The Alabama Crimson Tide won its 16th football national championship on Monday night, ending the season with the ultimate success. The team won’t play another game until the 2016 season starts in September, so fans will have to wait a while before watching the Crimson Tide again.
However, the NFL playoffs have only just started, and fans can watch plenty of former Alabama stars compete to win a professional championship. Here’s a quick primer on all the Alabama alumni in the playoffs.
New England Patriots
The defending Super Bowl champs face a tough matchup against the red-hot Chiefs after a first-round bye. The team features two former Crimson Tide players, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and tight end Michael Williams.Williams doesn’t figure to be a big part of New England’s game plan, as he had just three catches all year as the team’s third tight end.
If Rob Gronkowski or backup Scott Chandler gets injured, Williams could see some action. Hightower, on the other hand, is one of the best linebackers on the team, and New England needs him to deliver a big game if they want to win. He had 61 tackles in the regular season and added three and a half sacks. Look for Hightower to be one of the keys to a Patriot win.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers are coming off of a win against the Washington Redskins, and will face a tough Arizona Cardinals team on the road. Green Bay has two recent Crimson Tide alumni in safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and running back Eddie Lacy. Clinton-Dix was one of Green Bay’s best defenders, leading the team in tackles with 100 total, and contributing three sacks and two interceptions.
Lacy is the team’s leading rusher with 758 yards on the ground, 188 yards receiving and five total touchdowns. Lacy had a very up and down season, but he played well last week, going for 63 yards and a touchdown against Washington. Getting him going will be a key for the Packers, as they are 4-1 in games where he gains at least 85 yards.
Green Bay’s opponent is coming off of a first-round bye after a great season. One they may not have had without the contributions of former Alabama safety Rashad Johnson. Johnson had a solid 61 tackles, but also grabbed five interceptions, tied for sixth-most in the league.
Arizona also has defensive lineman Ed Stinson, but Stinson hasn’t played since October. He recorded 11 tackles in his four games this season. The Cardinals face a tough matchup with the Packers, and they will need Johnson to step up with a big game against a talented Packer receiving corps. His play is especially needed after fellow safety Tyrann Mathieu’s recent injury.
The Seahawks come off an improbable win against the Minnesota Vikings after a missed field goal, and they will face the top-seeded Carolina Panthers as a result. The Seahawks have former Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams on roster, but Williams has not played all year, due to being diagnosed with Papillary Type 2 cancer.
The Panthers had a phenomenal 15-1 regular season and earned a first-round bye last week. The Panthers have two former Tide players in safety Roman Harper and receiver Kevin Norwood. Harper has had a solid season in Carolina, finishing fourth on the team with 73 tackles. Norwood has only been active one game all year, a September matchup against Houston where he was targeted once but didn’t get a reception. Norwood played for the Seahawks last year as a rookie, and Carolina traded for him when top wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin was lost for the season before it started. Acquired to compete for targets in a thin receiving corps, Norwood has instead watched the season from the sidelines, and will likely do so this weekend as his new team faces off against his old one.
The Broncos are the top seed in the AFC, and had a first-round bye last week. They feature a single Alabama alum, guard Evan Mathis. Mathis had a solid first year with the Broncos, playing in every game and starting in 12 of them. Mathis and his fellow linemen could be the most important unit Denver has, as the line needs to create lanes for Denver’s running backs and pass protect for Peyton Manning. If Mathis and his fellow linemen struggle, Denver’s post-season will not last long.
The teams eliminated last week featured some Alabama alumni. The notable ones include:
Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron made his first playoff start of his career andled the team to a late fourth quarter lead before defensive penalties helped the Steelers kick a winning field goal. The Bengals also feature defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, and offensive lineman Andre Smith.
Houston cornerback Kareem Jackson made seven tackles in a 30-0 loss. Defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan did not play in the game or much in the regular season, recording just one tackle.
Vikings offensive tackle Austin Shepherd ended his rookie season playing in 14 games, including seeing some time at left tackle in the team’s loss to the Seahawks.
Rookie guard Arie Kouandjio did not play in Washington’s loss, but saw action in four games this season.
Even though the Crimson Tide’s season is over, fans have plenty of former Alabama players to cheer in on the NFL’s playoffs while they count down the days until kickoff against USC on Sept. 3.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports