NFL Nation: AFC Pro Bowl analysis 2012

AFC North Pro Bowl analysis

December, 26, 2012
12/26/12
8:36
PM ET
NFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South AFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South

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.

AFC South Pro Bowl analysis

December, 26, 2012
12/26/12
8:32
PM ET
NFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South AFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South

Perfect sense: J.J. Watt, the presumed front-runner for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is starting the Pro Bowl, as are left tackle Duane Brown, receiver Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster. They’ve all been stars for the Texans, who are in position to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win at Indianapolis on Sunday. Chris Myers, the Texans' wily veteran center, is a backup behind Pittsburgh’s Maurkice Pouncey. Colts receiver Reggie Wayne ranks behind Johnson and A.J. Green, who are the starters, but is part of the four-receiver unit along with New England’s Wes Welker. Wayne's been excellent for a team that shed a lot of veterans and has been a great and productive leader amid a youth movement. Foster’s yards per carry are down nearly half a yard since last year, but with two-fifths of his offensive line replaced, that’s not so bad, and his team is better than Ray Rice's or Jamaal Charles'.

Made it on rep: Johnathan Joseph was fantastic last year and went to his first Pro Bowl. This one is on the coattails of that one. He has dealt with groin and hamstring injuries. He missed two games and struggled badly in several others. Kareem Jackson blossomed on the other side of the Texans’ defense and was more deserving, in my eyes. I can’t say Texans guard Wade Smith made it on reputation. His reputation is for being a workmanlike piece of a line that plays better than the sum of its parts. Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis was good, but not spectacular. I won’t argue against him being in, but I don’t think it would have been a huge insult if he didn’t make it.

Got robbed: Matt Schaub has done a lot of good things this year, including throwing for a remarkable 527 yards against Jacksonville on Oct. 18 in an overtime win. But I would have put Colts rookie Andrew Luck ahead of Schaub as the AFC’s third quarterback, behind Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. I’m not offended that it didn’t break that way. To me, however, Luck’s year has been more impressive. His offense pushes the ball downfield more than any other in the NFL. He has thrown too many picks, for sure. But seven comeback wins out of 10 team wins just a year after the franchise won only two games is remarkable. Schaub has got a load of talent around him, and you can’t punish him for that. At the same time, Luck has helped make several rookies around him, a patchwork offensive line and even the below-average defense all better than they really are. There are no Titans or Jaguars on the AFC team, and I’m not sure a case can be made that there is anything wrong with that.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.

AFC West Pro Bowl analysis

December, 26, 2012
12/26/12
8:04
PM ET
NFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South AFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South

Perfect sense: Denver quarterback Peyton Manning was an easy choice. He is a top MVP candidate. He was brilliant in his first season in Denver and it was arguably one of his finest seasons ever at the age of 36. There was no way Manning wasn’t getting selected. He is starting and he is deserving of it. The Broncos' Von Miller also is a no-brainer. He has 17.5 sacks, a team record. Ryan Clady of the Broncos also was an easy pick. For Kansas City, running back Jamaal Charles has 1,456 rushing yards and he was an easy pick. Other than these choices, there are some crazy AFC West decisions. The Broncos and the Chiefs each had five Pro Bowl selections. Denver has 12 wins. The Chiefs have two wins. The Chiefs have talent, but this is a joke. No two-win team should ever have as many Pro Bowl picks as a 12-win team. I’m stunned. Oakland and San Diego each didn't have a player picked.

Made it on rep: Kansas City safety Eric Berry and linebacker Tamba Hali did not have Pro Bowl years. Don’t get me wrong, both are good players, but they didn’t have great years. Berry only came on strong in recent weeks. He started 2012 slow after missing virtually all of last season with a torn knee. Hali just didn’t have a great year. They are both starting in the game as well. Really stunning. Again, they are good players. But they are good players on a two-win team. There were better choices out there. And you can’t blame the fans for this one. Neither player won the fan vote. This is on the players and coaches.

Got robbed: There are some big omissions. Denver receiver Demaryius Thomas is having a huge season. He has 87 catches for 1,312 yards for a 12-win team. He should be on the team. Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski is having a monster season. He was 31-of-34 on field goal attempts, but his shortest miss was form 51 yards. Cleveland’s Phil Dawson is 28-of-29 and he is a fine kicker. But Janikowski is a next-level weapon as a kicker. Oakland tight end Brandon Myers has had a big season and should have made it. San Diego safety Eric Weddle was outstanding. He has a beef.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.

AFC East Pro Bowl analysis

December, 26, 2012
12/26/12
8:00
PM ET
NFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South AFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South

Perfect sense: Most of the seven New England Patriots were easy calls. Quarterback Tom Brady and receiver Wes Welker were immensely productive, as usual, and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork was stout once again. Even Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski made the Pro Bowl despite missing five games with a broken forearm. But Gronkowski still leads AFC tight ends with 10 touchdowns. He averaged a touchdown per game this season. Miami defensive end Cameron Wake made his second Pro Bowl after leading the Dolphins with 15 sacks. Wake also doesn't get enough credit for holding his own against the run in Miami's stout front seven. This nod was well deserved. It also was good to see Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie get credit for his good year by making the Pro Bowl as a reserve. Cromartie really stepped up his game in Darrelle Revis' absence and showed that he is still capable of being a No. 1 corner.

Made it on rep: Most of the selections for the AFC East were solid. However, Patriots guard Logan Mankins wasn't his usual self this season. He came back early from ACL surgery and was bothered by other injuries. Mankins missed six games but was still voted as a starter. Jets safety LaRon Landry has been a bright spot, but I didn't think he had a Pro Bowl year. Still, Landry's 95 tackles, four forced fumbles and two interceptions are proof that he stayed around the football this year. He will be a free agent this offseason and his price tag for the Jets just went up. New York will have salary-cap issues and could have a hard time keeping Landry.

Got robbed: You would be hard pressed to find a center who had a better season than Mike Pouncey of the Dolphins. Pouncey made tremendous strides in his second year but was snubbed in favor of his twin brother, Maurkice Pouncey, of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chris Myers of the Houston Texans. Mike Pouncey was pivotal in Miami rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill's rapid development and tailback Reggie Bush being on pace for his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. Dolphins punter Brandon Fields is another major snub. Fields has been underrated for years and continues to boom kicks. Fields averaged a career-high 50.3 yards per punt and had 26 land inside the 20. Fields was beaten out by Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt. I also tend to have a soft spot for Buffalo Bills tailback C.J. Spiller. After watching him all season, the eye test tells me Spiller is one of the most dynamic talents in the NFL. But his numbers (1,185 yards, six touchdowns) aren't overly impressive because Spiller didn't get enough opportunities. The Bills are the only AFC East team without a Pro Bowl player.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.

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