No one expected Wayne to make another Pro Bowl at age 34 behind a rookie quarterback after such a down season last year. The storyline that Welker was being phased out of the New England Patriots' offense seems like lifetimes ago and amounted to nonsense. Demaryius Thomas was left off the list, but this is a hard group to bicker over.
The game's best tackles do it year after year, and that's Thomas. He has been a rock on some highly uneven Cleveland Browns teams. Brown's fine work in the Houston Texans' zone-blocking scheme is worthy of a Pro Bowl nod, and Clady was outstanding protecting the Denver Broncos' royal treasure, Peyton Manning. Jake Long fell off this list after a down year.
I'd argue more Patriots linemen should have made the team. Mankins is part of a group running 90-plus plays per game in New England. They're asked to do more than most of their peers. Yanda, meanwhile, rebounded from offseason surgery to grade out as ProFootballFocus.com's No. 2 guard in the league.
I'm reminded of Sunday's Pittsburgh Steelers-Cincinnati Bengals game, when Pouncey painfully went down in a pile -- it looked treacherous -- but was back on the next play. He's one of the toughest centers -- honestly, players -- in football and deserving of the Pro Bowl. Who can argue with Myers? He's the glue that keeps Houston's line together.
Gronk has battled injuries this season, but there's nobody doing what he does from the position. The Patriots can use him in so many ways, and he's an underrated blocker. When Miller tore his knee up against the Bengals on Sunday, one teammate after the other huddled around him. He's the heart of the Steelers' locker room. He won't play in the Pro Bowl, but he's a very worthy selection. If this list went three-deep, I'd argue Owen Daniels would be a fitting choice.
Manning's season is a work of art. We take him for granted, but what he has accomplished after questions if he'd ever play again is stunning. Brady -- maybe not as athletic as he once was -- is fascinating to watch and continues to evolve. I have issues with Schaub here. He's not a guy who produces signature wins. Rosenthal and I are Big Ben apologists (on the field), and the Steelers star was on track for MVP consideration before the injuries set in.
If Watt doesn't win Defensive Player of the Year, something is wrong with our society. Watt has been as dominant a lineman as we've seen in some time and a multiple-tool player who lines up all over the place. Wake is a quarterback nightmare, and Dumervil -- teamed with Von Miller -- gives the Broncos so many options on defense. These guys arguably are the best position group on the AFC roster.
Atkins isn't a household name, but he will be if he keeps this up. He set a Bengals record for sacks by an interior lineman, and his speed is something to behold. He devastated Big Ben in Week 16. Wilfork keeps on chugging for the Patriots. Ngata is going to get Pro Bowl votes every year, and he's deserving, but we also liked Buffalo's Kyle Williams here.
Miller has become as disruptive as anyone from the outside. He's one of the game's great pass rushers and a joy to watch on Sundays. I'd argue Justin Houston deserves the nod. Mathis fully belongs here. Like Wayne, Mathis threatened to vanish off the radar on a transitioning Colts team but instead remains an anchor for a winner.
Cromartie is more than a placeholder for Darrelle Revis here. He put forth his best season yet and mostly kept his mouth shut in a combustible Jets locker room. Cro lined up against No. 1 wideouts week after week and won battles. Joseph is the anchor of Houston's secondary, and we saw how that team suffered when he was out of the lineup. Champ Bailey is Champ Bailey -- an ageless wonder.
A Chiefs punter? That I can get behind. Colquitt was asked to pin back defenses from all over the field. Dawson -- the only Browns player still remaining from the 1999 expansion team -- has been an absolute rock. He kicks in any type of weather, and his long-range accuracy has improved with age. The Ravens hit the mark by signing Jones during the offseason.
Notes: Question for you: How many of these picks would have been any different in August? Very predictable field. ... I want information and details on the Kansas City-based voter campaign that netted as many Chiefs as Broncos in this game. ... It would have been nice to see Andrew Luck added to the list. The Colts couldn't be happier with their rookie QB's play, and what he has done for that team is nothing short of special. ... I would have loved to see C.J. Spiller set free against a watered-down Pro Bowl defense. ... It'd be nice if we could vote for coaches the next time around.