While the college football season has come to a close for Florida—following a disheartening loss to Oklahoma to cap off the season—former Gators now in the NFL are gearing up for the biggest part of their year as they make the final push towards hoisting the Lombardi trophy.
Specifically, 19 former members of the Florida Gators football program will trot onto the field in some form or fashion in pursuit of ultimate glory. Representing over half the teams in contention (8), blue and orange roots are riddled throughout the rosters of many of the league’s best squads.
As a result, let’s take a look at those from Florida vying to put a ring on their fingers on the second Sunday of February.
As the only team in the AFC to earn the coveted first-round bye, the Kansas City Chiefs have once against been led by a prolific offensive attack to a league-best 14-2 record.
Spearheaded by quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the multitude of weapons at his disposal, former Florida Gators receiver Demarcus Robinson sits as a sneaky deep threat to utilize how head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy sees fit.
Hauling in 45 receptions for 465 yards and three touchdowns on the season, Robinsons sits at third in the team in receptions to Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. As the Chiefs make their push starting in the divisional round, Robinson’s ability to remain a consistent third option could prove huge as teams will key in on the dynamic duo.
Meanwhile, in the rare times that the Chiefs offense sputters, punter Tommy Townsend has created long fields for the opposition. Punting 52 times all season, Townsend has averaged 45 yards per punt with 38.46 percent downed inside the 20-yard line and will look to perform at a high level in his first-ever NFL postseason action.
Once the last undefeated team in the National Football League, the Steelers spiraled nearing the end of the season. Losing four of their last five contests, inefficiencies offensively marked questions of Ben Roethlisberger’s capability in this late stage of his career.
However, what is not to question from this year’s group of Steelers’ is the offensive line or defense.
With Big Ben having the lowest pressure rate—20.9 percent of dropbacks—of any quarterback in the NFL this season, the Steelers offensive line, led by center Maurkice Pouncey, has been spectacular and shows no signs of slowing down for playoff football.
On the defensive side of the football, defensive back Joe Haden—who has accounted for 52 tackles, two interceptions, and a touchdown on the season—has been a major reason for the Steelers’ stout defensive presence all year long in coverage.
Unfortunately for him, a positive test for COVID-19 just a week ago will keep him sidelined for the wild card round against his former Browns squad. However, if the Steelers overcome their divisional rivals, Haden will return to play a significant role in the Pittsburgh secondary going forward.
With only one Florida Gator on the roster for Baltimore, it comes in the form of punter Johnny Townsend.
Getting his first action in almost two years last Sunday in the Ravens season finale, Townsend filled in for Sam Koch—who missed his first contest in fifteen years with COVID.
Booting two punts for an average of 50 yards, the former Oakland Raider performed well with his opportunity but could fall as a roster casualty in the coming days with Koch set to return to the field on Sunday.
While Indianapolis has faced its fair share of ups and downs throughout the year, the Colts made their way into the playoffs as the seventh seed in the AFC.
With Philip Rivers at the helm, Indy has seen a significant increase in the offensive attack compared to last season, ranking tenth in the NFL in total offense.
Leading tight ends on the team in touchdowns scored, Trey Burton has posted 28 receptions for 250 yards and three scores on the year, playing a role in the new Colts multi-dimensional attack.
Despite the workload on the ground coming by way of Nyheim Hines and Jonathan Taylor, quarterback Jacoby Brissett—who began his career in Gainesville before transferring to NC State—has been used in short-yardage situations throughout the year due to his large frame, scoring three touchdowns on the ground, and will likely continue to do so if the opportunity arises in Buffalo on Saturday.
Sticking to the trend of reliable depth pieces that see little to no action, the Colts roster also contains tackle Chaz Green in their uber-talented offensive line room as a reliable option to point to in the event a starting tackle goes down.
Possibly the most talented group of Gators from top to bottom in this year’s playoff—with linebacker Alex Anzalone as well as cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson representing the University—Gainesville ties run deep in The Big Easy.
With each holding large potions of responsibility for being fifth in total defense and fourth in turnover differential—with Gardner-Johnson and Jenkins combining for four interceptions—these players’ capability have been on full display all season long.
Continuing to employ the clamps in the secondary with Anzalone playing his more limited role with consistency will prove crucial in carrying the Saints on a deep playoff run in Drew Brees’s (speculated) last hoorah.
Lots of offense, little defense. The characteristics of this year’s Seattle team, especially early in the year.
Acquiring Carlos Dunlap from the Cincinnati Bengals ahead of week nine to bolster a lackluster pass-rushing unit, the Seahawks attempted to set themselves up for a future playoff run. As a result, Seattle has seen an immediate return from Dunlap, recording five sacks in just eight games in the Emerald City.
Also including rotational pieces like defensive back Quinton Dunbar—who hasn’t seen action since early November—and defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard—who has eight tackles in six games on the year—their impacts will be minimal in the closing stretch of the Settle season.
With Russel Wilson working his magic at the helm in the early portions of the season, even without a good defense, the Seahawks looked as if they could be unstoppable on the offensive side of the football.
Alongside D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and David Moore, rookie wide receiver Freddie Swain was a major contributor to this success, taking advantage of the opportunities presenting themselves.
As a guy Seattle likes to use underneath—mainly on drag routes with room to work after the catch—Swain’s athleticism has led to him catching 13 balls for 159 yards and two touchdowns on the year. Despite being an option buried on the depth chart, Swain’s impact over the middle could pay off for Seattle throughout the playoffs if the top guys get taken away.
Led by a stout front seven, Washington’s late-season push in a lackluster division won them the opportunity to host a playoff game on Wild Card Weekend.
Specifically dominant in the form of Montez Sweat and Chase Young, who have proved to be glaring bright spots in Ron Rivera’s first season, the pass rush that Washington employs is menacing.
However, middle linebacker Jon Bostic has been vital to the unit’s success throughout the year. As the team leader in tackles with 118, Bostic also adds three sacks, three passes defended, and one interception to his well-versed resumé.
As a team that many believe to be in for a wild card round exit, Bostic’s play could prove to be an X-factor for Washington against Tom Brady and Tampa Bay.
Meanwhile, offensive lineman David Sharpe sits on the bench as a third-stringer, providing much-needed depth along the trenches for any team at this point in the season.
Despite the lack of diversity in target share for the Los Angeles Rams throughout the season, rookie wide receiver Van Jefferson has carved out a niche within the offense as more than a pass catcher.
Exemplifying impressive blocking skills alongside his crisp route running prowess, the Rams utilize Jefferson in many different rushing packages despite being a last resort receiving option.
In their third matchup with the Seahawks this season in the wild card round, Jefferson could work his way into the game plan at some point to throw off an often discombobulated Seattle secondary.
Defensively, Jachai Polite—despite limited usage—provides depth to the edge of a talented pass rush. As Los Angeles faces off against Russel Wilson on Saturday afternoon, Polite provides another pass rushing to employ if his name gets called at any point.