A week ahead of the start of the NFL playoffs, essentially one spot remains up for grabs in the AFC while the rest of the field continues to jockey for seeds heading into Sunday’s regular-season finales.
Ten players with central San Joaquin Valley ties are among those on the rosters of teams who already have clinched berths.
A couple of other local rooting interests are involved in the duel between the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers for the final spot. Indianapolis could still break through and knock out Houston for the AFC South, though it would require an unlikely set of circumstances.
The ultimate goal is a trip to Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
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If the Jets defeat Buffalo, then they clinch the last berth and former College of the Sequoias standout Sheldon Richardson will head to the postseason.
But if the Jets lose and Pittsburgh defeats Cleveland, the Steelers clinch a spot and ex-Edison High star Robert Golden will return to the playoffs for a second straight season.
Already in the playoffs are:
▪ Linebacker Ben Jacobs (Fresno State), Carolina Panthers.
▪ Offensive lineman Ryan Wendell (Fresno State), New England Patriots. Wendell is on injured reserve.
▪ Tight end Virgil Green (Tulare), Denver Broncos.
▪ Quarterback Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals. Palmer was born in Fresno and moved to Southern California.
▪ Safety Derron Smith (Fresno State), Cincinnati Bengals.
▪ Cornerback Steven Nelson (COS), Kansas City Chiefs.
▪ Tight end Anthony McCoy (Bullard), Seattle Seahawks.
▪ Wide receiver Davante Adams (Fresno State), Green Bay Packers.
▪ Linebacker Eric Kendricks (Hoover), Minnesota Vikings.
▪ Tight end Marcel Jensen (Fresno State), Washington Redskins.
Against the Browns, it’s expected Golden will see plenty of playing time.
“We have infused Robert Golden into some defensive packages over the second half of the year. That is what you do this time of year,” coach Mike Tomlin told Steelers.com. “(Changing it up) provides some freshness, it provides an opportunity for someone, and it provides a look that maybe isn’t on video. That is why you include new people and new schematic approaches as you approach this time of year.”
Jacob’s Panthers suffer first loss – Carolina saw its bid for perfection end this past Sunday.
Atlanta came away with a 20-13 victory at the Georgia Dome.
Jacobs had a special-teams tackle in the fourth quarter, taking down Devin Hester at the Atlanta 21.
Falcons offensive tackle Bryce Harris (Tulare/Fresno State) was inactive.
Raiders/49ers switch networks for a day – If you want to watch former Fresno State star Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders on television Sunday, be aware of a channel swap.
The Raiders/Chiefs game was flexed to 1:25 p.m. and will be a Fox network game, locally on KMPH, channel 26.1. AFC games usually air on CBS. The Chiefs could clinch the AFC West if Denver loses to San Diego in a game that will kick off at the same time.
San Francisco’s finale against St. Louis has been moved to CBS, though as of Wednesday indications were that KGPE-47.1 would show the Chargers/Broncos game at 1:25 p.m.
Et cetera – Carr completed 23 of 38 for 204 yards and a touchdown last Thursday, leading the Raiders past the Chargers 23-20. Safety Tevin McDonald (Edison) had a special-teams tackle, and Chargers guard/tackle Kenny Wiggins (Fresno State) played without recording a stat.
▪ Adams had three receptions for 42 yards in the Packers’ 38-8 loss to Arizona.
▪ Golden had seven tackles on defense and another on special teams, but the Steelers fell to Baltimore 20-17.
▪ Dallas fullback Tyler Clutts (Clovis/Fresno State) did not get a carry nor a reception in a 16-6 loss to Buffalo.
▪ Tampa Bay left guard Logan Mankins (Fresno State) started in a 26-21 loss to Chicago.
▪ Green had an 8-yard catch in the Broncos’ 20-17 victory over the Bengals on Monday night. Green made a tackle in the fourth quarter when C.J. Anderson fumbled and the ball was recovered by Reggie Nelson. Green tackled Nelson for no gain at the Bengals 26. Smith didn’t record a tackle for the Bengals.
▪ Cleveland receiver Marlon Moore (Fresno State) had a reception that went for a 1-yard loss in the Browns’ 17-13 defeat at the hands of the Chiefs. Nelson didn’t record a tackle for Kansas City.
▪ Kendricks totaled seven tackles, helping the Vikings to a 49-17 rout of the New York Giants.
▪ New Orleans defensive tackle Tyeler Davison (Fresno State) didn’t record a tackle as the Saints outlasted Jacksonville 38-27.
▪ Richardson had two tackles and a sack in the Jets’ 26-20 victory over New England. He also had two quarterback hits.
▪ Philadelphia running back Ryan Mathews (Frenso State) had four carries for 5 yards in a 38-24 loss to the Redskins on Saturday in what became Chip Kelly’s final game as Eagles head coach. Mathews also had two receptions for 13 yards. Eagles receiver Seyi Ajirotutu (Fresno State) was inactive, and Mychal Kendricks (Hoover) finished with four tackles and two pass deflections. Jensen was inactive for Washington.
▪ St. Louis rookie right guard Cody Wichmann (Fresno State) made his eighth straight start in a 23-17 victory over Seattle.
▪ Buffalo signed defensive back Phillip Thomas (Fresno State) to the practice squad.