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Illini in the NFL: Super Wild Card Weekend Update

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: NFL Playoffs are here!

NFL: AFC Wild Card Round-Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

It was the NFL Wild Card Weekend. A shrinking list here: a majority of our beloved Illini alums in the NFL have been eliminated from playoff contention. As Illini fans, we should be rooting for the NFL teams those Illini alums play on to keep advancing through the playoffs.

Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints — Illini nation is with you.

Who will still be standing come Super Bowl Weekend?

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens played in the early window on Sunday on the road against the AFC South champs Tennessee Titans. Baltimore won 20-13.

Jihad Ward, defensive end: Jihad Ward was a menace to Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill — evidence just above in this article’s cover photo. Ward was credited with 3 tackles, 1 of which was for loss plus a QB hit. Just before halftime, Ward came up with this sensational play. It was extremely close to being an interception...

Buffalo Bills

The Bills hosted the Indianapolis Colts in the first game of these Wildcard Playoffs. Buffalo won close, 27-24.

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 was officially over as of Week 10. He played in two games for the Bills in 2020, totaling 14 combined snaps on special teams in Weeks 1 and 9.

Indianapolis Colts:

The Colts finished second in the AFC South behind the Tennessee Titans and were eliminated this Wild Card Weekend by the Bills.

Tavon Wilson, safety/special teams: Wilson had a solid season in a mostly reserve role for the Colts. Last week he started in place of regular starter Khari Willis (concussion) at safety. Willis was active against the Bills, and Wilson recorded 1 tackle on special teams in Indy’s 27-24 loss. Wrapping up his 1-year deal with the Colts, Wilson is a free agent this offseason.

Kansas City Chiefs:

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Nick Allegretti, guard: Allegretti and the Chiefs had a bye week by virtue of finishing the regular season with the AFC’s best record. They’ll host the Cleveland Browns in the Divisional Round on Sunday afternoon.

New Orleans Saints:

In what was an ugly game (especially if you’re a Chicago Bears fan), Hardee and the Saints took it to the Bears at the Superdome, winning 21-9.

Justin Hardee, cornerback/special teams: Hardee was and continues to be a fixture on New Orleans’ special teams coverage units. He’s one of the best gunners in the league. Hardee committed a penalty (that was offset by a Bears penalty on the same play), but make no mistake: Hardee’s a gamer.

As Hardee and his Saints advance to the Divisional Round (where they’ll take on the Tampa Bay Bucs), let’s take a second to remember Hardee’s play of the year — and arguably play of his career... against those same Bucs: