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Week Four Friday 10-pack

It’s Friday morning.  And since the news flow often slows down on Friday morning, we need to fill space.

So we fill space with 10 story lines emanating from the upcoming slate of games.

It’s harder with two or three storyline-worthy teams on a bye, but we eventually found a way to milk the cow this week.


1.  Jets could soon be soaring.

After a disappointing Monday night loss to break in their half of the
New Meadowlands Stadium (it’s sort of like Fred and Barney sharing a
swimming pool
), the Jets have won two in a row against their primary
division rivals.  And they’ve done it with cornerback Darrelle Revis and
linebacker Calvin Pace injured, and with receiver Santonio Holmes on
suspension.

So what happens when those guys come back?

The Vikings could find out on Monday, October 11, when Holmes definitely
be back — and when Revis and/or Pace could be dressed and playing, too.

Considering the level of play that the Jets have achieved without them,
the Jets could be poised to run away with the division.  Until then,
they won’t even have to switch to missiles to shoot down the Bills.

2.  Last chance for Mangini?

The Browns have been competitive in each of their first three games.  But they’ve lost each one.

After this weekend’s visit from the Bengals, the Browns play the Falcons, Steelers, and Saints.  Then comes the bye week.

As a result, a loss to Cincinnati on Sunday would make an 0-7 start
likely, and team president Mike Holmgren could decide to part ways with
coach Eric Mangini.  And so Sunday’s game could be Mangini’s last and
best chance to preserve his job beyond October 31.

If the Browns don’t win in Week Four, and in turn don’t pull off an
unlikely upset of the Falcons, Steelers, or Saints, there’s a chance
that, when the Jets come to Cleveland on November 14, coach Rex Ryan
could be looking across the sideline at his identical twin, Browns
defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

3.  Running back injuries confirm 18-game season concerns.

With Colts president Bill Polian sparking a belated debate regarding the
wisdom of an 18-game season, one of the primary concerns is (or at
least should be) the impact of two additional games on the short-term
and long-term health of the players.

Indeed, with seven running backs (Steven Jackson of the Rams, Pierre
Thomas of the Saints, Jahvid Best of the Lions, Ray Rice of the Ravens,
Cedric Benson of the Bengals, Fred Taylor of the Patriots, and Knowshon
Moreno of the Broncos) already dinged up after only three games and
Reggie Bush of the Saints out with a broken leg, the league and
the union need to be very concerned about the potential consequences of
additional games on the players who take the brunt of the punishment in
the 16 games that already are played.

Though the move from 14 to 16 games in the ’70s occurred without much public discussion or debate, the three-channels television universe and the absence of talk radio and the Internet fueled that outcome.  Besides, players continue to get bigger, faster, and stronger.  When they hit each other, the bones and ligaments we all possess are at more risk than ever before.

4.  Team of destiny wanted.

Last year, it was obvious after three weeks that the Saints and Colts
were headed for big things.  New Orleans hung 45 on the Lions, winning
by 18, and 48 on the Eagles, winning by 26.  Held under 30 by the Bills,
the Saints still won by 20.

The Colts started more slowly, beating the Jags by two and the Dolphins
by four.  By Week Three, however, the Colts had taken down the defending
NFC champions (the Cardinals) by 21.

This year, none of the three remaining undefeated teams have rolled over
their opponents consistently.  The Steelers and the Chiefs won close
games in Week One and Week Two before notching 20-plus point victories in
Week Three.  The Bears have won by five points, seven points, and three
points.

The absence of a team that clearly and definitively is taking care of
its business has reinforced the sense of parity that could be laying the
foundation for a playoff run with plenty of teams still alive, and a
postseason in which anything can happen.

For now, the Steelers are the team most likely to emerge as the team to
beat, but first they have to beat the Ravens on Sunday.  If the Steelers
can’t — and if the Bears lose on the road against the Giants — the
off-this-Sunday Chiefs could be the only undefeated team left after four
weeks of action.

