NFC North: Pro Bowl analysis 2013

Pro Bowl selections: Green Bay Packers

December, 27, 2013
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The headline may be a little misleading. The Green Bay Packers had no one selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2005.

As difficult as this season has been, it’s nowhere near the dismal 4-12 year of 2005.

The Packers, at 7-7-1, will win the NFC North if they beat the Chicago Bears in the regular-season finale on Sunday at Soldier Field.

But perhaps the Pro Bowl voters -- a combination of the fans, coaches and players -- put the Packers out of their minds when quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone Nov. 4.

The closest thing the Packers had to a Pro Bowler when the selections were announced Friday was rookie running back Eddie Lacy, who was named a first alternate. Lacy might be the favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. He has 1,112 yards rushing, which is good for seventh in the NFL despite him missing nearly two full games because of injuries.

Seven other Packers also were named alternates. They were: Rodgers, fullback John Kuhn, guard Josh Sitton, linebacker Clay Matthews, receiver Jordy Nelson and cornerbacks Sam Shields and Tramon Williams.

Sitton might be the biggest snub. He made the Pro Bowl last year at right guard and has played perhaps even better this year after making the switch to left guard.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.

Pro Bowl selections: Minnesota Vikings

December, 27, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS -- Heading into Friday's announcement of the NFL's Pro Bowl rosters, it seemed like a good possibility that running back Adrian Peterson would be the Vikings' only representative.

That's how it worked out on Friday night, and given the fact he's doubtful to play on Sunday with groin and foot injuries, Peterson might wind up skipping the Pro Bowl in January.

He was voted into the game, which will take on a different format this year with two captains picking teams across conferences, after rushing for 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns in the Vikings' first 14 games. Peterson is unlikely to play Sunday, which means he'll end the year having carried just 18 times for 58 yards in the Vikings' final four games.

Still, he seemed likely to make it based on what he'd done earlier this year and the résumé he'd built in the past. Return man Cordarrelle Patterson is the only other Vikings player I'd say had a decent shot, but now that there are no kickoff returns in the Pro Bowl, he got beat out by two punt returners (Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and Kansas City's Dexter McCluster), which is probably the right call.

The teams will be drafted on Jan. 22, four days before the game is scheduled to be played at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.

Pro Bowl selections: Chicago Bears

December, 27, 2013
The NFL announced the 2013 Pro Bowl team, and two Chicago Bears made the cut -- receiver Brandon Marshall and running back Matt Forte. Second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery was snubbed despite leading the team in receiving yardage.

Marshall earned his third consecutive Pro Bowl nod and fifth overall, while Forte makes the team for the second time in three years. A second-round pick in 2012, Jeffery deserved recognition, but was overshadowed by other receivers such as Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Josh Gordon, Andre Johnson and Demaryius Thomas.

Jeffery has produced a team-high 1,341 receiving yards, while Marshall leads the Bears in receptions with 94. The duo is the first set of Bears teammates since 1995 to each gain more than 1,000 yards in a single season. They’re also the only receiving duo in franchise history to each gain at least, 1,200 yards in a single season.

Combined, Marshall and Jeffery have racked up 11 100-yard receiving games, which include a combined 2,562 yards and 18 touchdowns. With six catches against the Packers on Sunday, Marshall will tie the NFL record for most 100-reception seasons (five), including his second in a row. Marshall became the first player in NFL history to record 100-reception seasons with two different teams.

Forte, meanwhile, ranks No. 3 in the NFL in rushing yards since 2008 (6,556) and is on the verge of surpassing his previous career high in rushing yardage (1,238 yards) set as a rookie. Forte has rushed for 1,229 yards this season and is third in the NFL currently with 1,776 yards from scrimmage.

“It’s a blessing to be selected to the Pro Bowl for a second time," Forte said. "God has blessed me so much, and I’m thankful for his grace on and off the field. I’d like to thank the many fans, friends and family for voting for me. But more importantly, I’m thankful to my teammates that helped me to achieve success on the field, especially my offensive linemen who work hard blocking for me every day and receivers who unselfishly work hard down field blocking for me.”

Forte has gained more than 1,400 yards from scrimmage in each of his first six NFL seasons, and has already broken his own franchise single-season record for catches by a running back with 70 catches so far. As a rookie, Forte set the record (63 receptions), and now holds the franchise’s top three single-season marks for catches by a running back, and five of the top seven totals.

It’s not a surprise the Bears didn’t land any defensive players on the Pro Bowl team after so many years of basically stocking the NFC side. A shoulder injury limited perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs to just eight starts and 76 tackles thus far. Cornerback Charles Tillman suffered a torn triceps that limited him to three interceptions and eight games. But he still managed to force six total takeaways.

Defensive end Julius Peppers had been to eight Pro Bowls, and made the team in each of his first three seasons in Chicago before missing the cut in 2013. Peppers scored a touchdown on a fumble return against Pittsburgh on Sept. 22, but he’s managed to produce just 6.5 sacks through the first 15 games this season after racking up at least 11 sacks in each of the past two seasons. Since 2002, Peppers has registered 118 sacks in 185 games, which ranks as second in the NFL behind Minnesota’s Jared Allen.

Defensive tackle Henry Melton was also a Pro Bowler for the Bears in 2012, but wasn’t named to this year’s squad after suffering a torn ACL on Sept. 22.

Considering the Bears rank 29th in total defense, and last against the run, none of this year’s group was deserving of Pro Bowl recognition outside of probably cornerback Tim Jennings, who made the NFC squad last year and has produced at a high level in 2013. Jennings ranks second in the NFL in interceptions (12) since 2012, and has returned two interceptions for touchdowns this season.

On the season, Jennings has picked off three passes, in addition to forcing a career-high two fumbles and recovering another.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.