The Pro Bowl is one of the strangest things in the NFL.
Fans continue to oppose it every year because it isn't really a game (let's be honest, it isn't about the game so much as it is about the honor of being nominated to one of the rosters). Meanwhile, the League continues to shuffle it from location to location in the hopes that they might make more money off of it.
All that aside, the great part about the Pro Bowl is that it turns all of us into voters. Everyone gets a say in who goes to the Pro Bowl and who doesn't, which is fantastic. The NFL needs a little more fan perspective.
That having been said, often times people end up voting for players from their favorite team, and that isn't what we want, is it? We're all about being fair and balanced, like Fox News (ok, maybe not like Fox News, but impartiality really is important).
So, with that in mind, allow me to provide a voters guide of sorts for you all. Here I will offer up to you all the best choice for each category on the ballot (plus one extra, because everyone likes round numbers).
Aside from one miss and one blocked field goal, Vinatieri has been completely spotless this year. He has been key to some of the Colts victories, considering their potentially slim margins, and he continues to shine after so many years in the League.
How could you not pick Vinatieri here?
If there is one thing that the Raiders used to do (and still do) better than anyone else, it's punt the ball. While it isn't as true now, the Raiders used to punt the ball often, and that transformed Shane Lechler into one of the best, and this year is no exception.
Lechler is averaging 49.1 yards per punt, and has had 14 go inside the 20 yard line. That is just plain ridiculous.
Washington is averaging 30 yards per return on kicks and has two touchdowns to his name.
He is also averaging 23.8 yards per return on punts.
This guy has been a breath of fresh air in Seattle, and is a constant threat to take an kick or punt to the house.
Not only is he a good tackler who seems to always be in the right spot, but he was in on most of the special teams domination that took place against the San Diego Chargers. For a performance like that, this guy deserves the Pro Bowl, no doubt about it.
See that big man reaching for Bruce Gradkowski? That's James Hall, the most underappreciated player on the most underappreciated team.
Hall has been bounced around the League to a couple of teams, never particularly solidifying a reputation for himself.
However, he has really come out hot this year, posting 7.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in nine games.
There are a lot of big name guys who will get looks before Hall, and that is unfortunate, because this guy is really on to something this year.
To put it simply, this guy scares me.
At 6'4" and 350 lbs., Ngata somehow has the strength to play defensive tackle and the agility and speed to play defensive end for the Baltimore Ravens.
He has posted a ridiculous 46 tackles and five sacks this year, and he leads a stout rushing defense that is allowing less than 100 yards per game on the ground on average.
How could you pick anyone else?
10 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble, and one touchdown.
This guy does everything and more, and the fact that he produced all of that in eight games almost seems impossible.
Even in old age London Fletcher continues to be one of the best.
After nine games, Fletcher has posted a staggering 85 tackles, 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and five pass deflections.
He is the bright spot on the Washington Redskins, and I really do wonder if there is a better inside linebacker out there right now. I highly doubt it.
Let's be honest here: This is really a two-horse race, as there really are only two slam dunk shutdown corners in the game right now.
On one hand, there's Darrelle Revis, aka Revis Island. When he's healthy, he's unstoppable. That has been his downfall this year, though. His performance really slowed when he was suffering from his hamstring injury.
On the other hand, there is Nnamdi Asomugha, arguably the best player on the Oakland Raiders. Throwing towards Asomugha just isn't a good idea, it's that simple.
In the end, the definite vote-getter has to be Nnamdi Asomugha. His performance has just generally been better than Darrelle Revis'.
After having a somewhat slow start to his rookie season, Eric Berry has come on strong for the Kansas City Chiefs.
In nine games, Berry has 50 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble, and four pass deflections.
Not bad for a strong safety.
Berry is really starting to show his first-round potential, and, should he continue improving at this pace, will be a potential Pro Bowl player (if not this year, than next year).
Despite missing the first six games of the season, Ed Reed has come out and put up another great performance so far this year.
In three games, Reed has 14 tackles, three pass deflections, three interceptions, and one forced fumble.
That's a bit ridiculous.
Ed Reed has the history behind him, and he is only adding to his legacy this year.
As a side note, though, a dark horse candidate here could be Patrick Chung of the New England Patriots. When he is healthy, he makes a huge impact on their defense, and he is really developing into a great player. He may not be a Pro Bowler this year, but look out for him in the next year or two. I can guarantee he'll burst onto the scene soon.
