Matthew Stafford inspired the Los Angeles Rams to move one step closer to securing their second straight NFC West title with a 20-19 win over the slumping Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

The defeat for the Ravens, who were without quarterback Lamar Jackson for the third straight game, leaves them perilously close to slipping out of the Wild Card hunt after their fifth consecutive loss.

Justin Tucker's field goal had put the Ravens up 19-14 with 4:33 left but Stafford launched a game-winning 75-yard drive to overhaul the deficit.

Stafford completed a 15-yard pass to Tyler Higbee and a 24-yarder to Cooper Kupp, before finding Odell Beckham Jr twice in a row, with the latter being the decisive TD.

The Rams QB finished with 26 of 35 passes for two touchdowns but also two interceptions, including a Chuck Clark first-quarter pick six, as well as a sack.

Clark's TD was the Ravens' only for the game, as QB Tyler Huntley completed 20 of 32 passes for 197 yards.

Rams running back Sony Michel had 19 carries for 74 yards including a TD along with wide receiver Kupp with six receptions for 95 yards and one touchdown.

Over a month ago the Ravens had been 8-3 and looking good for the AFC top seed but now they are scrapping for a playoffs spot after a series of narrow defeats and desperate for Jackson's return.

Carlson field goal gives Raiders edge in Wild Card race

The Las Vegas Raiders claimed a crucial last-gasp win from Daniel Carlson's 33-yard field goal in the AFC Wild Card race with a 23-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

Colts quarterback Carson Wentz cleared protocols for the game but completed 16 of 27 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown, while running back Jonathan Taylor had one TD from 20 carries for 108 yards, with the defeat marking the first this season when he has rushed more than 100 yards.

The Raiders pipped the Colts in the final quarter, trailing 17-13 at the final break with QB Derek Carr hitting Hunter Renfrow on a fourth-down play for a TD, before Michael Badgley squared the game with a 41-yard field goal, only for Carlson to win it with one from 33 yards as time expired. The Raiders improve to 9-7, pulling ahead of the 9-7 Colts in the AFC Wild Card race.

 

Bengals clinch maiden AFC North title

The Cincinnati Bengals clinched their first-ever AFC North title as Evan McPherson kicked a late 20-yard field goal to secure a 34-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase set an NFL rookie record and franchise record with 266 yards and three touchdowns on 11 catches, while QB Joe Burrow threw 30 of 39 passes for 446 yards and four touchdowns.

Burrow got the better of opposing QB Patrick Mahomes who completed 26 of 35 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns as the Chiefs, who have already won the AFC West title, moved to 11-5.

 

Brady cool after Brown meltdown

Tom Brady was cool in a crisis after Antonio Brown stormed off the field as the NFC South-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers rallied to win 28-24 over the New York Jets.

Brady completed 34 of 50 attempts for 410 yards and three touchdowns, including leading them on a 93-yard drive in the final minutes to clinch the victory.

The game was marred after Brown's meltdown, storming off the field in the third quarter with the Bucs 24-10 down, with head coach Bruce Arians confirming "he is no longer a Buc" after the game.

The Baltimore Ravens are in danger of letting their season get away from them after a four-game losing run and things do not appear to get any easier with the Los Angeles Rams visiting on Sunday.

John Harbaugh's men have a positive recent record against the Rams though, and will need to properly utilise the impressive form of Mark Andrews.

The Indianapolis Colts can clinch their playoff spot with a win against the Las Vegas Raiders, while a potentially fascinating encounter in the race for the playoffs between the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos will take place at SoFi Stadium.

Stats Perform takes a look at the standout statistics ahead of the penultimate week of the NFL's regular season.

Los Angeles Rams (11-4) @ Baltimore Ravens (8-7)

The Rams have lost four straight games against the Ravens (outscored 120-29 in those games) and are 2-5 all-time against them - Baltimore the only franchise in the league the Rams have never won a road game against (0-3).

