Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers says the Green Bay Packers have defied expectations amid more injuries than ever, meaning their 9-3 record "feels pretty good".

The Packers are top in the NFC North ahead of their Week 13 bye where Rodgers, who has thrown 2,878 yards for 23 touchdowns this season, will get the chance to rest a niggling toe issue.

Green Bay's impressive run has come amid injury issues to cornerback Jaire Alexander, center Josh Myers, outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith and offensive tackle David Bakhtiari, while star wide receiver Davante Adams tested positive to COVID-19 last month.

"I think we've been dealing with as many injuries as we've had throughout the years," Rodgers said during an appearance on The Pat McAfee show. "A lot of important players, starters on IR, no chance to return and some with a chance.

"Bakhtiari obviously had an opportunity, not sure when that will do. Jaire, hoping him. Za'Darius who knows? Josh Myers up in the air.

"There's a lot of those and then you have the weekly injuries we've had with Kevin King and Aaron Jones. [The bye] definitely comes at a good time.

"For us to be 9-3, not many people expected that looking at our schedule and what we've dealt with this year with Davante being out with COVID and all the injuries up front and on the defensive side of the ball, that feels pretty good."

Rodgers has been in the thick of the news, with his immunisation revelation before testing positive to COVID-19, along with his tongue-in-cheek remark about "COVID toe", all the while his side have claimed good wins against the likes of the Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.

"It hasn’t been a quiet 12 weeks," he added. "I'm very happy with where we're at. Very happy to have gotten off to the star that we've gotten off to. Happy we've faced some adversity and we're moving through it and close to the other side of it."

The Packers defeated the Rams 36-28 on Sunday, with Rodgers throwing two touchdown passes, as well as completing one rushing TD.

Adams, who has five touchdowns for the season including two in Week 11 in the 34-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, had eight receptions against the Rams for 104 yards but no touchdowns.

"He has a lot of freedom which he should because he has such a great release pattern and he's such a smart guy," Rodgers said about Adams. "It's not like he's going outside the schematic things but he's making decisions that might not be the expected paper decisions, when you’re looking at it on paper.

"There's paper routes and there's do-whatever-you-want routes for Davante. He did it last week against Minnesota on the second touchdown, he ad-libbed that route, that's why I was a bit late getting to him.

"Normally I have a pretty good sense. You've got to read body movements. Also our conversations are very high level when it comes to those situations."

Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers has insisted that he "won't miss any time" regardless of whether or not he has surgery to fix a toe issue.

The quarterback did not practice in the days prior to the Packers' 36-28 win over the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday, but played the full game.

Green Bay, who top the NFC North with a 9-3 record, now have a bye week, meaning their next fixture is not until December 13 against the Chicago Bears, giving Rodgers the chance to recover and consider his options.

NFL Media reported on Monday that the 37-year-old would not be having surgery, but Rodgers revealed that it remains a possibility, although one he would prefer to avoid.

"Comparing this Monday to last Monday I definitely feel better and same with this Tuesday to last Tuesday," Rodgers said during in an appearance on the The Pat McAfee Show.

"So, you know, I'll just keep getting treatment. We were hoping to avoid surgery, obviously, but the surgery would be such a minor one that it wouldn't be something that [would cause me] to miss time.

"That's a pre-requisite of any surgery that I have at this point, that I'm not going to miss any time. We'll kind of reassess early next week and make a decision.

Rodgers explained that, should he be forced to have an operation, it would prevent him from damaging the toe further but also immobilise it, creating a new problem that he would have to contend with for the remainder of the season.

"The surgery would immobilise the toe and that would be an issue I would be dealing with the entire season," Rodgers continued. "I would avoid any further displacement but it would immobilise the toe.

"We're hoping that, with a couple of weeks, we can get enough healing and maybe we can avoid doing that. We'll reassess, like I said, probably later this week or early next week.

"The ultimate goal is to not have to do surgery, this thing heals up a little bit better and I make it through a few more weeks."

Rodgers also hinted that members of the Packers' staff may be leaking information to the media, following the reports that suggested surgery was not an option he was considering.

"With these reports, I don't know where they're coming from," Rodgers added. 

"I don't know who's talking. It seems like there's certain coaches who may have friends in the media who they don't realise are actually just trying to report things."

Rodgers has thrown 2,878 yards for 23 touchdowns in 2021, with 247 completions and just four interceptions from 11 games played.

Matthew Stafford insisted he was feeling "fine" physically as he faced questions over his fitness following the disappointing loss at the Green Bay Packers.

The Los Angeles Rams fell to 7-4 after losing 36-28 in an entertaining road game against Green Bay on Sunday.

