Pro Bowl Cheat Sheet: Week 10
We’re fully into the season now and that means a lot of things. For some they are gripped in a battle for a playoff spot, for others it’s all about the future as they look to bounce back from a year going nowhere. For us? Well we like to sit back and evaluate how things have gone so far.
That means, in this instance at least, tackling who you should be voting for in this years Pro Bowl.
Like you we do think that it’s far too early to be making decisions but if you’re going to do it you may as well do it right.
The Starters: Peyton Manning (DEN) and Philip Rivers (SD)
Any objections? Manning has slowed down after a fine start, but the two AFC West QBs have been unnervingly accurate all year long. The only really contentious decision is who is the sixth quarterback. We went with Wilson but if you went with Andrew Luck we wouldn’t hold a grudge.
The Backups: Russell Wilson (SEA), Aaron Rodgers (GB), Matthew Stafford (DET) and Drew Brees (NO)
The Starters: LeSean McCoy (PHI) and Marshawn Lynch (SEA)
Pick your poison. Lynch has been the best back in the league in recent weeks and has forced more missed tackles (51) than any other back. Meanwhile McCoy makes more plays in space and currently leads our running back rankings.
The Backups: Adrian Peterson (MIN), Darren Sproles (NO), Alfred Morris (WAS) and Frank Gore (SF)
The Starters: Antonio Brown (PIT), Calvin Johnson (DET), Andre Johnson (HOU) and Jordy Nelson (GB)
After going back and forth there was no way the two Johnson’s were being left off. In the end we went for the less fancy but more consistent Brown and Nelson who have done a lot of the heavy lifting for their offenses. Messrs Marshall and Bryant especially had to therefore settle for spots on the bench.
The Backups: Brandon Marshall (CHI), Pierre Garcon (WAS), Dez Bryant (DAL) and DeMaryius Thomas (DEN)
Anthony Sherman (KC) and Bruce Miller (SF)
Apologies to Mike Tolbert but we’ve picked at this spot with lead blocking being the overwhelming criteria. Sherman was the easiest choice as our top ranked running back regardless, while Miller got the nod over Collin Mooney who just didn’t play enough snaps.
The Starters: Jimmy Graham (NO) and Vernon Davis (SF)
Even missing time Graham is still the dominant receiving tight end and it’s really not that close. The real choice came down to whether it was Davis or Gonzalez, but as much as Gonzo has had to overcome Davis is the more complete player. Watch out for Jordan Reed who is making himself a legit choice the more he plays.
The Backups: Tony Gonzalez (ATL) and Jordan Cameron (CLE)
The Starters: Trent Williams (WAS), Joe Thomas (CLE), Demar Dotson (TB) and Zach Strief (NO)
We’ve got our two highest ranked left tackles when it comes to pass blocking, both of whom are extremely hard to get around or through. The list of candidates to play the right tackle role is much smaller but Dotson and Strief are the best of an alarmingly average bunch with Sebastian Vollmer out for the year.
The Backups: Nate Solder (NE) and Joe Staley (SF)
The Starters: Evan Mathis (PHI), Travelle Wharton (CAR), David DeCastro (PIT) and Louis Vasquez (DEN)
Mathis remains the top guard in the league and is joined by the Panthers Wharton who is enjoying a career renaissance since returning to the starting lineup. On the right side DeCastro is showing why the Steelers spent a first round pick on him last year, with Vasquez proving well worth the money the Broncos are paying him.
The Backups: Josh Sitton (GB) and Brandon Fusco (MIN)
The Starters: Chris Myers (HOU) and Nick Hardwick (SD)
Myers should be on everyone’s ballot. Our top ranked center is having another strong year. The three men we went with outside of him all had their strengths, with the run blocking of Hardwick getting him the start.
The Backups: Manny Ramirez (DEN) and Alex Mack (CLE)
Turn the Page for the Defense and Special Teams
Note: We’ve followed the NFL ballots in determining what position players line up at.