Rams running back Sony Michel ran for 131 yards and a touchdown in last week's win against the Minnesota Vikings, two yards from tying a career-high set in 2018 with the New England Patriots. He has 423 yards in his last four games after a combined 305 in his first 11 games.

The Ravens lost to the Cincinnati Bengals 41-21 last week, allowing 525 passing yards, the most in franchise history. They also finished with just 39 rushing yards of their own, their fewest since a franchise-low 11 in 2016.

Andrews had eight catches for 125 yards and a touchdown last week. He now has three straight games with at least 100 receiving yards and at least one touchdown. He is the only Raven to ever have three such games in a row, and just the second tight end in NFL history (Jimmy Graham in 2013).

Las Vegas Raiders (8-7) @ Indianapolis Colts (9-6)

The Raiders were 7-2 in their first nine games against the Colts but have gone just 2-6 since then (dating back to 2004). They won 31-24 in their last trip to Indianapolis in 2019 but lost at home the following season.

After beating the Broncos last week, the Raiders have won back-to-back games despite scoring 17 points or fewer in each. It is the first time they have done so since 1991 – those victories came against the Broncos and the Colts.

The Colts beat the Arizona Cardinals 22-16 last week, improving to 8-2 in their last 10 games after starting the season 1-4. Their 31.2 points per game since Week 6 leads the NFL.

Jonathan Taylor had 108 rushing yards in his last outing, his ninth display this season with at least 100 yards – the Colts have won all nine of those games. Indianapolis has not won a game in which he has been held under the century mark this season.

Denver Broncos (7-8) @ Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)

The Broncos beat the Chargers 28-13 in Week 12, their largest win over them since a 23-7 triumph in the 2005 season. Fourteen of the last 21 games between these teams have been decided by one possession (eight points or fewer).

Drew Lock is expected to start at quarterback again after starting his first game of the season last time out. Since the start of 2020, Lock has the lowest completion percentage among the 29 quarterbacks with 500 or more pass attempts (57.6 per cent).

The Chargers allowed 189 rushing yards in a 41-29 loss to the Houston Texans, who entered the game ranked last in the NFL in rushing yards per game. The Chargers are allowing 140.3 rushing yards per game, on pace for their worst mark since the 1987 strike season (144.7).

Justin Jackson had a career-high 162 scrimmage yards against the Texans while filling in for Austin Ekeler. He has 261 scrimmage yards in his last two games, which Ekeler has done just once in a two-game span this season (264 yards from Weeks 4-5).

Elsewhere...

Atlanta Falcons (7-8) QB Matt Ryan will look to add to his 3,555 yards thrown overall this season when he faces the Buffalo Bills (9-6). It is his 12th consecutive season with at least 3,500 passing yards. He joins Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady in an exclusive club to achieve the passing milestone in that many straight campaigns.

The Patriots (9-6) have lost at least two December games in each of the last four seasons (3-2 in 2018, 2-3 in 2019, 1-3 in 2020, 1-2 in 2021). New England, who host the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13), have more December losses over the last four seasons (7-10) than in the previous 15 seasons combined (56-9, 2003-2017).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4) star Brady is 30-7 as a starter against the New York Jets (4-11) in his career (including postseason). That is the second-most wins by any QB against a single opponent behind only his own record against the Bills (33). Brady is 7-0 in his last seven against the Jets, winning by an average of 23.3 points. 

The Kansas City Chiefs - who can clinch the AFC's top seed if they avoid defeat against the Bengals and the Tennessee Titans lose in Miami - have lost their last five games in Cincinnati, with their last win there coming in September 1984.

Derek Carr was afraid he might have squandered the Las Vegas Raiders' last chance to win Monday when he threw an interception deep in Cleveland territory with the Browns leading by a point. 

The quarterback pleaded with his defense afterward to get him the ball back, vowing to win the game if they did, and that's exactly what happened. 

After Las Vegas forced a three-and-out, Carr drove the Raiders downfield and set up Daniel Carlson for a 48-yard field goal that gave the visitors a 16-14 victory as time expired. 

