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Michigan Players In The NFL Playoffs: Jake Ryan, Thomas Rawls Doing Well

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The hometown Lions may have gotten a quick ticket out of the playoffs - no thanks to a bitterly disappointing 26-6 loss to the Seahawks - but some Wolverines are still making hay while the sun shines. Tom Brady, of course, who’s famous for his postseason exploits, is ready to lead the Pats against Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texas this weekend. But he’ll be joined in the postseason march by a few other familiar faces from good ol’ Ann Arbor.

NFL: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
Brady’s stats in his age-39 season: 3,554 yards in 12 games, 28/2 touchdown ratio (an NFL record), and a 112.1 passer rating (second-best in the NFL). His production, over 16 games, would amount to 4,739 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

This past week, the big hero was Green Bay linebacker Jake Ryan, who had 12 tackles (9 of them solo) and 3 passes defensed against the New York Giants. He played a huge role in shutting down the short passing game and limiting the Giants’ offense, despite playing only 65% of the snaps. He’s had a career year in his second season, getting 82 tackles, second-most on the team.

“We need him,” said head coach Mike McCarthy. “You look for that leap from Year 1 to Year 2... He’s really comfortable with what’s being asked of him. The adjustment part is cleaner for him. He’s just playing faster. He’s seeing it. He’s a heck of a football player. He’s instinctive, he’s tough. He just looks a lot more comfortable and he’s playing a lot faster.”

NFL: NFC Divisional-Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals
Jake Ryan could be the heir apparent for Clay Matthews, although their games are different. Matthews sacks the quarterback a lot more often, while Ryan patrols the flat and guards tight ends.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan isn’t the only young player taking on a leading role in the postseason. For the Seattle Seahawks, Thomas Rawls is stepping into the shoes of old Beast Mode, Marshawn Lynch, who’s one of the legends in Seattle football history. But Rawls could be just as good.

"We haven’t gotten him the ball as consistently as we would like,” said head coach Pete Carroll, “and any runner needs to get the football to start to get a feel for it.”

Rawls suffered a couple injuries early in the year that limited his playing time, and he ended up with just 349 yards during the regular season. But he made up for it by running 27 times for 161 yards in his first post-season game, a franchise record.

"It means a lot,” said Rawls about breaking a record previously held by Marshawn. "Looked up to him. Still do."

Seven Wolverines in total are still alive this postseason: Fitz Toussaint with the Steelers, Alan Branch and Tom Brady with the Patriots, Frank Clark and Thomas Rawls with the Seahawks, and Joe Kerridge and Jake Ryan with the Packers. The Patriots currently have the best odds to win Super Bowl 51, according to at least one betting site, while the Dallas Cowboys and Zeke Elliott have the second-best odds.