To no surprise, the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl will include several Cincinnati Bengals.
Even amid a 5-8-1 season that already has Cincinnati out of the playoff mix, the Bengals still have several players worthy of making the NFL’s annual All-Star game. Making it this year will be defensive tackle Geno Atkins and wide receiver A.J. Green.
Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth was named a first alternate, defensive end Carlos Dunlap is a second alternate and right guard Kevin Zeitler is a third alternate.
Atkins, now in his seventh NFL season, has been a force in the middle of the Bengals defensive line, something he’s been for much of his career thus far. He’s racked up 28 tackles and 7.5 sacks through 14 games this season.
Entering Week 16, Atkins is ranked as Pro Football Focus’ sixth-best interior defender, which includes 3-4 and 4-3 defensive tackles. He’s still arguably the game’s best 4-3 tackle, and his annual spot in the Pro Bowl only reinforces that belief.
Green, who has missed essentially the last four games, has caught 66 passes for 964 yards and four touchdowns this season. Prior to the injury, Green was near the top of most receiving categories as he was on the verge of a career year, but a hamstring strain derailed those hopes.
If he plays again in the regular season, Green is on the verge of another historical receiving feat. With a mere 36 yards, he’ll join future Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss as the only players with six-straight 1,000-yard seasons to being their NFL career. Green is the first Bengals player in the team’s history to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first six seasons.
Coming into the announcement, some of the other Bengals in contention for Pro Bowl berths included Andy Dalton, Tyler Eifert, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Vontaze Burfict. Other than Zeitler (who is now an alternate) and Kirkpatrick, all of the above mentioned players have made the Pro Bowl in previous years.
Whitworth, who turns 35 on December 12, is finishing up his 11th NFL season while still playing the all-important left tackle spot at a high level. Entering Week 14, Whitworth is ranked by Pro Football Focus as the second-best offensive tackle, trailing only Trent Williams, who just served a four-game suspension for PED use.
Since 2009, Whitworth has missed a grand total of two games due to injury as he’s been one of the game’s best offensive lineman. He was voted into the Pro Bowl outright for the first time last year after making it as an alternate before. It’s highly possible he plays in the game as many players turn down the honor or can’t play due to being in the Super Bowl.
Dunlap, now in his seventh NFL season, has recorded 47 total tackles, seven sacks, two forced fumbles, and 15 pass deflections in 14 games this year. The batted passes are the biggest way Dunlap has affected games this year in comparison to previous years. He entered 2016 with just 20 pass deflections in 86 career games, but is on pace to have that many in 16 games this year. Dunlap being a second alternative seems like a huge snub as he’s been among the best at his position for the last two years.
Zeitler, now in his fifth NFL season, ranks as Pro Football Focus’ fifth-ranked offensive guard this season. He’s started every game and been a force on the interior, despite the Bengals’ offensive line struggling overall.
The Pro Bowl selections are determined by the votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counts one-third toward determining the players who make it.
It’s worth mentioning that the 2017 Pro Bowl will feature a return to the traditional AFC vs NFC game format following three years using a revised, "unconferenced" format. The NFL's best will once again be in the spotlight as 88 players -- 44 from the AFC and 44 from the NFC square off.
In addition to the game itself returning to a more traditional format, the rest of the Pro Bowl weekend will have plenty of events and competitions for various players. The biggest addition is a playground sport where the league’s best athletes will dodge their way to an Epic Pro Bowl Dodgeball championship on the Thursday before the game.
Other skills challenges being added this year include the Power Relay Challenge, Precision Passing, and Best Hands competitions.
Earlier in December, we reported on three different Bengals being among the top-five vote-getters at their respective positions. Those were Green, Atkins and Whitworth.
To get to the required players for each roster, more players will be added to the Pro Bowl either as injury replacements or as replacements for Super Bowl-bound players, so a player could still make the Pro Bowl if he is ranked fifth or sixth, even though his position may only officially have three spots available. That’s how Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton made the game in both the 2011 and 2014 season.
The 2017 Pro Bowl will be held at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. It will air on ESPN and ESPN Deportes.
Here are the full Pro Bowl rosters for the AFC and NFC:
AFC Pro Bowl Roster
Center: Rodney Hudson*, Raiders; Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers
Fullback: Kyle Juszcyzyk*, Ravens
Interior linemen: Geno Atkins*, Bengals; Ndamukong Suh*, Dolphins; Jurrell Casey, Titans
Inside/middle linebacker: Dont'a Hightower*, Patriots; C.J. Mosley, Ravens
Free safety: Devin McCourty*, Patriots; Reggie Nelson, Raiders
Strong safety: Eric Berry*, Chiefs
Punter: Pat McAfee*, Colts
Kicker: Justin Tucker*, Ravens
Return specialist: Tyreek Hill*, Chiefs
Special teamer: Matthew Slater*, Patriots
NFC Pro Bowl Roster
Center: Travis Frederick*, Cowboys; Alex Mack, Falcons
Fullback: Mike Tolbert*, Panthers
Outside linebacker: Vic Beasley*, Falcons; Ryan Kerrigan*, Redskins; Thomas Davis, Panthers
Inside/middle linebacker: Bobby Wagner*, Seahawks; Luke Kuechly, Panthers
Free safety: Harrison Smith*, Vikings; Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Packers
Strong safety: Landon Collins*, Giants
Punter: Johnny Hekker*, Rams
Kicker: Matt Bryant*, Falcons
Return specialist: Cordarrelle Patterson*, Vikings
Special teamer: Dwayne Harris*, Giants
* Indicates starter