NFC South: Pro Bowl balloting
Well, maybe that’s starting to change.
I’ve got some updated numbers on Pro Bowl balloting, and the Falcons are pretty well represented. Fan voting continues until mid-December, and coaches and players will vote later in December. Fans, players and coaches each count as one third of the vote.
At the moment, Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez and guard Justin Blalock would be Pro Bowl starters, based only on the current fan vote. Tampa Bay safety Ronde Barber and New Orleans punter Thomas Morstead also would be NFC starters.
But the Falcons have a slew of players that are in the top five at their positions. Let’s take a look at which NFC South players rank in the top five in fan voting:
- Drew Brees, Saints, No. 2
- Matt Ryan, Falcons, No. 3
- Doug Martin, Buccaneers, No. 4
- Mike Tolbert, Panthers, No. 2
- Roddy White, Falcons, No. 5
- Tony Gonzalez, Falcons, No. 1
- Jimmy Graham, Saints, No. 2
- Sam Baker, Falcons, No. 4
- Justin Blalock, Falcons, No. 2
- Todd McClure, Falcons, No. 4
- John Abraham, Falcons, No. 3
- Dwan Edwards, Panthers, No. 3
- Jonathan Babineaux, Falcons, No. 5
- None in top five
- None in top five
- None in top five
- William Moore, Falcons, No. 4
- Ronde Barber, Buccaneers, No. 1
- Thomas DeCoud, Falcons, No. 2
- Matt Bryant, Falcons, No. 5
- Thomas Morstead, Saints, No. 1
- Matt Bosher, Falcons, No. 5
- None in top five
- Kroy Biermann, Falcons, No. 5
The NFL released its first early results on Pro Bowl balloting on Wednesday afternoon and Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees are the only NFC South players among the top-10 vote getters. Ryan’s at No. 9 and Brees is No. 10. If the early voting was all that mattered, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers would be the starter ahead of Ryan and Brees.
As a matter of fact, only two NFC South players lead the balloting at their positions. Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez is the leader among NFC tight ends. Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber is the leader at free safety.
There are a lot of other NFC South players that deserve to be in the Pro Bowl. That’s why I urge you to go hit the polls.
Balloting for this season’s Pro Bowl has begun.
You can make your own choices, but I’ll throw out same names of guys I think are at least making a decent case for the Pro Bowl. We’ll go by position:
Quarterback: Atlanta’s Matt Ryan is getting mentioned in MVP conversations. Despite New Orleans’ overall struggles, Drew Brees is putting up some big numbers.
Running back: I’d look outside the NFC South at this position.
Fullback: On ability alone, I’d like to say Carolina’s Mike Tolbert. But, then I look at his 2.5-yard average per carry and Carolina’s record and I can’t really justify this.
Wide receiver: Atlanta’s Roddy White would be my top choice and teammate Julio Jones also deserves some consideration. Same for New Orleans’ Marques Colston and Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson, if they keep producing like they have in recent weeks.
Tight end: Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez is having a tremendous season. If he gets healthy soon, New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham is a possibility. Greg Olsen is one of the few bright spots in Carolina, but, again, the team’s record will work against him.
Offensive line: As far as tackles, maybe Carolina’s Jordan Gross, mostly based on reputation. At guard, Tampa Bay’s Carl Nicks and New Orleans’ Jahri Evans are strong candidates. With Carolina’s Ryan Kalil done for the season, I’m not seeing any NFC South centers that are worthy of going to the Pro Bowl.
Defensive end: Atlanta’s John Abraham is a strong candidate. Tampa Bay’s Michael Bennett is quietly having a nice season. If he can pile up some more sacks and the Bucs can win a few games, he could become a legitimate candidate.
Defensive tackle: Tampa Bay’s Gerald McCoy might be the only candidate at this spot.
Linebacker: Atlanta’s Sean Weatherspoon easily is the top choice here.
Cornerback: Not sure there are any strong candidates here, mainly because there are some very strong candidates at other positions.
Safety: If Atlanta keeps winning, Thomas DeCoud and William Moore will become legitimate candidates. Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber already is a very legitimate candidate.
Kicker: I don’t think Atlanta’s Matt Bryant ever has received the credit he deserves. With the Falcons winning, this could be the year Bryant gets some attention.
Punter: New Orleans’ Thomas Morstead is averaging 51.2 yards a punt.
Return man: New Orleans’ Darren Sproles has a chance to make it on reputation alone.
Since we often talk about how the NFC South sometimes gets overshadowed by teams in bigger markets, let me urge you to go vote. This is your chance to make a difference.
I won’t tell you who to vote for. That’s up to you. But I will point out a few items I noticed as I scanned the ballot.
New Orleans’ Darren Sproles isn’t on there as a running back (he is on there as a kick returner). Neither is Mark Ingram, but Pierre Thomas is on the ballot.
New Orleans receivers Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem are on the ballot, but Lance Moore is not. I realize New Orleans has an abundance of receivers and the NFL has to be diplomatic. But, the flip side of this is, Carolina’s Legedu Naanee is on the ballot. I’ve got a little problem with that one.
Tampa Bay fullback, Earnest Graham, who had been playing some tailback, is on the ballot. Graham’s about to go on the injured reserve list.
New Orleans defensive end Will Smith is not on the ballot. Teammates Cameron Jordan and Turk McBride are on the ballot. Have to wonder is Smith’s two-game suspension to start the season might have made the people who pick who goes on the ballots forget about him?
Then again, Tampa Bay free safety Tanard Jackson, who was suspended for the first five games, is on the ballot.
The NFL announced this afternoon that Pro Bowl balloting has begun.
You can vote here. You can cast ballots through Dec. 21.
If you’d like to hear my suggestions on who deserves the honor, here they are:
New Orleans: Basically, you wouldn’t be wrong in voting for any of the Saints on the ballot. But start with quarterback Drew Brees, receiver Marques Colston, tight end Jeremy Shockey, guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks, defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, safety Darren Sharper, linebacker Jonathan Vilma and punter Thomas Morstead.
Atlanta: Quarterback Matt Ryan, tight end Tony Gonzalez, center Todd McClure, receiver Roddy White, linebacker Curtis Lofton and punter Michael Koenen. If defensive end John Abraham picks it up in the coming weeks at all, he becomes a candidate.
Carolina: The only guy I feel real strong in recommending is linebacker Thomas Davis. Linebacker Jon Beason and tackle Jordan Gross went last year and I wouldn’t rule them out, but only if their play picks up in the coming weeks.
Tampa Bay: Remember, this isn’t like baseball. There doesn’t have to be a player from every team. But if you feel compelled to vote for a Tampa Bay player, tight end Kellen Winslow is probably the most deserving at the moment. Linebacker Barrett Ruud also could be a possibility.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Since the Saints are playing tonight, we'll start the team-by-team mailbags with them.
Neil in Richmond, VA, writes: You and lots of others I know have been pretty harsh on Sean Payton. I'm not sure I understand what the fuss is about. He's hardly perfect, but I can't imagine anyone arguing the Saints are worse than before he took charge. No, we aren't a Superbowl team yet, in spite of some optimist predictions, but we've hung on in an extremely tough division, leading me to believe that we are really better than the 2006 team (the NFC was so soft that year that we took #2 seed with 10-6. 10-6 might not even be good to make the playoffs this year). I approve of many of Payton's decisions that are supposedly too risky (the fact that we have a team that is prepared to convert 4th downs indisputably won the London game when our kicking game was in shambles). I'm not defending every decision he makes. His play calling doesn't always make me too happy. But over the long term, Payton seems like part of the solution and not part of the problem. Even though this season hasn't been ideal, I dare you to find a Saints fan who longs for the days before Payton, even if they do think this team can do more.
Pat Yasinskas: Wow, you're the first fan I've seen defending Payton in quite some time. You make a very good point about trying to find a fan who longs for the days before Payton. The Saints certainly are more competitive with him than they were through most of their previous history. Payton definitely has his strengths and weaknesses and he's not going anywhere anytime soon after signing a new five-year contract early this season. But I think next year will be critical for him. He has a lot of talent to work with and he can't afford to have an underachieving team again.
Lloyd in parts unknown writes: Do you think Kurt Warner deserves the MVP over Drew Brees because of the TEAM record? Here are my thoughts: I'm real tired of this BS about Warner deserves it because his team is winning. If the Saints were in that division they would own it too. Give me a break, THAT DIVISION HAS SPOTTED THE CARDINALS 6 WINS and as of right now, the Cardinals have only won 2 games outside of that 6-spot. LETS SAY THE CARDS FINISH 10-6. THAT MEANS THEY ONLY WENT 4 and 6 AGAINST THE REST OF THE LEAGUE. THAT'S PATHETIC. IF THEY GO 11-5, THAT MEANS THEY ONLY WENT 5 and 5 AGAINST EVERYONE ELSE. Yeah, Warner has really got them winning huh!!!! I'm not trying to say Brees is the MVP, I'm just tired of hearing the team record as being the main reason Warner deserves it over Brees. I mean really, when should an individual award be defined by what a team did?
Pat Yasinskas: All good points. But my personal opinion is the MVP award also should reflect what the team does. Your points on the Cardinals and their schedule have merit, but they have won their division. If the Saints win out and make the playoffs, I'd bump Brees ahead of Warner because I do think he's a much better quarterback.
Dinh Pham writes: Hey there Pat... i was looking at the remaining schedule... for the NFC South... and it looks like all teams could end up 10-6... of course the Saints have to win against the Bears and win out the season... and if thats the case... what would be the scenaro then... i know it comes to tie breakers within the division, and then conference... but after that... even then they can all end up 10-6... which team will get the division title, and what teams will get to go as the wild cards?
Pat Yasinskas: Since you and a lot of others are asking about various playoff scenarios, here's a link to the NFL's complete procedures on tiebreakers.
Shane in Dayton writes: Why is Lance Moore not on the list of recievers that you can vote for on NFL.com for the Pro Bowl?? I think he really deserves a shot, and I can't even vote for him!! What's up with that??
Pat Yasinskas: Glad you brought that up because it points out one of the quirks in Pro Bowl balloting. Moore wasn't on the ballot because he wasn't expected to be a starter early in the season. He certainly has produced like a guy who at least deserves some Pro Bowl votes. That couldn't happen in the fan part of the voting because of the NFL's system. Moore will get some write-in votes when the coaches and players do their voting, but I don't think that will be enough to get him a spot. That's unfortunate.
Damon in San Diego writes: Hey Pat, love the site and your column...die hard Saints Fan from New Orleans transferred to San Diego compliments of the Marine Corps. (MSGTofMarines) My question is; even if we win out at 10-6 what are your honest thoughts on my beloved boys in black and gold making the playoffs? thanks in advance and keep up the great work!
Pat Yasinskas: Win tonight against the Bears and we'll start talking about playoffs then.
Neil in Richmond, VA, writes: A couple times, you've talked about Pierre Thomas as average, and (if I've been reading you right) perhaps not the Saints long term solution for a RB to complement Bush. Has the game against Atlanta changed your mind any? Where you see a middle of the pack RB, I see a young guy who is getting better every month and can play 15 carry games when he needs to (and with the offense the Saints have now, why outside of injuries would we ever need one guy to pick up more than 15 carries?) With the youth of both, it seems to me like Bush and Thomas together is more than enough RB talent for years to come.
Pat Yasinskas: You were reading me right. But Thomas changed my opinion and probably the opinion of a lot of others on Sunday.