2020 NFL Power Rankings: Week 15

For the second time this year, I am going to use this space to encourage everyone reading to vote. And this time, it is for something far less important.

Voting for the 2020 NFL Pro Bowl closes on Thursday. I still do not really understand why the league closes voting with three weeks left to play in the season, but that’s a different argument to make.

We are given the power to help decide who reaches the NFL’s All-Star game! Granted, there is no football game being played this year, but a Pro Bowl appearance makes a huge difference in players’ careers. Often times when players are being considered for the Hall of Fame, voters will look at how many Pro Bowl appearances they made during their NFL career. Some players have specific bonuses and salary elevators attached to Pro Bowl appearances.

You can cast your votes at https://www.nfl.com/pro-bowl/ballot/. Have some fun shaping the future of the NFL and rewarding these players with some well-earned recognition!

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1. Kansas City Chiefs: 12-1 (Last Week: 1)
Won 33-27 at Miami
It was far from Patrick Mahomes’ best game as a pro, but the Chiefs ground out a tough victory over the Dolphins. After a rocky start, Kansas City’s defense stood strong. As a unit, it sacked Tua Tagovailoa four times and held Miami to just 3.3 yards per carry. Mahomes, despite his three interceptions, did finish with close to 400 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns. If there is one concern surrounding this team right now, it is the ground game. Clyde Edwards-Helaire averaged just two yards per carry throughout the game. As they get deeper into the season and play in some bad weather games, establishing the run is going to become important.

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2. Green Bay Packers: 10-3 (Last Week: 4)
Won 31-24 at Detroit
If the Packers drafted Jordan Love for the purpose of firing up Aaron Rodgers, mission accomplished. Rodgers leads the league in passing touchdowns and has just four interceptions so far this season. This is supposedly without much of a supporting cast. At least that was the chatter about Green Bay all offseason. Rodgers needed another receiver other than Davante Adams to rely on. Turns out, he has plenty of other options to work with, namely Robert Tonyan and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. With the Saints losing this weekend, the Packers are now in line to earn a first-round bye. They have no margin for error right now, but hold the tiebreaker over the Saints.

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3. Buffalo Bills: 10-3 (Last Week: 5)
Won 26-15 vs. Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh has been struggling of late, but this is a huge win for Buffalo. The Bills won the AFC East for the first time since 1995 (good year, by the way). So yes, huge. What might be more significant though was the resurgence of Buffalo’s defense. Leslie Frazier’s unit held the Steelers under 250 yards of offense and gave up just two scoring drives all game. It also scored a touchdown of its own when Taron Johnson returned an interception 51 yards to the end zone. Ugly as it might have been at times, winning is all that really matters this time of year and the Bills did so in convincing fashion.

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4. New Orleans Saints: 10-3 (Last Week: 2)
Lost 24-21 at Philadelphia
New Orleans was in the driver seat to take the top spot in NFC heading into the weekend. Dropping a crucial game to a rookie quarterback making his first start in the NFL is a problem. The Saints’ defense had no answer for the Eagles’ rushing attack. After 55 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, both Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders went over the century mark. This is a major red flag for the defense and an indictment of the offense. Philly’s defense has struggled all year and was missing multiple starters in the secondary. A late touchdown made the score line look more respectable, but the Saints need to step it up down the stretch.

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5. Pittsburgh Steelers: 11-2 (Last Week: 3)
Lost 26-15 at Buffalo
The sky isn’t falling in Pittsburgh, but things are not looking good. Ben Roethlisberger and this whole offense is struggling. The Steelers were unable to crack 250 yards of offense against. I talked about it last week in these rankings as well, this Bills’ defense is not as good as it was last season. Roethlisberger threw two interceptions, including a pick-six. This loss costs Pittsburgh control of the AFC. The Steelers now need the Chiefs to drop a game to have any shot at earning the No. 1 seed in the conference and the first-round bye that comes with it. At this point though, Mike Tomlin just need to rework the approach across the board. Pittsburgh had a great start to the year, but that means nothing if the team collapses down the stretch, there are going to be some serious questions asked in the offseason.

