The 2017 NFL regular season is officially over. Now, it’s time for playoff football.
This weekend kicks off the Wild Card round of the playoffs, featuring the likes of St. Louis graduate Marcus Mariota of the Tennessee Titans and former Hawaii Preparatory Academy standout Max Unger for the New Orleans Saints.
But just because the regular season is over doesn't mean that the islands aren’t still well-represented in the NFL, as a handful of Hawaii’s best football products will be playing for their football lives to keep their respective teams in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy.
Here’s a look at this weekend’s slate of NFL games featuring players with ties to the islands:
Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans
Hawaii’s most recognizable football star has had his fair share of ups-and-downs this season, but Mariota came alive when the Titans needed him the most in during the fourth quarter of the team’s Week 17 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
With a little over two minutes remaining in the game, Mariota pulled off an incredible run to move the chains and put the game on ice, including a highlight-worthy stiff-arm to seal a playoff spot for the Titans.
The Titans will go up against the Kansas City Chiefs this week at Arrowhead Stadium in what will be the ultimate test for Mariota and this young Titans team.
Max Unger, OL, New Orleans Saints
When the Seattle Seahawks traded away Unger for star tight end Jimmy Graham, it was widely believed that the Saints got the raw end of that deal. But fast forward to 2017, and Unger has been even better than advertised.
The anchor of the Saints offensive line, Unger has helped running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram each eclipse the 1,500 total yards mark in a season, all while protecting quarterback Drew Brees as he helped carry the team to the postseason.
Where Saints players finished in Pro Bowl fan voting at their position:— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) December 16, 2017
Drew Brees 3rd
Terron Armstead 4th
Max Unger 4th
Cam Jordan 5th
Alvin Kamara 5th
Mark Ingram 6th
Marshon Lattimore 6th
Chris Banjo (special teams) 6th
Kenny Vaccaro 7th
Thomas Morstead 10th
Zach Line 10th
The Saints will take on NFC South rival Carolina Panthers, who the Saints have already beaten twice during the regular season.
Manti Te’o, LB, New Orleans Saints
Despite not being featured in a starting role for the Saints defense, the former Punahou standout makes his presence known each time he steps onto the field as a rotation linebacker.
In Week 17, Te’o recorded five tackles, totaling 62 on the season. His best week came in Week 14 where he racked up 10 total tackles against the Atlanta Falcons.
His services will be called upon once again as he looks to spearhead the Saints defensive effort against an explosive Panthers offense, led by former-MVP Cam Newton.
Marcus Kemp, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
In a last-minute roster move, former Rainbow Warrior standout receiver Marcus Kemp will be on the active roster for the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend.
CJ Spiller has been re-signed. Marcus Kemp has been brought back up from the practice squad, per Andy Reid.— BJ Kissel (@ChiefsReporter) January 2, 2018
Kemp has spent most of the 2017 season on Kansas City’s practice squad after an impressive preseason, but will have an opportunity to see the field this weekend as the Chiefs take on Mariota’s Titans.
While Kemp was promoted to the active roster for depth purposes, his size and ability to locate the ball in the air could come in handy come playoff time.
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