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Terps in the NFL: Stefon Diggs leads Bills to AFC East title

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Here’s how former Terps performed in Week 18 of the 2021 NFL season.

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

Former Maryland and All-Pro wide receiver Stefon Diggs excelled on Sunday against the New York Jets in the final game of the regular season, helping the Buffalo Bills clinch their second-straight AFC East title.

Diggs totaled nine receptions for 81 yards and one touchdown on 14 targets. On third down and goal, Bills quarterback Josh Allen escaped heavy pressure from the Jets’ defense and found Diggs where he has been most impressive — the sideline. Diggs caught the pass and tiptoed his cleats in the endzone to stay in bounds and give the Bills the lead on their opening drive.

Just one week after honoring the late John Madden through a special design on his cleats, Diggs showed respect to the late actress Betty White through his cleats this week.

After leading the NFL in receptions and receiving yards last season with 127 and 1,535 respectively, Diggs finished this year’s regular season fifth in the NFL in targets (164), tied for sixth in receiving touchdowns (10), eighth in receiving yards (1,225), and tied for ninth in receptions (103).

The seventh-year wide receiver was selected to the NFL Pro Bowl for the second-straight season. He started in all 17 games for the Bills and finished the regular season with a career-high in receiving touchdowns, and three targets shy of a new career-high.

He has recorded 1,021, 1,130, 1,535, and 1,225 receiving yards in each of the last four seasons respectively. Diggs and fellow former Terp D.J. Moore are the only two players in the NFL with at least 1,100 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons.

With Buffalo’s win over the Jets on Sunday, it has won the AFC East title for the second-straight season. Diggs and the Bills are the No. 3 seed in the AFC and will host New England on Saturday in the Wild Card round.

This marks the fourth year of Diggs’ seven-season career that he will appear in the playoffs. Diggs and the Bills are looking to get over the hump after falling in the AFC Championship game last season to Kansas City.

In eight career postseason games, Diggs has 42 catches for 620 yards and four touchdowns.

D.J. Moore, wide receiver, Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore had one of his better games of the season in Sunday’s finale. Moore caught seven passes for 87 yards on 10 targets and carried the ball once for 13 yards. His 87 receiving yards was the most he recorded since Week 12. During the first quarter, he had an impressive hurdle over Tampa Bay’s Mike Edwards. Moore finished the season sixth in the NFL in targets (163), 11th in receiving yards (1,157), and 12th in receptions (93). The fourth-year wideout finished the season with a career-high in games played/games started (17), targets, and receptions. He also tied his career-high with four touchdowns. Moore totaled nine drops this season and he registered his third straight year with at least 1,100 receiving yards, all while dealing with three different quarterbacks (Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, P.J. Walker) throwing him the ball.

Jermaine Carter Jr., linebacker, Carolina Panthers

Panthers linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. capped off his best season in the NFL on an individual high note on Sunday against Tampa Bay. Carter totaled six tackles, three solo tackles, and one tackle for loss, which was his first since Week 10 and third this season. The fourth-year linebacker finished the season with a career-high in games played/games started (17), total tackles (88), solo tackles (38), tackles for loss (3), and quarterback hits (3). He also matched his career-high with one fumble recovery and one pass deflection. It was by far Carter’s most successful season in the NFL. Carter will become a free agent this offseason and expressed how he felt about that on Twitter.

J.C. Jackson, cornerback, New England Patriots

New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson finished the regular season strong with four total tackles, two solo tackles, and a pass deflection on Sunday against Miami. It was his ninth straight game recording a pass deflection and Jackson totaled 14 in that span. The fourth-year cornerback was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time and finished the regular season with a career-high in games played/games started (17), total tackles (58), pass deflections (23), tackles for loss (2), and forced fumbles (1). His 23 pass deflections led the NFL and he finished second in the league with eight interceptions, one of which was his first career pick-six. Jackson, a Super Bowl LIII champion, and the Patriots are the No. 6 seed in the AFC and will face Buffalo in the Wild Card game on Saturday.

Darnell Savage Jr., safety, Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers safety Darnell Savage Jr. was solid once again on Sunday against Detroit. He totaled five tackles and four solo tackles in the loss to the Lions. Savage played in 100% of the defensive snaps for Green Bay for the 11th straight game and 15th time this season. The third-year safety finished the regular season with a career-high 17 games played and started, 63 total tackles, nine pass deflections, two interceptions, and two tackles for loss. Green Bay is the No. 1 seed in the NFC and will have a bye next week to open the playoffs. Savage and the Packers fell short in the NFC Championship game in each of his first two trips to the postseason.

Quinton Jefferson, defensive lineman, Las Vegas Raiders

Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson was a main factor in winning on Sunday and clinching the playoffs. Jefferson finished the game with two tackles, 0.5 sacks and a season-high three quarterback hits against the Chargers and Justin Herbert. The sixth-year defensive tackle started in every game this year and finished the regular season with a career-high in games/games started (17), total tackles (47), quarterback hits (16), tackles for loss (5), sacks (4.5), and forced fumbles (2).

