QB: Tom Brady (NE), Ben Roethlisberger (PIT), Philip Rivers (SD)
These 2 are the class of AFC quarterbacks. Both leading their teams into the postseason. Brady is having a record-breaking season only 2nd to Brees, and is set to clinch home field advantage. Big Ben is producing at a high level, playing through injuries, and carrying the Steelers offense with another double-digit win season.
The only one in question here is Philip Rivers. Great player and leader, but, it just was not his season. He had a down year and so did his team. Injuries are part of the game and are never an excuse, and he is tied for the league lead in interceptions (19). They say players that have made Pro Bowls get the nod when they shouldn’t, and younger/lesser-known players get overlooked. A combination of performance and popularity are what define the Pro Bowl, not necessarily the bets players at every position. If a player can put himself on another level to maintain a higher status, even on a down year, that says a lot about the guy.
A couple of quarterbacks that could have been in the conversation are Matt Schaub and Matt Cassel, but they went down to injury and are rehabbing for next season. Ryan Fitzpatrick fell off the map after his contract. The Ravens have won some games in spite of Joe Flacco. Andy Dalton has had a productive season, but has also experienced the roller coaster ride of a rookie quarterback. Tim Tebow turned around a 1-4 team and put them in the postseason hunt, but he has flaws just like anybody else and we are well-informed about those.
RB: Ray Rice (BAL), Maurice Jones-Drew (JAC), Arian Foster (HOU)
These backs do it all and without a question, they got it right with these explosive workhorses in the backfield. Most didn’t know this was a contract year for Ray Rice. He is a flat out baller. M-Jo got the love and recognition he deserves. He plays for a bad team, with a rookie quarterback, and still performs as well as any back can. Arian Foster has engraved his name into the elite category with consecutive seasons of mass production. He came from nowhere but he keeps going somewhere, and that’s Hawaii.
FB: Vonta Leach (BAL)
They say he is the best in the business. They’ve been saying that for years and that why Baltimore stole him from Houston.
WR: Wes Welker (NE), Mike Wallace (PIT), A.J. Green (CIN), Brandon Marshall
Enough said here. Welker is the household name that is undeniably elite. Mike Wallace has elevated his game to another level the past 2 seasons. The talented Brandon Marshall continues to perform with mediocre quarterbacks and double-coverage. A.J. Green is outstanding, and he’s only a rookie. Talk about a bright future, thinking of his could make you go blind.
TE: Rob Gronkowski (NE), Antonio Gates (SD)
Gronkowski. His remarkable season with the touchdowns and yards after the catch. The guy has great hands and will be a force for years to come. This is only his 2nd season. Gates has been good for awhile now. Tough year for him with some injuries and mobility issues. He comes to play and he attracts double-coverage and respect week in and week out. This may be a little bit of a reach as far as this season goes, but he has made a name for himself and finds himself going to another Pro Bowl with his quarterback.
The only other tight end you can make a case for is Rob’s teammate Aaron Hernandez. He also missed a few games, but he plays 2nd fiddle to Gronkowski and 3rd if you throw in Wes Welker. I think they got it right here, but Hernandez would understandably be deserving. He is also another young guy, he is earning his stripes.
OT: Joe Thomas (CLE), Jake Long (MIA), D’Brickeshaw Ferguson (NYJ)
OG: Logan Mankins (NE), Brian Waters (NE), Marshal Yanda (BAL)
C: Maurkice Pouncey (PIT), Nick Mangold (NYJ)
Joe Thomas, Jake Long, and Maurkice Pouncey haven’t been in the league that long. Word is, they are as good as they come, especially Joe Thomas. Speaking of the beest, look no further than Logan Mankins, every coach’s dream. Mangold and Ferguson have paved the way for the Jets rushing attack. Yanda filled a void last season on the Ravens’ line and is shining this season. Brian Waters has revived his career in New England, after making several Pro Bowls when he was in Kansas City. They must have thought he was done or something.
Can’t really speculate much about who should be on this offensive line, but with these guys it would be difficult to say if any doesn’t belong.