6. Los Angeles Rams: 9-4 (Last Week: 8)
Won 24-3 vs. New England
Los Angeles’ defense is for real. Led by Aaron Donald, the Rams accounted for six sacks and chased Cam Newton from the game. The Patriots finished with 220 yards of offense. Los Angeles now leads the lead in yards allowed per game. The Rams also rank third in sacks and scoring defense. Another huge talking point here has to be Cam Akers’ breakout game. The rookie from Florida State accounted for 194 yards from scrimmage, most of it coming on the ground. Jared Goff didn’t really do much and had an interception, but all he needs to be is average if the Rams can run the ball like this and the defense keeps playing lights out.

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7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 8-5 (Last Week: 6)
Won 26-14 vs. Minnesota
Tampa Bay got a bit of a boost from Dan Bailey missing four different kicks, but this was a complete victory. The defense racked up six sacks and while the offensive line kept Tom Brady clean. Brady, in turn, took care of the football, even if the passing game was not as potent as we have seen it this season. 13 games into the season, it still feels like this Buccaneers team is trying to get on the same page. On paper, they are one of the most talented teams in the league. They just haven’t shown it on a consistent basis.

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8. Miami Dolphins: 8-5 (Last Week: 7)
Lost 33-27 vs. Kansas City
The door is opening for Brian Flores to steal the Coach of the Year award with Pittsburgh slipping in recent weeks. Despite the Dolphins ultimately losing, Miami pressed Kansas City and made life very difficult on Patrick Mahomes. The defense continues to excel this season, even against top-end competition. Tua Tagovailoa is slowly improving. He still makes the mistakes you would expect of an inexperienced quarterback. When you consider how well he performed without any of his top three running backs, the Dolphins can feel good about how close they were. At full strength, it seems like Miami could be very dangerous in the playoffs.

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9. Seattle Seahawks: 9-4 (Last Week: 9)
Won 40-3 vs. New York
Looking for the cure to losing to an NFC East team at home. The Seahawks found it in the form of the team that shares a stadium with the side that handed them their worst loss of the season. Playing the Jets just makes everyone look better (except the Raiders). Russell Wilson had four touchdown passes and the Seahawks rumbled for 175 yards on the ground. Defensively, Seattle had three sacks and held the Jets to just 185 yards of offense. Geno Smith even got some playing time. It does not erase the issues that showed up the week before, but a 37-point win makes it a bit easier to swallow.

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10. Baltimore Ravens: 8-5 (Last Week: 13)
Won 47-42 at Cleveland
While he might not totally be back in his 2019 form, Lamar Jackson is starting to show shades of the play that made him the league’s MVP. He racked up a Monday Night Football record 124 rushing yards and looked electric in the open field. It was the second straight week where the Ravens’ running game looked nearly unstoppable. Now, the defense might need to pull itself together after surrendering 42 points, but it sure seems like Baltimore is headed in the right direction again.

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11. Indianapolis Colts: 9-4 (Last Week: 11)
Won 44-27 at Las Vegas
I think it is safe to say that Jonathan Taylor is finally healthy again. Indianapolis’ rookie running back rumbled for 150 yards and two touchdowns, including a 62-yard scamper. T.Y. Hilton continues his revival as well. He hauled in two more scores and clearly seems to be clicking with Philip Rivers right now. The secondary struggled again, giving up 345 yards through the air, but did intercept Derek Carr twice. The Colts are tricky to figure out, but right now this simply feels like a good, but not great team.

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12. Cleveland Browns: 9-4 (Last Week: 10)
Lost 47-42 vs. Baltimore
It was a loss, but Cleveland proved a lot to the rest of the NFL with this performance. The Browns hung 42 points and pushed the Ravens to the brink on Monday Night Football. Unfortunately, their defense decided to get a head start on the holiday break. The Browns defense surrendered 231 yards on the ground and gave up some big passing plays down the stretch that ultimately cost them. That was also with Lamar Jackson missing almost an entire quarter of action. This is a huge improvement from the 38-6 drubbing they took in Week 1 though and a sign the Browns are a playoff-caliber team.

