Made it: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos/Tom Brady, New England Patriots/Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
Should have made it: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
No argument against Manning and Brady here -- they're among the best in statistics both traditional and sabermetric. But it's a bit tougher to argue convincingly for Schaub, who threw for more than 300 yards in just one game this season --and that was a 55-pass outlier against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The week before that, Schaub threw for just 95 yards and two picks against the Chicago Bears. The AFC isn't filled with top-level quarterbacks, but Roethlisberger has been more consistently productive in an offense that, by some accounts, he isn't entirely comfortable with. We're splitting hairs a bit, though -- among the position groups in either conference, this might be the least controversial.
Made it: Arian Foster, Houston Texans/Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs/Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
Should have made it: C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
We like Foster, Rice is one of our favorite backs in the NFL, and few could argue against Charles making this team after coming back from injury and playing very well on perhaps the worst team in football. But if Bills head coach Chan Gailey understood the value of his most powerful offensive weapon, Spiller would have put up numbers making him a lead-pipe lock for this group. Spiller ranks first overall in Football Outsiders' per-play metrics, and second behind Adrian Peterson in cumulative stats. He averages 6.5 yards per carry this season -- only RG3 has a higher per-carry mark among qualifying NFL rushers -- and that's a half-yard better than Peterson per carry. Spiller has 50 first downs, 12 runs of 20 yards or more, and just one fumble on 183 carries, and that's a Pro Bowler as far as we're concerned.
Made it: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals/Andre Johnson, Houston Texans/Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts/Wes Welker, New England Patriots
Should have made it: Either Eric Decker or Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
Well, this is a tough one. Green may someday be the best receiver in the NFL, and Johnson is certainly the second-best receiver named "Johnson" in the NFL. Reggie Wayne has enjoyed a monster comeback season with Andrew Luck as his quarterback in Bruce Arians' offense -- in fact, as versatile as he's been, we'd argue for Wayne as the starter. Welker has been very productive as always. But from a per-play perspective, there's no duo like Decker and Thomas, who have thrived with Peyton Manning as few other twosomes we've seen in a good long time. We'd especially have to find a place for Decker, who has combined 11 touchdowns with no fumbles.
Made it: Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots/Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers
Should have made it: Brandon Myers, Oakland Raiders/Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts
This is where it gets tricky. There's no doubt whatsoever that Gronk is the best tight end in the league when he's healthy, but he hasn't been on the field since he suffered a forearm injury in mid-November. Better, in our opinion, to make Miller the first-team guy, and move either Myers (who has been very productive despite the Raiders' horror show at quarterback) or Allen (without a doubt, the league's most versatile tight end) in Gronk's place.
Made it: Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns/Ryan Clady, Denver Broncos/Duane Brown, Houston Texans
Should have made it: Andrew Whitworth and/or Andre Smith, Cincinnati Bengals
Actually, we have no problem with any of the three tackles named, though we'd probably put Brown as the starter -- he's probably been the NFL's best left tackle this season. But there has got to be a way to get Whitworth on there as better than an alternate -- per Pro Football Focus' blocking numbers, he's allowed no quarterback hits and just 11 pressures on 569 passing plays, and only Thomas has a higher Pass Blocking Efficiency metric. Smith, who looked to be a bust to start his NFL career, has been among the best run blockers in the league this season.
Made it: Logan Mankins, New England Patriots/Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens/Wade Smith, Houston Texas
Should have made it: Andy Levitre, Buffalo Bills/Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati Bengals
We hate to say it, but Mankins is a bit of a name pick -- when you've allowed 15 pressures on just 390 pass plays as he has (per PFF), that's not exactly great. He's been a key cog in the Patriots' improved rushing offense, but we'd take the underrated Levitre for his pass-blocking, and most certainly the rookie Zeitler for his leverage and power, over Mankins at this point in time. Same thing with Smith -- really good player, but Levitre and Zeitler pass the eye test a bit better.
Made it: Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh Steelers/Chris Myers, Houston Texans
Should have made it: Mike Pouncey, Miami Dolphins
Maurkice's brother may have been the NFL's best center through the 2012 NFL season, so this one is tough to explain.
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