Stafford threw for 302 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, but also had his lowest completion percentage (55.3) of the season so far.

After making an electric start to the season, Stafford has thrown five interceptions in a run of three straight loses for the Rams, going for a pick-six in each of those defeats.

Stafford also had a lost fumble against the Packers and a report before the game suggested he was battling with back, elbow and ankle problems despite not appearing on the injury report.

"I am feeling fine," said Stafford, per ESPN. 

"Back was kind of barking at me a little bit that week [Week 9], but I haven't missed any time since then. 

"The rest of my body, is it 100 per cent? No, nor is anybody else's in this league at this point of the season.

"You have to take them all [my turnovers] individually. I know that is probably tough for you guys to hear, but that is the truth of the matter. That's the way I see it."

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey has been surprised by a losing streak that he says must end given the team's star quality.

"It's not a good mood – I can say that," he said.

"Of course I am [shocked]. We have guys that are way too good for us to be losing games like this and losing games on the road. 

"We've just got to get it right. We have to play better, everything has to be better because we're too good to be losing games like this but we're not playing like we're that good right now, so we got to correct our stuff."

Stafford still sits third in the NFL with 3,316 passing yards, second in the league with 27 TD passes and has a fourth-best passer rating of 105.2.

He has had 27 passing plays which have gone for 25 or more yards, which is third-best in the league in a tie with Aaron Rodgers, who was the winning QB in Sunday's game at Lambeau Field.

The impressive Rodgers had 307 passing yards and two touchdowns without an interception, as well as rushing for a score.

It was Rodgers' 60th career game with at least 300 yards through the air and two TDs, becoming only the fourth QB to achieve that feat after fellow NFL greats Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Aaron Rodgers expects "greatness" whenever he is on the field after shaking off a toe injury to guide the Green Bay Packers to a 36-28 win against the Los Angeles Rams, though the reigning NFL MVP is set to decide on whether to have surgery.

Rodgers entered Sunday's showdown under a cloud, having missed practice in the lead up to the Lambeau Field clash due to a fractured toe on his left foot.

But the problem could not slow down Rodgers, whose three touchdowns fuelled the NFC North-leading Packers (9-3) past the slumping Rams (7-4).

Rodgers completed 28 of his 47 passes for 307 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, while the Packers quarterback also rushed for a TD on two carries.

"When I step on the field, I expect greatness," said Rodgers after his dominant display.

"Anyone who's a great competitor feels the same way. I don't lean on excuses: not practicing, a little toe injury."

Rodgers, who suffered the injury during quarantine with COVID-19, added: "It definitely isn't the ideal situation not to practice.

"But if I can go out there, take mental reps, go through the plan and my preparation and feel good about what I'm doing, and when I get out there, I've just got to rely on my instincts.

"The beauty is it's an 11-person-a-side game, and I really feel the offensive line allowed me just to settle in."

Despite Rodgers' efforts, the 37-year-old could still go under the knife during Green Bay's bye to address the problem.

"[We're going to do] some more testing in the morning [Monday] and get a better view of what's going on in there and then make a decision [about surgery]," he added.

Aaron Rodgers was not slowed down by his toe injury as he guided the Green Bay Packers to a 36-28 win over the struggling Los Angeles Rams.

Rodgers entered Sunday's showdown under a cloud, having missed practice in the lead up to the Lambeau Field clash due to fractured toe on his left foot.

But the reigning NFL MVP shook off the problem with a pair of passing touchdowns while he rushed for another score as the NFC North-leading Packers (9-3) condemned the slumping Rams (7-4) to a third consecutive defeat.

Rodgers completed 28 of his 47 passes for 307 yards and no interceptions and the Packers quarterback also rushed for a TD on two carries.

The Packers led 20-17 at half-time and blew the visiting Rams away with a 16-0 third period, despite the loss of Randall Cobb.

Cobb was ruled out at the start of the second half due to a groin injury, having set a season high for receiving yards with 95 on four catches in the opening two periods, including a seven-yard TD.

Odell Beckham Jr. scored his first touchdown for the Rams on a 54-yard bomb from Matthew Stafford, but it was a tough outing for the quarterback.

Stafford threw a pick-six that overshadowed his three-touchdown display on 21-of-38 passing for 302 yards and two sacks.

 

Niners stay hot in San Francisco

Deebo Samuel's two touchdowns helped the in-form San Francisco 49ers top the Minnesota Vikings 34-26.

Samuel celebrated a pair of TDs before a groin injury cut short his outing as the 49ers (6-5) won their third straight game.

