James Harrison, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Troy Polamalu and Cameron Wake are expected to be among the top vote-getters for AP Defensive Player of the Year honors when the winner is announced on Monday.
For the first time, the entire slate of Associated Press' end-of-season NFL awards -- MVP, Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, and Coach of the Year -- will be unveiled on NFL Network during Super Bowl week from North Texas.
The ballots for each AP award were handed in at the conclusion of the regular season before the start of the playoffs. Vote for which player you think should receive the award.
James Harrison, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Harrison was an all-around force on Pittsburgh's vaunted second-ranked defense. For just the second time in his career, he tallied 100 total tackles, which included 10.5 sacks -- his third-straight year in double digits. Harrison also proved big in takeaways, coming up with two interceptions and forcing six fumbles, which was tied for second in the NFL.
Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay Packers
Matthews began the season with a fury, posting three sacks in each of the first two games, and never relented. Overall, the second-year pass rusher was fourth in the NFL with 13.5 sacks and had one interception -- that was returned 62 yards for a touchdown -- to lead a defense that finished fifth in yards allowed. He also forced two fumbles.
Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears
The Bears went out and spent big money in free agency to acquire Peppers last offseason, and the move paid off, as he was a key cog in Chicago finishing with a top-10 defense. Peppers proved to be versatile, coming up with eight sacks, a career-high nine passes defensed, and two interceptions. He also contributed three forced fumbles.
Troy Polamalu, SS, Pittsburgh Steelers
After missing 11 games in 2009, Polamalu was back to his old ways this season. He was vital to Pittsburgh's defense finishing No. 2 overall. In 14 games, Polamalu tied a career high with seven interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. He also had a sack and forced one fumble, which was critical to a Week 13 win over the Ravens.
Cameron Wake, OLB, Miami Dolphins
A two-time winner of the Canadian Football League's top defensive player award, Wake came into his own in just his second NFL season. He started all 16 games -- after starting just once in 2009 -- to turn into one of the league's top pass rushers. Wake finished third in the NFL with 14 sacks, posted three multi-sack performances and forced three fumbles.