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South grad Sammy Watkins lit up the NFL playoffs last season. Who could do it this year?

Adam Regan
Fort Myers News-Press

South Fort Myers High School graduate and Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins earned the nickname “Playoff Sammy” from Chiefs fans last season during a run to the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory that included a host of clutch catches.

Watkins was the 15th Southwest Florida product to play in the Big Game following in the footsteps of players like North Fort Myers’ Deion Sanders, Jevon Kearse and Tre Boston, Immokalee’s Edgerrin James and J.C. Jackson and Cypress Lake’s De’Vondre Campbell among others. With Super Wildcard Weekend set to kick off Saturday, five more local players will seek to add themselves to the list.

It will be tough to follow Watkins’ performance from a year ago where he posted a 7-catch, 114-yard performance to go with a touchdown in an AFC Championship victory over the Tennessee Titans. He followed that up with five receptions for 98 yards in Super Bowl LIV, including beating 49ers Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman 1-on-1 down the field for a 38-yard catch that set up the go-ahead touchdown in a 31-20 win in Miami.

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Although he is nursing an injury, Watkins is back in the playoffs looking to repeat.

Here are the Southwest Florida players vying for a spot in Super Bowl 55 on Feb. 7 in Tampa:

Seattle Seahawks running back Carlos Hyde (30) runs with the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Landover, Md.

Carlos Hyde

Seattle Seahawks running back

Wild Card game: 4:40 p.m. Saturday hosting Los Angeles Rams on FOX

The skinny: The Naples High alum missed the Seahawks’ regular-season finale against the San Francisco 49ers due to a non-COVID-19-related illness, but ESPN reports Hyde will play Saturday in a crowded offensive backfield that includes Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny.

In his first season with Seattle, Hyde is averaging 4.4 yards per carry with 356 yards and 4 touchdowns in 10 games. His best game came when he was returning from a hamstring injury in November during a 28-21 win over Arizona when he ran for 79 yards on 14 carries and scored a touchdown.

“It felt like the Seahawks, you know — if felt like the Seahawks we’ve all seen over the years,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said in his postgame press conference. “Carlos did a great job tonight. He did exactly what we needed. We needed him to run hard and run tough and knock people backwards and make extra yards with his juice.”

Cleveland Browns defensive back Robert Jackson, a Lehigh Senior High School graduate, got his first NFL start last week in a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Robert Jackson

Cleveland Browns defensive back

Wild Card game: 8:15 p.m. Sunday at Pittsburgh Steelers on NBC

The skinny: The Lehigh Senior High graduate and second-year undrafted free agent out of UNLV played mostly special teams this season before getting his first NFL start on defense Sunday in a 24-22 regular-season ending victory over the rival Steelers.

Jackson had five tackles and a pass defended. However, he surrendered passes of 41 and 47 yards to Pittsburgh wideout Diontae Johnson and gave up six receptions on 10 targets for a passer rating of 104.2 for Steelers backup quarterback Mason Rudolph.

With starting corners Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson still yet to be activated from the COVID-19 list, it’s possible Jackson could see significant snaps Sunday.

Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods is confident in Jackson.

“Hopefully he can make that jump this week because I definitely think they’re going to target him,’' Woods told Cleveland.com.

Browns running back D'Ernest Johnson rushes during the first half against the New York Jets on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin)

D’Ernest Johnson

Cleveland Browns running back

Wild Card game: 8:15 p.m. Sunday at Pittsburgh Steelers on NBC

The skinny: In his second season with Cleveland, the Immokalee High product has rushed for 187 yards on 37 carries, most of which came in a 95-yard rushing game, a 49-38 win over the Dallas Cowboys in October.

Most recently, Johnson finished out a 20-6 win over the New York Giants on Dec. 20 with his first carries since Week 8. He had 24 yards on four carries as the Browns erred on the side of caution by keeping running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt out of the final drive of the game.

With Chubb and Hunt healthy, it’s not likely you’ll see Johnson in the offensive back field. Johnson may do his work on special teams as he’s returned 14 kickoffs for 351 yards this season.

Tight end MyCole Pruitt of the Tennessee Titans has a pass knocked away by Detroit Lions safety Jayron Kearse during the first quarter at Nissan Stadium on Dec. 20, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn.

Jayron Kearse

Baltimore Ravens safety

Wild Card game: 1:05 p.m. Sunday at Tennessee Titans on ABC/ESPN

The skinny: Starting 11 games for the Detroit Lions this season, it didn’t look like the South Fort Myers High graduate was headed for the playoffs. Then he was released last week for violating team rules by leaving the team hotel without permission and being late for bed check before the Lions’ Dec. 26 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to the Detroit Free Press.

He was signed by the Ravens to their practice squad last week and may be asked to provide depth at the safety position on Sunday. Kearse has 59 tackles, two passes defended and forced fumble this season.

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins led the franchise to their first Super Bowl victory last season. The South Fort Myers High School product is back in the playoffs again with the Chiefs, who have a first-round bye.

Sammy Watkins

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver

Playoffs: First-round bye

The skinny: After restructuring the last year of his contract to stay with the defending Super Bowl Champions, Lee County’s all-time leading receiver continued his injury-plagued career when he suffered a hamstring injury in Week 5 before trying to return in Week 11 and suffering a calf injury in practice.

Since returning Week 12, the South alum has made 16 catches for 199 yards. He’s scored three times this season.

A calf injury suffered in the fourth quarter of the Chiefs’ regular-season finale against the Atlanta Falcons makes him a question mark to go off again in the playoffs. NFL Network’s Ian Rapport reported Watkins avoided major injury and with rest should be good to go for the Divisional Round next week.