2012 NFL Playoffs: The Best Player at Every Position
The NFL playoffs is where stars become legends.
January is reserved for the best of the best, players who consistently carry their teams and perform at high levels.
The postseason is full of amazing talent that are among the game's best, but only a few receive the distinction of being the top at their position in the grandest stage in football.
Here are my picks for the NFL Playoffs All-Pro team.
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Kicker, David Akers: Akers had an unbelievable first season by the bay, as he set an NFL record with 44 made field goals in the regular season. The Pro Bowler has been one of the most consistent and reliable kickers in the league for over a decade, and he is one of the greatest special teamers to ever step on the field.
Honorable Mentions: Matt Prater, Matt Bryant, Mason Crosby
Punter, Andy Lee: The 49ers have an amazing special teams, and they possess the best kicker and punter combination in the league today. Lee led all punters with a staggering 50.9 average, and he placed eighth in punts inside the 20 with 28, despite only booting the ball 78 times.
Honorable Mentions: Thomas Morstead, Britton Colquitt, Zoltan Mesko
Kick Returner, Ted Ginn: Despite not being a household name, 49ers wideout Ted Ginn is one of the most dangerous returners in the league today. The Ohio State product finished third in the league in yards per kick return, and fourth in yards per punt return. He also tacked on two return touchdowns this season.
Honorable Mentions: Randall Cobb, Antonio Brown, Darren Sproles
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Right End, Justin Smith: Smith is one of the best 3-4 ends the league has ever seen, as he is a complete player who can contribute in all phases of the game. The ferocious pass rusher has recorded 29 sacks over the last four seasons and has appeared in three consecutive Pro Bowls.
Left End, Jason Pierre Paul: Second-year man Jason Pierre-Paul exploded onto the scene in 2011 with one of the most dominant seasons in recent memory. The Giants Pro Bowler recorded an impressive 16.5 sacks, and he continually managed to come up with huge plays, including a key blocked field goal against the Cowboys in Week 13.
Honorable Mentions: Elvis Dumervil, Andre Carter, Cliff Avril
Defensive Tackle, Haloti Ngata: The Ravens second ranked run defense is anchored by mammoth lineman Haloti Ngata. Ngata is one of the most feared run stoppers in the game today, and he is continually regarded as one of the best defensive players in the NFL. The Oregon product is also a superb pass rusher, as he has recorded 10.5 sacks over the last two seasons.
Nose Tackle, Vince Wilfork: Despite the Patriots defense being one of the worst in history, Vince Wilfork is a star. The colossal nose tackle consistently clogs up the middle and sends opposing running backs back to the line of scrimmage. The four-time Pro Bowler also recorded 3.5 sacks, two interceptions and a touchdown this season.
Honorable Mentions: Geno Atkins, Ndamukong Suh, Terrence Cody
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Left Outside Linebacker, Terrell Suggs: Suggs is the likely NFL Defensive Player of the Year after having an unbelievable year for the stingy Ravens defense. The Arizona State product recorded a gaudy 14 sacks and seven forced fumbles, while also chipping in two interceptions and six pass deflections. Suggs is one of the most intimidating pass rushers of the last decade.
Right Outside Linebacker, Von Miller: The Broncos huge defensive turnaround has to be largely credited to the amazing play of their rookie outside linebacker. Miller, the No. 2 pick in last year's draft, exploded onto the scene to become one of the NFL's most effective pass rushers. He recorded a team-high 11.5 sacks and terrorized opposing quarterbacks all season long.
Honorable Mentions: James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Clay Matthews, Aldon Smith, Connor Barwin
Middle Linebacker, Patrick Willis: The 49ers perennial Pro Bowl selection is the most complete player in the league today. He consistently ranks among the league leaders in tackles, and seems to be all over the field every single game. Willis is a tremendous pass rusher and cover man, and he is the leader of one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Honorable Mentions: Jonathon Vilma, Ray Lewis, NaVorro Bowman, Desmond Bishop, Brian Cushing, Jerrod Mayo
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Free Safety, Ed Reed: Despite only recording three interceptions this season, the future Hall of Famer was the main reason why the Ravens ranked fourth in passing defense. Reed consistently shut down the opponent's interior passing game, and he finished second on Baltimore with eight pass deflections. The star veteran also possesses invaluable leadership qualities and on-field smarts.
Strong Safety, Troy Polamalu: Despite a down year from a statistical standpoint, the Tasmanian Devil was once again a huge difference maker this season. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year was the leader of the NFL's best passing defense, and he ranked first among league safeties in pass deflections. Polamalu also managed to stay on the field all year, as he played in all 16 games.
Honorable Mentions: Charles Woodson, Dashon Goldson, Roman Harper, Antrel Rolle, Morgan Burnett
Cornerback, Johnathan Joseph: The Pro Bowl cornerback may have been the best signing of last offseason, as his tremendous pass coverage and leadership abilities have turned the Texans pass defense into one of the best in the league. The former Bengal recorded four interceptions and 14 pass deflections this year, and he consistently shut down opponents' No. 1 wide receiver.
