NFL Nation: Pro Bowl analysis 2010

NFC East Pro Bowl analysis

December, 28, 2010
NFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South AFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South

Perfect sense: I think right guard Chris Snee was the one New York Giants player who truly deserved to start, so the voters got this one right. And Giants defensive end Justin Tuck is one of the most feared pass-rushers in the league, so he deserved to make it as a reserve. Tuck's six forced fumbles probably helped him grab the final spot ahead of Eagles defensive end Trent Cole (nine sacks), who has been excellent against the run. I think the Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick was the most obvious choice in the division. He'll start at quarterback, and he'll be throwing to reserve wide receiver DeSean Jackson of the Eagles. Jackson was edged out for a starting spot by Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions and Roddy White of the Atlanta Falcons. And considering that Jackson's numbers were down when he played with Kevin Kolb early in the season, it's understandable that he didn't receive a starting nod.

I thought Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and punter Mat McBriar were all no-brainers. Witten has 90 catches and he's lifted his game since Jon Kitna replaced Tony Romo in the starting lineup. Ware hasn't been as dominant as in the past, but he's still considered one of the two or three best pass-rushers in the league. And McBriar has had a phenomenal season. He's led the league in net and gross average for much of the season. But the Cowboys getting five starters while the Eagles only had four seems a bit ridiculous considering their records. I could go either way on Washington's DeAngelo Hall. He has six interceptions and eight takeaways overall, but it's not like he was a picture of consistency. He probably played well enough not to end up in the next category.

Made it on rep: The voters always seem to make major errors along the offensive line. Bears center Olin Kreutz was still starting after he'd faded as as a player. And though Giants center Shaun O'Hara is a good player, he missed way too many games (nine) to be named to a Pro Bowl team this season. Rich Seubert actually had a better season than O'Hara, but more players and coaches have followed O'Hara's work over the years. The fact that Cowboys center Andre Gurode drew a starting nod shows how much of a farce the Pro Bowl can be. Gurode's deserved to go in the past, but not this season. And as talented as he is, you have to say that Jay Ratliff's going on reputation this season. Surely a 5-10 team doesn't deserve five starters. Sometimes it helps to have that star on your helmet at voting time. I'm not sure where to put Eagles left tackle Jason Peters. I will admit that he played much better this season, so this is not as big of a sham as it was last season with him starting. But to me, Todd Herremans is the Eagles' best offensive lineman.

Got robbed: I know Hakeem Nicks missed a couple of games with a leg injury, but I thought he was deserving of Pro Bowl consideration. He has emerged as one of the best wide receivers in a division that is filled with talent at that position. I'm not sure Cowboys left tackle Doug Free was "robbed," but he was best offensive lineman the Cowboys had this season and is far more deserving than Gurode. Cole should have been in the mix, and I also think Eagles defensive tackle Antonio Dixon had one of those under-the-radar nice seasons. Redskins safety LaRon Landry was on pace to make the Pro Bowl team, but an injury landed him on injured reserve. Was he robbed? Probably not. But he had a much better season than O'Hara -- and I think O'Hara would be the first to admit that.

One more name from the Redskins: I realize that rookie left tackle Trent Williams sort of limped into the end of the season, but I was very impressed with how he played in the first 11 games or so.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl list.

AFC West Pro Bowl analysis

December, 28, 2010
NFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South AFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South

Perfect sense: How can you argue about the selection of San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers? Rivers played at a near-MVP level all season. A Pro Bowl team couldn’t be selected this season without Rivers. He trails the Colts’ Peyton Manning by 39 yards for the league lead in passing yards. Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles is second in the NFL in rushing. His selection is well deserved. Denver receiver Brandon Lloyd was rewarded for having a special season at the age of 29 after a journeyman career. Lloyd is leading the NFL in receiving yards (1,375) and routinely makes acrobatic catches. Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and Shane Lechler are no-brainer selections every year.

Made it on rep: I don’t see any major stretches here. San Diego tight end Antonio Gates was voted as the starter even though he missed nearly half the season with a foot injury. But when he played, Gates was dominant, so there’s no big problem here. Guards Kris Dielman of San Diego and Brian Waters of Kansas City are old-timers, but they are both playing at high levels. Oakland defensive tackle Richard Seymour was dominant at times and he disappeared at times. But he’s not a terrible pick.

Got robbed: I think this improved division deserved more than 10 Pro Bowl selections. The division champion Chiefs merited more than three Pro Bowl picks. The biggest snub in the division is Kansas City linebacker Tamba Hali. He’s been terrific all season. Hali has 12 sacks and is a big reason why the Chiefs are heading to the playoffs. He even deserves some consideration for Defensive Player of the Year. Fellow Kansas City linebacker Derrick Johnson also has a beef. Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel would have had a difficult time sneaking in ahead of Rivers, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. But if one of these quarterbacks bail out, I think Cassel should get a ticket to Hawaii. Oakland running back Darren McFadden deserved serious consideration as well. I understand you can only take three running backs, but McFadden wouldn’t have been a bad pick. Oakland return man Jacoby Ford, who has three kickoff returns for scores since Week 9, and NFL leading scoring Sebastian Janikowski also could have easily made the team.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl list.

AFC South Pro Bowl analysis

December, 28, 2010
NFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South AFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South

Perfect sense: Houston's Arian Foster is the NFL’s leading rusher and Maurice Jones-Drew was rolling during the Jacksonville Jaguars' stretch run. The Texans campaigned for fullback Vonta Leach, who’s been a big part of Foster’s breakout. Houston's Andre Johnson and Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne can easily stake a claim as the top receivers in the conference. Johnson played much of the season on a bad ankle, and Wayne leads the conference with 102 receptions despite more attention from defenses because the Colts’ other threats have been hurt.

The Colts' Dwight Freeney (9 sacks) and Robert Mathis (11) appear fresh and effective heading into the regular-season finale while the resurgent Jason Babin (12.5 sacks) has been productive in his first season with Tennessee. Marc Mariani single-handedly solved a major issue for the Titans. Montell Owens is a diligent worker on Jacksonville’s special teams. Jacksonville's Marcedes Lewis has evolved into a well-rounded tight end who deserve his spot.

Made it on rep: You can make a case for Peyton Manning on the roster with Tom Brady and Philip Rivers, but you can make a case against him too. He has done wonders with a revolving lineup of targets because of injuries. But he had a three-game stretch during which he threw 11 interceptions -- more than twice as many as Kansas City’s Matt Cassel has thrown all season. No, Cassel has not thrown nearly as much as Manning and Manning doesn’t have the Chiefs’ run game. Manning doesn’t have 10 wins and a clinched division crown yet either.

Got robbed: Jacksonville's Terrance Knighton has been great, but it’s hard to displace Haloti Ngata, Vince Wilfork or Richard Seymour at defensive tackle. Nick Mangold and Maurkice Pouncey are the centers with Jeff Saturday left off. The resurgence of the Colts' run game over the last few weeks came too late to change the minds of voters.

Jamaal Charles ahead of the Titans' Chris Johnson is hardly unreasonable, as Charles is averaging nearly two yards a carry more for Kansas City. Johnson might have had a bigger case against Jones-Drew, but Jones-Drew played big during a push for the playoffs while the Titans lost seven of their past eight.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl list.

AFC North Pro Bowl analysis

December, 28, 2010
NFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South AFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South

Perfect sense: The AFC North is a defense-first division, so it made perfect sense that five defensive starters are going to Hawaii. Safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers are Defensive Player of the Year candidates. Pittsburgh's defensive starters will join Baltimore stalwarts Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, who we will get to later. I also liked the fact Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff got in. There were several accurate kickers with similar numbers, but Cundiff's 38 touchbacks on kickoffs made the difference.

Made it on rep: Even when not at his best, Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns is still better than 85 percent of left tackles in the NFL. But this season Thomas struggled with an elbow injury and started the season slowly. Credit Thomas for never complaining about his ailment and playing through the pain. But Thomas wasn't himself until about midway through the season. Reed (35 tackles, six interceptions) also has been terrific. But he started the season on the physically unable to perform list following hip surgery and missed seven games. Reed remains an elite safety, but name recognition helped him overcome missing nearly half the season.

Got robbed: As strange as this sounds, I think the biggest miss in the AFC North this year is a punter. Sam Koch of Baltimore was stellar with a 43.2 yard average and 37 punts inside the 20. But Oakland Raiders punter Shane Lechler got the nod. Although it wasn't a huge surprise, the Cincinnati Bengals didn't have a Pro Bowl player for the second straight year. A 4-11 record this time had a lot to do with it. Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth did well in the fan voting, but he still couldn't end the drought. Browns tailback Peyton Hillis (1,164 yards, 13 touchdowns) had a great, breakout season. But the competition at running back is always stiff and Hillis plays for a 5-10 team.

Rookie surprise: Kudos to Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, who made his first Pro Bowl. Pittsburgh's inconsistent offensive line has been crippled by injuries. But Pouncey has been the one reliable force in the middle. It's clear with this Pro Bowl nod that Pouncey has already earned the respect of opposing players and coaches.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl list.

AFC East Pro Bowl analysis

December, 28, 2010
NFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South AFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South

Perfect sense: Nobody can argue with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady starting for the AFC. He's setting efficiency records and is the frontrunner for league MVP. Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake was named a starter. He broke out in his second NFL season and leads the league with 14 sacks. Dolphins left tackle Jake Long will start at left tackle, making it three Pro Bowls in three seasons for him.

New York Jets center Nick Mangold, an All-Pro last year, will start. It is also good to see Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson chosen. I feared Ferguson would get overshadowed at such a loaded position. The AFC East placed four offensive linemen -- three starters -- on the squad.

Made it on rep: The biggest surprise for me was Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather. He regressed from last year's Pro Bowl season. He actually lost his job as the starter for a couple weeks in September and might not have started in Week 14 because coaches were unhappy with him. Patriots left guard Logan Mankins didn't play until last month because of a contract squabble, but he was named a starter anyway because he has been phenomenal from the moment he took the field. He deserves to be in the Pro Bowl, but I didn't expect him to be voted a starter. Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis is another player who slipped significantly since last year's All-Pro season, but he was named a starter anyway.

Got robbed: While "robbed" might be too harsh of a word, the Buffalo Bills' defensive tackle Kyle Williams did have a campaign that was worthy of the Pro Bowl in a vacuum. But there was no way he was going to make the AFC roster ahead of Patriots star Vince Wilfork or Baltimore Ravens behemoth Haloti Ngata. Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour got the third spot. Williams has been dominant when it comes to getting into the backfield, but stopping the run is the primary responsibility for a nose tackle, and the Bills have the NFL's worst run defense. Williams still has the chance to go as an alternate. Jets guard Brandon Moore is another player who deserved recognition but couldn't crack a talented group.

Jets kickoff returner Brad Smith has a 28.6-yard average and two touchdowns, but he couldn't beat out Tennessee Titans return ace Marc Mariani, who has scored kickoff and punt return touchdowns. He's the only player to do that so far this season.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl list.

NFC North Pro Bowl analysis

December, 28, 2010
NFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South AFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South

Perfect sense: Julius Peppers is tied for No. 24 in the NFL with eight sacks, but he has unquestionably altered the Chicago Bears' defense. For most of the season, the Bears have had the NFL's best defense when rushing four or fewer linemen -- a direct impact of Peppers' arrival. Injuries have slowed Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews in the second half of the season, but he is still has the league's third-most sacks (12.5). Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh leads all defensive tackles with nine sacks. Receivers Calvin Johnson of the Lions (77 receptions, 1,120 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Greg Jennings of the Packers (72-1,168-12) are having the best seasons of careers that should have already included this honor.

Made it on rep: I've never been able to figure out how offensive linemen are chosen to the Pro Bowl, and I couldn't begin to tell you whether the Packers' Chad Clifton deserves this honor. He struggled early this season with a knee injury and seemed on the verge of giving up his job to rookie Bryan Bulaga. Since then, we haven't heard much about him. I guess that's a good thing when it comes to offensive linemen. Meanwhile, Packers safety Nick Collins has built a solid reputation in the past two seasons, but he has dropped at least as many interceptions as he has made (three) this season. Some might put Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher in this category. But while I think Peppers has helped free him up to make plays, Urlacher has had his best season since the Bears' Super Bowl run in 2006. I have no qualms.

Got robbed: As we noted earlier, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had the best game in the NFL last Sunday against the New York Giants. According to the Packers, Rodgers is the first alternate behind Michael Vick, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. If I had to choose one Packers' defensive back for this year's game, I would pick cornerback Tramon Williams over Collins or cornerback Charles Woodson. Williams has been the Packers' best pass defender this season and only one player in the league has more interceptions than him. Finally, Bears special teams cover man Corey Graham has had a Pro Bowl-caliber season with 24 solo tackles.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl list.

NFC South Pro Bowl analysis

December, 28, 2010
NFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South AFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South

Perfect sense: It’s fitting that Drew Brees and Matt Ryan made the squad because there has been a lot of talk about which one is the best quarterback in the NFC South. The New Orleans Saints defeated the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night, after the voting had concluded, but I say Brees and Ryan have had equally good seasons. They’re on the squad as backups to former NFC South player Michael Vick. It says a lot that Brees and Ryan made the team ahead of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.

Again, it’s important to note that the voting was completed before Monday night’s game. That might explain why Atlanta has seven Pro Bowlers and New Orleans only has three. But there is some justice here because the Falcons (12-3) didn’t have a player voted into the Pro Bowl last season.

Made it on rep: I still think the Saints' Jahri Evans is one of the better guards in the league. But he hasn’t played to the standard he set last season and he’s been getting called for too many penalties. Evans still might be worthy as a Pro Bowler, but I would have put teammate Carl Nicks ahead of him as a starter. A lot of coaches and personnel guys around the league say Nicks is having a better season than Evans.

You can also say that Carolina offensive tackle Jordan Gross might have made it on reputation because he plays on such a bad team. But I’ll choose to say that’s a testament to the respect Gross has from coaches and players around the league.

Got robbed: Donald Penn might not be a household name, but scouts, coaches and especially teammates will tell you the Tampa Bay left tackle has had a Pro Bowl season. Penn got a big contract at the start of training camp and came out and backed it up. Despite injuries on the rest of the offensive line, Penn kept quarterback Josh Freeman standing, and that’s a major reason why the Bucs are 9-6. Speaking of that, shouldn’t a team with a winning record have at least one Pro Bowl representative? You also can make a case that New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins got overlooked. He had a breakout season. But, sort of like Penn, Jenkins probably has to do it for one more year before he gets picked for the Pro Bowl.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl list.

NFC West Pro Bowl analysis

December, 28, 2010
NFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South AFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South

Perfect sense: The San Francisco 49ers' Patrick Willis played at a high level again this season. He dominated against St. Louis with the 49ers' season on the line Sunday. Willis' fumble-forcing sack stopped the Rams at the San Francisco 10-yard line when the game was in danger of slipping away from the 49ers. Teammate Justin Smith made it on the defensive line. He seemed to improve as the season progressed. The St. Louis Rams' Steven Jackson made it despite a 3.7-yard average. He's the heart of the Rams and a player whose impact goes far beyond the numbers. He ranks third in rushing yardage among NFC players. He's a legitimate choice.

Made it on rep: The Arizona Cardinals' Adrian Wilson began the season with a memorable performance at St. Louis, but this hasn't been a strong season for him overall. Wilson has struggled in coverage against tight ends. He hasn't made as many impact plays. Wilson has even publicly criticized his own play, saying it cannot be sugar-coated. There have probably been years when Wilson deserved to go and did not, however.

Got robbed: I have no idea how the Atlanta Falcons' Tony Gonzalez beat out the 49ers' Vernon Davis. Gonzalez averages 9.4 yards per catch. Davis averages 15.4 and has more touchdowns. Ask any defensive player which tight end they would rather cover and Gonzalez's name would come up every time. On special teams, it's tough to argue with Chicago's Devin Hester as the return specialist, but Seattle's Leon Washington has just as many return touchdowns (three on kickoffs, compared to three for Hester on punts). Washington would have scored on a punt return, too, if he hadn't been showboating. "Robbed" is too strong of a word, but Washington deserved strong consideration.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl list.

2011 Pro Bowl roster

December, 28, 2010
NFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South AFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South

Here is the roster for the 2011 Pro Bowl. The match will be played a week before the Super Bowl on Sunday Jan. 30, 2011 in Honolulu. (*Denotes starter.)


* Tom Brady, New England
Philip Rivers, San Diego
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis

Running Backs
* Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville
Arian Foster, Houston
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City

* Vonta Leach, Houston

Wide Receivers
* Andre Johnson, Houston
* Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis
Brandon Lloyd, Denver
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City

Tight Ends
* Antonio Gates, San Diego
Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville

* Nick Mangold, N.Y. Jets
Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh

* Kris Dielman, San Diego
* Logan Mankins, New England
Brian Waters, Kansas City

* Jake Long, Miami
* Joe Thomas, Cleveland
D'Brickashaw Ferguson, N.Y. Jets


Defensive Ends
* Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis
* Robert Mathis, Indianapolis
Jason Babin, Tennessee

Interior Linemen
* Haloti Ngata, Baltimore
* Vince Wilfork, New England
Richard Seymour, Oakland

Inside-Middle Linebackers
* Ray Lewis, Baltimore
Jerod Mayo, New England

Outside Linebackers
* James Harrison, Pittsburgh
* Cameron Wake, Miami
Terrell Suggs, Baltimore

* Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland
* Darrelle Revis, N.Y. Jets
Devin McCourty, New England

