In fantasy football, as in life, things do not always work out the way you planned.

Every year, fantasy managers will leave their draft in a great mood, believing they have nailed it, only to see their star players fail to live up to expectations.

This week's look at some of the top selections for Week 9 features such players heavily, with some who have struggled with consistency or injuries appearing in line for a strong outing this weekend.

Stats Perform looks at four offensive players and a defense who should be fantasy starters in Week 9.

Quarterback: Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings @ Baltimore Ravens

Cousins can be a confounding quarterback for Vikings fans and fantasy players alike, as his 184-yard performance in the Week 8 loss to the Dallas Cowboys demonstrated.

Yet he has an intriguing bounce-back matchup on the road as the Vikings aim to stay in touch in the NFC playoff race.

The Ravens are conceding 7.35 yards per play, the fifth-most in the NFL, and saw their defense shredded for 415 yards passing by Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals in their last game before the bye.

Cousins already has three 300-yard games to his name this season and unquestionably has the weapons to take advantage of the Baltimore defense and record another on Sunday.

Running Back: Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Chicago Bears

Harris has not been efficient in his rookie season, averaging 3.74 yards per carry, but this is a selection predominantly about volume.

Indeed, the former Alabama star has carried the ball 128 times so far this season. Only three players have recorded more rushing attempts.

That is a recipe for success against a Bears defense allowing 4.55 yards per carry, the eighth highest in the NFL. Fantasy managers with Harris on their roster should be optimistic about a player with three touchdowns in his last four games.

Wide Receiver: Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Diggs has endured a mediocre year, continually frustrating his fantasy owners, though he did find the endzone for the second successive week as Buffalo defeated the Miami Dolphins last week.

And the wideout who led the league in receiving yardage last year gets another chance to exploit a vastly inferior opponent this week as the Bills travel to Jacksonville.

The 1-6 Jaguars are giving up 8.18 yards per pass play. Only the Detroit Lions (8.28) have been more charitable to opposing passing attacks this season, making the Jaguars the ideal opponent for Diggs as he looks to record only his second 100-yard performance of the season.

Tight End: George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals

Like Diggs, it's been an underwhelming season for Kittle, though for different reasons as he missed the last three games with a calf injury.

Prior to being put on injured reserve, however, Kittle had seen 19 targets across his last two games. With Kittle anticipated to return this week, expect him to be a favoured target of Jimmy Garoppolo, which could lead to a big day with the 49ers offense seeming to find its rhythm in the Week 8 win over the Bears.

Defense: Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos

Third in the league in takeaways with 14, backing an opportunistic defense like that of the Cowboys is never a bad play.

This week they face a Broncos offense that has committed a turnover in all but one game and is averaging 5.51 yards per play, putting them 21st in the NFL.

The Cowboys are eyeing a playoff run while the Broncos, despite being 4-4, appear focused on building for the future, events on Sunday should reflect that.

Mike Tomlin said it is better for the Pittsburgh Steelers to have volunteers than hostages after they traded Melvin Ingram to the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Steelers sent Ingram to the Chiefs in exchange for a sixth-round pick in next year's draft.

Ingram was in his first season with the Steelers, having spent nine years with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers.

He tallied 25 pressures for the Steelers this year, third on the team behind Cameron Heyward (42) and T.J. Watt (27).

However, Ingram had reportedly stated a desire for more playing time, which he will now hope to get for a Chiefs defense that has struggled for much of 2021.

Asked about the deal, Steelers head coach Tomlin said: "I enjoyed working with Melvin. it just didn't work out the way we envisioned, the way he envisioned.

"What the team needs is first and foremost. But from a team perspective, it's better to have volunteers than it is to have hostages."

Baker Mayfield will return from a shoulder injury for the Cleveland Browns in Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski confirmed the news on Friday after the quarterback missed their 17-14 win over the Denver Broncos in Week 7 with a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

Mayfield's absence broke his streak of 51 consecutive starts for the Browns, but he will return after a one-week layoff.

