The NFL decided that 9 p.m. EST on the Friday night between Christmas and New Year's Eve was the ideal time to announce the Pro Bowl rosters. And that was not their most egregious mistake in terms of football's all-star teams.
The rosters were picked differently this season, with (supposedly the best) 86 players chosen — 45 from the AFC, and 41 from NFC teams, which is interesting because the NFC clearly has been the superior conference to date. The Super Bowl might be in New York this season, but neither the Jets nor Giants have a single representative currently on the rosters.
Pro Bowl voters are made up of fans, players and coaches, and the new format was supposed to ramp up fan interest and eliminate widespread debate, but that's not really the case, it appears.
There were several deserving players left off the Pro Bowl rosters, and a few more who were named that probably didn't deserve to make the teams — at least not initially.
Here are the more surprising snubs:
Alshon Jeffery: The Chicago Bears wide receiver was on par with his running mate, Brandon Marshall, this season, and Jeffery might have been the more explosive player down the stretch. Marshall made it; Jeffery did not. That's a crime. Wide receiver is a loaded position, and there are going to be some unfortunate omissions. But Jeffery should have made it over Dez Bryant, who is an explosive young player but one who has been a little inconsistent.
Jordy Nelson: Not sure who Nelson should replace, but maybe they should just create a spot for him. Any receiver who can total nearly 1,200 yards and make weekly highlight grabs along the sideline with four different starting quarterbacks — including Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn for nearly half the season — deserves a spot on this squad.
Lavonte David: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker put himself behind the 8-ball this season with a disastrous moment in Week 1, when he committed a late-foul penalty in the final minutes against New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith that set the Bucs' season on the wrong track. But prior to that point, and ever since, David has been an absolute beast. He's one of the best cover linebackers out there, and his seek-and-flow instincts are top notch. The Arizona Cardinals' John Abraham has been a revelation, but David has had the better all-around season. This one is frankly a shocker.
Evan Mathis: Embarrassing disclosure here, but I am not breaking down interior offensive line tape during my free time on weekends. But I also can tell you this much: For the past few years, there hasn't been a more athletic and effective guard in football than the Philadelphia Eagles' Mathis. Go watch any LeSean McCoy highlight from this season, and there's a good chance that Mathis is leading the way. The New Orleans Saints' Jahri Evans and the San Francisco 49ers' Mike Iupati, both quite fine players, were reputation picks nonetheless. Both have missed multiple games this season, and Evans (run blocking) and Iupati (pass blocking) have had visible weaknesses in their games this season.
Derrick Johnson: I promise I am not piling on the 49ers here, but Patrick Willis has not had a Pro Bowl-caliber season, at least not stacked up next to Johnson. Yes, the Kansas City Chiefs' inside linebacker is a victim of his position, which is loaded, and eight of his teammates will be going to Hawaii, too. But Johnson deserves to, as one of the leaders on a top-5 defense this season. And it's not just Willis that Johnson has been better than; the Cincinnati Bengals' Vontaze Burfict has had a very nice season and will be in the league 10 more years, but Johnson is at a higher level.
Calais Campbell: The defensive picks were heavy on 3-4 outside linebackers and light on 3-4 defensive ends. Sometimes, they are the unsung heroes on defenses — although J.J. Watt is not, and Campbell shouldn't be either. He is the biggest different maker for the Arizona Cardinals' top-10 defense, one which is generated with its incredible pocket-collapsing force up front. I am not sure who should be left off for Campbell to replace, but the guy deserves to be on there after having a tremendous season that included a scary neck injury, which he recovered from to play four days later. Amazing.
Jurrell Casey: The Tennessee Titans have a star in Casey, who quietly destroyed almost everything in his path this season. Despite seeing blocking schemes slanted in his direction frequently, Casey lived in opponents' backfields this season as one of 2013's most improved players league-wide. Apparently, many people did not take proper notice. The defensive tackle pool is pretty stocked, but I have him ahead of Dontari Poe, whose play leveled off a bit after a strong start.
- - - - - - -