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."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers made T.J. Watt the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL before the season, and he delivered an emphatic reminder of why in their win over the Seattle Seahawks.

Pittsburgh moved to 3-3 on the year with a dramatic overtime triumph over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, with edge rusher Watt having a decisive say.

Watt was a constant thorn in the side of Seahawks backup quarterback Geno Smith, filling in for the injured Russell Wilson, and saved his biggest impact for overtime.

He sacked Smith for the first time in the extra period and did so again after the Steelers punted the ball back to Seattle, this time robbing him of possession in the process and giving Pittsburgh crucial field position deep in Seahawks territory.

That allowed Chris Boswell to hit a 37-yard game-winning field goal and clinch a 23-20 success.

Watt signed a four-year, $112million contract extension with $80m in guarantees back in September, a price Pittsburgh will be more than happy to pay if he maintains his stellar play.

"That's how he’s compensated," said head coach Mike Tomlin. "I don't think anyone is surprised by his ability to deliver in those moments."

His team-mate on the defensive front, Cameron Heyward, was certainly not shocked when Watt's pressure finally told in the most pivotal spot.

"I love the fourth quarter and the overtime by T.J.,” Heyward said. "All game, he was like, 'Man, I’m just not hitting home.' I told him it was going to come and just, 'Keep staying after it. You’re going to be great.'

"And when we needed it the most, he made his plays. What an emphatic play to end the game with a sack strip fumble. We needed it, and he's a hell of a player."

Jon Gruden's resignation as head coach was used as a catalyst to inspire the Las Vegas Raiders to victory over the Denver Broncos, according to quarterback Derek Carr.

The Raiders were rocked last week when Gruden stepped down after an investigation revealed numerous offensive emails he sent while working as a television analyst.

Gruden apologised for any hurt caused by the messages, which are alleged to have contained racist, homophobic and sexist content.

A tumultuous week for the Raiders ended on a positive note, though, thanks to a 34-24 win over the Broncos on Sunday as they snapped a two-game losing run and improved to 4-2. 

Carr starred in Rich Bisaccia's first game as interim head coach, throwing 341 yards and two touchdowns in completing 18 of 27 passes.

The 30-year-old's passer rating of 134.4 was his highest in almost three years and came at the perfect time for his side. 

"We needed a win bad this week," he said. "Sometimes when you get punched in the gut, it's hard to bounce back. But we were able to do it.

"If anything, what's happened the this heightened our intensity, it heightened our focus. 

"More now than ever, we had to step up and be a voice. There will be a time for all the emotions, but now is not the time. 

"It sucks not hugging 'Gru' after a game like that. Some of the plays we ran, he would have been so fired up, but it is what it is and we need to move forward. 

"For those three hours, it's definitely easier to just focus on football."

Carr's fourth 300-plus passing yard game of the season is the second-most ever of any Raiders player after six games after Rich Gannon, who had five at this stage in 2002.

The Raiders forced four turnovers in defense and committed zero turnovers of their own – the first time that has happened since the 1988 season against the Kansas City Chiefs.

For Bisaccia, it marked a first win in what was his first game as a head coach at any level.

"The best part for me was to be able to get on the grass," he said after the triumph at Empower Field at Mile High. "The worst part for me was figuring out the headset! 

"Once you get on the field and the game goes, a lot of my responsibilities were the same. It's emotional for everybody, right? 

"I think they did a good job. It's a bunch of grown men, handling their emotions throughout the week, putting them in perspective when it was time to go play the game. 

"It's a job for all of us. They seemed to do a really good job with it. We'll see what goes on."

Arizona Cardinals star Kyler Murray said he enjoyed a "little more freedom" in the absence of Kliff Kingsbury after the NFL's hottest team preserved their perfect start to the season.

Kingsbury missed Sunday's clash against the Cleveland Browns after testing positive for coronavirus, but the high-flying Cardinals – the only undefeated franchise remaining – still won 37-14 to improve to 6-0.

Defensive co-ordinator Vance Joseph and assistant head coach/special teams co-ordinator Jeff Rodgers stepped up to share responsibilities in Kingsbury's absence, while assistant wide receivers coach Spencer Whipple was calling plays in Murray's ear.

Murray was 20-of-30 passing for 229 yards and four touchdowns as the Cardinals won six straight games for the first time since Weeks 7-16 of the 2015 season.

"I think once we got the news, it was just an opportunity," Cardinals quarterback Murray said post-game.

"Kind of exciting to go prove ourselves on the road against a great team. I think you could feel the energy before the game."

