Tuscaloosa has been buzzing all week long. Alabama’s had three juniors to declare for the NFL Draft, and its 2015 recruiting class is getting stronger. The National Football League enters its divisional playoff round today, and no other school has more participants than Alabama (15).
Win or go home. This is the mindset that’s swirling over eight teams, as a push for a Super Bowl appearance draws near. Baltimore will face New England at Foxboro, Mass., at 4:35 p.m. Carolina and Seattle will be the latter of a doubleheader, airing at 8:15 p.m. The quality of competition heats up Sunday as Dallas travels to Green Bay and Denver hosts Indianapolis.
It’s more than championships for Alabama. The program prides itself on preparing its athletes for a career at the professional level. 15 former Crimson Tide players will take the field this weekend, continuing a journey for ultimate supremacy. A breakdown of all four divisional playoff games is listed below. The names of Alabama players are listed in bold.
AFC Divisional Playoffs
Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots
- Record: BAL (10-6), NE (12-4)
- Alabama players: [BAL]: C.J. Mosley, Courtney Upshaw and Terrence Cody, [NE]: Dont’a Hightower
Summary: Baltimore is in search of its second Super Bowl title with quarterback Joe Flacco, and its third in franchise history. Flacco’s tossed for 3,986 yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Justin Forsett has given the Ravens a balanced run game. He’s totaled 1,266 yards and 12 touchdowns. Steve Smith leads Baltimore’s receiving corps with 1,065 yards and six touchdowns. Rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley anchors Baltimore defensively. He has 133 tackles (team lead), three sacks, eight passes defended and two interceptions. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are both sack specialists. Dumervil leads the team in sacks (17.0). Suggs has 12 sacks. Courtney Upshaw has 42 stops, including five tackles for loss. Mosley and Haloti Ngata are tied for the team lead in interceptions (2). Baltimore is fourth in the league against the run, allowing 88.3 yards per game and eight rushing touchdowns.
New England made two Super Bowl appearances after 2004, but it loss to the New York Giants both times (2008, 2012). Tom Brady is looking for his fourth Super Bowl title, and to further cement his name as a Hall of Fame quarterback. Brady has been efficient this season. He’s thrown for 4,109 yards, 33 touchdowns and nine interceptions. New England is ninth in the league in passing, accounting for 257.6 yards per game. A healthy Rob Gronkowski has paid dividends for the Patriots. He’s caught 82 passes for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell have complemented Gronkowski well. Both receivers have 900+ yards. Edelman has four touchdowns, while LaFell’s recorded seven. Jamie Collins leads the team in tackles (116), but Dont’a Hightower is a sack specialist. He and Chandler Jones both have six sacks apiece. Hightower has 89 tackles. Rob Ninkovich leads New England in sacks (8.0). The Patriots are ninth in the league against the run, allowing 104.3 yards per contest.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Denver Broncos
- Record: IND (11-5), DEN (12-4)
- Alabama players: [IND]: Josh Chapman, Trent Richardson, [DEN]: None
Summary: Andrew Luck has guided Indianapolis to the playoffs for a third-straight year. He’s registered 4,761 passing yards, 40 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Indianapolis leads the NFL in passing, netting 305.9 yards per game. Running back Trent Richardson has 519 rushing yards and three touchdowns, but he’s averaged 3.3 yards per carry. Richardson has been dealing with injuries and inconsistency all season. T.Y. Hilton is the game changer for Indianapolis on offense. He has 82 catches for 1,345 yards and seven touchdowns. Reggie Wayne has 779 receiving yards. Tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen are tied for the team lead in touchdowns (8). D’Qwell Jackson leads the Colts on defense. He has 140 tackles. Jackson and Bjoern Werner each have four sacks. Jonathan Newsome leads the team in sacks (6.5). Josh Chapman has 21 tackles, including five stops for loss. Mike Adams has 87 tackles and leads the team in interceptions (5). The Colts are 18th in the league against the run (113.4 yards) and 12th against the pass, allowing 229.3 yards per contest.
Peyton Manning has something to prove at 38 years old. He’s guided Denver to a third-straight playoff appearance and a Super Bowl appearance (2013), but has one championship to his name (2006). Manning’s recent struggles in games have been caused by a thigh injury. He’s collected 4,727 passing yards, 39 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. C.J. Anderson has legitimized Denver’s run game. He has 849 yards and eight touchdowns. Demaryius Thomas has been a force this season. He caught 111 passes for 1,619 yards and 11 touchdowns. Emmanuel Sanders has 101 catches for 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns. Tight end Julius Thomas will be healthy, and ready to go Sunday against Indianapolis. He has 43 catches for 489 yards and 12 touchdowns. Brandon Marshall anchors Denver on defense. He has 113 tackles. Von Miller leads the team in sacks (14.0). DeMarcus Ware has 40 tackles and 10 sacks. Rahim Moore and Aqib Talib both have four interceptions apiece. The Broncos are fourth in the league against the run (79.8 yards), and ninth against the pass, allowing 225.4 yards per game.
