Tuesday, December 27, 2011
NFC North Pro Bowl analysis
By Kevin Seifert
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Perfect sense: Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the presumptive league MVP. He was pretty much a lock to be named the NFC's starter. Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson is tied for the NFL lead in touchdown receptions (15). He wasn't going to get snubbed. Neither was Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who leads the league with 18.5 sacks, nor Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson, who is tied for the league lead with seven interceptions. It was nice to see the league recognize some deserving NFC North players who had the potential to slip through the voting cracks. Bears tailback Matt Forte was leading the NFL in all-purpose yards when a knee injury sidelined him in Week 13. He obviously won't play but still deserved the honor. Bears cornerback Charles Tillman has had an outstanding season, as we have discussed, especially when matched up against Johnson. Tillman has only two interceptions, but I was glad to see voters didn't overlook him. Packers center Scott Wells is anonymous on a league level, but the Packers feel he has had his best season. And although Packers linebacker Clay Matthews has only six sacks, voters correctly recognized the all-around impact he's made this season. Finally, Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh didn't make the team but was named an alternate. That was the right decision. Independent of the headlines he has made this season, Suh hasn't made a Pro Bowl-level impact.
Made it on rep: The Bears' defense slipped this season, especially in the past month, but ultimately that didn't affect the candidacies of middle linebacker Brian Urlacher or weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs. In the end, Briggs has been named to every Pro Bowl since 2005 and Urlacher has made two consecutive Pro Bowl teams after several years of injury-related absences. I would say both players were on the cusp. For sure, they made a limited number of impact plays this season. Urlacher has three interceptions and neither a sack nor a forced fumble. Briggs has two forced fumbles, one interception and no sacks. Meanwhile, I wonder whether Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji got makeup recognition for his strong 2010 performance. Raji has three sacks, less than half his total last season, and is supposed to be a key pass-rusher on a defense that hasn't gotten nearly enough pressure this year. Raji has had a credible, solid season. But was it Pro Bowl worthy? I'm not sure.
Got robbed: I wondered whether voters would side with New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning over Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, and in the end, they did. Stafford is an alternate behind Rodgers, Manning and the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees. Stafford still could be named to the Pro Bowl as an injury or Super Bowl replacement, presuming he is not playing in the Super Bowl himself, but he has established himself as one of the NFL's top quarterbacks. He has a better passer rating, a higher completion percentage, 10 more touchdown passes and two fewer interceptions than Manning this season. The only people who would have complained had the reverse occurred -- Stafford elected and Manning named an alternate -- are hard-core Giants fans.
Click here for the complete 2012 Pro Bowl roster.