Pro Bowl analysis: NFC West
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Cardinals have dominated the NFC West with a 5-0 division record this season. It's no surprise they dominated Pro Bowl balloting within the division as well.
Quarterback Kurt Warner, receiver Anquan Boldin, receiver Larry Fitzgerald, strong safety Adrian Wilson and special-teamer Sean Morey earned spots on the NFC roster. Linebacker Karlos Dansby and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett were named alternates. Warner, Boldin and Fitzgerald are starters on offense. Wilson is a starter on defense. That sounds about right for the Cardinals. It's tough to find any true snubs for Arizona.
Warner beat out Eli Manning and Drew Brees for the starting role. The Falcons' Matt Ryan was the odd man out. He'll have plenty more chances in the future. Voting from coaches and players came at the right time for Warner and Boldin. Neither has played quite as well over the last few weeks. Both have the numbers and overall resumes to warrant starting spots.
The Cardinals are the first team since at least the 1970 merger to field the starting quaterback and both starting receivers in a Pro Bowl. Fitzgerald has been the Cardinals' most consistent Pro Bowl-caliber player. He needed to be a starter and the fact that Boldin and Warner will join him in the lineup might qualify as a bonus.
Few players in the division can complain about legitimate snubs. Rams punter Donnie Jones came close as a first alternate, and he certainly had the stats for consideration. But Jeff Feagles' directional punting, often in blustery outdoor conditions for the Giants, made him a deserving choice. Jones will have more chances. The Rams' 2-12 record hurt this season.
The 49ers' Patrick Willis will start at inside linebacker for the NFC. No other 49ers player earned a Pro Bowl spot. None could make a clear claim for a starting job. Frank Gore, always a worthy candidate, doesn't have the numbers to match other NFC backs this season. Left tackle Joe Staley has become a steady player since the 49ers reined in their offense. He could earn future consideration once the Seahawks' Walter Jones' retires.
The 49ers have four alternates this season. Tight end Vernon Davis made it, an indication opponents respect his blocking. Davis routinely blocks defensive ends in pass protection and even the run game without help. He has done it most of the season and he has done it well. A couple of touchdown receptions also helped his cause. Punter Andy Lee, special teamer Michael Robinson and return specialist Allen Rossum were also alternates.
Seattle's Jones earned his ninth Pro Bowl selection. He was the only Seahawks player selected. Linebacker Julian Peterson and fullback Leonard Weaver were alternates. Left cornerback Marcus Trufant had a strong season, but the Seahawks have given up too many long pass plays, and Trufant doesn't have the interception numbers to get noticed on a bad team. Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu missed the Pro Bowl for the first time in his four NFL seasons. That was no surprise. Tatupu and the Seattle defense haven't been as effective.
Jones earned eighth consecutive Pro Bowl selection despite suffering a season-ending injury a week before players voted. Jones wasn't among the top five in fan balloting, a reflection of the Seahawks' poor season. He still rates high among opposing coaches and players. Jones has fought through injuries. He isn't as dominant as he was a few years ago, but the NFC doesn't feature a long list of dominant young tackles to push for Pro Bowl consideration. Jones still might be the best left tackle in the NFC when healthy.
The NFC West put only seven players in the Pro Bowl this season, down from 11 last season. The low total reflects the weakness of the division.