Now, the game may be absolutely meaningless, and it is probably one of the most boring games in sports, but the NFL Pro Bowl is an honor for players to be selected into. The official Pro Bowl rosters were released Tuesday, and there are a fair share of snubs to make cases for, and a number of notables to be congratulated.
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans
Even with the inconsistency at the quarterback position this season due to injury, Andre Johnson has come back to his form of two years ago. He has been the focal point of the Texans offense, and just came off of a colossal game against the Tennessee Titans in which he caught 11 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown. He is currently leading the league with 1,408 yards receiving.
Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans
This explosive rookie running back came into the league considered a reach in the NFL draft. Looking back on it, the Titans are considered genius for drafting him when they did. He is in the top ten in the league in total rushing yards and yards per carry, despite sharing the load with fellow back LenDale White. No one can argue about his speed, and Johnson has now quickly become one of the biggest offensive threats in the league.
Mario Williams, DE, Houston Texans
Formally known as the guy who got drafted over Reggie Bush in the 2006 NFL Draft, Mario Williams is now considered one of the top defensive ends in the league. After recording only 4.5 sacks in his rookie season, Williams was starting to be considered another gigantic draft bust. However, he rebounded in his second season and recorded 14 sacks, but failed to make the Pro Bowl. He has finally been selected into his first Pro Bowl this season, gaining recognition from his 11 sacks, 46 tackles, and 4 forced fumbles. Keep in mind, Williams is only 23 years old; he’s only just beginning.
James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Harrison has become one of the more dominant linebackers in the league, and has deservingly been selected to his second consecutive Pro Bowl. He now leads the team with 15 sacks, which ties the franchise record, and has a chance to break it with two games left in the season. Harrison’s path to the NFL was very unique, as he went undrafted and made the team through the practice squad. He and his team have a big game ahead of them against the Tennessee Titans this week, a game which decides who has home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in the AFC. Don’t be surprised if Harrison comes out of that game with the franchise record-breaking sack. James Harrison is one of the great stories in the NFL, and is more than worthy of his second consecutive Pro Bowl.
Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Oakland Raiders
Asomugha could have made a case to be in the Pro Bowl last season after recording a career-high 8 interceptions, but has made it this season with only one interception on the year. Now, only one interception may not sound like a Pro Bowl year, but nobody throws the ball his way. Asomugha has been recognized as a premier corner in the league, and is undoubtedly the most feared, as he has only been thrown to a handful of times. He is a big, physical man-to-man cover corner who has been looking for a long-term contract with the Raiders for the past two seasons. Now that Asomugha is gaining the type of recognition that he has, the Raiders will most likely be competing with a few other teams for that desired long-term contract this offseason.
Other notable selections: Jay Cutler (first selection), Brett Favre (10th selection), Joey Porter, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, Leon Washington (Kick Returner)
Anquan Boldin, WR, Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona Cardinals
First the Cardinals win their division for the first time in 33 years, then this. The Cardinals have made more history by becoming the first team to take a quarterback and two wide receivers from the same team to the Pro Bowl. Wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, along with quarterback Kurt Warner, have become some of the more efficient players in the league offensively, and this two-headed receiving tandem has clearly been the most dominant in the league. They have also been extremely troublesome for opposing defenses to game plan for, and their numbers have been nearly identical. Fitzgerald and Boldin have 88 and 89 catches on the season respectively, with Fitzgerald having more yards with 1,200, and Boldin having more touchdowns with 11. Warner has had a great year as well, recording 26 touchdowns, over 4,200 yards passing, and a 97.5 passer rating (which is third in the league). He has also been in the conversation for MVP of the league this year. All three of these guys continue to propel their stats, make history, win games, and now, make Pro Bowls together. (As well as increase their fantasy football rankings).
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Speaking of MVP discussions, Drew Brees has been flawless this season and is all but deserving of a Pro Bowl selection. Brees has currently thrown for a league-high 4,332 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. Even though his team has been performing at a mediocre level, Brees has performed at a level that has propelled him towards the top of the quarterback class. His team has also gone through many injuries on the offensive side of the ball throughout the season, but that hasn’t prevented Brees from competing at a Pro Bowl level, and has made a large case for MVP of the NFL this season.
Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Michael Turner, along with the rest of the Atlanta Falcons team, has been one of the pleasant surprises of the season. Now out of the shadow of LaDanian Tomlinson, Turner has been one of the key factors in turning this Atlanta team around. He is currently second in the league with 1,421 yards rushing, and is leading the league with 15 rushing touchdowns. Turner has now made a name for himself, and his team has as well; becoming legitimate playoff contenders in the NFC. This is Turner’s first 1,000-yard rushing season, and this is the first time he has been selected to the Pro Bowl.
Other notables: Roddy White (first selection), Steve Smith, Eli Manning (first selection), Adrian Peterson, Julius Peppers, DeMarcus Ware
To start this off as positive as possible, there are many players worthy of a Pro Bowl selection, but it is hard to place them above the players actually selected.
DeAngelo Williams of the Carolina Panthers has been playing better than any back in the NFL the past few weeks, and is in the top 5 in both rushing yards and touchdowns this season, but it is hard to shove him in the lineup with Peterson, Portis, and Turner already in. This isn’t an enormous snub, but I felt I had to throw it in there because of how well he’s done this season, and how big of a fan I am of his. He just had a great amount of competition.
Calvin Johnson is in the same boat. He is 5th in the league with 1,165 receiving yards, and has 10 touchdowns on the year. Despite having a depressing season (to say the least) with the Detroit Lions, Johnson has lived up to his hype coming out of college. He will be a top receiver in the league for years to come, but will have to wait on the Pro Bowl. Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, and Steve Smith got in ahead of Johnson. Again, too much competition.
Matt Ryan is also in the same situation, but he should be just fine. His numbers were slightly better than that of Eli Manning’s, but it is hard to say he had an overall better season. He has been great to say the least, and has been the biggest component in making Atlanta a remarkable team in the NFC South. Matt Ryan has brought the city of Atlanta back to the Georgia Dome, and he will have plenty of seasons for his chance to go to Honolulu.
The last player in this situation is John Abraham of the Atlanta Falcons, who is third in the NFL in sacks and just came off of a 3-sack game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Abraham has been one of the biggest contributors in turning this Atlanta defense around, not to mention the team altogether. But it is very hard to argue Julius Peppers, Justin Tuck, or Jared Allen out of that Pro Bowl lineup. The NFC is full of talent at the defensive end position, and in this case, John Abraham is the odd man out.
Three of the top five players in tackles also didn’t make the Pro Bowl this season. (D’Qwell Jackson of the Cleveland Browns, Kirk Morrison of the Oakland Raiders, and London Fletcher of the Washington Redskins.)
Now, to the complete snubs.
First of all, the AFC quarterback lineup looks very weak, (with the exception of Peyton Manning) and there are a few quarterbacks of the AFC who can make large cases and should have been selected. Chad Pennington, Kerry Collins, and Matt Cassel would all be better selections then the ones who got in: Brett Favre and Jay Cutler.
Cutler is the quarterback for the most inconsistent team in the league, and is very inconsistent himself, and Favre’s performance has been almost the same. They both had great starts to the season, which has to be the only reason that they were even selected.
Pennington could easily be in this game, as he has led his team to one of the biggest turnarounds in NFL history, and is in the top five in total passer rating this season. Phillip Rivers has been what you would call consistent, leading the entire NFL with a total passer rating of 101.4. Matt Cassel has also been stellar this season, taking the reigns in New England after Tom Brady’s season-ending injury. And one quarterback that nobody has mentioned is Ben Roethlisberger, who is quarterbacking a Superbowl-caliber team and is also in the conversation for MVP of the league. No one can deny any of these quarterbacks’ performances this year, and I consider all of them snubbed, considering who made the Pro Bowl ahead of them this year.
Ryan Clady was also snubbed out of this year’s Pro Bowl. He had a great rookie season, giving up only a half a sack the entire year on the offensive line for the Denver Broncos, and was well deserving of a selection.
In Indianapolis, Dallas Clark was absolutely snubbed. There is no reason why he shouldn’t have been selected, and why Antonio Gates should have made it. Clark is currently 5th in receiving yards for all tight ends, and has 5 touchdowns on the year. Antonio Gates didn’t have these types of numbers, and plays for the most disappointing team in the NFL. This is just another example of a popularity contest when it comes to Pro Bowl voting.
The Pro Bowl is a privileged honor for players of the NFL, and multiple selections can elevate players to the most prestigious in the league. There were many deserving players this year, and as always, there were a fair share of snubs. But, to the fans, who cares? Does anybody even watch this game anyway?