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13. Tennessee Titans: 9-4 (Last Week: 12)
Won 31-10 at Jacksonville
Tennessee did not let their debacle in Cleveland carry over to their matchup with Jacksonville. The Titans took care of business in convincing fashion. It helps when you have Derrick Henry running over the entire defense. Henry racked up 215 yards rushing and two touchdowns. While many think of Henry as a power back, he has proven throughout his NFL career that he is an effective outside runner as well. The Titans might have another budding superstar as well. A.J. Brown made one of the best catches of the season with one-handed touchdown grab. He went over 100 yards receiving as well. Tennessee benefitted from facing some terrible quarterback play, so it is hard to truly evaluate how the defense fared. Just know that the Titans’ defense is going to need to step up against better competition as well.

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14. Arizona Cardinals: 7-6 (Last Week: 16)
Won 26-7 at New York
Where did that pass rush come from? Arizona entered the weekend with solid production from its pass rush, ranking in the top half of the league. Sunday took that to a whole new level. The Cardinals sacked Giants’ quarterbacks eight times, including a franchise-record five takedowns from Hasson Reddick. New York clearly had its struggles and this level of dominance is unlikely to be sustainable, but it is a positive sign for the defense. Kyler Murray has not been as electric since he sustained a shoulder injury against the Patriots. The defense is going to need to step up down the stretch for Arizona to reach the postseason.

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15. Washington: 6-7 (Last Week: 19)
Won 23-15 at San Francisco
This is exactly what we all expected, right? Washington leads the NFC East with a 6-7 record after reeling off back-to-back wins over the Steelers and 49ers. Ron Rivera’s crew also managed to win without scoring an offensive touchdown. In 2020, this is pretty much par for the course, especially for this division. Unfortunately, Alex Smith is dealing with a calf injury and could miss this week’s game against Seattle. That’s a really tough matchup at full strength, which means Washington’s outlook is rather bleak. However, Washington seems to find a way to win, even when it doesn’t make sense.

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16. New England Patriots: 6-7 (Last Week: 14)
Lost 24-3 at Los Angeles
For the first time since 2008, the Patriots will not win the AFC East. With their dismal loss to the Rams and the Bills’ victory over the Steelers, New England now has to hope for a miracle run at a wildcard spot. Those prospects are looking pretty slim as well. While the Patriots defense has actually held up pretty well despite all the absences this year, it is clear the offense needs some major turnover. The offensive line struggled on Thursday night and the Pats clearly have a need at quarterback as well. That doesn’t even cover the clear lack of talent at receiver. This is going to be a critical offseason for the Patriots as they truly looked to begin the post-Tom Brady era.

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17. San Francisco 49ers: 5-8 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 23-15 vs. Washington
This was a really tough loss for the 49ers. The defense managed to force Alex Smith out of the game, bringing out Dwayne Haskins. Washington managed a meager 95 yards passing and did not score an offensive touchdown. Sounds like a recipe for a San Francisco victory, but instead the 49ers lost by eight. Two defensive scores for Washington made the difference. It was a matter of the offense not being able to get out of its own way. If the 49ers had just taken care of the football, they would have won this game easily. That is much easier said than done, but this was a frustrating outcome that all but ends the 49ers’ playoff hopes.

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18. Minnesota Vikings: 6-7 (Last Week: 17)
Lost 26-14 at Tampa Bay
This was a tall task, but still a blow to the Vikings’ playoff chances nonetheless. Minnesota should have been a little closer if Dan Bailey could have made a few more kicks, he missed four, but even if he had made all of them, the Vikings still would have lost. While Bailey will take a lot of flack, the offensive line deserves a lot of blame as well. Minnesota actually moved the ball decently well, but had too many drives stall after costly sacks. The Vikings allowed Kirk Cousins to go down six times. It was a lackluster performance from a group that is on the fringes of the playoff conversation.

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19. New York Giants: 5-8 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 26-7 vs. Arizona
The high of knocking off the Seahawks wore off quickly. Daniel Jones played through a hamstring injury and probably wishes he spent the game on the bench instead. He was sacked six times and struggled as a passer. It was clear his lack of mobility limited him throughout the game. Colt McCoy finally came in, but it was far too late. The Giants managed just one scoring drive and fell behind Washington in the division race. The offensive line was atrocious on a day where it really could not afford to be. New York now faces a huge uphill climb.

