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Penn State Football

Penn State Players Remaining in NFL Playoffs

Penn State Nittany Lions safety Ji'Ayir Brown (16) November 12, 2022 David Hague/NSN

The NFL Divisional Playoffs begin Saturday in Baltimore and conclude Sunday with a thrilling matchup between the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs and the red-hot Buffalo Bills, and Penn State will be well-represented through all of it. 

Former Penn State players like Micah Parsons and Joey Porter Jr. have been eliminated from the NFL playoffs, but many former Penn State players are still fighting for their chance to play in Super Bowl LVIII. 

 

Saturday, Jan. 20 at 8:15 p.m. – No. 7 Green Bay Packers vs. No. 1 San Francisco 49ers

Green Bay Packers: QB Sean Clifford, T Rasheed Walker

The Packers pulled off a stunning 48-32 win in Dallas last weekend to become the first No. 7 seed to win a playoff game since the NFL postseason expanded four years ago. No. 7 seeds were previously 0-6. Rookie Sean Clifford got a chance to play in his first playoff game with Green Bay running the clock up by three scores. Left tackle Rasheed Walker has helped the offensive line  protect up-and-coming quarterback Jordan Love’s blind side. Walker owns a 66.4 PFF grade and has allowed six sacks in 851 offensive snaps.

San Francisco 49ers: DL Kevin Givens, S Ji’Ayir Brown

Defensive lineman Kevin Givens received sparing playing time this on arguably the NFL’s best defensive line. He started one of the 17 games he played in the regular season with 22 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Givens has done well for himself after being an undrafted free agent in 2019 and has played all five of his NFL seasons in San Francisco. Rookie safety Ji’Ayir Brown had his snaps significantly increase after Talanoa Hufanga tore his ACL. The 2023 third-round pick started five games and grabbed two interceptions alongside four passes defended and 34 tackles. Brown’s earned a 77.9 PFF grade and has done a solid job on the NFC’s best defense. The 49ers will need Brown to be aggressive but consistent in the back end and avoid big plays in the middle of the field.

 

Saturday, Jan. 20 at 4:30 p.m. – No. 4 Houston Texans vs. No. 1 Baltimore Ravens

Houston Texans: C Juice Scruggs, S Adrian Amos

Center Juice Scruggs has struggled after being the 62nd pick in last year’s draft. He has helped protect potential Rookie of the Year and former Ohio State QB CJ Stroud. Scruggs still has the potential to be an impactful offensive lineman. Safety Adrian Amos first played for the Jets this season before landing in Houston as a reserve safety. He recorded one tackle against Cleveland in Houston’s playoff win.

Baltimore Ravens: DE Odafe Oweh, P Jordan Stout

2021 first-round pick Odafe Oweh is one of the best young pass rushers in the AFC North. Oweh recorded 15 tackles, five sacks, and two forced fumbles in 13 games (five starts). He owns 13 sacks and six forced fumbles in three seasons. Stout has become one of the best punters in football after kicking and punting in college. He averaged just under 48 yards per punt – with a long of 67 yards – and 30 punts inside the 20 (tied for 10th in the NFL).

 

Sunday, Jan. 21 at 3:00 p.m. – No. 4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. No. 3 Detroit Lions

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Chris Godwin

The lone Penn State on the Buccaneers, who are still in the NFL playoffs, is a notable one. Chris Godwin recorded his fourth career and third consecutive 1,000-yard season in 2023 and played all 17 games. He caught 83 passes for 1,024 yards and two touchdowns in his age-27 season. He averaged over 60 yards per game as one of Baker Mayfield’s top targets. He returns to Big Ten country in Detroit, where the Nittany Lions beat Michigan State in November.

Detroit Lions: FB Jason Cabinda 

Fullback Jason Cabinda has bounced around between Detroit’s practice squad and active roster. A solid special teams player and good blocker, Cabinda has played 56 games since joining the league in 2018 and transitioned to fullback last year after originally playing linebacker in college and his first four professional seasons. He owns one receiving touchdown in his career playing for Dan Campbell and the feel-good Lions.

 

Sunday, Jan. 21 at 6:30 p.m. – No. 3 Kansas City Chiefs vs. No. 2 Buffalo Bills 

Kansas City Chiefs: LT Donovan Smith

The Chiefs starting left tackle and for years one of the best in the game, Donovan Smith hasn’t performed as well in 2023 as in previous years, but is still a stabilizing force on the left side. Smith is tied for 11th with nine penalties this season, but has only allowed two sacks in 749 snaps. PFF gives him a pedestrian 55.4 overall rating in his first season as a Chief following eight years, plus a Super Bowl ring, in Tampa Bay.

Buffalo Bills: G Connor McGovern, C Ryan Bates

2019 third-round pick Connor McGovern has played the 6th-most snaps (1,135) of anyone for a Buffalo Bills offensive line that has remained the same all year. McGovern has brought stability in protecting Josh Allen and blocking in the running game, with two total sacks allowed despite a 58.5 PFF grade. The Bills were 6-6 before a five-game winning streak, and everyone on both sides of the ball significantly stepped up to propel the team towards a playoff run. Center Ryan Bates was an undrafted free agent in 2019 and has played 35 snaps this season. He originally joined the NFL with the Eagles four years ago.

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