Jamal Adams yelled in celebration after Seattle qualified for the playoffs last month and lit up a victory cigar at the podium when the Seahawks clinched the division.
After spending his first three seasons in the NFL on the outside of the postseason with the struggling New York Jets, Adams is reveling in the chance to play in meaningful January games after the offseason trade to Seattle.
“I don’t want to be too happy because I don’t want people to say he’s dramatic or he hasn’t been here before,” Adams said after the division-clinching win over the Rams in Week 16.
Adams is among the several big-name players headed to the postseason for the first time, hoping to gain even more fame by shining on the big playoff stage.
Adams has delivered for the Seahawks, who traded a big package featuring two first-round picks to the Jets in July for the playmaking safety. He set a record for defensive backs with 9 1/2 sacks for a defense that made big strides in the second half of the season.
Here’s a look at some other players set to make their playoff debuts this weekend:
BAKER MAYFIELD: The only time the Cleveland quarterback was seen last postseason was on a commercial, not on the playing field. But Mayfield had an efficient third year with the Browns and helped get the franchise back to the postseason for the first time since 2002. Mayfield threw 26 TD passes and posted a career-best 95.9 passer rating in his first season under coach Kevin Stefanski, who will miss the game Sunday against Pittsburgh following a positive COVID-19 test.
Mayfield will try to snap Cleveland’s 17-game losing streak in Pittsburgh since the Browns last win there in 2003, the year before Ben Roethlisberger joined the Steelers.
MINKAH FITZPATRICK: Some people questioned the decision the Steelers made last season to deal a first-round pick to Miami for the playmaking safety despite an injury to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that made the playoffs a remote possibility. Fitzpatrick helped spark a defense that helped Pittsburgh finish 8-8, meaning the pick fell to 18th instead of the top 10. Fitzpatrick has had another strong season with 11 passes defensed and four interceptions, including a Pick-6 in the first game against Cleveland.
CHASE YOUNG: The No. 2 overall pick in the draft has had a big rookie season in Washington. He helped bolster an already strong defensive line that has been the strength of the team and gives it a chance against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
Young had 7 1/2 sacks and four forced fumbles. Young started the season fast and then hit a lull. But he has seemed to find his stride late in the season with four sacks, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one defensive touchdown over the final six games.
JONATHAN TAYLOR: After a slow start to his rookie season in Indianapolis, ranking tied for 23rd in rushing with 428 yards in his first 10 games, Taylor emerged as a star down the stretch to get the Colts to the postseason. He ran for 741 yards in the final six games with 150 against the Raiders and 253 in the playoff-clinching win over Jacksonville. Only Derrick Henry was more productive in that stretch and Taylor finished third on the season with 1,169 yards. The Colts will likely need another big performance to keep pace with the high-powered Bills on Saturday.
CHRIS GODWIN AND MIKE EVANS: The two Tampa Bay wideouts have been among the most productive receivers in the league but never managed to make it to the playoffs until Brady arrived in 2020. Evans is the first player to begin his career with at least 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first seven seasons but is nursing a left knee injury that leaves his status in doubt this week. Godwin was slowed a bit by injuries this season but still has 3,015 yards and 23 TDs over the past three seasons.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL