NFC and AFC Championship Preview: The Vikings and Gophers Connections

Let's take a look at all of the Minnesota connections of conference championship weekend.
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Ahead of the NFC and AFC title games on Sunday, let's take a look at all of the players and coaches with Minnesota connections from each of the four teams.

NFC Championship: Packers vs. Buccaneers (2:05 p.m. CT, FOX)

  • Former Vikings: Packers DBs coach Jerry Gray
  • Former Minnesota Gophers (all rookies): Packers LB Kamal Martin, Bucs S Antoine Winfield Jr. (questionable), Bucs WR Tyler Johnson
  • Players born in Minnesota: Martin, Johnson, Packers OL Billy Turner, Bucs OL Joe Haeg

There are no former Vikings playing in this game, but Gray will be hoping his defensive backs can make some plays against Tom Brady and company. However, that doesn't mean there aren't any Minnesota connections among the two rosters. The biggest name to watch is Winfield., who had a game-changing forced fumble against the Saints last week (which he said was revenge for his dad, Antoine Winfield Sr., losing to New Orleans in the controversial 2009 NFC title game). Unfortunately, Winfield Jr. is listed as questionable with an ankle injury after missing practice on Friday. Hopefully he'll be able to play. If he does play, he has a chance to make some history.

Update: Winfield is OUT for this game.

Winfield's teammate, former Minneapolis North and Gophers star Tyler Johnson, should see his snap count elevated due to Antonio Brown being ruled out for this game. Johnson caught just 12 passes all year but made a huge catch on 3rd and long in last week's win. On the other side of the ball is Martin, who is a backup linebacker for the Packers. He should see a handful of defensive snaps and play a lot on special teams. Offensive linemen Turner and Haeg are from Shoreview and Brainerd, MN, respectively.

AFC Championship: Chiefs vs. Bills (5:40 p.m. CT, CBS)

  • Former Vikings: Bills WR Stefon Diggs, Bills DC Leslie Frazier, Chiefs G Mike Remmers
  • Former Minnesota Gophers: None
  • Players born in Minnesota: None

The second game of the day doesn't have any native Minnesotans, but it does feature the most prominent former Vikings player anywhere in the NFL: Diggs. The 2015 fifth-round pick from Maryland developed into a star in Minnesota, but it wasn't until heading elsewhere that he became a superstar. Diggs led the NFL in receptions and receiving yards this year and was a big reason why Josh Allen took a huge leap forwards. The first team All-Pro has only continued to shine in the playoffs, exceeding 100 yards and scoring a touchdown in wins over the Colts and Ravens so far. If the Bills are going to knock off the defending champions, Diggs will almost certainly be a big part of it.

Another former Viking who will play a major role in this game is Frazier, who was with Minnesota from 2007 to 2013, first as defensive coordinator and then as head coach. He's done a great job as the Bills' DC, particularly in last week's win where his unit held Lamar Jackson and the Ravens to three points. Frazier has a daunting task facing him this week in Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' explosive offense. Lastly, former Vikings offensive lineman Mike Remmers is now a starting guard in Kansas City.

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