NFL Nation: NFC Pro Bowl analysis
Analysis: The Cowboys sent 13 players to the Pro Bowl last season, which was way too much. Witten, Davis, Ratliff and Ware all deserve to be in the Pro Bowl. They should've been joined by Bradie James, who's had an excellent season. He's become an excellent pass-rusher and he's a game-changing player. Gurode might be the most talented center, but hasn't had a great season by his standards. I think Giants center Shaun O'Hara probably deserved the starting nod over Gurode. But the offensive line is where reputation takes over. Bears center Olin Kreutz was starting in the Pro Bowl after his performance had tailed off. Gurode was truly the best center in the conference last season. And that's why he'll keep going to Hawaii unless he starts playing poorly. Left tackle Flozell Adams will probably sneak into the Pro Bowl because of Chris Samuels' season-ending injury. I hope that's not the case, though. Cowboys right tackle Marc Colombo actually deserves it over Adams.
Analysis: The Eagles didn't land a starter this year. Brian Westbrook is certainly playing better than Clinton Portis at this point of the year, but injuries kept him out of the Pro Bowl mix. Eagles defensive end Trent Cole has quietly had a solid season, but he doesn't have the sack totals that attract voters. Cole is superb against the run, and he doesn't get enough credit for that. Stewart Bradley has been playing really well at middle linebacker, but he came on too late to catch the voters' attention. And Eagles fans didn't stuff the ballots like the Redskins. I wish right tackle Jon Runyan could get a trip to Hawaii as part of a lifetime achievement award. He's played through a painful knee injury lately and last season he played with a broken tailbone. The Eagles have a top-five sack differential and Runyan's a big part of that. But overall, I don't think there were any significant snubs. I wish DeSean Jackson could make it in some capacity, but we'll put him on our all-rookie team.
Analysis: All of the guys on this list deserve to be in Hawaii. O'Hara probably deserves to be starting. I hate it that either Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield were passed over. Robbins had 5.5 sacks right out of the gates and he's an excellent run-stuffer. I think the Giants deserve more respect than they got. And David Diehl deserves to be an alternate despite the fact that he got worked over by DeMarcus Ware on Sunday night. Tuck's become one of the best defensive players in the league. He's often triple-teamed, but he still make plays. I could make an argument for Manning starting over Kurt Warner, but those eight sacks are still dancing in my head. Now that we've seen the Giants without Plaxico Burress, maybe he deserves a spot in the Pro Bowl. And one more thing: Corey Webster has been better than Packers cornerback Charles Woodson and Asante Samuel. By the way, I wouldn't have any problem with Michael Johnson and James Butler showing up in Hawaii as alternates.
Analysis: Glad to see the 33-year-old Sellers finally make it as a starter. He was brilliant blocking for Portis early in the season, and he's continued to play well as the Redskins faded. Portis was headed for an MVP before injuries and poor play by his offensive line brought him back to earth. It's hard to believe that can you leave DeAngelo Williams off the Pro Bowl team. Samuels and Cooley have both been solid. Cooley can't find the end zone but he's been Jason Campbell's most consistent target. I can't imagine how bad this offense would be without him. Leaving London Fletcher off the list is the biggest snub in the NFC East. He's been outstanding this season and he's the heart and soul of that defense. I wish all the people in Washington who rallied around marginal players had focused on Fletcher instead.
The NFC North put nine players in the Pro Bowl this season. Before we get into the whys and the wherefores, let's look at the whos:
- Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs*
- Green Bay safety Nick Collins*
- Green Bay cornerback Charles Woodson*
- Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen
- Minnesota guard Steve Hutchinson
- Minnesota tailback Adrian Peterson*
- Minnesota defensive tackle Kevin Williams*
- Minnesota defensive tackle Pat Williams
- Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield*
- Chicago defensive tackle Tommie Harris (first)
- Chicago center Olin Kreutz (second)
- Chicago punter Brad Maynard (second)
- Chicago tight end Greg Olsen (second)
- Chicago kick returner/receiver Devin Hester (third)
- Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher (third)
- Detroit kicker Jason Hanson (first)
- Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson (second)
- Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher (third)
- Green Bay cornerback Al Harris (unknown)
- Green Bay receiver Greg Jennings (first)
- Green Bay defensive end Aaron Kampman (unknown)
Analysis: The story of the division is probably Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield, who made his first Pro Bowl team after 10 quietly productive NFL seasons. Winfield is one of the league's best tackling cornerbacks and has improved every year in coverage, but his middling interception totals usually excluded him from this list. He has only two interceptions this season, but a pair of early-season sacks/forced fumbles -- including one against New Orleans on "Monday Night Football" -- finally put him over the top.
