NFL Pro Bowl 2011: 49ers, Raiders In The 'Big Game'

The 49ers and Raiders are well represented at the 2011 Pro Bowl in spite of subpar seasons. We'll break down the inclusions, potential snubs and performances during the game.

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NFL Pro Bowl 2011 Snubs: Did Darren McFadden Deserve Better?

The announcement of the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl rosters resulted in the usual assortment of worthy selections and random snubs. The Pro Bowl gets its share of ridicule so it’s hard to get too worked up over snubs. Nonetheless, snubs exist for the Bay Area teams.

We already discussed snubs of 49ersTakeo Spikes (here) and Vernon Davis (here), and I thought we would move on to a possible Oakland Raiders snub. The Raiders saw Nnamdi Asomugha, Shane Lechler, and Richard Seymour selected as starters/reserves. They also have alternates in Darren McFadden, Sebastian Janikowski, Tommy Kelly, and Zach Miller.

Amongst that group, I think an argument could be made that Darren McFadden most deserved to be at least a reserve. The three AFC running backs are Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster, and Maurice Jones-Drew. All three are incredibly worthy, but McFadden’s big play ability and overall contribution to the Raiders offense deserves more mention.

Among AFC running backs, McFadden was fourth in yards per game, second in yards per carry among RBs with at least 200 carries, and seventh in touchdowns. However, amongst running backs he was the sole number one in rushes of 20+ yards and tied for first for rushes of 40+ yards. More importantly, he was second among all running backs, behind only Arian Foster, in average total yards from scrimmage per game.

In reality, it’s not a particularly big snub because Charles, Foster, and MJD are all very worthy. However, it almost seems like there should have been a fourth slot for Darren McFadden. Of course, given the injury replacements we always see there is a good chance he ends up on the team in that capacity.


NFL Pro Bowl 2011 Snubs: Vernon Davis Should Be Ahead Of Tony Gonzalez

Vernon Davis' first Pro Bowl was last season, in 2010 he had a breakout season and tied the all-time record for touchdown receptions by a tight end in a single season. This year, he's slowed down a little bit with poor quarterback play and even worse coaching, but he's still a snub.

Jason Witten is the NFC starter, and that's more than acceptable. He's got 100 more yards than Davis, and two more touchdown receptions. The problem lays with his backup, Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons. Don't get me wrong, Gonzalez is probably the best tight end to ever play the game, his hands are top-notch and he's consistently been the security blanket for any quarterback throwing to him.  But he was not the better tight end this season.

Vernon Davis has 53 receptions for 818 yards and six touchdowns, while Gonzalez has 64 receptions for only 603 yards and five touchdowns. The yardage is big enough, and the extra touchdown helps, but the more important factor is Davis' big play ability. He had an average of 15.4 yards per reception compared to Tony's 9.4. Still a respectable number, but five yards is a huge difference in the NFL. Vernon's longest reception was 66 yards, while Tony's was only 34.

No disrespect to Tony Gonzalez, but Vernon Davis deserves that backup spot and Tony G. should be the first alternate. Also keep in mind San Francisco's run-oriented offense and the fact that Davis is probably the team's best blocker and one of the best blocking tight ends in the league, and you have an invaluable asset to any team. Vernon got snubbed.


NFL Pro Bowl 2011: Brandon Lloyd Makes Team; 49ers Fans Slap Themselves In The Face

The 2011 NFL Pro Bowl rosters were announced yesterday and one of the intriguing reserves is Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. The former San Francisco 49ers WR has had a monster season, currently sitting with 72 receptions and an NFL-leading 1,375 receiving yards.

Lloyd is a first time Pro Bowler after his second season with his fourth NFL team. He apparently had some salty words for the three previous teams that cut him. I’m not sure why he’s so stunned about being cut previously. He’s never been a completely awful receiver, but he didn’t exactly blow it up before this season.

I suppose the 49ers might have cut him a bit too soon. The former fourth round pick did show some improvement with the 49ers each season and each of those seasons came with some awful 49ers teams. Of course, the gif below was reason enough to cut him for most 49ers fans.


