Wednesday, December 26, 2012
AFC North Pro Bowl analysis
By Jamison Hensley
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Perfect sense: The playoff-bound Bengals only got two players on the Pro Bowl team, but both are well deserving. Wide receiver A.J. Green (95 catches for 1,324 yards and 11 touchdowns) and defensive tackle Geno Atkins (13 sacks) are the top offensive and defensive players in the division. Steelers tight end Heath Miller suffered a season-ending knee injury Sunday but he still finished with 71 catches for career highs of 816 yards and eight touchdowns. This is the second Pro Bowl selection for Miller, who was the most consistent offensive player on the Steelers this season. Kicker Phil Dawson reached the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 14-year career (and perhaps final season with the Browns). It was a near perfect season for Dawson, who made 28 of 29 field goals (96.6 percent) including six kicks beyond 50 yards. The Browns' player who has always been a lock, offensive tackle Joe Thomas, was just as deserving. He allowed only three sacks and three additional quarterback hits this season. While many linemen make the Pro Bowl on reputation, Thomas and the Ravens' Marshal Yanda do not. Yanda is among the top guards in the game. He has allowed zero sacks and only three quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Focus. Ravens returner Jacoby Jones made a splash in his first season in Baltimore, scoring three touchdowns off returns in a five-game span. He became the first player in NFL history to record two kickoff returns for touchdowns of at least 105 yards in a career. Jones did it in one season.
Made it on rep: Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey is going to his third Pro Bowl, but he didn't even start every game at center this season. When injuries hit the Steelers' offensive line, Pouncey moved to guard and Doug Legursky started at center. Pouncey is the 14th-ranked center by Pro Football Focus. The best is center Chris Myers, who is Pouncey's backup in the Pro Bowl. Ravens safety Ed Reed is headed to his ninth Pro Bowl, and he may not have had the best season for a free safety in the division (you could make an argument for the Steelers' Ryan Clark). Reed has four interceptions, the third time in four seasons that he's had fewer than five, and 58 tackles (35 fewer than Clark).
Got robbed: No one from the NFL's top-ranked defense made the Pro Bowl. The Steelers are holding teams to 272.9 yards per game, 24 fewer than anyone else in the league. Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons has been the second-best defensive player in the division. His interception in overtime against Kansas City was the game-changing play, and his 53-yard interception return for a touchdown in Cleveland was the first defensive score of his career. Far from a household name, Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis is tied with the Seahawks' Richard Sherman for the most passes defensed in the NFL (23). And somehow the nine-win Bengals only placed two players on the AFC Pro Bowl team while the two-win Chiefs got five on the team. Either one of Cincinnati's defensive ends could have received the nod. Michael Johnson has 9.5 sacks, and Carlos Dunlap has five sacks, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two passes defensed.
Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.