NFL: Chargers after another road win at Chiefs in big AFC West clash
A box-office game in the AFC West tops the bill in Week 3 of the NFL season, although there'll be plenty of talent on show in two big-name NFC clashes.
The only two undefeated teams left in the AFC are tied in the AFC West, but neither will be involved when division favourites the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers face off at Arrowhead on Sunday.
While the Las Vegas Raiders and the Denver Broncos have made strong starts to move to 2-0 in 2021, the Chiefs and the Chargers were each beaten in Week 2.
Those results ramp up the pressure heading into Week 3 when leading young quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert meet.
Mahomes sat out last year's Week 17 game, which the Chargers won on the road, but he will be involved this time and hoping to bounce back.
This is one of a number of intriguing matchups to look forward to this Sunday, as explored by Stats Perform.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs
That late-season win for the Chargers last year moved them to 2-1 at the Chiefs since the start of 2018. Kansas City are 18-4 at home to every other team in that time.
The Chiefs are a little vulnerable right now, too, having allowed a league-high 938 total net yards so far this season – music to Herbert's ears – and last week lost to the Baltimore Ravens despite leading by 11 points entering the fourth quarter. It was their first defeat with Mahomes under center when leading by double digits through three quarters, having previously gone 29-0 in such scenarios.
But the Chargers have an awful knack of coming up just short. Their 20-17 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys last time out was a league-high 16th loss by seven points or fewer since 2019.
Herbert does not know when he is beaten, though. He leads all QBs in completions (19), passing yards (271) and first-down conversions (16) on third down this season, while he is a stunning five-for-six for 112 yards and four first downs on third-and-11 or more.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Los Angeles Rams
There are also two games this week that could easily be early rehearsals for the NFC Championship Game, starting with Tom Brady versus the Rams defense.
Brady threw for five touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons last week and became the fifth player – including a former Buc in Ryan Fitzpatrick (2018) – ever to toss four or more scores in each of the first two games of a season.
However, the Rams, who gave up a league-low 281.9 yards per game in 2020, recorded three sacks and two interceptions against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 2.
They pose a threat on offense, too, with Cooper Kupp's 271 receiving yards the third-most by a Ram through the team's first two games of a season in the past 60 yards. Reaching new heights alongside Matthew Stafford, Kupp had just 252 receiving yards over his final five games of 2020.
Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers
The Packers and the 49ers will consider themselves worthy challengers to the Bucs and the Rams, with Green Bay hoping they are now back on track after a dismal Week 1.
They restricted Kyle Shanahan's run game to 55 rushing yards in last year's matchup, with the Niners having averaged 176.8 yards on the ground across their previous eight meetings, going 6-2.
On offense, the Packers have obvious threats in the form of Aaron Jones and Aaron Rodgers.
Jones had four total TDs against the Detroit Lions, becoming the fifth running back in the past 25 yards to record three or more receiving scores in a game, while Rodgers has thrown 18 TDs to two interceptions in eight regular-season games against the Niners, with his 106.9 passer rating the highest versus San Francisco in the Super Bowl era (minimum 100 attempts).
The Seattle Seahawks are coming off their first loss under Pete Carroll when leading by 10 at halftime (now 31-1) but face favourable opponents in the Minnesota Vikings, who have lost the teams' past seven meetings – a joint-record including playoffs in the Vikings' history.
The Miami Dolphins also suffered a painful defeat last week and are unlikely to find any comfort in Jacoby Brissett's promotion in Tua Tagovailoa's absence at the Las Vegas Raiders. The backup QB has lost five of his past six games as a starter, while his streak of 146 consecutive passes without a touchdown in the NFL is the longest ongoing run.
Jameis Winston's regression for the New Orleans Saints in Week 2 came at a bad time, with the New England Patriots next up. The Pats have had four or more interceptions in a league-high 16 different games in the Bill Belichick era, including against the New York Jets last time out.
Beaten by both the 49ers and the Packers, the Lions' next test is against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. Jackson has rushed for 80 yards in four consecutive regular-season games, the most by any QB in the Super Bowl era.
Those numbers pale a little next to running back Derrick Henry's 182 yards and three rushing TDs in Seattle. Only Jim Brown (five) has had more 175-yard, three-score rushing games than the Tennessee Titan's four – tied with LaDainian Tomlinson. He plays the Indianapolis Colts next.