Cornerback, Charles Woodson: Age seems to not affect the future Hall of Famer, as Woodson put together one of his best seasons at 35. The former Defensive Player of the Year led the league with seven interceptions, while also recording 16 pass deflections, two sacks and a touchdown. The Packers star is the most threatening defensive playmaker in the league today, and he has the ability to be a major factor in pass rushing, run defense and pass coverage.
Honorable Mentions: Carlos Rogers, Champ Bailey, Corey Webster, Tramon Williams, Kyle Arrington, Ike Taylor
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Right Guard, Jahri Evans: The Saints offensive line is the best in football, and it is anchored by Evans. The perennial Pro Bowler continued to be one of the best pass protectors in football, and he was a major factor in New Orleans' revitalized running game.
Left Guard, Carl Nicks: The 26-year-old Nebraska product built on a successful 2010, and he is now one of the best offensive linemen in the league. Nicks was terrific at preventing pass rushers from pressuring Drew Brees, and he also improved significantly in opening up holes for the running game.
Honorable Mentions: Logan Mankins, Brian Waters, Marshal Yanda, Chris Snee, John Sitton
Right Tackle, Michael Oher: The Blind Side icon is developing into one of the game's best right tackles, as he continues to make room for Ray Rice on the edge and protect Joe Flacco well.
Left Tackle, Joe Staley: The mammoth Central Michigan alum had a terrific 2011 campaign, as he provided holes for running back Frank Gore to explode through, while also passionately protecting quarterback Alex Smith.
Honorable Mentions: Jermon Bushrod, Eric Winston, Ryan Clady, Matt Light, Chad Clifton
Center, Maurkice Pouncey: Since his debut in 2010, Pouncey has been one of the best centers in football. He has appeared in the Pro Bowl his first two seasons, and he has helped significantly improve a rocky Steelers offensive line. His tremendous athleticism and strength allow him to be a superb pass protector and run blocker.
Honorable Mentions: Scott Wells, Matt Birk, Todd McClure
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
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Wide Receiver, Calvin Johnson: Megatron is an absolute beast. The Georgia Tech product put up staggering numbers in 2011, as he totaled 96 catches, 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns. Even with opposing defenses consistently putting multiple defenders on him, Johnson was the best wide receiver in the league this season. He boasts too much speed, size and power for any human being to contain.
Wide Receiver, Wes Welker: Tom Brady's favorite target was unstoppable this year, as no opponent could slow him down. The former undrafted rookie recorded a staggering 122 receptions, 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns. He constantly works the middle and uses his glistening speed to explode for yards after the catch. Welker is a dream for any quarterback.
Honorable Mentions: Victor Cruz, Roddy White, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace, Marques Colston, A.J. Green, Andre Johnson
Tight End, Rob Gronkowski: The second-year man rewrote the record books this season, as he dominated in every aspect. Gronkowski's huge stature, tremendous strength and surprising speed make him impossible to defend, even in double-coverage. He recorded an unbelievable 90 catches, 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns, while establishing himself as the game's most formidable tight end.
Honorable Mentions: Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez, Jermichael Finley, Aaron Hernandez, Vernon Davis
Running Back and Fullback
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Running Back, Ray Rice: The Ravens star had his best season in 2011, as he dominated opposing defenses, and emerged as one of the most dangerous backfield threats in the league. His frightening speed and surprising strength make him nearly impossible to take down. The Rutgers product ended the season second in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,364 and tied for second in rushing touchdowns with 12. Rice also led all AFC running backs with 76 receptions, 704 yards and three touchdowns.
Honorable Mentions: Arian Foster, Darren Sproles, Michael Turner, Frank Gore, Willis McGahee
Fullback, Vonta Leach: The Ravens titanic fullback continued on his success from 2010, and had another terrific season. The Pro Bowler continues to punish opposing defenses with his gritty blocking, and he has helped develop the Baltimore running game into one of the best in football.
Honorable Mentions: John Kuhn, Ovie Mughelli, Jed Collins
Quarterback, Drew Brees
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Although this is a close one among Brees, Rodgers and Brady, the Saints quarterback eventually got the edge for several reasons.
He boasts pinpoint accuracy, impressive arm strength, outstanding durability, unique consistency and invaluable leadership qualities.
Breesus has been an elite quarterback in the NFL for over half a decade now, but his 2011 season was unbelievable. He led the league in passing touchdowns, passing yards, completions and completion percentage, with his passing yards and completion percentage setting a new NFL record.
His final line looked like this: 468/657, 71.2 percent, 5,476 yards, 46 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a 110.6 passer rating.
Brees may have just had the greatest single season in NFL history, and he is well deserving of the NFL MVP.
The former Super Bowl MVP led the Saints to a 13-3 record, and was the leader of the greatest offensive unit in history in 2011.
Drew Brees is the most dangerous quarterback in the game today.