"After that interception, I told the guys 'Please, I promise we’ll win it, just get the ball back,'" Carr told reporters. "And the defense did, and we were able to go back down the field and win the game." 

Carr was trying to hit Zay Jones deep down the field when Greedy Williams picked it off, and Jones was frustrated on the sidelines after the play, but Carr made sure the receiver knew there was still football to be played. 

"I went to him right after that pick and I said, 'I'm coming right back to you and we're gonna win this game,'" Carr said. "I knew I needed him, and I wanted him to know, not only do I need you, but I believe in you." 

Sure enough, Jones was Carr's main target on the game-winning drive, catching a 12-yard pass for a key third-down conversion, then seeing a 17-yard reception called back by a holding penalty before a 15-yard connection in the closing seconds set up Carlson for the winning kick. 

"I trust him," Carr said of Jones. "I'm just happy that we got the ball back not for my own sake, but so that he could get the ball back in his hands. He won the game for us. It was awesome." 

Victory was especially sweet for the Raiders after several players had publicly aired their displeasure with the NFL moving the game back two days due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the Browns facility. 

Cleveland were missing eight starters, including quarterback Baker Mayfield, not to mention head coach Kevin Stefanski, but the Raiders desperately needed a win having lost five of their previous six games. 

The victory left them at 7-7 and level with the Browns, Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos in the AFC playoff picture, but they own the tiebreaker over those teams for the 10th spot and are within a game of the six teams ahead of them. 

"It's been a long time coming to win a game like that in the end," said Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia. "We understand the situation we're in and what the playoff race looks like."

The Raiders kept their playoff hopes alive Monday as Daniel Carlson's 48-yard field goal on the game's final play gave Las Vegas a 16-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns. 

Carlson's third field goal of the game was a devastating blow to the Browns, who were on the brink of what would have been a remarkable victory despite playing without eight starters and head coach Kevin Stefanski in a game pushed back two days due to COVID-19 concerns. 

But the home side were left to lament what might have been after Derek Carr engineered the 28th game-winning final drive of his career to put Carlson in range for the winning kick. 

The quarterback got the Raiders off to a hot start, completing his first nine passes of the game as Las Vegas rolled to a touchdown on their opening possession, but the visitors could not find the end zone again as Cleveland's defense stiffened. 

In the meantime, the Browns got their offense on track after star running back Nick Chubb was limited to just 14 yards on six carries in the first half. 

Chubb got the Browns on the scoreboard with a four-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter and played a key part in the drive that set up third-string quarterback Nick Mullens' six-yard TD pass to Harrison Bryant that put the Browns up 14-13 with 3:45 to play. 

The Browns (7-7) intercepted a long heave from Carr on the ensuing Raiders possession but could not run out the clock, giving Las Vegas one last chance at a desperately needed win. 

The Raiders (7-7) had lost five of six games entering Monday, including an ugly 48-9 defeat against the Kansas City Chiefs in their previous game, and another defeat would have put them on the brink of elimination from playoff contention. 

John Johnson III was the only Cleveland Brown activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday, leaving the team without their first and second-choice quarterbacks.

Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum have both been in health and safety protocols ahead of the delayed game against the Las Vegas Raiders, which had been set to be played on Saturday until the Browns' coronavirus outbreak prompted a reschedule.

Neither player was able to return in time to face the Raiders, although safety Johnson's involvement comes as a boost.

Nick Mullens therefore comes in for his first start as a Brown, having been waived by the Philadelphia Eagles at the start of the year – after leaving the San Francisco 49ers as a free agent – but restricted to the role of spectator until now.

Mullens made 16 starts across 19 games in three years with the Niners but had a miserable 5-11 record when deputising for Jimmy Garoppolo as a starter.

An injury-hit San Francisco had to rely on Mullens for eight starts in 2020, when he threw for 2,437 yards, 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Mullens was successful with 78.4 per cent of his pass attempts last season, matching Mayfield's output as Cleveland's starter in 2021.

