Tuesday, December 28, 2010
NFC North Pro Bowl analysis
By Kevin Seifert
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Perfect sense: Julius Peppers is tied for No. 24 in the NFL with eight sacks, but he has unquestionably altered the Chicago Bears' defense. For most of the season, the Bears have had the NFL's best defense when rushing four or fewer linemen -- a direct impact of Peppers' arrival. Injuries have slowed Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews in the second half of the season, but he is still has the league's third-most sacks (12.5). Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh leads all defensive tackles with nine sacks. Receivers Calvin Johnson of the Lions (77 receptions, 1,120 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Greg Jennings of the Packers (72-1,168-12) are having the best seasons of careers that should have already included this honor.
Made it on rep: I've never been able to figure out how offensive linemen are chosen to the Pro Bowl, and I couldn't begin to tell you whether the Packers' Chad Clifton deserves this honor. He struggled early this season with a knee injury and seemed on the verge of giving up his job to rookie Bryan Bulaga. Since then, we haven't heard much about him. I guess that's a good thing when it comes to offensive linemen. Meanwhile, Packers safety Nick Collins has built a solid reputation in the past two seasons, but he has dropped at least as many interceptions as he has made (three) this season. Some might put Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher in this category. But while I think Peppers has helped free him up to make plays, Urlacher has had his best season since the Bears' Super Bowl run in 2006. I have no qualms.
Got robbed: As we noted earlier, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had the best game in the NFL last Sunday against the New York Giants. According to the Packers, Rodgers is the first alternate behind Michael Vick, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. If I had to choose one Packers' defensive back for this year's game, I would pick cornerback Tramon Williams over Collins or cornerback Charles Woodson. Williams has been the Packers' best pass defender this season and only one player in the league has more interceptions than him. Finally, Bears special teams cover man Corey Graham has had a Pro Bowl-caliber season with 24 solo tackles.
Click here for the complete Pro Bowl list.