NFL Nation: AFC Pro Bowl analysis

Pro Bowl analysis: AFC West

December, 16, 2008
12/16/08
5:52
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

A look at the AFC West Pro Bowl breakdown where each team is sending two players to Hawaii:

Denver Broncos: The Broncos are sending quarterback Jay Cutler and receiver Brandon Marshall. This is likely the first of several trips for this third-year pass-catch combination.

Both players deserved the honor. Cutler is a backup and Marshall will start.

One Denver player, tackle Ryan Clady, was snubbed. Clady has given up half a sack and he has shut out superstars Joey Porter, John Abraham and Julius Peppers this season. It is difficult for rookies to get noticed, especially at a not-so-high-profile position. But Clady needed to go.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs have a Pro Bowl player for each of their two victories.

Veterans tight end Tony Gonzalez and guard Brian Waters are going. The selection of Gonzalez was a no-brainer. He has 84 catches and is playing as well as he ever has in his 12-season career. He is starting in the game. Waters is not a major stretch, either. The only reason I thought he wouldn't go is because the Chiefs are having such a poor season. But Waters is having a solid season and he is deserving of a backup role.

Oakland Raiders: Nnamdi Asomugha received his just due. Finally.

Asomugha is a starting cornerback in the Pro Bowl.

And it was no gift. Asomugha has been a premier shutdown cornerback all season. He has given up just a handful of passes this season. He is a bright spot for the 3-11 Raiders. With Champ Bailey missing the past seven games with a groin injury, Asomugha was able to capitalize.

Oakland punter Shane Lechler also went in. This is a solid call. Lechler is an elite player at his position. Oakland linebacker Kirk Morrison is second in the AFC in tackles but there was little chance he would beat out Ray Lewis or James Farrior. Morrison could be setting himself up for a Pro Bowl berth in seasons to come.

San Diego Chargers: There is where some of the surprises are.

Quarterback Philip Rivers was snubbed. However, expect rivers to end up in Hawaii. He is the No. 1 alternate in the AFC. Brett Favre was voted in but he rarely goes to the game, so expect Rivers to get the nod. He needs to be there. He is leading the NFL in passer rating and he has been outstanding much of the season.

The Chargers are sending guard Kris Dielman and tight end Antonio Gates. Dielman is a starter and Gates is an alternate. It isn't a great year for guard play and while Gates has been rusty for much of the season because of offseason toe surgery, it's not a stretch to see him back in Hawaii.

Some in San Diego will be upset that defensive tackle Jamal Williams didn't make it, but it was a strong season at the position and Williams started slow. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson is a third alternate. He is having a down season but so is the rest of the AFC running back class. He probably deserved to be a higher alternate.

AFC Pro Bowlers
Offense
PositionStarter(s)Reserves
QuarterbackPeyton Manning, IndianapolisBrett Favre, New York Jets
Jay Cutler, Denver
Running backThomas Jones, New York JetsChris Johnson, Tennessee
Ronnie Brown, Miami
FullbackLe'Ron McClain, Baltimore 
Wide receiverAndre Johnson, Houston
Brandon Marshall, Denver
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis
Wes Welker, New England
Tight endTony Gonzalez, Kansas CityAntonio Gates, San Diego
TackleJoe Thomas, Cleveland
Jason Peters, Buffalo
Michael Roos, Tennessee
GuardAlan Faneca, New York Jets
Kris Dielman, San Diego
Brian Waters, Kansas City
CenterKevin Mawae, TennesseeNick Mangold, New York Jets
Defense
Defensive endMario Williams, Houston
Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis
Robert Mathis, Indianapolis
Defensive tackleAlbert Haynesworth, Tennessee
Kris Jenkins, New York Jets
Shaun Rogers, Cleveland
Outside linebackerJames Harrison, Pittsburgh
Joey Porter, Miami
Terrell Suggs, Baltimore
Inside linebackerRay Lewis, BaltimoreJames Farrior, Pittsburgh
CornerbackNnamdi Asomugha, Oakland
Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee
Darrelle Revis, New York Jets
Free safetyEd Reed, Baltimore 
Strong safetyTroy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Chris Hope, Tennessee
Special teams
PunterShane Lechler, Oakland 
Place-kickerStephen Gostkowski, New England 
Kick returnerLeon Washington, New York Jets 
Special-teamerBrendon Ayanbadejo, Baltimore 

Pro Bowl analysis: AFC South

December, 16, 2008
12/16/08
5:38
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Here's a quick take on who's in and who missed out on the game everybody wants to be on the roster for, but few actually want to play in.

