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Florida Gators in the NFL Playoffs: Can Evan McPherson kick the Bengals to the Super Bowl?

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At least one Gator will earn a Super Bowl ring this February. None may be more important to his team than Money Mac.

Cincinnati Bengals v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The NFL’s “Super Wild Card Weekend” was a dud in just about every way. Four of the six games were complete blowouts. Not a single game was tied or had a lead change in the second half. And eight former Gators had their seasons end.

By contract, the Divisional round might have been the greatest football weekend ever. It was certainly the biggest moment for a former Florida kicker: Everyone will remember the Evan McPherson Game.

On Conference Championship Sunday, eight former Gators have a chance to make a mark like McPherson did last weekend. And at least two of them will make it to the Super Bowl: No matter which squads advance, both Super Bowl teams will have an orange and blue representative and some Gator is assured of winning a Super Bowl ring.

This will mark the 20th straight season a Florida player will make the Super Bowl. According to CBS Sports’ count, the Gators are 15th all-time with 88 Super Bowl appearances by former players.

Divisional Round Highlights

We’ll get to Money Mac’s Moment in a minute down in the Player of the Week section. A couple of former Gators returned to Florida and helped oust the defending champs. Van Jefferson had 44 total yards in the Rams’ win over Tampa Bay. Teammate Brandon Powell averaged 20 yards on three punt returns including a huge 33-yarder that set up the Rams’ final touchdown.

Wild Card Round Highlights

Demarcus Robinson had season highs in catches and yards in the Chiefs’ win over Pittsburgh. His 76 receiving yards was also a career high in the postseason and the most receiving yards by a former Gator in a playoff game since Jordan Reed had 120 yards and a touchdown on nine grabs in Washington’s 2015 wild card loss to the Packers.

Divisional and Wild Card Player of the Week

McFearless. Money Mac. Shooter.

By any name, the legend of Evan McPherson went worldwide last Saturday.

In addition to the game winner, McPherson was perfect on three other field goals including two from over 50. The city of Cincinnati has a new hero — and good luck finding a No. 2 jersey any time soon.

After the rookie’s 54-yarder sent the Bengals to the AFC Championship Game, McPherson became a media darling. Everywhere you looked, people were talking about him — or talking to him. And what he said had something to do with it, too.

I couldn’t get enough of McPherson this week. I watched all his interviews and read all the profile pieces. This great one from The Athletic has a great story about McPherson swapping jerseys with Tommy Townsend earlier this season. Could they do it again in two weeks?

And if that happens, might we see Mac doing the Griddy?

McPherson is having a rookie season for the ages. He became the first kicker in NFL history with four or more field goals in back-to-back playoff games. He’s now made 11 field goals over 50 yards this year, most in the league ever for one season. And those 11 make him the Bengals’ all-time leader.

Emmitt Smith holds the Gators mark for most points in one postseason, having put up a crazy 36 — all touchdowns — during the Cowboys’ third ‘90s Super Bowl run in 1995.

McPherson is at 27 points and could conceivably pass Smith on Sunday — with a Super Bowl left to play. And, yeah, Emmitt did his damage in just three games in 1995 — but field goals are still worth just half of what touchdowns are, and McPherson is playing in an NFL that is increasingly touchdown-oriented.

Maybe that makes this phenomenal postseason of kicking even more impressive. McPherson’s playoff debut was just as good as his Divisional heroics, after all: He split the uprights six times, including four field goals, while becoming the first former Florida kicker to kick in the postseason since Jeff Chandler in 2003. Chandler was also perfect in his only two postseason games that season.

McPherson also tied his career high — he’s a rookie, remember — with four field goals in back-to-back weeks. His 14 points in the Wild Card round and 13 in the Divisional, were the most points by a former Gator in a playoff game since Willie Jackson had three touchdowns — 18 points — for the Saints in December of 2000 against the Rams.

Divisional Play of the Week

The kick was clutch. But how about the swag? When you call your shot like this, that’s even more impressive than the actual game-winner.

Wild Card Play of the Week

Robinson had a couple of contenders. His deep out in between the Steelers zone and just out of Joe Haden’s reach was a great route capped by a nice grab.

But the catch of Wild Card Weekend might have been his snare of this onside kick while falling backwards. The ball spiked and took a tricky hop, so D-Rob needed every inch of his 6’1” frame and strong fingertips to hold on and secure the win.

Here are all of Florida players’ playoff stats (ranked and tiered in order of performance):

  • Evan McPherson, CIN, K

Wild Card: 4/4 FG, Long 43, 2/2 XP

Divisional: 4/4 FG, Long 54, 1/1 XP

  • Demarcus Robinson, KC, WR

Wild Card: 4 rec (5 targets), 76 yards, 33 snaps (51%)

Divisional: 1 target, 0 receptions, 49 snaps (64%)

  • Van Jefferson, LAR, WR

Wild Card: 1 rec (1 target), 41 yards, 39 snaps (65%)

Divisional: 2 rec, 29 yards, 1 rush, 15 yards, 65 snaps (90%)

  • Brandon Powell, LAR, WR

Wild Card: 2 punt returns, 9.5 avg, 2 kick returns, 14.0 avg

Divisional: 3 punt returns, 20.0 avg, 1 kick return, 19.0 avg

  • Tommy Townsend, KC, P

Wild Card: 4 punts, 34.5 avg

Divisional: 2 punts, 44.0 avg

  • Joe Haden, PIT, CB

Wild Card: 6 tackles, 64 snaps (98%)

  • Janoris Jenkins, TEN, CB

Wild Card: Bye

Divisional: 2 tackles, 1 pass defended, 64 snaps (100%)

  • T.J. Slaton, GB, DT

Wild Card: Bye

Divisional: 1 tackle, 1 TFL, 11 DEF snaps (20%), 6 ST snaps (26%)

  • Trent Brown, NE, RT

Wild Card: 63 snaps (100%)

  • D.J. Humphries, ARI, LT

Wild Card: 55 snaps (98%)

  • Max Garcia, ARI, C/G

Wild Card: 56 snaps (100%)

  • Marco Wilson, ARI, CB

Wild Card: 1 tackle, 51 snaps (85%)

  • Vernon Hargreaves III, CIN, CB

Wild Card: 1 QB pressure, 3 snaps (4%)

Divisional: Inactive

  • Marcell Harris, SF, LB/S

Wild Card: Inactive (Achilles)

Divisional: Inactive (Achilles)

  • Keanu Neal, DAL, LB

Wild Card: Inactive (Chest/Elbow)

  • Kyle Trask, TB, QB

Wild Card: Inactive

Divisional: Inactive

  • Fred Johnson, CIN, G/T

Wild Card: Inactive

Divisional: Inactive

  • Shawn Davis, GB, S

Wild Card: Bye

Divisional: Inactive

  • Bryan Cox, Jr., BUF, DE

Wild Card and Divisional: Injured Reserve (Achilles)

Playoff Practice Squad

  • Jon Halapio, SF, G
  • Donovan Stiner, PIT, S
  • Chaz Green, PIT, T