College Football fans, it’s that time. The longest, most dreadful months of the year are here. Despite the final score of the National Championship Game, this season was one for the ages. However, Alabama fans are always being harassed for claiming National Championships that they didn’t win. So as an Alabama fan, I’d like to congratulate the Crimson Tide on winning their 17th National Championship this past Monday! No matter how crazy this past season has been, it’s time to face the horrid truth. Alas, the
offseason O-word has returned to wreak havoc on our Saturdays yet again. To the significant others who let us watch college football unimpeded every Saturday, I salute you. To you love birds that held off on having a fall wedding, you are true American heroes. To the fine student athletes who’ve given their sweat and blood on the field in order to make our Saturdays entertaining, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s time to come to grips with the fact that there will be no more college football games until the fall. College football, I bid you farewell until the spring games in April.
As is tradition, news of recruiting, players leaving for the NFL Draft, coaching changes, and of course, UGA players being arrested will begin to take center stage. Don’t let the O-word get you down though. Even though the college football season is over, the NFL Playoffs have just begun! Although you may not care about the NFL or have a team in the fight, there are plenty of former Alabama players with a chance of bringing home the Lombardi Trophy this year. Let me be your guide to the NFL postseason and help you find a team to root for in the playoffs. (Hint: It’s the Falcons) Before we get into the upcoming games for this weekend, let’s take a look at last week’s Wildcard matchups.
Fans of close, exciting games that come down to the last play (That still stings a little to write), the NFL Wildcard Weekend was not for you. This past weekend, eight teams squared off for a spot in this year’s playoffs. Nine former Crimson Tide players saw action. With the exception of the New York Giants’ Landon Collins, the performances of Alabama’s alumni were underwhelming for the most part.
On Saturday, we saw the Raiders take on the Texans in the AFC Wildcard race and the Lions matched up against the Seahawks in the NFC Wildcard race. Both games featured one ex-Alabama player on each team. After a stellar regular season, the Oakland Raiders were actually the team I thought would represent the AFC in the Super Bowl for most of the year. Not only did that not happen, but the Raiders didn’t even advance past the Wildcard stage of the playoffs after losing to the Texans 27-14. In the final regular season game, the then 12-2 Raiders could have clenched a first round bye in the playoffs with a win over their rival Denver Broncos. A week prior to the final regular season game, starting QB Derek Carr suffered a broken fibula, effectively ending his season and thrusting backup Matt McGloin into the starting role. In Denver, The Raiders were embarrassed 24-6. Not only did this loss ruin Oakland’s chances of a first round bye in the playoffs, but Matt McGloin also went down with a shoulder injury. The high-powered Raiders offense, which looked so promising throughout the regular season, was forced to enter the postseason under the reigns of former Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook. Playoff games apparently aren’t Cook’s forte as he completed only 18 of his 45 pass attempts for 161 yards, one touchdown, and threw 3 interceptions.
Wide receiver Amari Cooper is headed to the Pro Bowl this year, but you wouldn’t know that from watching this game. Cooper finished the game with only 2 receptions for 10 yards. Most of the blame can be put on Connor Cook’s atrocious performance. On the Texans’ side of the ball, former Tide defensive back Kareem Jackson didn’t have the best game of his career either. Fortunately for Houston, the remainder of the Texans defensive backfield was able to keep the Raiders passing game silent for the majority of the game.
Saturday’s NFC matchup was even more of a snoozer than the Raiders/Texans. The Seattle Seahawks mollywhopped the Detroit Lions 26-6. Matt Stafford was able to throw for 205 yards, but the Lions were only able to put up 49 yards on the ground. Seattle’s rookie Jarran Reed saw action on 24 defensive snaps but didn’t account for any tackles in the Seahawks’ victory. The Lions defense featured another rookie from Alabama, A’Shawn Robinson. After his first year as a pro, Robinson has found himself in a great spot and should remain a staple on the Lions defensive line for years to come. Against the Seahawks, Robinson was able to rack up 7 total tackles while only appearing in 56% of the defensive plays. Jarran Reed’s team will advance in the playoffs, but A’Shawn Robinson should give Lions fans plenty to look forward to in the future.
