Seven weeks down and you know what that means? It means you can start voting for who you want to be in the Pro Bowl!
Of course like you we question why you can start voting so early in the season with more than half of it to go, but we feel it our duty to have an influence into who makes it. It’s more than a popularity contest with reputations, legacies and even contract incentives resting on selection.
With that in mind, here’s our first Pro Bowl Cheat Sheet as we get to grips with the new “Unconferenced” formula.
The Starters: Peyton Manning (DEN) and Philip Rivers (SD)
There was never any doubt that Manning would make it. He’s comfortably our top-ranked quarterback and despite the setback against the Colts, having a season for the ages. It’s been his accuracy that has been the key to his dominance and that’s something he shares with Rivers as you can tell from our Accuracy Percentage signature stat. Rivers leads the way at 82.9% with Manning just behind him 80.6%.
The Backups: Matt Ryan (ATL), Andrew Luck (IND), Matthew Stafford (DET) and Drew Brees (NO)
The Starters: LeSean McCoy (PHI) and Frank Gore (SF)
It wasn’t hard picking McCoy who not only leads all running backs in yardage but also leads them all in our rankings. Gore was a harder selection with the truth being a host of guys are yet to stand out from the crowd, but the solid veteran keeps getting the job done as an every-down back.
The Backups: Darren Sproles (NO), Arian Foster (HOU), Marshawn Lynch (SEA) and Reggie Bush (DET)
The Starters: Antonio Brown (PIT), Dez Bryant (DAL), Andre Johnson (HOU) and Jordy Nelson (GB)
Not easy but I’ve lumped for the guys who represent the Top 4 in our receiving grades at the wide receiver position. Brown is the top dog there and it’s a shame the struggles of Pittsburgh have ensured he’s not getting the attention he should. Behind him, Nelson has the second most deep passes (eight) in the league, while Bryant is making plenty of moves after the catch (242 yards there and six broken tackles) to complement his ability to get open. Johnson may have failed to get into the end zone but his ability to move the chains remains something to behold.
The Backups: Wes Welker (DEN), Brandon Marshall (CHI), Demaryius Thomas (DEN) and Calvin Johnson (DET)
Anthony Sherman (KC) and Bruce Miller (SF)
There was some consideration given to Mike Tolbert, but given he’s used almost as much as a half back I opted for some true lead blockers. Mission accomplished in that respect with Sherman one of the success stories of the season and Miller getting back to his best after a slow start.
The Starters: Jimmy Graham (NO) and Tony Gonzalez (ATL)
My colleagues won’t like me for this as they’ll think I’ve ignored the blocking tight ends. The problem is there’s been a lack of tight ends getting the job done in all phases of the game so I’ve gone for impact players. Graham is an obvious slam dunk pick but I went back and forth over Davis and Gonzalez. In the end it was the success of the Falcon despite a quite frankly absurd amount of defensive attention that got him in.
The Backups: Vernon Davis (SF) and Jordan Cameron (CLE)
The Starters: Nate Solder (NE) and Doug Free (DAL)
The Patriots’ interior hasn’t been completely solid but their tackles are both getting the job done. Solder gets the start and Vollmer, who has been superb in pass protection, the sub. That’s because I like the work of Free in the run game a lot more. Kudos on the turnaround.
The Backups: Joe Thomas (CLE), Trent Williams (WAS), Andrew Whitworth (CIN) and Sebastian Vollmer (NE)
The Starters: Evan Mathis (PHI) and Louis Vasquez (DEN)
If you’re not getting it now you likely never will. The consistency of Mathis sets him apart as our top-ranked guard once again. The right side is a bit trickier but Vasquez, who even earned a positive when forced to play right tackle, was still a relatively easy choice. He’s proved worth the money.
The Backups: Kory Lichtensteiger (WAS), Ben Grubbs (BAL), David DeCastro (PIT) and Brandon Fusco (MIN)
The Starters: Chris Myers (HOU) and Alex Mack (CLE)
This would have been trickier but for Kelce having a nightmare of a game against the Giants. That left Myers and Mack clearly atop our ranking as they lead the way in their positional run block grading.
The Backups: Manny Ramirez (DEN) and Jason Kelce (PHI)
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