The Colts had a franchise-record seven players voted to the Pro Bowl following the 2005 season, when they started 13-0. Last season, the Super Bowl champions had five selections, all of them offensive players.
The offense should be well-represented in Hawaii again this year. Quarterback Peyton Manning has been to five straight Pro Bowls and seven total in his career, and although Manning has had better statistical seasons in the past, he's a virtual lock to be selected.
He'll likely finish third in the fan voting, according to the NFL, and the numbers support his selection. Manning is second in the AFC in touchdowns (27), third in passing yardage (3,358 yards) and fourth in passer rating (97.0).
With four quarterbacks — Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and David Garrard — all worthy of inclusion, one will be left off the roster. That will likely be Garrard, who, despite 13 touchdowns and just one interception in his breakout season, hasn't thrown near as many passes or for as much yardage as the other three players.
Reggie Wayne and Jeff Saturday
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne went to his first Pro Bowl last season, and he should be back this year, too. Wayne is second in the AFC in receiving yards (1,211) and is tied for fourth with nine touchdowns.
Running back Joseph Addai is also a strong Pro Bowl candidate, and led all AFC running backs in fan voting as of Dec. 4.
After Manning, Wayne and Addai, the picture is less clear for the offense. Last season, center Jeff Saturday and left tackle Tarik Glenn both made the team.
Glenn retired in the offseason, but Saturday is a likely bet to return to the Pro Bowl after holding together a Colts offensive line that has been ravaged with injuries. Saturday leads the AFC centers in fan voting.
The real question is how many Pro Bowlers the Colts' defense will have. The defensive unit, for years the team's weak spot, is ranked second in the NFL and should have several players recognized when the teams are announced.
Middle linebacker Gary Brackett leads the team in tackles, and is second among AFC linebackers with four interceptions. The Colts' defensive captain would be a worthy pick for his first Pro Bowl in this, his fifth season.
A case could also be made for several of the Colts young defensive backs. Bob Sanders is the name everyone knows, but Marlin Jackson, Kelvin Hayden, and Antoine Bethea have all enjoyed breakout seasons as well. At least one — and possibly several — members of the Colts' defensive backfield should be making the trip to Hawaii this season.
Dwight Freeney is the leading vote-getter in the AFC among defensive ends, but the injured star won't return this season and won't be selected to the team. Fellow defensive end Robert Mathis is probably a long shot to make the team.
The collective strength of the defense is how well it has played as a unit, and as players have gone down — like Freeney, Rob Morris, and Booger McFarland — other players have stepped up. It's a safe bet that Sanders and probably Brackett will be on the Pro Bowl roster, but beyond that, it's hard to say.
Placekicker Adam Vinatieri led the AFC in fan voting at his position, but that was probably based on his reputation, which he hasn't lived up to this season. The two-time Pro Bowler is second from last among active AFC kickers in field goal percentage this season.