The National Football League regular season has wrapped and now 17 former Gators — plus another five on practice squads — head into the postseason hoping to earn a Super Bowl ring. A former Gator has played in the Super Bowl in 20 straight years, while eight of the past 10 Super Bowls have seen a Florida product raising the Lombardi Trophy. Of the former Gators in the playoff field, only Demarcus Robinson has been a champion.
But before we get to the postseason, let’s celebrate the regular season, some incredible individual accolades and honors, and a few memorable performances in Week 18.
Tommy Townsend earned his first Pro Bowl selection a couple of weeks ago, but an even bigger honor is making the All-Pro team. After finishing the season as the league leader in net punting — and second in punt average — Townsend was named to the inaugural NFLPA All-Pro team. Considering the honor was voted on exclusively by his fellow players, it’s something to celebrate for T-Town.
Game recognizes game— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 11, 2023
Four Chiefs were voted by their peers onto the first ever Players' All-Pro team! pic.twitter.com/36iuNxVaZl
He finished off his banner regular season with a punt duel against last year’s All-Pro punter A.J. Cole. As much as punting can be, it was quite a show.
Townsend is the first former Gator to be named an All-Pro since Maurkice Pouncey in 2014.
C.J. Gardner-Johnson was headed to certain Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors before suffering a lacerated kidney in Week 12 and missing five games. At the time he was injured, CJGJ led the league with six interceptions. Incredibly, when he returned in Week 18, he was still tied for the league lead, even though he only played 12 games, and kept that tie through last weekend.
He’s only the second former Gator to lead the league in picks — Reggie Nelson did it with eight in 2015, meaning that the only Gators to do so have both hailed from Brevard County, with Nelson graduating from 2000s-era powerhouse Palm Bay and Gardner-Johnson starring at recent riser Cocoa.
Ceedy Duce also didn’t miss a beat on the field, with seven tackles and a tackle for loss. In fact, he showed off his ability to play all over the field by splitting time at safety and nickel corner. But ask Gardner-Johnson and he’ll tell you exactly who he is and what position he plays.
C.J. Gardner-Johnson: “Y’all know I’m the best safety in the league. I’m glad we won. Now this shit runs though us.” pic.twitter.com/REFVDHICAd— Josh Tolentino (@JCTSports) January 9, 2023
Piñeiro Almost Perfect
Eddy Piñeiro might have been the best kicker in the NFL this year. He finished 33-for-35 on field goals for a stellar 94.3 percent make rate — pairing the fourth-most field goals and second-best FG percentage in the league. And he went out with a bang, drilling a 42-yard game-winner in Week 18.
Piñeiro doing that and writing his own redemption tale was inspiring. After missing an extra point and a field goal in a brutal meltdown in the middle of the season against the Falcons, many were calling for his job. He answered the bell in incredible fashion.
Eddy Pineiro made his last 19 FGs after his ATL misses to finish 2nd in FG accuracy (94.3%) behind the Chargers' Cameron Dicker (95.0%) among kickers with at least 20 tries.— Joe Person (@josephperson) January 9, 2023
Piñeiro’s current stretch of 19 consecutive made field goals was only his second-longest streak this year — he had a streak of 27 straight field goals going back to 2019 snapped earlier this season. Since getting another chance to kick in the league late last year, Piñeiro has made 41 of his past 43 field goals. In fact, his career numbers are now 64-for-71, or 90.1 percent.
If he had enough kicks to qualify? He’d be second in league history to Justin Tucker — who is only at 90.5 percent.
Eddy is steady. More than you think, probably.
Dunlap is Still Tall, Can Still Play
In his 13th season, Carlos Dunlap isn’t the double-digit sack machine and every-down player he was in his prime. But he’s still a force as a rotational edge rusher, notching his 100th career sack earlier this season, and one of the best defensive linemen ever at batting down passes.
Carlos Dunlap with the swat at the line of scrimmage on third down! KC set to get the ball back.— Matt McMullen (@KCChiefs_Matt) January 7, 2023
Dunlap’s knockdown in Week 18 gave him eight passes defended, tied for first in the entire league among defensive linemen. This should come as no surprise: Since entering the NFL, Dunlap is the active leader among non-DBs in pass breakups with 77 — seven more than the retiring J.J. Watt, who became so notorious for his batting down of passes that he acquired the nickname J.J. Swatt.
