It's voting season! The air is thick with smug opinions and gaseous rhetoric, and the NFL is doing their part to contribute.
Earlier this week, NFL.com opened the polls for their annual popularity contest, and excitement is at a—whatever; no one watches the whole game anyway.
It's a wonderful accolade for an NFL player to receive, though. And it's a nice bragging right for the fans, as well. Honestly, who doesn't love having multiple Pro Bowl selections on their favorite team?
While the game may not be worth watching, the rosters do deserve careful consideration.
It's still early in the season, but given their performances, there are a number of players that appear to be shoo-ins for the trip to Honolulu. In the same vein, there are even more players that have had slow starts but still deserve thorough consideration.
More importantly, perennial Pro Bowl selections from previous seasons aren't as impressive in 2008.
But will the voting actually reflect that? Can the NFL expect the majority of fans to be honest and admit that their favorite player is unworthy of the honor?
AFC QB: San Diego's Philip Rivers is having a phenomenal year. He's single-handedly keeping the Chargers competitive while the team struggles with the fact that LaDainian Tomlinson is no longer the best player on the field.
NFC QB: No quarterback in the NFL is having a better year than Drew Brees. He will be in the Pro Bowl and will deserve every snap.
Before you vote: Chad Pennington and his Miami Dolphins are having a surprising year. Historically, Pennington's had great starts to a season, but would eventually succumb to injury, or lose steam. Can his teammates keep making him look good?
If Aaron Rodgers heals from his shoulder injury, expect him to make a strong push for a spot in Honolulu. The NFC is filled with some strong quarterbacks, but Rodgers deserves thorough consideration for being so effective as the Packers make the transition from a Hall of Fame quarterback.
Time to be honest? Indianapolis Colts' QB, Peyton Manning, will likely be voted in, but does he deserve it? He looked to be himself again when he lit up the Baltimore Ravens' defense for three touchdowns. But one game doesn't eradicate the memory of his mediocre play throughout the first quarter of 2008.
AFC RB: The Miami Dolphins' Ronnie Brown has been a one-man wrecking crew. Defenses are having difficulty preparing for him. Even when they focus on stopping him, they still can't. Brown is having an excellent season, uncontested by no one.
NFC RB: He doesn't turn the ball over, he can run between the tackles, and he can break away for 20-yard gains. Clinton Portis' play is the secret behind Jason Campbell's success.
Before you vote: Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew has been all over the field. He's been consistently praised since entering the NFL, and 2008 is no different. He doesn't just split-carries with Fred Taylor—he changes the pace of a game.
With the NFC being so loaded with talent at running back, it's a rookie that sticks out the most as someone that will only get better as the season progresses. Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears has been the workhorse that offense needed after trading away Thomas Jones and releasing Cedric Benson.
Time to be honest? There should be no surprises here. LaDainian Tomlinson should not be voted into the Pro Bowl. Not this year. The field has not been his playground in 2008, and it's time accept that there are a number of players better suited for the honor.
NFC WR: Greg Jennings is the best player in Green Bay. It's unclear if he's making Aaron Rodgers look good, or if he's just making professional football look easy.
Before you vote: Jerricho Cotchery of the New York Jets has become one of Brett Favre's favorite targets. Cotchery has made a reputation in New York for yards after the catch. With Favre throwing the ball, maybe the rest of the NFL will finally take notice.
Muhsin Muhammad revitalized his career when he returned to the Carolina Panthers. His Chicago Bears experiment was interesting, but he's at home in the Carolinas, and it's showing.
Time to be honest? Randy Moss does not deserve a Hawaiian shirt next February. It's not through any fault of his own, but the 2008 Moss doesn't have the benefit of an experienced QB. Name-recognition alone shouldn't earn him a roster-spot—not with so much talent in the AFC.
AFC DE: Mario Williams is picking up where he left off in 2007. He's collapsing pockets and finding his way to the quarterback. There aren't any sure things when it comes to rushing the pass, but Williams is the closest thing to it.
