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Monday, September 24, 2018

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15 biggest disappointments of NFL Week 3

Bill Belichick

Week 3 of the NFL was not kind to some favorites, as the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars headlined the list of surprising losers on Sunday. They were hardly the only surprises of the week, however, as there were certainly some surprising moments all throughout the league, from underperforming stars to ongoing troublesome trends to, yes, roughing the passer calls.

Here are 15 big disappointments from Week 3 of the NFL season.

New England Patriots

Woof. The Patriots are looking worse and worse by the week. Many chalked up their loss to the Jags in Week 2 to a lack of motivation and figured they’d come out angry in Week 3. That didn’t happen. The Pats looked totally uninspired against Detroit, opening the game with three straight three-and-outs. They only had three points as of halftime, but looked like they would turn things around in the second half after an interception followed by a touchdown drive to open the third. Then Detroit continued to put up points on them, while the Pats failed to answer. The Patriots were missing a number of defensive starters due to injuries, and it showed. Meanwhile, their former defensive coordinator coached like he knew exactly how to stop his former team. The Lions put the clamps on Gronk in coverage by doubling him often, daring someone else to beat them. The Patriots had nobody else who could. They desperately need Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman in action to provide an offensive boost.

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Look: Tiger Woods was followed by enormous crowd at Tour Championship

Tiger Woods fans

Tiger Woods on Sunday won the Tour Championship to capture his first PGA Tour win since 2013. To say fans in Atlanta were excited to witness his title would be an understatement.

The crowd that followed Woods at East Lake Golf Course was truly remarkable. Take a look:

“I just can’t believe I pulled this off after what the season’s gone through,” Woods said after his win.

Woods has long captivated fans due to his dominance in the sport and subsequent drama that led to his fall. He’s dealt with a back injury and had complications related to substances used for pain management. But now he finally appears to be regaining his top form.

America loves a good comeback story, and right now that’s what Tiger is giving them — a great comeback story.

Clay Matthews gets another roughing the passer penalty for seemingly clean hit

The NFL has new rules in place this season for what constitutes roughing the passer, and no one is having more trouble following them than Clay Matthews.

For the third week in a row, Matthews was flagged for unnecessary roughness for a hit on an opposing quarterback. Just like the play last weekend where he hit Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, Matthews did not make helmet-to-helmet contact with Alex Smith or appear to do anything malicious. However, he did land on Smith with his body weight, which is now considered roughing the passer.

Matthews immediately threw his arms out as if he knew a flag might be thrown, and he was understandably furious to see the laundry come out. No one was more angry than Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who was shown going ballistic on an official near the sideline.

Matthews’ hit on Cousins last week negated an interception that likely would have sealed a win for Green Bay, and many felt it was a perfectly clean football hit. The controversy was one of the biggest of the weekend, and the NFL will once again be facing questions after Matthews was flagged for his hit on Smith.

Steelers reportedly listening to trade offers for Le’Veon Bell

Le’Veon Bell has given no indication that he plans to report to the Pittsburgh Steelers before Week 10, so it should come as little surprise that the team is entertaining the idea of trading the star running back.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Steelers have begun listening to trade offers for Bell.

Bell is forfeiting nearly $1 million per week in salary by not showing up for work, and he seems committed to limiting his injury exposure with free agency looming. If the Steelers can find a team that is willing to trade for Bell and commit to signing him to a long-term extension, a deal might make sense for both sides.

In addition to having a bad relationship with Pittsburgh’s front office, Bell has also fallen out of the good graces of some of his teammates. He sent a cryptic tweet early Sunday morning that may have been related to his ongoing holdout.

The deadline to make trades in the NFL is Oct. 30. Bell will have to sign his franchise tender in order to play this season, meaning he cannot technically sign a long-term extension with any team until after the season. However, there could be a scenario where the Steelers find a trade partner that can work out a handshake agreement with Bell.

Report: Rob Gronkowski threatened to retire after nearly being traded to Lions

Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski has spent the past week preparing to face the Detroit Lions on Sunday night, and there was apparently a point where he was close to catching passes from Matthew Stafford instead of Tom Brady.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on “Sunday NFL Countdown” that the New England Patriots were “deep into trade discussions” with the Lions surrounding Gronkowski at the time of the draft earlier this year, but Gronk took a hard stance against the deal. Sources told Schefter the All-Pro tight end threatened to retire when informed of the impending trade and would not return phone calls from Lions executives.

Gronkowski revealed immediately after the Super Bowl that he was contemplating retirement, so it’s unclear if that is what prompted the Patriots to shop him around. In any event, the 29-year-old agreed to a re-worked contract with the Patriots that allows him to make an additional $4.3 million in incentives.

The report about Gronk nearly being traded to the Lions meshes with what we heard before about him telling the Patriots he only wants to catch passes from Tom Brady and play for Bill Belichick. The latter part is particularly interesting given some of the rumblings we heard about the relationship between Gronkowski and Belichick during the offseason.

Report: Jon Gruden’s personnel decisions have caused ‘divide’ with Raiders

Jon Gruden

The Oakland Raiders are off to a rough start in Jon Gruden’s second stint with the team, and if you ask scouts within the organization they might tell you the issues started long before the season began.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported on Sunday that Gruden’s scouting system has led to a “disconnect” inside the Raiders’ building. Gruden brought his own scouting team with him to evaluate personnel when he was hired in Oakland, and scouts who signed on to work with general manager Reggie McKenzie before Gruden arrived are “frustrated that Gruden has his guys,” according to Rapoport.

Gruden and McKenzie have reportedly gotten along well, but there has been some tension over the moves Gruden has made, most notably the decision to trade former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears.

“The factions do come together for meetings and everyone is eventually heard,” Rapoport wrote. “But several people say they are frustrated at not being listened to, adding that they’ve never seen a divided setup quite like this one.”

Gruden is an offensive-minded coach, but any struggles Oakland has on defense this year are going to be magnified because of the Mack trade. It makes sense that he didn’t want to commit so much money to one position and wind up in salary cap jail, but Gruden has already said some things in the wake of the deal that probably weren’t wise. Any time a coach is so heavily invested in personnel decisions, there is bound to be some tension.

Report: Ohio State talking with Ryan Day about coach-in-waiting agreement

Ohio State logo

Ohio State liked what Ryan Day did during Urban Meyer’s suspension so much that they are considering making him their head coach-in-waiting, according to a report.

The Athletic’s Ari Wasserman reported on Saturday that Ohio State has had talks with Day about making him the head coach-in-waiting. Such an arrangement would make Day the successor to Meyer.

The Buckeyes made efforts over the last year to retain Day. They signed him to a three-year deal worth over $1 million per season in order to keep him from heading elsewhere.

Day, 39, joined Ohio State last year as the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He became the acting head coach this year after Meyer was suspended over his handling of the Zach Smith situation.

Wasserman reports that Ohio State named Day the acting head coach during Meyer’s suspension intentionally to give him his first head coaching experience. They wanted to see how the young coach would handle the test after spending much of his coaching career as an offensive position coach.

Ohio State went 3-0 and looked great on the field, which seemingly made the administration feel good about his abilities.

Though these talks may be ongoing, Wasserman cautioned that they are not an indication of an imminent departure from the program by Meyer. However, at least one prominent college football figure has predicted this will be Meyer’s last at Ohio State.

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