Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl
Many of the NFL's best and brightest stars gathered in Honolulu on Sunday for the league's annual Pro Bowl game, including the Manning brothers, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.
Of course, also, any number of players aren't in attendance, including New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who has made an annual ritual of pulling out of the game with a mysterious "injury."
Brady is far from alone in that regard. Between the droves of players that bow out every year and the farce that last year's game descended into, many now question whether it should be played moving forward.
However, it was this year, and here's a look at some of the winners and losers from Sunday's contest.
Winner: Peyton Manning, QB, AFC
2012 marks the 12th time that Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has been named to the Pro Bowl. At this point in his career, it's pretty much "been there, done that" as playing in the game goes.
That doesn't mean that Manning can't still make news in Honolulu, however.
Manning was the talk of the players' dinner on Tuesday, according to Andy Fenelon of NFL.com, first for imploring the players to give their all in Sunday's exhibition and then for the humorous roasting of the players in attendance, including himself.
Peyton Manning holds the record with nine interceptions in the Pro Bowl...I want to keep that record. So on Sunday, [NFC cornerbacks Charles] Tillman, [Tim] Jennings, [Patrick] Peterson, look out, I'm going to throw it every time.
OK, so these pregame musical numbers are generally terrible, and the performance by Train was certainly no exception.
But is it really a great idea to try to drum up interest in the Pro Bowl by subjecting people to an off-key rendition of a song that was a hit when Peyton Manning was still throwing touchdown passes for the Indianapolis Colts?
Isn't the game punishment enough?
Winner: Jeff Saturday, C, NFC
Listen, I'll be the first to admit that Jeff Saturday really has no business being in the Pro Bowl, at least based on his on-field performance this season.
In Saturday, we're talking about a player who graded out 28th of 36 centers, according to Pro Football Focus, and who was replaced in the starting lineup by his own team.
However, with the 14-year veteran set to hang them up on a sixth trip to Hawaii, it was a nice capper for Saturday's career.
After all, it's not like the selection process wasn't already a joke.
Saturday did provide one of the game's nicer moments, switching sides for one play to snap the ball to longtime teammate Peyton Manning.
Loser: Trent Williams, OL, NFC
Trent Williams earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl this season, but at least one Honolulu establishment probably hopes that the Washington Redskins tackle never gets another shot to play in the game.
Williams missed this year's tilt, as the third-year pro was involved in a nightclub brawl on Friday. The 318-pounder was tasered, cracked over the head with a champagne bottle and required seven stitches, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
A witness said: "It was like he was Jason on 'Friday the 13th'—man just wouldn't go down."
Winner: Rookie Quarterbacks
2012 was the year of the rookie quarterback, and while it took some alternate selections, the 2013 Pro Bowl was no different.
Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts, Robert Griffin of the Washington Redskins and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks were all named Pro Bowlers this year, an unheard of accomplishment in a game where rookies are more the exception than the rule.
Given that all three newcomers led their teams to the playoffs, it's hard to argue with any of the selections, and Wilson certainly held up his end of the bargain with a fantastic outing in the game itself.
Loser: J.J. Watt, DL, AFC
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt had an incredible 2012 season, leading the National Football League with 20.5 sacks.
Watt also accomplished a rarity in the 2013 Pro Bowl.
He got hurt.
The second-year pro suffered a nasty gash on his finger in the first quarter, but to his credit, Watt shook off the injury, quipping to sideline reporter Michele Tafoya, "Hey Commish, we're playing hard."
Winner: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, NFC
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald suffered through a miserable 2012 season through no fault of his own, but Fitzgerald's career resume was enough to garner the ninth-year pro a seventh trip to Honolulu.
Then, in the second half, Fitzgerald reeled in a touchdown pass from Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks.
It was the first scoring strike that Fitzgerald has caught all season long from an actual NFL quarterback.
Loser: Selection Credibility
Listen, I understand that, given the multitude of players who bow out of the Pro Bowl every year, alternates have to be chosen, and sometimes, that can mean digging pretty deep.
However, it's laughable for a two-win Kansas City Chiefs team to have six players in the Pro Bowl.
Linebacker Derrick Johnson did his part to lend some credibility to the choices by returning an interception for a touchdown—but still.
Two wins and six Pro Bowlers just doesn't add up.
Winner: NFC Pass-Catchers
After Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin went on injured reserve earlier this season, tight end Kyle Rudolph stepped in as quarterback Christian Ponder's favorite target. The second-year pro was rewarded for a solid season by being named to his first Pro Bowl as an injury replacement for the NFC.
Rudolph made the most of his first trip to Honolulu with a great game, hauling in five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown and earning MVP honors (and a new car).
Rudolph wasn't the only receiver on the NFC side that had a big game in his first Pro Bowl.
New York Giants wideout Victor Cruz got a chance to break out the salsa dance island-style, as the NFC's leader in receptions for the game scored a first-half touchdown and followed it with his patented end-zone celebration.
Loser: Matt Schaub, QB, AFC
We won't get into the rather dubious fact that Matt Schaub is even in Honolulu to begin with, especially given how he struggled down the stretch in 2012.
However, the Houston Texans quarterback did little to silence those who decried his selection with a terrible performance that included completing just over half his passes and throwing two interceptions.
In a game where quarterbacks usually have their way with defenses, that's just horrid.
Winner: A.J. Green, WR, AFC
There was absolutely no question that Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green deserved to be in the Pro Bowl after a season where the second-year pro caught 97 passes and scored 11 touchdowns.
Green carried that momentum right on across the Pacific Ocean.
On a day when not a whole lot went right for the AFC, Green was one of the losing squad's standouts, reeling in seven passes for 119 yards and three touchdowns.
It wasn't exactly an afternoon of shining moments for the AFC team, but here's a look at some of the bright spots for the losers of the 2012 Pro Bowl.
Passing: Andrew Luck (IND): 12-of-19, 205 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
Receiving: A.J. Green (CIN): 7 catches, 119 yards, 3 touchdowns
Defense: Derrick Johnson (KC): 6 tackles, 1 interception, 1 touchdown
By the time the dust had settled, the NFC emerged from the 2013 Pro Bowl with a 62-35 win.
Here's a look at the top performers from the winning squad.
Passing: Eli Manning (NYG): 16 of 23, 191 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
Receiving: Vincent Jackson (TB): 6 catches, 91 yards, 2 touchdowns
Defense: Julius Peppers (CHI): 3 tackles, 2 sacks