NFL Divisional Round Playoff Preview: 9 VFLs on 5 teams still alive

By Vince Ferrara

Seahawks DT Tony McDaniel (93) / Credit: Scott Clarke - ESPN Images
Seahawks DT Tony McDaniel (93) / Credit: Scott Clarke – ESPN Images

There are 9 former U. of Tennessee players (aka VFLs) and 2 Knoxville area players in the NFL Divisional Round Playoffs. Below you’ll find the list for each team and then a preview of the four games.

(AFC)

Houston Texans
None on active roster

New England Patriots
Justin Coleman (DB-22) – 2nd team LCB

Pittsburgh Steelers
Ramon Foster (OL-73) – Starting LG
Daniel McCullers (DL-93) – 2nd team NT

Kansas City Chiefs
Eric Berry (DB-29) – Starting SS
Zach Fulton (OL-73) – 2nd team LG/C
Dustin Colquitt (P-2) – P/H
Tyler Bray (QB-9) – 3rd team QB

(NFC)

Seattle Seahawks
Tony McDaniel (DL-93) – Starting DT

Atlanta Falcons
None on active roster *Chris Simms & Davis Tull (Bearden on practice squad)

Green Bay Packers
y-Randall Cobb (WR-18) (Alcoa HS/Kentucky) – Starting WR

Dallas Cowboys
Jason Witten (TE-82) – Starting TE
y-Chris Jones (P-6) (Carson-Newman) – P/H

y = Did not play at U. of Tennessee, but a Knoxville area player


Here’s a preview of the 4 games via notes from NFL Communications.

NFL’S FINAL EIGHT TAKE CENTER STAGE IN DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

And then there were eight. The NFL heads into the Divisional Playoffs and all four games are rematches from the regular season, the first time that has happened since the 2010 season. Each of the remaining eight teams won its division, the first time all eight teams in the Divisional round were division winners since 2011.

On Saturday, January 14, the Atlanta Falcons (11-5), the NFC South champions, will host the NFC West-champion Seattle Seahawks (11-5-1) at the Georgia Dome to kick off the weekend (FOX, 4:35 PM ET). That night in primetime (CBS, 8:15 PM ET), the New England Patriots (14-2), who won the AFC East and secured the No. 1 seed in the AFC, will host the AFC South-champion Houston Texans (10-7) at Gillette Stadium.

On Sunday, January 15, the Kansas City Chiefs (12-4), the AFC West champions, will welcome the AFC North-champion Pittsburgh Steelers (12-5) to Arrowhead Stadium (NBC, 1:05 PM ET) and the Dallas Cowboys (13-3), who won the NFC East and secured the No. 1 seed in the NFC, will host the Green Bay Packers (11-6) at AT&T Stadium (4:40 PM ET, FOX).

Saturday, January 14
NFC Seattle at Atlanta 4:35 PM ET FOX
AFC Houston at New England 8:15 PM ET CBS
       
Sunday, January 15
AFC Pittsburgh at Kansas City 1:05 PM ET NBC
NFC Green Bay at Dallas 4:40 PM ET FOX

“It is a whole new season now,” says Dallas quarterback DAK PRESCOTT. “Everything you do from this point on is really how you get looked at at the end of the year. So that is important to us, looking forward and playing a long time in this postseason.”

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-5-1) at ATLANTA FALCONS (11-5) (Saturday, FOX, 4:35 PM ET)      

  • This is the second postseason meeting between the two teams. In the 2012 Divisional Playoffs (January 13, 2013), the Falcons defeated the Seahawks 30-28 at the Georgia Dome.
  • Seattle leads the all-time series 10-6 (including the postseason). The Seahawks have won the past two meetings, including a 26-24 win at CenturyLink Field in Week 6 (October 16, 2016).
  • The Seahawks defeated Detroit 26-6 last week to advance to the Divisional Playoffs. Seattle running back THOMAS RAWLS rushed for 161 yards and a touchdown, the most rushing yards in a postseason game in franchise history.
  • Seahawks quarterback RUSSELL WILSON has 64 career wins (including the postseason), the most wins ever by a starting quarterback in his first five seasons.
  • The Seahawks had four players selected to the Pro Bowl: defensive end CLIFF AVRIL (first), defensive end MICHAEL BENNETT (second), cornerback RICHARD SHERMAN (fourth) and linebacker BOBBY WAGNER (third).
  • Atlanta head coach DAN QUINN spent four seasons with Seattle (2009-10, 2013-14), including the 2013 and 2014 seasons as the team’s defensive coordinator. The Seahawks advanced to the Super Bowl in both seasons, including winning Super Bowl XLVIII.
  • Falcons quarterback MATT RYAN led the NFL with a 117.1 passer rating, the fifth-best mark in league history.
  • Atlanta had six players selected to the Pro Bowl: linebacker VIC BEASLEY JR. (first), kicker MATT BRYANT (first), running back DEVONTA FREEMAN (second), wide receiver JULIO JONES (fourth), center ALEX MACK (fourth) and quarterback Ryan (fourth).