The starting lineup includes seven players from the division: Peyton Manning, Andre Johnson, Kevin Mawae, Albert Haynesworth, Mario Williams, Dwight Freeney and Cortland Finnegan.

Tennessee Titans (6 selections)
The Titans had the best record in the league when player and coach balloting was conducted, and they got three starters in the Pro Bowl in Mawae, Haynesworth and Finnegan. They will be joined by running back Chris Johnson, left tackle Michael Roos and strong safety Chris Hope.

Finnegan, Johnson, Roos and Hope are all Pro Bowl selections for the first time.

Though Haynesworth is going to miss the final two regular season games with a sprained MCL in his left knee, he would have met play/time incentives connected to wins anyway. But those contractual mechanisms are moot now. Getting named to the Pro Bowl means the Titans cannot put the franchise tag on him for a second year, and while they can start negotiating with him after the final regular season game, he is on track to become an unrestricted free agent.

While it's easy to complain about the process that selects the team, it worked the way it should instead of the way it usually does in the case of two Titans.

Finnegan played well and it got him enough attention to get the spot he deserved. He had five interceptions to help his case. Roos had no stats and only ranked fourth in fan voting, but players and coaches put him over the top. Typically a young tackle with a small market team might not get to the Pro Bowl until two years after he reached a Pro Bowl level. But Roos is hitting his peak and broke through.

Snub discussion: Outside linebacker Keith Bulluck has gotten used to getting bypassed -- he's only been to one Pro Bowl in nine seasons. Michael Griffin is probably playing Pro Bowl caliber ball but if there are only three spots for safeties, Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed and Hope sure seem like right ones. Fullback Ahmard Hall is a worthy candidate if you're looking for a blocker, but voters seem incapable of focusing on the primary piece of the job. They liked LeRon McClain, who's a fullback that gets a lot of carries -- he has 693 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Kicker Rob Bironas has comparable numbers to Stephen Gostkowski.

Indianapolis Colts (4)
Quarterback Peyton Manning will be the starting quarterback in his ninth Pro Bowl. After he missed all of training camp and the preseason following two knee surgeries, he and the Colts started slow. But Manning and his team have restored the natural order. The competition is pretty weak, but Manning could be in line for his third MVP award. Among his receivers in Hawaii are Reggie Wayne, who will come off the bench with Wes Welker, and starters Andre Johnson and Brandon Marshall.

The Colts have two of the three Pro Bowlers at defensive end with Dwight Freeney starting and Robert Mathis earning the spot as a reserve. It's well deserved. Mathis was long cast as a situational player, but he's a well rounded end who terrorizes quarterbacks and strips them a ridiculously high percentage of the time he hits them.

Snub discussion: Tight end Dallas Clark has put together a great resume this season, but was trapped behind Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. The Jets Nick Mangold, not Jeff Saturday, will play behind Kevin Mawae at center. Saturday missed four games and the Colts early struggles on the offensive line were a big story.

Houston Texans (2)
Johnson and Williams, selected for the first time, are cornerstone players for the Texans and have a chance to finish the season at 9-7 if they can win two more.

Snub discussion: Owen Daniels knows he can be productive and not earn a spot so long as Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates are around. Dallas Clark isn't going either, and he probably ranks ahead of Daniels in the eyes of the voters too. Take pride in being the fourth-best guy, Owen, there are a ton of teams that would love to have you.

Jacksonville Jaguars (0)
A 5-9 season produced no Pro Bowlers for Jacksonville. It's hard to make a case for anyone but running back Maurice Jones-Drew, the second leading scorer among non-kickers in the AFC. But he didn't deserve to go ahead of Thomas Jones, Ronnie Brown or Chris Johnson.