Dunlap doesn’t get the same sort of respect, of course, and was never the game-wrecker that Watt was in his prime. But when he does hang them up, it’ll be the end of an illustrious career.
Davis Dazzles in Giants Debut
Jarrad Davis was languishing away on Detroit’s practice squad, active for only three games and a total of 36 defensive snaps. Last week, the New York Giants claimed Davis for linebacking depth, likely figuring he could fill in for their meaningless Week 18 game while their regulars got healthy.
Expectation from the #Giants defense for Sunday's game against the Eagles: a lot of Jarrad Davis, Micah McFadden and Carter Coughlin at ILB, per sources.— Art Stapleton (@art_stapleton) January 7, 2023
Davis will get opportunity to show he can be a factor at the position in the playoffs for #NYG despite being here for a week.
Then Davis started making plays.
This is a fairly tremendous play by Jarrad Davis on 3rd down. pic.twitter.com/XJZ66LzJ5R— The Football Grump (@football_grump) January 10, 2023
He showed speed and aggressiveness. He shot gaps. He was closing out in space. Ten tackles and a half sack later, Davis blew away any expectations the Giants might have had.
After the way Jarrad Davis played against the Eagles I would not be surprised to see him in the playoffs — looked like a legit run stopper and we desperately need that at LB #NYG— Alex Wilson (@AlexWilsonESM) January 9, 2023
Apparently, the Giants pursued Davis for a while before finally convincing him to leave Detroit and sign with them. It looks like a decision that could pay off for both in the playoffs.
Clearly, Giants identified Davis as someone who could help their D. This wasn't a waiver claim. They sought him out, pushed to sign him off the Lions' practice squad and kept at it.— Art Stapleton (@art_stapleton) January 9, 2023
Once Davis changed his mind, Giants brought him right in + he played 70/73 snaps a week later. https://t.co/QKpIWtvVhh
Anzalone Ends With Some Bangs
Alex Anzalone and the Detroit Lions left it all on the field at Lambeau last Sunday. The Lions had been eliminated from playoff contention earlier in the day, but instead of sulking, they came out and knocked their hated rivals out of the postseason as well. Anzalone finished his best season with 125 tackles - tied for 21st in the league - including this huge tackle for loss.
Aaron Rodgers & Packers STOPPED On 4th down …Allen Lazard goes down pic.twitter.com/WFihZqqOeO— NFL Daily (@SportsContent23) January 9, 2023
Anzalone helped ice the game when he blitzed Aaron Rodgers and pressured him into an underthrown pass that was intercepted.
Tough one for AJ Dillon to sort out. The safety bailed, but if he finds Anzalone, Lazard is about to be wide open for an explosive play. Instead Rodgers floats it as he's falling away from the hit. Brutal. https://t.co/BINq1d96xd— Zachary Duffy (@ZachDuffy72) January 12, 2023
He also gave the best lineup intro of the season.
Alex Anzalone. Gator boy. pic.twitter.com/1zK7eNzVCa— Will Levenson (@BigWillLevenson) January 9, 2023
Other Week 18 Notables
Kyle Trask finally made his NFL debut. His final numbers weren’t great — 3-for-9 for 23 yards — but 10 snaps with backups at every position is hardly a fair shot.
Every Bucs fan wants to know how 2nd year QB Kyle Trask has been developing. Well he made his regular season debut on Sunday, so I took a deep dive into every throw he made against the Falcons. #Bucsfilm2022wk18 pic.twitter.com/Irfx7XkwX9— Commissioner Cheah (@StevenCheah) January 11, 2023
It wasn’t the season Van Jefferson wanted, but at least he finished strong with three grabs for 61 yards last Sunday and six catches for 138 over his last two games.
Freddie Swain didn’t have the season he thought he’d have either, but this 52-yarder at least shows he can still make plays in the league. He’ll be looking for a bigger opportunity in 2023.