Somewhere, Pete Rozelle will be smiling broadly.

5.  Time for Texans to prove themselves.

When the Texans toppled the Colts to open the season, the team that has
played eight years without a playoff berth seemed to be destined to
finally bust through to the postseason.  But then the Texans struggled
to beat a Redskins team that suddenly has inherited the stink of the
Rams, and the Texans lost fairly convincingly to in-state rivals who
were on the ropes, in danger of being punched through.

So are the Texans a contender, or did they merely give the first game of the season the Daytona 500 treatment?

Beating the Raiders won’t mean conclusively that the Texans are legit,
but losing will mean that Houston isn’t ready to hang with the likes of
the Colts and the Titans in arguably the best division in the
conference, if not the league.

6.  Desperation shifts from Dallas to New York.

Last week, a strong sense of desperation emerged in Dallas, where the
Cowboys had lost their first two games — and faced falling to 0-3 at
the hands of an upstart team from Houston that had started the year 2-0.

The Cowboys found a way to push the dark cloud away last week, and it
now has settled in New York, over the Rubble half of the Fred-and-Barney
pool.  (That’s the third Flintstones reference of the day.  And it’s not even 1966.)

The Giants, after beating the Panthers (who have turned out to be
toothless, de-clawed, malnourished house cats), have been spanked by the Colts and
Titans in successive weeks.  Only 14 days after losing decisively in
Indy, the Giants cannot afford to be embarrassed again before a national
audience.  (On NBC.)

With their backs firmly pressed against the wall and the Bears
overachieving their way through two of their three wins, look for the
Giants to get their act together, if only for a night.

And who knows?  Three years ago, the Giants lost their first two games
and gave up 80 points in the process.  More than four months later, they
only won the Super Bowl.

7.  Fins, Pats face “must” wins.

Yeah, it’s only Week Four.  But with the Jets, Dolphins, and Patriots
getting an early start on their round-robin routine, neither the
Patriots nor the Dolphins can afford to drop to 0-2.

The Dolphins need it even more; they play the Jets in New York on
December 12 and the Pats in New England on January 2.  Already in danger
of being swept by the Jets, the Dolphins can’t afford to lose at home
to New England, if the Dolphins have genuine designs on winning the
division.

The Patriots need this one, too.  But they still get the Jets and the
Dolphins at home.  For the Dolphins, the season could potentially be over less than a
month after it began.

8.  Loss to Browns could help the Bengals in the long run.

The Bengals, despite their 2-1 record, don’t project the same vibe as
they did a year ago.  With a good defense (Week One at New England
notwithstanding) and a capable running back, the Bengals have relied too
heavily on the passing game.

Though T.O. has thrown the offensive line under the bus without overtly
throwing the offensive line under the bus, questions persist regarding
quarterback Carson Palmer.  Whether he has lingering elbow issues or he
simply has lost his zip on the ball, the Bengals seem to be in the same
style of denial that plagued the Panthers in 2009, when they refused to
face reality regarding quarterback Jake Delhomme.

And so a loss to the Browns could help jar the Bengals into facing
reality.   Eventually, they need to ask themselves whether Palmer
truly represents the future of the franchise at the quarterback
position.

With a base salary of $11.5 million due to Palmer in 2011, we’ve got a
feeling that, win or lose on Sunday, the notoriously frugal Bengals will
think long and hard about paying that much money to a guy who has no
career playoff wins, and whose best days may be fading far behind him.

9.  Snyder’s biggest test could be coming.

For more than 11 years, Daniel Snyder has owned the Redskins.  And for
most of that time, Snyder has been impatient when it comes to the men
who are coaching the team.

After two years, Norv Turner was dumped.  (A playoff appearance likely
saved him in 1999.)  Marty Schottenheimer lasted a season.  Steve
Spurrier made it for two.  But for his resume and Hall of Fame bust, Joe
Gibbs may not have made it four years.  Jim Zorn lasted only two.

