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Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Where AFC Southies stand in Pro Bowl balloting


Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Led by the undefeated Tennessee Titans the AFC South is making a strong showing in fan balloting for the Pro Bowl. Fan voting at NFL.com continues until Dec. 9. It then counts as one-third of the overall ballot, which also includes player and coaches' votes.

Here's a look at the division in the fan polls so far with appropriate context and a bit of commentary:

Quarterback: 1) Brett Favre, 402,514; 2) Jay Cutler, 308,166; 3) Peyton Manning, 269,504.
-- Manning is back to himself and coming off three very strong games. He could overtake Cutler and maybe even Favre.

Running back: 1) Ronnie Brown, 284,794; 2) LaDainian Tomlinson, 263,584; 3) Chris Johnson, 240,049; 4) Marshawn Lynch, 154,637; 5) Maurice Jones-Drew, 147,703.
-- An impressive showing for the Titans rookie runner. Like the Jaguars, Jones-Drew is off last year's pace.

Wide receiver: 1) Brandon Marshall, 232,234; 2) Reggie Wayne, 223,583; 3) Andre Johnson, 198,106.
-- Johnson's fallen off some since a spectacular October, while Wayne is the key cog for Indy's passing game.

Fullback: 1) LeRon McClain, 95,554; 2) Ahmard Hall, 79,864; 3) Greg Jones, 48,220.
-- Young guns making the charge. Hall is a big piece of the Titans seventh-rating rush attack. Jones is a good player unlikely to close the gap because of the Jags' troubles.

Tight end: 1) Antonio Gates, 195,580; 2) Tony Gonzalez, 191,648, 3) Dallas Clark, 123,473.
-- Heath Miller and Kellen Winslow round out the top five. Owen Daniels should be in the mix as he's second in the conference at his position in receptions with 45. The Titans had to choose one skill player to leave off the ballot, and it was Bo Scaife, who's just one catch behind Daniels.

Center: 1) Jeff Saturday, 174,401; 2) Kevin Mawae, 173,988.
-- A nice, close battle here. Saturday's value became even more apparent when he missed the first couple games.

Guard: 1) Alan Faneca, 165,610; 2) Eugene Amano, 92,637; 3) Jake Scott, 86,100.
-- Amano is a nice player, but how he's second and ahead of Scott may be the biggest question on this list.

Tackle: 1) Jake Long, 108,943; 5) Michael Roos, 70,068.
-- Roos is widely regarded by defensive ends and personnel people as a top young tackle, but he's behind Long, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Matt Light and Joe Thomas. Light's line has yielded 33 sacks; Roos' six.

Defensive end: 1) Mario Williams, 163,371; 2) Dwight Freeney, 152,659; 3) Kyle Vanden Bosch, 136,928; 4) Jevon Kearse, 116,498.
-- The fans think the best edge rushers in the league are from this division and they are right. But Vanden Bosch has missed all but a bit of the last five games with a groin injury, which will cost him. Kearse has been a solid role player, but not a Pro Bowl caliber guy.

Defensive tackle: 1) Albert Haynesworth, 206,925; 2) Casey Hampton, 86,352.
-- The best player on the league's best team has a nice lead at his position, but is 100,000 votes out of the AFC's top 10 vote-getters.

Outside linebacker: 1) Joey Porter, 151,463; 2) Keith Bulluck, 117,856.
-- Bulluck's been playing without practicing because of a chest injury and could slip.

Inside linebacker: 1) Ray Lewis, 168,566; 5) DeMeco Ryans, 41,536.
-- Ryans has not been as good in his third season.

Cornerback: 1) Champ Bailey, 153,765; 2) Cortland Finnegan, 105,251.
-- Believe the hype. Finnegan is definitely worthy.

Strong safety: 1) Troy Polamalu, 178,764; 2) Bob Sanders, 62,512; 3) Chris Hope, 42,651.
--
Sanders has missed six games with injury this season, and that should be enough to keep him out of a Pro Bowl spot no matter how he does when he's in. Hope is leading an excellent secondary and has four picks.

Free safety: 1) Ed Reed, 133,666; 2) Michael Griffin, 59,803; 5) Antoine Bethea, 25,867.
-- Another young Titan making a splashy showing. Griffin is among the AFC leaders with four picks. Bethea has been versatile, playing nickelback against three-wide sets recently.

Kicker: 1) Rob Bironas, 69,269; 2) Adam Vinatieri, 57,153.
-- Bironas is tied for fourth in scoring for AFC kickers and has only three misses, but a case can be made for Stephen Gostkowski (AFC's second-best percentage and second-most touchbacks) and Phil Dawson ahead of him, and neither is in the top five. Vinatieri has only tried 14 field goals and is there mostly off name recognition.

Punter: 1) Shane Lechler, 51,832; 2) Craig Hentrich, 48,175.
-- Lechler booms them but his net should be better considering. Hentrich doesn't have great numbers, but consistently helps the conferences' best team get good field position.