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Pack in the Pros: Week 16

Nate Irving is poised for a bigger role for the Broncos.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Here are the Pack alum's performances (sporadically infused with random bits of other facts and whatnot) from week 16 of the NFL season. Players are listed in alphabetical order as not to offend anyone; please hold your applause until the end of the presentation. And, as always, please fill us in on all the stuff I missed in the comments section. Without you, there is no us.

Zach Allen (‘13/UDFA): The Colts (10-5) scored 23 unanswered points after the Chiefs (11-4) scored on their opening drive. The 23-7 loss cemented the AFC West for Denver (12-3), which owns the tiebreaker over KC, but the Chiefs will make the playoffs as a wild card and could well face the Colts again in Arrowhead in the opening round.

Allen remains on the practice squad. His getting picked up twice by playoff caliber teams (he spent several weeks on Seattle's practice squad), despite losing most of his senior season to injury and not getting drafted, would seem to bode well for his chances of eventually making an NFL depth chart in the future.

David Amerson (‘13/2nd): The Redskins (3-12) nearly bumped Dallas (8-7) from the playoffs but the much-maligned Tony Romo connected with DeMarco Murray with 1:08 left in the game to rally the Cowboys from what had been a nine-point deficit. The 24-23 setback was the seventh straight loss for the Skins. It was a costly victory for the Boys, as Romo aggravated a back injury and will miss the season finale. Dallas closes the season against Philadelphia (9-6), and the winner takes the NFC North.

Amerson had a pair of tackles in the loss.

Andre Brown (‘09/4th): Unlike Washington, the Giants (6-9) were successful in their spoiler bid, barring Detroit (7-8) from taking over first place in the middling NFC North with a 23-20 overtime win. In fact, the Lions were eliminated from the playoffs with their third consecutive loss.

After his hot but late start to the season, Brown's cooling trend continued; he had just 40 yards rushing on 16 carries to go with two catches for 14 yards, but the mistake-prone Lions couldn't win even with a solid defensive effort. Matthew Stafford's late pick six allowed the G-Men to tie it; they eventually won on a 45-yard Josh Brown field goal in the extra frame.

After a horrendous 0-6 start, New York is 6-3 and would seem as good a bet as anyone in the division to make the playoffs next year.

Audie Cole (‘12/7th): Well shit. From released to productive starter to likely done for the year...Cole dinged an ankle early Sunday in the Vikings' 42-14 loss at Cincinnati. Hopefully he did enough in his four-week stint as the main man in the middle to figure in Minnesota's plans going forward. The Bengals (10-5) clinched the AFC North with the win.

Jerricho Cotchery (‘04/4th): The Steelers (7-8) will need a lot of help but remain alive in the hunt for the AFC's final wild card spot thanks to a 38-31 win over Green Bay (7-7-1). Cotchery was targeted just twice and had one catch for nine yards in the win.

Despite their uneven quarterback play without Aaron Rodgers, the Packers take the NFC North win a win Sunday in Soldier Field.

Mike Glennon (‘13/3rd): When the Bucs (4-11) have been unable to get something going on the ground, Glennon has usually struggled, and that was the case Sunday as the Rams (7-8) bottled up Bobby Rainey (20 carries for 37 yards) and then pinned their ears back and came after the rookie QB. Glennon was sacked seven times in the 23-13 loss. When he wasn't on his ass, he completed 16 of 26 throws for 158 yards. He threw neither a TD nor an INT.

Torry Holt's old club has gone 4-2 over its last six games, including wins over Indy and New Orleans, and could be poised for contention in 2014.

T.J. Graham (‘12/3rd): It's kind of a broken record at this point: Graham successfully gets a catch on an alarmingly low percentage of his targets. He was targeted five times Sunday but made just two grabs for 27 yards.

Leroy Harris (‘07/4th): Harris kept his inactive streak alive Sunday.

Steven Hauschka (‘08/UDFA): Hauschka missing a 24-yarder pretty much sums this one up. The Cardinals (10-5) are a surprise 10-win team after snapping Seattle's 14-game home winning streak with a 17-10, come-from-behind win, but they will still most likely miss the playoffs anyway. The Seahawks' playoff ticket is punched, but they are not exactly soaring into the playoffs in style. I didn't actually see the missed field goal, only Hauschka's second errant try of the season, so I don't know if it was a snap issue or pure doinkage. Either way...face palm.

As for Arizona, it will need to beat San Fran next week and have New Orleans lose at home to Glennon and the Bucs to make the second season. Not likely.

Nate Irving (‘11/3rd): Irving had his best game since week three, when he recorded a career-high nine tackles, in Denver's 37-13 rout of a horrendous Houston squad on a 13-game slide. Irving's week 16 performance included five tackles, with one for a loss.