"That may be a product of not having a coach out there, just having a little more leeway," Murray said after becoming the first Cardinals QB since 1950 with a 100-plus passer rating in five of the team's first six games of a season.

"I guess that did give me a little more freedom, just to whatever I did see, go with it and that's what Whipple's saying to me the whole time: 'Whatever you see'. And I stick to that same rule, as long as it makes sense. You got a plan and go with it."

The Cardinals are 4-0 on the road and have won each game by no fewer than 12 points – in their franchise history, Arizona had never won four consecutive away games by double digits.

On Kingsbury's absence, stand-in coach Joseph added: "It was really seamless".

"It's been an up and down week, but our team leaders were great all week," Joseph said. "No one wavered, no one blinked. The staff didn't blink. Every day it was bad news and no one blinked - not one time. Even yesterday. Even Saturday morning at practice when the players knew that Kliff was down for the game, there were no worries.

"There was really an excitement to go play a really good football team. The boys performed. This staff is amazing. It's a great football staff. It's our third year all together and that helps - having continuity like this."

Trevor Lawrence and Urban Meyer celebrated the Jacksonville Jaguars' drought-ending triumph and "software engineer" Matthew Wright, who ended the team's 20-game skid.

Wright kicked a 53-yard field goal as time expired to lift the embattled Jaguars to a dramatic 23-20 win over the Miami Dolphins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Sunday.

The Jaguars had not won since their 2020 season-opening victory against the Indianapolis Colts amid the second-longest losing streak in NFL history, second only to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' run of 26 straight defeats in 1976-77.

But Wright emerged the unlikely hero in the final play of the game in the United Kingdom, where rookie Jaguars quarterback Lawrence set up the field goal after the kicker also nailed a 54-yard attempt with just under four minutes remaining.

"Obviously we've had a rough start to the year, been through a lot of adversity even in this game, just having to fight back, battle back and find a way to win," Lawrence – the number one draft pick – told reporters after completing 25 of 41 passes for 319 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.

"It means a lot, and obviously, like I said, we've struggled a little bit, but to get this win, have this momentum going into the bye week, to do it here in London, it's all just special. I'll always remember this one."

Jaguars head coach Meyer added: "Someone asked me last week if we were desperate for a win, and we are desperate for a win, and we came close a few times.

"There were a lot of things to fix, but you saw a young quarterback make a big-time play at the biggest time of the game, and then a young kicker that we just signed a couple weeks ago pop two 50-plus yarders, so it was a great win."

According to Stats Perform, Wright became the fourth kicker in NFL history to make two 50-yard field goals in the fourth quarter, including the game winner as time expired, joining Greg Joseph (Week 5), Brandon McManus (2019) and Mason Crosby (2016).

"I think [Matthew Wright] was telling me he was like a software engineer like a month and a half ago, and now he snapped our 20-game losing streak and made the game winner from 52, 53, I don't know," Lawrence said. "But just crazy."

"It feels awesome. Just happy they both went in. Happy I could help the team come out with a win," added Wright.

Chris Boswell made the game-winning kick for the Pittsburgh Steelers in their 23-20 overtime defeat of the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, but T.J. Watt got the assist.  

All-Pro edge rusher Watt forced a fumble by Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith deep in Seattle territory with just over four minutes to play, setting up Boswell's decisive 37-yard field goal just over a minute later. 

After the teams traded punts on their opening possessions in overtime, Watt ran down a scrambling Smith at Seattle's 13-yard line and stripped the ball from the quarterback for the 20th forced fumble of his career – the most of any NFL player since Watt entered the league in 2017. 

It was fitting that defence played a key role in the outcome after both teams struggled to move the ball at times throughout the game. 

Pittsburgh opened the scoring nearly five minutes into the second quarter with a Ben Roethlisberger (29-of-40 passing for 229 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions) touchdown pass to Najee Harris and took a 14-0 lead into half-time. 

Seattle – without injured star quarterback Russell Wilson – answered after the break with a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter and eventually tied the game 17-17 on a Jason Myers field goal with 12:59 remaining in the fourth. 

Boswell then hit from 53 yards with 1:29 remaining before Myers answered from 43 at the buzzer to send it to overtime – though not without controversy. 

The Steelers believed they had the game won when Seattle's DK Metcalf fumbled after a reception and Seahawks receiver Freddie Swain recovered, leaving the visitors scrambling to stop the clock for a field-goal try. 

Officials then did it for them, stopping play for a video review while Smith tried to race to the line and spike the ball. Replay confirmed the initial play was ruled correctly but the stoppage gave the Seahawks time to spike it and set up Myers' game-tying try. 

Watt's big play in overtime ultimately rendered that complaint moot. 

