The NFL on Tuesday opened 2013 Pro Bowl voting on NFL.com, allowing fans to send their favorite players to Hawaii to represent their respective teams in the league's annual All-Star game next February.
A total of 27 Denver Broncos are on the ballot, with seven of them deserving of your vote.
This season's Pro Bowl will be played on Jan. 27, 2013 at Aloha Stadium, a week before Super Bowl XLVII. The game will be televised live on NBC at 6 p.m. (ET).
A handful of the players mentioned in this article will be obvious choices (see: Manning, Peyton). Others still may be unfamiliar names for many non-Broncos fans; nevertheless, all seven players are Pro Bowl- worthy, as will be pointed out in the following slides.
Few observers beyond Denver's coaching staff and hardcore fans have realized how productive of a season left tackle Ryan Clady is having.
Protecting quarterback Peyton Manning's blindside, Clady has started in all six games this season while allowing zero sacks and being penalized just once (a 10-yard holding penalty).
At his current pace, Clady is on track to allow one or fewer sacks and just two penalties, which would be his best marks since his rookie season, when he allowed just 0.5 sacks and was penalized three times. A two-time Pro Bowler ('09, '11), Clady appears poised to return to Honolulu for a third time this January.
Among the 32 left tackles in the NFL, Clady is one of three starting left tackles yet to allow a sack this season, joining Houston's Duane Brown and NYG's Will Beatty.
Notably, the Texans (6-1) are having a big year while quarterback Matt Schaub has gone 140-of-222 (63.1%) for 1,650 yards and 10 scores while the Giants (5-2) have seen similar success under Eli Manning (169-of-265 for 2,109 yards and 12 scores).
The Broncos (3-3) have gotten off to a slower start but due in large part to Clady's protection, the elder Manning hasn't missed a beat, going 154-of-227 (67.8%) for 1,808 yards and 14 scores. It is common knowledge that a left tackle's protection correlates directly to a quarterback's success, as is confirmed by the stats above.
Clady has been solid thus far; vote for him at NFL.com/ProBowl.
A common theme among all of the offensive players—and even affecting the defensive players—is the presence of Peyton Manning. Third-year wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is no exception.
The explosive receiver has been one of Manning's best receivers this season, hauling in 32 receptions for 542 yards and three scores through the first six games of the season.
Thomas' partner in crime, fellow third-year receiver Eric Decker, has produced similar numbers (34 catches for 441 yards and three scores), but Thomas' big-play capability is what makes him our Pro Bowl nomination, with Decker being an honorable mention.
The veteran half of Doom and Gloom has started off the 2012 season with a bang. Tied for the sixth-most sacks (5.0) and seventh-most tackles for loss (six) this year, Elvis Dumervil has been harassing opposing quarterbacks all season.
Dumervil has forced 17.5 quarterback "hurries" this season (third overall in the NFL) and has forced a league-leading four forced fumbles. For his career, Dumervil has recorded 57.5 sacks and 14 forced fumbles through 81 career starts. Not bad for a former fourth-round selection.
A two-time Pro Bowler ('08, '11), Dumervil ranks third among AFC defensive ends in sacks and has applied contest pressure each week. Vote for Dumervil at NFL.com/ProBowl.
After making a name for himself during his 2011 Rookie of the Year campaign, second-year outside linebacker Von Miller is back in full force. Through the first six weeks of the season, Miller has notched 6.0 sacks (T-5th), 13 tackles for loss (2nd) and a forced fumble.
Pairing up with Elvis Dumervil as Denver's two premier pass rushers, Gloom and Doom have combined to record 11 sacks, five forced fumbles and nearly 20 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The dynamic duo is poised to return to Hawaii following the 2012 season.
Miller, a one-time Pro Bowler ('11), deserves your vote. Cast your ballot at NFL.com/ProBowl.
At first glance, cornerback Champ Bailey's stats (19 tackles, zero interceptions) appear modest and anything but Pro Bowl-worthy. That's because stats—especially when it comes to cornerbacks—can be very deceiving.
