The Bengals are 4-6, and their season has a new sense of life with the rest of the AFC teams in the hunt for the playoffs spiraling out of control. Still this hasn’t been the Bengals most talented roster in recent seasons. Especially when it comes to players who are deserving of the Pro Bowl.
The one thing the Bengals’ players have going for them is the shift back to the AFC vs NFC format for the Pro Bowl, which means they no long have to be one of the top players in the NFL. Also we can’t forget how many players opt out of even going to the Pro Bowl, or who can’t because they are in the Super Bowl. That will be an important distinction for a few of these players.
WR A.J. Green
Green is easily the Bengals biggest name around the NFL. He is one of the best receivers in the NFL. This year has been kind of a down year for the wide receiver as the team has inexplicably gone away from him in several games, but his numbers are still near the top of the AFC. Green currently is ranked fifth in the AFC with 743 receiving yards, tied for third in touchdowns (six), and sixth among AFC receivers in receptions (48). With those stats and his recognizable name, it will be hard to imagine Green getting snubbed.
DT Geno Atkins
Atkins should easily make the Pro Bowl. He leads all defensive tackles in the AFC and is tied with David Irving for the NFL lead with six sacks this season. Atkins has been the anchor in the middle of this Bengals defense, and it seems like he has gotten a slight boost since the Bengals have started playing Andrew Billings more the past two game. The team has been rotating Atkins more this season, so he stays rested. It seems to have paid off so far. Atkins also has a fairly recognizable name that should get him plenty of votes from casual fans.
S George Iloka
Iloka’s stats are hard to measure by what shows up next to his name in the box score. Iloka’s impact is felt by him doing his job, which is preventing big plays. You will often see teams playing against the Bengals opt to dink and dunk down the field, but this is because Iloka does a great job of taking away the deep ball. The Bengals have only allowed 25 plays of over 20 yards and 6 plays of over 40 yards so far this season. The Bengals have also only allowed 12 passing touchdowns to be thrown against them this season, and a lot of those are from inside the red zone. Iloka isn’t a flashy choice, but he does his job as good as any safety in the AFC even if he doesn’t come up with a ton of interceptions.
QB Andy Dalton
Stay with me here. I implore you to take a good look at the quarterbacks in the AFC. Of course Tom Brady is going to make it, but he always declines even if he doesn’t get to the Super Bowl. The only other quarterbacks deserving of going include Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith, Philip Rivers and Derek Carr. This is also assuming the Bills stick with benching Tyrod Taylor. The only two there who have more touchdowns than Dalton’s 16 are Smith (18) and Rivers (17). Roethlisberger has the same amount of touchdowns with two more interceptions, and Rivers only has one fewer interception than Dalton.
Since the Bengals bye week Dalton has thrown nine touchdowns to two interceptions. If he keeps this trend he should have a serious shot at making it with one or two of the top people dropping out. The point is Dalton could be in the Pro Bowl due to a lack of talent in the AFC, but it still counts.