"Medically, he’s ready to go," Stefanski told reporters on Friday, confirming Mayfield will start. "Our doctors, our trainers, the second opinions felt very comfortable about that.

"Baker's feels that he's ready. He feels he's ready to help this team win."

The 2018 NFL Draft top pick has been able to participate in three days of practice this week.

Case Keenum started in Mayfield's absence against the Broncos, completing 21 of 33 attempts for 199 yards and one touchdown.

Mayfield, who is in the fourth year of his five-year rookie deal, has thrown at 67.1 per cent this season for 1,474 yards, including six touchdowns and three interceptions.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head into Week 8 with a 6-1 record, though their form will be tested against the New Orleans Saints.

Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns and 211 yards in the Bucs' 38-3 thrashing of the Chicago Bears last week, though Tampa Bay's recent record against the Saints is poor.

The Los Angeles Rams are also 6-1, and are looking to extend their strong start when they take on the Houston Texans, who are out to avoid a franchise first.

Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase, meanwhile, have been linking up to superb effect for the Cincinnati Bengals, who are at the New York Jets on Sunday. 

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-1) @ New Orleans Saints (4-2)

Tampa Bay may have picked up from where they left off last season, but their recent run against New Orleans has not been at all profitable.

New Orleans have won five straight games against NFC South rivals Tampa Bay, which is the longest active losing streak for the Buccaneers against any single opponent.

However, the Bucs did set franchise records for points in a first quarter with 21, and points in a first half with 35, in their 38-3 win over the Bears. The 21 first-quarter and 35 first-half points are also the most scored by any NFL team this season.

Mike Evans caught three touchdowns against the Bears with all of them coming in the first half. He joined Marvin Harrison, Marvin Jones Jr, Jerry Rice, and Sterling Sharpe as the only players since the merger to have multiple games with three first-half touchdown catches.

The Saints beat the Seattle Seahawks in their last outing, and had 35 passing attempts in that win. Both teams have combined to win 76.9 per cent of their games this season, the highest combined winning percentage that the teams have ever had when facing each other.

Los Angeles Rams (6-1) @ Houston Texans (1-6)

This will be only the fifth all-time meeting between the Texans and the Rams, and just the second game since the latter moved back to Los Angeles.

The Rams have outscored the Texans by an aggregate of 71-20 over the last two meetings, and, at 6-1, Los Angeles are enjoying their equal second-best start to a season this century, behind the 7-0 run in 2018.

They are also looking to win each of their first four road games of a season for the fourth time since 2000, having also done this in 2001, 2017 and 2018.

Matthew Stafford has thrown for 2,172 yards this season, the most by any Rams player in the team's first seven games of the season since Kurt Warner threw for 2,445 yards in the first seven games of 2000.

Houston, meanwhile, have lost six straight, with each of the last two losses coming by over 25 points. The Texans have not lost three straight games by at least 25 points in franchise history – the only team to do so in a single season in the last 25 years were the Miami Dolphins in 2019.

Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) @ New York Jets (1-5)

The Bengals have won each of the last three meetings between these teams, matching their longest-ever win streak over the Jets (1973-81). Cincinnati's 23-22 win in New York in 2016 snapped a nine-game losing streak when visiting the Jets.

Cincinnati only managed four wins in 2020, but they surpassed that figure with a brilliant 41-17 victory in Baltimore last week, with quarterback Burrow and wide receiver Chase turning in stellar performances.

Burrow passed for a career-high 416 yards and tied a previous career high with three touchdown passes. It was his seventh consecutive game with multiple TD passes, tying a franchise record set twice before by Carson Palmer (2004-05 and 2010).

Chase, meanwhile, had 201 receiving yards, the most all-time by a Bengals rookie and the most by any rookie since Mike Evans had 209 in 2014. Chase's 754 receiving yards in 2021 ranks are the most by any player through seven career games in NFL history.