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20. Las Vegas Raiders: 7-6 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 44-27 vs. Indianapolis
It was another week where the Raiders looked like pretenders, getting blown out for the second time in three weeks. Derek Carr did not have his best game as the offense sputtered. Las Vegas averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and committed three turnovers. The Raiders kept it close into the second half, but went down 44-20 in the fourth quarter after Khari Willis’ pick-six of Carr. A meaningless late touchdown made it look a bit more respectable. If Vegas does somehow limp into the postseason, don’t expect a deep run. This team has some major holes to fill and might need to consider a new direction starting in 2021.

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21. Denver Broncos: 5-8 (Last Week: 23)
Won 32-27 at Carolina
Drew Lock finally looked like the promising passer we saw at the end of last season. He tore up the Panthers for four touchdowns and 280 passing yards. He needed to be on fire as well with the defense giving up six yards per carry and three touchdowns. Strangely, the secondary held up despite missing its top three cornerbacks. It helped that the front seven came up with four sacks, but still an impressive showing under the circumstances.

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22. Carolina Panthers: 4-9 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 32-27 vs. Denver
This is not the type of post-bye week performance you would’ve hoped for from the Panthers. Carolina came out a little flat, finally coming alive in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, 17 fourth-quarter points were not enough to overcome the deficit. Most of the issues started on the defensive side of the ball though. Drew Lock carved up the Panthers’ secondary for four touchdowns and an average of 10.4 yards per attempt. Meanwhile, Teddy Bridgewater did his best to carry the offense without DJ Moore and Christian McCaffrey. There is not much else to play for this season, but Carolina still has chances to gain meaningful experience in these final few games. For such a young team with a new coaching staff, there are still chances to grow.

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23. Chicago Bears: 6-7 (Last Week 26)
Won 36-7 vs. Houston
Chicago bounced back and kept its playoff hopes alive with a crucial win. Perhaps even more importantly, the Bears snapped a six-game losing streak. The pressure that comes to end a skid like that is enormous, so this should provide some immediate relief. Beyond that, Chicago dominated this game. David Montgomery’s 80-yard touchdown run on the Bears’ offensive play was a sign of things to come. Mitchell Trubisky tossed three touchdown passes and the defense wreaked havoc all game long. Seven sacks, a safety and two forced fumbles is the type of outing we have been waiting for all season from this unit. Things just got way more interesting for the Bears heading into the final three weeks.

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24. Philadelphia Eagles: 4-8-1 (Last Week: 27)
Won 24-21 vs. New Orleans
Talk about a spark! Jalen Hurts took the keys to the offense and ran it really well, quite literally. Hurts’ running ability opened up so much for the Eagles, including an 82-yard touchdown run by Miles Sanders. Both finished with more than 100 yards on the ground. Hurts made a few key plays through the air and the defense played one of its best games of the season. While the playoffs are now a longshot for Philly, this is a good sign and makes the team much more fun to watch. Now, what to do about Carson Wentz’s contract….

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25. Dallas Cowboys: 4-9 (Last Week: 28)
Won 30-7 at Cincinnati
Andy Dalton had to feel pretty good about his return to Cincinnati. He tossed two touchdowns and protected the football en route to a big win. He got a ton of assistance from his defense. Dallas forced three fumbles in the contest and Aldon Smith even returned one for a touchdown. This team is still a mess, but it is nice to see the Cowboys play a complete game. Unfortunately, it might be too little, too late if this team is planning on making a run at the playoffs.

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26. Houston Texans: 4-9 (Last Week: 24)
Lost 36-7 at Chicago
This one stings a bit. The one thing Houston could hang its hat on was that they had the right quarterback to lead it into the future. That is absolutely still the case, but it turns out having a good supporting cast can make all the difference. Mitchell Trubisky clearly outplayed Deshaun Watson in this one, turning down the heat on Bears general manager Ryan Pace just a notch for the decision he made back in 2017. Without question, Watson still would’ve been the right pick, but the Bears made life very difficult for him. Watson was sacked six times and watched his teammates cough up the football twice. Needless to say, Watson some help.

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27. Detroit Lions: 5-8 (Last Week: 25)
Lost 31-24 vs. Green Bay
Reality set in for Darrell Bevell as his team came up short against Green Bay. Matt Stafford looked solid if unspectacular. He got very little help from his running game or defense. Aaron Rodgers had all day to pick apart the Detroit secondary. Meanwhile, the Lions finished with just 51 yards of rushing. Detroit is headed for one of the toughest offseasons of any team in the league. With a middling roster, no coach and an aging quarterback, this team could use an overhaul. On the bright side, they aren’t the Jets or Texans.

