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Northwestern in the NFL, Week 17: Newsome locks up playoff berth

The Browns are going to the playoffs for the first time since 2020.

New York Jets v Cleveland Browns Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The regular season is wrapping up in the NFL, and plenty of former ‘Cats contributed to their squads down the stretch. Let’s see what the NU alumni accomplished on the field in a busy Week 17.

Rashawn Slater: Los Angeles Chargers, OT

Slater flaunted his All-Pro pedigree in the Chargers’ 16-9 loss to the Broncos. In 65 offensive snaps, he gave up just one pressure. His teammates had similar success, as the entire O-line allowed just three pressures all game.

Despite Slater’s ironclad protection, Los Angeles couldn’t keep up with an offense led by backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Now at 5-11, the Bolts should look forward to April’s draft, when they can select a blue-chip receiver to pair with Justin Herbert.

Week 18 matchup: vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CT)

Greg Newsome II: Cleveland Browns, CB

Newsome kept up his stellar play during the Browns’ 37-20 win over the Jets. He made three combined tackles (two solo) and broke up two passes, one coming at the goal line against receiver Garrett Wilson. In addition to his deflections, Newsome made a crucial third-down stop in the second quarter to force the Jets to punt.

With their win on Thursday night, the Browns officially clinched their first playoff berth since 2020. Newsome has excelled in the slot this year and has a chance to make his first career Pro Bowl appearance in February.

Week 18 matchup: at Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Peter Skoronski: Tennessee Titans, OG

Skoronski had another tough week in the Titans’ 26-3 drubbing by the Texans. Over the last few games, he has struggled to hold up in pass protection. Skoronski remains solid against the run, but he’s working through the typical issues that rookie O-linemen inevitably experience.

On fourth down in the final quarter, the 313-pound Skoronski got rag-dolled by defensive tackle Maliek Collins in what ended as a turnover on downs. The rookie guard has shown promise in his first year, but he must refine his pass blocking over the offseason.

Week 18 matchup: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Trevor Siemian: New York Jets, QB

Siemian did the best he could in the Jets’ 37-20 loss to the Browns. In his second start of the season, he went 32-of-45 for 261 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Siemian led an impressive first drive, finding Breece Hall on a short pass for a 21-yard touchdown. Later in the quarter, however, he threw a pick-six trying to find Garrett Wilson in the middle of the field.

This was Siemian’s first appearance without a fumble, and he didn’t get sacked at any point. With the game out of reach by the first quarter, he played conservative football the rest of the way to avoid unnecessary turnovers. Siemian is in line to start in the Jets’ season finale in Foxboro on Sunday afternoon.

Week 18 matchup: at New England Patriots (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Godwin Igwebuike: Pittsburgh Steelers, RB

Igwebuike had another solid performance during the Steelers’ 30-23 win over the Seahawks. He returned two kicks for 56 yards, including a 31-yard return in the third quarter. Igwebuike also assisted on a tackle, helping bring down DeeJay Dallas late in the final frame of action.

The veteran has been a valuable addition for the Steelers this season. Igwebuike took over duties as kick returner in September and hasn’t looked back since. He’ll look to spoil the Ravens’ stellar record on Saturday afternoon.

Week 18 matchup: at Baltimore Ravens (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. CT)

Ben Skowronek: Los Angeles Rams, WR

Skowronek made his typical contribution on special teams during the Rams’ 26-25 win over the Giants. In the fourth quarter, he helped push Gunner Olszewski out of bounds on a punt return. Skowronek played just one offensive snap but saw the field for 83% of Los Angeles’ snaps on special teams.

With the emergence of Puka Nacua and a solid output from Demarcus Robinson, Skowronek has lost touches at receiver this year. However, Robinson will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, so there’s a chance that Skowronek can regain his previous role in Sean McVay’s offense.

Week 18 matchup: at San Francisco 49ers (Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CT)

Cameron Mitchell: Cleveland Browns, CB

Mitchell had his quietest game since returning from injured reserve in the Browns’ 37-20 win over the Jets. He played just three defensive snaps and failed to record any statistics. Mitchell also played 10 snaps on special teams as a gunner on punt returns.

The rookie corner has been a reliable depth piece for Cleveland’s secondary. For now, he remains a bench option behind Denzel Ward, Martin Emerson and Greg Newsome.

Week 18 matchup: at Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

Blake Hance: Jacksonville Jaguars, OL

Hance played his typical role in the Jaguars’ 26-0 win over the Panthers. He saw the field for six special teams snaps as part of the kicking unit. It was never a close contest for Jacksonville, even without an injured Trevor Lawrence.

The Jaguars will play a must-win game against the Titans in their regular-season finale. Hance will look to do anything he can to help his team secure a playoff berth on Sunday afternoon in Nashville.

Week 18 matchup: at Tennessee Titans (Sunday, 12 p.m. CT)

‘Cats that didn’t play this week: Anthony Walker Jr. (Cleveland Browns, knee), Adetomiwa Adebawore (Indianapolis Colts), Earnest Brown IV (Los Angeles Rams), Joseph Jones (Tennessee Titans), Dean Lowry (Minnesota Vikings, torn pectoral), Evan Hull (Indianapolis Colts, torn meniscus), Ifeadi Odenigbo (New York Jets, injured reserve), Tyler Lancaster (Denver Broncos), Joe Gaziano (Atlanta Falcons)