Tuesday, December 27, 2011
AFC North Pro Bowl analysis
By Jamison Hensley
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Perfect sense: Headlining the six Pro Bowl starters for the Ravens is outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who is an NFL defensive player of the year candidate. He leads the AFC with a career-best 13 sacks to go along with six forced fumbles, five passes defensed and two interceptions. Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace is third in the AFC in receiving yards (1,182) but he has the highest yards-per-catch average (16.6) of any receiver with more than 70 receptions. Ravens running back Ray Rice leads the NFL with 1,869 yards from scrimmage and is tied for first in the AFC with 10 rushing touchdowns.
Made it on rep: Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is still the best inside linebacker in the division, but others (namely Houston's Brian Cushing) have had better seasons. Baltimore went 4-0 when Lewis was injured, and he's been a nonfactor in the two games since he returned. There's no argument that the Browns' Joe Thomas is the most talented left tackle in the AFC, but he didn't have a stellar season. He has tied a career high with seven penalties and has been part of an offense that ranked 30th in the NFL in scoring. The same goes for center Maurkice Pouncey, who didn't play as well as last season because of illness and injuries.
Got robbed: Ten starters on the Steelers' defense, which ranks first in fewest yards and second in points allowed, got snubbed. Strong safety Troy Polamalu is the Pittsburgh defense's only representative. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton should have been the third alternate after turning a four-win team into a playoff contender and becoming the fourth rookie with 20 touchdown passes. Another Bengal, Geno Atkins, outplayed the Ravens' Haloti Ngata at times this season and led all interior linemen with eight sacks. The Browns' Joe Haden has been the AFC North's top cornerback and broke up the third-most passes (19) this season in the NFL.
Rookie surprise: The Bengals' A.J. Green became the first rookie wide receiver to make the Pro Bowl since Anquan Boldin in 2003. He leads Cincinnati in receptions (63), receiving yards (1,031) and touchdowns (seven). A big-time playmaker, Green leads the NFL this season in catches of 35 or more yards (11).
Click here for the complete 2012 Pro Bowl roster.