With Clemson’s Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Kendall Joseph and Austin Bryant all returning for another season alongside teammate Dexter Lawrence along with several other high-profile defensive linemen the question must now be asked:
Raekwon Davis, Alabama: The sophomore led Alabama with 8.5 sacks and has shown serious first-round potential. A few more players will develop in Nick Saban’s NFL assembly line, including Isaiah Buggs, who returns for his senior season.
Rashan Gary, Chase Winovich, Michigan: The two teamed up for 14 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss in defensive coordinator Don Brown’s defense in 2017.
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Boston College’s Zach Allen, Florida State’s Brian Burns, Florida’s CeCe Jefferson and Kansas’ Dorance Amstrong Jr. are all wild-cards with first-round potential as well.
This class is loaded, plain and simple, and it’s indicative of the need for dominant defenders on championship-caliber teams. It always starts up front, and the toughest decisions on Sporting News’ college football All-American team the last two years were on the defensive line. Oliver, for all his talent, was a second-team selection in 2017.
This also points to a need for D-line depth that all NFL teams are looking for. A total of 62 defensive linemen been selected with first-round picks since the 2010 NFL Draft, and 20 of those players have been named to the Pro Bowl. It’s even better with players selected in the top 10: Eight of 15 such players went to at least one Pro Bowl, and that doesn’t include Myles Garrett or Dante Fowler Jr., who will be on that level soon.
Drew Brees has been to and won a Super Bowl, but that was eight years ago, and this is the Saints’ first playoff game in four seasons. Cam Newton just got to and lost a Super Bowl two seasons ago.
The Panthers had the No. 4 rushing offense in the NFL during the regular season. The Saints were right behind at No. 5. But with Brees, the Saints were the much better passing offense (No. 5) than the Panthers (No. 28).
Vinnie Iyer: The Panthers have a mighty run defense that shuts down most teams, but the Saints have had great success against them, like against most opponents, with the 1-2 punch of veteran Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Ingram, Kamara and go-to wide receiver Michael Thomas also have been tough to slow in the passing game, too, especially in the Womens Jalen Richard Jersey red zone.
Philadelphia is 2-1 all-time against the Falcons in the playoffs (most recently a 27-10 win in the NFC Conference Championship Jan. 23, 2005). Atlanta has won three of their last four games against the Eagles, however.
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The Eagles have lost their last four playoff games, tied for the longest such streak in franchise history. They have not won a playoff game since Jan. 1, 2009, and have not won a home playoff game since Jan. 1, 2007.