Player of the Week
The Chiefs have been building to it for weeks and finally unleashed Kadarius Toney in the first half of the season finale against the Raiders. Early on, Toney combined cuts and power on this strong run that almost found the end zone.
Toney broke a few more ankles in space later in the game.
Kadarius Toney put his defenders on skates pic.twitter.com/j0aZ0DfBou— NFL on ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsNFL) January 7, 2023
Then the Chiefs just plain showed off with one of the coolest plays — or pre-snap motions, at least — we’ve ever seen run in an NFL game.
The Chiefs really hit the “Ring-Around-The-Rosie” pic.twitter.com/yt6VlT6HVd— ESPN (@espn) January 7, 2023
Toney was the recipient of that trick play, broke a tackle, and scored. Of course, the touchdown was called back. So what did Kansas City do? They called a jet sweep for Toney on the very next play.
Kadarius Toney takes the sweep cutting into the B gap. 87+57 outside zone combo to the second level. 87 & 9 do a fantastic job blocking in space at the second level. 57 keeps the edge wide. Excellent vision from 19 to stay inside and weave his way through for the TD. pic.twitter.com/eyyyESnEMg— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) January 10, 2023
Toney finished last week with a modest 44 yards on five touches and that score, all in the first half. Seemed pretty clear, though, that Andy Reid and his merry band of mad scientists have ramped up the Toney integration — he’s gotten a combined nine touches for 115 yards the past two weeks — just in time for the postseason.
Play of the Week
For the second time this season, a former Gator’s pick six lands the Play of the Week.
Marco Wilson’s finish was spectacular. For Greenard, it was all about the deflection and catch. Great reflexes and hands by the big edge rusher.
Greenard has produced at a high level when he’s been on the field for the Texans. In 33 career games, he has 10.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. The problem has been staying healthy: He missed nine games this season and was limited in a few others.
Greenard was also honored by the local Houston media with their 2022 season good guy award for always taking the time to talk with them even while battling through those injuries.
'This is awesome,' #Texans' Jonathan Greenard @jongreenard7 named Houston local chapter of @PFWAwriters annual Good Guy award winner for professionalism and going above and beyond with media @HoustonTexans @TexansPR @KPRC2https://t.co/fMZD7aFVld— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) January 6, 2023
Super Wild Card Weekend Preview
Seahawks at 49ers
Teez Tabor and Stone Forsythe are likely to see limited snaps in backup roles for Seattle. Janoris Jenkins, signed to the 49ers practice squad back in late November, has been elevated for this game and could see a backup role. Jenkins is third among all active players in passes defended with 124.
Chargers at Jaguars
Jawaan Taylor is the lone Gator in action. He’ll have his hands full with the Chargers’ pass rush duo of Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. Taylor had his best season in 2022, only allowing five sacks while opening holes for Travis Etienne in the run game.
Dolphins at Bills
The bad news? Kaiir Elam will line up across from Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. The good news? Skylar Thompson might be the one throwing the passes. Elam could have a chance to make some plays.
Giants at Vikings
As mentioned, look for Jarrad Davis to play a key role for the Giants especially in a matchup against Dalvin Cook and the Vikings run game. On the other side, Jonathan Bullard will do his best to help control the line of scrimmage and keep Saquan Barkley from getting loose.
Ravens at Bengals
It’s Money Mac time. After an historic postseason last year, Evan McPherson will be looking to shake off an up and down regular season with more big kicks in the playoffs. Zach Carter fills a rotational role on the Bengals defensive line.
For the Ravens, Demarcus Robinson will see a handful of targets as one of Baltimore’s top pass-catching options.
Cowboys at Bucs
Dante Fowler could be a factor for Dallas. He’s had success sacking Tom Brady in the past. Malik Davis isn’t likely to see much time behind Tony Pollard and Zeke Elliott. Keanu Neal has seen his playing time decrease as Tampa’s secondary has gotten healthy. Kyle Trask will surely be inactive.