Oh yeah, some dude named Peyton Manning --- you might have heard of him --- threw for 400 yards and four scores, breaking the NFL record with his 51st TD pass of the season. It was his fourth 400 yard game of the season.

Markus Kuhn (‘12/7th): Kuhn followed up his one-tackle performance with bupkis.

Ted Larsen (‘10/6th): The source I use for snap counts is apparently waiting until after this story "goes to press" to update...all I know is Larsen played again, but I know not whether he appeared on offense or just special teams. If he was in any way responsible for the seven-sack shitfest, Mike should slap him around a little. Check that. Violence is not the answer, especially if you are a seven-foot, 165-pound QB type.

Manny Lawson (‘06/1st): Lawson and his sack-happy teammates pitched a shutout Sunday in Ralph Wilson Stadium, taming the Dolphins (8-7) 19-0.  The Bills (6-9) sacked Ryan Tannehill seven times en route to taking over the NFL lead with 56 team sacks on the season. Tannehill managed a mere 82 yards on 27 passes; sadder still, the Fins managed just 14 yards rushing on 12 carries.

Despite Buffalo's dominance, Lawson did not have a big stats day; he made just one tackle.

Terrell Manning (‘12/5th): Manning remains on the Bolts' practice squad.

Tobais Palmer (‘12/UDFA): Palmer remains on the Bolts' practice squad.

Philip Rivers (‘04/1st): Rivers lost a fumble, threw a pick, and bogged down too often in the red zone, as the Chargers (8-7) had four drives end in Nick Novak field goals, but fortunately they were playing the Raiders (4-11) and won 26-13 anyway. Rivers did enjoy his characteristically solid completion rate (65.5%) and eclipsed 200 yards through the air. His lone touchdown strike, a four-yard hookup with Keenan Allen, put San Diego up to stay in the third quarter.

In order to make the playoffs, the Bolts must strike down KC and hope Baltimore (8-7) and Miami (8-7) both lose or tie. They've won four of five and are definitely a team that could pull an upset if they make it.

J.R. Sweezy (‘12/7th): Seattle's o-line helped Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson combine for over 100 yards rushing and better than five yards per carry, but the pass blocking remains suspect. Wilson was sacked four more times and would have been dropped a time or two more if not for his mobility.

Stephen Tulloch (‘06/4th): Tulloch led the team in tackles yet again, posting eight this week, though it is surely little solace since a very talented team has imploded its ways out of the playoff picture.

Mario Williams ('06/ 1st): Williams contributed to the sack party with his 13th of the season, a mark that is good for third in the NFL and one off his career high. Just to reemphasize how dominant the Bills were in this one: the Dolphins averaged less than two yards per play and had a total of six first downs. If they somehow back into the playoffs, Miami might just be the worst team to ever make the second season.

Adrian Wilson (‘01/3rd): Wilson is still languishing on the Pats' IR. I'm pretty sure he is a perfectly healthy victim of some Belichick roster malfeasance. #freeadrian

The Pats (11-4) secured their fifth straight AFC East title with a convincing 41-7 win over the Ravens and could have home field throughout the playoffs with a win coupled with a Denver loss in week 17.

Russell Wilson (‘12/3rd): Wilson had his worst day as a pro, averaging just four yards per attempt as he went 11-for-27 for 108 yards with a TD and a pick. He may well have lost the MVP race on Sunday as Manning stole the headlines with his record-setting performance.

C.J. Wilson (‘13/UDFA): In a division that no one wants to win, the Bears (8-7) blew their chance to clinch a title in a big way, flat-lining in a 54-11 loss to Philly (9-6). Chicago allowed a pair of 100-yard rushers and was doubled up in per play average (8.2 to 4.1). Nonetheless, the Bears make the playoffs with a win or tie Sunday against the Packers.

Wilson remains where he has been most of the season, on Chicago's practice squad.

Earl Wolff (‘13/5th): Wolff returned for the beat down of the Bears after missing a month and a half with a knee injury. His lone stat as he eases his way back into the swing of things was a pass defended.

Willie Young (‘10/7th): Young had at least three tackles for five straight games before managing just one Sunday. He was also credited with a pass defended.


Nate Irving.

I think we all expected Irving to have an immediate impact in the NFL. Instead, it's taken him three years to get an opportunity to do a bit more than perform special teams' duties. But he is carving out a role with the team that has the best record in the NFL, going from four tackles as a rookie, 13 tackles last year, to 38 this season, which is eighth-most on the club.

With the news that Von Miller is done for the year with a torn ACL, Irving will get his opportunity to play in the Broncos' base defense. Here's hoping that he makes a name for himself in the playoffs and carves out an even bigger role in the future. Given what he has already overcome to make it this far, I wouldn't bet against him.