The 49ers star became the first wide receiver in the Super Bowl era to score a rushing touchdown in three consecutive games in a single season.

Elijah Mitchell put up 133 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries for the 49ers, while Jimmy Garoppolo finished 17-of-26 passing for 230 yards, a touchdown and interception.

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay is expecting "a lot more" from star duo Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller in Sunday's NFL showdown against the Green Bay Packers.

Beckham and Miller will make their second appearance since joining the Rams when the 7-3 Los Angeles franchise visit Lambeau Field.

After his release from the Cleveland Browns, Beckham debuted in the 31-10 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 10 before the team's bye – the three-time Pro Bowler caught two passes for 18 yards.

Miller – acquired from the Denver Broncos in a blockbuster trade – was inactive for his first game before debuting against the 49ers, playing 45 of 68 snaps while recording two tackles.

McVay is anticipating an increased role for Beckham and Miller against the 8-3 Packers this week.

"A lot more, hopefully," McVay told reporters on Friday when asked if he expected to get more out of the pair in their second appearance for the Rams.

"Odell [is] just getting more familiar," McVay said. "I mean for him to be able to even play in the game against the Niners is an incredible credit to him."

"It helps because he's getting up to speed mentally," McVay added. "You don't take for granted how important those physical reps and the rapport that he and Matthew are continuing to develop is and so because we'll do a little bit more reps today, we'll end up getting about the same amount that we would in a normal week, so it will be a good thing, but he's done great."

McVay said: "Von did a good job, played a lot of snaps. I think he'll be that much more healthy, that much more fresh coming off the bye and giving his ankle another handful of days to continue to make progress and steps in the right direction without having any setbacks over these last couple of weeks."

Miller has been dealing with an ankle issue and the Super Bowl MVP added: "I'm feeling pretty good, feel a little bit more comfortable with the playbook, ankle is a whole lot healthier. So the bye week was great."

The Rams have lost two straight games following defeats to the 49ers and Tennessee Titans. According to Stats Perform, it is the first time the team have lost consecutive games with both being by double digits since McVay became head coach in 2017.

Green Bay Packers star and reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers will go up against the Los Angeles Rams this week, despite missing practice on Friday.

Rodgers is suffering from a fractured toe on his left foot, which clearly hampered him during last week's 34-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

The Packers quarterback is yet to practice in the lead up to Sunday's showdown at Lambeau Field, but head coach Matt LaFleur insisted Rodgers will play.

"Well, he came down to practice," LaFleur told reporters on Friday.

"He didn't participate in practice, but he was out there and relaying the calls to Jordan [Love], just getting that practice of just saying the playcalls."

LaFleur added: "Yeah, he'll play".

Rodgers threw for a season-high 385 yards to go with four touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Vikings in Week 11.

It was the fourth time Rodgers has thrown for 375 or more yards, four or more touchdowns and no interceptions in the same game, which is three more times than any other Packer QB, according to Stats Perform.

Rodgers ranks second for passer rating in the NFL (106.6), only behind Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray (110.4).

Through 10 games this season, Rodgers has completed 219 of 328 passes for 2,571 yards, 21 touchdowns and four interceptions.

"It's been how it's been going the past couple of weeks," Packers offensive co-ordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. "The one thing that I'll tell you is, my respect for him as a player goes up nonstop.

"Everybody talks about how he can throw the ball as good as he can, but his toughness is unbelievable. For him to do what he's doing with this going on is awesome.

"We trust him a ton and know that he's going to do whatever he needs to do to get ready for the game and to be able to go."

Green Bay fell to Minnesota, despite converting seven of their 11 third-down attempts (63.6 percent). It was the highest third-down conversion percentage for the Packers in a loss since Week 2 of the 2005 season, when the team lost 26-24 to the Cleveland Browns while converting 10-of-14 third downs.

Few prospective playoff teams have been scrutinised as heavily as the Los Angeles Rams in recent weeks.

Coming off back-to-back defeats to the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers, a Rams team considered a Super Bowl calibre outfit for effectively the entirety of the season faces the prospect of having to prove themselves all over again.

And they must do so against a Green Bay Packers team competing for the one seed, albeit with injuries that could well derail those hopes.

Potentially complicating matters for the Rams is that their last game may have provided future opponents with a possible blueprint to beating them.

The Niners claimed a fifth successive win over the Rams, crushing them 31-10 in Week 10 by sticking to a tried and tested formula that has continually paid dividends against Los Angeles, relying heavily on the run game and getting the ball out quickly on passing plays to negate the pass rush of Aaron Donald and recent trade acquisition Von Miller.