Yannick Ngakoue, defensive lineman, Las Vegas Raiders

Defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue helped clinch the playoffs for the Raiders on Sunday Night Football. Jefferson, Ngakoue and the Raiders’ defensive line were the difference-makers in the game. Ngakoue finished the contest with no stats, but he played in over 80% of the defensive snaps, making a difference outside the stat sheet. The sixth-year defensive end started in every game this season and finished the regular season with a career-high 17 games played and started, 28 total tackles, 23 quarterback hits, 10 sacks, eight tackles for loss, three pass deflections, and two forced fumbles. With the victory on Sunday night, the Raiders clinched a playoff spot and will play the Bengals on Saturday in the Wild Card.

Other performers

  • Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Keandre Jones totaled a career-high two tackles in five defensive snaps and 80% of special teams snaps on Sunday against Cleveland. The second-year linebacker bounced around the active roster and practice squad but finished the 2021 season with a career-high five games played and three total tackles. He played in each of the final five games of the regular season and Cincinnati won the AFC North and is the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. It’ll host Las Vegas on Saturday to open the playoffs.
  • New York Jets running back Ty Johnson struggled in his final game of the season Sunday against Buffalo. Johnson totaled one carry for a one-yard loss and zero receptions on one target. The third-year running back finished the season with 16 games played, a career-high three starts, 61 carries for 238 yards and a career-high two touchdowns, along with a career-high in receptions (34), receiving yards (372) and receiving touchdowns (2). Johnson averaged a career-high 6.4 yards per touch in 2021.
  • Antoine Brooks Jr. played in his second straight game for the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, appearing in over 60% of the snaps on special teams against San Francisco. The second-year safety finished the regular season –– and his first season with the Rams –– with a career-high in games played (8) and total tackles (3). Los Angeles clinched the NFC West title and is the No. 4 seed in the NFC for the playoffs. The Rams will host NFC West rival Arizona in the Wild Card on Monday night.
  • Los Angeles Rams rookie running back Jake Funk appeared in his fourth straight game since being activated off of injured reserve and he played in nearly 70% of the special teams snaps on Sunday. Funk finished his rookie season in the NFL with 10 games played, two carries for five yards, four kickoff returns for 88 total yards, and two tackles on special teams. Funk suffered what was said to be a season-ending hamstring injury in Week Six, but made his return to the field in Week 15, once again overcoming an injury.
  • Seattle Seahawks tight end Tyler Mabry was elevated from the practice squad prior to Sunday’s game against Arizona. Mabry totaled two snaps on offense and 16 snaps on special teams. Mabry bounced around between the active roster and the practice squad for a struggling Seattle team this season. He finished his first active season in the NFL with six games played, 10 snaps on offense, and 52 snaps on special teams.
  • Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Michael Dunn only appeared in three special teams snaps on Sunday against Cincinnati. After making his first two starts of the season, Dunn only appeared in five special teams snaps in the final two games of the season. The second-year offensive tackle finished the season with a career-high 14 games played and two starts, and he played in every offensive snap in each of his two starts.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers running back Anthony McFarland Jr. was activated off of the Reserve/COVID-19 list but was inactive due to a coach’s decision on Sunday. McFarland finished his second regular season in the NFL with two games played, three rushing attempts for three yards, and one reception for 11 yards.
  • After appearing for the Steelers in each of the last two games, fifth-year running back Trey Edmunds was placed back on the practice squad this week. Edmunds finished the regular season with two games played for Pittsburgh and a total of 18 snaps on special teams. Pittsburgh snuck into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the AFC and will face Kansas City in the Wild Card on Sunday.
  • New England Patriots safety Sean Davis was elevated to the active roster ahead of Sunday’s regular season finale against Miami. Davis played in one snap on defense. In 2021, Davis appeared in six total games with three different teams (Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and New England). The sixth-year safety totaled 19 defensive snaps and 19 special teams snaps without recording a stat this season.
  • Offensive lineman Derwin Gray remained on the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad this week. Gray remained on the Titans’ practice squad since Oct. 10 and Tennessee finished the regular season as the No. 1 seed in the AFC and will have a bye to begin the postseason.
  • Detroit Lions linebacker Josh Woods was placed on injured reserve after suffering a neck injury in Week 15 against Arizona, which effectively ended his season. The third-year linebacker began the season with Chicago and was signed by Detroit off of the Bears’ practice squad in late September. Woods finished the 2021 season with 13 games played, one game started, and career-highs in total tackles (28), tackles for loss (2), and quarterback hits (2).
  • Patriots defensive lineman Byron Cowart was designated to return by New England on Oct. 20. The Patriots had three weeks from then to activate him off the PUP or leave him there for the season. Cowart did not appear for New England in 2021 after spending time on the practice squad or battling an injury.