for half of them. Since 1960, only three players have had more interceptions heading into Week 5; since 1980, just two have had a longer streak of games with picks to start a season.

As a team, the Cowboys had 10 interceptions in the whole of 2020, with Diggs, then a rookie, contributing three.

The Cowboys have now given up 24.3 points per game, tied for 16th in the league, but they have allowed just six points — from two field goals — in the fourth quarter of one-score games, giving Prescott every opportunity to win the game.

Unlike the QB, the key men in the defensive unit are largely too young to have worked with former Cowboys coach and current Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, but on the evidence of this season so far they will relish making life hell for his man Daniel Jones on Sunday.

In their last game against weak NFC East rivals until a kind end to the schedule starting in Week 14, the Cowboys will look to lay down a marker, extending this strong start and encouraging hopes they can be a genuine contender this year. Getting Jones off the field and allowing Prescott, Elliott and Co to get to work should ensure they do that.

The Green Bay Packers have reportedly secured the signing of linebacker Jaylon Smith.

Smith was released by the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday having featured in every NFL game since he was drafted by the team in 2016.

The former Pro Bowler had been the subject of trade discussions, which came to nothing, but it did not take long to find a new home on the open market, according to NFL Network.

With the Cowboys paying his $7.2million salary for 2021, NFC rivals Green Bay have clinched a cheap deal, reports said.

Smith was a second-round pick in 2016 after torn knee ligaments suffered in his final collegiate appearance for Notre Dame damaged his draft stock.

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur was the quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame during Smith's time there.

Smith is set to come in alongside De'Vondre Campbell, having lined up at inside linebacker for 89 of his 105 snaps this season. Krys Barnes has been lining up to Campbell when fit.

The Dallas Cowboys have released linebacker Jaylon Smith.

Smith, a second-round pick in 2016 after torn knee ligaments suffered in his final collegiate appearance for Notre Dame damaged his draft stock, has never missed a game in his pro career and had signed a five-year, $64million contract extension in 2019.

Former Pro Bowler Smith was the subject of trade discussions that ultimately came to nothing, with Dallas confirming his release on their official website.

He was fully guaranteed his $7.2m salary for 2021, meaning the timing of the move raises eyebrows, but cutting him now does mean the Cowboys will not be liable for his 2022 money, which was guaranteed for injury.

Smith had not started any of Dallas' first four games in the 2021 season but had played some part each week of their 3-1 start.

The future of the team's linebacker corps was subject of much speculation after they drafted Micah Parsons in the first round this year when Smith and Leighton Vander Esch were already on the roster and Keanu Neal had been signed in free agency.

Parsons has made an impressive start, while fourth-round selection Jabril Cox is also vying for snaps at the position, both factors that reportedly played a part in the decision.

Without Smith, the Cowboys are at home as they face NFC East rivals the New York Giants on Sunday.

Jalen Hurts took ownership after the Philadelphia Eagles crashed to a poor 41-21 loss at NFC East rivals the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

Quarterback Hurts completed 25 of 39 passes for 326 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, adding 35 yards from nine carries on the ground.

Much of his production, though, came with the game out of reach. The Cowboys led 27-7 just a minute into the second half when Trevon Diggs intercepted Hurts for a pick-six and the Eagles ultimately fell to 1-2.

"I didn't execute and I didn't do a good enough job of leading," said second-year pro Hurts after the game. 

"I didn't do a good enough job of running our offense and doing the things that I need to do. This one is on me.

"I like to see me play better, that is something I can control. I'll learn from this.

"I learn from it and move on. I take responsibility for how this game went. I'm learning from it and we're gonna be a better team from it. I believe that."

The Eagles now have a short week before a difficult home game on Sunday with the Kansas City Chiefs.

They will face Patrick Mahomes and a Chiefs team who have the same record, reeling with a point to prove after losing consecutive games to the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers.

"We're on a short week and no one's going to feel sorry for us," added Eagles coach Nick Sirianni.

"The Chiefs aren't going to feel sorry for us. We got to rest our bodies, get our bodies right.

"We're going to have to watch this tape on the way home, get the corrections to our guys written down, and they're going to have to look at them on their own because we're going to have to be moving on to the Chiefs really quick."

While Hurts led an impressive offensive showing in Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons, the Eagles are yet to get much production from their pass-catchers.

Quez Watkins – who has caught all seven of his targets for 186 yards – is the Eagles' receiving yards leader but that total is good enough for just 37th in the NFL through three weeks.

Dak Prescott loved his home return with the Dallas Cowboys on Monday and felt his three-touchdown display continued a career-best run of form.

Quarterback Prescott sustained a compound fracture and dislocation to his right ankle in Week 5 in 2020, keeping him out of the rest of the year.

The two-time Pro Bowler had been setting a record-breaking pace, his 1,690 passing yards through four weeks comfortably the most by any player over the same period since 1960 – although the Cowboys went 1-3.

Fit again for the start of this season and now tied to a four-year, $160million contract, Prescott has returned in similarly impressive fashion.

His 403 passing yards and three TDs in the curtain-raiser against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came in a losing effort, but a slightly more modest Week 2 performance contributed to victory against the Los Angeles Chargers.

On Monday, against NFC East rivals the Philadelphia Eagles, Prescott completed 21 of 26 passes for 238 yards, three scores and no interceptions in a 41-21 win he described as "definitely special", in front of home support for the first time since his injury.

The 28-year-old's primitive passer rating for the year is at a career-high 110.1, and he feels he is reaching new heights in 2021.

"I said it earlier in the year, and I'll say it again: I think just getting hurt last year and having to sit back and watch football, [he gained] a different perspective and just different ways people play this game," Prescott said.

"Going back, the experience obviously has helped but just studying and preparing myself and then all the work that I've put in just to get back healthy, not only the leg but the shoulder... I feel like I'm playing the best I've ever played."

Dallas now lead the division with a 2-1 record, and coach Mike McCarthy feels Prescott is benefiting from leading a more competitive team this year.

While the QB has completed at least 80 per cent of his passes in the past two games (85.2 versus the Chargers, 80.8 against the Eagles), the Cowboys have also put up more than 150 rushing yards on each occasion (198 and 160).

Ezekiel Elliott has run for three TDs across those games, while Dallas' 139.3 rushing yards per game across the year rank fourth in the NFL.

The last team to complete 80 per cent of their passes and rush for 150 yards in consecutive games were the 1984 San Francisco 49ers, led by Joe Montana.

McCarthy said: "I think [Prescott] is clearly playing better now [than last year], in my opinion.

"Last year, we were in track meets. This is a clearly a different football team than last year. You're seeing three games where I felt like we've been very complementary both on offense and defense.

"He's doing a lot in the run game as far as handling the checks and things like that. Yeah, I feel like he's playing better this year than last."

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