Pro Bowl Roster 2011: Michael Vick vs Tom Brady and Matchups at Every Position
Now that the Pro Bowl rosters are set, let's take a look at the matchups.
In theory, these matchups will be the best of the best facing off against each other. But we all know by the time the actual Pro Boll rolls around in February, some of these positions will get filled by alternates or second alternates due to injury, indifference or Super Bowl hangover.
But this is the roster as it stands now, so let's break it down by position, starting with the line and moving out from there.
The Middle: Looking at Line Versus Line, AFC Offense and NFC Defense
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It has been said that a football game is really won or lost by the group of fat guys in the middle, and that's something very hard to argue with.
On the AFC Side you have Jake Long, Joe Thomas, Kris Dielman, Logan Mankins and Nick Mangold.
On the defensive line you have Ndamukong Suh, Jay Ratliff, Clay Matthews, DeMarcus Ware and Patrick Willis.
The advantage here is clearly with the NFC. Suh and Matthews are monster playmakers, and even though that offensive line is full of studs, they are going to have their hands full trying to stop the crew on the NFC side.
The Middle: Looking at Line Versus Line, NFC Offense and AFC Defense
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On the flip side of the lines, things look just a little bit different.
On the NFC offensive line you have Jason Peters, Jordan Gross, Jahri Evans, Chris Snee and Andre Gurode.
On the AFC defensive line you have Hlati Ngata, James Harrison, Vince Wilfork, Cameron Wake and Ray Lewis.
Once again, the defensive side seems to have a clear advantage with guys like Ngata, Harrison and Lewis.
If either offensive line can hold out against these monsters on defense, it'll truly be a show of how elite the linemen are.
End Around: Tight Ends Versus Defensive Ends
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With the ends you have Antonio Gates and Marcedes Lewis facing off against Julius Peppers and John Abraham.
The matchups will depend on how much pass rushing there is, and how much blocking the tight ends do, so this is hard to predict without knowing exactly what kind of schemes are going to be run.
Add in the exhibition nature of the game and this "matchup" probably becomes a wash.
Special Teams: Don't Overlook the Kickers
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The NFC has Devin Hester returning kicks, David Akers making kicks and Mat McBriar making the punts.
The AFC has Marc Mariani returning kicks, Billy Cundiff making kicks and Shane Lechler making the punts.
The NFC has the advantage in kick returning, but the AFC definitely has the better placekicker.
Lechler and McBriar are pretty evenly matched, but if you made me choose, I'd give the slight advantage to Lechler.
Going Long: Wide Receivers Versus Cornerbacks, NFC Offense
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Roddy White and Calvin Johnson get the call, and they'll be covered by Nnamdi Asomugha and Darrelle Revis.
White and Johnson are elite playmakers, while Revis is his own island if you listen to the hype.
Revis has been battling injuries this year, though, so some of this matchup depends on how healthy Revis is by February. This will also be partly determined by how deep into the playoffs the Jets go.
I'm giving the edge to the NFC wide receivers on this one.
Going Long Part 2: AFC Offense
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Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne will be the featured AFC wide receivers, taking on Asante Samuel and Charles Woodson.
Samuel is a great corner, but Johnson is the kind of receiver who breaks away from elite coverage.
Wayne is one of the best in pro football and Woodson is no slouch either.
I think the NFC Corners will have a slight edge and the AFC corners won't have their best game.
Coming Out of the Backfield: A Look at the Running Game, AFC Side
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The AFC has Maurice Jones-Drew as the lead runner against a line that features Ndamukong Suh and free safety Nick Collins. Jones-Drew will have Vonta Leach blocking for him.
Advantage AFC. Maurice Jones-Drew looks like the kind of running back who will start breaking all-time records if he stays healthy and durable.
Besides, the AFC can use Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles to mix things up, but MJD is the true threat.
Coming Out of the Backfield Part 2: The NFC Running Game
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Michael Turner, receiving blocks from Ovie Mughelli, his own fullback, will be hard for the AFC line to stop. They'll definitely need help from the free safety Ed Reed, and Ray Lewis also will be around to make his presence known.
But with Adrian Peterson and Steven Jackson hanging around, it's going to be a long day for the AFC defense, no matter what.
Expect a lot of yards gained with the occasional stuffing for good measure.
Troy Polamalu vs Adrian Wilson
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This is no contest as long as Troy is in the game. There is no better strong safety in the league than Troy Polamalu.
Michael Vick vs Tom Brady
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This is going to be a great matchup of quarterbacks, especially if it's a Super Bowl rematch of the two field generals.
Tom Brady is the most complete quarterback of this generation and is playing in a system almost uniquely designed for his talents.
Michael Vick is the most versatile quarterback on the field due to the various ways he can get the ball out of the backfield.
Watching these two gunslingers go at it should be a real treat to cap off the 2010 season.