After catching a rare break with his surprisingly successful appeal of a four-game suspension for allegedly testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, Seahawks second-year CB Richard Sherman isn’t about to complain over not being selected to one of the Pro Bowl squads that were officially unveiled the day after Christmas.
But the way the leaguewide observers that Pro Football Weekly polled see it, Sherman was by far the most wrongful omission by the Pro Bowl voters this year.
“I mean, the guy’s been playing out of his head!” one Seahawks daily observer said of Sherman, whose prolonged appeal process was cited as the most likely reason he lost out in the balloting to the likes of Bears CB Tim Jennings, who started off red-hot but has been battling injuries recently, and Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson, who has an impressive seven interceptions but got absolutely torched on a national stage by 49ers WR Michael Crabtree in Arizona’s humbling 24-3 loss to San Francisco in Week Eight and then again in Week 17.
“Not only is Sherman (the league leader) in passes defensed and among the league leaders in interceptions (eight), he’s making really big plays on a regular basis for a Seattle defense that has allowed the fewest points in the league,” the Seahawks observer said.
A host of other players in addition to Sherman will be sprawled out on their living-room couches on Jan. 27, no doubt grimacing at the sight of undeserving players in Honolulu such as Packers C Jeff Saturday, who was recently benched in favor of former undrafted rookie Evan Dietrich-Smith, Patriots OG Logan Mankins, a Pro Bowl starter despite missing six games with injuries, and the three Chiefs defenders (SS Eric Berry, OLB Tamba Hali and ILB Derrick Johnson) representing a unit ranked in the bottom quarter of the league in both points allowed and rushing yards allowed.
What follows are nine other players who received particularly raw deals, according to PFW’s discerning board of Pro Bowl analysts:
2. Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas Beaten out by starters A.J. Green (Bengals) and Andre Johnson (Texans) and reserves Reggie Wayne (Colts) and Wes Welker (Patriots) — Picking up where he left off last season in a breakout playoff performance in the upset victory over the Steelers, Thomas has developed into the primary aerial weapon for Peyton Manning. While Welker has more catches than Thomas (118-94), Thomas has more receiving yards (1,435-1,354), touchdowns (10-6) and yards per catch (15.3-11.5).
3. Steelers ILB Lawrence Timmons Beaten out by starter Jerod Mayo (Patriots) and reserve Derrick Johnson (Chiefs) — That nobody was selected from the league’s top-ranked defense is a crime. At the very least, Timmons, whose interception in overtime was a huge play in Pittsburgh’s Week 10 win over the Chiefs, should have made the squad. “He’s been outstanding,” one pollster said.
4. Vikings C John Sullivan — Beaten out by starter Max Unger (Seahawks) and reserve Jeff Saturday (Packers) — While Unger is actually a very deserving starter, Saturday’s selection is perhaps more inexcusable than Sherman’s omission. “It’s a classic case of a guy making the team purely on reputation,” said one Packers source who has watched Saturday struggle mightily all season, especially vs. the run. Sullivan, meanwhile, has been doing an unsung job all season clearing paths for league MVP candidate Adrian Peterson. “Sullivan over Saturday is a no-brainer,” one Vikings source said. “He and rookie (OLT) Matt Kalil have been terrific all season.”
5. Cowboys WR Dez Bryant Beaten out by starters Calvin Johnson (Lions) and Brandon Marshall (Bears) and reserves Julio Jones (Falcons) and Victor Cruz (Giants) — The hottest receiver in league (10 TDs in his last eight games) despite a broken finger, Bryant has zooomed past Jones and Cruz in the NFC receiving rankings and definitely deserved a Pro Bowl berth.
6. Dolphins C Mike Pouncey Beaten out by starter Maurkice Pouncey (Steelers) and reserve Chris Myers (Houston) — Oh, brother! While Mike Pouncey has been cited by numerous media outlets this season as the top center in the league, his brother, Maurkice, was named the AFC’s starter, even though he hasn’t started every game at center for the Steelers this season. Mike Pouncey has wasted no time establishing a strong connection with rookie QB Ryan Tannehill and was a key in RB Reggie Bush’s quest for a second straight 1,000-yard campaign.
7. Colts QB Andrew Luck Beaten out by starter Peyton Manning (Broncos) and backups Tom Brady (Patriots) and Matt Schaub (Texans) — While Manning and Brady have proven to be perennial locks, PFW’s poll believes Luck, who has engineered a record-tying seven fourth-quarter game-winning drives, should be the AFC’s No. 3 QB over Schaub. “He’s been as good as advertised and then some,” one daily Colts observer said of the league’s first overall draft pick. “He’s been putting a young team on his back week in and week out, and he’s been doing it behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league. He’s had too many interceptions, but he drives the ball downfield more than any QB in the league.”
8. Panthers DE Greg Hardy Beaten out by starters Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants) and Julius Peppers (Bears) and Jared Allen (Vikings) — Probably the most under-the-radar player on our list, Hardy can’t hold a candle to Peppers, who has come on strong down the stretch. But a strong case can be made for Hardy over both Paul and Allen. “He has been a beast,” one pollster said of Hardy. “He has 11 sacks, and they have not been cheap ones.”
9. Bears OLB Lance Briggs Beaten out by starters Aldon Smith (49ers) and DeMarcus Ware (Cowboys) and reserve Clay Matthews (Packers) — Briggs is a victim of circumstances at a position overflowing with highly productive 3-4 pass rushers. But while Matthews has been playing as well as ever when healthy, he did miss four games with a hamstring injury, and Smith is still a work in progress defending the run and in coverage. “Briggs has had a better season than he did last season,” one close Bears watcher said of a player left off the Pro Bowl team for the first time in seven years.
10. Chargers FS Eric Weddle Beaten out by starter Ed Reed (Ravens) — Reed is a great player, but there were some pollsters who thought he might not have even been the best free safety in the AFC North let alone the AFC. Weddle, meanwhile, is “year after year one of the best safeties in the NFL with his playmaking and ball-hawking ability (three interceptions, nine passes defensed, two forced fumbles),” according to one AFC West evaluator.