It is an approach the Packers could well adopt in order to mitigate the impact of their injuries. Green Bay's reigning MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, himself battling a fractured toe, will be without his two best offensive linemen.

Left tackle David Bakhtiari remains out with a knee injury while the versatile Elgton Jenkins, who can plug holes at several positions in the trenches, suffered a torn ACL in last week's defeat to the Minnesota Vikings.

Even with Jenkins' best efforts, the Packers went into Week 12 ranked 21st in pass protection win percentage, per Stats Perform data. Logic dictates they will only fall down the standings in that regard now he is on the shelf.

As such, a move to a run-heavy approach built around the quick passing game seems prudent, especially with the Packers facing a defender in Donald who has won an astonishing 62 of his 95 one-on-one pass rush matchups.

Going with that plan may suit the Packers perfectly. Green Bay could get running back Aaron Jones back from a knee injury this week to boost a ground game that ranks ninth in rush yards over expected.

In terms of the passing attack, Rodgers' time from snap of the ball to releasing it is 2.52 seconds, faster than the league average for quarterbacks (minimum 10 attempts) of 2.66 seconds.

When running quick game concepts, Rodgers has delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball 84.7 per cent of the time - the league average is 81.7.

Put simply, after being tormented by a divisional foe that has consistently proven their kryptonite, the Rams may now be faced with having to deal with a markedly similar gameplan executed by the best quarterback in the NFL last season.

The loss to the 49ers led to the Rams being labelled by many as a soft football team. Such aspersions will only grow more vociferous if they cannot capitalise on the Packers' personnel deficiencies and avoid a third straight defeat.

With the trades for quarterback Matthew Stafford and Miller and, most recently, the signing of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr, the Rams have pushed all their chips to the middle, but a loss to Green Bay in the same circumstances as their defeat to San Francisco may leave most expecting them to again leave the table empty-handed come the end of the year.

The New England Patriots are the form team in the NFL right now after winning five-in-a-row, but will have the AFC-leading Tennessee Titans to contend with on Sunday.

The last time the two teams met was in the wild card round of the 2019 playoffs, where Tennessee beat New England 20-13 in Tom Brady's last game as a Patriot.

Brady of course now leads the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the 2021 Super Bowl champions also have a tricky contest in week 12 as they travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts.

The Green Bay Packers will be looking to shake off their heartbreakingly narrow loss to the Minnesota Vikings last time out as they host the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field.

 

Tennessee Titans (8-3) @ New England Patriots (7-4)

The Patriots beat Atlanta in week 11, 25-0, for their fifth consecutive win, and the longest active streak in the NFL. Bill Belichick's team are the only one this season to win five straight games by a total of more than 100 points (+125, 175 points for and 50 points against during the streak).

Tennessee lost to Houston in week 11 (22-13), snapping a six-game winning streak for the Titans. Their 103 rushing yards were the most since they lost Derrick Henry to knee surgery in week 8.

Ryan Tannehill threw 52 passes for 35 completions against Houston, the second most attempts of his career (58 in week 12 of 2015) and tied for his career high in completions (also 35 in week 16 of 2014).

Including the playoffs, New England are 7-3 against Tennessee over the last 20 years.

Nick Folk went a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals in the Patriots victory over the Falcons. It was his fourth game this season kicking at least four field goals and making them all, the most in the NFL (Zane Gonzalez of the Carolina Panthers is second most with two such games).  

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) @ Indianapolis Colts (6-5)

The Buccaneers and Colts have met just seven times when playing in Indianapolis, with Tampa Bay winning only twice. Tampa's last win there came during week 10 of the 1997 season.

Tampa Bay beat the Giants 30-10 in week 11, breaking a two-game losing streak. They have lost back-to-back games just twice in the last two seasons and have not lost three in a row since Tom Brady arrived. Their 10 points allowed were the second fewest allowed all season after holding Chicago to three points in week seven.

Brady found Mike Evans for a five-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter of last week's victory. Their 10 combined touchdowns are tied for the most between any passer and receiver this season with LA Rams' duo Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp.

The Colts beat the Bills last week (41-25) for their third-straight-win and longest win streak of the season. Their 26-point differential was the second-largest victory of the season for the Colts, only behind their 31-3 victory over the Texans in week six.

Colts quarterback Carson Wentz was 11-for-20 with 106 passing yards in their victory over the Bills. That is the lowest number of passing yards he has ever thrown for in a game when having at least 20 pass attempts.

Los Angeles Rams (7-3) @ Green Bay Packers (8-3)

These two last faced off in the divisional round of the playoffs in January, with the Packers winning 32-18 at Lambeau Field. After 96 games in the all-time series (including the playoffs), the teams are separated by just six points, with the Rams having scored 2204 points to Green Bay's 2198.

The Rams have lost two straight after a 31-10 defeat to San Francisco in week 10, having lost to Tennessee 28-16 the week prior. It is the first time the team has lost consecutive games with both being by double digits since Sean McVay became head coach in 2017.

Matthew Stafford has thrown for more interceptions than touchdowns in consecutive games after not doing so in any of his first eight games with the Rams. Stafford had 31 such games in his 12 seasons with Detroit.

Green Bay fell to Minnesota in a dramatic 34-31 loss last week, despite converting seven of 11 third-down attempts (63.6 per cent). It was the highest third-down conversion percentage for the Packers in a loss since week two of the 2005 season when they lost 26-24 to Cleveland while converting 10-of-14 third downs.

Aaron Rodgers threw for a season-high 385 yards to go with four touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Vikings. It was the fourth time Rodgers has thrown for 375 or more yards, four or more touchdowns and no interceptions in the same game, which is three more times than any other Packer QB.

Elsewhere...

The number one pick of the 2021 draft Trevor Lawrence will be hoping to fare better against the Atlanta Falcons (4-6) after going three straight starts without throwing a touchdown for the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8). He is one of two quarterbacks to go three-straight-starts without a passing TD this year, along with the Carolina Panthers' Sam Darnold.

The Minnesota Vikings (5-5) are the only NFL team that has had every game decided by fewer than 14 points this season. Minnesota will tie a single-season team record for most consecutive games (11) decided by 13 or fewer points with another such game on Sunday when they travel to the San Francisco 49ers (5-5).

The Denver Broncos (5-5) will be looking to keep a lid on LA Chargers (6-4) QB Austin Ekeler, who scored four touchdowns against Pittsburgh last week, two on the ground and two in the air. He is the only active player with multiple rushing and receiving TDs in a game and the first player to do so since Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew in 2011 against Tampa Bay. 

The Cleveland Browns (6-5) head into their clash against the Baltimore Ravens (7-3) coming off a 13-10 win over Detroit, their fourth win in the last two seasons when scoring 17 or fewer points. No other NFL team has more than two wins while scoring so few points since the beginning of last season. 

Aaron Rodgers has revealed, quite literally, that he has a fractured toe on his left foot. 

The Green Bay Packers quarterback held his bare foot up to the camera as he met with reporters via video conference Wednesday, displaying what appeared to be a swollen pinkie toe. 

Rodgers struggled noticeably with his mobility early in Sunday's 34-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, leaving the field at the end of the first half to get treatment on his toe. 

During his weekly appearance on the Pat McAfee Show on Tuesday, the host joked that Rodgers might have contracted "COVID toe" during his recent bout with coronavirus. 

Rodgers sought to set the record straight, telling reporters he fractured his toe while working out at home during his coronavirus quarantine.

He said he did not realise the extent of the injury until he rejoined the Packers on November 13 before playing the following day against the Seattle Seahawks. 

"Didn't think it was what it was until I got to the facility on Saturday before the game and got X-rayed when I got cleared when I came back in the facility," Rodgers said.

Rodgers did not practice Wednesday and is expected to see only limited action in Friday's workout ahead of this weekend's home game against the Los Angeles Rams. 

He and Packers head coach Matt LaFleur indicated it is a matter of "pain management" at this point, though Rodgers acknowledged he is weighing having surgery during the team's bye week if it would not force him to miss a game. 

"I'll definitely look at all options over the bye and decide what would be best to make sure that I get to the finish line," he said. 

 

The Green Bay Packers will be without Elgton Jenkins for the remainder of the NFL season due to a knee injury.

Offensive lineman Jenkins did the damage while blocking Minnesota safety Harrison Smith on a blitz during the fourth quarter of a 34-31 victory for the Vikings on Sunday.

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur on Monday confirmed Jenkins has played his last match of the campaign.

"It's unfortunate," LaFleur said. "Certainly, Elgton's been a big part of this team and still is a big part of this team. But he just won't be out there with us."

Jenkins had been deputising for David Bakhtiari at left tackle for much of this year as he recovers from ACL surgery.

LaFleur says he is unsure when Bakhtiari will be able to return, so Yosh Nijman is set to step in at left tackle once again.

Nijman featured in that role three times this season while Jenkins was sidelined by an ankle injury.

LaFleur said of Nijman: "I think every time a guy goes out there and is able to perform at a high level, you just see their confidence build, and I think that is so important in this game.

"Yosh has all the traits you look for in an offensive lineman. He's big, he's athletic, he can bend, he's strong, powerful, everything. It's just about putting it all together on a consistent basis."