The Jets' 54-13 loss to the Patriots last week was their largest defeat since a 45-3 loss in Week 13 of the 2010 season, which also happened in New England. The 54 points are the fourth-most that New York have allowed in a single game and the most since 1980.

Elsewhere...

The Detroit Lions are still winless, going 0-7 so far, but could snap the losing streak against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Lions have won three straight against Philadelphia, with each of the last two games being decided by three points or fewer. 

Strugglers the Miami Dolphins travel to Buffalo. With two receiving yards on Sunday, Stefon Diggs will reach 2,000 as a Bill in just his 23rd game with the team. That would be tied for the second fewest games needed by any player with any single team in the Super Bowl era (Odell Beckham Jr. – 21 with the Giants, Vincent Jackson – 23 with Tampa Bay, Brandon Marshall – 23 with Chicago).

Fresh from their win over the Jets, the Patriots will aim to maintain the momentum against the Los Angeles Chargers, against whom they have five straight wins and are 16-3 in the last 19 meetings.

An AFC North clash sees the Browns (4-3) host the 3-3 Steelers. Pittsburgh have not won in Cleveland since 2017, as the teams tied in 2018 before the Browns won in 2019 and 2020.

Every few years, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin's name surfaces in media reports as a potential candidate for a high-profile college football vacancy. 

It has happened again in recent weeks with traditional powerhouses the University of Southern California and Louisiana State University making mid-season coaching moves. 

Asked at a Tuesday news conference about speculation that he might end up in one of those jobs, Tomlin scoffed at the notion he would leave one of the NFL's most storied franchises to coach in the collegiate ranks. 

"I mean, that's a joke to me," Tomlin said. "I got one of the best jobs in all of professional sport. Why would I have any interest in coaching college football?

"That will be the last time I address it. Not only today but moving forward. Never say never, but never. OK? Anybody else got any questions about any college jobs? There's not a booster with a big enough blank check."

Tomlin, 49, spent a few years as a college assistant before being hired as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive backs coach in 2001.

He has been in the NFL ever since and has led the Steelers since 2007, winning the Super Bowl the following year. 

Tomlin has never had a losing season in Pittsburgh and led the team to the playoffs nine times in 14 seasons entering 2021. 

The Steelers are 3-3 this season, giving Tomlin a 148-81-1 regular-season record. He is 8-8 in playoff games. 

Tomlin is under contract with Pittsburgh through 2024. 

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."

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. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running Back: Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins @ Jacksonville Jaguars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defense: Dallas Cowboys @ New England Patriots

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

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

Ben Roethlisberger said "I need to be better" as the embattled Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback accepted blame for the team's forgettable start to the NFL season.

Roethlisberger has been criticised and his future questioned amid Pittsburgh's 1-3 start to the 2021 campaign following three consecutive defeats.

The 39-year-old two-time Super Bowl champion was just 26-of-40 passing for 232 yards, a touchdown, interception and two sacks with a 78.3 quarterback rating in last week's 27-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

As Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin continues to field questions on Roethlisberger, the player himself took responsibility for the situation on Wednesday.

"I need to be better," Roethlisberger told reporters ahead of Sunday's clash with the Denver Broncos.

"I need to fight through and figure out how to make better decisions, how to make better throws, how to be a better football player. That's why I just said I'm not going to quit. I'm going to keep doing that.

"I'm not giving up on this season. No one in this building is. It's still early, and there's still a lot of fight left in us."

Roethlisberger's 78.9 passer rating is fifth-worst this season among qualifying quarterbacks, only ahead of Miami Dolphins backup Jacoby Brissett (77.8), Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Trevor Lawrence (66.4), first-year New York Jets QB Zach Wilson (62.8) and Davis Mills (50.4) of the Houston Texans.

His passer rating has decreased from 94.1 in 2020 – the third-largest drop (-15.2) behind Packers star Aaron Rodgers (-20.7) and Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill (-19.6).

Through four games, seven-time Pro Bowler Roethlisberger has 109 completions, 1,033 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions with 10 sacks.