And throughout most if not all of Zorn’s final year, Snyder was wooing
(or at least planning to woo) Mike Shanahan, the presumed savior of the
franchise.

In Week One, it appeared to be a brilliant move, thanks to an unexpected
win over the Cowboys.  But after blowing a 17-point lead against the
Texans and somehow losing by 14 against the Rams, the Redskins face what
could be a very long day at Lincoln Financial Field.

It gets no easier with the Packers and Colts coming to town, followed by trips to Chicago and Detroit.

Yes, Detroit, where the Lions managed to beat the Redskins in 2009, for
their first win in 22 games.  After a bye, the Redskins have the Eagles
again, the Titans, the Vikings, the Giants twice, and the Cowboys
again.

It all easily could add up to a losing season.  Though the outcome may
be better than 4-12, it easily could be yet another two-digit collection
of losses.  And then Snyder will have to find a way to resist the urge
to act, and to instead commit to staying the course.

Given the open and obvious salivating for Shanahan, there’s no way
Snyder can make a change after only one year.  Based on his history,
however, Snyder surely will approach 2011 with questions swirling in his
mind as to whether there might be another guy out there whose name
Snyder should pencil onto the top of the latest version of his wish
list.

10.  Rams have a chance to make some noise.

Based on their pattern of three wins in 2007, two in 2008, and one in 2009, the Rams were on track to go 0-16 in 2010.

Already, they’ve blown that trend out of the water by climbing to 1-2.

This weekend, the Rams have a chance to break a 10-game losing streak to
the Seahawks, a string that dates back to 2004, when St. Louis took
three games from their division rivals, include two in the usually
impenetrable Qwest Field.

If they can — and if the Cardinals lose in San Diego — the Rams will
find themselves in a  three-way tie atop the division after four weeks.

With three of the next four games against the Lions, Bucs, and Panthers,
the Rams could be on the right side of .500 at the bye.  And that could
give them the confidence they need to make a serious run at the
division crown and the postseason home game that goes along with it.

Sure, they likely won’t win the division.  But the fact that they won’t
be dead in the water with 25 percent of the season in the books is
nothing short of stunning.

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Tom Brady has 19 touchdowns, 0 interceptions vs. Mike Tomlin

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 23:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots drops back to pass in the second half during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on October 23, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Rooneys own the Steelers, but Tom Brady owns Mike Tomlin.

In the 10 years since Tomlin became head coach of the Steelers, Brady and the Patriots have faced Pittsburgh six times. And in those six games, Brady has absolutely embarrassed Tomlin’s defense.

According to NFL Research, Brady has 19 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in six games against Tomlin’s teams. Brady’s passer rating in those games is 127.5, his highest against any head coach he’s faced at least three times. His completion percentage against Tomlin’s defense is 71.2 percent and he has averaged 314.8 yards a game.

Brady has never failed to throw for at least two touchdown passes against Tomlin’s Steelers. Tomlin may need to find a way to reverse that on Sunday if he wants to get to the Super Bowl.

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Aaron Rodgers: It’s loud in Atlanta, whether it’s all natural or not

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 30:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks to pass against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on October 30, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers took a shot at the Falcons’ history of playing fake crowd noise over the Georgia Dome loudspeakers in his final media appearance before Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

Asked about the noise in Atlanta, Rodgers acknowledged it’s loud, and then noted that the noise might not actually be coming from the fans.

“It’s really loud in there. Whether that’s all natural or not is yet to be seen,” Rodgers said.

The Falcons were stripped of a fifth-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft and fined $350,000 after an investigation revealed that they had been using fake crowd noise while the opposing offense was on the field during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The Falcons fired their director of event marketing, whom they blamed for overseeing the scheme, and the NFL temporarily pulled Falcons President Rich McKay off the Competition Committee for it.

There have been no allegations that the Falcons resumed their practice since then, but Rodgers found it amusing to take a little shot at the team before Sunday’s game.

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Report: Gus Bradley agrees to be Chargers’ defensive coordinator

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Gus Bradley of the Jacksonville Jaguars yells out on the sideline during NFL game action against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on November 27, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

Gus Bradley will be the Chargers’ new defensive coordinator, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Friday night.

Bradley spent the last four seasons as head coach of the Jaguars. He had been linked to multiple teams as a defensive coordinator candidate, and landing him is considered a win for new Chargers’ head coach Anthony Lynn.

The Seahawks’ defense took off in Bradley’s four seasons as their defensive coordinator from 2009-12 and ranked in the top 10 in total defense in his final two seasons before he went to Jacksonville. Prior to that, he had been the linebackers coach for the Buccaneers.

The Jaguars fired Bradley in December, knowing they would be headed in a different direction for 2017 after the team went 14-48 with Bradley as head coach. With the Chargers he’ll take over a defense headlined by 2016 rookie defensive end Joey Bosa and Pro Bowl cornerback Casey Hayward.

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James Harrison on Tom Brady: Any QB can be rattled if you hit him

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 23:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talks with James Harrison #92 and Mike Mitchell #23 of the Pittsburgh Steelers after the conclusion of the New England Patriots 27-16 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on October 23, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison knows his primary job on Sunday will be hitting Tom Brady.

Harrison was asked today whether Brady can be rattled and he answered, “I believe anybody can be rattled if you get hit enough.”

In Harrison’s view, beating Brady is all about getting pressure on him.

“You can put pressure on any quarterback, to make him uncomfortable — if a quarterback is sitting back there without pressure he’s going to do a good job of spreading the ball around and getting it to his receivers,” Harrison said.

If Harrison fails at rattling Brady, he knows the Patriots’ offense can put a lot of points on the board.

“He gets the ball where it needs to go, his receivers do a good job of catching the ball and getting yards after the catch, his line does a good job of holding up and blocking well and they run the ball pretty decent too,” Harrison said.

And so Harrison will try to hit Brady enough that the Patriots’ offense can’t do all the things it does very well.

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Report: Kevin O’Connell will coach quarterbacks in Washington

Washington Redskins v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Redskins will hire Kevin O’Connell as their new quarterbacks coach, Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports reported Friday.

The team has not announced the move, nor has it announced a replacement for offensive coordinator Sean McVay after he became head coach of the Rams. The hiring of O’Connell would indicate that head coach Jay Gruden will promote Matt Cavanaugh from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator.

O’Connell, 31, was quarterbacks coach with the Browns in 2015 and worked on the 49ers’ staff last season. The report said he had also been in the mix for coordinator and quarterbacks coach jobs at the college level.

O’Connell spent five seasons in the NFL as a player. He worked training high school and college quarterbacks before accepting a job with the Browns prior to the 2015 season.

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Travis Kelce fined for ripping ref

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Tight end Travis Kelce #87 of the Kansas City Chiefs signals a first down in the first quarter of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers  in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

After the Chiefs lost to the Steelers on Sunday, Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce ripped referee Carl Cheffers, saying Cheffers “shouldn’t be able to wear a zebra jersey,” even at Foot Locker. The NFL was not amused.

A league source tells PFT that Kelce has been fined for criticizing Cheffers.

Although we have not confirmed the exact amount of Kelce’s fine, it’s believed to be about $12,500. That’s half of what Josh Norman was fined for telling an official he sucked during the regular season.

Players generally get a pass if they criticize the officiating in a general sense. When they start to get personal toward an individual official, that’s when the league cracks down. The NFL felt that Kelce, by specifically identifying Cheffers and criticizing not just one specific holding call but Cheffers’ competence in general, had crossed the line.