Here are all of the Week 18 stats (ranked and tiered in order of performance):
- Kadarius Toney, KC, WR
Week 18: 3 rush, 26 yards, TD, 2 rec (2 targets), 18 yards, 1 PR, 5.0 avg, 18 snaps (31%), 3 ST snaps (13%)
Season: 9 G, 16 rec, 171 yards, 2 TD, 7 rush, 82 yards, TD, 10 PR, 6.1 avg
- Jarrad Davis, NYG, LB
Week 18: 10 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit, 70 snaps (96%)
Season: 4 G, 13 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit, 1 PD
- Jonathan Greenard, HOU, DE
Week 18: 1 INT, 39 return yards, TD, 3 tackles, 1 PD, 29 snaps (40%)
Season: 8 G, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, TD, 16 tackles, 6 TFL, 4 QB hits, 1 PD, 1 FR
- Alex Anzalone, DET, LB
Week 18: 8 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit, 60 snaps (100%)
Season: 17 G, 125 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 7 TFL, 7 QB hits, 6 PD, 1 FR
- Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, PHI, S
Week 18: 7 tackles, 1 TFL, 63 snaps (100%)
Season: 12 G, 6 INT (tied for NFL lead), 54 return yards, 67 tackles, 8 PD, 5 TFL, 2 QB hits
- Jawaan Taylor, JAX, RT
Week 18: 49 snaps (100%)
Season: 17 G, 1,097 snaps (98%), 6 penalties, 5 sacks allowed, 1 tackle
- Van Jefferson, LAR, WR
Week 18: 3 rec (7 targets), 61 yards, 59 snaps (97%)
Season: 11 G, 24 rec, 369 yards, 3 TD
- Carlos Dunlap, KC, DE
Week 18: 2 QB hits, 1 PD, 51 snaps (73%)
Season: 17 G, 4.0 sacks, 39 tackles, 12 QB hits, 8 PD, 6 TFL, 1 FF
- Max Garcia, ARI, G
Week 18: 52 snaps (100%)
Season: 12 G, 544 snaps (64%), 2 penalties, 1 sack allowed
- Eddy Pineiro, CAR, K
Week 18: 1/1 FG, Long 42, 1/1 XP
Season: 17 G, 33/35 FG, Long 54, 30/32 XP
- Freddie Swain, DEN, WR
Week 18: 2 rec (3 targets), 54 yards, 1 PR, 0 yards, 1 fumble, 21 snaps (32%), 13 ST snaps (42%)
Season: 4 G, 4 rec, 74 yards
- Brandon Powell, LAR, WR
Week 18: 1 rec (3 targets), 2 yards, 1 rush, 15 yards, 1 KR, 17.0 avg, 3 PR, 7.3 avg, 49 snaps (80%), 16 ST snaps (48%)
Season: 24 rec, 156 yards, 17 rush, 80 yards, 30 KR, 20.2 avg, 24 PR, 7.4 avg
- Evan McPherson, CIN, K
Week 18: 2/2 FG, Long 34, 3/3 XP
Season: 16 G, 24/29 FG, Long 59, 40/44 XP
- Demarcus Robinson, BAL, WR
Week 18: 2 rec (9 targets), 24 yards, 2 tackles, 49 snaps (63%)
Season: 17 G, 48 rec, 458 yards, 2 TD, 5 tackles
- C.J. Henderson, CAR, CB
Week 18: 4 tackles, 1 PD, 1 FF, 60 snaps (100%), 8 ST snaps (40%)
Season: 17 G, 58 tackles, 2 INT, 74 return yards, 7 PD, 2 TFL, 1 FF, 1 FR
- T.J. Slaton, GB, DT
Week 18: 3 tackles, 32 snaps (52%), 12 ST snaps (48%)
Season: 17 G, 31 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 PD
- Trent Brown, NE, RT
Week 18: 68 snaps (100%)
Season: 17 G, 1,032 snaps (98%), 9 penalties, 5 sacks allowed
- Tommy Townsend, KC, P
