The NFL announced the Pro Bowl rosters Wednesday, and as usual, the players who didn't make the cut are the ones who have generated the most talk. Looking over those who aren't headed to Hawaii, which player do you consider to be the victim of the biggest snub?
Hate to foster teammate-on-teammate crime, but I am stunned that Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones got the nod over Roddy White in the NFC. White has been more consistent and statistically superior; he has 11 more catches (87) than Jones (76) while surpassing 1,000 yards for the sixth season. Jones has 1,142 yards to White's 1,309 and 10 touchdowns to White's seven. Ultimately, though, I think voters got hung up on Jones' highlight plays, which might have drawn more attention than White's outright value and production.
I also think it's a shame that the New Orleans Saints' Marques Colston (78 catches, 1,102 yards, eight touchdowns) missed out. He's surpassed 1,000 yards in six of his seven seasons and has scored at least eight touchdowns five times. I might have had Colston take the place of New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz (82 catches for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns).
Since a Week 10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the third-year receiver has averaged 6.6 catches per game for 115 yards and more than a touchdown. That's his average. That's the stuff of Pro Bowl receivers, which is why he's easily the biggest snub.
How does Bryant not make it? When his team was down, he put the Cowboys on his back, helping them to a 5-2 record over his seven-game emergence. Sure, he's only come on recently. But his numbers (88 catches for 1,311 yards) are still better than those of New York Giants receiver -- and Pro Bowl player -- Victor Cruz (82 catches for 1,040 yards).
To me, this is an easy call. One of the game's elite talents has had a breakout year, and those voting for the Pro Bowl missed it.
The vast majority of the selections I agree with. However, here are some I would change:
AFC: Quarterback: Replace Matt Schaub (Houston Texans) with Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers). Before he was hurt, Big Ben was having an outstanding season. I would select Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts) ahead of Schaub, too, but I'd slot him behind Big Ben. Luck has done far more with less talent around him than Schaub.
NFC: Wide receiver: Replace Victor Cruz (New York Giants) with Dez Bryant (Dallas Cowboys). Bryant demands to be double-teamed, and impacts the defense more than Cruz does. After Bryant, I would take Roddy White (Atlanta Falcons), who is a more complete receiver, while Cruz struggles when contested by tight, physical coverage. But Bryant still has more big-play ability.
Center: Replace Jeff Saturday (Green Bay Packers) with John Sullivan (Minnesota Vikings). Sullivan has been productive and consistent all season. After Sullivan, I'd go with Jonathan Goodwin (San Francisco 49ers) over Saturday. Goodwin plays on a line that does an excellent job of run blocking, and is a better overall player than Saturday as a run and pass blocker.
I'm going to replace one of the quarterbacks from the AFC. Matt Schaub really had just two great games (against the Denver Broncos in Week 3 and the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11), which account for nine of his 22 touchdown passes on the season, meaning he averaged just one touchdown pass per game the rest of the year. Those were also the only real games that he had to pull out for the Texans. See for yourself: Every quarterback looks good when handing the ball to Arian Foster. Sorry, but I want my Pro Bowl quarterback to do more than that. Schaub was solid but not spectacular. So I'd take him off the list.
In his place, I could go with Andrew Luck, who's led seven fourth-quarter comebacks during a phenomenal rookie season. But he's also thrown a lot of interceptions and has benefited from a pretty easy schedule. Since beating the Green Bay Packers in Week 5, Indianapolis hasn't defeated a team that was even close to .500. In fact, outside of the New England Patriots and Houston Texans, the Colts didn't even PLAY anyone after the Packers that was even close to .500 again.
Give me Andy Dalton for that final quarterback slot. After a four-game losing streak left them at 3-5, the Cincinnati Bengals faced must-win game after must-win game. Over the next six tilts, Dalton totaled 15 touchdowns, and Cincy catapulted back into contention, clinching a playoff spot last Sunday. Even in the midst of a subpar day, playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers in hostile territory, Dalton came through like an elite signal-caller, throwing a gotta-have-it completion to A.J. Green to set up the game-winning (and playoff-spot-clinching) field goal. And while grit is a big factor, when it's all said and done, Dalton still has 30 touchdowns in 2012 -- eight more than Schaub.
Richard Sherman was the first omission to stand out to me on Wednesday when the Pro Bowl rosters were announced (and no, not because of the omnipresent "you mad bro" Internet meme). (Although it is pretty cool.)
Sherman is the best cornerback in the NFC right now, maybe even in the NFL. He represents a new breed of cornerbacks. He's big (6-foot-3) and physical enough to match up with some of the league's chiseled receivers, like Calvin Johnson. And he has the statistics to back it up, too. The Seattle Seahawks rank higher in pass defense and have allowed fewer points than the Chicago Bears. Sherman and Patrick Peterson (Arizona Cardinals) should be the two starters in the NFC. I suspect the fact that they play on the West Coast hurt them among the voters, but they are undoubtedly the most feared corners in the game.
And this isn't a shot against the Chicago Bears' Charles "Peanut" Tillman or Tim Jennings (who is 5-8, by the way). But have you ever watched a Bears game this season and thought, "Those two cornerbacks shut down the opposition"? I mean, when I try to think of a cornerback tandem that deserves to be in the Pro Bowl, I have to go all the way back to Michael Haynes and Lester Hayes.
But I'm getting off track here. Put Sherman in the Pro Bowl. Jennings and Tillman can roshambo for the final spot (behind Peterson).
And no, I'm not mad, bro. (Sorry, had to do it.)