NFC West: Pro Bowl analysis
All three withdrew from the game, citing injuries.
That left alternates Drew Brees, Eli Manning and Russell Wilson to replace them. Were they worthy? The chart compares regular-season stats for all six quarterbacks.
Rodgers, Ryan and Wilson would have been my top three when all six of the quarterbacks' seasons concluded. Pro Bowl voting took place with two regular-season games remaining. Rodgers, Ryan and Griffin would have been my choices at that point in the season, followed by Wilson, Brees and Manning if those six were the players from which to choose.
Perfect sense: Larry Fitzgerald, Adrian Wilson, Andy Lee, David Akers, Justin Smith and Patrick Willis are past Pro Bowl selections enjoying strong seasons. Their selections made perfect sense. No St. Louis Rams made it. Steven Jackson was worthy of consideration, but the team's 2-13 record made his exclusion understandable.
Patrick Peterson's four touchdowns on punt returns made him an extremely worthy if somewhat surprising choice over Devin Hester, whose reputation figured to count for something.
It was good to see voters recognize the NFC West's talent on special teams and in the secondary. Wilson and Seattle's Earl Thomas are the starting safeties. Carlos Rogers is a starting corner, and Seattle's Brandon Browner, a first alternate, could very well join him in the game itself because at least one of the NFC starters, Charles Woodson, could be playing in the Super Bowl.
Made it on rep: From the NFC West? Are you kidding? This division usually fights for whatever it can get. Wilson made it on reputation last season, but he was very much deserving this time, even though it came at the expense of Seattle's Kam Chancellor, a first alternate. None of the players selected made it on rep, in my view.
We could debate the worthiness of a few, including 49ers free safety Dashon Goldson. But he didn't have much of a rep. He made big plays for a 12-3 team and got noticed despite some inconsistencies in his game. The 49ers' success cleared the way for Goldson and another first-timer, left tackle Joe Staley.
Frank Gore always deserves consideration, and his numbers say he did not make it strictly on reputation, but a case can be made that other backs were producing at a higher level more recently. Gore's dropped passes have been a problem as well.
Got robbed: Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, San Francisco's Aldon Smith, St. Louis' Chris Long and Arizona's Calais Campbell come to mind immediately.
Lynch has arguably run more impressively than any other back in the conference of late. He ended the 49ers' streaks without allowing a 100-yard rusher (36 games) or a rushing touchdown (15 games). Lynch was named a second alternate. He has a chance to earn a spot given that Matt Forte is injured and might not play in the game. I'm not sure which NFC back is first alternate, but Lynch would move up the list if Minnesota's injured Adrian Peterson held that distinction.
Aldon Smith has 14 sacks as a rookie, but he didn't make the Pro Bowl. In fact, Smith did not even show up on a list of 49ers alternates featuring NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks, Blake Costanzo, Vernon Davis, Ted Ginn Jr., Jonathan Goodwin, Mike Iupati, Ray McDonald, Bruce Miller and Donte Whitner.
Long has 13 sacks for a team that almost never faces favorable pass-rushing situations, but with multiple high-profile sack artists in the NFC, he did not make it. The Cardinals' Campbell gets overlooked playing defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, but he's been a dominant player. At least teammate Darnell Dockett was named an alternate.
Click here for the complete 2012 Pro Bowl roster.
Two tight ends drafted since 2006 have earned Pro Bowl honors.
In 15 months, Davis has gone from budding draft bust and loose cannon to arguably the most dynamic all-around tight end in the NFL. Coach Mike Singletary's decision to banish Davis to the locker room during a 2008 home loss to Seattle will go down as one of the most unusual and effective motivational tactics in NFL history. Singletary later named Davis a team captain, an appointment that became self-fulfilling.
Only wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss matched Davis' 13 touchdown receptions in 2009. And of the 19 players with more than seven scoring grabs, Davis was the only one whose team made a performance-based change at quarterback. He wasn't catching passes from Kurt Warner or Tom Brady, in other words.
Davis will get a chance to play with elite quarterbacks during his Pro Bowl debut Sunday. He might also get a chance to show his dominant skills as a blocker. As tough as it might have once been to envision Davis earning Pro Bowl honors, it's now tougher to envision him failing to make return trips.
We can argue about Pro Bowl honors being watered down now that the game is scheduled for before the Super Bowl and so many alternates are qualifying. I have no problem with Smith's selection, though, because he's been a very good player for a long time and a big reason for the 49ers' success against Arizona within the NFC West.
This marks Smith's first Pro Bowl selection.
"This is a great opportunity for me to represent my team in Miami," Smith said in a statement released by the team. "It's been a long time coming. To be able to go there and play with four of my teammates makes it even better."
Smith's selection is similar to London Fletcher's selection for the Redskins. Both have played at a high level for a long time. That should count for something.
Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner outranked the Cowboys' Tony Romo in the pecking order for quarterback alternates to the 2010 game, but only Romo will get credit for a Pro Bowl season.
These things matter in the bigger picture because Pro Bowls are one measure for evaluating whether a player should gain enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If Romo became a three-time Pro Bowl choice only because Warner's ribs were too sore for him to play in the game, should Warner's health prevent him from claiming a fifth Pro Bowl on his résumé?
Brett Favre, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers were voted to the Pro Bowl from the NFC this season. Brees became ineligible when the Saints advanced to the Super Bowl. Donovan McNabb replaced Brees as first alternate. Favre withdrew, citing an ankle injury. Warner was next in line as second alternate. Romo was the third alternate.
The Cardinals and the NFL would not confirm the order for alternates, but Warner's agent, Mark Bartelstein, said Warner was in line for a spot on the NFC roster. Josh Ellis, writing for the Cowboys' Web site, identified Warner as the second alternate, ahead of Romo. The NFL would confirm only that Warner will not get credit for a Pro Bowl season. Romo will get credit.
Vikings receiver Percy Harvin, named to the Pro Bowl as an alternate, also could lose Pro Bowl honors after withdrawing because of injury (I am checking on his status). The NFL named Harvin to the game as a return specialist after the Eagles' DeSean Jackson qualified at two positions (receiver and return specialist).
When Harvin withdrew, the NFL subsequently named the Bears' Johnny Knox to the Pro Bowl as his replacement. Harvin's name then disappeared from the roster posted at NFL.com.
The 49ers' Andy Lee was named to the NFC's Pro Bowl squad.
Punters Ben Graham (Cardinals), Donnie Jones (Rams) and Jon Ryan (Seahawks) are the alternates.
We can bank on an NFC West player punting in the Pro Bowl, in other words.
Other known alternates from the NFC West: kicker Olindo Mare (Seahawks), center Jason Brown (Rams), defensive end Justin Smith (49ers), special-teamer Michael Robinson (49ers), running back Frank Gore (49ers), tackle Levi Brown (Cardinals), quarterback Kurt Warner (Cardinals), safety Antrel Rolle (Cardinals), specialist Sean Morey (Cardinals) and kicker Neil Rackers (Cardinals).
That is the word from Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.
Smith plays at a high level. He set a fast pace this season and I'm not sure he maintained it all the way through. He also will not get the sack numbers playing defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. He's still a very good player and worthy of consideration. He gives Arizona problems in particular.
Larry Fitzgerald, Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were worthy choices.
Six others qualified as alternates to the Pro Bowl, according to the team: Quarterback Kurt Warner, tackle Levi Brown, safety Antrel Rolle, punter Ben Graham, specialist Sean Morey and kicker Neil Rackers.
Brown's name jumps off the page because he is highly penalized and often criticized as someone who doesn't live up to his first-round draft pedigree. Being an alternate stands as a credit to Brown and a reflection of the tackle position in the conference. Perennial Pro Bowl choice Walter Jones was not a candidate this season, while the 49ers' Joe Staley missed an extended period while injured. Former Rams tackle Orlando Pace has also declined to the point where he no longer commands consideration.
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.