Strong Safety
* Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh

Free Safeties
* Ed Reed, Baltimore
Brandon Meriweather, New England


Shane Lechler, Oakland

Kick-return Specialist
Marc Mariani, Tennessee

Billy Cundiff, Baltimore

Montell Owens, Jacksonville


* Michael Vick, Philadelphia
Matt Ryan, Atlanta
Drew Brees, New Orleans

Running Backs
* Michael Turner, Atlanta
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
Steven Jackson, St. Louis

* Ovie Mughelli, Atlanta

Wide Receivers
* Roddy White, Atlanta
* Calvin Johnson, Detroit
DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia
Greg Jennings, Green Bay

Tight Ends
* Jason Witten, Dallas
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta

* Andre Gurode, Dallas
Shaun O'Hara, N.Y. Giants

* Jahri Evans, New Orleans
*Chris Snee, N.Y. Giants
Carl Nicks, New Orleans

* Jason Peters, Philadelphia
* Jordan Gross, Carolina
Chad Clifton, Green Bay


Defensive Ends
* Julius Peppers, Chicago
* John Abraham, Atlanta
Justin Tuck, N.Y. Giants

Interior Linemen
* Ndamukong Suh, Detroit
* Jay Ratliff, Dallas
Justin Smith, San Francisco

Inside-Middle Linebackers
* Patrick Willis, San Francisco
Brian Urlacher, Chicago

Outside Linebackers
* Clay Matthews, Green Bay
* DeMarcus Ware, Dallas
Lance Briggs, Chicago

* Asante Samuel, Philadelphia
* Charles Woodson, Green Bay
DeAngelo Hall, Washington

Strong Safety
* Adrian Wilson, Arizona

Free Safeties
* Nick Collins, Green Bay
Antrel Rolle, N.Y. Giants


Mat McBriar, Dallas

Kick-return Specialist
Devin Hester, Chicago

David Akers, Philadelphia

Eric Weems, Atlanta


Baltimore Ravens
DL Haloti Ngata
LB Ray Lewis
S Ed Reed
LB Terrell Suggs
K Billy Cundiff

Cleveland Browns
OT Joe Thomas

Denver Broncos
WR Brandon Lloyd

Houston Texans
RB Arian Foster
WR Andre Johnson
FB Vonta Leach

Indianapolis Colts
DE Dwight Freeney
QB Peyton Manning
DE Robert Mathis
WR Reggie Wayne

Jacksonville Jaguars
RB Maurice Jones-Drew
TE Marcedes Lewis
Special Teamer Montell Owens

Kansas City Chiefs
WR Dwayne Bowe
RB Jamaal Charles
G Brian Waters

Miami Dolphins
OT Jake Long
LB Cameron Wake

New England Patriots
QB Tom Brady
G Logan Mankins
DT Vince Wilfork
LB Jerod Mayo
CB Devin McCourty
S Brandon Meriweather

New York Jets
C Nick Mangold
CB Darrelle Revis
OT D'Brickashaw Ferguson

Oakland Raiders
CB Nnamdi Asomugha
P Shane Lechler
DT Richard Seymour

Pittsburgh Steelers
S Troy Polamalu
LB James Harrison
C Maurkice Pouncey

San Diego Chargers
G Kris Dielman
TE Antonio Gates
QB Philip Rivers

Tennessee Titans

DE Jason Babin
KR Marc Mariani


Arizona Cardinals
S Adrian Wilson

Atlanta Falcons
QB Matt Ryan
RB Michael Turner
FB Ovie Mughelli
WR Roddy White
TE Tony Gonzalez
DE John Abraham
Special Teams Eric Weems

Carolina Panthers
OT Jordan Gross

Chicago Bears
LB Lance Briggs
LB Brian Urlacher
DE Julius Peppers
KR Devin Hester

Dallas Cowboys
C Andre Gurode
P Mat McBriar
DT Jay Ratliff
LB DeMarcus Ware
TE Jason Witten

Detroit Lions
WR Calvin Johnson
DT Ndamukong Suh

Green Bay Packers
LT Chad Clifton
FS Nick Collins
WR Greg Jennings
LB Clay Matthews
CB Charles Woodson

Minnesota Vikings
RB Adrian Peterson

New Orleans Saints
QB Drew Brees
G Jahri Evans
G Carl Nicks

New York Giants
C Shaun O'Hara
S Antrel Rolle
G Chris Snee
DE Justin Tuck

Philadelphia Eagles
PK David Akers
WR DeSean Jackson
OT Jason Peters
CB Asante Samuel
QB Michael Vick

San Francisco 49ers
LB Patrick Willis
DT Justin Smith

St. Louis Rams
RB Steven Jackson

Washington Redskins
CB DeAngelo Hall