NFL Pro Bowl 2011 Snubs: Takeo Spikes Deserves Better, Always

Takeo Spikes is a player to empathize with, his 12-year career has been flush with stellar play and the desire to be the best, but he's fallen short of ultimate goals through no individual fault of his.  He's been to the Pro Bowl on two occasions, in 2003 and 2004, respectively, and he deserved to go again in 2011. The NFC defense is represented by Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears and Spikes' teammate, Patrick Willis on the inside linebacker front, and it is hard to dispute those selections.

Urlacher has had a good year, but Spikes' has been comparable, while not even being the go-to-guy on defense. He's got 106 tackles to Urlacher's 120, and no sacks to Brian's 3.5, but he has been a force when asked to rush the middle of the line alongside Willis. Takeo has three interceptions tough, to Urlacher's one, and that's something to consider. Still, it's hard to suggest that he unseat either of the two guys.

But this season was a Pro Bowl season. Either there needs to be another reserve, the Pro Bowl team needs to mix in some 3-4, or something along those lines because he definitely deserved it this time. It's startling to see that he wasn't even named an alternate, but one has to wonder if the committees just don't pay TED linebackers that much attention when selecting. The position is a real one, but it's undervalued in the scheme of things and despite the fact that Takeo hustled and was one of the better players on the 49ers defense throughout the season, he won't be making the trip to Hawaii this year.

It's also frustrating because Spikes has yet to make the playoffs in his 12-year career, there may be some bias for a wary fan who wants to see him get his dues. As stated, at the very least the guy deserves to be an alternate.


NFL Pro Bowl 2011: Tony Gonzalez, Nnamdi Asomugha, DeSean Jackson Three Golden Bears Selected; Aaron Rodgers Snubbed?

Three California Golden Bears were selected for the Pro Bowl. But perhaps the most prominent Golden Bear in the NFL got overlooked.

Tony Gonzalez was selected to the Pro Bowl for the twelfth time, besting Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers and Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys for the starting spot. It's hard to figure out the deciding factor--Davis certainly was one of the toughest covers in the NFC.

Nnamdi Asomugha of the Oakland Raiders earned his fourth straight Pro Bowl berth despite not picking off a single pass--that's how good he is. DeSean Jackson being selected for his second straight Pro Bowl isn't much of a surprise either; he's been the primary target of Michael Vick for the Philadelphia Eagles, and his walkoff punt return last week against the Giants pretty much solidified his spot as starting wide receiver.

One big question remains: Where's Aaron Rodgers? Behind Vick is probably a given, but Drew Brees and Matt Ryan beating him out? Ryan has had some impressive comebacks this seasons, but Rodgers has been better statistically in almost every category. Same goes for Brees. It's a quizzical omission.

Of course, if one of those three quarterbacks end up in the Super Bowl, Rodgers will probably get alternated in. On the other hand, I'm sure Rodgers would prefer to play in Dallas rather than Honolulu.


NFL Pro Bowl Rosters 2011: Raiders, 49ers Alternates

The NFL announced the 2011 Pro Bowl rosters and the 49ers and Raiders were both well represented with Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Nnamdi Asomugha, Shane Lechler, and Richard Seymour. All five had standout seasons and are incredibly worthy of their Pro Bowl selections.

Both teams also had players announced as alternates. 49ers tight end Vernon Davis was selected as the first alternate at tight end behind Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez. Running back Frank Gore was selected as the fifth alternate in spite of missing the final five weeks of the season with a hip injury. He won’t be able to participate in the game if his alternate number was called, but it’s still a worthy honor.

The Raiders had four alternates of their own. Kicker Sebastian Janiskowski, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, running back Darren McFadden, and tight end Zach Miller were all selected as alternates, although there is no indication of what level of alternate each is.

Given the history of players dropping out of the Pro Bowl with injuries, at least one of the 49ers or Raiders alternates is likely going to be promoted to the team. Additionally, the Pro Bowl is now the week before the Super Bowl, which means two teams’ players will not be participating as they get ready for the real big game. Even though the Pro Bowl is returning to Hawaii, it mixed things up again this year by playing it on January 30, the week before the Super Bowl.

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