AFC Pro Bowlers
Offense
PositionStarter(s)Reserves
QuarterbackPeyton Manning, IndianapolisBrett Favre, New York Jets
Jay Cutler, Denver
Running backThomas Jones, New York JetsChris Johnson, Tennessee
Ronnie Brown, Miami
FullbackLe'Ron McClain, Baltimore 
Wide receiverAndre Johnson, Houston
Brandon Marshall, Denver
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis
Wes Welker, New England
Tight endTony Gonzalez, Kansas CityAntonio Gates, San Diego
TackleJoe Thomas, Cleveland
Jason Peters, Buffalo
Michael Roos, Tennessee
GuardAlan Faneca, New York Jets
Kris Dielman, San Diego
Brian Waters, Kansas City
CenterKevin Mawae, TennesseeNick Mangold, New York Jets
Defense
Defensive endMario Williams, Houston
Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis
Robert Mathis, Indianapolis
Defensive tackleAlbert Haynesworth, Tennessee
Kris Jenkins, New York Jets
Shaun Rogers, Cleveland
Outside linebackerJames Harrison, Pittsburgh
Joey Porter, Miami
Terrell Suggs, Baltimore
Inside linebackerRay Lewis, BaltimoreJames Farrior, Pittsburgh
CornerbackNnamdi Asomugha, Oakland
Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee
Darrelle Revis, New York Jets
Free safetyEd Reed, Baltimore 
Strong safety Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Chris Hope, Tennessee
Special teams
PunterShane Lechler, Oakland 
Place-kickerStephen Gostkowski, New England 
Kick returnerLeon Washington, New York Jets 
Special-teamerBrendon Ayanbadejo, Baltimore 

Pro Bowl analysis: AFC East

December, 16, 2008
12/16/08
5:28
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

New York Jets (7 selections)
Even if the New York Jets don't make the playoffs, they can break out the ukuleles.

The Jets are sending a league-high seven players to Honolulu for the Pro Bowl. Seven selections are two more than the franchise record. Four of them will start.

Running back Thomas Jones and kick returner Leon Washington will start in their first Pro Bowl appearances. Guard Alan Faneca is returning for his eighth straight season. Nose tackle Kris Jenkins will be back a fourth time.

None of the selections could be argued, especially not Jones.

With two games left, he already holds franchise records for points by a non-kicker (90), rushing touchdowns (13) and consecutive games with a touchdown (eight and counting).

Chosen as Pro Bowl reserves were quarterback Brett Favre, center Nick Mangold and cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Mangold and Revis earned much-deserved Pro Bowl honors for the first time, but Favre clearly is going to Hawaii a 10th time on reputation.

Favre is having an ordinary year in general and an awful season when it comes to interceptions. He leads the NFL with 17. San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and perhaps Chad Pennington deserved it more.

As for snubs, there aren't any because so many Jets made it.

Miami Dolphins (2)
Three Dolphins finished first at their positions in the Pro Bowl fan vote, but only one of them garnered enough respect from the coach and player balloting to be honored.

Outside linebacker Joey Porter will start. He leads the AFC with 17.5 sacks and has forced four fumbles. He's going to Hawaii a fourth time. His previous three trips were with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Running back Ronnie Brown was a mild surprise to be selected as a reserve. He has 10 rushing touchdowns but only 827 rushing yards, seventh in the AFC. Brown was selected ahead of Steve Slaton (1,124 yards, eight touchdowns), Marshawn Lynch (1,002 yards, seven touchdowns) and LaDainian Tomlinson (924 yards, eight touchdowns).

Pennington is generating MVP talk but couldn't crack a lineup that has Peyton Manning as the starter and Favre and Jay Cutler as the backups.

The two players who led in fan balloting but didn't make the cut were rookies left tackle and No. 1 pick Jake Long and undrafted kicker Dan Carpenter.

New England Patriots (2)
One year after sending eight players to the Pro Bowl, the Patriots will have two: wide receiver Wes Welker and kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Both will make their Aloha Stadium debuts.

Gostkowski largely overlooked in the fan balloting even though he has been leading the AFC in points for most of the season. He has made 30 of his 33 field goal attempts and all 34 of his extra points.

Welker was selected as a reserve. He is the NFL's second-leading receiver with 102 catches for 1,071 yards.

Left off the roster were receiver Randy Moss, who lost the popular vote by 18 to Brandon Marshall, tackle Matt Light, guard Logan Mankins, center Dan Koppen and defensive linemen Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour.

Buffalo Bills (1)
One of the more brow-raising selections was tackle Jason Peters, who was named a starter for the second year in a row despite a patchy season that began with a prolonged contract dispute.

Actually, it was somewhat surprising to see any Bills get selected.

Buffalo's best player, Lynch, is having an admirable campaign. But there are so many fine running backs to choose from.