Aaron Rodgers will not be able to practice fully this week, but a toe injury will not keep the quarterback out of a Week 12 showdown with the Los Angeles Rams.

Aaron Rodgers is hoping to heal over the next bye week after being hampered by his "very, very painful" toe injury in the Green Bay Packers' heart-breaking loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

There were question marks over reigning NFL MVP Rodgers heading into Sunday's contest due to the toe issue and it proved problematic as the Vikings prevailed 34-31 on a game-ending field goal.

Rodgers, who was unable to practice much during the week, threw four touchdowns on 23-of-33 passing for a season-high 385 yards as the Packers fell to 8-3.

After leaving the field before the opening half was over, Rodgers discussed his toe, which has emerged as an issue since his return from the COVID-19 list.

"I'm just going to have to get to the bye and hope I can get some healing over the bye week," Rodgers said, with the Packers' next bye not until Week 13 following their matchup against the Los Angeles Rams (7-3).

"Probably the same schedule next week. Was in a lot of pain. Went in at half-time early to get it checked out. It's very, very painful. Got stepped on the first half, and that kind of activated all the symptoms I was having.

"It's going to be another painful week and next week and then hopefully start to feel a little better on the bye."

Green Bay tasted defeat after Greg Joseph converted a 29-yard field goal as time expired in Minnesota.

On the game between the division rivals, Rodgers added: "Our defence has been playing so good, some days have to outscore teams that get hot on offense.

"We had an opportunity to score 40 points today, and when you're playing an offense that's hot, that has a hot quarterback, and stud receivers and a stud back, you gotta keep scoring.

"We've had a couple games like this over the years, thinking about 2012 especially, where we gotta outscore them at their place. We didn't do that today. But I think for us personally on offense, we gotta to start faster. We gotta score touchdowns on those opening plays, so I know Matt will be looking at that this week and dial up some good stuff for L.A."

Jonathan Taylor grabbed a staggering five touchdowns as the Indianapolis Colts jolted the Buffalo Bills with a remarkable 41-15 win on Sunday.

The star running back became just the 13th player since 1960 to bag five or more scrimmage TDs in a game, and the first from the Colts to achieve the feat.

Taylor came into the game having scored a rushing touchdown in seven straight games, looking to become the first to reach eight since DeAngelo Williams in 2008.

What transpired was a momentous day for the 22-year-old, who was a second-round pick in the 2020 draft, and he pushed the Colts to 6-5 for the season, after their 1-4 start.

He scored from the Colts' opening drive and was unrelenting from that point on.

The Bills, top of the NFL team defense ranking heading into the game and boasting an average winning margin of 26.3 points this year, had little answer to Taylor's breath-taking display and slipped to 6-4. 

This was a rematch of a wildcard round in last year's playoffs, when the Colts were edged out, and Taylor ensured the outcome was markedly different.

He told CBS: "The offensive line and I, we prepared tremendously throughout this week. We knew it was going to be a tough challenge.

"We had to accept that challenge, that's what we had to do coming into this game and that was half of the battle."

Asked what the secret had been to his recent success, Taylor said: "I think it's been the communication between the offensive line and myself.

"It doesn't matter what defensive front they bring, what pressure, as long as we're all in communication and on the same page we can accomplish anything."

He saluted the Colts' defense, who snagged three interceptions, saying: "A lot of those guys were coming up to me, talking about the game I had today. They create and generate takeovers, and we have to capitalise on them."

The Colts' five previous wins this year had come against teams with a combined 13-34 record, with this victory suggesting they can mix it with higher pedigree sides.

Newton loses out to Heinicke

Cam Newton's first start of his second stint with the Carolina Panthers ended in defeat at home, a 27-21 loss to Taylor Heinicke and Ron Rivera's Washington Football Team.

He finished 21-of-27 for 189 yards, with touchdown passes for DJ Moore and Christian McCaffrey. Newton also rushed for a touchdown, but against his old Panthers coach Rivera it was not Newton's night, and his contribution waned late on.

Heinicke finished 16-of-22 for 206 yds with three touchdown passes to help Washington improve to 4-6, earning another prized scalp after topping Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 10.

Vikings pick off Packers as Joseph wins it

Greg Joseph's last-gasp field goal gave the Minnesota Vikings a stunning 34-31 win over the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium.

His walk-off 29-yard glory kick settled a tumultuous game that had seen the Vikings lead 23-10, only to be overhauled and trail at one point in the fourth quarter.

