NFL Predictions: Predicting the 2012 NFC and AFC Pro Bowl Rosters
With the '11 NFL season already past its midway point, it's time to start looking at who will make the Pro Bowl for the AFC and NFC later this year.
Here are my predictions for the AFC and NFC Pro Bowl rosters for this season.
Rules for Selections
As far as the rules for predicting both of these teams, I had two criteria that I used.
The first was obviously using players stats through Week 10 if this season to help predict if they would be Pro-Bowl worthy by the end of the year.
The second thing that I put into consideration was not assuming any specific players would miss the Pro Bowl due to their team making the Super Bowl, since obviously, no one knows at this point.
Starter: Tom Brady
The Pats star QB will likely be the projected starter once again for the AFC this year.
Who else would you rather have for the AFC under center other than Tom Brady?
Backups: Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton
Big Ben should be named to his second Pro Bowl team this season.
In a shocker, I have Bengals rookie Andy Dalton getting in since Matt Schaub is now out for the year.
Starter: Aaron Rodgers
The reigning Super Bowl MVP should be selected to his second career Pro Bowl in 2011.
He has been playing like man possessed this season, as he has already thrown for 28 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards in just nine games.
I expect this pair of Super Bowl-winning QBs to back up Rogers for the NFC at this year's Pro Bowl.
This could end up being one of the best groups of quarterbacks that the NFC has ever seen in this game.
AFC Running Backs
Starter: Arian Foster
There was some doubt with Arian Foster after a hamstring injury sidelined him at the beginning of this season.
Over the past two months, Foster has returned to Pro Bowl form, rushing for over 700 yards and six TDs in his eight starts.
Backups: Fred Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew
Jackson and Jones-Drew are both very solid backs, and should really give the AFC a nice trio at RB with Foster.
NFC Running Backs
Starter: LeSean McCoy
McCoy has looked Barry Sanders-like at time this season and should easily earn his first Pro Bowl selection because of it.
The Eagles star is already over 900 yards rushing and has added 12 total touchdowns to his breakout season as well.
I can't believe that I am predicting Peterson to be a backup this year, but that's just a testament to how good McCoy has been in 2011.
AP, Forte and McCoy will give the NFC one of the most explosive backfield that they have had in years at the Pro Bowl.
Starter: Vonta Leach
Leach is built like a tank at 6'0 and 260 lbs.
He's also one of the best fullbacks in the league and should get his second straight Pro Bowl nod after a solid first season with the Ravens in '11.
Starter: John Kuhn
One of the more unsung heroes on the Packers offense over the past few seasons has been John Kuhn.
With Falcons FB and 2010 Pro Bowler Ovie Mughelli now out for the season, I believe that Kuhn will be selected to his first Pro Bowl later this year.
AFC Wide Receivers
Starters: Wes Welker and Mike Wallace
Patriots wideout Wes Welker is having the season of his life, with 72 receptions of 1,006 yards on the year.
Wallace isn't too far behind with 52 catches for 922 yards, as these two have been far and away the best two receivers in the AFC so far this season.
Backups: Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Marshall
Bowe and Marshall round the AFC receiving corps, giving the team much need size at that position.
NFC Wide Receivers
Starters: Steve Smith and Calvin Johnson
Smith is on pace to have one of his best seasons ever from a statistical standpoint, while Megatron still has a shot at breaking the all-time single-season TD record for a receiver.
Can you just imagine that matchup nightmares that Smith and Johnson would give opposing defenses?
Backups: Greg Jennings, Larry Fitzgerald
Jennings is Aaron Rodgers' main target in Green Bay, while Fitzgerald has continued to prove why he is still an elite wideout in the league today.
AFC Tight Ends
Starter: Rob Gronkowski
I'm predicting that it will be a Patriots sweep at tight end with Gronkowski and Hernandez.
Gronkowski has been one of the best tight ends in the league, as he's up to 700-plus receiving yards and six touchdowns in the Pats offense.
Backup: Aaron Hernandez
You could argue that Hernandez is just as talented as Gronkowski, but he just doesn't have the stats that his teammate has to this point of the season.
NFC Tight Ends
Starter: Jimmy Graham
Graham has exploded onto the scene in his second season as statistically the best TE in the league, with 873 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
I look for him not only start in this Pro Bowl, but for many more to come as well.
Backup: Jason Witten
With 585 receiving yards and four TDs through just nine games, Witten would likely be the NFC's starter at this point if it wasn't for Graham's breakout season.
AFC Offensive Line
Starters: Joe Thomas, Logan Mankins, Maurkice Pouncey, Brandon Moore, D'Brickashaw Ferguson
Led by four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, this group is young and very talented up front.
Pouncey and Moore are also two of the most underrated offensive lineman in the league.
Backups: Jake Long, Brian Waters, Jeff Saturday
Waters and Saturday bring some experience to this group, while Jake Long will be heading to his fourth Pro Bowl in as many seasons.
NFC Offensive Line
Starters: Jordan Gross, Jahri Evans, Ryan Kalil, Chris Snee, Tyson Clabo
All five of these guys made the Pro Bowl last season, and I don't see much of a change occurring this year.
The only shakeup among this group is that I see Kalil replacing Andre Gurode at center, since Gurode is now in the AFC.
