With the Pro Bowl balloting ending this week it's time for us to do our best to predict which Jets may be heading to the first-ever non-conferenced Pro Bowl this January.
Keep in mind though, the Pro Bowl is a fickle beast. Too often we see players go in again and again and again simply because they went in the year before - causing a vicious cycle that keeps real stars out.
Based on the last figures I could find relating to Jets in the hunt for a Pro Bowl selection (featured in this December 12th article), the following players are still in the running:
1. Muhammad Wilkerson - 6th in fan voting among DEs
2. Nick Mangold - 3rd/4th in fan voting among Centers
3. Sheldon Richardson - 7th in fan voting among DTs
4. Nick Folk - 4th in fan voting among Kickers
Possibilities for each candidate:
Wilkerson is a beast - we all know that - but he still lacks that name recognition and highlight reel that guys like J.J. Watt, Tamba Hali, Robert Quinn and Mario Williams has. As great as he has been - and he has been extraordinary! - the Pro Bowl is usually reserved for pass rush specialists like Quinn, Watt, Robert Mathis and (ugh) John Abraham. In my opinion, Wilkerson will make the roster as a backup/reserve and eventually play if just 1 of the starters has to sit.
Mangold surprises me being here - usually when offensive linemen fall off the Pro Bowl roster it's difficult to return, especially considering the noticeable decline in his game. My heart says he should make the initial roster, but my guy says he may miss the cut again.
Richardson does not get the credit he deserves and should be an initial selection - I honestly cannot name more than 3 active DTs who combine run-stopping with pass-rushing as well as he does at his position. But once again, stats tend to guide selections and sacks speak louder than tackles even though Richardson leads all DTs in tackles. I am cautiously optimistic that he will make the initial roster and will be mortified if he doesn't make it as a backup.
Folk is right where he should be - a fringe possibility - he's obviously behind Matt Praeter, Steven Gostowski and Steven Hauschka, but is likely losing a lot of ground to Justin Tucker. Despite having the 2nd best FG% in the league, his lack of 50+ FGs and limited touchbacks makes me doubt he can make it at all with all the strong competition among Kickers.
I believe this year we will see Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson play in the Pro Bowl. Not only are they among the best at their positions, but the Pro Bowl allows no fewer than 6 initial candidates at their positions to get a nod. And the possibility of even 7 or 8 players at their positions exists if any of the players are injured or end up playing in the Superbowl (that's how Brandon Moore slipped in back in 2011).
I love the odds for Wilkerson and Richardson. As for Mangold and Folk, they both had great years - more emphasis on Folks really - but I don't see either of them making a return to the Pro Bowl this year. Better luck next time guys!
So what do you think? Which Jets will make it to the Pro Bowl?