AFC Pro Bowlers
Offense
PositionStarter(s)Reserves
QuarterbackPeyton Manning, IndianapolisBrett Favre, New York Jets
Jay Cutler, Denver
Running backThomas Jones, New York JetsChris Johnson, Tennessee
Ronnie Brown, Miami
FullbackLe'Ron McClain, Baltimore 
Wide receiverAndre Johnson, Houston
Brandon Marshall, Denver
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis
Wes Welker, New England
Tight endTony Gonzalez, Kansas CityAntonio Gates, San Diego
TackleJoe Thomas, Cleveland
Jason Peters, Buffalo
Michael Roos, Tennessee
GuardAlan Faneca, New York Jets
Kris Dielman, San Diego
Brian Waters, Kansas City
CenterKevin Mawae, TennesseeNick Mangold, New York Jets
Defense
Defensive endMario Williams, Houston
Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis
Robert Mathis, Indianapolis
Defensive tackleAlbert Haynesworth, Tennessee
Kris Jenkins, New York Jets
Shaun Rogers, Cleveland
Outside linebackerJames Harrison, Pittsburgh
Joey Porter, Miami
Terrell Suggs, Baltimore
Inside linebackerRay Lewis, BaltimoreJames Farrior, Pittsburgh
CornerbackNnamdi Asomugha, Oakland
Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee
Darrelle Revis, New York Jets
Free safetyEd Reed, Baltimore 
Strong safetyTroy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Chris Hope, Tennessee
Special teams
PunterShane Lechler, Oakland 
Place-kickerStephen Gostkowski, New England 
Kick returnerLeon Washington, New York Jets 
Special-teamerBrendon Ayanbadejo, Baltimore 

Pro Bowl analysis: AFC North

December, 16, 2008
12/16/08
5:27
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

The Baltimore Ravens led the AFC North division with five Pro Bowl selections. Three were on defense with linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed and defensive end/linebacker Terrell Suggs. Tailback/fullback Le'Ron McClain also qualified for his first Pro Bowl in addition to special teamer Brendan Ayanbadejo.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, who clinched the AFC North title and is 11-3, had three Pro Bowlers in safety Troy Polamalu and linebackers James Harrison and James Farrior.

The Cleveland Browns had two players earn a Pro Bowl nod with defensive lineman Shaun Rogers and offensive tackle Joe Thomas. The Cincinnati Bengals were shutout.

It is hard to argue the eight combined Pro Bowlers for the Steelers and Ravens. It's a defensive division and those teams are winning, so the production was recognized.

The selection of McClain as a fullback was somewhat curious because he plays a lot of tailback and has been a featured ball carrier for most of the season. McClain would not have made the Pro Bowl otherwise.

We also question the selection of Thomas, who played much better last season as a rookie and was an alternate. This year his play was decent, but not great, and he was selected as a starter.

As far as snubs, start right at the top with Pittsburgh. The defensive unit has been No. 1 for much of the season but only produced three Pro Bowlers.

Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley was the biggest name left out. Woodley's had a breakout year with 11.5 sacks.

A case also could be made for Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (50 tackles, one sack, two interceptions). But there was a strong group of candidates this year in Rogers, Albert Haynesworth of the Tennessee Titans and Kris Jenkins of the New York Jets.

Overall, the division was well represented with 10 Pro Bowlers among the four teams.

AFC Pro Bowlers
Offense
PositionStarter(s)Reserves
QuarterbackPeyton Manning, IndianapolisBrett Favre, New York Jets
Jay Cutler, Denver
Running backThomas Jones, New York JetsChris Johnson, Tennessee
Ronnie Brown, Miami
FullbackLe'Ron McClain, Baltimore 
Wide receiverAndre Johnson, Houston
Brandon Marshall, Denver
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis
Wes Welker, New England
Tight endTony Gonzalez, Kansas CityAntonio Gates, San Diego
TackleJoe Thomas, Cleveland
Jason Peters, Buffalo
Michael Roos, Tennessee
GuardAlan Faneca, New York Jets
Kris Dielman, San Diego
Brian Waters, Kansas City
CenterKevin Mawae, TennesseeNick Mangold, New York Jets
Defense
Defensive endMario Williams, Houston
Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis
Robert Mathis, Indianapolis
Defensive tackleAlbert Haynesworth, Tennessee
Kris Jenkins, New York Jets
Shaun Rogers, Cleveland
Outside linebackerJames Harrison, Pittsburgh
Joey Porter, Miami
Terrell Suggs, Baltimore
Inside linebackerRay Lewis, BaltimoreJames Farrior, Pittsburgh
CornerbackNnamdi Asomugha, Oakland
Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee
Darrelle Revis, New York Jets
Free safetyEd Reed, Baltimore 
Strong safetyTroy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Chris Hope, Tennessee
Special teams
PunterShane Lechler, Oakland 
Place-kickerStephen Gostkowski, New England 
Kick returnerLeon Washington, New York Jets 
Special-teamerBrendon Ayanbadejo, Baltimore 

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