Steelers are winning, but Brown tantrum hints at trouble

The Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves with an interesting dilemma Sunday.

They are nine-point favorites over the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are the worst team in the league against the run and the best against the pass.

So it figures their game plan would feature Le’Veon Bell, who finally got into a groove last week against Baltimore when he ran 35 times for 144 yards and caught four passes for 42 yards.

But things are complicated because it is also the first game since Antonio Brown had a temper tantrum last week when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn’t throw to him when he felt he was wide open.

Brown flipped over a Gatorade bucket and angrily brushed off offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

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USC’s Darnold no longer looking like a sure NFL thing

Sam Darnold is making things difficult for NFL scouts.

The USC quarterback was supposed to be the consensus No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, but his shaky play at the start of this season has raised questions about just how good a prospect Darnold really is.

In USC’s 30-27 loss to Washington State Friday night, he completed only 15 of 29 passes for 164 yards with an interception and a fumble that ruined the Trojans last bid for a late victory.

Washington State had lost 15 in a row to ranked opponents.

So far this year, Darnold has nine touchdown passes and eight interceptions. Last year, he had 31 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.

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Taking a look back at the NFL’s Week 4

Five observations on the fourth weekend of the 2017 NFL season:

1. The 1972 Miami Dolphins can start putting the champagne on ice. With the season only four weeks old, Kansas City is the only unbeaten team in the wake of the Chiefs’ 29-20 victory over Washington and Atlanta’s 23-17 loss to Buffalo.

By contrast, there are four winless teams – the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Chargers.

The odds, though, are against the Chiefs going unbeaten. They barely escaped with the victory over Washington on a field goal with four seconds left. They added another touchdown, recovering a fumble on the last play when Washington tried the Stanford band lateral play.

That enabled the Chiefs to cover the spread and the over so a lot of money changed hands on that last play. But looking at Andy Reid’s playoff record – only one Super Bowl appearance and an overall 11-12 mark — it is too early to crown them as a favorite to make it.

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The Juice is loose again, unfortunately

There is a certain irony in the fact that O.J. Simpson was released from prison Saturday night at the same time the nation is engaged in a debate about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.

It’s a pretty good bet that if Simpson were playing today, he would not be taking a knee. He was never an activist.

He was at USC in 1968 when there was a threatened black boycott of the Olympics in Mexico City. The boycott never took place, although Tommie Smith and John Carlos each raised a fist while wearing a black glove on the medals stand to protest. Both were suspended by the U.S. Olympic Committee and returned home to death threats.

In a documentary on CBS Saturday night, a clip was aired in which Simpson was asked in 1968 about the proposed boycott.

“Right now I don’t want to be involved,’’ he said. “I’m not in track. I have no comment on the matter.’’

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Five things to watch: NFL Week 4

Five things I’ll be looking at in the fourth week of the 2017 NFL season:

1. Can Case Keenum keep it up?

Since Sam Bradford is still sidelined, the Detroit Lions should have an edge on the Minnesota Vikings in this division game in which both teams come in with a 2-1 records.

But Vikings backup quarterback Case Keenum was the surprise player of the week a week ago when he passed for 369 yards and three touchdowns to shred the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Now he gets the Lions, who were the victims of the 10-second runoff rule last week after the officials ruled that Golden Tate had scored the winning touchdown only to reverse the ruling on replay. The Lions have the better quarterback in Matthew Stafford, but the Vikings have the better cast around Keenum in what should be a close game.

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The Trump-loving rubes love his anti-NFL stance, but that’s about it

The Trump-NFL “debate” is a reflection of how polarized Americans have become in the Trump era.

If the early polling is any indication, a majority of Americans don’t agree with Donald Trump’s position that NFL players who kneel during the national anthem should be fired.

Yet his base loves it.

According to an Ipsos/Reuters poll, Americans disagree by 57 to 29 percent that the players should be fired for kneeling.

According to the Cato Institute poll, the number is 61 to 38.

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Brady is great, as usual, but can the Patriots survive their defense?

Much of the chatter about the New England Patriots in the offseason was whether Tom Brady would show any signs of slowing down at age 40.

As it turns out, Brady is as good as ever.

As the Patriots started out 2-1, he passed for 1,092 yards, the seventh-best figure for the first three games of any NFL season.

He’s already first (2011 with 1,327 yards) and fifth (2015 with 1,112 yards) in that category. And he led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter of their 36-33 victory over the Houston Texans last Sunday.

But what is surprising is that the Patriots’ defense has fallen off a cliff.

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