The Starters: Robert Quinn (SL), J.J. Watt (HOU), Cameron Jordan (NO) and Michael Johnson (CIN)
Quinn is comfortably our top ranked 4-3 defensive end while Watt is even securer at the head of our 3-4 defensive end rankings. They are what we call no brainers. Jordan played himself back into form against the Cowboys after shaking off a niggling injury, while Michael Johnson just is just about holding off Wilkerson for the last starting spot.
The Backups: Muhammad Wilkerson (NYJ) and Greg Hardy (CAR)
The Starters: Jason Hatcher (DAL), Gerald McCoy (TB), Randy Starks (MIA) and Kyle Williams (BUF)
I feel a little bad that I went for balance here which put the more one-dimensional types like Damon Harrison and Brandon Mebane on the sidelines. They both deserve praise for their play but snap counts could be their enemy by the time we get to the Pro Bowl. Instead we’ve gone for guys more accustomed to an every down role, with perhaps the biggest surprise being the name of Starks. Watch how well he has played this year and then we’ll see if you beg to differ.
The Backups: Jurrell Casey (TEN) and Ndamukong Suh (DET)
The Starters: Sean Lee (DAL) and Derrick Johnson (KC)
The injury and performance that preceded it against Dallas is a worry, but with Patrick Willis missing time earlier on, Lee has been the most consistent linebacker since week one. Much like the 49er, Daryl Washington might have a starting spot in mind once we can look past missing the first four weeks of the year.
The Backups: Patrick Willis (SF) and Daryl Washington (ARZ)
The Starters: Lavonte David (TB), Justin Houston (KC), Robert Mathis (IND) and Tamba Hali (KC)
We’re heavy on the pass rushers here, but it should be noted that David is more than just a token pick as he has become the league’s most impactful 4-3 outside linebacker not named Von Miller. A close second is backup Burflict who, but for being flagged for a ridiculous eight penalties (five more than any other linebacker), would push the starters.
The Backups: Vontaze Burflict (CIN) and Elvis Dumervil (BAL)
The Starters: Darrelle Revis (TB), Alterraun Verner (TEN), Brent Grimes (MIA) and Richard Sherman (SEA)
Not much change from our last Pro Bowl cheat sheet. Sherman has been solid all year and that has seen his grade get better and better, while Revis looks healthier and the results see the Bucs doing more with him. Picking the backups were a little harder with Aqib Talib and Leon Hall ruled out for injury, but we’ve found a nice mixture of talents including a slot cornerback. We may also have gone for another in Tyrann Mathieu if he wasn’t down on the ballot as a safety – a position he rarely plays.
The Backups: Jason McCourty (TEN), Patrick Peterson (ARZ), Chris Harris (DEN) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DEN)
T.J. Ward (CLE) and Eric Berry (KC)
Playing in Cleveland doesn’t get him the press he is due but not many safeties come close to making the impact in the box that Ward (who has 28 defensive stops – more than any of his peers) does. Berry is a different type of safety and more versatile, giving two top talents at the spot.
Devin McCourty (NE) and Earl Thomas (SEA)
McCourty might not have the closing range of Thomas but he does have the kind of talent being that deep safety that has pushed him to tops in our safety rankings. That’s some achievement with Thomas taking a big step forward this year when it comes to cutting out the negative plays.
Nick Folk (NYJ) and Graham Gano (CAR)
Gano missed his first kick this year but going 5-from-5 on 50 yard plus kicks, and being exceptional on kickoffs, was enough to have him alongside the clutch Folk.
Golden Tate (SEA) and Cordarrelle Patterson (MIN)
Patterson is more of a kick returner and Tate more of a punt returner. The one thing they do have in common is that they are both fear inducing when they have space to operate.
Shane Lechler (HOU) and Pat McAfee (IND)
Lechler is showing no signs of slowing down with age, while McAfee just about kept out Johnny Hekker and Thomas Morstead in what was a very close run thing.
Justin Bethel (ARZ) and Robert Golden (PIT)
If Jeremy Lane was on the ballot he’d be joining the awesome Bethel. He’s not, though, so Golden gets the nod, with Eric Weems narrowly missing out.
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