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."

Baker Mayfield's troublesome left shoulder popped out of joint twice during the Cleveland Browns' 37-14 NFL loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, but the quarterback "absolutely" expects to face the Denver Broncos in Week 7.

Mayfield initially injured his non-throwing shoulder against the Houston Texans on September 19, suffering a partially torn labrum, and the Browns star has worn a brace in subsequent games. 

That extra protection could not save him when Arizona's J.J. Watt hauled him to the ground in the third quarter, forcing a fumble and leaving Mayfield on the ground in pain. 

But Mayfield returned to the game when the Browns got the ball back and finished 19-of-28 passing for 234 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. 

Case Keenum finished the game at quarterback for Cleveland once the score got out of hand, but Mayfield said he was confident he would be cleared to play the Broncos on Thursday, despite meeting the media with his left arm in a sling. 

"It feels like s***," he said of his shoulder, adding: "It dislocated again [on the Watt sack] and then slipped out again on a non-contact play, so just got to figure out a way to get better."

Mayfield was sacked five times as the Browns played without their usual starting tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin. 

"It was just one of those days," Mayfield said. "We couldn't get things going, they had a good plan for us and we got punched in the mouth."

Mayfield and the Browns will have to recover quickly as they face what has become a critical game against the Broncos.

Cleveland entered the year fancied as possible Super Bowl contenders and suffered a tough season-opening loss to reigning AFC champions the Kansas City Chiefs before reeling off three straight wins. 

The Browns now sit at 3-3 after a wild loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5 and Sunday's blow-out defeat. 

"We're going to see what we're made of," Mayfield said. "Our backs are against the wall. I like our chances."

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. 

Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers told jeering Chicago Bears fans "I still own you" after the reigning NFL MVP inspired a 24-14 victory on the road.

Rodgers was at his brilliant best as he claimed his 22nd win over the Bears, the veteran quarterback throwing two touchdowns and running for another at Soldier Field.

His 22-5 record against the Bears ranks third-best for winning percentage (81.5) by a quarterback against a single opponent since 1950 (minimum 25 starts), behind Tom Brady (91.4 per cent against the Buffalo Bills) and Ben Roethlisberger (87.0 per cent against the Cleveland Browns).

As he left the field, Rodgers could be heard taunting Chicago supporters: "All my f****** life, I own you. I still own you. I still own you."

Rodgers finished 17-of-23 passing for 195 yards and no interceptions with a 128.0 passer rating as the Packers (5-1) won their fifth straight game.

The Super Bowl winner also reacted to one fan after his touchdown against the Bears.

"Sometimes you black out on the field – in a good way," Rodgers said. "I looked up in the stands and in the front row all I saw was a woman giving me the double bird.

"So I'm not sure exactly what came out of my mouth next."

"I love this rivalry. It's been a lot of fun over the years," Rodgers said. "That's what I told [Bears rookie] Justin [Fields] on the field. I said, 'Enjoy this. It's a special rivalry, unlike any other in our game.'"

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur added: "Listen, all I can say is: A lot of stuff gets said on the field that nobody ever hears.

"It's one of those moments of competition where things get said and ... I don't know what Aaron said about it, I'm sure you guys asked him. ... Again, it's a competitive game, and I think that's one of those moments where you see the competitor in Aaron come out."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chiefs remain unconvincing

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

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

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

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

Five in a row for Packers

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

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

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

The Carolina Panthers have placed star running back Christian McCaffrey on injured reserve as he continues to struggle with a hamstring issue.

The medical team's decision means the 25-year-old will be out for a minimum of three weeks, returning no sooner than Week 9, when the Panthers face the New England Patriots.

McCaffrey picked up the injury in the 24-9 victory over the Houston Texans and missed the subsequent defeats against the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles and had been ruled out of the upcoming game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Rookie guard Deonte Brown has also been placed on injured reserve after sustaining a knee injury in practice on Friday, with Michael Jordan replacing him from the practice squad to make up a 52-man active roster.

Running back Spencer Brown and punter Ryan Winslow will also make the step up to replace McCaffrey and Joseph Charlton, who was also placed on injured reserve.

Offensive linemen do not win NFL awards.

For as much as their performance is pivotal to the success of an NFL team, the cold hard truth is the narratives that decide the MVP, Offensive Player of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year awards are not built around those who spend their time in the trenches.

But if there is going to be an end to the wait for the first offensive lineman to win Rookie of the Year, then it may come from Rashawn Slater of the Los Angeles Chargers.

