Hawkeyes in the NFL preview | Divisional Round playoff edition

A former Iowa football player is on the active roster, injured reserve, or practice squad of every team competing in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs this weekend.

Jan+9%2C+2022%3B+Inglewood%2C+California%2C+USA%3B++San+Francisco+49ers+tight+end+George+Kittle+%2885%29+celebrates+as+he+leaves+the+field+after+defeating+the+Los+Angeles+Rams+in+the+overtime+period+of+the+game+at+SoFi+Stadium.+Mandatory+Credit%3A+Jayne+Kamin-Oncea-USA+TODAY+Sports

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

Jan 9, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) celebrates as he leaves the field after defeating the Los Angeles Rams in the overtime period of the game at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Read, Pregame Editor


Only eight teams are still alive in this season’s NFL playoffs, and there is a former Iowa football player on each of them.

A former Hawkeye is on the active roster, injured reserve, or practice squad of every team competing in the Divisional Round of the playoffs this weekend. What does that mean? A former Iowa player is guaranteed to win a Super Bowl ring this postseason. The only question is which one (or ones) it will be. Two games will be played on Saturday, followed by two more on Sunday. The winning teams in the Divisional Round will advance to the NFC or AFC Championship Games, which will be played on Jan. 30.

Below is a look at the former Hawkeyes competing this weekend and where to watch them.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Tennessee Titans

Two former Hawkeyes are with the Bengals, although neither of them will be on the field against the Titans.

Mike Daniels, the 10th-year professional defensive lineman and former Pro Bowler, is on Cincinnati’s practice squad. Riley Reiff, a former first-round draft pick by the Detroit Lions, is on injured reserve for the Bengals. Reiff, also in his 10th NFL season, started 12 games at right tackle for the Bengals this season before being placed on IR with an ankle injury.

The only Iowa alum likely to see the field in this AFC Divisional-Round matchup is defensive back Amani Hooker. The former Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year is in his third year in the NFL, all of which have been spent with the Titans. Hooker started all 12 games he appeared in during the regular season, recording an interception and 62 tackles as a member of the top-seeded Titans’ secondary. Another former Iowa DB, Greg Mabin, was placed on Tennessee’s Reserve/COVID-19 list ahead of the matchup with the Bengals. Mabin, who has been ruled out for Saturday’s game, appeared in five games (two starts at cornerback) for the Titans this season.

Cincinnati advanced to the Divisional Round after beating the Las Vegas Raiders on Wildcard Weekend. The Titans had a bye week last weekend as a result of earning the AFC’s top seed.

The Bengals and Titans will open the second round of the playoffs with a 3:30 p.m. matchup on Saturday in Nashville. The game will air on CBS.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers

“The People’s Tight End” George Kittle, a former Hawkeye and current three-time Pro Bowler for the 49ers, is likely the most notable Iowa alum in the NFL. Kittle caught 71 passes for 910 yards and six touchdowns in only 14 games during the regular season — his fifth as a pro. The one-time first-team All-Pro was held to one catch for 18 yards in San Francisco’s Wildcard win over the Dallas Cowboys last weekend.

Rookie defensive tackle Jack Heflin is the only other former Hawkeye involved in Saturday’s NFC matchup. Heflin, who played one season at Iowa after transferring in from Northern Illinois, made Green Bay’s roster as an undrafted free agent and has played limited snaps in four games this season.

The Packers earned the top seed in the NFC and will compete in their first game of the postseason on Saturday. The 49ers, a Wildcard team, upset the NFC East Champion Cowboys and will travel to the frozen tundra at Lambeau Field in an effort to advance to the NFC Championship Game. The 49ers-Packers contest will kick off at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday. The game will air on FOX.

RELATED: Iowa football center Tyler Linderbaum declares for 2022 NFL Draft

Los Angeles Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Former Hawkeyes Alaric Jackson and Jake Gervase will be on the sidelines for the Rams on Sunday. Jackson, a rookie who previously started four years at left tackle for Iowa, is a backup offensive lineman for Los Angeles who saw limited snaps during the regular season. Gervase, a defensive back in his third year with the Rams, was recently promoted to the active roster.

Two players were named All-Pro for the Buccaneers this season. Seven-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady was named second team All-Pro at quarterback. Tampa Bay’s only first-team All-Pro? Second-year right tackle and former Hawkeye Tristan Wirfs.

Wirfs has quickly become an elite professional offensive lineman, allowing only two sacks in 1,182 snaps played this season.

The former first-round pick is questionable to play on Sunday after injuring his right ankle in Tampa Bay’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the playoffs.

The second former Hawkeye on Tampa Bay’s roster is defensive end/outside linebacker Anthony Nelson. The third-year pro tallied five sacks and seven tackles for loss over the course of the regular season and earned game balls from head coach Bruce Arians on multiple occasions.

The Rams advanced to the Divisional Round after defeating the division-rival Arizona Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs. The Rams will face off against the defending Super Bowl Champions at 2 p.m. Sunday in Raymond James Stadium. The game will air on NBC. The winner will face the winner of the 49ers-Packers game in the NFC Championship Game.

Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs

The matchup between the AFC East Champion Bills and the AFC West Champion Chiefs, who have been to the last two Super Bowls, contains the most former Hawkeyes of any matchup this weekend. Three former Iowa players are on both teams.

Buffalo safety Micah Hyde went viral for picking off Patriots quarterback Mac Jones in the Bills’ Wildcard Weekend win. The 2021 second-team All-Pro and former Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year picked off five passes and recorded 74 tackles in his ninth year as a pro. Joining Hyde on the Bills’ sideline are defensive end A.J. Epenesa, the second-year pass rusher who rotates in on Buffalo’s defensive front, and Ike Boettger, who started 10 games for the Bills this season before suffering an Achilles injury in Week 16.

Boettger is out for the season and is on injured reserve. 

Former Iowa linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Ben Niemann both see snaps at linebacker for the Chiefs.

Hitchens, an eighth-year pro, started 15 games and recorded 80 tackles for the Chiefs during the regular season. Niemann, in his fourth year in the NFL, started five games at linebacker and recorded 57 tackles this season. Former Iowa center and six-year NFL offensive lineman Austin Blythe is also on Kansas City’s roster and played limited snaps during the regular season. The Chiefs defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

The Bills and the Chiefs will play at 5:30 p.m. on CBS on Sunday. The game will be played at Arrowhead Stadium. The winner will face the winner of the Bengals-Titans game in the AFC Championship Game.

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