Dan Koppen deserves a lot of credit for how well the New England Patriots are protecting quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady rarely ends up on the ground, and can often rest in the pocket for upwards of five or six seconds.
Koppen is a solid pass blocker, and solid director on the line, and has helped open up some running lanes for a renewed Patriots running game.
I know, I know, I am probably giving too much credit to the offensive line of the New England Patriots.
Think about it for a moment, though. Neal has done an outstanding job keeping Tom Brady off of the ground, and he has become a great run blocker as well. Without Logan Mankins in the lineup as the star guard, Steve Neal really stepped up to the occasion, and he should be rewarded for it.
First off, the answer is no, this isn't just because he has the most awesome name in football.
Secondly, the New York Jets have a phenomenal offensive line, and it all starts with Ferguson.
He is an excellent run blocker, and he is almost always able to keep Mark Sanchez safe in the pocket. Buidling a Pro Bowl roster has to start with a great left tackle, and D'Brickashaw Ferguson seems like that guy.
Is it fair yet to say that Antonio Gates practically transcends the game?
He is strong, fast, intelligent, and one of the best motivators on the Chargers. He is the rock around which the receiving corps of the San Diego Chargers is built, and he is a match up nightmare for any team that he faces, whether he is covered by linebackers or safeties.
With seven games still left in the season, Brandon Lloyd is sitting comfortably at 968 yards and six touchdowns.
This is even sweeter considering the irony of Lloyd not being Brandon Marshall. When the Broncos shipped Marshall off to Miami, there were a lot of people doubting whether or not the Broncos could succeed in the passing game without a star receiver.
Well, not only are they succeeding, but apparently everyone was wrong about the Broncos not having a star receiver. Don't believe me? Rewatch the highlights from Denver's game against Kansas City this past weekend. At one point Brandon Lloyd beats triple coverage. Point proven.
In this day and age, the hybrid fullback is what everyone wants. Teams are looking for big guys who are capable of blocking, but who are just as good at catching and running with the ball.
Mike Tolbert not only fulfills the hybrid back qualifications well, but he is a surprisingly polished blocker.
At 5' 8", 243 lbs, Mike Tolbert has been called the human bowling ball for reasons that become apparent when you watch him play. He lays great blocks, but that isn't exactly where he gets the name. The name comes more from his deadly abilities on the outside when he gets up to speed.
Tolbert doesn't have the fastest acceleration, but he cannot be brought down at full speed. At that point, defenders can only hope to push him towards the sidelines.
I'm going with Peyton Hillis here over Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, and Arian Foster because this is the kind of guy we haven't really seen before.
Watching Chris Johnson is fun, but at some point it just feels like watching Bo Jackson in Tecmo Superbowl. Deadly speed and cutting ability define his game.
It's more or less the same way with Adrian Peterson. He sure is fun to watch, but the finesse game can get boring after a while.
Anyway, you get my point.
With Hillis, you get a return to some old school, smash mouth football. Hillis is a strong, physical, downhill type runner with deceptive speed and athleticism. Not only can he run over and through you, but he has shown that he is capable of leaping defenders as well as putting the moves on them.
Hillis is everything that is missing in running games these days.
I have no idea how Philip Rivers hasn't been to a Pro Bowl yet.
Obviously, since everyone is afforded three votes per conference for quarterbacks, votes will got to Peyton Manning and Tom Brady for the AFC, but consider using that third vote for Philip Rivers.
In the span of nine games, Rivers has posted 19 touchdowns and 2,944 yards (which puts him on pace to break Dan Marino's single season passing yardage record).
While that wouldn't completely surprise people normally, consider the fact that he has been missing Vincent Jackson for the whole season, and has been missing top targets Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee, Antonio Gates, and Buster Davis at various points throughout the season.
Philip Rivers makes his receivers better, the mark of a true professional quarterback, and, given his performance this year, he deserves to finally make the trip to the Pro Bowl.
It seems like an epic video kind of day
If there was a spot in the Pro Bowl called Utility Player, Danny Woodhead would run away with it.
After being unceremoniously tossed from the New York Jets in favor of the Shonn Greene - LaDainian Tomlinson tandem, Woodhead was picked up by the New England Patriots, where he has devastated defenses both running and catching the ball.
Woodhead is very fast and very quickly, but also has deceptive strength that has allowed him to break out on a couple long runs.
He has soft hands, and can be deadly as a check down option and as a screen runner.
This guy is one of the more versatile offensive players in the League right now, and he deserves the props considering his background.
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