Smart quarterbacks do not throw at the best cornerbacks. Since 2006, when Bailey notched 10 interceptions, few quarterbacks have targeted Bailey repeatedly in a game—when they do, Bailey makes them regret it more times than not.
Philadelphia's Nnamdi Asomugha, considered by many to be one of the best cornerbacks in the league, has recorded just seven interceptions over the past six seasons.
And New York's Darrelle Revis, has recorded just five interceptions since 2010, which is comparable to Bailey's four and Asomugha's four during that same time frame.
The best cornerbacks often do not record a boatload of interceptions because offenses are smart enough to not target them. The cornerbacks that do notch six, seven, eight and more interceptions are usually talented, ball-hawking players, but also targeted often.
When a team knows a player can be beat, they'll throw against him, which results in several interceptions being recording over the course of a season.
The more a cornerback is targeted, the more opportunities he has for interceptions. But that's necessarily a good thing when judging interception stats.
That's not to take away from interceptions, they are a notable stat (heck, Bailey has 50 of them), but it should be noted that interception stats are often overrated.
And while Bailey is yet to get his hands on a pass this season, he has been reliable in Denver's secondary this season and their are few quarterbacks willing to test his coverage abilities.
Will Bailey receive your vote? Vote now at NFL.com/ProBowl.
In the case of punters, having to do your job is not necessarily a good thing. Doing it effectively when called upon is everything.
For the Broncos, punter Britton Colquitt has not gotten a lot of opportunities to show off his leg this season, as Manning and Co. have done a good job of keeping him on the sideline. With just 23 punts this season, Colquitt ranks 26th in number of punts among the 32 punters in the league.
But that cannot be held against Colquitt when voting, especially if you consider what he has done with those 23 punts.
Colquitt's long of 67 yards ties for the fourth-longest this season (2nd among AFC punters), his net average of 42.7 yards ties for third in the NFL (T-2nd, AFC) and his mind-blowing 4.9 yard return average is the second-lowest mark league-wide this season (which is a good thing).
To top it all off, Colquitt is also Denver's place-holder. With Colquitt holding, Broncos' kicker Matt Prater has a perfect 7-of-7 on field goal attempts this season, with a long of 53 yards.
Colquitt has been effective for the Broncos and has helped squelch several would-have-been-comebacks this season by pinning opponents deep in their own territory late in games. Vote for Colquitt at NFL.com/ProBowl.
Quarterback Peyton Manning is, of course, an obvious selection. As was noted in left tackle Ryan Clady's slide, Manning has had a phenomenal year, completing nearly 68% of his passes while throwing for 1,808 yards and 14 scores.
Under Manning, the Broncos have had a few bumps in the road but stand atop the AFC West coming out of their bye week looking to build on their 3-3 record. With Manning leading the offense, the Broncos have outscored their opponents 79-6 in the fourth quarter this season.
Over the past three weeks, Manning has thrown for 300+ yards, three touchdowns and completed 70% of his attempts, marking the first time in NFL history a quarterback has accomplished all three feats in three consecutive games. Undoubtedly, Peyton Manning is back.
You can vote for Manning at NFL.com/ProBowl.
Below are four other Denver Broncos have had productive seasons, but may not be quite Pro Bowl-worthy if the season ended today:
(1) Kicker Matt Prater has gone 7-of-7 on field goal attempts this season (53 long) and 23 of his 34 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks.
(2) Running back Willis McGahee, a Pro Bowl alternate last season, has rushed 100 times for 432 yards (4.3 avg.) and three scores this season.
(3) Wide receiver Eric Decker has caught 34 passes for 441 yards and three scores.
(4) Cornerback Tracy Porter has recorded 21 tackles, defended six passes and recorded an interception.
All four of the players can validate their Pro Bowl bids with strong performances in the second half of the season. Are they worthy of Hawaii? You decide; vote at NFL.com/ProBowl early and often!
All stats referenced in this article were provided courtesy of Stats Inc. and NFL.com. Jon Heath has been covering the Denver Broncos since the 2008 season and can be found on Twitter, @JHeath_DEN.