Voting for Pro Bowl still a popularity contest

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It has always been said that voting for the Pro Bowl, like many other All-Star games, is a popularity contest. The popular athletes get to go, while the deserving players rarely do.

Such is the case with the Pro Bowl rosters announced on Wednesday. For example, anyone who says Earl Thomas is the only player on the Seahawks defense that deserved to go to the Pro Bowl obviously hasn't watched them play. At least two members of their defensive line - defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant - should have been selected. Bryant is essentially a defensive tackle playing defensive end, but he is one of the most dominant d-linemen in football - just ask the 49ers after he blocked that field goal on Sunday night. And Clemons has 11.5 sacks this season, which is more than the Giants Jason Pierre-Paul, who got selected ahead of him.

There are several other members of the NFC team that should have gone. Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly gets the Ray Lewis award from me for being a rookie who leads the league in tackles but doesn't get a Pro Bowl berth because he plays on a losing team. Dez Bryant has had a dominant season with 88 catches, 1,311 yards and 12 TDs, but his reputation may have cost him a spot. An Alfred Morris of the Redskins is probably a victim, and beneficiary, of previous running backs who have rushed for 1,000 yards in Mike Shanahan's offense.

Add in the Giants' Stevie Brown with eight INTs, and Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington with 123 tackles and nine sacks, and the NFC was loaded with talented snubs.

As for the AFC, the Pro Bowl roster went pretty much as expected, though two players stood out for me. The Patriots' Stevan Ridley has more rushing yards and touchdowns than the Ravens' Ray Rice, and Raiders tight end Brandon Myers leads all AFC tight ends with 75 catches, but as is the case with both Myers and Ridley, they lost out to more popular players.

In the end, I've always believed in statistical leaders being selected to the Pro Bowl to make the selection process fair. If you lead a certain statistical category, such as receptions, interceptions or sacks, you should get an automatic spot on the team regardless of your popularity. This would eliminate all snubs, but then again, the Pro Bowl is supposedly for the fans, so they will only watch if they can see their favorite players

Week 17 Picks

Sunday's games Tampa Bay at Atlanta 2 p.m. FOX

Even if the Falcons were resting their starters, and they aren't, I would still pick them over the struggling Bucs.

Pick: Falcons

N.Y. Jets at Buffalo 2 p.m. CBS

This sideshow of a season finally comes to an end for the Jets at frigid Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Pick: Bills

Jacksonville at Tennessee 2 p.m. CBS

The Jags may actually get the No. 1 pick in the draft, so does anyone really think they're gonna play hard in this game?

Pick: Titans

Cleveland at Pittsburgh 2 p.m. CBS

The Steelers are banged up, but the Browns may start their third-string QB because of injuries.

Pick: Steelers

Baltimore at Cincinnati 2 p.m. CBS

Neither of these teams will take this game off despite there being nothing at stake. Look for Joe Flacco to once again torment a now banged up Bengals secondary.

Pick: Ravens

Chicago at Detroit 2 p.m. FOX

The Bears will face a challenge from the rival Lions, but playoff desperation should give the Bears the will to win.

Pick: Bears

Houston at Indianapolis 2 p.m. CBS

This game should be closer than the 29-17 win by the Texans two weeks ago, but the result should be the same with the Texans needing a win for the top seed in the AFC playoffs.

Pick: Texans

Carolina at New Orleans 2 p.m. FOX

The Saints will look to end this tumultuous season on a good note against the struggling Panthers.

Pick: Saints

Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants 2 p.m. FOX

With Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy back in the lineup for Philly, this game should be interesting. However, the Giants should rebound from their recent struggles, albeit too late.

Pick: Giants

Green Bay at Minnesota 5:25 p.m. FOX

All eyes will be on Adrian Peterson and his chase for 2,000 yards, but the Vikings are playing much better overall football than many people are aware of.

Pick: Vikings

Miami at New England 5:25 p.m. CBS

The Pats, like the Texans and Broncos, are still alive for the top seed in the AFC, so they will play like it.

Pick: Patriots

Oakland at San Diego 5:25 p.m. CBS

With Carson Palmer sidelined, the Chargers should win this game by default.

Pick: Chargers

Kansas City at Denver 5:25 p.m. CBS


Pick: Broncos

Arizona at San Francisco 5:25 p.m. FOX

Colin Kaepernick needs a big performance in this game to build his confidence heading into the playoffs.

Pick: 49ers

St. Louis at Seattle 5:25 p.m. FOX

The Seahawks struggled in the first matchup between these teams, but that was in St. Louis. This game is in Seattle.

Pick: Seahawks

Dallas at Washington 9:20 p.m. NBC

Robert Griffin III's mobility will be tested in this game, and so will the Redskins secondary. So long as the Cowboys don't give up another 28-point quarter, like in their Thanksgiving Day game, they should pull out a close win.

Pick: Cowboys

- Last Week: 11-5; Overall record: 130-81-1

- Kemp Callwood is The V.I. Daily News sports editor. His column appears weekly throughout the NFL season.

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