It became a ding-dong battle from there and overtime looked to be on the cards after Aaron Rodgers sent a 75-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling to tie it at 31-31 in the fading moments.

Yet Minnesota made ground and gave Joseph the chance to win it, meaning they improved to 5-5 and the NFC North leading Packers slipped slightly to 8-3.

Rodgers went 23-of-33 for 385 yards with four touchdown passes.

The NFL is a passing league. If a team has a quarterback who can elevate those around him and an offensive line that can protect him, chances are they will be well-positioned to contend for the playoffs.

Though the elite quarterbacks in the league can fit the ball into tight windows on a consistent basis, the odds of success on that side of the ball are much higher when those signal-callers are paired with receivers who can defeat man coverage and get into open space.

Excelling at finding the soft spot in zone coverage is also important, while the top play-callers in the NFL frequently engineer space for their receivers.

Yet receivers who can win one-on-one are a tremendous help to quarterbacks, especially those who can defeat the blitz regularly with their ability to efficiently read the field and find the open man.

While determining the 'best' receiver in the NFL is a subjective process that can hinge on an affinity for certain styles of play, success in beating defenders in coverage can be quantified.

Stats Perform has done so with its open percentage metric, which tracks how often a receiver gets open when they're matched up against man coverage and have enough time to run a route. Plays that break down before a matchup with a defender can take place or scramble drills where a receiver uncovers after running his initial route are discounted.

So who are the best and worst in that regard? Here we look at the top performers, some surprise names uncovering more often than perhaps expected and those who rarely separate from defenders.

THE ELITE

A year in which Cooper Kupp leads the NFL with 1,141 receiving yards has seen him established as arguably the premier route runner in the NFL.

That is reflected by his open percentage of 57.75, which is the highest of any player with more than 10 coverage matchups.

Getting open on 41 of his 71 matchups, Kupp has consistently excelled at creating separation. His burn percentage, which measures how often a receiver wins his matchup with a defender when he's targeted, of 65.2 is above the average of 60.3 for wideouts (min. 10 targets), while he is fourth in the NFL in burn yards per route (4.2).

Joining Kupp near the top of the tree is Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings. Proving his record-breaking rookie year was no fluke, Jefferson has faced 108 coverage matchups and got open on 55 of them, good for an open percentage of 50.93. 

Eleventh among receivers with a burn percentage of 73.4 and averaging 3.3 burn yards per route, there has been no sign of a sophomore slump from Jefferson, whose combination of separation ability and prowess at the catch point has turned him into one of the most dependable and dynamic receivers in the league.

Keenan Allen (53.16) is Kupp's closest challenger, the Los Angeles Chargers veteran underlining his status as one of the NFL's most underappreciated receivers by getting open at a rate that may only heighten frustrations around his team's underperforming offense.

Kansas City Chiefs star Tyreek Hill (47.78) boasts an elite open percentage that belies his underwhelming big play rate of 28.0 per cent, with Stefon Diggs' (47.62) success at getting open dispelling the notion of a drop-off from last year's receiving leader. Davante Adams (45.65) is unsurprisingly also among the league's best, yet he is accompanied by some eyebrow-raising names.

SURPRISE STUDS

It has been tough to watch an uninspired Pittsburgh Steelers offense this season and think anyone is getting open.

Almost every passing play the Steelers run seems to end in a contested catch, yet a wideout who thrives in those situations is also winning the vast majority of his coverage matchups.

Indeed, second-year wideout Chase Claypool ranks behind only Kupp and Allen in open percentage, uncovering from a defender on 35 of his 68 matchups (51.47). 

However, a burn yards per route rate of 2.5, just above the average of 2.3, and his struggles in the burn yards per target metric (10.30) indicate that, while Claypool is separating from coverage, he is not putting significant distance between himself and defenders. He will likely need to continue relying on his superiority at the catch point.

As with the Steelers, you won't find too many people who draw a sense of excitement watching a Teddy Bridgewater-led Denver Broncos offense.

There is no doubting the talent on Denver's attack. With Jerry Jeudy hurt and Noah Fant so far failing to take the second-year leap many expected, Courtland Sutton has shone brightest and is on course for a 1,000-yard season, though Tim Patrick's impact has been comparable.

Save for Kendall Hinton (47.83 on 23 matchups), it is the relatively unheralded Patrick who has proven Denver's best at separating, his open percentage of 44.44 from 90 matchups level with Dallas Cowboys star Amari Cooper.

A below-average burn yards per route of 2.0 speaks to a paucity of substantial separation, but Patrick is using the distance he is able to put between himself and defenders to create explosive plays, his big-play rate of 36.7 per cent comfortably above the average of 29.2.

