With college bowl season nearing an end, that signals the start of the NFL post season. Twelve teams have locked in their spot, a few old-timers in their usual spot, and a few surprises making a playoff reappearance. Headlined by the Broncos and Patriots in the AFC, and the Falcons and 49ers in the NFC, these Playoffs are sure to be remembered by Big Blue Nation.
Including practice squad players there are currently 15 former Cats on NFL teams. Ten of them play for teams heading into the Playoffs. Excluding defensive tackle Myron Pryor (Patriots), who has not played since week two of 2011 after tearing his pectoral, and defensive end DeQuin Evans (Bengals), who has not seen the field, but has been on the practice squad all season, these ten former Wildcats have made significant contributions to their playoff teams.
— Denver Broncos (13-3) — First-round bye
As the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Broncos have a first-round bye. They will play the winner of the Colts-Ravens game next Saturday. The extra week allows three former Cats to prepare for a Super Bowl run. Danny Trevathan, Wesley Woodyard, and Jacob Tamme have all seen action this season, the latter two playing key roles.
In his fifth season with the team, Woodyard is the leading tackler on one of the best defenses in the NFL. He has collected 117 tackles, 5.5 sacks with three interceptions. He has played a vital role in the Denver defensive unit that allows just 291 total yards of offense per game. This has been the best season of his young career, and though his numbers weren’t quite Pro Bowl material this time, he’s inching closer to an appearance.
Both were once Indianapolis Colts, now they suit up in the Navy and Orange. With Peyton Manning’s move to Denver in the offseason, one of his favorite targets in Indy, tight end Jacob Tamme, decided to follow his quarterback. Tamme finished the season as the team’s third-leading receiver with 52 receptions for 555 yards and two touchdowns. His 2010 campaign in Indianapolis where he caught 67 passes for 631 yards was the only better season Tamme has had.
Coming out of Kentucky as one of the greatest linebackers ever, Danny Trevathan is still learning the Broncos’ system. He played in all 16 games this season, totaling 33 tackles and one sack. Learning under the wings of Woodyard, Keith Brooking and Von Miller surely bodes well for his future.
— Green Bay Packers (11-5) vs. Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
The Green Bay Packers are back in the Playoffs, thanks in large part to quarterback Aaron Rogers. But without the contributions of former Wildcat favorite Randall Cobb in the receiving and special teams’ game, and golden-legged punter Tim Masthay, the Packers would be a lot worse off.
In just his second NFL season, Cobb became one of the most dynamic playmakers in the league, catching 80 passes for 954 yards and eight touchdowns. His all-purpose yards totaled over 2,342 — the best in Packers history and 22nd in NFL history… And he missed the season finale against Minnesota with a minor injury. Had Cobb played and earned his average of 156 all-purpose yards, he would have bumped all the way up to eighth all-time in the NFL. By the end of the season, he became owned in 97.8 percent of fantasy leagues, according to ESPN.
This is his second NFL season.
Tim Masthay was among the least-used punters in the league, and for good reason; his Packers team rarely kicked the ball away. Of his 70 boots and 43.5-yard average, 30 of those were pinned inside the 20-yard line. Opposing return men averaged just 7.5 yards per return, which is fifth-best in the NFL.
— Houston Texans (12-4) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
After suffering an MCL and hamstring injury and being waived by the New York Jets, John Conner found a new home with the Bengals. Good for him, considering the Jets are watching the Playoffs from home this season. The Terminator was signed by the Bengals after their own fullback, Christ Pressley went down with a season-ending injury in mid-December. Connor has played in the last two games for Cincinnati but has yet to record a carry or reception. He will likely be utilized primarily as a blocker in the ground game, getting BenJarvus Green-Ellis room to run against the stingy Texans 3-4 defense.
— Washington Redskins (10-6) vs. Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
Winston Guy has played in only two games for the Seahawks without recording any statistics. He just recently returned from serving a four-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing substances. Guy’s agent says an ingredient found in an over-the-counter supplement triggered the positive drug test, and Guy called it an innocent mistake. The Seahawks and Redskins are both surprise teams in the Playoffs, and both could challenge the Falcons, the No. 1 NFC seed next week.
— Atlanta Falcons (13-3) — First-round bye
Defensive tackle Corey Peters has battled injury this season that cost him nearly $100,000. He missed the first six games of the season with a non-football related stress fracture in his foot that the Falcons deemed careless enough to reduce his salary while on the non-football related injury list. Since returning in late October, Peters has collected 15 tackles and forced one fumble.