HOUSTON TEXANS (10-7) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (14-2) (Saturday, CBS, 8:15 PM ET)      

  • This is the second postseason meeting between the two teams. In the 2012 Divisional Playoffs (January 13, 2013), the Patriots defeated the Texans 41-28 at Gillette Stadium.
  • New England has won seven of the eight all-time meetings, including the playoffs. The Patriots are 4-0 at home against the Texans, including a 27-0 victory in Week 3 (September 22, 2016).
  • Houston advanced to the Divisional round with a 27-14 win over Oakland last week. The Texans, who led the NFL in total defense (301.3 yards per game) during the regular season, limited the Raiders to 203 total net yards.
  • Houston linebacker WHITNEY MERCILUS had two sacks and three tackles for a loss in last week’s victory. He has five sacks and six tackles for a loss in his past two playoff games.
  • Texans defensive end JADEVEON CLOWNEY, who was selected to his first Pro Bowl, had an interception last week to set up a touchdown in his first career playoff game.
  • New England won its eighth consecutive division title, the longest streak in NFL history. The Patriots are the only team in NFL history to win 13 division titles in a 14-year span.
  • New England quarterback TOM BRADY has 22 career playoff wins, the most in NFL history. Brady is also the NFL postseason leader in career completions (738), attempts (1,183), passing yards (7,957) and touchdown passes (56).
  • The Patriots had four players selected to the Pro Bowl: quarterback Brady (12th), linebacker DONT’A HIGHTOWER (first), safety DEVIN MC COURTY (third) and special teamer MATTHEW SLATER (sixth).

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (12-5) at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (12-4) (Sunday, NBC, 1:05 PM ET)      

  • This is the second postseason meeting between the two teams. Their only other playoff meeting occurred on January 8, 1994 when the Chiefs defeated the Steelers 27-24 in overtime at Arrowhead Stadium in a Wild Card matchup.
  • Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 21-11 (including the playoffs). The Steelers knocked off the Chiefs 43-14 in Week 4 (October 2, 2016) and have won four of the past five meetings between the clubs.
  • Pittsburgh defeated Miami 30-12 last week, the Steelers’ NFL-record 35th postseason win. Steelers running back LE’VEON BELL rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns, the most rushing yards in a postseason game in club history.
  • Pittsburgh quarterback BEN ROETHLISBERGER threw touchdown passes of 50 and 62 yards to wide receiver ANTONIO BROWN in the Wild Card win. Brown is the only player in NFL history to score two 50+ yard touchdowns in the first quarter of a playoff game.
  • Pittsburgh had five players selected to the Pro Bowl: running back Bell (second), wide receiver Brown (fifth), guard DAVID DE CASTRO (second), center MAURKICE POUNCEY (fifth) and quarterback Roethlisberger (fifth).
  • The Chiefs, who have won 10 of their past 12 games, clinched the AFC West for the first time since 2010. Kansas City quarterback ALEX SMITH has a 0.5 interception percentage (one interception, 186 attempts) in his postseason career, the best mark in NFL history (minimum 150 attempts).
  • Chiefs rookie wide receiver and return specialist TYREEK HILL is the only player in NFL history to record at least three receiving touchdowns (six), three rushing touchdowns (three) and three total kick-return touchdowns (three) in a season.
  • Kansas City had four players selected to the Pro Bowl: safety ERIC BERRY (fifth), return specialist Hill (first), tight end TRAVIS KELCE (second) and cornerback MARCUS PETERS (second).

GREEN BAY PACKERS (11-6) at DALLAS COWBOYS (13-3) (Sunday, FOX, 4:40 PM ET)      

  • This is the eighth postseason meeting between the teams with the Cowboys leading the series 4-3. The Packers won the last playoff meeting, defeating Dallas 26-21 at Lambeau Field in the 2014 Divisional Playoffs (January 11, 2015).
  • Including the postseason, the all-time series between the teams is tied at 17. Dallas knocked off Green Bay 30-16 at Lambeau Field in Week 6 (October 16, 2016).
  • Green Bay defeated the New York Giants 38-13 last week to advance to the Divisional Playoffs. The Packers have won seven consecutive games, outscoring opponents 223-125 during that span.
  • Packers quarterback AARON RODGERS, who passed for 362 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s Wild Card victory, has a 100.3 career postseason passer rating, one of four quarterbacks in NFL history to have a 100+ rating (minimum 150 attempts). Green Bay wide receiver RANDALL COBB had five receptions for 116 yards and tied the NFL postseason single-game record with three touchdown catches.
  • The Packers had three players selected to the Pro Bowl: safety HA HA CLINTON-DIX (first), guard T.J. LANG (first) and quarterback Rodgers (sixth).
  • The Cowboys won the NFC East and secured the No. 1 seed in the conference with a 13-3 record. Dallas has qualified for the postseason 32 times, tied with the Packers and Giants for the most in league history.
  • Dallas is the only team in NFL history to have a rookie pass for 20 touchdowns (quarterback DAK PRESCOTT, 23) and a rookie rush for 15 touchdowns (running back EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, 15) in the same season. Prescott, whose 13 wins are tied for the most by a rookie starting quarterback in NFL history, had a 104.9 passer rating, the highest mark by a rookie in league annals. Elliott led the NFL with 1,631 rushing yards, the third-most by a rookie in league history.
  • The Cowboys had five players selected to the Pro Bowl: running back Elliott (first), center TRAVIS FREDERICK (third), guard ZACK MARTIN (third), quarterback Prescott (first) and tackle TYRON SMITH (fourth).

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