Five under the microscope in NFL Week 4

Players to watch in Week 4 in the NFL:

Patrick Mahomes

Mahomes is on a pace to throw more than 65 touchdown passes this year after setting a record with 13 in his first three games,. Obviously, he’s not going to throw 65. But when is he going to cool off or have an off game? He plays his first division game Monday night in Denver. The Denver defense gets a crack at slowing him down.

Khalil Mack and Mitch Trubisky

Mack has helped turn the Bears defense into one of the best in the league and enabled Trubisky to get credit for a 3-0 start. But Trubisky has been overshadowed by Patrick Mahomes. And he keeps getting reminded the Bears traded up to get him and passed on Mahomes. Will he play better against Tampa Bay, or will the defense continue to carry the team?

Clay Matthews

Mathews has been a focal point of the controversy over the roughing-the-passer penalties because he’s been called for one each week, even though his hits have seemed to be textbook to anyone not employed in the NFL officiating department. This week he gets a shot at Buffalo rookie Josh Allen, and it will be no surprise if he sacks him. But will he be penalized again?

Baker Mayfield

The first pick in the draft had a storybook night against the New York Jets last Thursday night as he came off the bench and ended Cleveland’s string of 635 days without a victory. Now he goes to Oakland, and things will become more difficult. Sam Darnold struggled after having a big game in the opener for the Jets. The spotlight will be on Mayfield when he makes his first start.

Blake Bortles

Bortles may be the most inconsistent quarterback in the league. He was mediocre in the opener against the New York Giants, but the defense helped carry the Jacksonville Jaguars to the victory. Then he was lights out against New England, only to stumble against the Tennessee Titans and put up just two field goals on the board. The Jaguars are heavily favored against the Jets, and Bortles is due for another good game. But the Jaguars never know which Bortles will show up.

Surprisingly early pivotal game for Patriots on Sunday

For years, the regular season has simply been a tuneup for the New England Patriots.

Since 2002, there was little question they were going to make the playoffs if Tom Brady was healthy, which they have done every year except 2008 when Brady was lost for the season in the opener.

The Patriots have dominated the AFC East, mainly because the other three teams haven’t had a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly and Dan Marino retired after the 1996 and 1999 seasons. The New York Jets haven’t had one since Joe Namath departed for the Los Angeles Rams in 1977.

In the last 15 years, the Patriots have made the playoffs 14 times and gone to the Super Bowl seven times, winning four and losing three.

But suddenly, the Patriots are poised to play their biggest regular-season game in years when they host Miami on Sunday.

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Looking back at NFL Week 3

Five quick takes on Week 3 in the NFL:

1. Time for the NFL to polish off its “Any Given Sunday“ line. The NFL loves to sell the idea that any team can win on any given Sunday, even though it tends to be divided into the haves and have-nots. But eight underdogs had their day last weekend. The Buffalo Bills, supposed the worst team in the league, stunned the Minnesota Vikings, 27-6, in the largest point-spread upset in 23 years. And the Jacksonville Jaguars defense allowed only three field goals but still lost to a Tennessee team that had Blaine Gabbert and an injured Marcus Mariota playing quarterback. And the New England Patriots lost by 10 points or more in successive weeks for only the third time in the Bill Belichick regime and the first time since 2002. And the Cleveland Browns won a game for the first time in 635 days, although it wasn’t an upset. Overall, six underdogs won and two others covered. It is the kind of week the NFL loves.

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Underachieving Texans’ myriad problems start with O’Brien

Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien got a pass last year when they lost their last six games of the year to finish 4-12 because the team was ravaged by injuries.

But with quarterback Deshaun Watson and defensive standouts J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus back, the Texans were expected to do big things this year.

Instead, they’re 0-2 after a 20-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans that veteran Houston football writer John McClain called one of the most embarrassing losses in Texans history. Their eight-game losing streak is the longest current one in the NFL.

That prompted speculation that O’Brien is on the hot seat and viewers peppered McClain with questions on his video stream if O’Brien was in danger of being fired.

He said there was zero chance of that happening and said if they beat the New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts in their next two games to get to 2-2, the firing chatter will stop.

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Fake waiting list just the latest Redskins debacle under the hapless Snyder

The Washington Redskins had a clever season-ticket selling scheme in recent years.

They would sell premium — or “Tailgate Club’’ — seats at premium prices, telling fans that those tickets enabled them to jump the team’s long season-ticket waiting list.

They conveniently ignored the fact there was no waiting list. It had evaporated.

As Deadspin pointed out last June, there hasn’t been a waiting list for years, much less the 200,000 names the Redskins claimed were on it.

The Redskins finally fessed up this year, admitting there is no longer a waiting list.

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