Roethlisberger's completion percentage (64.1) is tied for 21st in the league, while his touchdown percentage (2.4) is the third-worst in the NFL.

"I know that I can play better football," Roethlisberger said. "I believe in myself. I know that no matter what's going on, I'm going to fight my butt off to get a win, and if that's the way I need to lead right now, by showing these guys that I'm going to do everything I can to win a football game, I'll keep doing that."

On Tuesday, Tomlin said Roethlisberger is dealing with a hip issue, and the latter added: "It's pretty sore. If I showed you the picture, you might not be too well to your stomach. It's a little black and blue.

"As a quarterback, there's so much involved in your lower body. People probably think as a quarterback or as a thrower, it's 'how's your arm doing?' Your arm is honestly a small part compared to the whole package. It's your core. It's your lower body.

"I've got to find ways to be better with my lower body. Going back and watching the game, a few times, a lot of throws I missed were missed because my lower body wasn't in sync."

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

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

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

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

 

Quarterback: Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens vs. Indianapolis Colts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defense: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos

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

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

Long story short, start the Steelers' defense.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said under-fire quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is "absolutely" the best option to lead the team's struggling offense.

Roethlisberger struggled again in Week 4 of the NFL season as the Steelers (1-3) suffered a third consecutive defeat, a 27-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

The 39-year-old two-time Super Bowl champion was just 26-of-40 passing for 232 yards a touchdown, interception and two sacks with a 78.3 quarterback rating.

Roethlisberger's 78.9 passer rating is fifth-worst this season, only ahead of Miami Dolphins QB Jacoby Brissett (77.8), Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Trevor Lawrence (66.4), first-year New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (62.8) and Davis Mills (50.4) of the Houston Texans.

"Absolutely," Tomlin told reporters on Tuesday when asked whether Roethlisberger remains the right quarterback for the offense.

"What he does and what he's done makes me really comfortable in saying that."

Tomlin added: "It's him some, it's us collectively some. We've just got to keep working. Sometimes it can be attributed to the altering of plans late in the week because of player availability or guys not being available. ...

"We've had some big-play opportunities, we [haven't] cashed in on them. We need to cash in on them.

"They're a big component of moving the ball and scoring, particularly when you're not working as efficiently as you like on possession downs, which we aren't. ... We're also going to work to connect on a higher percentages of these chunk opportunities because that aids us in terms of ringing up the scoreboard, as well."

Through four games, seven-time Pro Bowler Roethlisberger has 109 completions 1,033 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions with 10 sacks.

Roethlisberger's completion percentage (64.1) is tied for 21st in the league, while his touchdown percentage (2.4) is the third worst in the NFL.

Asked if he was concerned about the level of Roethlisberger's safety behind the line, Tomlin said: "Not out of the ordinary. I'm sure if you reviewed the tape and looked at these visits [news conferences] from the first 11 weeks of last year and probably said similar things. He was upright and we were undefeated.

"There's probably a component of just being in your late 30s and playing this game and playing that position and particularly when you're not playing winning football and you get somewhat one dimensional, there's collateral damage that gets associated with that for him and for us."

"Ben used to be able to run really good when he was young," Tomlin said of this week's clash with the Denver Broncos. "Those days are behind him.

"Other than that, I don't see much that's not a discussion in terms of technical alterations or quality of play that can be improved."

Russell Wilson produced a vintage performance to lead the Seattle Seahawks past the San Francisco 49ers 28-21.

Wilson celebrated his 100th NFL victory as the Seahawks (2-2) rallied past the 49ers (2-2) in San Francisco on Sunday.

The Super Bowl champion finished 16-of-23 passing for two touchdowns, while he rushed for another TD on four carries.

Wilson joined Hall of Famer Peyton Manning as the second quarterback in NFL history to win 100 games in their first 10 seasons.

The 49ers – with Jimmy Garoppolo starting under center – took an early 7-0 lead but that was as good as it got for San Francisco on home soil.