Week 18: 4 punts, 49.0 avg
Season: 17 G, 53 punts, 50.4 avg, 45.6 net (led NFL), 0/1 passing
- Taven Bryan, CLE, DT
Week 18: 1 tackle, 48 snaps (66%), 5 ST snaps (23%)
Season: 16 G, 3.0 sacks, 26 tackles, 6 QB hits, 2 TFL, 1 PD
- Keanu Neal, TB, S
Week 18: 1 QB hit, 31 snaps (46%), 3 ST snaps (11%)
Season: 17 G, 63 tackles, 1 INT, 0.5 sack, 5 QB hits, 4 PD, 2 TFL
- Kaiir Elam, BUF, CB
Week 18: 2 tackles, 29 snaps (43%), 6 ST snaps (23%)
Season: 13 G, 2 INT, 41 tackles, 4 PD, 1 TFL
- Zach Carter, CIN, DT
Week 18: 2 tackles, 1 PD, 33 snaps (42%), 4 ST snaps (13%)
Season: 16 G, 23 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit, 1 PD
- Jeff Driskel, HOU, QB
Week 18: 2/2 passing, 13 yards, 3 rush, 7 yards, 6 snaps (9%)
Season: 7 G, 14/20 passing, 108 yards, TD, 20 rush, 75 yards, 1 rec, 4 yards
- Kyle Trask, TB, QB
Week 18: 3/9 passing, 23 yards, 10 snaps (18%)
Season: 3/9 passing, 23 yards
- Malik Davis, DAL, RB
Week 18: 5 rush, 19 yards, 6 snaps (9%), 8 ST snaps (24%)
Season: 12 G, 38 rush, 161 yards, TD, 6 rec, 63 yards, 2 tackles
- Janoris Jenkins, SF, CB
Week 18: 1 tackle, 17 snaps (33%), 13 ST snaps (50%)
Season: 2 G, 3 tackles
- Teez Tabor, SEA, S
Week 18: 1 tackle, 7 snaps (11%), 15 ST snaps (45%)
Season: 10 G, 9 tackles
- Jonathan Bullard, MIN, DT
Week 18: 22 snaps (43%)
Season: 12 G, 23 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 QB hit
- Dante Fowler, Jr., DAL, OLB
Week 18: 14 snaps (21%)
Season: 17 G, 6.0 sacks, 27 tackles, 9 QB hits, 7 TFL, 2 FF, 2 PD
- Stone Forsythe, SEA, T
Week 18: 3 snaps (4%), 6 ST snaps (18%)
Season: 17 G, 122 snaps (11%), 79 ST snaps (17%), 1 penalty, 0 sacks allowed
- Dameon Pierce, HOU, RB: Injured Reserve
Season: 220 rush, 939 yards, 4 TD, 30 rec, 165 yards, TD, 1 tackle
- Marco Wilson, ARI, CB: Inactive (Neck)
Season: 13 G, 3 INT, 77 return yards, TD, 10 PD, 2 TFL, 1 QB hit, 1 FF
- Marcus Maye, NO, S: Inactive (Shoulder)
Season: 10 G, 60 tackles, 2 PD, 1 FF
- Kyle Pitts, ATL, TE: Injured Reserve
Season: 10 G, 28 rec, 356 yards, 2 TD
- D.J. Humphries, ARI, LT: Injured Reserve
Season: 8 G, 575 snaps (99%), 4 penalties, 0 sacks allowed
- Jon Bostic, WAS, LB: Injured Reserve
Season: 15 G, 25 tackles
- Marcell Harris, NYJ, LB: Injured Reserve
Season: 11 G, 12 tackles
- Feleipe Franks, ATL, TE: Inactive
Season: 11 G, 1 rush, 0 yards, 1 tackle
The Practice Squad
- Tyrie Cleveland, DEN, WR
Season: 6 G, 2 rec, 28 yards, 3 tackles, 2 KR, 9.0 avg
- Fred Johnson, PHI, OL
Season: 5 G, 2 snaps (1%), 18 ST snaps (14%)
- Jabari Zuniga, NO, DE
Season: 1 G, 2 tackles
- Jonotthan Harrison, ATL, OL
Season: 1 G, no snaps
- La’mical Perine, MIA, RB
- David Sharpe, BAL, T
- Jeremiah Moon, BAL, LB
- Duke Dawson, PIT, DB
- Jean Delance, GB, OL
- Antonio Callaway, DAL, WR