Duke in the NFL: Jones continues playoff push, Jackson emerges in relief

Deon Jackson rushed for 55 yards and had the Colts' lone offensive touchdown in their overtime loss to the Vikings.
Deon Jackson rushed for 55 yards and had the Colts' lone offensive touchdown in their overtime loss to the Vikings.

With NFL playoff spots on the line, former Duke football stars made their mark in Week 15. The Blue Zone takes a look at their performances:

Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants

The Giants needed a victory this week to keep their comfortable spot in the NFC’s playoff picture. Quarterback Daniel Jones didn’t exactly step up, but he avoided key mistakes in a 20-12 Sunday night victory against the rival Commanders. Jones completed 21-of-32 pass attempts for just 160 yards while rushing for 35 yards. New York leaned on star running back Saquon Barkley and a strong defensive outing with Jones only averaging five yards per attempt. Still, the Duke product ended the night with a strong 74.0 QBR, showing that he moved the ball fairly effectively as the Giants’ signal-caller Sunday night. 

Additionally, the Giants’ victory included a couple of firsts for Jones. Despite facing pressure, he wasn’t sacked a single time against Washington, his first such game in 437 days. It also was Jones’ first win in prime time, as he had previously gone 0-9 in the national spotlight. With the win, the Charlotte native improved to 5-1-1 against the Commanders, but more importantly, the Giants moved to 8-5-1 on the season. They hope to strengthen their playoff positioning in the NFC against the 11-3 Minnesota Vikings Saturday.

Laken Tomlinson, OG, New York Jets

Facing the Lions in arguably the most important game of their season, the Jets lost a heartbreaker at home, 20-17. For his part, offensive guard Laken Tomlinson remained consistent, playing all 63 offensive snaps. However, the Jets’ offensive line was abysmal, allowing multiple quarterback pressures and four sacks. Additionally, their ground game could only muster up 50 yards on 22 carries, a poor mark considering Tomlinson’s prowess at run-blocking. At 7-7, the Jets still have an outside chance of making the postseason, but must defeat the red-hot Jaguars Thursday night to realistically keep themselves in the playoff hunt. 

Deon Jackson, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Deon Jackson likely didn’t assume that he’d get much playing time in the Colts’ game against the Vikings, much less that the game itself would involve the largest comeback in NFL history. Nonetheless, Jackson took on a complementary role behind Zack Moss after lead running back Jonathan Taylor exited early with a high ankle sprain. Jackson played 32% of offensive snaps, rushing 13 times for 55 yards while catching Matt Ryan’s sole touchdown pass of the day. The former Blue Devil made a critical mistake late in the fourth quarter, fumbling with an eight-point lead to give the Vikings back the ball, but it wouldn’t be the decisive error of the match, as the Colts regained possession following a turnover on downs. In any case, the Vikings erased a 33-point third-quarter deficit to win in overtime, 39-36. At 4-9-1 and without Taylor for the rest of the season, the Colts are all but out of the playoffs. Jackson may see more playing time down the stretch, starting with Indianapolis' Monday night game against the Chargers. 

Matt Skura, OG, Los Angeles Rams

One season removed from a championship run, the Rams faced playoff elimination heading into Monday night’s matchup with the Packers. Unfortunately for their fans, they could not stay alive in the playoff hunt, dropping to 4-10 and likely solidifying their case for the worst Super Bowl hangover in history. Former Blue Devil Matt Skura was somewhat of a bright spot on the offensive line, as he started his fifth consecutive game and played all 45 offensive snaps for the Rams. Los Angeles failed to move the ball effectively thanks in part to quarterback Baker Mayfield taking five sacks. However, Skura blocked well and Mayfield himself often waited too long in the pocket, resulting in easy takedowns by the Packers. With their season over, Skura and the Rams hope to achieve a consolation win against the similarly eliminated Broncos Sunday.

Noah Gray, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs clinched their seventh consecutive AFC West title in Sunday’s 30-24 overtime win against the Texans, and Noah Gray was a valuable asset in this unexpectedly close victory. Gray started this game, his seventh of the year, and played 56% of offensive snaps and 61% of special teams snaps. Additionally, the second-year tight end caught three passes for 31 yards, although he committed just the second penalty of his young career on the Cheifs' overtime kickoff return. Overall, this was a minor hiccup in a strong offensive season for the Chiefs and a solid year of contributions from Gray. The 11-3 Chiefs hope to improve their chances of earning the AFC’s top seed with a win Saturday against the 7-7 Seahawks.


Share and discuss “Duke in the NFL: Jones continues playoff push, Jackson emerges in relief” on social media.