I thought two Packers would make the team, and that one of them would be cornerback Charles Woodson. I guessed that receiver Greg Jennings would join him and safety Nick Collins would be a first alternate. Instead it's the opposite.
Collins is tied for third in the NFL with five interceptions and has returned three for touchdowns, and big plays are a significant part of playing the safety position. But none of those interceptions have come in the past five games and the Packers are 1-4 in that stretch amid a complete breakdown of their pass defense. Collins shares responsibility for that collapse, but ultimately the interceptions and touchdowns got him the name recognition a Pro Bowl player needs.
Jennings, meanwhile, improved his reception and yardage totals from last season but was caught in a logjam behind receivers who have more productive for better teams: Atlanta's Roddy White and Carolina's Steve Smith. It's hard to overcome the reputations of Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, Jr., and Anquan Boldin, who are the NFC starters. The same goes for Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson, who has had a relatively spectacular season for the worst team in the NFL.
You could have made an argument for three NFC North kickers: Ryan Longwell, Robbie Gould or Jason Hanson. But only Hanson can top John Carney of the New York Giants, who has drilled 29 of 31 field goals for a 90 percent conversion rate and will represent the NFC East. Hanson has made 96 percent of his kicks, including all eight from 50 yards or beyond, but has 10 fewer attempts than Carney.
Finally, based on our earlier Pro Bowl post, there is a contingent of people who believe Minnesota's Chad Greenway was as deserving as Chicago's Lance Briggs. To which I say: Please. Greenway has put himself on the map with 132 tackles, 4.5 sacks and seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage this season. But Briggs has put up similar numbers -- remember, most defensive statistics are unofficial and determined by individual teams -- while carrying the burden of being his team's best defensive player.
When opponents plan for the Bears, the first player they consider is Briggs. Schemes are designed to avoid him or otherwise take him out of the play. When teams prepare for the Vikings, Greenway is no higher than fifth on their list of priorities. He has an easier path to make plays because he doesn't receive nearly the attention that Briggs does. At least not yet, anyway.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Cardinals have dominated the NFC West with a 5-0 division record this season. It's no surprise they dominated Pro Bowl balloting within the division as well.
Quarterback Kurt Warner, receiver Anquan Boldin, receiver Larry Fitzgerald, strong safety Adrian Wilson and special-teamer Sean Morey earned spots on the NFC roster. Linebacker Karlos Dansby and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett were named alternates. Warner, Boldin and Fitzgerald are starters on offense. Wilson is a starter on defense. That sounds about right for the Cardinals. It's tough to find any true snubs for Arizona.
Warner beat out Eli Manning and Drew Brees for the starting role. The Falcons' Matt Ryan was the odd man out. He'll have plenty more chances in the future. Voting from coaches and players came at the right time for Warner and Boldin. Neither has played quite as well over the last few weeks. Both have the numbers and overall resumes to warrant starting spots.
The Cardinals are the first team since at least the 1970 merger to field the starting quaterback and both starting receivers in a Pro Bowl. Fitzgerald has been the Cardinals' most consistent Pro Bowl-caliber player. He needed to be a starter and the fact that Boldin and Warner will join him in the lineup might qualify as a bonus.
Few players in the division can complain about legitimate snubs. Rams punter Donnie Jones came close as a first alternate, and he certainly had the stats for consideration. But Jeff Feagles' directional punting, often in blustery outdoor conditions for the Giants, made him a deserving choice. Jones will have more chances. The Rams' 2-12 record hurt this season.
