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ProCanes NFL Preview: 2019 Wildcard Weekend

The road to Super Bowl LIII begins

Indianapolis Colts v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Where the regular season ends, the postseason begins. For a group of University of Miami alums, the quest to secure a Super Bowl ring continues today in the opening round of the playoffs. A ProCane has not been a member of a Super Bowl winning team since DT Vince Wilfork won Super Bowl XLIX in 2015.

Playoff Field

AFC

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (DE Allen Bailey)
  2. New England Patriots (WR Phillip Dorsett)
  3. Houston Texans (RB Lamar Miller)
  4. Baltimore Ravens
  5. Los Angeles Chargers (WR Travis Benjamin, PK Michael Badgley, S Rayshawn Jenkins, *LB Denzel Perryman)
  6. Indianapolis Colts (DE Al-Quadin Muhammad, TE Erik Swoope)

NFC

  1. New Orleans Saints
  2. Los Angeles Rams (CB Sam Shields)
  3. Chicago Bear (S Deon Bush)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (WR Allen Hurns)
  5. Seattle Seahawks
  6. Philadelphia Eagles

Game Previews

Indianapolis Colts (10-6) vs Houston Texans (11-5) Saturday 4:35PM EDT

The first game of wildcard weekend features the third and final meeting between these two AFC South rivals. The teams split their series 1–1 in 2018, with the Texans coming out on top in the first meeting, followed by the Colts eking out a 24-21 victory in revenge spot.

Houston RB Lamar Miller was contained in that final match, with Indy limiting the ProCane RB to 33 rushing yards on 14 carries. In the first matchup of the season, Miller gained 49 rushing yards on 14 carries for a yards-per-carry of 3.5. After suffering an ankle injury a few weeks ago, the former Miami Killian HS star appears to be healthy enough to handle a significant portion of carries in this contest. Establishing a ground game against a Colts’ defense that allows a measly 3.9 YPC will be a tall task for the Texans offense. Considering how potent Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck and the Colts’ offense has been down the home stretch of the regular season, long and lengthy possessions on offense will help the Texans achieve victory.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

DE Al-Quadin Muhammad has enjoyed a good turnaround in his second stint with the Colts. The former Hurricane was known for his size and power at defensive end continues to employ those traits in the NFL. If you’ve read previous Previews, you’ll know that AQM has yet to sack a QB in the pros, yet has been disruptive against the run. Exhibiting a decent burst off the snap, AQM is able to penetrate into the opposing backfield and do enough to disrupt the original intention of the play. With Houston QB DeShaun Watson’s escapability from the pocket and ability to throw down field, containing the signal-caller might be as good as picking up a sack this week. OK, that might be a stretch — but if it comes in a win, we doubt that AQM wouldn’t be satisfied by the effort.

Seattle Seahawks (10-6) vs Dallas Cowboys (10-6) Saturday 8:15PM EDT

If the Dallas Cowboys have a plan to unleash ProCane WR Allen Hurns in the postseason, it’s unlikely that the Seahawks would be prepared to deal with such a significant change in offensive tendency. Hurns totaled 20 receptions for 295 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 2018. The mid-season acquisition of Miami Northwestern HS grad Amari Cooper played a significant role in Hurns turning a career-low in receiving yards after signing with the Cowboys this past offseason. Hurns has been good when targeted, but he’s seen few lately. Any targets or production from here on out would be welcome by the Cowboys and those who follow Hurns’ career.

With that said, this game will come down to which offense can get the ground game going. The Seahawks lead the entire league with 4.8 YPC due to a stable of young running backs helping QB Russell Wilson keep defenses honest all season. The Cowboys will look to feed the NFL’s leading rusher, RB Ezekiel Elliott, to take pressure off of their passing game. This should be a fierce battle.

Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) vs Baltimore Ravens (10-6) Sunday 1:05PM EDT

Cincinnati Bengals v Los Angeles Chargers
The hopes of a postseason run for the Chargers could rely on the leg of rookie PK Mike Badgley
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

No team in the playoff field has more ProCane representatives than the Chargers. Of those, WR Travis Benjamin has the best chance to make an impact in the first round. The 29 year old missed a decent amount of the regular season due to an ankle injury, resulting in sizeable drop to Benjamin’s seasonal averages in most traditional statistical categories. Benjamin is still a potent special teams returner and continues to be a dangerous deep threat for QB Philip Rivers and the Chargers’ offense. PK Michael Badgley has been a revelation for the Chargers’ kicking game. The rookie kicker has missed just one of his 16 field goal attempts as well as a single extra point. With the playoffs atmosphere amplifying each game, it will be fascinating to see how Badgley holds up on the road in a hostile environment.

Baltimore got the best of the Chargers a few weeks ago to the score of 22-10. The Chargers’ offense was unable to find any sustained success as the Ravens dictated the pace of the contest by controlling the action on the ground. Best known for electrifying crowds with his legs dating back to his days at local Boynton Beach High School, Jackson continues to refine his passing game as a pro. Completing just 58.6 percent of his passes, Jackson has passed for six touchdowns and thrown three interceptions. Jackson’s legs have helped the Ravens down the stretch, rushing for 695 yards and five touchdowns. The key to victory for the Chargers will be to slow down that Baltimore run game. Yes, a rushing attack that features former Miami Hurricane RB Gus Edwards — who, after going undrafted, has burst onto the scene with 718 rushing yard and two TDs. Oh, what could’ve been.

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) vs Chicago Bears (12-4) Sunday 4:40 PM EDT

The lone ProCane of the final game of wildcard weekend is safety Deon Bush of the Chicago Bears. While we would like to say that Bush is one of the core members of a vicious Bears’ defense, that would be wishful thinking. Bush has served primarily as special teams member with occasional snaps in a reserve role.

As far as the actual games goes, the chances of the Eagles contending for a consecutive championship boils down to QB Nick Foles and the Eagles’ passing game withstanding the pressure of the Bears’ front-seven defense. Edge rusher Khalil Mack will be the biggest single factor, possessing the ability to impact any success or failure of the Eagles’ offense.

News and Notes

Venzell Boulware Declares for the NFL Draft

In a surprising announcement, Hurricanes’ offensive guard Venzell Boulware declared his intention to enter the 2019 NFL Draft. Arriving to UM as a graduate transfer from the University of Tennessee, Boulware served as a rotational piece at left guard for the Hurricanes.

Travis Homer Draft Projections

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In news that some Canes’ fans expected, junior RB Travis Homer declared his intention to enter the 2019 NFL Draft. Homer has put together good film that will endear him to a majority of NFL clubs. The West Palm product will have a chance to show off his athleticism at NFL Scouting Combine and UM’s Pro Day in the spring. It’s too early to get a good read on where Homer is projected to go based on the early declaration period remaining open for a couple more weeks. So stay tuned!

Joe Jackson Turns Pro

Thursday Morning speculation turned into confirmation. Miami junior DE Joe Jackson signed with RocNation Sports, officially stating that he was turning pro for the 2019 NFL season. Considered by draft/personnel analysts to be one of the best pure passing rushing prospects in the 2019 draft pool, some see Jackson as a fit in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. While Jackson has worked best as a defender with one hand on the grass, it’s not unfathomable to see Jackson play on Sunday’ as a stand-up linebacker.

What Does Jackson’s departure Mean for the Canes in 2019?

Currently, the talent at defensive end is healthy. Jonathan Garvin should translate into the next leader on the defensive line. Scott Patchan, Greg Rousseau and Patrick Joyner (listed as LB) are all options to earn more snaps in 2019.

UM currently has two commits in the 2019 recruiting class with eyes on adding to that number before National Signing Day.

Good luck to all these future ProCanes.

IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!