Wilson's 12-yard pass to DK Metcalf ensured the scores were tied at half-time before the former dominated in the third period – the eight-time Pro Bowler's 16-yard run putting the Seahawks 14-7 ahead and Freddie Swain then caught a throw to stretch the lead to 14 points.

Trey Lance – who completed nine of his 18 passes for 157 yards and two TDs – replaced Garoppolo (calf) in the second half and the rookie QB kept the 49ers in the contest with a monster 76-yard TD pass to Deebo Samuel during the closing stages of the third quarter.

After an Alex Collins touchdown gave the Seahawks a 28-13 lead early in the final period, Lance combined with Samuel again at the death, but it was too little, too late.

 

Cardinals stay unbeaten behind Murray

Kyler Murray inspired the high-flying Arizona Cardinals to a 37-20 win at the previously undefeated Los Angeles Rams.

Murray passed for 268 yards and two touchdowns, while running for 39 more yards as the red-hot Cardinals improved to 4-0 this season.

Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb guided the Green Bay Packers to a third consecutive win – a 27-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rodgers and Cobb connected for two touchdowns and ran for another score at home to the Steelers.

Packers superstar Rodgers threw his 420th career TD pass – tying Dan Marino for sixth all-time.

Under-fire Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger threw his 400th career touchdown pass – the eighth player to do so.

Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers are refusing to panic amid their slow start to the NFL season and Ben Roethlisberger's offensive woes.

The Steelers are 1-2 to open the 2021 campaign following last week's surprise 24-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Doubts over two-time Super Bowl champion Roethlisberger have emerged after the 39-year-old quarterback threw two interceptions, finishing 38-of-58 passing for 318 yards and a touchdown.

Through three games, Roethlisberger – a seven-time Pro Bowler – has completed 83 of 130 attempts for three TDs, three interceptions and eight sacks.

Despite the poor start, Steelers head coach Tomlin is refusing to panic heading into Week 4 against the Green Bay Packers (2-1).

"We're not going to push the panic button," Tomlin said during Tuesday's news conference. "What do I mean by the panic button? We're not going to dramatically change who and what we are at this juncture.

"We're not resistant to change for the purposes of getting better, but we're not going to be so unsteady that we move away from our compass, our identity that we've worked hard to develop.

"We will continue to work hard to develop and the emphasis on the style of play, whatever that may be in all three phases."

Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a franchise-best 11-0 start to the season in 2020 and an AFC North crown before losing to the Cleveland Browns in the Wild Card round.

This season, only Miami Dolphins signal-caller Jacoby Brissett (67.8), Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Trevor Lawrence (60.3) and first-year New York Jets QB Zach Wilson (51.6) have a worse passer rating than Roethlisberger (79.0).

Roethlisberger's completion percentage (63.8) is only good enough for 25th, well adrift of Dallas Cowboys star and NFL leader Dak Prescott (77.5).

"This guy has a body of work over the course of not only what we've done in preparation this season, but over the course of 18 years that has us taking that approach," Tomlin said of Roethlisberger and his ongoing rest days on Wednesday.

"That is a global approach. It rests him and rightfully so. He's an older guy, and the wear and tear of plays affects him differently than younger guys. But also, he's an older guy and he has a volume of plays that most guys can't pull from that probably requires more physical work in an effort to be ready to play.

"Also, you've got to look at the totality of the journey. We're going into Game 4. We've got many games that lay ahead, and I don't want to be fielding questions late in the year about the quality of his throwing arm, for example."

The Kansas City Chiefs have a losing record for the first time in over five years, suffering a second successive defeat as they were stunned 30-24 by AFC West rivals the Los Angeles Chargers.

Kansas City trailed 14-0 in the second quarter at Arrowhead Stadium and were behind 14-3 at half-time, however, a lead is rarely safe against the Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes and, when they went 17-14 ahead with fewer than four minutes left in the third quarter, the outcome seemed inevitable.

But reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert continues to polish his increasingly impressive resume and he outdueled Mahomes in a bewitching fourth quarter that could prove pivotal in their division and the AFC playoff race.

