by Daniel Olsen | Every college team not named Alabama or Ohio State is done. That means it’s time to turn our attention to the NFL playoffs. While the state of Utah does not have an NFL team, plenty of former college players in the state will be playing on wildcard weekend. Let’s take a look at the players you need to know about!
Game #1: 2 Bills vs 7 Colts
This AFC Wildcard game features two talented teams. On the Colts, Julian Blackmon is a well-known rookie cornerback out of the University of Utah who has recorded several key interceptions on his team. The Colts have finished the year with an 11-5 record.
On the other hand, the Buffalo Bills have blazed through the regular season with a 13-3 record and their first AFC East division title. They also have a stellar rookie Ute but he plays on offense. Zack Moss is a running back who has had plenty of chances. While he is not receiving the most carries, he does the best with what he is given.
This game will be played at 11:05 AM on CBS on Saturday. This will be your temporary way to recover from no College Gameday on Saturday. While the Bills recently broke their playoff drought, they have not won a playoff game since 1995.
Prediction: Moss will have a touchdown and Blackmon will have a pick six. I’m picking the Bills to get the monkey off their back and win a playoff game. The Colts have won plenty recently with a guy named Peyton Manning and even a few with Andrew Luck. Their future is bright. The win won’t be spoon fed but I think the Bills win 31-21.
Game #2: 4 Titans vs 5 Ravens
While there are no former players of Utah colleges that will likely be playing on the active roster for the Titans in this game, there is one Ravens player who was moved up from the practice squad to the active roster last game. He had some playing time in the last game. Tyler Huntley completed the only pass he attempted for eight yards. It was near the start of the fourth quarter. He also kept up with his running back teammate J.K Dobbins so that he could celebrate in the end zone. It was an option play that drew the most attention ever for a quarterback that didn’t even score the touchdown.
The Titans do have one former Ute on the practice squad in Nate Orchard. He was a standout defensive end for the Utes who won the Ted Hendricks Award in his senior year in 2014. The award is given to the top defensive end in the nation. He was selected by the Browns in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He has bounced around the league and last played an NFL game earlier this season with the Washington Football Team. He was then assigned to the Houston Texans practice squad before ultimately ending up with the Titans.
Be sure to catch this game on 11:05 AM MST on ABC. This game features the AFC South Division champion Titans and the 5 seed Baltimore Ravens from the AFC North.
I expect this to be a close game so don’t expect either of these guys to get playing time unless there is a significant injury. Hopefully they will get their time to shine one day. For now I predict the Titans will win a la Derrick Henry. The man has been a stellar force of nature this season and is now one of only seven players in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season. This will be a 38-35 overtime victory with Henry tying the score in regulation.
Game #3: 3 Steelers vs 6 Browns
This game will be the finale of NFL Wild Card weekend. The game will be broadcast on NBC on Sunday at 6:15 PM MST.
The main Utahn in this game to watch out for is Sione Takitaki. He recently starred for the BYU Cougars. He was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He has had a great career so far in the NFL that has mirrored his individual success at BYU. He recorded his first touchdown this season on a pick six against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has also improved his output from 21 to 67 tackles between his rookie and second year.
The Steelers don’t really have any former players from Utah colleges this year so the Browns are your pick of you want to see Takitaki do well.
Prediction: Takitaki will have an important play. At a critical moment he will have either a tackle, fumble recovery or interception that will help sway the momentum in favor of the Browns. The Steelers might be starting more of their guys this week but if the Browns can draw up a good game plan while their coach is out due to COVID-19, they should win this game by at least a touchdown. The Steelers have been a little shaky lately since they have lost four of their last five games. Before that, they were the last remaining unbeaten NFL team at 11-0. I’m saying the Browns win 30-21 as they will either get a safety or some field goals in to make this an interesting final score.
Be sure to vote in our Twitter poll today for the athlete you think has the best chance to be AFC champion out of this Wild Card weekend.
Photo © Cleveland Browns