Conner Harris ‘19, Photo Editor
This season of the NFL was a rollercoaster up until the very end, with the last game of the regular season ending up as a high stakes, win or go home, competition between the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts. With the regular season wrapped up and the playoff picture set, 20 teams and their fans have found themselves without stakes in the upcoming games. Bring on the Pro Bowl. The Pro Bowl is, if nothing else, a fun exhibition to round off the season with the best players from every team. The worst teams in the league have the opportunity to have a player or two selected which gives fan bases such as our Detroit Lions the chance to watch our favorite players without having to suffer watching the entirety of our teams. With that being said, here are the winners and losers of the Pro Bowl selection who was left out of the playoffs.
Winners: Pittsburgh Steelers: Although the season did not end well for a team that had made the playoffs the previous four seasons, they did have the second highest total of players selected to the Pro Bowl. The Steelers may have had the most drama in the entire league at the beginning of the season with all-pro running back Le’veon Bell choosing not to play this year, however, the team did not struggle at running back regardless. This left an opening for James Conner, a second year backup, to have a breakout season and slotted him a position in the Pro Bowl as a starter. He will be accompanied by Maurkice Pouncey (Center), Juju Smith-Schuster (WR), David DeCastro (OG), Alejandro Villanueva (LT), and Cam Heyward (DE). Steelers fans have a good amount of their players to watch come Jan. 27th, which will hopefully drown out some of the late season drama that has been paired with their stumbles.
Losers: Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Where to begin with these teams? To start, none of these teams had a good season. For the Raiders, some questionable trades left a team desolate of star power, the Bills had one of the worst quarterbacks in recent history for the opening half of the season in Nathan Peterman, and the Buccaneers struggled to be a consistent team which is reflected in their record. The fan bases of these teams will find no solace in watching some of their better players in the Pro Bowl because there are not any. These teams did not manage to have a single player selected to the Pro Bowl.
Carolina Panthers: While the record may not reflect it, the Panther’s fans were probably the most frustrated with the season. The Panthers started off on fire winning key games and climbing to 6-2 and looking ahead to the postseason. Seven straight losses ensued and the Panthers will be watching other teams battle it out in the playoffs. While Luke Kuechly (ILB) and Trai Turner (OG) were selected to the Pro Bowl, star Christian McCaffrey(RB) was left out of the line-up. McCaffrey made a case for himself with 2,015 yards from scrimmage and touchdowns rushing, receiving, and passing (he was the only non-quarterback to do so). Fans have some reason to be angry at the news given Cowboy’s Ezekiel Elliott (RB) posted similar stats to McCaffrey but did so behind a much better line.
The Pro Bowl is looking to be an exciting display of stars like it always is. Both the NFC and AFC will have their fair share of talent represented on Jan. 27. Whether or not you are a fan of the Pro Bowl, it is always good to know that you have some players on your team that are part of the best of the best the league has to offer. Well, except for maybe those playerless teams.
Photo courtesy of USA Today