NFC Divisional Playoffs
Carolina Panthers vs. Seattle Seahawks
- Record: CAR (7-8-1), SEA (12-4)
- Alabama players: [CAR]: Roman Harper and Robert Lester, [SEA]: James Carpenter, Jesse Williams and Kevin Norwood
Summary: Cam Newton struggled against Arizona, despite getting a win. He’s dealing with a back injury as well as inconsistencies as a passer. Newton has 3,127 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Carolina’s run game has been potent. The Panthers are seventh in the NFL in rushing, averaging 127.3 yards per game. Jonathan Stewart leads the team with 809 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Newton’s totaled 539 yards and two scores. Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin both have 1,008 receiving yards apiece. Benjamin leads Carolina’s receiving corps in touchdowns (9). Jerricho Cotchery has 580 receiving yards. Linebacker Luke Kuechly sets the tone defensively for Carolina. He has 153 tackles and three sacks. Charles Johnson leads the team in sacks (8.5). Safety Roman Harper has 62 tackles, 10 passes defended and four interceptions.
Russell Wilson has been nothing short of remarkable since entering the NFL in 2012. He’s guided Seattle to three playoff appearances and a Super Bowl title (2013). Wilson’s completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 3,475 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Seattle leads the league in rushing, posting 172.6 yards per game. Marshawn Lynch anchors the Seahawks run game. He has 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns. Wilson’s accounted for 849 yards and six touchdowns on 7.2 yards per carry. Doug Baldwin leads Seattle in receiving with 66 catches for 825 yards. Lynch’s four touchdown receptions lead the team. Kevin Norwood has nine receptions for 102 yards. Linebacker K.J. Wright leads Seattle in tackles (107). Michael Bennett and Bruce Irvin combined have 13.5 sacks. Richard Sherman has 57 stops, eight passes defended and four interceptions. Seattle is first in the league against the run (81.5 yards), and third against the pass, allowing 185.6 yards per game.
Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys
- Record: GB (12-4), DAL (12-4)
- Alabama players: [GB]: Eddie Lacy, Ha’Sean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix and Adrian Hubbard, [DAL]: Rolando McClain
Summary: Aaron Rodgers has been nursing a “slight tear” in his calf this week. He’s had an MVP-caliber season, totaling 4,381 passing yards, 38 touchdowns and five interceptions. Rodgers has proven to be deadly at Lambeau Field in the playoffs. He accounted for 38 touchdowns and zero interceptions (477 pass attempts). Running back Eddie Lacy eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for a second consecutive season. He’s totaled 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have provided a solid one, two punch for Rodgers. Nelson leads the team in receptions (98), targets (151), yards (1,519) and touchdowns (13). Cobb has 91 catches for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. Lacy’s chimes in with 42 catches for 427 yards and four touchdowns. Morgan Burnett leads Green Bay in tackles (129). Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has 94 stops, six passes defended and an interception. Linebacker Clay Matthews leads the team in sacks (11.0). Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward each have three interceptions.
Dallas is undefeated (8-0) on the road. Tony Romo is having a career season. He’s completed 69.9 percent of his passes for 3,705 yards, 34 touchdowns and nine interceptions. DeMarco Murray brings balance to the offense. He’s recorded 1,845 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. The Cowboys are second in the NFL in rushing, averaging 147.1 yards per game. Dez Bryant is Dallas’s primary receiver. He’s posted 88 catches for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns. Tight end Jason Witten still serves a valuable security blanket. He’s caught 64 passes for 703 yards and five touchdowns. Terrance Williams has eight touchdowns receptions. Cole Beasley and Gavin Escobar each have four touchdown catches. Barry Church leads the team in tackles (97). Linebacker Rolando McClain anchors the defense. He has 81 tackles (10 tackles for loss), three passes defended and two interceptions. Dallas is eighth in the NFL against the run, allowing 103.1 yards per contest. Jeremy Mincey leads the team in sacks (6.0).
|Former Alabama players in the 2015 NFL Divisional Playoffs|
|C.J. Mosley||Linebacker||Baltimore Ravens|
|Courtney Upshaw||Linebacker/Defensive Line||Baltimore Ravens|
|Terrence Cody||Defensive Line||Baltimore Ravens|
|Dont’a Hightower||Linebacker||New England Patriots|
|Trent Richardson||Running Back||Indianapolis Colts|
|Josh Chapman||Defensive Line||Indianapolis Colts|
|Roman Harper||Safety||Carolina Panthers|
|Robert Lester||Safety||Carolina Panthers|
|James Carpenter||Offensive Line||Seattle Seahawks|
|Jesse Williams||Defensive Line||Seattle Seahawks|
|Kevin Norwood||Wide Receiver||Seattle Seahawks|
|Eddie Lacy||Running Back||Green Bay Packers|
|Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||Safety||Green Bay Packers|
|Adrian Hubbard||Linebacker||Green Bay Packers|
|Rolando McClain||Linebacker||Dallas Cowboys|