However, the much-maligned Mayfield is able to push the ball downfield with his 8.95 air yards per attempt, ranking sixth in 2021 among NFL quarterbacks with 50 attempts or more. In 2020, Mullens' 6.59 air yards were the fifth-fewest among the same group.

Keenum, who has had 48 attempts this year, throws an accurate ball with 80.4 per cent of passes for just 6.78 air yards. He deputised for Mayfield in the Week 7 win over the Denver Broncos – the only game Mayfield has not started in the past three seasons – but is also out.

The NFL has been forced to move three games for Week 15 due to the COVID-19 outbreak across the league and the United States.

The Cleveland Browns, who could have been without as many as 20 players, were set to face the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday, but that clash has been rescheduled for Monday.

The Washington Football Team were preparing to face the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, the same day in which the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams were due to do battle, but both games will now take place on Tuesday.

The NFL announced the changes in a statement, which said: "We have made these schedule changes based on medical advice and after discussion with the NFLPA as we are seeing a new, highly transmissible form of the virus this week resulting in a substantial increase in cases across the league.

"We continue to make decisions in consultation with medical experts to ensure the health and safety of the NFL community."

Due to the changes, all six sides involved will have shorter breaks between Week 15 and 16. The Browns head to the Green Bay Packers on Christmas, while the Raiders, Eagles, Washington, Seahawks and Rams all have two days fewer to prepare for their next games.

The fixture alterations come after the NFL announced updated coronavirus protocols on Thursday, which include fully vaccinated players being allowed to return from quarantine a day after testing positive if they produce two negative tests within 24 hours and are asymptomatic.

Indeed, 32 players were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday alone, after reports on Wednesday suggested around 100 NFL players recently tested positive for the virus across a three-day span.

Last season amid the ongoing global pandemic the NFL completed its season on time but had to reschedule 18 games.

In July, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell warned the 32 teams that no games would be rescheduled under such circumstances again and, instead, forfeits could happen.

Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis has confirmed the Allegiant Stadium will host Super Bowl LVIII for the first time in 2024.

The Raiders moved to southern Nevada from Oakland in 2020 to play in the new Allegiant Stadium, with the expectation that the 65,000-seater venue could one day host NFL's showpiece event.

That has now come to fruition, with the 58th NFL championship game heading to Las Vegas after it was moved from Caesars Superdome in New Orleans for scheduling reasons.

New Orleans will now host the finale in 2025, after the league's move to an 18-month regular season meant the Super Bowl final would clash with Mardi Gras celebrations in the Louisiana city.

Davis announced the widely-expected news in a statement on Wednesday, as the Raiders owner said: "The Raiders are thrilled the National Football League has selected Las Vegas to host Super Bowl (58) LVIII in February 2024.

"Hosting the 2022 Pro Bowl, the 2022 NFL draft and now the 2024 Super Bowl are just some of the ancillary benefits resulting from the public-private partnership we created with the state of Nevada to bring the Raiders to Las Vegas and build Allegiant Stadium. It's only the beginning."

The Allegiant Stadium will also host the 2022 Pro Bowl and NFL Draft, which was originally scheduled to be in Las Vegas in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic enforced changes.

The next two Super Bowls are scheduled to be played in Inglewood, California, at SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022, and in Glendale, Arizona, at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023.

The Cleveland Browns look set to field a significantly weakened team for Saturday's tussle with the Las Vegas Raiders after losing eight players to the reserve/COVID-19 list.

As they chase a ticket to the postseason, the 7-6 Browns are poised to have to rely on backups at a critical moment, with their ranks suddenly severely depleted.

It was revealed on Tuesday they have lost wide receiver Jarvis Landry, guard Wyatt Teller, tight end Austin Hooper, left tackle Jedrick Wills and defensive end Takkarist McKinley for now. Drew Forbes was named on the same list, with wide receiver JoJo Natson and tight end Ross Travis also sidelined.

The NFL.com website reported all have tested positive for the coronavirus. The Browns have not officially confirmed that to be the case.

Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said meetings with players, virtual rather than in person, would take place during Tuesday afternoon.

He backed his squad to show they have sufficient quality to ride out the situation.

Stefanski said in a news conference: "We've seen, through last season, have seen it this year, guys step up. That's what the NFL's about. You're without guys due to injury or otherwise and guys step up. And that's why we have a bunch of players on this team that we trust."

It remains to be seen whether David Njoku, Anthony Walker Jr and punter Jamie Gillan, who all missed the 24-22 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday due to being on the reserve/COVID-19 list, will be available for the game with the 6-7 Raiders.

Stefanski said, quoted on cleveland.com: "I don't have an update on those guys in particular. Again, we'll just follow the protocols on each one of them and then we're just going to focus on today. I think that's the prudent thing to do and make sure we do a great job with our virtual meetings, do a great job with this walkthrough."

Patrick Mahomes said the Kansas City Chiefs were motivated in Sunday's crushing victory after the Las Vegas Raiders "disrespected" their logo pre-game.

The Chiefs showed no mercy in a 48-9 demolition of the visiting Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium, where Mahomes threw two touchdowns to help fuel the rout.

It came after the Raiders gathered on Kansas City's logo before the contest and Chiefs star Mahomes addressed the subject following the team's sixth successive victory.

"You definitely don't want people to come into your stadium and disrespect things that you kind of built,'' said Mahomes.

"It gave us a little more motivation to go out there and win against a really good football team that we have a rivalry against that usually is a tough football game.''

Raiders defensive end Yannick Ngakoue gathered his team-mates for a pre-game speech and Chiefs star Tyrann Mathieu added: "I don't think champions really act in that manner."

Las Vegas linebacker K.J. Wright conceded the Chiefs were right to feel annoyed.

"I would have been upset, too, if I was them," Wright said. "Anybody that comes there and do that? And they definitely came out and responded to their anger and we couldn't hold up.

"It was spur of the moment. One guy said, 'Let's go' and we all got to ride together. We all went out there together. We did it as a team and just gave them a little more motivation than we needed to give them."

For the Raiders, it was more of the same against the Chiefs, having become accustomed to losses in this game. They have won just three of 18 games in the rivalry since Andy Reid was appointed head coach of the Chiefs in 2013.

The Chiefs were also determined to continue their dominance against the Raiders, who took a victory lap around Kansas City's stadium last year, having trumped their rivals for the first time since 2012.

"We didn't want them winning here again," Mahomes said. "We went out there and handled business."

Mahomes completed 20 of 24 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns in the rout – moving him third all-time in the most yards thrown by a Chiefs quarterback.

The former MVP was masterful, ending a two-game run without a TD pass by posting a season-best pass completion rate of 83.3 per cent. He stretched his record run to 20 consecutive regular season wins in QB starts in November or later.

The Kansas City Chiefs are making statement after statement as they power towards the postseason, with a 48-9 trouncing of the Las Vegas Raiders just the latest.

Andy Reid's Chiefs were somewhere near their ruthless best in the NFL on Sunday, winning a sixth straight game to improve to 9-4, Patrick Mahomes completing 20 of 24 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns in the rout.

It moved him third all-time in the most yards thrown by a Chiefs quarterback, above Alex Smith, with a total of 17,794 yards.

Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for 37 yards and two touchdowns as the Chiefs looked formidable in defense and offense at Arrowhead Stadium.

A fumble on the first play from Josh Jacobs was clinically punished by Mike Hughes as the Chiefs had a dream start, and by half-time they led 35-3.

Curiously, they won and limited their opponents to exactly nine points for a third successive game, after previous successes against the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos.

Tyreek Hill went through 1,000 yards receiving for the season as he took four catches for 76 yards to reach 1,030, for his fourth 1,000-yard season in the NFL.

Mahomes was masterful though, the quarterback ending a two-game run without a TD pass by posting a season-best pass completion rate of 83.3 per cent. He stretched his record run to 20 consecutive regular season wins in QB starts in November or later.

