Tuesday, December 27, 2011
AFC West Pro Bowl analysis
By Bill Williamson
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Perfect sense: Kansas City might be in last place, but linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali are top-level players. They both deserve this honor. They are building-block players on a young defense. Johnson is a tackling machine, and Hali, who has 12 sacks, is one of the better pass-rushers in the NFL. Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski made his first Pro Bowl in his 12-year career. It is past due and well deserved. Janikowski, who tied an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal at Denver in Week 1, is a great weapon. Oakland punter Shane Lechler is one of the game’s all-time best punters. He always deserves to go to the Pro Bowl. San Diego safety Eric Weddle is tied for the league lead with seven interceptions. He is earning his $40 million deal he signed this year. Denver linebacker Von Miller also deserves to be a Pro Bowler. He has 11.5 sacks, and he’s been a complete player. The No. 2 overall draft pick has made a bigger impact as a run-stopper and has been a catalyst to a much-improved defense. Kudos to Denver cornerback Champ Bailey, who is still playing at a high level. He is one of five players ever to be named to 11 Pro Bowls and is the only cornerback with 10 or more Pro Bowls. Can you say “first-ballot Hall of Famer”?
Made it on rep: A few AFC West stars made the Pro Bowl in injury-filled years. Oakland defensive tackle Richard Seymour was banged up and had some games in which he didn’t have much effect. Still, he did have some moments of greatness. He blocked two field goals in an Oakland overtime win at Kansas City on Saturday. San Diego tight end Antonio Gates dealt with a lot of injuries this season and didn't take over many games, but he had 59 catches and is still a premier player despite the injuries. Denver defensive end Elvis Dumervil, the first Denver defensive lineman to make the Pro Bowl in nine years, had a great season, but he didn’t enjoy a full season. He has 9.5 sacks, all in the past eight games. He was slowed by injuries early in the season. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers had big yardage numbers (he became the third player in history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in four straight seasons). But he has thrown 19 interceptions and was out of sync for much of the season.
Get robbed: Denver running back Willis McGahee has been the lynchpin to the NFL’s best running offense. A big reason the Tim Tebow offense has worked is because McGahee –- one of the best free-agent signings in the NFL this year -- ran so well. He is enjoying resurgence at the age of 30. McGahee, who has 1,054 yards rushing and has averaged 4.8 yards per carry, is reportedly a first alternate. San Diego running back Ryan Mathews also had a strong season and a case to make the team. He is a second alternate. Kansas City receiver Dwayne Bowe had 75 catches and a nice season. Oakland safety Tyvon Branch and fullback Marcel Reece each had big years, and could have earned spots on the team. Perhaps each player will get his due next season. By the way, Tebow reportedly is a second alternate. Because quarterbacks often bow out, there is a strong chance Tebow will be eating pineapple in Hawaii next month.
Click here for the complete 2012 Pro Bowl roster.