28. Los Angeles Chargers: 4-9 (Last Week: 29)
Won 20-17 vs. Atlanta
Los Angeles bounced back in a big way from the drubbing it took from New England the week before. The Chargers ground out a hard-fought victory, thanks in large part to the key takeaways on defense. Austin Ekeler looked like the lead back L.A. was hoping for all season, finishing with 148 yards from scrimmage. Anthony Lynn might have saved his job for another week with this win. It is not totally safe yet, but he is still employed right now.

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29. Atlanta Falcons: 4-9 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 20-17 at Los Angeles
Matt Ryan took another step closer to ending his tenure in Atlanta. Ryan cost the Falcons a chance to win this game on several occasions with three interceptions against the Chargers on Sunday. While it is pretty easy to just pin all the blame on Ryan for a disappointing loss, the lack of a run game is pretty significant as well. Atlanta has the third worst yards per carry average in the league after Week 14. Overall, the early magic that seemed to come from Raheem Morris taking over as the coach seems to have faded. The Falcons are still only two weeks removed from a 43-6 romp, but the 4-9 record speaks for itself. Keep in mind the Chargers were coming off a 45-0 loss the week before.

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30. Cincinnati Bengals: 2-10-1 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 30-7 vs. Dallas
Bengals fans might just want to stop watching games on Sundays and go watch Joe Burrow highlights for the rest of the season. For one, Burrow had an exciting start to his Bengals career and is a fun player to watch. Also, the Bengals stink without him. Brandon Allen did manage a touchdown, but it was a brutal game for the Cincinnati offense. Three lost fumbles and a 23-point blow out is always tough. Just remember that things will get better.

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31. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-12 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 31-10 vs. Tennessee
After a few weeks of competitive losses, the Jaguars resumed the roll of AFC South doormat. Derrick Henry quite literally ran over the Jacksonville defense for 200-plus yards. Even if the defense had shown up, it would not have mattered. The offense was lifeless, failing to get any real traction going. Facing a Titans’ defense that gave up 38 points in one half just a week ago, managed 10 total points in the game. On the bright side, Gardner Minshew and his fantastic mustache are back starting at quarterback starting next week.

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32. New York Jets: 0-13 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 40-3 at Seattle
Did you guys see that Marcus Maye interception? What a play! Oh yeah, the Jets lost by 37, but at least they had one positive highlight and didn’t get shutout! The bar is set sooooooo low for this team right now. Still waiting on that simulate to end of season button.

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Top 5 2019 Pro Bowl snubs

88 players were named to the NFL’s Pro Bowl roster on Tuesday night. The majority of the selections are well-deserved after a long season. However, that doesn’t mean there weren’t some very notable snubs. Every year there are a couple of players who should’ve made the cut that get left out in the cold. I am going to break down who should be heading to Orlando in January and who they should replace on the current roster.

Prescott has thrown for nearly 1,200 more yards than Rodgers this season. (Wikimedia Commons)

Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
This might be the worst snub of them all. Prescott is in the midst of his best NFL season yet. He is second to only Jamies Winston in yards per game and fifth in yards per attempt. He has 26 touchdown passes to 11 interceptions and a solid 65.5 completion percentage. Yet somehow Prescott was over looked in favor of Aaron Rodgers. In most years, this would be totally acceptable. However, Rodgers is having one of his worst seasons in recent memory. He ranks 15th in yards per game and yards per attempt as well as 18th in completion percentage. The biggest thing he has going in his favor is his 12-1 touchdown to interception ratio. However, outside of smoking the Raiders, the Packers quarterback has had a fairly pedestrian year. Prescott was far more deserving of the spot than Rodgers.

Marcus Williams, SS, Saints
While most will probably remember Marcus Williams for missing that tackle during the Minneapolis Miracle (sorry Saints fans), he is actually one of the best young safeties in the league. This season he is tied for fifth in the NFC in pass breakups and tied for second in interceptions. He is first among safeties in both those categories. Williams also owns an incredible grade of 90.1 from PFF in 2019. He certainly should have beaten out Budda Baker and Eddie Jackson to make the Pro Bowl roster. Both have had good seasons, but Williams is an elite playmaker.