The 49ers' Patrick Willis will start at inside linebacker for the NFC. No other 49ers player earned a Pro Bowl spot. None could make a clear claim for a starting job. Frank Gore, always a worthy candidate, doesn't have the numbers to match other NFC backs this season. Left tackle Joe Staley has become a steady player since the 49ers reined in their offense. He could earn future consideration once the Seahawks' Walter Jones' retires.
The 49ers have four alternates this season. Tight end Vernon Davis made it, an indication opponents respect his blocking. Davis routinely blocks defensive ends in pass protection and even the run game without help. He has done it most of the season and he has done it well. A couple of touchdown receptions also helped his cause. Punter Andy Lee, special teamer Michael Robinson and return specialist Allen Rossum were also alternates.
Seattle's Jones earned his ninth Pro Bowl selection. He was the only Seahawks player selected. Linebacker Julian Peterson and fullback Leonard Weaver were alternates. Left cornerback Marcus Trufant had a strong season, but the Seahawks have given up too many long pass plays, and Trufant doesn't have the interception numbers to get noticed on a bad team. Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu missed the Pro Bowl for the first time in his four NFL seasons. That was no surprise. Tatupu and the Seattle defense haven't been as effective.
Jones earned eighth consecutive Pro Bowl selection despite suffering a season-ending injury a week before players voted. Jones wasn't among the top five in fan balloting, a reflection of the Seahawks' poor season. He still rates high among opposing coaches and players. Jones has fought through injuries. He isn't as dominant as he was a few years ago, but the NFC doesn't feature a long list of dominant young tackles to push for Pro Bowl consideration. Jones still might be the best left tackle in the NFC when healthy.
The NFC West put only seven players in the Pro Bowl this season, down from 11 last season. The low total reflects the weakness of the division.
Players and coaches brought a bit more fairness than fans to the Pro Bowl balloting. Rosters were just released and the official NFC squad has better representation than it did in the fan voting.
The division had nine players selected to the all-star game, but only three as starters. Two of those starters were major coups for the NFC South because they'll be in their first Pro Bowl and, in both cases, it's well deserved. It's a whole lot better than last year when the NFC South didn't have any players elected (although Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia did slide in as an alternate).
Carolina offensive tackle Jordan Gross, who has performed at a Pro Bowl level for much of his career, finally got recognized. That's a tribute to coaches and players because Gross wasn't among the top five tackles in the fan voting and he's having the best year of his career.
Tampa Bay's Clifton Smith might be the best story in the whole Pro Bowl. He was selected as the NFC's return man. Not bad for a guy who wasn't drafted and wasn't even promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster until October. But Smith has been dynamic and has made the world forget about second-round pick Dexter Jackson.
Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers is the NFC South's other starter.
Tampa Bay's Derrick Brooks made the squad as a reserve outside linebacker. Say what you want about this being a case of Brooks making the team based on his reputation. So what? It's happened before and it's happened to guys who didn't have reputations as good as Brooks'. Yeah, Brooks might not be what he was a few years ago, but he's still playing at a high level.
Atlanta running back Michael Turner and receiver Roddy White made the team as reserves and New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is on the roster as a backup. Carolina middle linebacker Jon Beason and receiver Steve Smith also made the roster as reserves.
Not bad, overall. But there are a few guys who got slighted. Start with Tampa Bay's Jeff Faine, who might be the best center in the NFL. The NFC South didn't get any centers or guards on the roster and Gross is the only offensive lineman.
Two other snubs for Tampa Bay include middle linebacker Barrett Ruud and receiver Antonio Bryant. But you can't argue either one too long because Patrick Willis and Beason are worthy at middle linebacker and Smith and White give the division two of the four receivers on the roster.
Two Atlanta players stand out for not making the roster. That's defensive end John Abraham, who has 15.5 sacks and rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. Abraham might have victimized because he's not an every-down player, but his stats speak for themselves. I'll make a strong case that Ryan should be in the Pro Bowl. No argument with Kurt Warner as the starter and Brees as a backup, but Eli Manning did make the roster. Yes, Manning's got a Super Bowl, but has he really been as important to the Giants as Ryan has been to the Falcons this year?