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NFC Pro Bowl Snubs: The Defense

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Richard Sherman was the most glaring Pro Bowl snub (Getty Image)

Defensive Ends

Made it: Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants/Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears/Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings

Should have made it: Calais Campbell, Arizona Cardinals/John Abraham, Atlanta Falcons

The Cardinals have the NFL's third-ranked defense against the pass and rank 5th in "sacks per pass attempt". A big part of that is Campbell, who has 5.5 sacks, 11 hits on opposing quarterbacks and six passes defensed, which are impressive stats for a 3-4 defensive end. Atlanta has one of the league's least-effective pass rushes, but the 34-year-old Abraham has performed at a Pro Bowl level this season, recording 10 of the team's 29 sacks with a team-high 12 tackles for loss, 16 hits on opposing quarterbacks, five passes defensed and six forced fumbles.

Defensive Tackles

Made it: Justin Smith, San Francisco 49ers/Henry Melton, Chicago Bears/Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Should have made it: Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions

Smith was a slam dunk choice, especially when you consider what the 49ers defense has looked like without him, while McCoy has anchored the NFL's No. 1-ranked run defense. As much as we like Melton, did voters make up their minds a bit early? Melton had four of his six sacks by Oct. 1 and has just 1.5 sacks after the Bears' bye week, which came and went in Week 6. Meanwhile, Suh has had a bounce-back season, posting seven sacks, 16 tackles for loss, 31 hits on opposing quarterbacks (Melton has nine tackles for loss and eight quarterback hits) and has just one penalty (roughing the passer in Week 14) that would subject him to a fine from the league office. Suh's reputation may have been a factor.

Outside Linebackers

Made it: Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers/DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys/Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers

Should have made it: These guys.

It's impossible to argue against Smith, who leads the NFC with 19.5 sacks, and Ware as starting outside linebackers. Even at less than 100 percent, Ware has 11.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. Matthews has missed a quarter of the season and still has 12.5 sacks. Of course it's true that playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense will lead to more gaudy sack totals and Pro Bowl votes, so it would have been nice if the league broke it up a little bit and made sure that at least one outside linebacker from a 4-3 defense was represented. Two such players deserving of consideration are Chad Greenway, who has 145 tackles and three sacks for the Minnesota Vikings, and Lance Briggs, who does a little bit of everything for a Bears' defense that is already well-represented in Honolulu.

Inside Linebackers

Made it: Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers/NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco 49ers

Should have made it: These guys (but in reverse order)/London Fletcher, Washington Redskins/Daryl Washington, Arizona Cardinals

Bowman has a team-high 140 tackles, including 90 solo stops, with two sacks (Willis has a share of one sack) and six tackles for loss (Willis has four). The ageless Fletcher has 128 tackles and leads all NFL linebackers with five interceptions despite an ankle injury that has threatened an "Ironman" streak that currently sits at 239 consecutive games (and 198 consecutive starts). Washington has nine sacks from his inside linebacker position to along with one interception and four passes defensed, earning the four-year, $32 million extension he signed in September.

Cornerbacks

Made it:Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears/Tim Jennings, Chicago Bears/Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals

Should have made it: Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks

We won't argue with Tillman, who has 82 tackles, three interceptions, 10 forced fumbles and three total touchdowns - or Jennings, who has an NFL-high eight interceptions this season, but Sherman has arguably been the NFL's top cornerback throughout the 2012 season. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Sherman is tied for second in the NFL with seven interceptions and is tied for the league lead with 23 passes defensed. Based on the number of national media members who expressed shock that Sherman was not on the NFC Pro Bowl squad, it would be a major surprise if Sherman is not voted a first-team All-Pro next month.

Safeties

Made it: Dashon Goldson, Sean Francisco 49ers/Donte Whitner, San Francisco 49ers/Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks

Should have made it: Ronde Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The 49ers (No. 1) and Seahawks (No. 3) are in the Top 3 in passing yards allowed per play, so stocking the NFC Pro Bowl roster with three of the four starting safeties from those two teams is a good idea, as was naming Kam Chancellor, a 2011 Pro Bowler, a second alternate. We would have liked to have seen Barber make an appearance after the veteran picked off four passes and broke up 13 others in his first season at free safety. Barber would have liked it, too, as a source has confirmed that Barber's one-year, $3 million contract with the Buccaneers included a $1 million incentive if he were an "Original Ballot" Pro Bowl selection this season.

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