The 2020 NFL playoffs roll on with four divisional round games this weekend, and one of the top Utah storylines to follow is a matchup of two former BYU defenders.
Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers
Kickoff: 2:35 p.m. MST
Venue: Lambeau Field
TV: Fox, Fox Deportes
What to watch for: Los Angeles brings a menacing defense, headlined by defensive tackle Aaron Donald, into this matchup — the Rams held Seattle to 278 yards and 2 of 14 on third-down attempts in the Rams’ 30-20 wild-card win. Green Bay, meanwhile, averaged a league-best 31.8 points per game during the regular season and was fifth in the NFL with 389 yards per game. The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers has thrown for 4,299 yards, 48 touchdowns and five interceptions this season.
Utah impact: Former Utah kicker Matt Gay has been reliable for the Rams since joining the team in November — he’s 14 of 16 on field goals this year and has made three field goals in three straight games — and could be put in position again to make some key kicks. Former BYU running back Jamaal Williams has been a steady backup for the Packers — he’s rushed for 505 yards and two touchdowns on the year — and should have opportunities to make plays.
Utah ties on Rams roster
- Terrell Burgess, S, Utah (injured reserve)
- Matt Gay, K, Utah and Orem High
- Jonah Williams, DE, Weber State (practice squad)
Utah ties on Packers roster
- Tipa Galeai, DE, Utah State (practice squad)
- Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
- Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU
Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills
Kickoff: 6:15 p.m. MST
Venue: Bills Stadium
TV: NBC, Universo
What to watch for: The Ravens have been dominant on the ground the past six weeks, averaging 264.2 yards per game behind the leadership of quarterback Lamar Jackson. Baltimore ran for 236 yards and had a seven-minute time of possession edge in a 20-13 win over Tennessee in last week’s wild-card round. The Bills, meanwhile, are one of the league’s best offensive teams, averaging 396.4 yards and 31.3 points per game. Dual threat quarterback Josh Allen accounted for 45 touchdowns and nearly 5,000 yards of total offense during the regular season.
Utah impact: The only Utah tie expected to play a significant role in this game is former Weber State cornerback Taron Johnson, after Buffalo rookie running back Zack Moss went on injured reserve. Johnson has been a steady contributor in the Bills’ secondary, starting 11 games in 2020 and putting up a career-high 86 tackles during the regular season — he had six tackles in a wild-card win over Indianapolis last week. Buffalo offensive lineman Jordan Devey, an American Fork High alum with a Super Bowl ring with New England, signed to the Bills’ active roster off their practice squad earlier this week.
Utah ties on Ravens roster
- Tyler Huntley, QB, Utah (practice squad — elevated to active roster for this weekend’s game)
- Ty’Son Williams, RB, BYU (practice squad)
Utah ties on Bills roster
- Jordan Devey, OL, Snow College and American Fork High
- Taron Johnson, CB, Weber State
- Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah, Snow College and Bingham High (COVID-19 reserve)
- Zack Moss, RB, Utah (injured reserve)
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs
Kickoff: 1:05 p.m. MST
Venue: Arrowhead Stadium
TV: CBS, ESPN Deportes
What to watch for: Reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes powers the Kansas City offense — he’s thrown for 4,740 yards, 38 touchdowns and six interceptions to lead a Chiefs offense that was No. 1 in the league in total offense with 415.8 yards per game during the regular season. If Cleveland can force turnovers like it did last week — the Browns turned five turnovers into 17 points in a wild-card win over Pittsburgh — they could have a chance against the AFC top seed Chiefs.
Utah impact: There are two former BYU starting defenders on opposite sides of the field in this game in Cleveland linebacker Sione Takitaki and Kansas City safety Daniel Sorensen. Sorensen has the experience edge — the seventh-year pro won a Super Bowl ring with the Chiefs last year — and is having a standout year with 11 starts, 89 tackles, five pass deflections, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Takitaki, meanwhile, is experiencing the playoffs for the first time this season, and the Browns starter made a key interception late in Cleveland’s win over the Steelers.
Utah ties on Browns roster
- Brian Allen, CB, Utah
- Porter Gustin, DE, Salem Hills High
- JoJo Natson, WR/Ret., Utah State (injured reserve)
- Sione Takitaki, LB, BYU
Utah ties on Chiefs roster
- Marcus Kemp, WR, Layton High (practice squad)
- Daniel Sorensen, S, BYU
- Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah State
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
Kickoff: 4:40 p.m. MST
Venue: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
TV: Fox, Fox Deportes
What to watch for: The quarterback matchup in this one takes all the attention — it’s Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees. Both signal callers are in their 40s and trying to capitalize on fading chances on taking home another Super Bowl ring. Brady has been on a tear lately: In the past five games, including a wild-card win over Washington, Brady has thrown for 1,714 yards (342.8 per game) and 14 touchdowns, with one interception. Brees, who turned 42 Friday, has thrown for 1,011 yards (252.8 per game), eight touchdowns and three interceptions the past four games since returning from injury.
Utah impact: Former Utah safety Marcus Williams is having another solid season for the Saints, starting every game and putting up 59 tackles and three interceptions. He’s a playoff veteran, too, making the postseason every year on his four seasons in New Orleans. Former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill has been a valuable member of the Saints offense in his fourth year — he even filled in for four games when Brees was hurt and led New Orleans to a 3-1 record — though he is questionable this week with a knee injury.
Utah ties on Buccaneers roster
- No Utah ties
Utah ties on Saints roster
- Kaden Elliss, LB, Judge Memorial High
- Chase Hansen, LB, Utah and Lone Peak High (practice squad)
- Taysom Hill, QB, BYU
- Marcus Williams, FS, Utah