NFL Nation: 09 afc pro bowlers

AFC West Pro Bowl analysis

December, 29, 2009
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Perfect sense: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers was an easy call. Last year, he was an alternate. Rivers is playing as well as any player in the league. He is a backup to starter Peyton Manning. One of Rivers’ favorite targets, Antonio Gates was also a no-brainer. Gates is having perhaps his best season. San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding is one of the most reliable kickers in NFL history. He deserves this call. Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL. He was also an easy call. After being snubbed lest season, as a rookie, Denver left tackle Ryan Clady is a very deserving starting choice. How could Denver linebacker Elvis Dumervil be denied after putting up an NFL-leading 17 sacks?

Made it on rep: Only 12 players from the AFC West made the team. There aren't a lot of stretches on the list. Pretty much everyone who made it, deserved it. You can look at older players such as Denver safety Brian Dawkins and cornerback Champ Bailey and San Diego guard Kris Dielman as players who get in routinely on name recognition. But all three players had solid seasons.

Got robbed: It has to be San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson. He was one of the biggest snubs in the league. Jackson means so much to San Diego’s offense. He takes on double teams and opens up other weapons on the team. He is one of Rivers’ favorite targets and he is one of the best deep threats in the game. Jackson is averaging 17.2 yards per catch and has nine touchdowns on 68 receptions. It is time the fifth-year player gets some recognition.

AFC North Pro Bowl analysis

December, 29, 2009
» NFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

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.

AFC East Pro Bowl analysis

December, 29, 2009
» NFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Nine players from the AFC East were chosen for the Pro Bowl.

The New England Patriots lead the way with four, while three New York Jets are on the roster. The Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills have one representative apiece.

Here's a look at some of the decisions and whether or not they were warranted.

Perfect sense

  • Darrelle Revis, Jets cornerback: Probably the easiest call of them all. Revis is a candidate for NFL defensive player of the year and an almost certain All-Pro. He leads the NFL with 37 passes defensed and is tied for fifth with six interceptions.
  • Wes Welker, Patriots receiver: He already has set the club record with 122 receptions, which leads the NFL, even though he missed two games with an injury.
  • Nick Mangold, Jets center: He didn't crack the top five in AFC fan voting, but he was named the AFC's starter because he's simply that good.
  • Vince Wilfork, Patriots nose tackle: The keystone of New England's defense was an easy call for AFC starter.
  • Jake Long, Dolphins tackle: He's emerging as one of the best in either conference. Long has won the fan vote both of his seasons in the NFL and made it to Honolulu last year as an alternate. Now he's a starter.
Made it on rep

  • Alan Faneca, Jets guard: Some players get sent back because they've been there so many times before. Faneca is headed to his ninth straight Pro Bowl. He's still good, but he's not what he used to be.
  • Tom Brady, Patriots quarterback: Brady deserves to be in the Pro Bowl, but I'm adding him to the list because I think his presence is why Matt Schaub didn't make it. Schaub leads the league in yardage, is third in completion percentage, has a higher passer rating than Brady and only one fewer touchdown.
Got robbed

  • Brandon Meriweather, Patriots strong safety: He was a consensus midseason All-Pro, but didn't get picked for the Pro Bowl because the AFC made Denver's Brian Dawkins its lone strong safety and selected two free safeties, Byrd and Baltimore's Ed Reed.
  • Aaron Schobel, Bills defensive end: Schobel, a two-time Pro Bowler, is having one of his better seasons, but he's doing it for a team that will miss the playoffs a 10th straight season. He has 10 sacks, third among AFC defensive ends, but three of them came Sunday, after the ballots had been submitted.
  • David Harris, Jets inside linebacker: Harris leads the NFL's top defense with 141 tackles. He also has 5.5 sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
  • Calvin Pace, Jets outside linebacker: Maybe this should go under the heading of "Robbed himself." A great season was hurt by a four-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy. Even so, Pace leads the Jets with seven sacks, 12 tackles for losses and three forced fumbles.

AFC South Pro Bowl analysis

December, 29, 2009
» NFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Perfect sense: If the Colts aren’t in the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning will throw to familiar top targets Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark and turn to hand off to familiar foes, Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew. Opposite Wayne, Manning will look to Andre Johnson. The AFC South is well represented at the skill positions with explosive play-makers, led by Manning, Johnson and Johnson.

I was pleased to see rookie Brian Cushing break through. It’s difficult for 4-3 outside linebackers to get noticed, but he got the backup spot behind two great 3-4 guys, Elvis Dumervil and James Harrison.

Made it on rep: I don’t know who was more deserving than Mario Williams, but he has not been the terror that’s come to be expected, likely because a shoulder injury hindered him more than was let on. He still dictated protections and made tackles and quarterbacks worry. But when his final résumé is written, this isn’t going to rank as one of his top seasons. He’s said himself during the season that he knew he could and needed to play better.

Got robbed: Antoine Bethea didn’t get in front of playmakers Ed Reed and rookie Jairus Byrd. In a secondary scrambled by injuries, Bethea was a consistent settling force for a defense that currently ranks seventh in points allowed.

Michael Roos started with a bad game but played well for a team that has a running back on the verge of 2,000 yards and hasn’t allowed many sacks.

I’d expect Matt Schaub’s in line as the top alternate at quarterback. I can see him not getting a nod over Manning and Philip Rivers. Houston’s got a reasonable debate about Schaub (more yards, slightly better passer rating) versus Tom Brady, but Brady’s got a bigger rep to go with one more touchdown and two fewer interceptions, not to mention two more wins. They go head to head Sunday.