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Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Pro Bowl analysis: AFC South

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Here's a quick take on who's in and who missed out on the game everybody wants to be on the roster for, but few actually want to play in.

The starting lineup includes seven players from the division: Peyton Manning, Andre Johnson, Kevin Mawae, Albert Haynesworth, Mario Williams, Dwight Freeney and Cortland Finnegan.

Tennessee Titans (6 selections)
The Titans had the best record in the league when player and coach balloting was conducted, and they got three starters in the Pro Bowl in Mawae, Haynesworth and Finnegan. They will be joined by running back Chris Johnson, left tackle Michael Roos and strong safety Chris Hope.

Finnegan, Johnson, Roos and Hope are all Pro Bowl selections for the first time.

Though Haynesworth is going to miss the final two regular season games with a sprained MCL in his left knee, he would have met play/time incentives connected to wins anyway. But those contractual mechanisms are moot now. Getting named to the Pro Bowl means the Titans cannot put the franchise tag on him for a second year, and while they can start negotiating with him after the final regular season game, he is on track to become an unrestricted free agent.

While it's easy to complain about the process that selects the team, it worked the way it should instead of the way it usually does in the case of two Titans.

Finnegan played well and it got him enough attention to get the spot he deserved. He had five interceptions to help his case. Roos had no stats and only ranked fourth in fan voting, but players and coaches put him over the top. Typically a young tackle with a small market team might not get to the Pro Bowl until two years after he reached a Pro Bowl level. But Roos is hitting his peak and broke through.

Snub discussion: Outside linebacker Keith Bulluck has gotten used to getting bypassed -- he's only been to one Pro Bowl in nine seasons. Michael Griffin is probably playing Pro Bowl caliber ball but if there are only three spots for safeties, Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed and Hope sure seem like right ones. Fullback Ahmard Hall is a worthy candidate if you're looking for a blocker, but voters seem incapable of focusing on the primary piece of the job. They liked LeRon McClain, who's a fullback that gets a lot of carries -- he has 693 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Kicker Rob Bironas has comparable numbers to Stephen Gostkowski.

Indianapolis Colts (4)
Quarterback Peyton Manning will be the starting quarterback in his ninth Pro Bowl. After he missed all of training camp and the preseason following two knee surgeries, he and the Colts started slow. But Manning and his team have restored the natural order. The competition is pretty weak, but Manning could be in line for his third MVP award. Among his receivers in Hawaii are Reggie Wayne, who will come off the bench with Wes Welker, and starters Andre Johnson and Brandon Marshall.

The Colts have two of the three Pro Bowlers at defensive end with Dwight Freeney starting and Robert Mathis earning the spot as a reserve. It's well deserved. Mathis was long cast as a situational player, but he's a well rounded end who terrorizes quarterbacks and strips them a ridiculously high percentage of the time he hits them.

Snub discussion: Tight end Dallas Clark has put together a great resume this season, but was trapped behind Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. The Jets Nick Mangold, not Jeff Saturday, will play behind Kevin Mawae at center. Saturday missed four games and the Colts early struggles on the offensive line were a big story.

Houston Texans (2)
Johnson and Williams, selected for the first time, are cornerstone players for the Texans and have a chance to finish the season at 9-7 if they can win two more.

Snub discussion: Owen Daniels knows he can be productive and not earn a spot so long as Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates are around. Dallas Clark isn't going either, and he probably ranks ahead of Daniels in the eyes of the voters too. Take pride in being the fourth-best guy, Owen, there are a ton of teams that would love to have you.

Jacksonville Jaguars (0)
A 5-9 season produced no Pro Bowlers for Jacksonville. It's hard to make a case for anyone but running back Maurice Jones-Drew, the second leading scorer among non-kickers in the AFC. But he didn't deserve to go ahead of Thomas Jones, Ronnie Brown or Chris Johnson.

AFC Pro Bowlers
Offense
PositionStarter(s)Reserves
QuarterbackPeyton Manning, IndianapolisBrett Favre, New York Jets
Jay Cutler, Denver
Running backThomas Jones, New York JetsChris Johnson, Tennessee
Ronnie Brown, Miami
FullbackLe'Ron McClain, Baltimore 
Wide receiverAndre Johnson, Houston
Brandon Marshall, Denver
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis
Wes Welker, New England
Tight endTony Gonzalez, Kansas CityAntonio Gates, San Diego
TackleJoe Thomas, Cleveland
Jason Peters, Buffalo
Michael Roos, Tennessee
GuardAlan Faneca, New York Jets
Kris Dielman, San Diego
Brian Waters, Kansas City
CenterKevin Mawae, TennesseeNick Mangold, New York Jets
Defense
Defensive endMario Williams, Houston
Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis
Robert Mathis, Indianapolis
Defensive tackleAlbert Haynesworth, Tennessee
Kris Jenkins, New York Jets
Shaun Rogers, Cleveland
Outside linebackerJames Harrison, Pittsburgh
Joey Porter, Miami
Terrell Suggs, Baltimore
Inside linebackerRay Lewis, BaltimoreJames Farrior, Pittsburgh
CornerbackNnamdi Asomugha, Oakland
Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee
Darrelle Revis, New York Jets
Free safetyEd Reed, Baltimore 
Strong safetyTroy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Chris Hope, Tennessee
Special teams
PunterShane Lechler, Oakland 
Place-kickerStephen Gostkowski, New England 
Kick returnerLeon Washington, New York Jets 
Special-teamerBrendon Ayanbadejo, Baltimore