The NFL has also said that Cheffers was correct on the call in question, a holding call on Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher. And the NFL has appointed Cheffers to referee the Super Bowl, demonstrating that the league is satisfied that Cheffers is fully capable of wearing the zebra jersey to do more than sell footwear.

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Alfredo Roberts will coach Chargers running backs

Jacksonville Jaguars tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts watches play during the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida on September 18, 2006. The Jaguars won 9-0.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The Chargers will hire Alfredo Roberts as their new running backs coach, ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported Friday.

Roberts previously worked with new Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn in Cleveland, where Lynn coached running backs and Roberts coached the tight ends in 2007-08, and in Jacksonville.

Roberts also previously was the tight ends coach for the Buccaneers and Colts. He played on two Super Bowl teams with the Cowboys in the early 1990s.

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Jaguars hire Keenan McCardell as wide receivers coach

536984 Getty Images

Jimmy Smith’s prayers have been answered.

When word broke that the Jaguars were interviewing Keenan McCardell to be their wide receiver coach, Smith said he was praying for his former Jacksonville teammate to get the job. Their former coach and current executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin helped announce the news on Friday afternoon.

“We all understand what Keenan means to this organization and we are excited to welcome him home to Jacksonville, as he’ll oversee the growth and consistent improvement of our receiving corps,” Coughlin said in a statement. “I had the pleasure of coaching Keenan for six seasons and understand his passion for the game of football and his burning desire to win.”

McCardell joined the Jaguars in 1996 and caught 499 passes for 6,393 yards and 30 touchdowns over six seasons with the team. McCardell played 16 years in the NFL overall, wrapping up his career with the Redskins in 2007 and catching 883 passes in the process.

McCardell coached the wide receivers in Washington in 2010 and 2011 and spent two years in the same job at the University of Maryland, where he worked with current Vikings wideout Stefon Diggs.

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Tom Brady still not willing to talk Donald Trump

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks on in the second half against the Houston Texans during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

On Thursday night, Donald Trump said that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady called to congratulate the since-inaugurated Commander-in-Chief. On Friday, Brady declined to address the situation, in any way.

Asked by reporters to share some of the details about the call, Brady said this: “I don’t have much to say.”

Asked simply whether he called Trump, Brady said this: “Did I call him? Let’s talk about football.”

In contrast, coach Bill Belchick admitted that he had sent Trump a letter of encouragement before the election, after Trump read from the letter at a rally.

It’s Brady’s prerogative to say whether he did or didn’t make the call; after the election, he said he’s done talking politics. However, the fact that he said nothing underscores the notion that he surely wasn’t happy about the public disclosure of his private communication.

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Vikings make it official with coordinator Pat Shurmur

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 7: Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur of the Philadelphia Eagles watches his team warm up prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 7, 2014 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

After going through interim quarterbacks, interim running backs and interim tackles last year, the Vikings decided to remove that adjective from their offensive coordinator’s title.

The team announced that Pat Shurmur would remain as their offensive coordinator, after he took over for Norv Turner last November.

The team also announced that Kevin Stefanski will move from coaching running backs to quarterbacks, along with the hirings of running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu and tight ends coach Clancy Barone.

Shurmur’s background with Sam Bradford was helpful for the Vikings this year, as they tried to recover from Teddy Bridgewater’s knee injury. They worked together previously with the Rams and Eagles, and may well into the future, since no one’s quite sure when or if Bridgewater will return.

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Travis Kelce fined for shoving Ross Cockrell

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15:  Tight end Travis Kelce #87 of the Kansas City Chiefs reacts against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce ripped the officials in last Sunday’s playoff loss to the Steelers for a holding call on left tackle Eric Fisher on a two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter and said that referee Carl Cheffers wasn’t fit to wear a striped shirt for Foot Locker.

The NFL has a different read on Cheffers’ work as they named him to work the Super Bowl in Houston in a couple of weeks. We don’t know if Kelce’s views of the officiating have drawn a fine from the league, but PFT has confirmed that Kelce was fined for an on-field penalty.

