Gone are the days of Pro Bowl rosters missing Cincinnati Bengals players like 2008 and 2010; seasons with four-win squads deserving no recognition for poor seasons. Last year A.J. Green was the only player voted to the original roster with Geno Atkins, Andy Dalton and Jermaine Gresham added as alternate players.
This year the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl rosters will be announced at 7 p.m. ET during a special "NFL Total Access" on the NFL Network. The starting lineup for the Pro Bowl rosters are determined by three votes (fans, coaches, players), broken up into thirds and added together.
Let's take a look at possible Bengals players making the roster:
A.J. Green: Guaranteed. Slam dunk. Enter phrase of confident projection. A.J. Green will be named as a starter for the AFC for the Pro Bowl this year, due to receiving the seventh-most votes in the Fan Vote portion, endless praise we've heard all season from coaches and players regarding Green making this a guarantee. We would make a greater argument, but we're that confident.
Geno Atkins: If not for Haloti Ngata's name recognition, Atkins would have easily won the Fan Vote portion -- and he nearly beat out Ngata for the vote anyway. He's receiving the recognition and reputation around the NFL with some buzz words being thrown around like Defensive Player of the Year (argued by Carson Palmer during Raiders week). Look at it this way. After Atkins 13 quarterbacks sacks, the next-best sack total from the a defensive tackle is seven from Ndamukong Suh. If we're 100 percent confident that Green makes the Pro Bowl, we're 99.9 percent confident that Atkins joins him.
Andy Dalton: The starting Bengals quarterback has a shot, sure. Though names like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, the top two overall vote-getters for the FanVote portion, are ensured a spot on the Pro Bowl roster, the third spot could go to Dalton. Why? Well he's the quarterback of a team going back to the postseason with one of the conference's top fourth quarter passer rating -- people eat that stuff up. Dalton is currently third in the AFC with 26 touchdowns (behind Brady and Manning), seventh with 3,591 yards passing, sixth with a passer rating of 87.0 among those that qualify.
On the other hand those numbers are very similar to Philip Rivers, and no one here (or the planet Earth) believes Rivers has a shot. Dalton could make it but you just know that the world loves a rookie quarterback story and Andrew Luck fits that bill. If Dalton isn't named to the original Pro Bowl roster, look for him as a first or second alternate.
Jermaine Gresham: A possible alternate especially in a conference hit with injury at the tight end position, Gresham currently ranks third among AFC tight ends in receptions (64), fourth in yards receiving (737) and third in average among tight ends with 50 receptions or more, posting a 11.5 yard/reception average. Additionally Gresham is the only tight end in the AFC with multiple receptions over 40 yards receiving. We don't see Gresham generating the buzz to win the vote as a starting tight end, but he could easily be the first alternate.
Andre Smith: Having his best season by far, often graded as a premiere tackle in the NFL for his overall production. We don't see Smith making the roster at all and haven't felt much buzz being generated outside circles of Bengals fans and the more prominent advanced football research/statistics sites. That being said we see Smith as a likely Pro Bowl alternate.
Andrew Whitworth: The team's left tackle on the other hand is having anything but a career year -- we think due to his leg injury from last year not fully strengthened -- though he's been strong all season largely as a pass blocker. Name recognition helps Whitworth more than Smith, and thus a greater shot as an alternate.
Adam Jones: It's probably not going to happen, categorized as a long-shot, but Jones has had a good season, holding receivers he's covering to only a 54.8 percent completion rate and opposing quarterbacks to 84.7. Yet if Jones gets a sniff of attention for the Pro Bowl, it's likely as a punt returner, second in the the NFL, among punt returners with 20 returns or more, averaging 12.3 yards per return, a touchdown and two returns of 40 yards or more. We're casting heavy doubt on Jones, but we thought he was worth mentioning nonetheless.
Michael Johnson: Like Jones we don't think he makes the Pro Bowl, but he's had a good enough season to offer a chance, albeit minor. He's a shared sack away from ten for the season, was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his three sacks against media darling Robert Griffin III in Week Three. However he's seventh with 32 quarterback pressures among defensive ends in 4-3 base defenses... in the AFC. Good season. Not getting in but maybe as a deep alternate (like No. 5).