This weekend in South Carolina there is no “root-root-root for the home team” for the NFL Conference Championships. Heck most folks are still trying to forget the Super Bowl aspirations the Panthers had 17 weeks ago.
But with the Panthers out of the postseason and no NFL team in the state, South Carolinaians can root for the teams that feature former state college stars. Check out the players with South Carolina ties.
Atlanta Falcons- 3 players Vic Beasley Jr., Clemson; Grady Jarrett, Clemson and Patrick DiMarco, USC
Atlanta leads the pack when it comes to former South Carolina players. They feature three players from the state’s two biggest school. If Clemson fans squint hard enough while watching the Falcons defense they may induce a Brent Venables flashback watching Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett getting after Aaron Rodgers.
Vic Beasley led the NFL with 14.5 sacks this year for Atlanta. Look for Beasley to post his first sack in the postseason against the Packers although he will have a tough time chasing down a red-hot Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Championship game. However Beasley used his speed to bring Rodgers to the turf the last time the two met in October and the Packer’s offensive line gaves up the 10th most sacks in the NFL regular season.
Gamecock grads can follow Falcons fullback Patrick DiMarco, who may hold the special honor of being the only person Steve Spurrier personally recruited for Carolina. Falcons Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan loves tossing tricky little screens to his ProBowl fullback and it wouldn’t be surprising to see DiMarco come away with a touchdown against the Packers.
Packers- 2 players Jared Cook, USC and Joe Thomas, SC State
Packers win second place featuring two former South Carolina players in former Gamecock’s tight end Jared Cook and Former SC State linebacker Joe Thomas.
Jared Cook will look to torch a Falcons defense that cannot seem to stop tight ends at all. In the regular season the Falcons gave up 950 yards and 8 touchdowns to opposing tight ends. Cook has caught 11 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown in the post season so far. Gamecock needing some football love and look no further from a big game from Cook.
Joe Thomas will have his hands full with the NFL’s best rushing duo in the Falcons’ Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
Steelers- 2 players Javon Hargrave, SC State; Martavis Bryant, Clemson (susp.)
Clemson fans would like to see Martavis Bryant suit up opposite Antonio Brown for the Steelers but Bryant
NT Javon Hargrave impressed coaches in his rookie season. The big man posted 27 tackles and 2 sacks this year. Hargrave will play a pivotal role in stopping those nifty QB sneaks that Brady turned into an art form and soaking up double teams on the offensive line to free up the Steelers’s young yet opportunistic defense.
New England Patriots
There really isn’t any real good reason to root for the Patriots if you aren’t from the Boston area. But if you want to add fuel to your hate of the team the Patriots are the only team in the playoffs that lack a player from South Carolina. They also are the odds favorite to win it all and the can just shut it.