2013 Pro Bowl balloting closed at midnight Tuesday morning, so I decided to fill out my ballot before the deadline passed. Here’s are my selections for the AFC squad.
Quarterbacks: Tom Brady (NE), Peyton Manning (DEN), Ben Roethlisberger (PIT)
The first two were no-brainers, but the third was pretty tough. But between Big Ben, Luck, Schaub, and Flacco, I had to go with the more solid choice – even though he’s missed some time this season.
Running Backs: Arian Foster (HOU), Ray Rice (BAL), C.J. Spiller (BUF)
I made these choices while Stevan Ridley was fumbling New England’s chances away against San Francisco, which persuaded me to take him off. In his place I put C.J. Spiller. Going over 1,000 yards with less than 200 carries is quite the achievement. Arian Foster has, by far, the most carries of all backs this season, but I love the way he runs.
Fullback: Marcel Reece (OAK)
Hasn’t been used as a fullback much with all the injuries in the Raiders’ backfield, but he’s there on the ballot. Easy choice.
Wide Receivers: A.J. Green (CIN), Andre Johnson (HOU), Demaryius Thomas (DEN), Reggie Wayne (IND)
Johnson, Wayne, and Green were the automatics for me. The three are the best (and sometimes only) targets of their respective QBs and have performed admirably. That Andy Dalton-A.J. Green connection could be a lethal duo for seasons to come. I barely chose Demaryius Thomas over Eric Decker – more fumbles, but higher production with Peyton Manning throwing passes.
Tight Ends: Rob Gronkowski (NE), Heath Miller (PIT)
Considered putting Oakland’s Brandon Myers here, but Raiders should only go in as a last resort this season (see: fullback). Gronk still leads the Pats in receiving touchdowns in spite of the games missed. With everything going on in Pittsburgh this season, Miller has quietly caught eight touchdown passes.
Tackles: Duane Brown (HOU), Ryan Clady (DEN), Andre Smith (CIN)
Brown and Smith have had great seasons and you have to love the job Clady’s done keeping Manning upright this season.
Guards: Clint Boling (CIN), Logan Mankins (NE), Marshal Yanda (BAL
Mankins and Yanda added another great season to their resumés, while Boling has been a nice discovery for Cincinnati.
Centers: Mike Pouncey (MIA), Chris Myers (HOU)
Either of the Pouncey brothers could have gone here, but I went with the Dolphin. Chris Myers is making a case for best center in the league.
Defensive Ends: Rob Ninkovich (NE), J.J. Watt (HOU), Cameron Wake (MIA)
I feel as if I’ve seen Ninkovich more at linebacker this season, but he’s definitely made plays. Wake was a clear choice. Watt should’ve been mandatory.
Defensive Tackles: Geno Atkins (CIN), Muhammad Wilkerson (NYJ), Kyle Williams (BUF)
Geno Atkins is the best DT, in my eyes. Wilkerson and Williams don’t play on the best defenses, but they’ve consistently performed.
Inside Linebacker: Derrick Johnson (KC), Jerod Mayo (NE)
Other problems aside, Kansas City’s linebacking corp has been solid. I chose between Mayo and Brandon Spikes for the last spot. Had to go with the local guy.
Outside Linebackers: Justin Houston (KC), Robert Mathis (IND), Von Miller (DEN)
Chiefs have been worse than Oakland, but their defense deserves two players. Robert Mathis continues to make an impact in Dwight Freeney’s shadow. And Miller? Well, he hasn’t missed a beat from his Defensive Rookie of the Year season.
Cornerbacks: Antonio Cromartie (NYJ), Chris Harris (DEN), Alterraun Verner (TEN)
Antonio Cromartie stepped up in a big way in Darrelle Revis’s absence. Verner has been the best player on a respectable Titans defense. Harris’s pick-six against Baltimore on Sunday sealed his spot.
Safeties: T.J. Ward (CLE), Eric Weddle (SD)
Ward may be the best player you’ve never heard of on this ballot. Eric Weddle gets the nod over a few other good AFC safeties (i.e. Jairus Byrd from Buffalo).
Kicker: Justin Tucker (BAL)
His only two misses this season weren’t of much consequence – Baltimore won both games.
Punter: Donnie Jones (HOU)
I like Houston. More Texans.
Kick Returner: Jucoby Jones (BAL)
Only players with both kick and punt return TDs reside in the AFC. Jones has been the best of the three.