Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My 2008 Pro Bowl Ballot: AFC Offense

We've passed the halfway mark of the 2008 regular season and the Pro Bowl voting has been going on for some time. With those lazy Dolphins not having made a transaction this week (and it's already Tuesday!) I felt this was as good a time as any to give you my current 2008 Pro Bowl ballot.

I'm sure things will change by season's end and I'll have a sort of all-2008 team at the end of the year, but for now here's how I feel the Pro Bowl squads should be at the moment. I'll have four separate articles for this, as i feel they could get a bit long. This one is for the AFC Offense.

Quarterbacks

Earning Votes: Philip Rivers (Chargers), Brett Favre (Jets), Jay Cutler (Broncos)
Just Missed It: Chad Pennington (Dolphins)

The talented Chargers are vastly underachieving, but it's certainly by no fault of Rivers, who leads the AFC in passer rating at 100.9 and touchdowns with 21.

Meanwhile, Favre and Cutler have certainly had their share of shaky outings, but they've also had some of the best passing performances this season and are among the NFL's elite passers.

Even though I didn't vote for him, there's a strong argument for the inclusion of someone like Pennington, who may not have the touchdown numbers but has played mistake-free football most of the season and has been the catalyst in Miami's turnaround.

Running backs

Earning Votes: Thomas Jones (Jets), Chris Johnson (Titans), Steve Slaton (Texans)
Just Missed It: Ronnie Brown (Dolphins)

He is by no means the sexiest name when you think of the league's top running backs (you probably don't think of him at all, actually) but Jones is leading the AFC with 854 rushing yards and is second in touchdowns with nine - alright eight more than he had all of last season.

Meanwhile, rookies Johnson and Slaton have both been very impressive, currently ranking second and third, respectively in the conference in rushing.

For the second straight position, a Dolphins play just missed out on getting my vote. Brown's had a fine year and is a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but he's had too many unproductive games this year (due to offensive line woes) and you can only put so much stock in his nine touchdowns, many of which have been on goal-line carries.

Fullbacks

Earning Votes: Le'Ron McClain (Ravens)
Just Missed It: Ahmard Hall (Titans)

McClain's been a beast for Baltimore this season, showing skills as a lead blocker, a goal-line back and even as a receiver. In all honesty, he could probably be a productive feature back on a good team.

An undrafted free agent in 2006, Hall has helped Chris Johnson and LenDale White produce one of the top rushing games in the NFL.

Wide receivers

Earning Votes: Andre Johnson (Texans), Brandon Marshall (Broncos), Lee Evans (Bills), Reggie Wayne (Colts)
Just Missed It: T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Bengals)

Never getting the attention he deserves, Johnson is third in the AFC in receptions and has over 150 yards more than any other receiver in the conference. The man directly behind him is Marshall, who has established himself as Jay Cutler's most reliable target.

Evans earns a vote for one stat in particular: 18.9 yards per reception - by far higher than anyone else in the conference that has a significant amount of catches. Meanwhile, Wayne has been his usual self as he ranks third in the AFC in receiving and has as many touchdowns (5) as any of the conference's top 10 receivers.

I almost feel like I should vote for Houshmazilla simply because he's racked up good numbers (73 catches, 726 yards) with essentially no quarterback this year, but a poor, Welker-like 9.9-yard average is what bumped him off the list for me.

Tight ends

Earning Votes: Tony Gonzalez (Chiefs), Antonio Gates (Chargers)
Just Missed It: Owen Daniels (Texans)

Gonzalez continues to be a premier NFL tight end and leads the AFC at his position in catches (55) and yards (583). Meanwhile, Gates remains one of the league's best end-zone targets with a position-best six scores.

Daniels actually has more catches (45) and yards (555) than Gates, but has just two touchdowns to Gates' six.

Centers

Earning Votes: Kevin Mawae (Titans), Samson Satele (Dolphins)
Just Missed It: Nick Mangold (Jets)

Mawae has been one of the best at his position for a long time and leads an offense line for the conference's best team (and one of its best running games). Satele deserved a Pro Bowl nod as a rookie and is definitely getting some love from me here.

Guards

Earning Votes: Alan Faneca (Jets), Logan Mankins (Patriots), Justin Smiley (Dolphins)
Just Missed It: Derrick Dockery (Bills)

One of the most prized free agents of the offseason, Faneca has been as advertised for the Jets and has helped the team created a productive all-around offense. Mankins has been a rock for the Patriots since they drafted him, while Smiley as a great pickup for Miami in the offeason.

Tackles

Earning Votes: Michael Roos (Titans), David Stewart (Titans), Ryan Clady (Broncos)
Just Missed It: Joe Thomas (Browns)

Six. That's how many sacks the Titans have allowed all season, which is why both their starting tackles get Pro Bowl nods from me. Meanwhile, rookie Ryan Clady has been stellar for the Broncos (sorry Dolphins fans, but Jake Long hasn't even been close yet) and still has yet to allow a sack in his NFL career.