Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are locks to fill two of the NFC's three quarterback slots on this year's Pro Bowl team, which will be announced Tuesday on NFL Network and NFL.com at 7 p.m. ET. There are several worthy quarterbacks for the third spot, including Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Alex Smith and Cam Newton. Which player gets your vote?
I have to go Stafford. He has put this team on his back, with a defense that has been erratic and without a running game.
Sure he has some weapons, but to get this team in the playoffs and to be this prolific in his first season as a healthy, full-time starter, is Pro Bowl-worthy.
I'd go Newton fourth here, honestly, for having the best rookie season of any quarterback, ever. Smith is given a very limited role with few progressions, and his offense has been poor in the red zone. Simply not throwing picks isn't enough.
Manning is very worthy as well, and has had a terrific bounce-back season, but I defer to the youngsters in this instance.
Stafford wouldn't have been on my ballot if the vote were taken at the midway point of the season, but he's my choice behind Brees and Rodgers now for what he's accomplished in the last eight games. Since a Week 7 home loss to Atlanta, Stafford has thrown for 2,596 yards (324.5 per game) with 20 touchdowns. Manning would be my second choice with his fourth-quarter production this year.
This is a real tough debate, and you can't overlook Atlanta's Matt Ryan, who is playing lights out.
That said, I'd have to go with Stafford. Romo and Manning have had strong seasons and Newton has planted a seed that has a lot of opponents scared of what's to come. Stafford, though, has answered The Question.
We all wondered how good Detroit could be if he were healthy and we found out. He has guided an offense that has had a sporadic ground game and done a masterful job of feeding a variety of targets and willing the team to wins at times.
Nine games with a passer rating above 100 (he's consistent). Headed to the playoffs (he's a winner). Threw 36 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions (he's efficient). More than 4,000 passing yards (he's high-powered). Heard enough yet? So how exactly do you create an argument against giving the NFC's third Pro Bowl spot to Stafford? I love what Newton is doing, and I appreciate (at times) how Manning has gotten into his rhythm this season. But given the entire body of work, I'm going with Stafford. All the way.
It's a tough call on the final spot in the NFC because there are several quarterbacks worthy of all-star recognition. Smith, Stafford and Manning have put up numbers while leading their respective teams to surprising turnarounds, but I would put my support behind Newton for his sensational rookie season.
What he has done as a first-year starter is remarkable considering he didn't get a full offseason of work with the Panthers coaching staff. He surpassed Peyton Manning's rookie passing record and shattered Steve Grogan's record for rushing touchdowns. Both are significant marks, which reflect how well he has played as a rookie.
While there has been a lot of attention placed on his won-loss record, there is no way the Panthers are relevant nor competitive without him and that is why he is worthy of recognition. I know the competition for the final spot is tough, but it would be hard to overlook Newton for his remarkable play.