Last Sunday featured the Miami Dolphins who travelled to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers for a chance to face the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC and the New York Giants versus the Packers in Green Bay to determine who will take on the number one seed Dallas Cowboys in the NFC. Four former Alabama players took the field in Sunday’s action; only one player was able to advance to the next round of the NFL Playoffs. The Dolphins had no answer for the Steelers and were trounced 30-12. The Steelers’ Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell had a field day against Miami’s defense putting up 124 and 174 yards, respectively. Both players also accounted for 2 touchdowns each. The Steelers roster doesn’t feature a single player from Alabama and their victory over the Dolphins effectively ended both Anthony Steen and rookie Kenyan Drake’s playoff run. Steen only saw 2 snaps the entire game; both of which were on special teams. Drake played 19 total downs. Of the 19, only 8 were on offense. Kenyan Drake was able to rack up 101 return yards on 3 kick returns. His longest return of the day went for 58 yards.
The Giants at Green Bay was expected to be the best, and only competitive matchup of the Wildcard Weekend. It absolutely was… For about a half. Two huge dropped passes in the endzone by the Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard could have changed the entire outcome of the game for the Giants. The Giants were only able to score a single touchdown out of their 13 total points. The Packers, however, could not be stopped through the air from the 2nd Quarter onward as they put up 38 points in their victory over the G-Men.
Former Tide safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix played well for the Packers in their victory, although the Giants usually deadly receiving corps falling flat in Green Bay aided him. Clinton-Dix made 2 tackles while appearing on every single defensive play. Even though the Giants came up laughably short in this matchup, Bama’s own Landon Collins was able to hold his own and have a monster day. If the other defensive backs for New York had played to Collins’ level, I’d argue that the Giants would have advanced to the next round of the playoffs. Collins accounted for 9 total tackles, 6 of which were solo. Only one of his tackles was on a 20-yard gain, the majority of the safety’s tackles resulted in less than 10-yards on the play. Landon was also responsible for a sack and 2 passes defended in his team’s loss to the Packers. While this past weekend wasn’t smooth sailing for the Giants locker room or fans, something positive did happen in New York for another former Alabama player. Wide receiver Kevin Norwood, who spent the season on the Giants practice squad, signed a contract with New York on the 9th. At Alabama, Norwood was a frequent target in desperate situations and always came up clutch in big moments. The Giants could have used some of that dependability last Sunday in the wide receiver department.
Complete List of Wildcard Weekend Stats
|PLAYER||TEAM||POSITION||WILD CARD WEEKEND NOTES||NUMBER||STARTER?||WENT PRO IN|
|PLAYER||TEAM||POSITION||WILD CARD WEEKEND NOTES||NUMBER||STARTER?||WENT PRO IN|
|A'Shawn Robinson||Detroit Lions||Defensive Tackle||2 tackles, 5 assisted tackles, 41 (56%) Def. Snaps, 5 (21%) ST Snaps||91||Yes||2016|
|Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||Green Bay Packers||Safety||2 tackles, 65 (100%) Def. Snaps, 6 (18%) ST Snaps||21||Yes||2014|
|Eddie Lacy||Green Bay Packers||Running Back||Placed on IR October 20 (Ankle)||27||IR||2013|
|Kareem Jackson||Houston Texans||Cornerback||1 tackle, 3 assisted tackles, 42 (55%) Def. Snaps, 1 penalty (Illegal Contact in 3Q)||25||Yes||2010|
|Kenyan Drake||Miami Dolphins||Running Back||3 Kick Returns, 101 yards, long of 58, 8 (12%) Off. Snaps, 11 (48%) ST Snaps||32||3rd String||2016|
|Anthony Steen||Miami Dolphins||Guard||2 (9%) ST Snaps||65||2nd String||2014|
|Landon Collins||New York Giants||Safety||1 sack, 6 tackles, 3 assisted tackles, 2 passes defended, 71 (100%) Def. Snaps, 6 (18%) ST Snaps||21||Yes||2015|
|Kevin Norwood||New York Giants||Wide Receiver||Signed to a Reserve/Future Contract on January 9||81||Signed Contract||2014|
|Amari Cooper||Oakland Raiders||Wide Receiver||10 targets, 2 receptions, 10 yards, long of 9, 1 rush, 0 yards, 67 (89%) Off. Snaps||89||Yes||2015|
