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Fighting Illini in the NFL: Whitney Mercilus, Texans defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars

Whitney Mercilus recovers a fumble as Houston leads the AFC South

NFL: Houston Texans at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

As the NFL playoff picture shapes up, here’s hoping our own Illinois Fighting Illini alumni can make some headlines down the stretch and into the postseason.

The division-leading Houston Texans downed the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-21 thanks in large part to winning the turnover battle 2-0. One of those turnovers was a fumble recovered by Whitney Mercilus, who also had two tackles in the win. With fullback Jay Prosch and guard Jeff Allen in the mix, the Texans remain the most Illini-heavy team in the pros and moved to 6-3. On the other side, Arrelious Benn’s stats were limited to a 16-yard kick return.

Receiver Geronimo Allison hauled in one 17 yard reception on two targets in the Green Bay Packers’ ugly loss to the Tennessee Titans. In a matchup of the two teams Lovie Smith coached, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers demolished the Chicago Bears 36-10 with defensive tackle Akeem Spence recording a tackle for the Bucs. Defensive end Corey Liuget recorded three tackles including one TFL for the San Diego Chargers as they lost 31-24 to the Miami Dolphins.

Jihad Ward’s Oakland Raiders and Tavon Wilson’s Detroit Lions were on bye, as were the Indianapolis Colts featuring Josh Ferguson and Vontae Davis. Clayton Fejedelem and Teddy Karras did not see significant action in week 11.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL finished last in their division at 5-13. Receiver Ryan Lankford was released by the Riders in late October just before the end of the regular season. He finished with 165 yards on 19 catches in the 2016 campaign. Lankford’s Rider teammate Xavier Fulton was traded to the Hamilton Tiger-cats in early October. A two-time second-team All Big Ten selection at Illinois, Fulton took over an offensive tackle spot for the Ti-Cats, but they were eliminated in the playoff semifinals by the Edmonton Eskimos at Tim Horton’s Field, just in case you needed additional reminders that it was the CFL.