Slater is enjoying a stellar beginning to his NFL career, the 13th overall pick vindicating his draft status and locking down the left tackle spot to allow quarterback Justin Herbert to enjoy an MVP calibre start as the Chargers have gone 4-1 through five games.

With the class of rookie quarterbacks enduring plenty of first-year struggles and few of the highly drafted skill position players delivering results worthy of such significant recognition, Slater should have a better chance of at least receiving some Offensive Rookie of the Year votes.

And ahead of a blockbuster clash between the Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens, Stats Perform assesses whether Slater can take home the prize.

Slater's stellar performance

Though he had difficulties protecting Herbert from Cleveland Browns star Myles Garrett in Week 5, giving up a sack on a stunt involving Garrett and Malik McDowell and another following a spin move from the 2017 first overall pick, Slater has otherwise done a superb job keeping his quarterback clean.

His pressure rate allowed of 5.3 per cent ranks fourth among left tackles with a minimum of 100 pass protection snaps. Digging deeper into his numbers, Slater has lost only 13 of his 110 pass protection matchups, a win rate of 88.18 per cent.

Slater's stunt-adjusted win rate of 87.29 per cent is 13th among tackles with at least 50 matchups and is superior to that of Penei Sewell (76.27), the seventh overall pick of the Detroit Lions.

With his athleticism translating superbly to the highest level, Slater has been similarly effective in the run game, with a double-team adjusted win rate of 85.25 per cent from his 37 matchups.

Rarely would such sound offensive line play even put a rookie in the conversation for an individual award; however, 2021 could prove a unique case.

A lacklustre QB class?

Much was made of the strength of the 2021 quarterback class, yet that has not been reflected in the play of the five signal-callers to be taken in the first round so far.

Truly standout performances from rookie quarterbacks have been thin on the ground to this point, and the fact 15th overall pick Mac Jones leads the group in passing yards (1,243) and percentage of accurate, well-thrown balls (83.2) speaks to the mediocrity of their displays.

Jones has been accurate while struggling to push the ball downfield, with his air yards per attempt average of 7.51 the lowest among rookie quarterbacks.

First overall pick Trevor Lawrence's six touchdowns lead all rookies, yet his well-thrown percentage is a disappointing 75.2 per cent and his pickable pass percentage of 4.85 is well above the league average of 3.16.

The only two rookies to have excelled at avoiding turnover-worthy throws are Justin Fields (1.43 per cent) and Trey Lance (2.13 per cent). However, Fields has yet to put together a game to suggest he could win the award while Lance's one start so far was an uneven performance in which his positive flashes were negated by the poor execution of his offensive team-mates.

With the quarterbacks failing to build a convincing case, the favourite for Offensive Rookie of the Year must be Cincinnati Bengals receiver Ja'Marr Chase.

Chase's 456 receiving yards are seventh in the NFL and he already has five touchdowns to his name. The fifth overall pick is producing a big play on 38.9 per cent of targets, comfortably the best rate among rookie receivers with at least 10 targets.

Such numbers would seem to make him the clear frontrunner, but with the Bengals now 3-2 and facing a more difficult schedule than they have contended with through five weeks, his stock could soon take a dent and open the door for Slater, whose case would be strengthened by a strong performance against a potential Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

Oweh a significant challenge

The Chargers' ability to move the ball against the Ravens on Sunday may be contingent on how well Slater performs against another first-rounder in Baltimore pass rusher Odafe Oweh.

Oweh already has three sacks to his name and his 14 pressures were second only to Miami Dolphins' rookie Jaelan Phillips among first-year edge rushers heading into Week 6.

Boasting only 12 wins from 54 pass rush matchups, the more granular numbers are not as impressive for Oweh.

But his production to this point in terms of sacks suggests Oweh is a player who is quick to take advantage of opportunities that come his way.

A freakish athlete with elite short-area and long speed, Oweh only started playing football in high school, meaning there is likely plenty more growth to come from a defender who has already developed rapidly in his short time with the Ravens.

Slater, therefore, cannot afford to take the challenge of facing Oweh lightly despite the matchup numbers indicating he should have a clear advantage over his fellow rookie.

Coverage of the sport is such that more focus is given to the plays where the pass rusher beats his man and gets to the quarterback than to the plethora of snaps where the offensive lineman stops a defender from making an impact.

As a result, Slater's Rookie of the Year argument perhaps rests on him completely stopping Oweh from producing any splash plays.

Even if he does so, the prospect of him claiming the honour will be an unlikely one, but a performance that sees him shut down Oweh, help the Chargers to 5-1 and assist Herbert in further building his MVP case will at least be worthy of a wider conversation about recognition for arguably the premier offensive rookie of the class in the opening month of the season.

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