Of the 21 former Illini to start the 2023 NFL season in the pros, seven of them now find themselves on playoff teams.
These seven players are spread across six different teams in the NFL. With 14 teams making the playoffs overall, this means nearly half the teams in the postseason have a player who once wore the orange and blue in Champaign.
Let’s dive into the seasons they’ve had up to this point.
Sydney, one half of the famous Brown twins, spent his rookie campaign with the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 14 games, Brown logged six starts, 45 combined tackles, one forced fumble and an interception. His 99-yard pick-six was easily the highlight of Brown’s season on Dec. 31 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Sadly, in the season finale, Brown’s first year as a pro was cut short by a torn ACL suffered early in the first quarter. The injury occurred just this past Sunday against the New York Giants on a special teams play.
Despite the injury, Brown still made a huge impact this season on last year’s NFC champions.
In McLaughlin’s fifth NFL season, he found himself on his seventh different team in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That doesn’t even include the two other franchises whose practice squads Chase has previously made.
Despite that seemingly alarming stat, McLaughlin has had his best year to date so far. He knocked in 29-of-31 (93.5%) field goal attempts and was a perfect 33-of-33 on extra points made this year.
It should be mentioned that both of his missed kicks were blocked and his 2023 percentage was the highest in a single season in Buccaneers history. McLaughlin also hit his season-high of 57 yards three times over the course of the season.
McLaughlin’s Bucs will host Brown’s Eagles on Monday in the Wild Card round.
In Joseph’s second season with the Detroit Lions, he’s getting his first taste of the NFL playoffs.
Kerby started all 15 games he played in this season with four interceptions, 81 combined tackles and 11 passes defended. That marks four interceptions in back-to-back seasons for the second-year safety.
Joseph’s Lions will host the Los Angeles Rams in the first round of the playoffs.
Allegretti has now made the playoffs in all five of his campaigns with the Kansas City Chiefs.
In 17 games, Nick started one game in 2023. He took 79 snaps on offense and 74 on special teams in the regular season while not committing a single penalty.
Allegretti’s Chiefs will host the Miami Dolphins for their Wild Card matchup. The two-time Super Bowl champion will look to recreate his magic from the 2021 playoffs when he scored his only career touchdown against the Pittsburg Steelers in the Wild Card round.
Phillips and the Baltimore Ravens have secured the NFL’s best record along with the AFC’s top seed in 2023.
In 17 games for the Ravens, Del’Shawn tallied one start along with 24 combined tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovered.
Phillips’ Ravens have clinched home field advantage and a first-round bye, meaning they won’t have to play until the divisional round of this year’s playoffs.
Hansen and the Houston Texans were able to knock off the Indianapolis Colts in Week 18 to win the AFC South division.
In 14 games this year, Hansen racked up 12 combined tackles consisting of eight solo and four assists on tackles.
Hansen’s Texans will host the Cleveland Browns in the Wild Card round, meaning all former Illini players (aside from the injured Sydney Brown) will be playing in home games as their teams all won their respective divisions.
Green will also be representing the Houston Texans in this year’s NFL playoffs.
After starting the season with the Steelers, Green was traded to the Texans on Aug. 29. In four total games with Houston, Green started three, playing 208 snaps on offense and 20 snaps on special teams.
Unfortunately, Green was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 4 after suffering a torn meniscus in Week 4 against his former team.
Green and Hansen mark the only Illini teammates in this year’s postseason.
With six games this weekend, you can expect to see Illini players in four of those playoff matchups.
For the next couples weeks (hopefully over a month), former Illinois players will be taking the field for this year’s best teams in the NFL in win or go home games. These guys will be able to perform in the brightest lights on the biggest stage.
And if we’re lucky enough, we’ll be able to see a former Illini, or two, become a Super Bowl LVIII champion this February.