Herbert connected on the first of two touchdown passes to Mike Williams and, after Mecole Hardman found the endzone for the Chiefs, led a field goal drive to tie the game at 24-24.

Mahomes still had over two minutes to work with to potentially win it for Kansas City but threw a critical interception and the Chargers' gamble to eschew a game-winning field goal paid off as Herbert hit Williams for another touchdown and, despite a missed extra point, Los Angeles held on as a late Hail Mary from the Chiefs came up short.

That missed extra point was the second of the day for the Chargers, the first coming after Keenan Allen caught a four-yard pass from Herbert, who then found Austin Ekeler for a 16-yard score.

Harrison Butker's 34-yard field goal was all the Chiefs could muster in the first half but Jody Fortson caught a high two-yard pass from Mahomes to narrow the gap and Clyde-Edwards Helaire scampered into the endzone to give Kansas City the lead on a 10-yard reception.

Herbert and Williams responded quickly but the Chiefs were in front again after Hardman scooted in on a six-yard pop pass. Tristan Vizciano's field goal levelled matters and, after Mahomes was picked off for the second time – Alohi Gilman snatching an ill-advised throw –  the Chargers were rewarded for their aggressive approach.

A fourth down was converted via a pass interference penalty and Herbert then hit Williams on a four-yard back-shoulder throw. Vizciano's errant extra point gave Kansas City a chance but 32 seconds and a timeout was not enough for Mahomes as the Chiefs dropped to 1-2, their first losing record since Week 11 of the 2015 season.

Tucker's record kick gives Ravens remarkable win

The Baltimore Ravens, winners over the Chiefs last week, avoided a stunning loss in the most improbable fashion thanks to the leg of Justin Tucker.

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

However, Lamar Jackson hit Sammy Watkins for 36 yards to keep their hopes alive and Justin Tucker's 66-yard field goal bounced off the top of the crossbar and over, his kick from an NFL-record distance sparing the Ravens in an incredible finish.

Bills roll, Steelers slump

There was no such drama in Buffalo, where the Bills routed the Washington Football Team 43-21 behind quarterback Josh Allen's 358-yard, five-touchdown performance.

The team the Bills lost to in Week 1, the Pittsburgh Steelers, suffered a second straight defeat as they were beaten 24-10 by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Justin Fields was sacked nine times in his Chicago Bears debut, which saw them lose 26-6 to the Cleveland Browns, while Jamal Agnew tied the record for the NFL's longest play with a 109-yard return of Matt Prater's missed field goal but the Jacksonville Jaguars still lost 31-19 to the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals.

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt said the door is open for him to face the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3 of the NFL season.

Watt is listed as questionable for Sunday's clash after injuring his groin in last week's 26-17 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

But the three-time Pro Bowler is hopeful of suiting up at home to the Bengals at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

"Doesn't matter how many reps I get throughout the week," Steelers star Watt said on Friday. "I was able to still run around here and do a lot of things that I need to do to keep the door open for Sunday.

"I'm excited to get the rest of today and tomorrow to continue to improve my body and see where I'm at on Sunday.

"... This isn't going around and playing Pee Wee football. This is playing against guys doing this for a living, so trying to be smart.

"At the same time, knowing your body more than anything. I felt like I did a good amount this week to leave the door open for Sunday."

Cincinnati ended a 10-game losing streak to Pittsburgh when the Bengals (1-1) beat the Steelers (1-1) 27-17 in Week 15 of last season.

In the all-time series, the Steelers have 65 wins in their 101 games against the Bengals, which is the most wins by any team against Cincinnati.

The Steelers, meanwhile, were held to 39 yards rushing in their loss to the Raiders, bringing the team's season rushing total to a league-worst 114 rushing yards.

Since Mike Tomlin became head coach in 2007, Pittsburgh have been held to under 40 yards rushing in 20 different games with only the Arizona Cardinals having more such games in that span (22).

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