Saturday, December 22, 2012
2012 Pro Bowl: NFC North guesses
By Kevin Seifert
Earlier this week, we passed along the 14 NFC North players who finished among the top two in Pro Bowl voting by fans, which constitutes a third of the final makeup for NFC and AFC teams. As we await Wednesday's official announcement, here's my take on the NFC North players who deserve to be under consideration.
Player: Receiver Brandon Marshall
Comment: Leads all receivers with 107 receptions, is second with 1,398 yards and tied for third with 10 touchdowns.
Player: Cornerback Tim Jennings
Comment: Leads the NFL with eight interceptions and 27 passes defensed, despite missing two games. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 46.8 against him, the third-lowest in the NFL.
Player: Cornerback Charles Tillman
Comment: Leads NFL with 10 forced fumbles. The average completion against him is 8.6 yards, which according to PFF is the third-lowest in the NFL. Overall, PFF rates him as the best cornerback in the NFL.
Player: Linebacker Lance Briggs
Comment: Briggs continues to make plays sideline-to-sideline. He has two returns for touchdowns, 10 passes broken up and two forced fumbles.
Player: Receiver Calvin Johnson
Comment: Ranks second in the NFL with 106 receptions and first -- by 269 yards -- in receiving yardage with 1,667.
Player: Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh
Comment: Suh has not had an eye-opening statistical year, with 30 tackles and 6.5 sacks. But as we discussed during the season, he has been a force in ways that aren't measured in statistics. He might not be the NFL's top defensive tackle, but he has rebounded from his shadowy 2011 season. PFF rates him as its fourth-best defensive tackle.
Player: Defensive tackle Nick Fairley
Comment: It's difficult to consider a player who started only seven games this season, and in the end that might make Fairley a tough add to the Pro Bowl team. But in his final five games, Fairley had four sacks and was often unblockable. If he plays that way over a 16-game stretch next season, he will be an All-Pro.
Green Bay Packers
Player: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers
Comment: His year hasn't matched up to the historic performance of 2011, but Rodgers still ranks atop the NFL in passer rating (104.7) and is fifth in Total Quarterback Rating (71.9). He ranks second with 32 touchdown passes and has eight interceptions in 316 attempts.
Player: Linebacker Clay Matthews
Comment: Even after missing four games, Matthews ranks fourth among NFL linebackers with 11 sacks. The Packers' sack rate when he plays is the league's highest.
Player: Guard Josh Sitton
Comment: As we learned this week with Jeff Saturday's benching, it's difficult to judge interior line play. But I would say Sitton is at least among the better guards in the NFL and worth a closer look by those who know what they're watching. PFF ranks him as the fourth-best guard in the NFC.
Player: Cornerback Casey Hayward
Comment: Hayward hasn't been a full-time player this season, starting six games and playing about 65 percent of the Packers' snaps. But six interceptions will grab your attention, as will 19 passes defensed. PFF considers him the NFL's second-best cornerback behind Tillman.
Player: Kick returner Randall Cobb
Comment: Cobb doesn't have the numbers to make the Pro Bowl as a receiver, but he is one of the few NFC players who has had some production while as a full-time returner this season. He has averaged 25.4 yards per kickoff return and 9.0 yards as a punt returner, including a 75-yard touchdown. This is a difficult category to predict and evaluate, but I thought Cobb's name deserved at least a mention.
Player: Tailback Adrian Peterson
Comment: One eight one two. Enough said.
Player: Place-kicker Blair Walsh
Comment: Walsh has converted 29 of 32 field goals, including all eight of his attempts from 50 or more yards. He also has the NFL's third-highest touchback percentage (64.3) on kickoffs.
Player: Fullback Jerome Felton
Comment: Peterson has rushed for 7.7 yards per carry when running behind Felton in two-back sets. In one-back sets, Peterson is averaging 3.6 yards per carry. Felton's impact should be obvious.
Player: Center John Sullivan
Comment: Once again, interior line play is difficult to judge. But most of Peterson's success early this season was between the tackles. It hasn't been just Felton clearing the way, and PFF rates Sullivan as the NFL's top center this season.
Player: Linebacker Chad Greenway
Comment: Tackle statistics are unofficial, but to this point Greenway has more (140) than anyone in the NFL. He also has three sacks, his most in a season since 2008.
Player: Cornerback Antoine Winfield
Comment: Winfield has stayed healthy this season and is only two years removed from three consecutive Pro Bowl berths. He has three interceptions and has been exceptional in run support. PFF ranks him as the NFL's best run-stopping cornerback, and its third-best overall behind Tillman and Hayward.