Falcons fans certainly weren’t expecting large numbers of their favorite team to be named to the Pro Bowl, but to be completely shut out was pretty shocking to say the least. Tony Gonzalez and Curtis Lofton being shunned were two of the more intriguing decisions, with #88 being the absolute most surprising. All-Star balloting and voting for every sport is always a guessing game and will most certainly have some controversy about being a popularity contest, but the NFL’s all-star choices are either absolute undeniable picks or are playoff teams. Not to say that the best teams shouldn’t have the most players going, but 81% of the NFC’s roster is filled with players from playoff teams this year and most of them deserve it, but basing it on pure numbers and stats tells a different story. A look at some of the question marks in the NFC:
Vernon Davis (In) – 72 Recs, 876 Yards, 12 TDs
Jason Witten (In) – 88 Recs, 954 Yards, 1 TD
Tony Gonzalez (Out) – 80 Recs, 837 Yards, 6 TDs
Brent Celek (Out) – 69 Recs, 875 Yards, 8 TDs
By the numbers, Davis would be an obvious lock with a whopping 12 TDs and a breakout year, but Witten is a pretty interesting pick. Davis had less yards then Witten, but he had twelve touchdowns. Witten did have the most receptions and the most yards in the NFC, but he had one touchdown….ONE. So the barometer for Vernon Davis getting in was OK for him to have less yards and MUCH less receptions, but the TDs put him in. Witten’s one TD was way overlooked with his receptions and yards. Brent Celek also has a case with same amount of yards as Davis and 8 times the touchdowns.
Patrick Willis (In) – 147 Combined Tackles, 109 Solo, 4 Sacks, 10 PDef, 3 Ints
Jon Beason (Out) – 134 Combined Tackles, 105 Solo, 3 Sacks, 10 PDef, 3 Ints
London Fletcher (Out) – 134 Combined Tackles, 89 Solo, 2 Sacks, 7 PDef, 1 Int
Curtis Lofton (Out) – 129 Combined Tackles. 103 Solo, 0 Sacks, 0 PDef, 0 Int
Jonthan Vilma (In) – 110 Combined Tackles, 87 Solo, 2 Sacks, 11 PDef, 3 Int
Granted, Curtis Lofton’s stats alone don’t warrant a trip to the Pro-Bowl, but many players got the corkscrew on this one. Patrick Willis is the best MLB in the game and is beyond a doubt a lock for Miami. Jonathan Vilma’s stats are most inferior to Jon Beason of Carolina. Beason has higher stats in every category except 1 pass defense. Vilma ranks 7th in the NFC in tackles at his position and 16th in the NFL. This one is really hard to understand.
Miles Austin (In) – 74 Recs, 1,230 Yards, 11 TDs
Sidney Rice (In) – 77 Recs, 1,200 Yards, 6 TDs
Steve Smith (Out) – 97 Recs, 1,163 Yards, 7 TDs
DeSean Jackson (In) – 60 Recs, 1,120 Yards, 9 TDs
Roddy White (Out) – 79 Recs, 1,087 Yards, 10 TDs
Greg Jennings (Out) – 65 Recs, 1,084 Yards, 4 TDs
Larry Fitzgerald (In) – 94 Recs, 1,075 Yards, 12 TDs
Miles Austin obviously is a lock after a huge breakout year. Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best in the biz and his 12 TDs tops the NFC and Desean Jackson has been arguably the most electric player in the NFL and did miss a week. Sidney Rice was second in the NFC in yards, but only had 6 TDs compared to almost double digits by the others. Roddy White had almost 20 more receptions than Desean Jackson, more yards than Larry Fitzgerald, and almost double the TDs that Sidney Rice had. The picks are understandable to an extent, but Roddy White has a case.
Not to say that most all the players don’t deserve their ticket to Miami, but many other players on other teams got jobbed as well. The Bengals, for instance, won their division and are 10-5 and didn’t get one single Pro Bowl vote. The Falcons and the Bengals are the only two teams above .500 that didn’t get one selection. The other four teams that didn’t get a selection: Chiefs, Bucs, Seahawks, and Lions. Most fans may not want the NFL to mandate a selection from each team, but the parameters for the Pro Bowl selection should at least be made much more clear and fair.
Long suffering and new Falcons fans alike all know what’s at stake on Sunday: the curse of never having back-to-back winning seasons in their franchise. The Birds couldn’t have made their fans any more anxious by having to wait until the very last game to do so. Even though the current players, coaches, and staff don’t have any ties to the “curse”, they do know how important it is to many fans. (Check out DOL’s new pre-game post)Normally, this game wouldn’t have seemed so large back when the Bucs were winless in the beginning of the season, but after having great play from many rookies, beating the NFC’s #1 seed at home, and beating the Falcons for 59 minutes and 30 some odd seconds in round one in the Georgia Dome, this one is a really nerve-racking game for many fans. One of the biggest non-playoff games the Falcons have played in a long, long time.