The NFL announced the 2011 Pro Bowl players today, and the Colts have four players that are headed to Hawaii for their performance this year. The four would be QB Peyton Manning, WR Reggie Wayne, DE Dwight Freeney and DE Robert Mathis.
For Peyton Manning, this will be the 11th time he has been named to the team, which ties him with DE Gino Marchetti for most Pro Bowl nominations in Colts franchise history. This also marks Peyton's ninth consecutive Pro Bowl nomination.
Manning has thrown for 31 touchdowns and 4,436 yards this year, connecting on 423 of 638 passes. Overall it has been a tough year for him, but after losing All-Pro TE Dallas Clark, WR Austin Collie and being without starting RB Joseph Addai for seven weeks, he has still turned in a tremendous performance that just might lead the Colts to the playoffs, and possibly to even greater heights beyond that.
He will be behind starting QB Tom Brady and then Phillip Rivers this year, one of the few times that you could say Peyton Manning is a third string QB.
Manning's favorite target since Marvin Harrison left will also be accompanying him to the Pro Bowl. Reggie Wayne was named to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl, and he will be a starter along with his former University of Miami teammate, Andre Johnson.
Wayne has reeled in 102 receptions this year for 1,287 yards, including five touchdown receptions. The stat that impresses me the most is his 68 first down receptions this year, which is second most in the NFL. He also ranks second in receptions and third in receiving yards in the NFL this season.
Which Colts player not named to the Pro Bowl deserved to go?
The best defensive end tandem in the game today and maybe ever, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis will also be heading to the Hawaii for yet another season of outstanding pass rushing.
Freeney has recorded nine sacks this year and 17 quarterback hurries, along with a team high five forced fumbles in 2010. Freeney has continued to wreak havoc on opponents offensive linemen and QB's this year, and since entering the NFL in 2002, his 93 sacks and 41 forced fumbles lead the league.
Freeney's partner in crime is nearly as good as him, and Robert Mathis will be starting on the other side of the defensive line for the AFC just as the two bookend defensive ends have all year. This will be the third consecutive nomination for Mathis, who leads the team with 11 sacks this year, and if he were to get just one more sack this week against Tennessee he would have a new single-season career high.
Combined, Freeney and Mathis have registered an amazing total of 167 sacks during their careers, which to me makes them the best DE duo in league history.
The Pro Bowl will be played a week before the Super Bowl again this year on January 30th, but it is back in Hawaii after last year's was played in Miami.
Keep up with all the Colts news at my blog, #18 and the Colts.