There were some not-so-surprising Pro Bowl selections for the Atlanta Falcons, and then there were some real headscratchers.
As expected, QB Matt Ryan, TE Tony Gonzalez and WR Julio Jones all got nods for the NFC Pro Bowl squad, with Gonzalez being the only starter of the three. WR Roddy White was also on the ballot, but was not named even though he has 11 more catches and 167 more yards than Jones.
The bigger surprise was the fact that not a single player from Atlanta’s defense made the cut, even though three premier impact players were on the ballot.
DE John Abraham–who has 10 sacks, six tackles for a loss, five passes defended and six forced fumbles this season–was overlooked in favor of Jason Pierre-Paul (N.Y. Giants), Julius Peppers (Chicago Bears), and Jared Allen (Minnesota Vikings). This is obviously one of the biggest snubs of the year, as Pierre-Paul only has 6.5 sacks and one forced fumble, Peppers comes in with 11.5 sacks and one forced fumble, and Allen 11 sacks and one forced fumble.
Abraham should have at least been named ahead of Pierre-Paul, and is arguably having a more impactful season than both Peppers and Allen.
The other two players from the Falcons’ defense who were on the ballot but not voted in were safeties William Moore and Thomas DeCoud.
Moore has four interceptions and eight passes defended to go along with two forced fumbles, while DeCoud has six interceptions and eight passes defended. Both Moore and DeCoud have played huge roles in the Falcons defensive resurgence this season, and have contributed at key times in victories.
In contrast, the free safeties who will be representing the NFC over DeCoud are Dashon Goldson (San Francisco 49ers), who has only three interception to go with 11 passes defended, and Earl Thomas (Seattle Seahawks) who also has three interceptions and 11 passes defended.
Strong safety Donte Whitner (San Francisco 49ers) was voted in over Moore, even though Whitner only has one interception and five passes defended.
It’s clear that the voting (as usual) was partial to certain markets, and that selections were made based on reputation – not only of individual players but also of complete team units. While the 49ers defense has been stellar as a unit for most of the season, it’s also clear that the two Niners who were picked over DeCoud and Moore were having much lesser seasons.
As with most All-Star rosters that use fan voting as a basis of selection, it all comes down to popularity and the size of a team’s market. Just like the Atlanta Falcons have flown under the radar getting little respect this season, their players who have put up some great numbers to lead the team to the best record in the NFC are now in the same boat.