Again leading tight ends in receiving yards (747), most would expect Travis Kelce of the Chiefs to top the list at that position for open percentage. Instead, it is a former AFC West standout in ex-Charger Hunter Henry.

Scoring seven touchdowns in as many games prior to being kept out of the endzone in Thursday's win over the Atlanta Falcons, Henry possesses an open percentage of 48.15. However, he has not been double-teamed this season.

Darren Waller has a double-team percentage of 17.2 and has still managed to get open 46.75 per cent of the time. The attention the Las Vegas Raiders star draws and his ability to succeed despite it illustrate his position as one of the league's biggest matchup nightmares and arguably the gold standard at tight end.

NO ROOM FOR MANOEUVRE

The Packers' offense has stuttered by its own high standards in recent weeks, with their underwhelming numbers not just a product of Jordan Love's struggles against the Chiefs.

Since Week 6, the Packers are averaging 213.2 net passing yards per game – 20th in the NFL. For the season, they are 16th in yards per pass play (6.46).

That mediocrity can, in part, be attributed to a lack of receiving depth beyond Adams, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling's issues getting open encapsulate that problem.

Valdes-Scantling is supposed to be the Packers' deep threat who can stretch defenses with his ability to separate vertically.

Open on only five of his 38 coverage matchups – a percentage of 13.16 – Valdes-Scantling is not fulfilling his role. The Packers will likely need to be more explosive in the playoffs if they are to go all the way, meaning Valdes-Scantling must up his game.

Bryan Edwards is in a similar situation in Las Vegas. Scarcely utilised last season, Edwards has seen a bump in targets in 2021, the Raiders often going to him downfield. 

Edwards' average depth of target is 17.2 yards, but he has found deep separation hard to come by, uncovering on 17 of his 111 matchups (15.32 per cent). Yet with a gaudy burn yards per target average of 15.01 and a big-play rate of 50.7 per cent that is third among receivers (min. 10 targets), Edwards is a player who takes full advantage of the little separation he gets when Derek Carr looks his way.

Edwards' former South Carolina team-mate San Francisco 49ers star Deebo Samuel is performing at the highest level of his young career. Samuel is second behind Kupp with 979 receiving yards and already has seven total touchdowns this season.

However, Samuel ranks near the bottom of the league in open percentage (15.07), with the difference between that number and his overall production a reflection of how he is used by San Francisco.

His average depth of target is 8.6 yards, below the NFL average for receivers of 11.0, speaking to the Niners' reliance on him on screens and short passes that are an extension of the run game.

Third in burn yards per route and leading all wide receivers with an average of 9.6 yards after catch per reception, Samuel takes advantage of those short targets with his speed, elusiveness and power, while he can win at the catch point downfield even without separation. The 49ers often get Samuel in space in the backfield but, for one of the league's most unique players, separation is not always a requirement.

Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers plans to face the Minnesota Vikings this week after sitting out Wednesday's practice.

Rodgers – the reigning NFL MVP – did not practice midweek due to a toe issue ahead of Sunday's clash with the Vikings.

A Super Bowl champion, Rodgers returned last week from COVID-19 quarantine as the Packers (8-2) blanked the Seattle Seahawks 17-0.

Rodgers refused to shed light on his toe injury, though the 37-year-old quarterback is preparing to play against the Vikings in Minnesota.

"I'm not sure what my status will be tomorrow [Thursday] or Friday, but I'd like to get out there if I'm feeling good enough," Rodgers told reporters.

"But it's definitely a better week than last week being separated [during the quarantine], being able to go through all the meetings.

"I plan on being at practice on the field tomorrow, not sure how much involvement I'll do though."

Rodgers completed 23 of 37 passes for 292 yards in his return against the Seahawks, but the Packers' only touchdowns came on fourth-quarter runs by AJ Dillon. 

Green Bay's Rodgers returned to the line-up and threw for 292 yards – his second most of the season (344 against the Cincinnati Bengals). However, he did not complete a TD pass for the first time since Week 1 and had his worst QB rating (75.5) since Week 1 also (36.8).

"Obviously, the body is really looking forward to that, as is my toe," Rodgers said. "But we've got two games until then. It's kind of a day-to-day how I'm feeling, whether or not I'm going to practice, but I didn't find any issues with recovery, standard Monday and Tuesday, as I've done throughout the season.

"So I feel good wind-wise. I definitely took a few shots on Sunday, but I feel good today on Wednesday."

The Packers and Vikings have met five times in Minnesota since the start of the 2016 season. Minnesota won the first three consecutive games, but Green Bay have claimed the last two games giving them a 2-3 record over that span.

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