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OBJ still not practicing for Browns, ‘doing better’

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BEREA, Ohio — After testing negative for COVID-19 a day earlier, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with an unknown illness.

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski, however, said Friday that Beckham is “doing better” after being sent home Thursday and was optimistic that OBJ will be able to play.

“He got some good work Wednesday, [and] he’s been in meetings virtually,” Stefanski said of Beckham, who missed practices Thursday and Friday. “I think there’s enough time to catch him up, barring his health.”

Stefanski said Beckham would be able to return to the practice facility Saturday with another negative COVID-19 test result. From there, the team would consider travel options for Beckham, including driving him there in a vehicle separate from the rest of the team.

Baker Mayfield was also listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with a chest injury that he suffered last weekend against Indianapolis. But after being limited earlier this week, Mayfield was throwing in Friday’s practice and Stefanski said his quarterback was “trending in the right direction.”

“He’s improving every day,” Stefanski said. “We want to make sure we’re safe as this goes. Use all these hours for treatment and see how he responds.”

Wide receiver Jarvis Landry also was listed as questionable with a hip and rib injury that had kept him from practicing until Friday.

“He’s also progressing. He’s a very, very tough dude,” Stefanski said of Landry, who hasn’t missed a game in his seven-year NFL career. “Spent a lot of time in the training room getting his body right, making a push for Sunday like he always does.”

The Browns (4-1) are off to their best start since 1994 and on Sunday will be aiming to defeat the Steelers in Pittsburgh for the first time in 17 years.

Cleveland will be without starting right guard Wyatt Teller (calf) and safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. (concussion), who had a pick-six against the Colts. Both players were injured against Indianapolis.

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What Full Democratic Control Of The White House And Congress Would Look Like

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In this episode of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew compares Joe Biden’s lead now with Hillary Clinton’s in 2016 and considers the agenda Democrats might pursue if they win the presidency, House and Senate in November.

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Struggles by Bills, Allen against AFC elite a cause for concern

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Through the first four weeks of the NFL season, the Buffalo Bills looked like the league’s next-great offense. Powered by a potential MVP candidate in QB Josh Allen with a palpable connection between him and wide receiver Stefon Diggs, the Bills boasted the NFL’s fourth-best offense in terms of yards per game and fifth-best in terms of points scored.

Buffalo’s offensive success masked any concerns about its defense’s slow drift into a liability; or distracted from it, at least. But if the past two weeks are any indication, there is room for concern on both sides of the ball.

The Bills surrendered more rushing yards (245) than passing yards (221) in a 26-17 loss Monday to the Kansas City Chiefs. Meanwhile, Buffalo’s offense never got into a rhythm as Allen looked more like his rookie self than the NFL’s eighth-leading passer entering Week 6. He missed throws throughout the night and outside of an impressive touchdown throw to Diggs (whose catch was arguably more impressive than the throw), it was an utterly forgettable night for the Bills’ quarterback.

Especially after a humbling loss to the unbeaten Titans in Week 5, Buffalo needed a bounce-back game against another quality opponent to prove its blowout defeat was more of an anomaly than a regression to the mean. But Monday’s showing added more credibility to the argument that the Bills were fool’s gold to start the season.

Is that the truth? Reality might not be so dramatic. Buffalo has a get-right game against the winless New York Jets in Week 8 before hosting the Patriots in a critical AFC East matchup in Week 9. The season’s not over and the Bills’ outspoken goal of winning their division is still very much intact. But the talk of them as Super Bowl contenders appears presumptuous until proven otherwise.

Describe the game in two words: No energy. The Bills routinely credit the support they get from their fans for the team’s success, and the rest of the world might have underestimated just how serious they were. Monday night marked the second straight home game in which Buffalo played with a visible lack of energy and with no end in sight for New York state’s ban on fan attendance, this is an issue the Bills need to get over.

Promising/troubling trend: The Bills hadn’t allowed a ton of rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks entering Week 6 — just 84 yards, total, ranking 19th-most in the NFL. However, the yards they had given up were a back-breaking 6 yards per attempt to opposing quarterbacks, which was fourth-highest in the league. That trend continued against Patrick Mahomes, who ran for 38 yards on 8 attempts, including a 9-yard scramble to convert a 3rd-and-7 on the Chiefs’ game-sealing possession late in the fourth quarter.

Biggest hole in gameplan: It’s reasonable to think the Bills picked their poison when developing their plan for Monday night, opting to sell out to limit the Chiefs’ passing game and sacrifice yards on the ground. But there’s a difference between sacrificing yards on the ground and opening the floodgates, and the Bills flirted with the latter for the majority of the game. Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for 161 yards on 26 carries as Buffalo allowed more than 200 rushing yards for just the sixth time under Sean McDermott. To their credit, the Bills clamped down on the run late in the game — but ultimately, it was too late to change the outcome.

Pivotal play: A momentum-swinging, three-play span put the game on ice late in the fourth quarter. After pulling within one score, the Bills seemingly forced and recovered a fumble on the third play of the Chiefs’ ensuing drive. However, Edwards-Helaire’s knee was ruled down and Kansas City kept the ball. Two plays later, on third-and-12, Mahomes completed a 37-yard pass to Bryce Pringle to put the Chiefs in field goal range. The drive ended in a game-sealing field goal but was nearly a game-changing defensive possession for Buffalo.

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In rarity, Chiefs turn to ground game in victory

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To get the Kansas City Chiefs back in the win column after their first defeat in 11 months, coach Andy Reid turned his playbook upside down in Monday night’s game against the Buffalo Bills.

For only the second time in Patrick Mahomes’ 37 career starts, the Chiefs ran the ball more than they passed it. They were rewarded for the change with a 26-17 victory.

The Chiefs rushed for 245 yards on Monday, their most since 2012. Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire led the way with 161 yards.

Kansas City also had 46 rushes, the most attempts by any Reid-coached team, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. (Reid coached the Philadelphia Eagles for 14 seasons before becoming the Chiefs’ coach in 2013.)

Mahomes was still efficient, going 21-of-26 with two first-half touchdown passes to Travis Kelce. But Mahomes threw for only 225 yards on a rainy night in Buffalo.

But days after signing veteran back Le’Veon Bell to provide an offensive spark, the running game was the star even without Bell. He can’t join the Chiefs until later this week because of COVID-19 testing protocols.

The Chiefs played most of the game without two starting offensive linemen. Guard Kelechi Osemele tore tendon in each of his knees in last week’s game while tackle Mitchell Schwartz left the game for good in the first half with a back injury.

The Chiefs led for a significant portion of last week’s game against the Raiders but Mahomes still dropped back 46 times with 43 passes and three sacks. Chiefs running backs had just 11 carries with 10 going to Edwards-Helaire.

The loss to the Raiders broke the Chiefs’ 13-game winning streak, including the playoffs and Super Bowl LIV last season.

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