Pro Bowl Cheat Sheet: The NFC
Every two weeks we get down to it. Cutting through all the propaganda to give you guys the lowdown on which players have truly earned themselves a spot on your Pro Bowl team.
We’re only sticking to guys the NFL lets you vote for, so it leads to me being somewhat handcuffed at certain positions, and just scratching my head at others.
Now here’s the list.
Quarterbacks: Matt Ryan (ATL), Aaron Rodgers (GB) and Robert Griffin III (WAS)
How competitive is this? Ryan and Rodgers should have done enough to secure your vote, but picking between RG3, Brees, Manning and Wilson isn’t easy. I’ve plumped for my rookie of the year candidate Griffin. He’s devastating and avoids turnovers. What more could you want out of a quarterback, let alone a rookie?
Running Backs: Adrian Peterson (MIN), Marshawn Lynch (SEA) and Doug Martin (TB)
While the all-around play of Ahmad Bradshaw deserves some consideration, how can you look past these three guys? Adrian Peterson is playing like an MVP candidate, such is his brilliance. Martin and Lynch have slowed down a little which means down the line it’s conceivable that Alfred Morris, Frank Gore or even Steven Jackson could earn the endorsement.
Wide Receivers: Calvin Johnson (DET), Roddy White (ATL), Vincent Jackson (TB) and Brandon Marshall (CHI)
It’s really a shame that Percy Harvin has missed so much time. Not so much for me mind you. Five into four didn’t go, and the lack of playing time for Harvin allowed me to keep him out. As it is, I’m pretty happy telling you that Johnson, White, Jackson and Marshall deserve your vote. However, you probably knew that already.
Fullback: Bruce Miller (SF)
I was close to going in the direction of Jerome Felton, but in the end the extra consistency of Miller won my approval.
Tight Ends: Vernon Davis (SF) and Tony Gonzalez (ATL)
Davis is an easy selection. Even though the 49ers aren’t making use of him in the passing game he’s still doing a fantastic job with his blocking. Choosing between legends like Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez wasn’t easy, and I wouldn’t hold it against anyone going a different route. Ultimately, I can live with the blocking of Gonzalez because of what he does as a receiver, especially in the red zone.
Offensive Tackles: Phil Loadholt (MIN), Joe Staley (SF) and Matt Kalil (MIN)
Joe Staley was an easy decision. He’s the best tackle in the division right now with his run blocking something to behold. The choice of Kalil over Trent Williams was made easier with Williams form dipping as he plays hurt. That’s a shame because before then he was playing some top-level tackle. Loadholt gets the nod at right tackle for his superior run blocking, but anyone opting for Tyson Clabo, Gosder Cherilus or Anthony Davis should go with their gut.
Offensive Guards: Evan Mathis (PHI), Alex Boone (SF) and Mike Iupati (SF)
No change here, though I would understand the final guard nominee going to Jahri Evans, Josh Sitton or Rob Sims. Its the run blocking of Iupati that wins me over. He’s a real mauler and I can really appreciate that.
Centers: John Sullivan (MIN) and Will Montgomery (WAS)
Brian De La Puente is making a late run for one of these spots, but he’s got some work to do to catch both Sullivan and Montgomery. A special word for Sullivan who has been so good over the past two years you could make a case that he’s the best center in the league.
Turn the page for the Defense
Defensive Ends: Charles Johnson (CAR), Calais Campbell (ARZ) and Jason Pierre-Paul (NYG)
I’m just about sticking with these three. Campbell could quite easily lose his spot if he doesn’t return from injury soon, while I’d like to see JPP do more rushing the passer. Johnson is pretty one dimensional at this point, while guys like John Abraham are doing the same thing but on a hotter streak at the moment. So what does this mean? I’ll back any of those guys, or if you want to be a little different and select Israel Idonije who is playing real well at the moment. Keep an eye out for Brandon Graham. He is playing real well in limited action.
Defensive Tackles: Gerald McCoy (TB), Justin Smith (SF) and Henry Melton (CHI)
McCoy is playing well but not setting the world alight as we was earlier in the year, while Smith has conversely stepped his performance up recently. They were easy picks, and it wasn’t hard to switch my endorsement from Nick Fairley to Henry Melton. The Bear got hot at the right time, but he’ll have to watch out for Ndamukong Suh if the Lion continues his form from the past two weeks.
Inside Linebackers: Daryl Washington (ARZ) and Patrick Willis (SF)
I am quite happy to not have made any alterations here. Willis is the more complete player but the ability of Washington to time his blitzes so well adds another dimension to the Cardinals’ defense.
Outside Linebackers: Clay Matthews (GB), Anthony Spencer (DAL) and Aldon Smith (SF)
Have I lost my mind? Can I really sub out DeMarcus Ware for Anthony Spencer? Sure Ware has more pressure, but he has also had more opportunities to do it. When I consider how exceptional Spencer has been in the run game I can live with it. Matthews could find himself the odd man out if he doesn’t return soon and hit the ground running because, while I don’t think Aldon Smith is DPOY-worthy, he should make the Pro Bowl.
Cornerbacks: Richard Sherman (SEA), Charles Tillman (CHI) and Casey Hayward (GB)
I’m going for coverage skills here above all else, otherwise the run defense of Antoine Winfield would earn him an inclusion. As it is, this conference is super competitive at cornerback when a guy like Tim Jennings can’t make the list.
Safeties: William Moore (ATL) and Kerry Rhodes (ARZ)
The performance from Rhodes against the Jets should have secured your vote. It’s a bit trickier finding a strong safety in the NFC. I’ll settle for the playmaking of Moore.
NFC Special Teams
Kicker: Blair Walsh (MIN)
Punter: Thomas Morstead (NO)
Kick Returner: David Wilson (NYG)
Special Teamer: Colt Anderson (PHI)
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