Wednesday, December 26, 2012
NFC North Pro Bowl analysis
By Kevin Seifert
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Perfect sense: Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson has rushed for 1,898 yards this season -- 508 more than the next-closest running back. His fullback, Jerome Felton, has been responsible for a stunning dichotomy -- the Vikings average 7.7 yards per carry out of the two-back set and 3.6 in the one-back -- that made his inclusion a no-brainer. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (NFL-high 106.2 passer rating) and linebacker Clay Matthews (12 sacks in 11 games) are the Green Bay Packers' two most indispensable players. Receivers Calvin Johnson (Detroit Lions) and Brandon Marshall (Chicago Bears) rank 1-2 in the NFL in both receptions and yards. Bears cornerbacks Tim Jennings (NFL-high eight interceptions) and Charles Tillman (10 forced fumbles) have been the league's best duo all season. They deserved to be the first cornerback teammates named Pro Bowl starters in 24 years. Finally, it was a pleasant surprise to see Vikings rookie place-kicker Blair Walsh on the roster. Walsh set an NFL record for long-distance kicking (9-of-9 from at least 50 yards) and is fourth in the league with a touchback percentage of 62.0, but rookies are often overlooked.
Made it on rep: With all due respect to one of the classiest men in the game, Packers center Jeff Saturday did not have a Pro Bowl season. His inclusion is Exhibit A on how broken the Pro Bowl process is. Saturday is a six-time Pro Bowl player, but he played so poorly this season that the Packers benched him last week. Saturday might not have been one of the top 25 centers in the NFL this season, let alone one of the top three in the NFC. Vikings defensive end Jared Allen and Bears defensive end Julius Peppers are perennial Pro Bowl players who were destined to make this roster no matter what sack totals they produced. Allen had two last Sunday to bring his total to 11, and Peppers has 4.5 over his past two games to reach 11.5. Those totals gave late legitimacy to what had been relatively quiet seasons for both veterans.
Got robbed: Vikings center John Sullivan might have been the best center in the NFC this season and deserved to be sent ahead of Saturday. Sullivan has been the catalyst for a line that opened up record-breaking holes for Peterson this season. It was surprising to see Bears linebacker Lance Briggs left off the roster for the first time in seven years. He has two touchdown returns and has been a sideline-to-sideline playmaker. The Lions' Ndamukong Suh had seven sacks this season, second-most among all NFL defensive tackles, but was passed over for the Bears' Henry Melton, the San Francisco 49ers' Justin Smith and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Gerald McCoy. Suh has had a nice rebound season in 2012, and you could make arguments for Melton, Smith and McCoy to be voted ahead of him. But you always wonder how reputation factors into voting. Finally, Packers receiver James Jones ranks second in the NFL with 13 touchdowns, but unfortunately the rest of his numbers (58 catches for 772 yards) don't merit Pro Bowl recognition in a conference with Johnson, Marshall, Julio Jones and Victor Cruz.
Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.