With just two weeks left in the regular season, 9 Mountaineers (2 on injured reserve) are in the hunt for the NFL playoffs. A couple of the WVU alumni are key players to their teams’ playoff chances.
The Mountaineer alumni in the playoff hunt are:
- Pat McAfee, P, Indianapolis Colts. McAfee has been one of the top punters in the league and has done a tremendous job of helping the Colts win the battle of field position. McAfee has a 48.7 yards per punt average with 6 touchbacks. The Colts are currently 9-5 and in the fifth spot in the AFC playoff standings.
- Adam Jones, CB, Cincinnati Bengals. Jones has played the season as the nickel back in the Bengals pass defense sets as well as returning punts. As the season has progressed, Pacman has moved into the starting line-up and emerged as a competent starting cornerback. Jones has amassed 35 tackles and 8 pass break-ups as well as a punt return touchdown. The Bengals are currently 8-6 and holding onto the final wild card spot in the AFC.
- Robert Sands, S, Cincinnati Bengals. Sands has been placed on IR and will not be a contributor to the Bengals playoff push.
- Will Johnson, FB, Pittsburgh Steelers. Johnson has come out of nowhere this season to become the starting fullback for the Steelers. He has not received many opportunities to run the ball in Todd Haley’s system, but has served as a valuable receiving option for Roethlisberger. Johnson has reeled in 13 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. The Steelers currently are at 7-7 and just outside of the playoff field.
- Ryan Mundy, S, Pittsburgh Steelers. Mundy has been asked to fill in for large portions of the season for the ailing Troy Polamalu and has done quite well. He has accounted for 36 tackles for one of the top defenses in the NFL.
- Don Barclay, OT, Green Bay Packers. The big man Barclay got his chance to show his talents against the Bears in week two when he threw the key block on the Packers fake punt touchdown. Since then, Barclay has seen increasing playing time, earning starts in the past two games. Green Bay is 10-4 and locked into the NFC playoff field as the NFC North champions.
- Chris Nield, DT, Washington Redskins. Nield is on IR and has not been a factor in the Redskins run to 8-6 and the NFC East lead with two weeks left to play.
- Bruce Irvin, DE, Seattle Seahawks. Bruce has been a constant pass rushing force for the Seahawks, registering a rookie leading 8 sacks. Irvin has been instrumental in the defensive success of the Seahawks who are in the top wild card slot at 9-5.
- J.T. Thomas, LB, Chicago Bears. Thomas has been a good player on special teams for the Bears, racking up 4 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. The Bears have faded down the stretch to 8-6 and sit just outside of the NFC playoff picture.
Given how the season has shaped up as of late, it would appear that Thomas, Johnson, and Mundy are in danger of missing the playoffs. The rest of the field of Mountaineers alumni look likely to make the playoffs with Jones, Irvin, McAfee, and Barclay looking to play major roles in their teams success.
Of the 4 Mountaineers starters, Don Barclay is probably the most critical to the success of his team. If Barclay can keep Aaron Rodgers upright, the Packers have a great shot of making it back to the Super Bowl. Do not discount the importance of McAfee to the Colts success either though. Without his ability to tilt the field, the Colts might not be in the playoff hunt at all this season.
Here is hoping that we will get to see multiple Mountaineers excel in the post season and make it the Super Bowl.