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Maryland football has 5 NFL players on first-place teams, and that’s exciting

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This is the Maryland Minute, a short story followed by a roundup of Terps-related news.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL season has featured a handful of teams making stark turnarounds and becoming late playoff contenders. Of the eight teams with 10 wins through 14 games, six were .500 teams or worse last year.

Four of those teams have former Maryland players in key roles. Let’s talk about them.

Perhaps the surprise contender of 2017 has been the Jacksonville Jaguars, who went 3-13 last season but are 10-4 and just clinched a playoff spot. They’ve dominated on defense, and Yannick Ngakoue has been a star for them. He leads the NFL with six forced fumbles this season and is tied for sixth in the league with 11 sacks.

The Minnesota Vikings are 11-3 and champions of the NFC North, thanks in no small part Stefon Diggs, who’s second on the team with 724 receiving yards and six touchdowns, including one in traffic on Sunday. He’s part of what’s become one of the league’s best receiving corps, and that’s made life much easier for quarterback Case Keenum, who’s having a career year.

Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith and Saints running back Trey Edmunds don’t hold such significant roles on their teams—Smith is Philadelphia’s fourth-leading receiver and Edmunds plays mostly on special teams—but those squads have put together impressive turnarounds as well. Then there’s the Pittsburgh duo of Sean Davis and Darrius Heyward-Bey, who are making impacts on both sides of the ball. (We won’t talk about what happened when Davis was matched up against Rob Gronkowski one-on-one, though. It’s for the best.)

So if your favorite NFL team doesn’t have too much to play for, Maryland fandom might make you an interested observer for the rest of the season.

In other news

Another pro Terp, Mike Shawaryn, is Baseball America’s No. 8 prospect in the Red Sox organization.

Tomorrow is the start of an early football signing period. In addition to those already on board, Maryland is in the running for three-star wide receiver Jeshaun Jones. He’ll make his announcement tomorrow morning.

From InsideMdSports, here’s a look at how all the Big Ten teams stack up as the early period begins.

Three current Maryland players earned All-Big Ten honors from Athlon Sports, including first-team wide receiver D.J. Moore.

Indiana basketball lost at home to Fort Wayne last night. The Hoosiers had beaten then-No. 18 Notre Dame just two days earlier. The lesson: We have no idea how good any Big Ten basketball teams are. Carry on.