We’re nearing the end of the NFL season. There’s just one more week to go. Some Illini will make the playoffs. Others will not.
Kudos to Clayton Fejedelem, a man who welcomed a baby boy into his family and nailed two big special teams plays in the only way Fej could for his Miami Dolphins.
Jihad Ward, defensive end: Last week against the Jaguars, Ward was a healthy scratch. Ward played in Weeks 13 and 14, missed Week 15 — and in this Week 16, Ward was active against the New York Giants on Sunday. He had 1 sack and an additional QB hit.
Eat, @JIHADWARD17!— Illinois Football (@IlliniFootball) December 28, 2020
Del’Shawn Phillips, linebacker: Unfortunately for Phillips, he was put on the Injured Reserve list for the second time this season. Per league rules, that means his season is officially over — he is ineligible to return to the active roster since he’s been placed on IR twice. We wish Phillips the best in his recovery and hope he has plenty of opportunities down the road. Congrats to the Bills for winning the AFC East.
Malik Turner, wide receiver/special teams: Malik Turner was active for the first time since Week 4 back in early October. He appeared in 12 special teams snaps for the Cowboys against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Texans are losers of four straight after falling 37-31 at home to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in the early window. The Texans will not be making the NFL playoffs.
Corey Liuget, defensive tackle/special teams: Liuget was cut from Houston’s active roster last Monday.
Whitney Mercilus, outside linebacker: Mercilus was not able to play against the Bengals. The Texans placed him on the Reserve/Covid-19 list on Christmas Day.
Tavon Wilson, safety/special teams: The Colts had an intriguing matchup when they traveled and eventually lost to Pittsburgh Steelers. Wilson had 3 tackles in the game.
The Jaguars have the worst record in the NFL at 1-14 and already clinched next year’s first overall draft pick with that loss and the New York Jets’ win over the Cleveland Browns. They play the Indianapolis Colts next week.
Dawuane Smoot, defensive end: Smoot had 1 tackle and 1 QB hit in a 41-17 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Kansas City Chiefs:
Nick Allegretti, guard: Allegretti and the Chiefs offense played one of the NFL’s worst teams when they hosted the Atlanta Falcons. Allegretti started his ninth consecutive game and was named a team captain as the Chiefs won 17-14.
The Miami Dolphins played on Saturday, desperate to keep their playoff hopes alive considering their division foes, the Buffalo Bills, already clinched the AFC East. Against the Las Vegas Raiders, Miami needed every second of all four quarters to win 26-25.
Ted Karras, center: As has been the case all season long, Karras earned the start at center for Miami and played in every single offensive snap.
Clayton Fejedelem, safety/special teams: Fej probably had the best week of any human alive. First, he became a father to a baby boy — congrats Fej! Then, he ran the ball for 22 yards off of a fake punt late in the second quarter:
clayton fejedelem fake punt!!!! (and that spin pic.twitter.com/Ucn6gcqdo5— josh houtz (@houtz) December 27, 2020
As if that wasn’t enough, Fej wasn’t done yet. He was credited with a forced and recovered fumble on the last play of the game. Simply sensational for a player who has to be considered the best special teams utility man in the NFL today:
like @jmendel94 and others have said, clayton fejedelem's forced fumble and recovery on the game's final play extended the @miamidolphins streak to 21 consecutive games forcing a turnover. #finsup pic.twitter.com/cuPkpngtAT— josh houtz (@houtz) December 27, 2020
Hardy Nickerson, linebacker/special teams: Nickerson not only played but started his second game of the season for the Vikings. Minnesota was blown out, but that did not prevent young Nickerson from recording his first ever NFL interception. It was not just any interception, but an interception against a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees:
.@younghardy_ cleans it up with the INT!!!— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) December 25, 2020
: https://t.co/V4zEuw3hfQ pic.twitter.com/XdISnFe78x
New England Patriots:
Akeem Spence, defensive tackle/special teams: Already knocked out of the playoffs, the Patriots hosted Monday Night Football against the far superior Buffalo Bulls. Spence had 2 tackles in a 38-9 loss to the Bills.
New Orleans Saints:
Justin Hardee, cornerback/special teams: Hardee did not record any stats. He appeared (per usual) on special teams for a total of 22 snaps.
New York Jets:
Chase McLaughlin, Kicker: McLaughlin is still on the Jets’ roster, however, he was listed amongst their inactives for Sunday’s game versus the Cleveland Browns.
*Just a reminder, Detroit Lions wide receiver Geronimo Allison and New England Patriots tight end Matt LaCosse opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19.