Hard to believe it is already here, but week 10 of the NFL regular season is upon us, which means NFL Pro Bowl voting is set to begin.
This popularity contest unfortunately does not give enough value to players and their performances throughout the season, but rather the average fan votes for players based on name remembrance. There certainly must be a better means of rewarding players for strong play, especially since it’s an important statistic for a Hall of Fame resume. But I digress:
The Detroit Lions are notorious for being snubbed from Pro Bowl appearances. Example: In 2016, four players were named as alternates to the end of the year exhibition match: Sam Martin, Matt Prater, Matt Stafford, and Darius Slay. Granted, the 2016 statistics for Detroit did not merit many of players to be considered for the Pro Bowl, but to only receive alternate votes is saddening.
So, without further ado, here are the five players in honolulu blue that should be playing in Orlando come late January.
For a league driven by the QB position, the 2017 NFL season has seen more turnover at the position this season than any in recent memory. This is where a player like Stafford is deserving of a Pro Bowl nod. Through the halfway point of the season, number nine is on pace for just under 4,500 passing yards, with a 28:8 TD:INT ratio.
Compare this to last year’s 4,327 yards, 24:10 season–where he turned down the Pro Bowl offer as an alternative. Granted, he is behind players such as Russell Wilson & Carson Wentz in the NFC, but he’s the best quarterback in the NFC North with Rodgers injured and is starting prove it.
A few big primetime games to finish the season where Stafford can prove his worth and he’ll be rewarded for what he deserves. He is the definitive and unquestioned leader of the Detroit Lions, and he continually keeps them in games and in the position to succeed.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 7, 2017
Marvin Jones Jr.
In 2016, Marvin Jones Jr. was the hottest receiver in the NFL through four weeks, as he had 482 receiving yards and three touchdowns. By the end of the season, however, he finished with only 930-yards and 4 TDs– safe to say there was a bit of a drop off. With his heart set on not repeating this, Jones Jr. spent the offseason improving his route running, chemistry with his quarterback, and honed in his catching ability. He always could make the big catch downfield, but he knew the next step for him was to make the intermediate and short catches consistently.
Through the halfway point of the 2017 season, Marvin Jones Jr. is proving hard work pays off. Currently, he is 9th in the NFC in receiving yards (515), tied for 4th in receiving touchdowns (5), tied for 3rd for 20+ yard plays (9), and 10th in average yards per reception (15.6). He is on pace to surpass the thousand mark and the double digit touchdown mark, the first Lion to do both in the same season since Calvin Johnson in 2013. Any statistic that includes a player and Calvin Johnson in the same sentence has some serious value to it.
“Big Play” Slay is the most vocal of the five regarding Pro Bowl snubbs because he wants it more than anyone. The confident 5th-year cornerback spent the offseason working on his aggressiveness and making more plays on the ball rather than just swatting them down, and it is showing. This season, he is demonstrating a knack for being around the ball as he has three INTs through the first eight games, tying him with Glover Quin for the team lead.
Interceptions are not the only telling stat for Slay, as the best cornerbacks are often known for their ability to go unnoticed because quarterbacks stay away from them. Here are the top receiver numbers versus Slay this season:
Antonio Brown: 10 Targets, 5 Rec, 70 Yards
Julio Jones: 12 Targets, 7 Rec, 90 Yards
Odell Beckham Jr: 5 Targets, 4 Rec, 36 Yards
Larry Fitzgerald: 13 Targets, 6 Rec, 74 Yards
Jordy Nelson: 7 Targets, 4 Rec, 35 Yards
Michael Thomas: 6 Targets, 3 Rec, 11 Yards
Kelvin Benjamin: 6 Targets, 4 Rec, 58 Yards, 1 TD
These players are no slouches and Slay held every single one of them under 100-yards, and only giving up one touchdown. Even more impressive is that a majority of the yards given up were on the small percentage of plays where Slay wasn’t covering the opponents top receiver.
“Big Play” Slay is earning the title by being consistent, not just by making big plays.
Darius "Big Play" Slay was once again a shutdown CB
— Logan Lamorandier (@LLamorandier) November 7, 2017
Quin, now in his ninth season, is the true leader of the Detroit defense and having his best NFL season thus far. The 3rd ranked safety by Pro Football Focus, Quin currently is second on the Lions in tackles, tied for 1st on the team with three INTs, and also has five pass breakups, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one defensive touchdown. Additionally, GQ has played in 124 consecutive games, a feat almost unfathomable for a defensive player. Quin just signed a three-year extension with the Lions, and the Lions appear to have pulled it off at a discount with how well he is playing this season. For the Pro Bowl not to include Glover Quin as of now would be highly questionable.
When you have a twitter account dedicated solely to whether you miss or not, you know that there is some confidence in your ability to make field goals. Through the halfway mark of the season, Matt Prater is 18-21 on field goals, has not missed a single one under 50 yards, and has made every extra point he has attempted. Only 4 other teams have that type of kicking efficiency in 2017, and only one has attempted more field goals (Tennessee). Prater still holds the NFL record for longest kick, and Detroit signed him to an extension a few weeks, making him a Lion for the long term. Detroit has the trust to be able to score points only by moving the offense into the opposing team’s territory. That is hard to come by.
This twitter account a) is what makes the internet amazing b) is what helps aid Prater’s future Pro Bowl nod
All statistics are from ESPN.com.
All images are from public pages on twitter.