Backups: Jason Peters, Scott Wells, Carl Nicks
These are three very good players, as Peters should be making his fifth straight Pro Bowl appearance at left tackle.
AFC Defensive Line
Starters(4-3): Dwight Freeney, Andre Carter, Haloti Ngata, Richard Seymour
This will be an older group for the AFC, but still very effective.
Seymour and Ngata are very hard to move in the middle, while Freeney is a beast on the outside and Carter already has nine sacks this season.
Backups: Jeremy Mincey, Phil Taylor
Mincey is a very good pass rusher for the Jags and Taylor has been stout at DT in his rookie season for the Browns this year.
NFC Defensive Line
Starters (4-3): Jared Allen, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, Cullen Jenkins
Led by Jared Allen, this will be a very physical, tough line for the AFC to face off against.
It's unfortunate that you can't rush the QB in the Pro Bowl, or this group would have easily rack up a ton of sacks.
Backups: Jason Babin, Amobi Okoye
Babin and Okoye will help supplant the NFC's defensive line as backups.
AFC Inside Linebackers
Starter: Pat Angerer
Angerer should get his first career Pro Bowl selection this season after leading the league with 105 tackles going into week 11.
His play has been one of the lone bright spots for the Colts this year.
Backup: Ray Lewis
The 36-year-old Lewis should get his 13th Pro Bowl selection, this time as a backup.
NFC Inside Linebackers
Starter: Patrick Willis
I realize that Willis hasn't been as solid this season as he has at times in the past.
However, with 78 tackles and two sacks so far at his inside linebacker position, he is still one of the best in the league.
Backup: Desmond Bishop
I predict that the former sixth-round pick of the Packers will be a backup in this game, but with 84 tackles and five sacks to this point, he could challenge Willis for the starting spot at ILB in this game.
AFC Outside Linebackers
Starters: LaMarr Woodley, Terrell Suggs
Has there been a more dominant pass-rushing OLB in the AFC than Woodley this season?
He already has nine for the year, while Suggs has been his usual self in Baltimore.
Backup: Tamba Hali
Hali will likely be selected to a Pro Bowl for the second straight season after picking up six sacks so far this year.
NFC Outside Linebackers
Starters: DeMarcus Ware, Brian Orakpo
Ware has been the most dominant OLB in the NFL this year, hands down.
Brian Orakpo hasn't been too shabby either with his 33 tackles, 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles for the Skins' defense.
Backup: Aldon Smith
49ers rookie Aldon Smith has busted onto the scene with 6.5 sacks in 2011, putting him in consideration for Defensive ROY honors as well.
Starters: Darrelle Revis, Kyle Arrington
Revis is arguably the best defensive player in the NFL and is a future Hall-of-Famer in the making at cornerback.
Arringtonis is an up-and-coming CB that has picked up 45 tackles and five interceptions in his third year with the Patriots this season.
Backup: Brandon Flowers
Flowers might be one of the more underrated CBs in the AFC, and his 15 pass deflections and four interceptions should earn him a spot as a backup in this contest.
Starters: Charles Woodson, Chris Houston
Woodson is the best cornerback in the NFC and will be making his eighth different Pro Bowl team.
Houston has been a surprise this year for the Lions, as he has played very well at CB, picking up four interceptions to this point.
Backup: Aaron Ross
Ross leads the way for a Giants secondary and has a great chance to make his first career Pro Bowl trip in January.
Starters: Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed
Polamalu and Reed will likely be in the Hall of Fame down the road and bring a toughness and level of physicality that cannot be taught at the safety position.
The NFC might have a hard time if they go over the middle on either one of these two stars.
Backup: Eric Weddle
The talented Chargers safety is heading towards another Pro Bowl appearance this year after grabbing 53 tackles and five interceptions in the first nine games of the year.
Starters: Morgan Burnett, Charlie Peprah
It will be a Packers sweep at the starting safety positions in this year's Pro Bowl.
Burnett and Peprah have virtually come from out of nowhere to become two of the best safeties in the league this season.
Backup: Roman Harper
The steady Harper should be making his third straight Pro Bowl appearance and has career-high 6.5 sacks this season.
AFC Special Teams
Punter: Shane Lechler
Lechler is by far the best punter in the league, and has been getting it done year after year for the Raiders.
He looks to be well on his way to his seventh Pro Bowl of his career.
Kicker: Sebastian Janikowski
The longtime Oakland kicker has cemented himself as one of the best at his position over the last decade.
He even tied an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal earlier this season.
Return Specialist: Josh Cribbs
Josh Cribbs could go down as one of the best return specialists in league history, and he still continues to play at a high level after seven years in the league.
The former Kent State star has already been the AFC's return specialist in the Pro Bowl two times before, and all signs point to him doing it again in 2011.
NFC Special Teams
Punter: Andy Lee
Lee leads the NFC with his 50.5 average yards per punt mark and has been very efficient in pinning opposing offenses deep in their own territory this season.
Kicker: David Akers
The 49ers kicker has had another excellent season, making 92 percent of his field goals, and producing 28 touch-backs as well.
Return Specialist: Devin Hester
This should be a no-brainer, since Hester is one of the best return specialists in NFL history and has already added three more touchdowns this season to his career totals.