No Patriots offensive players made the initial Pro Bowl roster. (Wikimedia Commons)

Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots
It has not been the same kind of success we are used to seeing for the Patriots offense, but Edelman should still be on the Pro Bowl roster. He is third among receivers in the conference in yards and second in receptions. With no one else to really draw attention this season on New England, it makes Edelman’s performance even more impressive. He should have beaten out Jarvis Landry for that final receiver spot. Edelman has close to identical yards and touchdowns, but slightly edges Landry in both categories.

Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Jaguars
You could certainly argue for Justin Houston to be here as well, but he hasn’t made as many impact plays as Yannick Ngakoue. The Jags defensive end has eight sacks and 15 tackles for loss. He also has five pass deflections, three forced fumbles and an interception for a touchdown. He has been a rock for Jacksonville even if the rest of his unit has struggled this season. He beats out Frank Clark in just about every meaningful category and has graded out higher on Pro Football Focus. Seems like a no-brainer to make it over Clark.

Schobert made the Pro Bowl in 2017. (Wikimedia Commons)

Joe Schobert, LB, Browns
While Cleveland has had a disappointing season this year, Joe Schobert has been a constant bright spot. He is second in the conference in total and solo tackles. He also has nine pass deflections, four interceptions and two forced fumbles. Schobert is one of the reliable middle linebackers in the league, especially in pass coverage. He has definitely outperformed Dont’a Hightower, who does not rank in the top 50 in the conference in tackles. Hightower is having an impressive year, but not quite Pro Bowl level and definitely robbed Schobert of a spot.

NBA has some All-Star problems

After harping on some of the issues the NFL is facing with the Pro Bowl yesterday, I figured it was time to turn my attention to another All-Star game with major issues.

The NBA All-Star game is always a fun affair and usually well-attended. Instead, the issues the NBA has with it’s showcase game center more around who is involved and how they are selected.

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Curry leads the NBA in scoring, but not in All-Star votes.

There is nothing wrong with fan voting, as long as the fans actually vote. Kobe Bryant received the most votes, (we will get into why that is an issue in a minute) barely edging out Steph Curry.

According to a NBA press release, Bryant led the way with just under 1.9 million votes. That is flat out pathetic. It is an uptick though from last season where Curry had the most votes while barely topping one million votes.

The Eastern Conference was even worse as LeBron James led the way with 1.1 million votes. Dwyane Wade was the next highest and could not even top the one million vote mark.

The NBA is a global organization. They have fans in time zones across the globe. Roughly 315 million people live in the United States and over seven billion people populate planet Earth. How is it that the NBA has players who cannot even garner two million votes?

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Brady narrowly edged out Cam Newton for the most votes for any player.

Believe it or not, these numbers are actually really impressive when you compare them to the NFL. Tom Brady led all Pro Bowl vote-getters with a meager 700,000. However, fan voting is not the only thing that decides Pro Bowl rosters. Players and coaches give their input as to who should be playing in Hawaii and the fans players and coaches all pull equal weight.

For the NBA, it is solely decided by fans. Well at least the starters. Coaches determine the rest of the roster. Neither system is perfect, both probably need to be tweak and they definitely need to find a way to increase fan voting if they want to continue to rely on it.

Kobe Bryant
Bryant announced earlier this year that he will retire at the end of the season.

Fan voting also leads to some other issues, such as selecting players who do not deserve to be playing in that game. I mentioned before that we would be getting back to Bryant, who at the age of 39 is making his final All-Star appearance. Bryant will go down as one of the great players in NBA history, but based on his stats he has no business being in this game.

The Lakers’ shooting guard is in the midst of the worst shooting season of his career. He is hitting just 34.6 percent of his shots from the field, which is the worst mark among qualified players in the league, and only 25 percent from three-point range. There are 119 qualified players who shoot the ball better than Bryant and the next lowest one is Wesley Matthews at 38.9 percent. He is also on pace to put up the worst scoring numbers of his career in a season where he started at least 10 games.

What is even more disappointing is that Bryant’s presence prevents someone more deserving, like Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum or Andrew Wiggins, from participating in the game. Those three definitely deserved some All-Star consideration.

In short, Kobe should not be in the All-Star game, much less be starting. However, his inclusion brings about an interesting question. Does the NBA care?

The league is interested in putting on a fun-filled weekend for the fans and the All-Star game is the capstone of it. Including fan favorites like Kobe, who is on his farewell tour, boosts interest in the game. That should increase ticket sales and likely television rankings as well.

Dwyane Wade
Wade is making his 12th All-Star appearance in 13 years.

This applies to Dwyane Wade as well. While he is not as bad of a culprit here as Kobe, I don’t think he deserves to be starting in the Eastern Conference. Wade is more the product of being the most well-known player on a popular team. I think Wade has played well enough this season that he should be part of the game, but the fact that he is starting over Jimmy Butler and DeMar DeRozan is questionable at best. Both Butler and DeRozan have put up better points, rebounds and steals per game than Wade this season.

What the NBA needs to decide is which direction they want to take this in. Are they content with having the game be a spectacle for the fans, regardless of whether or not the most-deserving players are part of it? Or do they really want this to be a reward for players who are having incredible seasons and deserve recognition for their play?

Either way can work, but right now the NBA is promoting the second idea, while practicing the first.

And don’t even get me started on the fact that Tyronn Lue is coaching the Eastern Conference team. Give me a break!

Why the Pro Bowl will help Odell Beckham Jr.

Everyone seems to be gearing up for another year where we ignore the Pro Bowl and laugh about the fact that it is even being played.

The running joke this year is the number of declined invitations leading to replacements, as we now have 33 new players participating. The quarterback pool includes Tyrod Taylor, who only threw for 20 touchdowns and 3,000 yards, Teddy Bridgewater, who had 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions, Jameis Winston and Derek Carr, who each turned the ball over 21 times this season. Needless to say, these guys wouldn’t make it most other years.

Odell_Beckham_Jr.
Beckham is playing in his second Pro Bowl in just his second season out of LSU.

So yes, the game itself will likely lack a little bit of the proven star-power we usually see. However, there is still a lot of value in this game being played. Most of it this year goes to the New York Giants.

As we saw this season, the Giants’ number one wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., continued his meteoric rise to stardom. Beckham has quickly become a fan favorite for Big Blue. He also showed us another example of why becoming a star so quickly can be dangerous.

Beckham earned himself a one-game suspension this season for his actions on the field against the Carolina Panthers. That game was talked up as a huge match up between Beckham and Panther corner Josh Norman.

Beckham let his temper get the best of him and was lucky not to be thrown out of the game. He cost his team valuable yards on multiple occasions for penalties called against him in what ended up being a very close game. His absence in the team’s ensuing trip to Minnesota was also felt in a 49-17 drubbing against the Vikings.

It became clear to everyone that Beckham’s early fame had gone to his head. He had become a prima donna, similar to Randy Moss or Terrell Owens. We saw what happened to those guys, who will always be remembered more for their attitude than their talent. I really think that Beckham would have continued down that path if it was not for the Pro Bowl this weekend.

No, I don’t think Beckham will learn anything physical or show great signs of route running development. I think he is going to get something he desperately needs. And that is a mentor.

Beckham is one of the two team captains for his Pro Bowl squad. That team is being coached by Jerry Rice, who is hands down the greatest receiver to ever play the game of football. In addition to that, Rice is also a great role model. He was never in the media for the wrong meetings. He was certainly a public figure and sometimes flashy, but he kept himself in check. He learned to share the spotlight with Joe Montana and Steve Young as well.

Odell Beckham Jr.
If Beckham straightens out his attitude, we can all enjoy these types of catches a little bit more.

That is exactly what Beckham needs to learn to do and there is no one better in the world for him to learn from. Rice not only handled his fame, he embraced it in a way that made him an icon and a lovable player. I’m not saying that Beckham needs for everyone one to love him, but he needs to get his attitude in check and make sure he is not a distraction to his team. Continuing to garner negative attention, like he did towards the end of the regular season this year, hurts your team, no matter how talented of a player you are. When you happen to be the star of the team, that just compounds the issue.

 

Rice came to practice every day ready to work and had that drive to be the best. So often we see young players rest on their laurels and bask in the glory of early career success, only to have it backfire. I have a good feeling that Rice is working on putting this kid on the right path.

We will have to see if Rice is able to instill these leadership qualities in Beckham. It seems like that he is off to a good start though.