Tuesday, December 29, 2009
AFC North Pro Bowl analysis
By James Walker
Perfect sense: Cleveland Browns kick returner Joshua Cribbs was a no-brainer. Cribbs is the NFL's most dangerous and best all-around special teams' player. He has four returns (three kickoffs, one punt) for touchdowns this season. Baltimore Ravens tailback Ray Rice also made sense. I wondered if enough people recognized the special season Rice is having rushing the ball and catching out of the backfield. He didn't win the fan vote but gained enough respect from players and coaches to make his first Pro Bowl. I also liked the recognition of Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who is coming into his own and will be a dominant force for years to come.
Made it on rep: Baltimore's Ed Reed is arguably the top safety in football, but this season was not his best. He's been banged up and Baltimore's pass defense was shaky all year. With just three interceptions, Reed's having one of his least productive seasons. But a decent, albeit not spectacular, year from Reed still is better than 80 percent of NFL safeties. Some may want to add Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis and/or Steelers defensive tackle Casey Hampton to this group, mainly because of their age. But I thought both players had productive seasons.
Got robbed: Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger surpassed 4,000 yards for the first time in his NFL career. But it was not enough to get a Pro Bowl nod. San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers took the final quarterback spot in the AFC behind Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and Rivers also is deserving. Not having one player from the AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals looks odd. Tailback Cedric Benson was the top player for the Bengals who got the biggest snub.