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PSU in the NFL

Nittany Lions to Watch on Super Wildcard Weekend

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 04: Philadelphia Eagles Running Back Miles Sanders (26) runs downfield during the NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on October 4, 2020 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. (Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire)

The NFL playoffs are here, and plenty of Nittany Lions are going to be involved. Here are the Penn Staters to watch on Wildcard Weekend.

Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

SUNDAY, 1 p.m., FOX

MILES SANDERS

He’s back. Well, maybe.

When Sanders suffered a hand injury the day after Christmas, it looked like his 2021 season might be over. Although he was limited in his return to practice earlier this week, Sanders said he is “absolutely” playing in the wildcard round against Tampa Bay, so based on that, it’d be reasonable to expect him to go in some capacity.

Sanders rushed for 754 yards in the regular season and averaged 5.5 yards per carry, both second on the Eagles to quarterback Jalen Hurts.

On the other side, Chris Godwin will not be playing for Tampa Bay, as his season ended Dec. 19. Penn State will be represented by the Buccaneers, however, in the form of 6-foot-6, 338-pound offensive tackle Donovon Smith, who has started all 17 games for Tampa.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS at BUFFALO BILLS

Tonight, 8:15 p.m., CBS, Paramount

Ryan Bates

Most casual football fans probably aren’t familiar with Bates, despite him starting for the AFC East champs.

Bates has only been starting for the Bills since Week 16, but in that time, he’s impressed. In the three games since Bates entered the starting lineup, Josh Allen hasn’t been sacked, and Bates’ overall pass blocking grade is 73.3, which ranks 20th of 56 guards.

Bates was a three year starter at Penn State from 2016-18, blocking for star running backs Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders as well as quarterback Trace McSorley.

DALLAS COWBOYS at SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Sunday, 4:30 P.M., CBS

MICAH PARSONS

The most prominent Penn Stater playing on Wildcard Weekend is just a rookie. But Parsons has already established himself as one of the NFL’s best.

With 13 sacks and 84 tackles, Parsons has been one of the main reasons for Dallas’ turnaround in 2021. He’s the runaway favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year, and some feel he merits Defensive Player of the Year consideration as well.

On the eve of Parsons’s first NFL playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers, the former Nittany Lion became just the fourth rookie linebacker in league history to earn first-team all-pro honors. Dallas will look for him to continue playing at that level in the postseason.

Also representing Penn State for the Jets will be guard Connor McGovern, who has started five of Dallas’ last eight games, including its Week 18 win over Philadelphia.

ROBBIE GOULD

The 39-year old is kicker is still going at it in Year 19.

Gould, a two-time All-Pro, is coming into the playoffs red hot, having kicked three field goals— including the overtime winner— in San Francisco’s playoff-clinching 27-24 win over the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday. Gould left Penn State as its all-time leading scorer, and now sits in sixth place nearly two decades later.

Former Penn State defensive lineman Kevin Givens will also suit up for San Francisco. The Altoona native has appeared in 13 games as a reserve for the 49ers.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Sunday, 8:15 p.m., NBC

PAT FRIERMUTH

The 6-5, 258-pound tight end will be in his usual starting role against the Kansas City Chiefs. Friermuth was unavailable in Pittsburgh’s first meeting at Kansas City with a concussion.

Friermuth had 60 catches for 497 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season.

Also for Pittsburgh, Marcus Allen should see some time at inside linebacker.

Other Penn Staters in the playoffs 

Grant Haley, Nick Scott (Los Angeles Rams), Trace McSorley (Arizona Cardinals) Nick Bowers (Las Vegas Raiders), Adrian Amos (Green Bay Packers, first-round bye)

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