With just two weeks left in the NFL season, the league announced its Pro Bowl rosters on Tuesday night. Are you ready to celebrate your team’s selections and get mad about the inevitable snubs? Are you ready to not watch the Pro Bowl game when it happens in January? So are we. Here are 10 takeaways from the rosters:
1. The Chargers Are Stacked
The other 11–3 football team in Los Angeles leads the league in Pro Bowl selections, with seven total. They’re split fairly evenly, too, with four on offense (quarterback Philip Rivers, wide receiver Keenan Allen, running back Melvin Gordon, and center Mike Pouncey), two on defense (defensive end Melvin Ingram and safety Derwin James), and one special-teamer (Adrian Phillips).
The Chargers are one Chiefs loss away from being the no. 1 seed in the AFC, which would guarantee themselves home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. This team is packed with talent and could legitimately contend for the Super Bowl. It’s just too bad that no one in L.A. seems to care.
2. Chris Jones Was Robbed
Complaining about Pro Bowl snubs is tired. The voting process is basically broken, and some omissions are inevitable. But I can’t let this one go: Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones has 14.0 sacks this season, the fifth most in the NFL, and has recorded at least one sack in 10 straight games. He’s also seventh in QB hits and is tied for fourth in tackles for a loss. There are plenty of other snubs on this list, including two of the best offensive tackles in the league (we’ll get to them), Pittsburgh linebacker T.J. Watt, Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans, and many others. But even in a sea of misfires, Jones’s omission seems notable.
3. The Pro Bowl Has No Idea Which Offensive Linemen to Select
Last season, Eagles center Jason Kelce was arguably the best center in the NFL and helped lead a dominant Philly offensive line to the Super Bowl. He was integral to the Eagles offense, pulling out into space to set blocks, and earned Pro Football Focus’s highest blocking grade among all offensive linemen. Kelce earned a first-team All-Pro nod, but was somehow snubbed from the Pro Bowl.
This year, Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari missed the Pro Bowl despite being the best left tackle in all of football. And Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz missed as well. It can be tough to get a sense of how offensive linemen play, but here’s a snapshot: Pro Football Focus ranks Schwartz fourth among all offensive lineman, while Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher, who made it this year, ranks 53rd. These two play on the same offensive line — it’s clear who is better.
This isn’t even a case of guys losing out because they play for smaller markets or obscure teams. These are players for the Packers, Chiefs, and Eagles! The Pro Bowl simply isn’t equipped to evaluate offensive linemen.
But speaking of Fisher …
4. Drinks Are on Eric Fisher Tonight
Eric Fisher's 2019 base salary increases by $500,000 to $10.35M with his Pro Bowl selection.— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) December 19, 2018
5. We Just Got a Hint at the Defensive Rookie of the Year Race
This is a defensive rookie class for the ages. Safety Derwin James is leading the Chargers defense, Colts linebacker Darius Leonard leads the league in tackles, Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is anchoring a resurgent Dallas defense, Broncos defensive end Bradley Chubb has 12.0 sacks, and Browns corner Denzel Ward has picked off three passes and recovered two fumbles. But over the past few weeks, the race for DROY has narrowed to James and Leonard, with oddsmakers giving James minus-200 odds and Leonard plus-170. Well, James just made the Pro Bowl and Leonard didn’t. The AP picks the rookie of the year awards, so it’s not like this overlaps entirely with the Pro Bowl, but James was already the favorite and got a big nod in his direction. Plus, the Chargers are set to make the playoffs and the Colts may miss it.
As for Leonard, you could call this a snub:
Terrible, terrible snub to leave Darius Leonard out of the pro bowl.— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) December 19, 2018
In 13 games (missed 1 game):
Tackles: 146 (leading the league)
Sacks: 7.0 (leads ILBs)
Pass defenses: 6 (tied for 3rd among ILBs)
Forced Fumbles: 4 (leads ILB) https://t.co/yflNb60SY7
6. The Most Obvious Legacy Pick: Aaron Rodgers
The Pro Bowl always has some questionable selections, the result of a voting process that includes input from fans, coaches, and players and inexplicably takes place well before the season has ended. Some fan favorites or widely respected veterans always sneak in, even when they’re having down seasons. And this year the most eye-raising selection belongs to Rodgers.
He has not played like one of the league’s best quarterbacks this season. He ranks 11th in adjusted net yards per attempt, 14th in passer rating, and 20th in QBR. He’s thrown only 23 touchdowns, netting a score on just 4.3 percent of his pass attempts, which ranks 21st in the league and would be his lowest mark since he took over as Green Bay’s starter in 2008. He’s given us some great moments this season, from his Week 1 comeback over the Bears to his Week 6 decimation of the 49ers, but he’s also missed open passes and increasingly looked washed.
Rodgers could return to form next season with a new coach and a clean bill of health. But in 2018, he didn’t play at a Pro Bowl level.
7. The AFC Has Too Many Good Quarterbacks
The AFC features Patrick Mahomes II, Philip Rivers, Andrew Luck, and Tom Brady, and only three of them could make it. Luck ended up as the odd man out.
Of this group, Mahomes and Rivers are inarguable. Mahomes leads the league in passing yards and touchdowns, and is 10 touchdowns away from the single-season record of 55. He likely won’t get there, but this has been a historic season for him, and he’s the MVP frontrunner. Meanwhile, Rivers is having a career year — he’s second in the NFL in adjusted net yards per attempt and third in passer rating, and has thrown 31 touchdowns but just eight interceptions. He could be the MVP if Mahomes collapses down the stretch.
Out of Brady and Luck, it’s a toss-up. The two passers are nearly equal in yards (they’re separated by just 28), but while Luck has thrown for 10 more touchdowns, Brady is much higher in ANY/A (7.37 to 6.85) and has fewer interceptions (nine to 13). Luck will likely just have to settle for Comeback Player of the Year.
8. Phillip Lindsay’s Season Is Historic
It was a surprise when an undrafted free agent took over Denver’s starting running back job after the Broncos used a third-round pick on Oregon running back Royce Freeman. But Lindsay has been money all year, picking up 1,221 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns while averaging 5.4 yards per carry on the ground. Now, Lindsay is the first-ever offensive UDFA to make a Pro Bowl as a rookie. Though his path to the Denver backfield wasn’t conventional, Lindsay could anchor the Broncos’ run game for a long time.
9. The NFC Running Back Field Was Too Crowded for Alvin Kamara
Kamara has racked up 1,487 scrimmage yards and 16 touchdowns, which rank sixth and second in the NFL, respectively. He averages 4.6 yards per carry. Yet the Pro Bowl running backs from the NFC are Todd Gurley, Saquon Barkley, and Ezekiel Elliott. Though only Gurley tops Kamara in touchdowns, those three players are the top three in the league in scrimmage yards, and they all have a higher yards-per-carry average than Kamara.
Kamara is a Pro Bowl–level talent; he’s just in a stacked conference.
10. And Just Remember: The Snubs Won’t Last
Every year, players decline their Pro Bowl invitations. Some players are in the Super Bowl, and therefore can’t go to an exhibition game as they prepare for a championship. Some just don’t want to go. That means the NFL will fill out the roster with alternates — and a player filling in as an alternate gets the regular Pro Bowl designation, same as anyone. So your favorite player who didn’t make it still has a chance.