|Jarran Reed||Seattle Seahawks||Defensive Tackle||24 (44%) Def. Snaps, 3 (12%) ST Snaps||90||Yes||2016|
A Preview For This Weekend’s Action
Divisional Round Games
Saturday January 14, 2017
Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons 4:35 PM
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots 8:15 PM
Sunday January 15, 2017
Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys 4:40 PM
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs 8:20 PM
Seven former Alabama players remain in the NFL Playoffs after losing five after last weekend. Six of which will see action on Saturday, while only one will appear out of the four teams that are to play on Sunday. To kick off the weekend, the Seahawks travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons. If any year were to be the one for the dirty birds, this is it. Depending on the outcome of the Packers/Cowboys game, this could potentially be the final game played in the Georgia Dome before the Falcons move to the Mercedes Benz Stadium next year. This game features a week 6 rematch that ended 26-24 in favor of the Seahawks after a controversial no-call of pass interference on Julio Jones in the final minutes. Week 6’s matchup took place in Seattle in front of their renowned hostile crowd. This time, Atlanta plays host to the Seahawks before a fanbase that’s starving for a championship. Against Seattle’s defense the first time around, Julio Jones was able to haul in 7 receptions for 139 yards and a touchdown. Seattle’s Jarran Reed recorded his only solo sack of the season against the Falcons in week 6. Courtney Upshaw will also be a key factor in this game. He’s proven himself to be a solid pickup for the Falcons in his first year in Atlanta. Upshaw was inactive against the Seahawks in week 6, should contribute this time around.
As for the second game of the day - If you tune in past the first quarter, the game may already be over. The Patriots took on Houston in week 3 of this season where they dominated the Texans 27-0 at home. At the time, both teams weren’t the same teams as they are now. The Pats were without Tom Brady who was still serving his four game suspension as well as Dont’a Hightower who was out with a knee injury. This time, the Patriots will feature both. Alabama’s Cyrus Jones was taken off of the injury report as well and could see action in the return game, however he is tied for the lead in fumbles on the Patriots so it’s up in the air how much of Cyrus we will be seeing. The Texans are playing on a different level as well. The defense has come into its own throughout the season and quarterback Brock Osweiler has stepped it up in recent weeks. Former Tide cornerback Kareem Jackson had 9 total tackles in their first bout and could play a key role this time around as well. Although I don’t expect the Patriots to beat the Texans as handily as they did in week 3, I expect New England to come out on top.
Sundays haven’t had this few Alabama alumni see action since the Shula era. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the sole former Tide player that will be playing. The Pro Bowl safety will have his hands full against a very young, yet explosive Cowboys offense. Clinton-Dix is second behind fellow safety Morgan Burnett in total tackles for the Packers and should play a very key role if Green Bay has a chance of upsetting the Cowboys. Once again, this will be a rematch from earlier in the season where the Cowboys were able to outlast the Packers 30-16 in Green Bay. As a team, the Packers gave up a season high 191 yards on the ground. Somehow, Green Bay will need to find a way to stop the rookie standout Ezekiel Elliott unless they want to see a similar score. In week 6’s matchup, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix made 6 solo tackles and an assisted tackle. Of all the matchups in the Divisional Round, this one has the potential to be the most entertaining should both teams show up to play. As far as Sunday night’s game goes, my only suggestion for both teams is to draft more players from Alabama in order for me to care about covering them.
Like what you've read? Hate what you've read? Let me know in the comments section or follow me on Twitter (@cprins338) and direct all of your hate that can fit into 140 characters that way! Stay tuned for more updates on players and until next time, Roll Tide!