For the Raiders, it was more of the same against the Chiefs, having become accustomed to losses in this game. They have won just three of 18 games in the rivalry since Reid was appointed head coach of the Chiefs in 2013.


JACKSON DOWN, BROWNS BOOSTED

Star quarterback Lamar Jackson was carted out of the Ravens' clash with the Cleveland Browns, and it was a day to forget for Baltimore.

A 24-22 loss means they slipped to 8-5 for the season, while the Browns improved to 7-6, bolstering their Wild Card hopes.

Jackson, doubtful pre-game with an ankle sprain, managed only four of four passes for 17 yards before taking a hit and making way for Tyler Huntley (27 of 38 for 270 yards and one TD).

The Ravens, frontrunners in the AFC North, almost pulled off a stunning comeback against their divisional rivals, having trailed 24-6 at half-time, but it proved just beyond them.

Baker Mayfield went 22-of-32 for 190 yards and two touchdowns for the Browns.

NEWTON WOES PERSIST

Cam Newton has now lost 11 straight games as a Carolina Panthers starter and held himself largely culpable for the latest in that long line.

He also became the first quarterback in NFL history with a rushing touchdown in each of his first four games of a season, but Carolina's 29-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons was a sickener for the former MVP.

He had 15 completions from 23 passes for 178 yards, splitting QB duties with PJ Walker, as turnovers and failed drives blighted the day for the Panthers.

Newton said: "Pretty much everything they did, we knew was coming. I've got to do a better job of protecting the football. I hold myself to a high standard to do those things and when it doesn't happen it's just inexcusable.

"We had such a great momentum for those drives and they were just drive killers, game killers in essence

"We were driving on both of those turnovers I had. To be optimistic, you see what we're capable of, but we've got to do it for ourselves."

There is a new leader in the AFC after the New England Patriots' remarkable victory over the Buffalo Bills on Monday, stretching their winning streak to seven games.

But after battling the elements as well as the Bills in Buffalo, Bill Belichick's Pats have a bye in Week 14.

That allows others the opportunity to recover ground – including the Bills, who face New England great Tom Brady on Sunday. It is not a meeting they have enjoyed previously, as Stats Perform explores.

Buffalo Bills (7-5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3)

Just like Belichick, Brady has enjoyed taking on the Bills – and he had plenty of opportunities to do so with the Pats in the AFC East.

Brady is 32-3 against Buffalo in his 35 career starts, with no starting quarterback in NFL history recording more wins against a single team. His .914 winning percentage in these games represents the highest by a starting QB against one team (minimum 20 starts).

Aged 44, Brady remains one of the best passers around, with a league-leading 74 TD passes over the past two seasons.

Bills QB Josh Allen is joint-third on that list (63 TDs), and Buffalo need his offense to fire, making the most of the platform afforded to him by the defense. After the 14-10 loss to the Pats, the Bills became the first team this season to lose two games in which they allowed 14 points or fewer (also 9-6 at Jacksonville).

Las Vegas Raiders (6-6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)

The Chiefs are one of three 8-4 AFC teams close behind the 9-4 Pats and will back themselves to tie that record in a matchup they have dominated.

Since 2013, when Andy Reid was appointed head coach, the Chiefs are 14-3 against the Raiders, with only New England against the New York Jets (16 wins) and the Seattle Seahawks against the San Francisco 49ers (15) beating a divisional opponent on more occasions in that span.

This is a time of year in which Patrick Mahomes tends to excel, now on a record run of 19 consecutive regular season wins in QB starts in November or later, but Kansas City's turnaround on defense has been key to their recent improvement.

The Chiefs head into this game having become the first team in NFL history to have a five-game streak allowing 25 or more points and a five-game streak allowing fewer than 20 points in the same season, with the latter sequence ongoing.

Baltimore Ravens (8-4) @ Cleveland Browns (6-6)

Another 8-4 AFC rival, along with the Tennessee Titans, the Ravens again face the Browns in the tightly contested AFC North.