NFC DE: New York Jets' fans will always maintain that, when he's healthy, John Abraham is one of the top players for his position in the NFL. Injuries have plagued him throughout his career, but when Abraham bounces back, he bounces back hard.
Before you vote: Shaun Ellis of the New York Jets has been a force in the 3-4 defense. No longer having to compensate for the inconsistent players around him, he's been free to apply pressure when he sees fit, and it's worked very well.
Veteran for 11 years, Bertrand Berry was bitten by the injury bug early in the season, but he's back and continuing his consistency. Berry has recorded a sack in every game he's played in through 2008.
Time to be honest? Patrick Kerney is in the unfortunate situation of declining and being surrounded by talent at defensive end across the entire NFC. A vote for Kerney is a vote for dishonesty.
AFC LB: James Harrison over in Steelers' country has been an absolute machine. He's rushing the quarterback and forcing fumbles.
NFC LB: Without a doubt, San Francisco 49er Patrick Willis is the most well-rounded linebacker in the league. He can stop drives, get to the quarterback, and play in coverage. He's having a season worthy of Defensive Player of the Year honors. Honolulu is definitely in the cards for him.
Before you vote: D.J. Williams is responding to an excellent 2007 season with a dominant 2008. He's just about the only bright spot on a Broncos' defense struggling to find a rhythm.
As the Arizona Cardinals continue to make a strong name for themselves, players like Karlos Dansby should be pushed further into the spotlight. Dansby has improved throughout his career and is on pace to match and establish some career highs.
Time to be honest? Cincinnati Bengals' linebacker Dhani Jones leads the NFL in tackles. It's an impressive statistic, that's for certain. But let's be honest—it's only because of how much time that defense spends on the field.
With no sacks and no forced fumbles, all Jones has done is prolong the inevitable. What's the inevitable you ask? It's a long offensive drive, capped off with more points.
AFC DB: Rashean Mathis of the Jacksonville Jaguars is the most dangerous corner in the league. Quarterbacks hold their breath when he makes a move for the ball. He's deflecting passes, intercepting them, returning them for touchdowns, and forcing fumbles.
NFC DB: Fans have forgotten how good Charles Woodson really is. Woodson is in a three-way tie to lead the league in interceptions, but it's his 15 pass deflections that stick out most. If he's not intercepting the ball, he's disrupting the pass. The worst part for an offense is that after 11 seasons, he's still fast enough to blitz.
Before you vote: Second-year corner Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets has been a force and will only get better. He's matched up against some of the league's best receivers and neutralized them. As the season progresses, and the Jets' defense continues to gel, he'll only become more dangerous to throw against.
The Carolina Panthers' Chris Gamble seems to have finally adjusted to the NFL speed. He's on pace to establish career-highs in 2008 and should only get better as the year progresses.
Time to be honest? Champ Bailey has been the definition of shutdown cornerback for years. But the fans can't allow their familiarity with his name to cloud their judgment. The message is out that it's now safe to throw against him.
It's not fair to up and coming talent to continue playing it safe with Pro Bowl voting. For years, veterans that have played past their prime have dominated the votes simply because of fan-familiarity.
The Pro Bowl is considered a joke by most NFL enthusiasts, but that doesn't negate the importance of being selected.
Think of it as a performance award with your own employer. It might mean a gift card to a local eatery, and your peers might scoff at you while downplaying the significance of the recognition. But at the end of the day, it's a free meal and something you can add to your resume.
Let's not deny the men that deserve the awards. Please, no flavor of the month votes like Vince Young in his rookie season, and no default votes because you don't know anyone else's name like John Lynch for the last few years. Choose wisely!
Angel Navedo is the Head Writer at NYJetsFan.com, boasting Jet Fuel Radio, frequently updated news and opinions, and a premier fan community. He is also the Community Leader for the New York Jets on Bleacher Report.
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