Kelce has been fined $9,115 for an unnecessary roughness penalty. Kelce was flagged in the third quarter for shoving Steelers cornerback Ross Cockrell at the end of a play. The penalty pushed the Chiefs back 15 yards, but they were able to convert a first down on the next play and ended the drive with three points.

That wasn’t enough to put them in front of the Steelers, who advanced to the AFC Championship Game by an 18-16 score after the Chiefs’ second try at the aforementioned two-point conversion came up short.

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No fines for Chiefs-Steelers post-game skirmish

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers attempts to calm down cornerback Marcus Peters #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs  in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) Getty Images

Although it didn’t get a lot of attention in the media, a skirmish broke out between players on the Chiefs and Steelers after Sunday night’s playoff game.

The league office didn’t pay it any mind, either: PFT has confirmed that none of the players involved were fined.

Chiefs defensive backs Terrance Mitchell and Marcus Peters were involved in some pushing and shoving with several Steelers players, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin got between them. Steelers coach Joey Porter also got in the middle of it, trying to break things up just days after he was reinstated from the team after being put on leave briefly for allegedly doing some pushing and shoving of his own in a Pittsburgh restaurant.

No punches were thrown and it was a fairly mild scuffle, so it’s no surprise that the NFL decided not to hand out any discipline, even if it wasn’t exactly the ideal way for a playoff game to end.

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Jadeveon Clowney, Eric Rowe fined for divisional round infractions

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots passes the ball while under pressure by Jadeveon Clowney #90 of the Houston Texans during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney hit Patriots quarterback Tom Brady a few times in last Saturday’s Patriots win in the divisional round of the playoffs and one of them led to an animated reaction from Brady when a flag wasn’t thrown.

Clowney dragged Brady down on an incomplete pass in the third quarter and Brady was seen shouting at the officials after the play was over. He got the flag he was looking for early in the next quarter when Clowney was penalized for roughing Brady on a 10-yard completion to running back Dion Lewis.

PFT has confirmed with the league that Clowney was also fined $18,231 for roughing Brady.

Patriots cornerback Eric Rowe has also been fined $12,154 after picking up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. There was a scrum at the end of a short completion on third down to Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins early in the game and Rowe was penalized for pulling people off the pile. The penalty gave the Texans a first down that they used to continue a drive that ended with a field goal.

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Patriots list seven as questionable for Sunday

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 12:  Malcolm Mitchell #19 of the New England Patriots celebrates scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium on December 12, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots didn’t have a player on their 53-man roster miss practice at any point this week, but they aren’t saying that everyone will be healthy enough to play on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game.

They listed seven players as questionable to face the Steelers, including four of quarterback Tom Brady’s targets through the air. Wide receivers Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell all got the questionable designation after three days of limited practices. Amendola returned to action last week after missing a month with an ankle injury while Mitchell didn’t play due to a knee issue and Hogan had to leave the win over the Texans after hurting his thigh.

Tight end Martellus Bennett is the other member of the quartet. He’s listed with a knee injury after briefly leaving last week’s game a couple of times, but said early in the week that he was feeling fine.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), running back Brandon Bolden (knee) and defensive end Jabaal Sheard (knee) make up the rest of the group.

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Sammy Watkins has second foot surgery

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 27:   Sammy Watkins #14 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 27, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills announced Friday that wide receiver Sammy Watkins and defensive end Shaq Lawson have recently undergone surgeries.

The team said Watkins had a second surgery on his injured foot and that his anticipated timetable includes a healthy return in time for training camp.

Watkins had foot surgery last spring, then re-injured his foot and missed half of the 2016 season, though he returned to play in December. He caught 28 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns in eight games.

Lawson, the team’s first-round pick last spring, had arthroscopic knee surgery. He’s expected to be available for the entire offseason program.

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