Cleveland's previous game – before their Week 13 bye – was in Baltimore, making them the first team since 1991 to play the same team in back-to-back regular season games, although the Browns beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17 last year before beating them again the following week in the playoffs.

The Ravens won 16-10 in Week 12 as Browns QB Baker Mayfield completed just 48.6 per cent of his passes, meaning he now has a 2-6 career record when completing no more than half of his pass attempts.

Lamar Jackson was far from convincing in that game, tossing four interceptions, but he had his sixth career game with at least 250 passing yards and 50 rushing yards against the Steelers last week – five of those coming in 2021. The Pittsburgh game was his second loss from those six.

Elsewhere...

The Washington Football Team believe again after four straight wins to move into a playoff place at 6-6, aiming to become only the third team to start 2-6 and make the postseason. One of the previous two examples was Washington last year, who won both games against the Dallas Cowboys, teeing up a potential three-game winning streak against this week's opponents – just their third ever.

Aaron Rodgers has claimed he "owns" the Chicago Bears, and the numbers show exactly what the Green Bay Packers QB means. He is 21-5 in the regular season and 1-0 in the postseason against the Bears, who will fear this week's matchup.

The Cincinnati Bengals have painful memories of playing the 49ers, having lost 12 of 16 games against San Francisco, including two Super Bowls. Joe Burrow will hope to get back on track in the latest meeting, however, having led the league with 14 picks to this point. Boomer Esiason, with 22 in 1990, was the only previous Bengals QB to lead the league outright in interceptions.

Derek Carr made an aggressive approach count as he elected to "rip 'em" and see where it got the Las Vegas Raiders against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

After the Raiders snatched a 36-33 overtime win, Carr could reflect on a policy skilfully enacted, and interim head coach Rich Bisaccia was suitably impressed.

Carr ended the game with 24-of-39 passing for 373 yards and a touchdown – the most yards by a Raiders quarterback on Thanksgiving in team history.

It gave him a passer rating of 101.8 after three consecutive games down in double digits, each of which ended in defeat.

Daniel Carlson nailed a field goal to win the game before munching on a turkey leg to mark the holiday. Victory improved the Raiders to 6-5 and checked the Cowboys at 7-4.

Carr picked out DeSean Jackson early for a 56-yard touchdown; Jackson's 34th career touchdown of 50-plus yards puts him only two adrift of all-time NFL leader Jerry Rice.

Speaking after the game, Carr said he heeded the advice of former Raiders coach Jon Gruden not to shy away from the bold option.

"It leads sometimes to not completing as many balls on a percentage chart, but to me, Gruden used to tell me, 'Don't ever take your arm out of a game'," Carr said.

"So, when we call these things, let's rip 'em."

Gruden resigned from his Raiders top job in October amid reports he had sent emails containing offensive language.

Carr savoured the narrow victory, saying: "Our back was against the wall. There's no doubt about that. And in the way that we fought today and for as long as it took to win... we had to do that today, and I'm very proud of our team."

Bisaccia said 30-year-old Carr had been "off sync a little bit" in recent games. "Today he looked like Derek Carr. It's fun to watch him play," the interim coach added.

Bisaccia also saluted 34-year-old Jackson, an acquisition in early November who is showing the Raiders what he still has left in the tank.

"I thought he stepped up in there today and made really incredible plays," Bisaccia said. "You can see DeSean hopefully getting more and more comfortable with what we're asking him to do. One thing he can still do is run. It was fun to watch him. It was good for him, and it was good for us."

It fell to Carlson to settle the game and settle a Raiders team who were 3-0 early in the season before losing their way.

A fourth successive loss would have hurt, but now Las Vegas can look forward with greater optimism. They are next in action against the Washington Football Team on December 5.

Carlson said: "It's tough when things don't go your way for a few weeks."

Quoted on the Raiders website, he added: "On a short week to be able to get a win like that, that helps us going forward. I think that just speaks to the character of this team and our will to win."

The Las Vegas Raiders broke a three-game losing streak with a thrilling 36-33 overtime win at the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

Daniel Carson converted a 29-yard field goal to lift the Raiders (6-5) past the Cowboys (7-4) in Dallas in the first overtime game to occur on Thanksgiving since 2012.

There was an early advantage for Las Vegas on Thursday as Derek Carr (24-of-39 passing for 373 yards and a TD – most yards by a Raiders quarterback on Thanksgiving in team history) threw to DeSean Jackson, who ran in for a 56-yard touchdown. It was Jackson's 34th career touchdown of 50-plus yards, the second-most in NFL history, just two behind Jerry Rice.

The Cowboys – without stars CeeDee Lamb (concussion) and Amari Cooper (COVID-19) – responded immediately with a touchdown of their own as Dak Prescott (32-of-47 passing for 375 yards for two TDs) found Sean McKeon.

A 30-yard penalty for pass interference gave Josh Jacobs a simple one-yard TD to make it 14-6 in favour of Las Vegas heading into the second quarter.

Dallas looked to be getting desperate as Zuerlein attempted and missed a 59-yard field goal, but they were able to score their second TD just before half-time as an 86-yard drive ended with a one-yard TD for Ezekiel Elliott to close within 17-13 at the break.

The Raiders increased their lead halfway through the third quarter – Marcus Mariota running in a touchdown to complete a 75-yard drive, only for Tony Pollard to immediately run a 100-yard kick-off return to bring it back to 27-19, the third-longest TD in Thanksgiving history.

Dallas forced overtime thanks to Prescott's pass to Dalton Schultz and a pair of Zuerlein field goals in the fourth period, but the Cowboys were unable to complete the comeback in the additional period.

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.

Patrick Mahomes believes the Kansas City Chiefs have their "swag back" after he inspired a 41-14 win at the Las Vegas Raiders with one of the most devastating performances of his career.

Mahomes himself has been deemed to be in the midst of the first major slump of his NFL career, with the Chiefs' inability to light up the scoreboard being blamed on him by many.

Ahead of the meeting with the Raiders, the Chiefs were only ranked 15th for scoring offense at 24.6 points per game, a decrease from sixth and 29.6 last season.

Similarly, Mahomes was on 10 interceptions and 17 sacks prior to Sunday, while his seven yards per throw was a career-low record, but there appeared to be an awakening in Las Vegas.

Mahomes threw for 406 of Kansas City's 516 total yards, while the Raiders managed just 299 in total as they went one of nine on third-down conversions.

Sunday was the second time Mahomes has thrown for 400-plus yards with five or more touchdowns and no interceptions in a game. According to Stats Perform, he is the only quarterback in NFL history to have two such games in his career.

Earlier in the week, the re-circulation of a viral video from 2014 made it to the Chiefs' locker room – in the clip, a high school player says: "I think I've got my swagger back!"

"That was something that was kind of my motto this week," Mahomes said after leading the Raiders demolition, with the Chiefs now 6-4.

"I think the whole team got that swag back. We're going to try to keep that thing rolling."

Nevertheless, Mahomes insists he never doubted the Chiefs would find their groove again.

"We've done [this] before. We've done it these last few seasons, we were doing at the beginning of this season," he continued.

"We were moving the ball and making a lot of stuff happen. We were just turning the ball over. Then we kind of went through a little spell where we weren't making these drives and we were still finding ways to win.

"I knew that we're going to click back into it."

Chiefs coach Andy Reid had a similar line of thought regarding Mahomes himself.

While in the past couple of years he may not have been hitting the heights that saw him become only the second QB in NFL history to throw 50 touchdowns and more than 5,000 yards in a single season back in 2018, Mahomes still led the Chiefs to consecutive Super Bowl appearances.

"It's going to happen," Reid said of Mahomes' apparent slump. "There's going to be a little something that doesn't go your way, and it's important you power through it, stay confident and keep firing.

"That's how he's wired, and you knew he was going to get through the ups and downs just by the way he handles himself."

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